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    #6/7 Irish Gear Up For BIG EAST Championship

    FIGHTING IRISH Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader averaged 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in her first three trips to the BIG EAST Conference Championship.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader averaged 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in her first three trips to the BIG EAST Conference Championship.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    March 3, 2010

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    2010 BIG EAST Championship Central
    Irish BIG EAST Championship Central

    2009-10 ND Women's Basketball: Game 30
    BIG EAST Conference Championship -- Second Round
    #6/7 [#5 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-4 / 12-4 BIG EAST) vs. [#12 seed] Pittsburgh Panthers (16-13 / 5-11 BIG EAST) or [#13 seed] Louisville Cardinals (13-16 / 5-11 BIG EAST)

    DATE: March 6, 2010
    TIME: Noon ET
    AT: Hartford, Conn. - XL Center (16,294)
    SERIES: ND leads PITT 18-3 / ND/LOU tied 4-4
    BE CHAMP.: ND/PITT tied 1-1 / ND/LOU never played
    TV: BIG EAST TV (live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Brooke Weisbrod, color / Bob Picozzi, sideline)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: bigeast.org

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is seeded fifth at the BIG EAST Championship for the second consecutive season, and third time overall (3-2 record).
  • Eleven of Notre Dame's last 13 BIG EAST tournament games have been decided by 11 points or less, including six by single digits.
  • #6/7 Irish Gear Up For BIG EAST Championship This Week
    Following one of the more successful regular seasons in school history, No. 6/7 Notre Dame turns its focus to the postseason, as the fifth-seeded Irish tip off play at the BIG EAST Conference Championship Saturday at noon (ET) with a second-round game against either Pittsburgh or Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The game will be broadcast live as part of the BIG EAST TV package, which includes Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

    Notre Dame (25-4, 12-4) showed flashes of promise in its regular season finale on Monday night against top-ranked Connecticut, but it wasn't enough to derail the Huskies, as the visitors picked up a 76-51 win at Purcell Pavilion.

    Junior forwards Devereaux Peters and Becca Bruszewski came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points apiece, while Peters added a team-best seven rebounds for the Irish.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is sixth in the current Associated Press poll and seventh in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Pittsburgh is not ranked.
  • Louisville is not ranked.
  • Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame is in the midst of a 55-week run in the Associated Press poll (as of March 1), the second-longest streak in school history (56 from 1998-2002).
  • The Irish appeared in the top five of the AP poll for the first 15 weeks this season, marking the second-longest string of consecutive AP Top 5 rankings in program history behind only the final 17 weeks in 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame's 15-game winning streak earlier this season tied for the third-longest in school history, and longest since a school-record 23-game run from Nov. 17, 2000-Feb. 14, 2001.
  • At 15-0, the Irish posted the second-best start in program history, topped only by a 23-0 debut in 2000-01 (the season in which Notre Dame won its first NCAA title).
  • The Irish have secured their 16th 20-win season in the past 17 years, as well as the 20th in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) and the 24th in the program's 33-year history.
  • Notre Dame has charted its seventh 25-win campaign in program history, with all seven coming in the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present).
  • Notre Dame has defeated five ranked opponents (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, West Virginia) this year, with three wins away from home.
  • The Irish won the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division title (their first regular-season tourney crown since the 2005 Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas), with freshman guard Skylar Diggins capturing MVP honors and senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner making the all-tournament team.
  • At least seven different players have led the Irish in scoring, rebounding and assists this season. In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once this year.
  • In the March 1 NCAA statistical rankings, Notre Dame appears among the top 20 in eight categories, including top-10 rankings in five areas -- steals (5th at 12.9 spg.), assists (6th at 18.0 apg.), scoring offense (7th at 77.6 ppg.), won-loss percentage (8th at .862) and turnover margin (10th at +6.27).
  • Conversely, Notre Dame has no player ranked higher than 50th in any NCAA statistical category -- senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow is 54th in the land in steals at 2.5 per game.
  • Notre Dame is forcing 22.9 turnovers per game this season, including 25.1 at home. The Irish also have caused at least 20 takeaways in 21 games, with no fewer than 25 opponent turnovers in 10 games (and six 30-takeaway nights) this year.
  • Notre Dame is averaging 8,677 fans per game this year (with a school-record six sellouts, including a current streak of four in a row), unofficially ranking fifth in the nation and showing a 21-percent increase from last year (7,168). The Irish also are the only school from the top 25 of the final 2008-09 NCAA attendance rankings to see an increase in attendance this year.
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 339 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past nine seasons. Last year, the program finished ninth in the country for the second year in a row with an average of 7,168 fans for its 13 home games (the second-highest single-season attendance average in school history). The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 139 of their last 141 home games, logging 12 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (including the past four home games, most recently on March 1, 2010 vs. top-ranked Connecticut).
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past nine seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the '09 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of 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.
  • For the fourth year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2009. What's more, 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 58-for-58 success rate), with all five members of this year's senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Erica Williamson earned her undergraduate degree one semester early in January 2010).
  • The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series
    Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have squared off 21 times, all since the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. In that time, Notre Dame has compiled an 18-3 record against the Panthers, although Pitt has won three of the past five in the series. The teams also have split two prior meetings on a neutral floor (both in the BIG EAST Championship), with Notre Dame winning in 2003 (73-65 in Piscataway, N.J.) and the Panthers prevailing in 2008 (64-53 in Hartford).

    The Last Time ND And Pittsburgh Met
    Skylar Diggins answered Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw's challenge to be a better rebounder.

    Diggins grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her 23 points, both season highs, to lead the third-ranked Fighting Irish to an 86-76 victory over Pittsburgh on Feb. 6 at Purcell Pavilion.

