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    #14 Irish Wrap Up Regular Season Monday At St. John's

    FIGHTING IRISH Senior guard Charel Allen poured in a career-high 31 points on 14-of-19 shooting in Notre Dame's 83-65 win over St. John's last season at the Joyce Center.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Senior guard Charel Allen poured in a career-high 31 points on 14-of-19 shooting in Notre Dame's 83-65 win over St. John's last season at the Joyce Center.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    March 2, 2008

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    2007-08 ND Women's Basketball: Game 30
    #14/14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-6 / 11-4 BIG EAST) vs. St. John's Red Storm (15-13 / 6-9 BIG EAST)

    DATE: March 3, 2008
    TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Jamaica, N.Y. - Carnesecca Arena (6,008)
    SERIES: ND leads 16-1
    1ST MTG: 1/4/96 (ND 74-48)
    LAST MTG: 1/16/07 (ND 83-65)
    RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM / UND.com (Chris Masters, p-b-p)
    TV: None
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TICKETS: (888) 467-8676

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is 9-3 (.750) in its regular-season finale since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.
  • The Irish could finish in a tie for third in the BIG EAST standings with a win and a West Virginia loss at Syracuse Monday night.
  • No. 14 Irish Wrap Up Regular Season Monday Night At St. John's
    Having secured one of the valuable first-round byes for the upcoming BIG EAST Conference Championship, No. 14 Notre Dame will bring down the curtain on the 2007-08 regular season Monday when it travels to St. John's for a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Carnesecca Arena. While the Irish already are locked into the No. 4 seed for next week's league tournament, they will be seeking to erase the two-year-old memory of a three-point loss to SJU on their last visit to Queens.

    Despite the usual emotional roller coaster associated with Senior Day, Notre Dame (23-6, 11-4 BIG EAST) earned its eighth win in the past nine games on Saturday, downing Seton Hall, 70-55 at the Joyce Center. The Irish used a 14-2 second-half run to pull free from a stubborn Pirates squad that was battling for its BIG EAST tournament life.

    Senior guard Charel Allen had a team-high 22 points, while sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner added 11 points, a game-high six assists and five rebounds.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame was ranked 14th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls last week. The new AP poll will be released Monday afternoon.
  • St. John's was not ranked.
  • A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
    Behind a high-octane offense and an aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been a fixture in the national polls this season. The Irish have been ranked every week (except for the preseason ESPN/USA Today poll) and have appeared in the top 20 for the past 13 weeks, rising as high as 14th on four occasions (including each of the past two weeks).

    Notre Dame also ranks in the top 20 in five NCAA statistical categories (as of last Friday), including scoring offense (5th, 78.2 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (8th, 1.13) and scoring margin (9th, +17.6 ppg.), with nearly half its wins by 30 points. The Irish also rank second in the BIG EAST (16th nationally) in steals (11.83 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 14.5 points per game (15th 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 (11.5 ppg.) while tying Allen for ninth in the BIG EAST with a team-high 57 steals (1.97 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 19th 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

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 290 victories in that span.
  • Notre Dame's incoming class of 2008 (next year's freshmen) has an average ranking of 15th (peaking at No. 8 by Dan Olsen Collegiate Girls Basketball Report), marking the 12th consecutive season that the Irish attracted a Top 25 recruiting class. Notre Dame is one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have an active streak of that length.
  • Notre Dame ranked ninth in the Feb. 25 unofficial national attendance rankings (compiled by the Wisconsin Sports Information Office), averaging 7,016 fans to its 16 home games this season (including three of the top six crowds in school history). The Irish also have attracted 5,000-or-more fans to 110 of their last 112 home games, including five Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Jan. 27, 2008 vs. Connecticut). Last season, Notre Dame ranked 10th nationally in attendance (6,364 fans per game), marking the seventh consecutive year the Irish were among the national top 20 in attendance.
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as six Notre Dame players have been selected in the past seven seasons. Megan Duffy was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Minnesota Lynx in the third round (31st overall pick) of the 2006 WNBA Draft. Duffy and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) both were active in the league during the 2007 season, with Riley making her sixth playoff appearance (on her third different team) in a solid seven-year pro career. All told, seven Notre Dame alums have competed in WNBA regular-season play, with three of them combining to win four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the '06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • Notre Dame has been an elite program in the classroom as well. For the second year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2007. Notre Dame was one of 23 Division I-A programs to achieve this distinction, and one of only two BIG EAST schools (Syracuse was the other). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a perfect 53-for-53 success rate).
  • A Quick Look At St. John's
    Following a disappointing 2006-07 season, St. John's has bounced back nicely this year and find itself on the verge of returning to postseason play after making the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

