March 1, 2008
#14/14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-6 / 10-4 BIG EAST) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (13-13 / 3-11 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 1, 2008
No. 14 Irish Close Out Home Schedule Saturday Against Seton Hall
Notre Dame (22-6, 10-4 BIG EAST) won for the seventh time in the past eight games with a 92-49 victory over South Florida at home on Wednesday night. The Irish led from the opening tip to the final horn, using a 27-5 run midway through the first half to take control on the way to its largest BIG EAST win in more than eight years.
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader led a balanced Notre Dame attack, collecting her second double-double of the season with game highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Charel Allen and freshman guard Brittany Mallory added 14 points apiece, with Mallory making a season-best 4-of-5 three-pointers.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Notre Dame also ranks in the top 20 in five NCAA statistical categories, including scoring offense (5th, 78.5 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (8th, 1.13) and scoring margin (9th, +17.7 ppg.), with nearly half its wins by 30 points. The Irish also rank second in the BIG EAST (16th nationally) in steals (11.82 spg.) and have forced 20 turnovers on 18 occasions.
Senior guard Charel Allen, a first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America pick last year, is setting the pace for a balanced Notre Dame attack, averaging a team-high 14.2 points per game (17th in BIG EAST).
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow has built upon last year's BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.7 ppg.) while tying for eighth in the BIG EAST with a team-high 56 steals (2.0 spg.).
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader continues to work her way back to peak form after missing last year with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader is third on the squad in scoring (10.9 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (6.1 rpg.), ranking 20th in the BIG EAST in the latter category, as one of the cornerstones of Notre Dame's unique Princeton-based four-guard lineup.
While Schrader is back from her ACL injury, freshman forward Devereaux Peters had her season end early with a torn ACL in her left knee, suffered Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh. Peters provided a strong spark off the bench, averaging 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. She also scored in double figures 14 times, including a season-high 15 points vs. Villanova and her first career double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) against top-ranked Connecticut.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Seton Hall
Seton Hall (13-13, 3-11) enters Saturday's game having lost eight in a row, most recently dropping a 73-45 decision at St. John's on Wednesday. Freshman guard Ebonie Williams scored a game-high 16 points and sophomore guard Shantel Brown added 13 points for the Pirates, who shot .309 for the game.
Williams leads the team in scoring (11.2 ppg), while injured junior forward Noteisha Womack averages a double-double (10.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg) with a team-high .497 field goal percentage.
Head coach Phyllis Mangina is closing out her 23rd season at the helm of her alma mater with a 326-331 (.496) record, which includes a 4-15 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series
However, the past five series games have been nearly even split (ND leads 3-2), and Seton Hall claimed a 74-61 win on its last visit to the Joyce Center in 2006.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Seton Hall Met
Notre Dame led virtually the entire second half, but never by more than seven points. The Irish fell behind by a bucket twice in the final six minutes, but used an 8-2 run down the stretch to pull out the win. Allen played a key role in the game-changing spurt, canning the go-ahead foul line jumper with 3:09 left, then sinking an insurance basket with 1:55 to go.
Gray added a pair of clutch free throws, converting both ends of a one-and-one with 17.4 seconds to play. Heta Korpivaara got SHU back within three points on a layup moments later, and the Pirates had a look at a game-tying shot after a missed Irish foul shot, but Jadis Rhodin's desperation try was well off the mark.
Korpivaara and Monique Blake scored 14 points apiece to lead Seton Hall, although Blake missed the critical final three minutes with an injury. Ashley Booker added 10 points for the Pirates, with eight of her markers coming in the first half.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Seton Hall Met At The Joyce Center
The victory was the first for SHU against a ranked team since beating No. 23 Notre Dame 51-45 in South Orange on Feb. 8, 2004.
Korpivaara made a pair of free throws with 11:20 left to give the Pirates a 45-44 lead, then added another pair of free throws and a 17-foot jumper to make it 51-46. The Pirates extended the lead to 58-50 when Shantel Brown made a three-pointer and led by 10 when Monique Blake scored off her own miss.
The Pirates, who outrebounded the Irish 32-14 in the second half, made 12 of 14 free throws during the final 1:50 to seal the victory.