    "The rebounding is something we've been working on," McGraw said. "She just did an outstanding job of trying to go get the rebound. That was the last piece that was missing."

    Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said the Panthers struggled to defend Diggins.

    "She had a hot hand and Notre Dame did a great job of feeding the hot hand," she said.

    Diggins, a freshman, said she is feeling more comfortable in Notre Dame's offense.

    "I'm just playing. That's what I'm doing better. I'm not playing not to make a mistake," Diggins said. "I'm just being competitive and let the game come to me."

    Diggins, who also had six assists and two blocked shots with no turnovers, said she went into the game focusing on rebounding.

    "I wanted to see how many I could get," she said.

    Diggins, whose previous high for rebounds was six against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, said she watched tape of recent games and found she was standing around too much.

    "I was getting in there, I just wasn't being aggressive to the ball," she said.

    Diggins was 9-of-11 from the free-throw line and the Fighting Irish (21-1, 8-1 BIG EAST) were 21-of-29. Pittsburgh (12-10, 1-8) was 9-of-15.

    The Irish outscored the bigger Panthers 46-34 in the paint and had a 38-32 rebounding advantage. Lindsay Schrader added 18 points for Notre Dame and Becca Bruszewski had 10.

    Taneisha Harrison led the Panthers with 20 points. Jania Sims had 13 and Chelsea Cole and Selena Nwude had 12 points each.

    "We have to have at least four players in double figures," Berenato said.

    After the Irish went on a 14-2 run in the first half to open a 13-point lead, the Panthers gradually cut the deficit to four late in the first half. But the Irish led 45-37 at halftime, then used a 10-2 run early in the second half take a 48-45 lead.

    Notre Dame extended the lead to 81-62 when Ashley Barlow hit a three as the shot clock sounded with 5:13 left. Pitt used a 14-3 run to cut the lead to 84-76 on a jumper by Sims, but couldn't get any closer.

    The Last Time ND And Pittsburgh Met In The BIG EAST Championship
    Marcedes Walker had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Pittsburgh upset No. 9/15 Notre Dame 64-53, on March 9, 2008, in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

    Xenia Stewart added 13 points, including a big three-pointer with less than a minute left, for the Panthers. Charel Allen had 17 points for Notre Dame.

    The teams combined for 39 turnovers and neither shot better than 35 percent in a defensive struggle. The fourth-seeded Irish came in averaging more than 77 points per game.

    Pitt trailed 35-30 early in the second half before going on an 11-2 run. Allen led the Irish back, and they went up 49-48 with 3:08 left.

    A layup by Walker with 1:36 remaining gave Pitt a 53-51 advantage. After Allen missed a jumper on the other end, Stewart hit a huge three-pointer with 56 seconds left. The Panthers made their free throws down the stretch to earn the school's first berth in the semifinals.

    Pitt started slowly and the Irish went on 14-2 run to open the game. The Panthers had just two points and eight turnovers in the first eight minutes. They hit just two of their first 19 shots, and didn't score their second basket until almost the 10-minute mark of the first half when Stewart knocked down a short jumper.

    Walker, who had 20 points and seven rebounds in Pitt's first-round win over Villanova, picked up two early offensive fouls, but still had eight of Pittsburgh's first 12 points.

    She led the Panthers on a 15-3 run to tie the game at 17. Shavonte Zellous put back her own miss to pull the Panthers within 22-21 at the half. Zellous, who came in averaging almost 19 points per game, went 3-for-14 from the field.

    Allen was 7-of-15 for Notre Dame, which shot just 30.6 percent for the game.

    Other ND-Pittsburgh Series Tidbits

  • Ten of the first 11 series games were decided by double digits, before five of the next six games in the series featured single-digit victory margins by an average spread of 7.2 points per game. However, the past four contests wound up being double-figure wins, with the Irish taking the most recent game, 86-76 on Feb. 6 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame has scored 65 or more points in all but two of its 21 meetings with Pitt, with both exceptions resulting in Panther victories (71-62 in 2007 and 64-53 at the 2008 BIG EAST Championship). Pitt has reached that standard 10 times against the Irish, including eight of the past 10 games.
  • The two head coaches have faced one another on the sidelines 14 times during the past three decades. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw is 11-3 in these head-to-head contests with Pitt head coach Agnus Berenato, with the first five games coming when McGraw was at Lehigh and Berenato at Rider in the 1980s.
  • Notre Dame junior guard Brittany Mallory and Pitt junior guard Taneisha Harrison were teammaes on the Fairfax (Va.) Stars AAU 16-and-under squad in 2006. Mallory's father, Bob, was an assistant on that team.
  • Notre Dame freshman guard Skylar Diggins and Pittsburgh sophomore center Pepper Wilson both competed at the 2009 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team Trials in Colorado Springs last summer. Diggins made the squad (and was a co-captain in leading Team USA to the gold medal), while Wilson was a finalist, but withdrew from consideration because of a knee injury.
  • Notre Dame freshman guard Kaila Turner and Pittsburgh freshman guard Ashlee Anderson were key players in one of the more dramatic playoff games in Illinois girls' high school basketball history, and it came just last year in the Class 4A St. Xavier Supersectional (one step from a trip to the state semifinals). On March 2, 2009, Turner scored a team-high 24 points and rallied her Marian Catholic squad from an early seven-point deficit, helping send the game to double overtime before Anderson's Whitney Young team prevailed, 78-76 on a miraculous half-court shot at the buzzer. Anderson scored 21 points in the game.
  • Fifth-year Notre Dame coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio graduated from Pittsburgh in 2004 with a degree in business administration. Menio spent two years as a marketing assistant with the Panthers' women's basketball program, and in conjunction with the debut of the Petersen Events Center, she aided in the program's 114-percent increase in attendance from 2002-04, as well as the first sellout in program history (12,632 vs. Connecticut on Jan. 25, 2003).
  • Fifth-year Notre Dame assistant coach Angie Potthoff-Barber spent three seasons (2002-05) coaching the girls' basketball team at Beaver (Pa.) Area High School, located 45 minutes northwest of Pittsburgh; she was an assistant for two seasons before taking over as head coach during her final year.
  • Potthoff-Barber also was a three-year college assistant (1999-2002), spending her first year as a graduate aide at Indiana (Pa.), located 70 miles east of Pittsburgh, then two more seasons as a full assistant at Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa. (located near Pittsburgh International Airport).
  • The Notre Dame-Louisville Series
    Notre Dame and Louisville have played eight times before, with the series deadlocked at 4-4. However, the Irish have won three of five since the Cardinals joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06, while Louisville claimed the lone neutral-site matchup in the series (80-75 in the team's first-ever meeting on March 22, 1991, at the old National Women's Invitation Tournament in Amarillo, Texas).