    The Red Storm (15-13, 6-9) have come alive down the stretch, winning three of their last four games, including a 49-47 victory at Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. Senior guard Kia Wright was the hero, canning the tying jumper with 33 seconds left, then coming up with a steal that led to her two game-winning foul shots with 10 seconds to play.

    Junior guard Monique McLean was the lone double-digit scorer for St. John's at Cincinnati, tallying 10 points and grabbing a team-best eight rebounds. McLean leads the Red Storm in scoring (14.5 ppg) and is second in rebounding (5.0 rpg). Wright, a three-time all-BIG EAST selection, is second on the squad in scoring (12.1 ppg) and tops in both assists (4.2 apg) and steals (2.25 spg).

    Kim Barnes Arico is in her sixth season as the head coach at St. John's, sporting an 83-89 (.483) record with the Red Storm. She's also in her 12th year as a college head coach with a 177-161 (.524) career record that includes a 1-5 mark vs. Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-St. John's Series
    In a series that only began with Notre Dame's admission to the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Irish are 16-1 all-time against St. John's, including a 7-1 record at Carnesecca Arena. However, the Red Storm won the last time the teams played in Queens, taking their first-ever win over Notre Dame, 66-63.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And St. John's Met
    Charel Allen tossed in a career-high 31 points on 14-of-19 shooting, and Melissa D'Amico chipped in a double-double with 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, as Notre Dame roared back from an early five-point deficit to defeat St. John's, 83-65 in BIG EAST action on Jan. 16, 2007 at the Joyce Center.

    Ashley Barlow scored 14 points, Melissa Lechlitner dished out a career-high nine assists (the most by a Notre Dame rookie in almost 12 years) without a single turnover.

    Monique McLean had a team-high 19 points for St. John's, leading four Red Storm players in double figures. Kia Wright and Tiina Sten added 14 points each, while Angel Tate flirted with a double-double before ending up with 11 points and a team-best nine rebounds.

    St. John's knocked down seven of its first nine shots from the floor en route to a pair of five-point leads, the last at 19-14 on a jumper by Wright with 11:38 left in the first half. The Irish came back with five consecutive points, but SJU then tallied eight of the next 12 markers and led 27-23 when Sten drilled a three-pointer from the left wing at the 6:32 mark.

    Notre Dame then came alive in a big way, ripping off 19 unanswered points during the next 4:15, with Allen scoring nine of the last 11 points in the run. Her transition layup with 2:17 to go in the half gave the Irish their largest lead to that point at 42-27. St. John's made a dent in the margin with a 7-2 spurt to end the period, but still trailed by 10 at the break.

    The lead remained static for the first four minutes of the second half, as McLean getting her team within 47-37 on the second of two foul shots at the 15:46 mark. Notre Dame then fired up its perimeter shooting, connecting on 4-of-5 three-point tries during a 14-2 run that essentially put the game on ice. Lechlitner started the long-range assault, with Allen sinking one and Barlow adding a pair of treys in the three-minute spree, boosting the Irish lead to a game-high 22 points (61-39) with 12:44 to play. St. John's battled valiantly, but could not get closer than 14 points the rest of the night.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And St. John's Met At Carnesecca Arena
    Angela Clark scored 18 points and St. John's held on to beat No. 12 Notre Dame 66-63 on Jan. 4, 2006 at Carnesecca Arena in Queens. It was the Red Storm's first win over the Irish.

