March 2, 2011
BIG EAST Conference Championship -- Quarterfinal
#7/8 [#3 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-6 / 13-3 BIG EAST) vs.
[#6 seed] Louisville Cardinals (19-11 / 10-6 BIG EAST) or
[#11 seed] Providence Friars (13-15 / 6-10 BIG EAST) or
[#14 seed] Villanova Wildcats (11-18 / 3-13 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 6, 2011
TIME: 8:00 p.m. ET
AT: Hartford, Conn. - XL Center (16,294)
SERIES: ND leads LOU 6-4 / ND leads PC 19-0 / ND leads VU 17-10
TV: ESPNU (live) (Bob Picozzi, p-b-p / Kayte Christensen, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: bigeast.org
No. 7/8 Irish Head To BIG EAST Championship This Weekend
Toughness and resilience have been two of the key factors in Notre Dame's success this year, and the No. 7/8 Fighting Irish will call upon those traits again as they tip off postseason play Sunday at the BIG EAST Conference Championship with an 8 p.m. (ET) quarterfinal game that will be televised live on ESPNU. Third-seeded Notre Dame will face the winner of the second round game between No. 6 seed Louisville and either Providence or Villanova.
The Fighting Irish (24-6, 13-3 BIG EAST) finished tied for second in the conference standings following a 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul on Feb. 28. Notre Dame outshot the Blue Demons (.480 to .474) and forced 24 turnovers, but a layup in the dying seconds allowed the hosts to pull out the win.
Other Notre Dame Notables
The Notre Dame-Louisville Series
Notre Dame and Louisville have met 10 times before, with the Fighting Irish holding a 6-4 series lead on the Cardinals, including an active three-game winning streak. Notre Dame also is 5-2 against Louisville since the Cardinals joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06, including a win in the teams' only prior BIG EAST Championship encounter (89-52 in the second round last year).
Asia Taylor had 16 points for Louisville (12-6, 3-1). Shoni Schimmel scored 11 and Monique Reid added 10.
Notre Dame used a 16-2 run to close the first half and take a 37-22 lead at the break.
Peters, who had sat out 10 minutes of the first half, scored eight points as the Fighting Irish opened the second half with an 11-2 run to take a 24-point lead. Their biggest advantage was 29 with 6:08 to go.
Neither team could establish much in the first 8 minutes of play. McBride hit a 10-footer to start an 8-1 run by that gave Notre Dame a 17-13 lead with nine minutes to go in the half.
Louisville shot around 30 percent for much of the game before finishing at 34 percent (21 for 61) -- including 4 for 17 on three-pointers. Notre Dame was at 47 percent (26 for 55) overall and 4 for 10 on threes.
Other ND-Louisville Series Tidbits
The Notre Dame-Providence Series
Notre Dame is 19-0 all-time against Providence, with each series game coming since the Fighting Irish joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96. Those victories are almost equally divided between the two campuses (nine at Notre Dame, 10 at PC), with the teams having yet to face off in the postseason.
The Last Time ND And Providence Met
Freshman forward Natalie Achonwa scored 13 points off the bench and the No. 18 Fighting Irish routed Providence, 79-43 on Dec. 8 in the BIG EAST opener for both teams at Alumni Hall.
Weakened by illness, Achonwa only played nine minutes but was 5 for 6 from the floor and 3 of 4 from the foul line.
Mi-Khida Hankins scored 16 points for the Friars (5-6), who were held to 16 points in the second half.
Notre Dame (7-3) broke the game open when it went on a 16-0 run in the second half, during which the Fighting Irish held Providence without a point for 9:11.
The Fighting Irish forced the Friars into seven of their 28 turnovers during that run.
Notre Dame led 35-27 at halftime and after the Friars cut their deficit to seven points (40-33), junior guard Natalie Novosel ignited the Fighting Irish's 16-0 run.