    The Last Time ND And Louisville Met
    Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw worried how her team would react after the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish were blown out by top-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 16.

    Fifteen minutes into her team's game against Louisville, McGraw had her answer. And it wasn't good. Notre Dame trailed by 12 and didn't exactly appear to be in a rush to make up the deficit.

    "We definitely looked hung over," McGraw said.

    The Irish found the cure in the second half, upping their intensity on both ends of the floor to wear down the Cardinals for a 78-60 victory on Jan. 19 at Freedom Hall.

    Skylar Diggins scored 20 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures as the Irish pulled away over the final 20 minutes to give McGraw her 600th career victory.

    "I think our confidence was a little down after the (UConn) game," said Lindsay Schrader, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds. "I definitely think this will help. We just have to go into games with a chip on our shoulder and tell ourselves we are good."

    Ashley Barlow added 18 points and Melissa Lechlitner chipped in 14 for the Irish (16-1, 3-1 BIG EAST), who forced Louisville into 20 turnovers and held the Cardinals without a field goal for more than eight minutes in the second half.

    Monique Reid led Louisville (10-8, 2-3) with 23 points and nine rebounds, but the Cardinals shot just 37 percent in the second half and had trouble holding onto the ball, a problem they have been unable to shake this season.

    "It's the same old, same old," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.

    The Cardinals entered the game averaging 23 turnovers a game, worst in the BIG EAST. Things appeared to get better early against the Irish.

    With walk-on freshman point guard Shelby Harper running things, Louisville played arguably its best 15 minutes of the season to open a 33-21 lead.

    "They're kind of like a tease sometimes," Walz said. "They'll tease me with how they play."

    Harper was forced into action this year after injuries ravaged Louisville's backcourt, part of a nightmarish follow-up to their breakthrough season last spring when the Cardinals made it to the national championship game.

    Still, the Cardinals came out firing, the kind of scenario the Irish were trying to avoid three days after falling behind UConn by 22 in the first half.

    Yet the Irish steadied themselves with a 16-4 run to end the half to tie the game at 37 at the break as Louisville's offense broke down when Harper went to the bench with three fouls.

    The Cardinals briefly led by five in the second half before running out of gas while the Irish came to life behind Diggins, who scored 15 points in the second half.

    "Coach preaches attacking," Diggins said. "My teammates were finding me and I was just making the open shot. I was just trying to push the ball and keep going."

    While the Irish surged, the Cardinals stalled.

    Gwen Rucker hit a layup to give Louisville a 46-43 lead with 16:50 to go, but the Cardinals wouldn't score again until Reid converted a three-point play with 8:14 remaining.

    By then Notre Dame had reeled off 13 straight points and the undermanned Cardinals couldn't keep pace. Reid, who was brilliant in the first half, made just 2 of 8 shots in the second half.

    The Irish had no such problems. Executing crisply in the halfcourt, Notre Dame found easy baskets for Schrader, Diggins and Lechlitner.

    The lead ballooned to 20 in the final minutes, allowing McGraw to celebrate her milestone win.

    Other ND-Louisville Series Tidbits

  • Just how close is the series? In addition to the series record being tied at 4-4, the aggregate point totals for each team are remarkably close through the eight-game series, with Notre Dame having collected 538 points (67.3 ppg.) and Louisville scoring 519 points (64.9 ppg.).
  • To further illustrate that point, seven of the eight games in the series have been decided by 15 points or fewer. Since Louisville joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06, four of the five series games have been decided by 10 points or fewer, with the lone exception being this year's 78-60 Notre Dame win (Jan. 19 at Freedom Hall).
  • Only four times in the eight-game series has either team scored at least 70 points, and ironically, both teams did it in the same game twice. The Cardinals won the first-ever matchup, 80-75, in the 1991 National Women's Invitation Tournament consolation semifinals at Amarillo, Texas, while the Irish won in 2008 at Freedom Hall, 82-74. Notre Dame's 82 points in that game are the most scored by either team in the series.
  • The home team has won only two of the seven on-campus games in the series to date, with the Cardinals winning at Freedom Hall in 2006 (61-51) and the Irish taking the 2007 contest at Purcell Pavilion (64-55).
  • Aside from its series with Louisville, Notre Dame has played only one other game against a Kentucky school, defeating Western Kentucky, 78-59, in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel hails from Lexington, Ky., and is the first Kentucky native to suit up for Notre Dame in the 33-year history of the program.
  • Novosel and Louisville sophomore forward Monique Reid were arguably two of the best players to come out of the Kentucky high school ranks in 2008, with Reid nosing out Novosel for Miss Basketball honors.
  • Novosel and Louisville sophomore forward Gwen Rucker are no strangers to one another, both coming out of the Lexington area. Novosel and her Lexington Catholic High School teammates faced Rucker and her Henry Clay High School squad on numerous occasions during their prep careers, most notably in the 2008 11th Region championship game, when Henry Clay upset LexCath, 47-43, at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena in Richmond, Ky. Both players had double-doubles in the title game -- Novosel charted 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Rucker tallied 13 points and 10 rebounds -- and both were named to the all-region team (Novosel was the regular-season region MVP, while Rucker was the MVP of the regional tournament).
  • Irish In The BIG EAST Championship
    Notre Dame opens play in its 15th BIG EAST Championship this weekend, having compiled a 15-14 (.517) record in its 14 previous appearances. The Irish have reached the semifinals in seven of the past 14 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 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