    Tara Walker added 14 points and Monique McLean had 13 for the Red Storm, who lost their first 15 meetings with Notre Dame.

    Melissa D'Amico had 14 points for the Irish, who were coming off a 62-51 loss to No. 1 Tennessee less than a week earlier. Megan Duffy had 13 points and became Notre Dame's 21st 1,000-point scorer, while Crystal Erwin added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Irish, who finished with a 41-21 edge on the boards.

    Walker had two three-pointers in the first 56 seconds of the second half to give St. John's the lead for good at 38-37. The Red Storm extended the lead to 54-44 on a jumper by Danielle Chambers with 9:14 to play.

    But D'Amico and Lindsay Schrader each had six points in a 19-10 run that brought Notre Dame within 64-63 on a jumper by D'Amico with nine seconds to play.

    Greeba Barlow of St. John's hit a jumper with 2.8 seconds to go and Notre Dame was unable to get off a potential game-tying shot.

    Other Notre Dame-St. John's Series Tidbits

  • St. John's has scored more than 60 points three times in its 17 series games against Notre Dame, with all three 60-point games coming in the past three matchups with the Irish. On the other hand, Notre Dame has scored less than 66 points only once vs. the Red Storm (its last visit to Queens).
  • The first 14 games in the series were decided by 13 points or more, all in Notre Dame's favor. The next two series games were decided by seven points or less, with the teams splitting those contests, before Notre Dame posted an 18-point win last year.
  • Notre Dame has shot better than 50 percent in nine of 17 games against SJU, including a high-water mark of .571 (36-63) in a 94-51 win at the Joyce Center on Feb. 12, 2000.
  • The 31 points allowed by Notre Dame vs. St. John's on Feb. 13, 2002 at the Joyce Center represented the fourth-lowest opponent scoring total in school history, the second-lowest by a Division I opponent, and the lowest ever by a conference opponent (in any league -- North Star, Midwestern Collegiate or BIG EAST).
  • Notre Dame is 42-3 (.933) all-time against New York schools, with a 20-3 (.870) record outside the Joyce Center. St. John's, which is responsible for one of those three losses (Syracuse has the other two), is the last of three Empire State institutions on this year's Irish schedule -- Canisius visited the Joyce Center back on Nov. 27 (a 93-47 Notre Dame win) and the Irish traveled to Syracuse on Feb. 16 (a 79-67 win at the Carrier Dome).
  • Notre Dame has one New York native on its 2007-08 roster. Senior center Melissa D'Amico is from Manorville and a 2004 graduate of William Floyd High School. also the alma mater of St. John's head coach Kim Barnes Arico. Meanwhile, sophomore center Erica Williamson is a former New York resident -- she spent her first three prep seasons at Honeoye Falls-Lima High School in Rochester, N.Y., before moving with her family to Charlotte, N.C., in the summer of 2005.
  • Boldly Going Where No Irish Player Has Gone Before
    Senior guard Charel Allen has done something no other player has done in the 31-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball. With three steals against Seton Hall, Allen became the first Irish women's cager to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in her career. The closest any player in program history had previously come to that all-around feat was in 2001, when current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey had 1,430 points, 482 rebounds, 727 assists and 348 steals.

    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.

    Road Warriors
    The Irish improved to 10-3 on the road this year with their 66-64 win at DePaul on Feb. 24. It's the first time Notre Dame has posted double-digit road wins in a season since 2004-05, when it went 11-2 on opponent's home floors. The school record for road wins in a season was set in 1996-97, when the Irish went 13-4 on the road as part of their first NCAA Final Four run.

    Twenty Questions
    Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons with a 79-67 victory at Syracuse on Feb. 16. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 18 times in the 21-year Muffet McGraw era and 22 times in the program's 31-year history.