Other ND-Providence Series Tidbits
The Notre Dame-Villanova Series
In a series that dates back to the old AIAW days in 1980-81, Notre Dame is 17-10 all-time against Villanova. However, the Wildcats hold a slim 7-6 edge on the Fighting Irish in the 10 seasons since Notre Dame's 2000-01 national championship campaign, with neither side having won more than two in a row during that span.
Notre Dame and Villanova have split four prior meetings in the BIG EAST Championship (all coming in the quarterfinal round), with the Fighting Irish winning in 1998 (56-48) and 1999 (83-53), and the Wildcats prevailing in 2003 (50-39) and 2009 (58-47).
The Last Time ND And Villanova Met
Not only has Notre Dame been winning, but the high-scoring Fighting Irish have been blowing opponents out.
It wasn't quite as easy on Jan. 29, but the result was the same as Devereaux Peters scored 20 points to lead No. 9 Notre Dame to a 58-43 victory at Villanova.
Laura Sweeney scored 14 points to pace Villanova (8-12, 0-7).
Villanova twice sliced Notre Dame's 12-point halftime lead in half early in the second half, but the Wildcats never could get closer than six.
Villanova led by five points early, but the Fighting Irish took control midway through the first half and led 32-20 at the break.
Other ND-Villanova Series Tidbits
Irish In The BIG EAST Championship
Notre Dame opens play in its 16th BIG EAST Championship this weekend, having compiled a 17-15 (.531) record in its 15 previous appearances. The Fighting Irish have reached the semifinals in eight of the past 15 years and advanced to the title game four times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001). Ironically, three of Notre Dame's four BIG EAST finals appearances came when the tournament was held in the state of Connecticut (1996, 1997 and 2001 -- all on the UConn campus at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs).
Prior to joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame was a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League). During its seven-year affiliation with that conference, the Fighting Irish won the MCC Tournament five times, with Notre Dame's most recent conference tourney title (of any kind) coming in 1994, following a 72-63 championship game win over Xavier at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Other BIG EAST Championship Tidbits
The Occasionally Friendly Confines
The Fighting Irish will be playing inside the XL Center for the 17th time, having posted a 5-11 (.313) record in the building formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center. However, take out six losses to Connecticut (which uses the building as one of its home courts during the regular season) and Notre Dame has an even .500 record all-time in Hartford.
Of the 16 previous games the Fighting Irish have played at the XL Center, 12 of them have come during BIG EAST Championship play, with Notre Dame sporting a 5-7 (.417) record since the tournament moved to Hartford in 2004.
The other four XL Center games include three regular season matchups with Connecticut (2000, 2002, 2009) and a 2004 NCAA Sweet 16 contest with Penn State (55-49 loss).
Pieces of Silver
Notre Dame is closing in on its 25th victory of the season, which would mark the second consecutive year (and third time in four years) the Fighting Irish have reached that level.
Notre Dame has recorded seven 25-win seasons in its first 33 varsity campaigns, but only once before have the Fighting Irish done so in back-to-back years. From 1998-99 through 2000-01, Notre Dame topped that mark each season (26-5, 27-5 and 34-2), including a school-record 34 wins in the final year of that run, which culminated with the program's first national championship.
What's more, this year's seniors can become the fourth group in program history to contribute to three 25-win seasons during their careers, joining the senior classes of 1999-00 (Danielle Green and Julie Henderson), 2000-01 (Imani Dunbar, Meaghan Leahy, Niele Ivey, Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon) and 2001-02 (Ericka Haney).
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons with its 76-68 victory at South Florida on Feb. 5. The Fighting Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 21 times in the 24-year Muffet McGraw era and 25 times in the program's 34-year history.
McGraw herself has coached 23 20-win seasons (adding in two during her five-year tenure at Lehigh from 1982-87), tying her for ninth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches.