Jadis Rhodin had 13 points and six rebounds for Seton Hall and Amber Harris and Brown had 12 points each. Harris also added 11 rebounds and the Pirates had 14 second-chance points compared to five for the Irish.
Other Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series Tidbits
Going Out On Top
A Six-Figure Season
Last season, Notre Dame brought in 101,818 patrons for the 16-game home schedule. The only other time the Irish posted a six-figure women's basketball attendance total was 2001-02, when a school-record 109,549 fans cheered on Notre Dame at the Joyce Center. The Irish will chase that mark Saturday vs. Seton Hall.
Boldly Going Where No Irish Player Has Gone Before
By comparison, the Irish men's basketball program has had only two players reach this milestone -- Chris Thomas (2001-05) and David Graves (1998-2002). However, steals were first kept as a statistic in 1978-79, while individual assists were first kept in 1983-84.
Peaking When It Counts
In the 21-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 125-35 (.781) in the month of February, including a 66-10 (.868) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February, and only once did the Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw's second season in South Bend).
This year, Notre Dame continued its trend of winning records in February under McGraw, going 6-1 with the only blemish being a 57-51 loss at No. 5/4 Rutgers on Feb. 19.
A full recap of Notre Dame's positions on the NCAA statistics charts (and its relation to the national leaders) can be found on page 11 of this notes package.
Notre Dame's 10 30-point wins this year have tied the school record originally set during the 2000-01 national championship season. However, in that campaign, only eight of those 30-point victories came in the first 28 games.
What's more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
The Irish currently rank second in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and fifth in the nation) at 78.5 points per game, having tallied at least 80 points 15 times this season. What's more, Notre Dame also has the fourth-highest scoring average through 28 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 82.6 points at this juncture on the way to the single-season school scoring record (81.0).
What's more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points seven times this season, tying the school record first set in the 1996-97 NCAA Final Four season, and later matched in 1998-99. In fact, during the six seasons prior to the current one (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the conference (and ninth in the nation) in scoring margin at +17.7 points per game. If it holds up, that margin would go down as the second-largest in school history for an entire season. The 2000-01 team won by an average of 21.4 points per game during its 34-2 run to the national title.
McGraw's Shock Troops
While Irish women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw may not quite be following Rockne's philosophy to the letter, she could easily rotate in much of her second unit and not see much decline in productivity. In fact, Notre Dame's bench is averaging 29.5 points per game (compared to 49.0 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored 27 of 28 opponent benches this season by an average of +14.8 points per night.
Prior to her season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, freshman forward Devereaux Peters was leading the way for this year's Irish "shock troops". The Chicago native averaged 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.96 blocks per game (second in BIG EAST and 45th in the nation) with a .522 field goal percentage (ninth in the conference). Peters came off the bench in 21 of 23 games this year, piling up a season-high 15 points and seven steals vs. Villanova before collecting her first career double-double (10 points, season-high 12 rebounds) on Jan. 27 against top-ranked Connecticut.
All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 22-6 record, with each one averaging at least 12 minutes and having scored in double figures at least four times. Before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, Peters was fourth on the team in scoring (9.0 ppg) and scored in double digits 14 times, while also placing second in the BIG EAST (45th in the nation) in blocked shots (1.96 bpg). Mallory is averaging 6.9 points per game, leads the team with 31 three-pointers and is coming off a 14-point (season-high 4-5 3FG), seven-rebound effort Wednesday vs. South Florida. Bruszewski, who will miss 7-10 days after left hand surgery on Feb. 25, is logging 4.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, collecting her fourth double-figure scoring performance of the season with 10 points and six rebounds on Feb. 10 vs. 15th-ranked Pittsburgh.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame also has had at least three double-figure scorers in all but four games (Purdue, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 16 West Virginia, No. 5/4 Rutgers) this year, with a season-high seven in double digits at Georgetown (the most in one game for the Irish since Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse).