    Chart Toppers
    Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings (as of last Friday). The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in five categories, led by a No. 5 ranking for scoring offense (currently 78.2), a No. 8 ranking for assist/turnover ratio (1.13) and a No. 9 ranking for scoring margin (+17.6 ppg). Notre Dame also is 16th in both field goal percentage (.462) and steals per game (11.8).

    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. The latest NCAA statistics report will be released Monday afternoon.

    Thirty Deeds
    Nearly half (10) of Notre Dame's 23 wins this season have come by at least 30 points, while the Irish have held 30-point leads late in the second half against Western Kentucky, Richmond and Marquette.

    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
    Less than two seasons after posting the program's lowest scoring output (64.5 ppg) since 1980-81 (its first as a Division I program), Notre Dame has reversed that trend in a big way.

    The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and fifth in the nation as of last Friday) at 78.2 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 29 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 82.3 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 +17.6 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
    During his coaching tenure with the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s, the legendary Knute Rockne was at the forefront of the two-platoon system, using his "shock troops" -- a full team of second stringers -- at the start of most games.

    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 29.4 points per game (compared to 48.8 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored 28 of 29 opponent benches this season (all but the second DePaul game) by an average of +15.0 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 (tops in BIG EAST and 45th in the nation) with a .522 field goal percentage (10th 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.

    Youth Movement
    Last year's Irish rookie class (aka the "BMW" trio of guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner and center Erica Williamson) became the first threesome from one school ever to be named to the BIG EAST Conference All-Freshman Team in the same season. Following on the heels of that success, Notre Dame has a new freshman trio that is aiming to make an early splash at the college level -- the "BBD" lineup of guard Brittany Mallory and forwards Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters.

    All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 23-6 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 leading the BIG EAST (45th in the nation) in blocked shots (1.96 bpg). Mallory is averaging 6.8 points per game, leads the team with 32 three-pointers and is coming off a 14-point (season-high 4-5 3FG), seven-rebound effort last 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
    One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's squad this season is its balance and depth. That's been particularly evident, as six different players from all five floor positions and all four classes have led the team in scoring at least once. Senior point guard Tulyah Gaines became the latest new scoring leader for the Irish with 13 points vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh (Feb. 10) and a season-high 22 points vs. Marquette (Feb. 13).

    Double Trouble
    Notre Dame's balance this season can best be seen in its point distribution. No fewer than 10 of the 11 Irish players on this year's roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, with only senior guard Amanda Tsipis yet to crack the 10-point mark.

    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
    Notre Dame has been sharp at the offensive end this season, thanks in large part to its ability to take care of the basketball. The Irish rank 21st in the nation (as of last Friday) with just 14.6 turnovers per game and have been charged with 20 or more turnovers just twice in the past 45 games (20 at Louisville on Jan. 8; 23 vs. Marquette on Feb. 13).

    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 is forcing 22.0 turnovers per night and currently leads the BIG EAST with a +7.45 turnover margin, more than three takeaways better than second-place Connecticut. The Irish have caused at least 20 turnovers in 18 games this season, including a season-high 33 takeaways against Boston College on Nov. 24.

    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
    Notre Dame ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference and 16th nationally in steals (as of last Friday), averaging 11.83 thefts per game (11.0 in conference play), including eight games this season where the Irish had at least 15 steals. What's more, Notre Dame's season-high 23 steals vs. Providence on Jan. 30 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Jan. 28, 1995 (23 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the Joyce Center), and only one off the BIG EAST record.

    Individually, the Irish have seven players with at least 30 steals this season. Senior guard Charel Allen and sophomore guard Ashley Barlow share the team lead with 57 steals, also tying for eighth in the BIG EAST (1.97 spg).

    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
    Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 17 games this season and ranks third in the BIG EAST (eighth nationally as of last Friday) with a 1.13 assist-to-turnover ratio. Notre Dame also has assisted on 56.5 percent of its field goals this year (477 assists on 844 baskets), ranking fifth in the conference and 23rd in the country with 16.45 assists per game.