For the 15th time in its 16-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame posted double-digit league wins. With the exception of 2005-06 (when they went 8-8), the Fighting Irish have never posted fewer than 10 BIG EAST wins in a season, finishing among the top four in the conference 13 times in their 16 seasons in the league, including this year.
In addition, Notre Dame collected 13 conference wins this season, the most for the Fighting Irish in a BIG EAST campaign since 2004-05, when they also went 13-3.
Taking it a step further, Notre Dame has registered double-digit conference wins in 21 of head coach Muffet McGraw's 24 seasons under the Golden Dome, with the only other exceptions coming in 1987-88 (her first season when the Fighting Irish went 7-3 in the now-defunct North Star Conference) and 1991-92 (when Notre Dame went 8-4 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League, then won three in a row at the conference tournament to earn the program's first-ever NCAA Championship berth, despite a losing overall record of 14-16, becoming the first school ever to pull off that feat).
Celebrating The Bicentennial
With its 72-60 win at No. 19/18 West Virginia on Feb. 22, Notre Dame became just the third BIG EAST Conference school to record 200 regular season league wins, joining Connecticut (379) and Villanova (251) in that elite company. The Fighting Irish now have a 201-63 (.761) all-time record in BIG EAST Conference regular season play
What makes Notre Dame's feat even more impressive is the fact the Fighting Irish have reached their bicentennial in only 16 seasons (1995-96 to present), while both Connecticut and Villanova were charter members of the BIG EAST when it debuted women's basketball competition in 1982-83 -- 13 seasons before Notre Dame came aboard. Another charter member (Providence) is fourth all-time with 197 BIG EAST victories.
The Fighting Irish also rank second in conference history with a .761 winning percentage, trailing only Connecticut (.819) and joining the Huskies and Rutgers as the only programs in BIG EAST history (current or former) to have won at least 70 percent of their conference games (Rutgers is third at .701).
The current Notre Dame senior class (Becca Bruszewski, Mary Forr, Brittany Mallory, Devereaux Peters) reached a collective career milestone with a 66-48 Senior Day win over Cincinnati on Feb. 26 at Purcell Pavilion. With that victory, the group has led the Fighting Irish to a 100-30 (.769) record since they arrived on campus in 2007-08.
Only five other senior classes in program history have registered 100 wins in their four-year tenures, led by the 2000-01 national championship seniors (Imani Dunbar, Meaghan Leahy, Niele Ivey, Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon), who amassed 109 victories from 1997-2001 (Ivey was a fifth-year senior in '00-01, following a knee injury five games into her rookie season of '96-97).
The other 100-win Notre Dame classes came in 1998-99 (102 wins), 1999-2000 (106 wins), 2001-02 (107 wins) and 2002-03 (102 wins).
It should be noted that Forr joined the Fighting Irish roster as a walk-on prior to this season, while both Mallory and Peters have the option to return for a fifth year of eligibility next season after both suffered knee injuries early in the 2008-09 campaign.
The Rare Air Up There
For the past five weeks beginning on Jan. 31 (and the first time since Dec. 9, 2002), both Notre Dame basketball teams have been ranked in the top 10 of their respective Associated Press polls. The Fighting Irish women are ranked seventh this week, while Mike Brey's men check in at No. 8.
Notre Dame is one of only two schools in the country with two top-10 basketball programs, along with Duke (No. 8 women/No. 4 men).
If you want to go one further, this marks the first time in Notre Dame athletics history that both Fighting Irish basketball teams AND the Notre Dame hockey team are ranked in the top 10 at the same time (the Fighting Irish icers currently stand 10th in the nation).
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into the BIG EAST Championship ranked third in the nation in steals with 13.6 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 22 games this season, including four contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 24 steals at Valparaiso (Dec. 2) and 23 steals against IUPUI (Nov. 26).
Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program (and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991).
Individually, Notre Dame has 11 different players with double-digit steals this season, including five with at least 40 thefts (the fourth time in five seasons the Fighting Irish have pulled off that feat). They are led by senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.3 steals per game (fifth in the BIG EAST).