  • Notre Dame is the fifth seed for the third time in 15 tournament appearances, and the second consecutive season. The Irish are 3-2 all-time as the No. 5 seed.
  • The most common seed for Notre Dame at the BIG EAST Championship has been No. 2, with the Irish appearing in that position four times (2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005).
  • Notre Dame has been the top seed for the BIG EAST Championship once, earning that honor in 2001.
  • The Irish are 11-6 (.647) all-time at the BIG EAST Championship when playing as the higher seed.
  • Conversely, Notre Dame is 4-8 (.333) as the lower tournament seed, with its most recent "underdog" victory coming in the first round of the 2006 Championship (73-66 over seventh-seeded South Florida).
  • Beginning with its classic 2001 BIG EAST title game against Connecticut (won by the Huskies, 78-76 on Sue Bird's shot at the buzzer), 11 of the past 13 Irish games in the conference tournament have been decided by 11 points or fewer, including six by single digits. The only exceptions were in 2005 (67-54 loss to Connecticut in the semifinals) and 2009 (62-45 win over St. John's in the second round).
  • All told, 16 of Notre Dame's 29 career games in the BIG EAST Championship have featured margins of 11 points or fewer, with the Irish going 6-10 (.375) in those contests.
  • 2009 BIG EAST Championship Rewind
    Notre Dame claimed the No. 5 seed for last year's BIG EAST Championship, earning a first-round bye before entering into a second-round matchup with 13th-seeded St. John's. Following a 62-45 win over the Red Storm, the Irish advanced to the quarterfinals against No. 4 seed Villanova, which ended Notre Dame's title hopes with a 58-47 victory. Here's a recap of last year's two tournament games:

    Second Round - #5 ND 62, #13 St. John's 45
    Lindsay Schrader had 16 points and Natalie Novosel added 15 as No. 20/17 Notre Dame defeated St. John's 62-45 in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship.

    St. John's' Da'Shena Stevens, chosen the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year a day earlier, had 12 points for the Red Storm (17-14).

    The teams traded the lead five times in the second half and St. John's led 35-33 before the Irish went on a 16-2 run. Novosel scored seven points and Melissa Lechlitner had five during that stretch.

    A three-pointer by Ashley Barlow at the shot-clock buzzer gave the Irish a 58-45 lead with 3:53 left, and Notre Dame cruised from there.

    Notre Dame opened the game on a 9-2 run, despite hitting just two of its first 10 shots. St. John's also was 2-of-10 from the field early and had just six points midway through the first half.

    But the Red Storm kept chipping away, and Sky Lindsay's driving layup with a minute left gave them a 22-20 lead at intermission.

    Quarterfinal - #4 Villanova 58, #5 ND 47
    Laura Kurz had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Villanova beat No. 20/17 Notre Dame 58-47 in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship.

    Lisa Karcic added 11 points for the Wildcats (19-12), whose victory over the Irish in the regular season earned them the fourth seed in the tournament.

    Melissa Lechlitner and Ashley Barlow each had 10 for fifth-seeded Notre Dame (22-8).

    Villanova hit just two of its first 14 shots and trailed by four at halftime, but opened the second half with an 18-8 run.

    Consecutive three-pointers from Heather Scanlon gave Villanova a 39-33 lead with 13 minutes left, and Kurz's first three put her team up 50-41 with just over three minutes left.

    The Wildcats were 10 of 25 from three-point range. Notre Dame attempted just five three-pointers and made one.

    The Irish jumped out to an 15-5 lead, but the Wildcats kept in close by going inside to Kurz, who had eight first-half points. Her kickout to Siobhan O'Connor for a three-pointer cut the lead to 23-21 with 16 seconds left in the first half. But Lechlitner hit an 18-foot jump shot at the halftime buzzer to give the Irish a 25-21 lead.

    The Not-So-Friendly Confines
    The Irish will be playing inside the XL Center for the 14th time, having posted a 3-10 (.231) record in the building formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center. In fact, Notre Dame lost its first four contests in the arena prior to the 2004 BIG EAST Championship, when the Irish broke through with a 70-59 victory over West Virginia in the conference quarterfinals. Notre Dame also earned a 73-66 win over South Florida in the first round of the 2006 BIG EAST Championship, as well as a 62-45 victory over St. John's in the second round of last year's tournament.

    Aside from the three victories, Notre Dame is 0-5 against Connecticut at the XL Center, falling twice in the BIG EAST Championship and three times in the regular season (most recently on Feb. 22, 2009, when it gave the Huskies all they wanted in a 76-66 UConn victory). The Irish also are winless at the arena in single BIG EAST Championship matchups against Rutgers (2004 quarterfinals), DePaul (2007 first round), Pittsburgh (2008 quarterfinals) and Villanova (2009 quarterfinals), as well as a 2004 NCAA East Regional semifinal against Penn State.

