March 3, 2010
DATE: March 6, 2010
#6/7 Irish Gear Up For BIG EAST Championship This Week
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.
Other Notre Dame Notables
The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series
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.
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
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
The Notre Dame-Louisville Series
The Last Time ND And Louisville Met
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
Irish In The BIG EAST Championship
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
2009 BIG EAST Championship Rewind
Second Round - #5 ND 62, #13 St. John's 45
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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.
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
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.
Noting The Connecticut Game
Getting The Jump
McGraw Earns 600th Career Win
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
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
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
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
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...
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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.