Notre Dame also enters the tournament ranked sixth in the country in assists (18.0 apg.), having dished out at least 20 assists in 13 games this season.
Further illustrating the Fighting Irish giving spirit, Notre Dame has assisted on 61.8 percent of its baskets this season, with 541 assists on 875 field goals.
At the head of the Fighting Irish assist company is sophomore Skylar Diggins, who has adapted well to her role as Notre Dame's primary point guard, ranking fifth in the BIG EAST Conference at 4.6 assists per game, and just outside the top 15 in the league with a 1.24 assist/turnover ratio. She also has handed out at least five assists in 18 games this season, after tallying seven five-assist games during her entire freshman campaign.
Notre Dame also ranks third in the nation with a .488 field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent or better from the floor in 16 games this season, and at least 45 percent in 24 outings.
Notre Dame also has seen a rise in its three-point shooting numbers following a slow start this season. During the past 21 games, the Fighting Irish are connecting at a 40.3 percent clip (75-of-186) from beyond the arc. Compare that with the first nine contests of the season, when Notre Dame had a .269 (29-of-108) three-point percentage.
Notre Dame ranked among the top 10 in the nation in seven categories according to the Feb. 28 NCAA statistics report -- third in field goal percentage (now .488) and steals (13.6); fourth in scoring margin (+24.6); sixth in assists (18.0) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.261); seventh in rebounding margin (+9.9), and eighth in scoring offense (79.0).
In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 25 in the NCAA in 11 of 17 categories (not counting won-loss percentage), adding in turnover margin (11th, +5.7), scoring defense (16th, 54.4), assist/turnover ratio (20th, 1.01) and field goal percentage defense (22nd, .358).
Yet for all of these high team statistical marks, no Fighting Irish individual ranked higher than No. 66 in any single category -- sophomore guard Skylar Diggins was 66th in the nation in assists (4.6).
High Octane Offense
Behind one of the nation's top 10 scoring offenses (79.0 ppg., eighth as of Feb. 28), Notre Dame is moving into uncharted territory in the school's record books.
The Fighting Irish have scored 90 points in a game in eight contests this season, setting a new school record for 90-point games in a season (the previous mark was seven on three occasions - 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
Notre Dame also has set a new school record with nine wins by at least 35 points, more than doubling the previous program record of four 35-point wins set in 2008-09.
What's more, the Fighting Irish have won 12 games by at least 30 points, topping the school record of 10 30-point victories, which was set during the program's 2000-01 national championship season.
Last year, Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game, the fifth-highest single-season scoring average in school history, and best since the Fighting Irish logged a school-record 81.0 ppg. mark in 1998-99.
One of Notre Dame's greatest areas of improvement this season has been in the rebounding column, where the Fighting Irish are averaging 41.3 caroms per game, up two rebounds from last year's total at this time (39.3 rpg.) and good enough for third in the BIG EAST.
Notre Dame also is giving up just 31.4 rebounds per game, close to five caroms better than last year at this time (36.0 rpg.) and placing second in the conference.
With a +9.9 rpg. margin this season, the Fighting Irish rank third in the BIG EAST and seventh in the country as of Feb. 28.
What's more, Notre Dame has outrebounded its opponent by double digits in 15 games this season, including eight games in which the Fighting Irish posted rebound margins of +15 or better, topped by a season-high +42 mark (66-24) on Jan. 2 against Southeast Missouri State at Purcell Pavilion.
Everyone Gets Into The Act
The Fighting Irish have spread the wealth so far this season, with six different players leading the team in scoring in at least one game thus far, with four different 20-point scorers along the way.
Notre Dame also has seen no fewer than eight different players claim team-high rebounding and assist honors at some point this year.
Missed It By That Much
Notre Dame may hold a 24-6 record coming into the BIG EAST Championship, but the Fighting Irish are oh-so-close to owning a much better mark, with all six losses coming to top-15 opponents by an average margin of just 7.3 points per game (four by five points or fewer, and a fifth by 11 points).