What's more, the Irish fielded five double-figure scorers in three consecutive games from Nov. 20-27. It's believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat of three straight games with five double-digit scorers, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Piping Hot Turnovers
Notre Dame has made even the strongest ball-handling teams struggle this season. In fact, Villanova came into its Jan. 16 game at the Joyce Center leading the nation with only 11.2 turnovers per game. However, the Wildcats left town with 24 turnovers, their highest single-game giveaway mark in more than six years (Dec. 1, 2001 at Temple).
The Five-Finger Discount
Individually, the Irish have seven players with at least 25 steals this season. Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow leads the way with 56, tying for eighth in the BIG EAST in that category (2.0 spg), including a combined seven steals in the past two games.
Notre Dame tied Connecticut for the BIG EAST title in steals last season (9.69 spg. in league play; 10.47 overall), the first time the Irish won a conference steals crown since 1989-90, when they led the Horizon League with 10.93 steals per game.
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Off And Running
Even in its defeat at third-ranked Maryland on Nov. 16, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 156 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw currently ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
The Irish also were in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 15th consecutive time last week, staying even at 14th. This week's ranking ties the season-high for Notre Dame and is its highest poll position in two years, when the Irish were tabbed 12th by the coaches prior to the aforementioned losses to St. John's and Seton Hall.
More Polling Data
In addition, the Jan. 27 audience marked the first time the Irish have attracted three crowds of 10,000 fans in the same season, as 10,825 fans took in the Dec. 2 win over Michigan.
Clutch When It Counts
Among those with a minimum of 10 attempts, senior guard Tulyah Gaines leads the way with an .824 free throw percentage (14-of-17) in crunch time. Also worth noting -- even after missing two free throws at Syracuse on Feb. 16, sophomore guard Ashley Barlow is 21-of-26 (.808) in her career when toeing the line down the stretch.
Start Me Up
The last time Notre Dame got off to a 13-2 start was the 2004-05 season, when the Irish won their first seven games (including the Preseason WNIT title) before a Dec. 2 overtime loss to 15th-ranked Michigan State. Notre Dame (which rose as high as third in the national polls that season) then reeled off six more wins before suffering consecutive loss at Villanova (59-54) and home vs. No. 16 Connecticut (67-50). However, the Irish rebounded with a 10-game win streak, finishing the year at 27-6 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame posted a 13-2 record on three other occasions, also doing so in 1999-2000 (27-5, NCAA Sweet 16), 1998-99 (26-5, NCAA second round) and 1977-78 (13-4, program's first varsity season when playing at AIAW Division III level).
We're Going Streaking!
Notre Dame also won six consecutive road games earlier this season (Nov. 20-Jan. 2). That was the longest run for the Irish away from the Joyce Center since a 10-game run from Nov. 17, 2000 to Feb. 14, 2001, a streak that ended with a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers (one of only two defeats for the Irish on their run to the NCAA title).
No Easy Road
With the addition of Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (75-59 loss on Nov. 16), the Irish faced four of the top five teams in the latest Associated Press poll at some point this season. Besides the Terrapins (currently No. 5), Notre Dame also played No. 1 Connecticut (lost 81-64 on Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center), No. 3 Tennessee (lost 87-63 on Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), and No. 4 Rutgers (lost 57-51 on Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top five teams in the poll have combined to win five of the past six national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year's title game.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games In '09, '10
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Tournament on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
This season's burger watch is at eight, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in both exhibition wins, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and USF.
It's probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
Friends In Need
A loyal supporter of the Irish for many years, Patricia has assisted Notre Dame's coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio with numerous marketing and promotional activities, and also coordinated regular bus trips for fans to see the Irish on the road.
Patricia's OIT colleagues have created a web page to update supporters on her progress: http://oit.nd.edu/patricia.
Notre Dame also lost a treasured friend on Jan. 22, when longtime Joyce Center clock operator Mark Tulchinsky passed away. Mark was a dedicated educator in the South Bend Community School Corporation, most recently serving as principal at Tarkington Traditional School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark, his wife, Nan (the official scorer for Notre Dame basketball), and the Tulchinsky family.
Next Game: St. John's
St. John's (14-13, 5-9) was helped by Notre Dame's win over USF on Wednesday, which locked up a BIG EAST Championship berth for the Red Storm. SJU has won two of its last three games heading into Saturday's road game at Cincinnati.