    Bouncing Back
    In recent years, Notre Dame has shown exceptional resiliency when it comes to responding to a double-digit loss. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Irish are 54-14 (.794) in "bounce back" games, including victories in their two such scenarios this season (78-60 at Louisville on Jan. 19; 82-67 vs. Marquette on Feb. 23).

    Overall, Notre Dame is 79-31 (.718) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) when playing its first game following a loss of 10 points or more.

    48 Hours
    Since the start of last season, Notre Dame has played 11 times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games, including three games in three days over this year's Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, when faced with such a tight turnaround, the Irish have risen to the occasion, going 8-3 (.727) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes.

    This season, Notre Dame is 4-2 in these 48-hour challenges, winning twice at the Paradise Jam (South Carolina and No. 20/17 Oklahoma), and then at home on New Year's Eve vs. No. 18/16 Vanderbilt (returning from a road trip to Central Florida less than two days earlier). The Irish also earned a 75-63 win at Rutgers on Feb. 1, two days after a a narrow 74-73 win at Syracuse.

    However, Notre Dame has lost on the back half of its two most recent "quick changes". On Feb. 16, the Irish dropped a 76-71 verdict at No. 22/23 St. John's, two days after a 90-66 home victory over DePaul (the game in which fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader suffered a sprained left ankle and subsequently missed two games). Then, on March 1, Notre Dame fell at home to top-ranked Connecticut, 76-51, two days after a 72-47 win at Seton Hall.

    Should the Irish advance to Sunday's quarterfinal round, it would mark the fourth time in a little more than a month that Notre Dame has tackled a tight turnaround.

    Pieces of Silver
    Notre Dame collected its 25th win of the season on Feb. 27 with a 72-47 victory at Seton Hall. It's the seventh time in program history (all in the past 14 seasons) that the Irish have registered at least 25 wins in a campaign, and the first since posting a 25-9 record in 2007-08.

    What's more, the Irish have reached the 25-win level in the regular season for the fourth time in school history, and the first since the 2004-05 campaign. The other 25-win regular seasons came in 1996-97 and 2000-01.

    Twenty Questions
    Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 16th time in the past 17 seasons with its 75-63 victory at Rutgers on Feb. 1. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 20 times in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era and 24 times in the program's 33-year history.

    Notre Dame also hit the 20-win plateau in its 21st game this season, reaching that milestone faster than all but one Irish team -- the 2000-01 squad that opened 23-0 and earned its 20th victory at Providence on Jan. 31, 2001 (one calendar day earlier than this year's club).

    The First Four
    Notre Dame finished the 2009-10 BIG EAST Conference season with a 12-4 record, tying the Irish with St. John's for fourth place in the final league standings. It marks the 12th time that Notre Dame has earned a top-four finish in its 15 seasons as a member of one of the nation's toughest conferences.

    What's more, this year's 12 league wins are the most for the Irish since 2004-05, when they registered a 13-3 record. It's also the 10th time Notre Dame has won at least 12 BIG EAST games in one season.

    Tough Enough
    Notre Dame has faced a rigorous schedule this season, taking on nine ranked opponents to date. The Irish also have risen to that challenge well, winning five times (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and West Virginia), including three victories away from home (MSU, SDSU and OU).

    In addition, two of the four losses to ranked opponents (at St. John's and at Georgetown) came by 10 points or fewer and occurred while fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader was sidelined with a sprained left ankle (the first two games Schrader missed in her college career).

    Four of Notre Dame's five wins over ranked opponents this season came during the non-conference portion of the schedule, marking the second consecutive year in which the Irish defeated four Top 25 non-conference foes.

    Comeback Kids
    Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to win three times this season. The Irish erased a 10-point first-half margin at Purdue on Jan. 4, followed by a 12-point first-half spread at Louisville on Jan. 19, and most recently, they wiped out a 13-point second-half gap at home against West Virginia on Jan. 24.

    The three double-digit comeback victories are the most for Notre Dame in a single season since 2002-03, when it came back to win at West Virginia (trailed by 14), at Providence (trailed by 10) and home vs. Seton Hall (trailed twice by 12).

    Spread The Wealth
    Notre Dame has seen at least seven different players led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists this season. That has been even more evident in the past seven games, with six different players leading the Irish in scoring during that time.

    In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Irish roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including sophomore guard Fraderica Miller, and freshman guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who each topped the 10-point mark for the first time in their careers.

    What's more, five different players have scored at least 20 points in a game this year. Diggins has five 20-point games (San Diego State, Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, St. John's), while senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner (Purdue, Marquette) has reached that mark twice. Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Georgetown), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (DePaul) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso) have one 20-point game apiece.

    Stat Sheet Stuffers
    Another sign of Notre Dame's versatility is seen in the number of "5-5-5" games (5 or more in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals) posted by its players this year. In fact, no fewer than six Irish players have pulled off this feat at least once during the current campaign.

    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB, Charlotte, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Marquette) has a team-high five 5-5-5 games, while senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Iona, South Florida, DePaul, St. John's) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, DePaul) both have four 5-5-5 games. Junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Louisville), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) and junior forward Devereaux Peters (St. John's) each have one.

    Barlow took it to another level in the Feb. 14 DePaul win with her first "5-5-5-5" game, piling up nine points, a career-high eight assists, six rebounds and five steals. Mallory nearly duplicated that trick in that same game with six points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.

    Taking What We Can Get
    Fueled by a renewed attention to defense this offseason, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 21 of 28 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 22.9 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +6.27 turnover margin that was 10th-best in the nation (as of March 1).