What's more, Notre Dame led inside the final 30 seconds of regulation in three of those losses (No. 15 UCLA, also at the end of the first overtime; No. 2 Connecticut; No. 12/11 DePaul), and the Fighting Irish also had a possession to tie the game in the final 30 seconds at No. 9/10 Kentucky.
The fifth loss (at No. 2/3 Baylor) saw Notre Dame battle to within six points (65-59) with five minutes remaining and have a look at a three-pointer to halve the margin further on their next possession, but the shot rattled out and the Lady Bears managed to put the game away with nine free throws (despite making only one field goal during the final 8:23).
Novosel Is Just Plain Nasty
Nicknamed "Nasty" for her playmaking abilities, junior guard Natalie Novosel has made a strong case as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference, if not the entire country.
The Lexington, Ky., native currently leads the Fighting Irish (and ranks seventh in the league) in scoring at 15.0 points per game, tripling her offensive output from a season ago. She also has scored at least 20 points in a game five times this year (after coming into the campaign with a career single-game high of 19 points) and has scored in double figures a team-high 26 times after doing so a total of 14 times in her first two seasons combined at Notre Dame.
In addition, Novosel added some hardware to her personal trophy case as well, taking home Most Valuable Player honors at the WBCA Classic, earning a spot on the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic All-Tournament Team and also garnering three mentions on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll (Nov. 29, Feb. 7, March 1).
Thus, it's no surprise that ESPN.com's Graham Hays tweeted the following comment after Novosel's career-high 27 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 9-9 FT) vs. Gonzaga in a 70-61 Fighting Irish win on Dec. 29 in Seattle:
"Is Natalie Novosel the most improved player in the nation? Gotta be on the short list."
Peters Showing Her Own Dev-elopment
If Novosel is among the nation's most improved players, senior forward Devereaux Peters can't be far behind. The veteran frontliner is playing some of the best basketball of her career this season, putting a pair of knee injuries and three surgeries well in the rearview mirror.
A three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll selection, Peters currently is averaging career highs of 11.5 points per game (26th in the BIG EAST) and 7.2 rebounds per game (eighth), along with a .593 field goal percentage (second), 1.6 blocks per game (sixth), 1.9 steals per game and a career-high .761 free throw percentage.
Peters' numbers in BIG EAST play were even more eye-popping, as she ranked among the top five in the league in field goal percentage (first - .621), rebounding (second - 7.9 rpg.) and blocks (third - 1.9 bpg.), while ranking 15th in scoring (12.9 ppg.). She also placed second in the BIG EAST with five double-doubles during conference action.
Like Novosel, Peters regularly has been pulling in accolades this season, earning a spot on the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team and garnering MVP honors at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle. During the latter tournament on Dec. 29-30, she averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game with a .684 field goal percentage (13-of-19) in wins over Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount.
That tournament effort has been the cornerstone of Peters' post-Christmas surge. In the past 18 games, the Chicago native is averaging 13.1 points and 8.4 rebounds with seven double-doubles and a .623 field goal percentage (102-of-164).
Peters Adds Griner To SWAT Team
Senior forward Devereaux Peters has made a living as a shot blocking presence in the paint for Notre Dame throughout her career, with her 6-foot-2 frame and 77-inch wingspan. However, on Dec. 1 at No. 2/3 Baylor, she added another notch to her belt in historic fashion.
At the 10:22 mark of the second half, the Lady Bears threw an entry pass in to their 6-foot-8 sophomore All-America center Brittney Griner, but as she turned to shoot, Peters rotated perfectly from the weak side and rejected Griner's shot out of bounds. It was one of the highlights in a 17-2 Fighting Irish run that pulled Notre Dame within six points of Baylor with five minutes left.