    Off And Running
    Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In 10 wins, the Irish have opened up a double-digit lead less than 12 minutes into the game, while other first-half runs vs. Central Michigan (20-0), Bowling Green (18-3), Villanova (16-6), Georgetown (15-3) and Marquette (21-1) aided those wins.

    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
    Senior guard Charel Allen continues to make her way up Notre Dame's all-time scoring list, moving up to eighth on that chart with 22 points on Saturday vs. Seton Hall. Allen now has 1,473 career points, passing Sandy Botham, who scored 1,460 points from 1984-88. Botham currently serves as the head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame was ranked 14th in last week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, holding steady from the previous survey. Last week's ranking matched the best of the season for the Irish, and was their highest in the media poll since the week of Jan. 2, 2006, when they were ranked 12th prior to losses at St. John's (66-63) and home vs. Seton Hall (74-61).

    Notre Dame 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 16th consecutive time last week, staying even at 14th. Last 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
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Besides her 156 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 23 people on this elite list, 12 are currently NCAA Division I head coaches.

    Clutch When It Counts
    Notre Dame is 89-of-110 (.809) from the free throw line in the final two minutes (plus overtime) this season, including an impressive 8-of-8 display in Saturday's win over Seton Hall.

    Among those with a minimum of 10 attempts, senior guard Tulyah Gaines leads the way with an .842 free throw percentage (16-of-19) in crunch time. Also worth noting -- sophomore guard Ashley Barlow is 23-of-28 (.821) in her career when toeing the line down the stretch.

    A Six-Figure Season
    For the second consecutive year, and the third time in school history, Notre Dame welcomed more than 100,000 fans at home. The Irish drew a school-record 112,253 fans to their 16 games at the Joyce Center, topping the old school mark of 109,549 set in 2001-02.

    Notre Dame also finished with an average attendance of 7,016 fans per game, its highest since the 2002-03 campaign (7,132 per game). The school record for average attendance is 7,825 in 2001-02.

    Crowded House
    The Jan. 27 game vs. Connecticut was the fifth women's basketball sellout (11,418) in school history and second this season (also Jan. 5 vs. Tennessee). It also is the second time in school history Notre Dame has posted multiple sellouts in one season, having also done so in 2000-01 (Connecticut and Georgetown).

    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.

    Start Me Up
    Notre Dame's 13-2 start matched the second-best 15-game mark in the program's 31-year history. In 2000-01, the Irish opened with 23 consecutive victories, en route to their first-ever No. 1 ranking and eventually, the program's first national championship.

    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's 10-game win streak from Nov. 20-Jan. 2 was its longest since a similar 10-game run from Jan. 16-Feb. 15, 2005. The Irish now have amassed 10 double-digit win streaks in program history (eight in the Muffet McGraw era), led by the school-record 23-game success string to open the 2000-01 national championship season.

    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
    Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule, using it as a means of preparation for future tests in both the BIG EAST Conference and the postseason. However, this year's slate could be one of the more rugged ones in recent memory.

    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 last week's Associated Press poll at some point this season. Besides the Terrapins (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's Joyce Center has been selected as a host site for first- and second-round games in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, it was announced Feb. 13. This selection comes on the heels of last summer's announcement that the Irish also would play host to early-round action in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

    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
    Notre Dame introduced a new promotion this season, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish scored at least 88 points in a game. The coupons were issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans left the arena following the game.

    This season's burger watch ended at eight, as the Irish hit the 88-point mark in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and USF.

    It's probably 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 sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.

    Friends In Need
    Longtime Irish women's basketball fan and Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies employee Patricia McAdams continues to recuperate at the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend after a Jan. 13 auto accident. While returning from Notre Dame's game at West Virginia earlier in the day, Patricia was severely injured when she stopped on a highway outside Fort Wayne, Ind., to help a fellow motorist and was then struck by a car.

    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: BIG EAST Championship
    Notre Dame will tip off postseason play Sunday at noon (ET) in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Conference Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The Irish earned a first-round bye for the tournament and will play the winner of the opening-round game between the No. 5 and No. 12 seeds (pairings to be determined after Monday night's games).

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