    In a two-game stretch bookending the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame harassed its opponents into a combined 79 turnovers (43 by Charlotte on Dec. 20 and 36 at UCF on Dec. 29).

    Charlotte's 43 turnovers tied for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary's (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program's second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.

    The Irish also are making even the most disciplined teams fall victim to their aggressive defensive style. Villanova came into its Jan. 9 game with Notre Dame ranked second in the nation with just 12.6 turnovers per game, but the Irish dogged the Wildcats into 34 turnovers (17 in each half).

    Notre Dame has been especially hard on opponents at home this season, forcing 25.1 turnovers per game and collecting at least 25 in eight Purcell Pavilion contests thus far.

    The Five-Finger Discount
    According to the March 1 NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame ranks fifth in the nation in steals (now 12.9 spg.). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in 21 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.

    Individually, Notre Dame has five players with at least 35 steals this year, led by senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow with 72 steals (good for 54th in the nation at 2.5 spg.). In fact, Barlow now has topped the 60-steal mark in each of her four seasons under the Golden Dome, making her just the third Irish player ever to accomplish that feat, along with Coquese Washington (1989-93) and current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (1997-2001).

    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins is second on the squad with 65 thefts, making her the sixth Irish rookie to record at least 60 steals in her freshman season, and the first to do so since 2006-07, when (ironically enough) Barlow also registered 63 steals.

    Diggins comes into this weekend's BIG EAST Championship needing just three steals to break Washington's school record for thefts by a rookie (67 in 1989-90).

    Glass Houses
    Notre Dame and Connecticut are the only two BIG EAST teams with at least three current players having 500+ career rebounds. Irish fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader is seventh all-time at Notre Dame with 787 boards, while senior guard tri-captain Ashley Barlow has 629 caroms and senior center Erica Williamson has 518 career rebounds.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked sixth in this week's Associated Press poll, up one spot from the previous week's No. 7 placement. That ranking ended a run of 15 consecutive weeks in the top five -- it was the second-longest run in the AP Top 5 in program history, and the longest for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.

    However, Notre Dame's current poll appearance run of 55 consecutive weeks is the second-longest in school history behind a 56-week stretch from 1998-2002). The Irish also spent a total of seven weeks this year at a season-high No. 3 ranking, which was Notre Dame's highest poll position since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.

    What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.

    With this week's poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 195 weeks during the program's 33-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 Irish are ranked seventh in this week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. Notre Dame reached its season high in the ESPN/USA Today poll for eight weeks earlier this year with a No. 3 ranking, which also was the highest it has been ranked in the coaches' survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year.

    What's more, it was the first time Notre Dame was in the top three in consecutive weeks since the final 14 weeks of the 2000-01 season (capped by a No. 1 ranking in the final poll after winning the national championship).

    This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

    Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consecutive weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their No. 7 ranking this week, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 187 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 28 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 195 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 28 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her third season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the Jan. 25 AP poll at No. 23.

    Road Warriors
    Notre Dame is 28-12 (.700) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 8-3 record this year.

    In addition, nine of the past 10 road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.2 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including two of three road setbacks this season (average margin of 7.5 ppg.).

    Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).

    Game #29 Recap: Connecticut
    Tina Charles had 18 points and eight rebounds to become top-ranked Connecticut's career leader in both categories in a 76-51 win over No. 6 Notre Dame on Monday night at Purcell Pavilion, leaving the Huskies one shy of tying their NCAA women's record for consecutive victories.

    Charles passed Nykesha Sales (1995-98) as the school's all-time leading scorer 2,184 points and Rebecca Lobo (1992-95) as its leading rebounder with 1,272.

    Connecticut (30-0, 16-0 BIG EAST), which reached 30 wins for the fifth straight season, can match the record of 70 consecutive wins set by the Huskies from 2001-2003 in the BIG EAST tournament quarterfinals on Sunday. It is the eighth time the Huskies have gone unbeaten in a BIG EAST regular season. Every win in the streak has been by double figures.

    The loss dropped the Fighting Irish (25-4, 12-4) into a fourth-place tie with No. 16 St. John's, but the Irish are the fifth seed in the tournament because of a loss to the Red Storm.

    Maya Moore had 17 points and nine rebounds as all five Connecticut starters finished in double figures. Tiffany Hayes added 13 points, Kalana Greene 12 and Caroline Doty 11. The Huskies got just five points from their bench.

    Devereaux Peters matched her career high in leading the Irish with 15 points, and Becca Bruszewski also had 15 as the Irish got 31 points from its bench.

    Noting The Connecticut Game

  • Notre Dame had its 14-game home court winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since a 79-71 defeat to Minnesota in the first round of last year's NCAA Championship (March 22, 2009).
  • The Fighting Irish were playing a top-ranked team for the second time this season, only the third time that's happened in the program's 33-year history (also in 1996-97 and 2000-01).
  • Notre Dame is 2-15 (.118) all-time against No. 1-ranked teams, with both wins coming over Connecticut in 2000-01.
  • UConn was the ninth ranked opponent for Notre Dame, which is now 5-4 against Top 25 teams this season.
  • The Huskies now lead the series with the Fighting Irish, 24-4 (and have won eight in a row), including an 8-2 mark at Purcell Pavilion (where they have won four in a row).
  • Notre Dame swiped double-digit steals for the 21st time this season.
  • Notre Dame's bench had a +26 (31-5) scoring edge, its largest scoring margin since Dec. 20, when the Fighting Irish reserves outscored their Charlotte counterparts, 52-6.
  • Connecticut's .556 field goal percentage not only was an opponent season high, but also marked the first time in 75 games that a Notre Dame opponent had shot better than 50 percent from the field -- DePaul was the last to do so, hitting 60 percent of its shots (30-of-50) in an 81-80 win at Purcell Pavilion on Jan. 22, 2008.
  • Junior forward Devereaux Peters logged her third double-digit scoring games of the season and tied her career high with 15 points, a mark she first set against Villanova on Jan. 16, 2008, at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Peters shared team-high scoring honors with classmate Becca Bruszewski, with Peters being the sixth different leading scorer for Notre Dame in its last seven games.
  • Peters is averaging 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in three career outings against Connecticut (and two of her three double-digit scoring games this year have come against the Huskies).
  • Bruszewski scored in double figures for the 12th time this season and first since she potted a career-high 25 points vs. DePaul on Feb. 14 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader made her 118th career start, tying Mollie Peirick (1994-98) for fourth on Notre Dame's all-time list.
  • Notre Dame posted its school-record sixth sellout of the season (and fourth in a row, as well as its fifth in the past six home games) -- prior to this year, the Fighting Irish had six sellouts in their first 32 seasons of competition.
  • Getting The Jump
    At 15-0, Notre Dame got off to the second-best start in the program's 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that this season was in 2000-01, when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program's first national championship.