It's believed to be the first time in Griner's two-year college career that she has had a shot blocked. A video clip of Peters' block has been posted on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball YouTube channel (search for "notredameirishhoops" or click the link through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at www.UND.com).
Bruszewski Joins 1,000-Point Club
With 12 points vs. Syracuse on Feb. 1, senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski became the 27th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 points in her career. She currently ranked 23rd on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,075 points.
Bruszewski also became the fifth player from Notre Dame's 2007-08 NCAA Sweet 16 team to hit the 1,000-point mark, joining Charel Allen (1,566 from 2004-08), Ashley Barlow (1,492 from 2006-10), Lindsay Schrader (1,429 from 2005-10) and Melissa Lechlitner (1,005 from 2006-10) in that group.
Five other teams in Fighting Irish women's basketball history have featured at least five current or future 1,000-point scorers on the same roster -- from 1995-96 through 1999-2000, every Notre Dame squad had five or more players who had reached or would reach the 1,000-point plateau during their careers (including a school-record six on the 1996-97 and 1997-98 squads).
Aside from head coach Muffet McGraw and current associate coach Carol Owens, the one common link between those teams was guard Danielle Green, who scored 1,106 points from 1995-2000, missing the 1996-97 Final Four season with a preseason Achilles injury and coming back for a fifth year of eligibility in 1999-2000.
Game #30 Recap: DePaul
Felicia Chester took Taylor Pikes' pass and put up a layup with 5.9 seconds left and No. 12 DePaul stunned visiting No. 7 Notre Dame 70-69 on Monday at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
Even after Chester's layup, Notre Dame (24-6, 13-3) wasn't quite finished. Skylar Diggins, who had a team-high 18 points, drove the lane for her own game-winning try, only to have the ball stripped away as time expired.
Chester scored 16 of her game-high 20 points in the second half as DePaul rallied from a nine-point deficit for a lead with 1:57 to play following Keisha Hampton's layup.
Diggins hit two free throws with 1:49 to go, and Natalie Novosel followed with a three-pointer as Notre Dame pulled to 66-65. Pikes restored a three-point lead with 59 seconds to play, but Diggins' layup closed the gap to 68-67 just 13 seconds later.
DePaul outscored Notre Dame 18-11 off turnovers on the way to a 32-26 halftime lead.
The Fighting Irish turned the tables early in the second half with a 9-2 run. DePaul's third turnover of the second half allowed Notre Dame to take its first lead since the opening minutes on Becca Bruszewski's hook shot at 18:02.
DePaul retook the lead at 36-35 on Chester's hook shot with 16:27 left, but Diggins gave Notre Dame a lead again seconds later with a bank off the glass.
Hampton added 17 points for the Blue Demons while Novosel also had 17 for Notre Dame.
Noting The DePaul Game
Notre Dame rose to a season-high No. 7 in the Feb. 28 Associated Press poll, its sixth consecutive week in the top 10. That marked the 75th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001).
With its current poll position, Notre Dame now has appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll in each of the past four seasons and 11 of the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), as well as 101 weeks overall since the Fighting Irish earned their initial AP top-10 ranking (No. 9 on Nov. 24, 1996).
This year's No. 12 preseason ranking also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 214 weeks during the program's 34-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 8 in the March 1 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, down one spot from their season-best position of No. 7. Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 75 of the past 76 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 206 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the third consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as nine of the past 13 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 30 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 214 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 30 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart on previous page), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the AP poll for two weeks in mid-February.
Six of the 16 active coaches in this group -- including McGraw -- led their teams to this year's NCAA Championship, while McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 211-17 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 139 of their last 150 such contests, and 48 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford's XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).
The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in 23 games this year, including their Feb. 26 win over Cincinnati, when they led 28-20 through the first 20 minutes.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 16 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame's first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 227-15 (.938) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in 19 contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount, Southeast Missouri State, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Cincinnati).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 153-5 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in 14 games this year (13-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The 2009-10 season saw an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish make short work of their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.