    Streak Stats
    Notre Dame's season-opening 15-game winning streak tied for the third-longest success string in program history (at any time), and it was the longest since the school-record 23-game run to begin the 2000-01 season.

    McGraw Earns 600th Career Win
    Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached her second important career milestone of the season on Jan. 19, as she became the 19th Division I coach to record 600 career wins when the Irish posted a 78-60 victory at Louisville.

    McGraw earned the milestone win in her 839th career game (she now has a 28-year mark of 609-242, .716), tying her with former Saint Peter's coach Mike Granelli as the 10th-fastest to the 600-win plateau in Division I history.

    In honor of the historic 600th victory, Notre Dame fans at Purcell Pavilion held up signs with the number "600" on them when McGraw and her staff took the floor prior to the Jan. 24 win over No. 16/11 West Virginia. The visibly-moved Irish coach later called the scene "one of the top five moments" of her Notre Dame career.

    McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
    With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 521-201 (.722) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 609-242 (.716) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.

    Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).

    McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.

    As it turned out, that EMU game also saw the school honor McGraw with an on-court post-game celebration for her 500th win, capped by a visit from her 19-year-old son, Murphy, who secretly drove four hours from his college campus at Indiana University in Bloomington to surprise his mother with a bouquet of flowers and the game ball from her milestone win.

    Keeping It Close To Home
    Although Notre Dame has traditionally had a national reputation in recruiting circles, in recent seasons, the Irish have found their strongest talent comes from right in their own backyard. In fact, of the 13 players on this year's Notre Dame roster, four are from Indiana, while five others are from states that border Indiana (including sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who lived in Oak Park, Mich., and graduated from Detroit Country Day School in 2008 before her family moved back to her birthplace of Charleston, W.Va., this past summer).

    What's more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana -- senior guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and the all-South Bend backcourt of senior guard Melissa Lechlitner and freshman guard Skylar Diggins -- while the fifth starter (fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader) is from Bartlett, Ill., located right outside Chicago.

    As if that weren't enough, the quartet of Barlow, Lechlitner, Bruszewski and Schrader have been mainstays in the Irish lineup for the past two seasons and have a combined total of 328 career starts between them.

    Schrader reached a personal milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career. Schrader now is tied for fourth in school history with 118 career starts, and had a streak of 73 in a row from Jan. 16, 2008-Feb. 14, 2010 (sixth-best in school history) before missing the Feb. 16 game at St. John's with an ankle injury.

    Experience Matters
    For the first time in Notre Dame women's basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).

    Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001, while the current Irish senior quartet is closing in on 10th place (127) in that category (Lechlitner at 125, Barlow and Williamson at 124, Schrader at 122).

    Upwardly Mobile
    Two of Notre Dame's senior guards and tri-captains -- Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader -- are already members of the program's 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.

    Barlow currently ranks 11th in school history with 1,437 career points, while Schrader is 14th with 1,360 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 948 points to date.

    Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.

    Lechlitner Named Second-Team Academic All-District
    Senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner has been named to the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V Second Team, it was announced Feb. 4 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

    It's the first time Lechlitner has earned the award, and she is the first Fighting Irish player to garner academic all-district status since 2006, when former Notre Dame point guard Megan Duffy received her second consecutive district award and parlayed that into first-team Academic All-America honors. What's more, Lechlitner becomes the eighth Fighting Irish women's basketball player in the past 12 seasons to be an academic all-district selection.

    Lechlitner currently maintains a 3.377 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in the College of Arts and Letters, where she is pursuing her bachelor's degree in psychology. She earned dean's list honors in the spring of 2007 with a 3.75 semester GPA, and is coming off a stellar fall 2009 term that saw her post a 3.583 GPA. In addition, she is a three-time BIG EAST Conference All-Academic Team selection and is a prime candidate to make that squad once again this year.

    Pomp And Circumstance
    On Jan. 3, senior center Erica Williamson received her bachelor's degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters. Williamson, who also serves as the president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), graduated a full semester early and has begun graduate studies this spring.

    With Williamson collecting her diploma, all 58 Notre Dame women's basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.

    Tournament Tested
    Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.

    High Value Freshman
    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.

    Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.

    Century City
    With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).

    Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.

    First Impressions
    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.

    Eight Is Enough (For Now)
    Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.

    Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
    Notre Dame's 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.

    Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double (14 pts/11 asst).

    Half And Half
    During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 185-17 (.916) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 113 of their last 124 such contests.

    Notre Dame has led at the break in 22 games this season and has gone on to earn victories each time.

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 15 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 Irish have an amazing 206-14 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including an 11-0 record this season.

    ...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 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 137-4 (.972) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.

    This season, Notre Dame is 14-0 when it scores at least 80 points, including four games when it topped the 90-point mark.

    Now That's A Home Court Advantage
    One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 187 of their last 212 games (.882) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 106-18 (.855) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.

    The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 83 of their last 90 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

    Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 337-86 (.797) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.

    It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
    If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women's basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women's basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

    It didn't take long for this heightened enthusiasm to come to fruition, as the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).

    Through 15 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,677 fans per game, putting the Irish more than 850 fans ahead of their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.

    Notre Dame also has posted 12 sellouts in program history, with half of those capacity crowds coming this season in the newly-renovated arena -- including the past four home games and five of the last six (all during BIG EAST Conference play).

    The most recent sellout came on March 1, when the Irish drew 9,149 fans to Purcell Pavilion for their matchup with top-ranked Connecticut.

    A full rundown of the top women's basketball crowds in arena history, as well as a detailed history of the Purcell Pavilion/Joyce Center renovation and expansion, can be found in the sidebar on page 12 of the PDF version of this notes package.

    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. 89 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 second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.

    Notre Dame On The Small Screen
    Notre Dame will have at least 19 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule were 11 nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks (three on ESPN2's "Big Monday" package) and four others on CBS College Sports.

    In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) 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.

    What's more, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis. And, every game at this year's BIG EAST Championship will air on the conference's official multimedia web site, www.bigeast.tv.

    Saturday's second-round action at the 2010 BIG EAST Championship -- including Notre Dame's matchup with either Pittsburgh or Louisville at noon (ET) -- will be televised as part of the BIG EAST TV package, with regional clearances listed in the accompanying box at right (see PDF version of notes package).

    This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 161 televised games, including 108 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

    This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.

    Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country's top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.

    Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and 2010 McDonald's All-American Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.

    All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.

    "I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."

    "Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.

    The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.

    Irish Signee Kayla McBride Named McDonald's All-American
    Notre Dame incoming freshman guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) is one of 24 student-athletes who have been named to the 2010 McDonald's Girls' High School All-America Team, it was announced Feb. 11. With the selection, McBride will compete for the East team in the McDonald's High School All-America Game, which is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on March 31 and will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU from Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

    "This is an incredible honor and we are so proud of Kayla," Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. "She put in so much time and effort during the off-season to improve her game, and it's such a thrill to see that kind of hard work and dedication pay off. We're looking forward to following Kayla throughout the rest of her high school career, and excited to have her joining us next season."

    The 5-foot-11 McBride is the sixth future Notre Dame women's basketball player, and third in four seasons, to earn McDonald's High School All-America recognition since the girls' team was first created in 2002. Other incoming Fighting Irish cagers who played in the McDonald's game have included Courtney LaVere (2002), Crystal Erwin (2003), and a trio of current Notre Dame players -- Lindsay Schrader (2005), Devereaux Peters (2007) and Skylar Diggins (2009). Diggins shared Most Valuable Player honors at last year's McDonald's game in Coral Gables, Fla., after collecting a game-high 18 points, five rebounds and three steals for the East team in a 69-68 loss to the West squad.

    McBride, who also earned a spot on the ESPN Hoopgurlz All-Star Team that likewise was released Feb. 11, has been ranked as one of the top 25 players in the nation in the Class of 2010 by both ESPN Hoopgurlz (20th) and All-Star Girls Report (22nd). She recently became the all-time scoring leader in Villa Maria Academy history and has helped VMA -- the defending Pennsylvania Class AA state champion -- to a No. 1 ranking in the state in Class AA. The Victors also have been ranked among the top 15 teams in the East Region by several national media outlets this year.

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    It's year three of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.

    In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 18 times, including wins this year over Indianapolis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso, Charlotte and DePaul.

    It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.

    And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has too much time on his hands"), 10 different players have converted the "burger ball", including nine current members of the Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 18 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, six on free throws, and three on three-pointers.

    Notre Dame Lends A Hand For Haiti Earthquake Relief
    Fundraising efforts held in conjunction with two University of Notre Dame home basketball games have resulted in more than $250,000 in donations that will go toward relief efforts in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the island nation on Jan. 12.

    Through the generosity of fans and alumni, as well as contributions from the University and the Notre Dame Monogram Club, the money was raised at the men's and women's basketball games that were played Jan. 23 and 24, respectively, at Purcell Pavilion.

    Notre Dame donated full gate receipts and net concession revenue from both games to the relief effort. In addition, a collection organized by the Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) -- led by president and current Irish women's basketball senior center Erica Williamson, as well as baseball player Ryan Connolly and rower Emily Crosby -- raised more than $25,000 from fans and alumni who contributed during the games. The Monogram Club added a $10,000 matching gift to the student total.

    Money raised will benefit short-term needs and long-term rebuilding efforts in Haiti and will be distributed to the Notre Dame Haiti Program, which works to eradicate the debilitating mosquito-borne disease lymphatic filariasis; the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has served in Haiti since 1944 and was heavily affected by the earthquake; and Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.

    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 2010 NCAA Championship. The full bracket is scheduled to be unveiled March 15 at 7 p.m. (ET) live on ESPN, with the ESPN family of networks once again set to broadcast all 63 games of this year's tournament.

    Notre Dame is one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round action in this year's NCAA Championship. Should the Irish earn their 15th consecutive tournament berth (and 17th overall), there's an extremely high probability they will play at home for the first two rounds of the tournament, which are scheduled to be played March 21 & 23 at Purcell Pavilion -- official tip times will be announced on Selection Monday.

    -- ND --
     

     

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