For the second consecutive year, Notre Dame set a new single-season attendance record, averaging 8,553 fans for its 17 home games this season (fifth in the country according to this week's NCAA attendance report), including sellout crowds of 9,149 for its games against Purdue (Dec. 5), Connecticut (Jan. 8), St. John's (Jan. 23), Rutgers (Feb. 12) and Cincinnati (Feb. 26).
Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women's basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer's table.
McGraw Is Simply Legendary
The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time -- head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.
McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game" that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.
The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).
The '11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game. The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Fighting Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.
McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 - LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 - Virginia).
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women's basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his third season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame had 26 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule were seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Feb. 28 DePaul contest (which was televised live on CBS College Sports), Notre Dame has played in 191 televised games, including 136 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Sets Pace For Pink Zone
Following last year's wildly-successful fundraising efforts for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Pink Zone breast cancer initiative, Notre Dame reached even higher this season, as the Fighting Irish have raised a program-record $116,405 for the initiative, among the most by any Division I school in the country this year. That also lifts Notre Dame's combined Pink Zone fundraising total in the last three years to more than a quarter of a million dollars (approximately $260,000).
In 2009-10, the Fighting Irish collected nearly $104,000 for the global unified effort by the WBCA's membership to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.
Notre Dame's local Pink Zone drive is led by primary sponsor Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, with donations divided between the Foundation for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center's Women's Task Force and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
This year, Notre Dame brought back some of its more popular fundraising activities, including the Fighting Irish Three-Point Pledge (fans donate a certain amount for every three-pointer made by Notre Dame this season) and the Notre Dame Pink Zone Store (sales of various Pink Zone items, including t-shirts, buttons, tote bags, etc., in the Joyce Center's Heritage Hall at all Fighting Irish home games). The Notre Dame Gameday Silent Auction also was a huge hit again in 2010-11, with more than 100 items generating $13,000 in bids for this year's effort.
Some new events added for this year included the Pink Zone Treadmill Campaign (celebrities walked on a courtside treadmill during the Jan. 23, Feb. 1, 8 and 12 games) and the Notre Dame Women's Basketball SPIN-A-THON (a 24-hour event to ride stationary bikes on Jan. 22-23 at South Bend's Knollwood Country Club, which raised $30,000 for the cause).
In addition, NBC correspondent Anne Thompson (a Notre Dame alumna and breast cancer survivor) was the keynote speaker at the inaugural "Docs in Pink" luncheon at Club Naimoli in Purcell Pavilion, an event that generated more than $20,000.
For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the Notre Dame Pink Zone web page at www.UND.com/pinkzone.
Nice Threads, Coach
While Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw and assistant coach Niele Ivey are well-known for their fashion sense on the sidelines, another Fighting Irish assistant stole the spotlight at Notre Dame's Pink Zone game on Feb. 12 against Rutgers.
Associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis took the floor wearing a snappy pink blazer, courtesy of none other than former Villanova men's basketball coach and 1985 NCAA national champion Rollie Massimino.
For the past few years, Tsipis has visited Massimino's current home at NAIA Division II member Northwood University (West Palm Beach, Fla.) to observe the legendary coach's practices. Last summer, the Notre Dame coach noticed Massimino wearing a pink sportcoat in one of his school's media guides and asked where he could obtain one of his own. Massimino quickly offered to loan his jacket to Tsipis, and the rest is "Pink Zone" history.
Next Game: NCAA Championship
Following this weekend's BIG EAST Championship, Notre Dame will return home to await the announcement of the 64-team field for the 2011 NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish are seeking their 16th consecutive tournament berth (and 18th overall).
The full NCAA tournament bracket will be unveiled at 7 p.m. (ET) March 14 live on ESPN, with the ESPN family of networks once again set to broadcast all 63 games of this year's tournament. Official tip times also will be announced on Selection Monday.