March 4, 2012
BIG EAST Conference Championship -- Semifinal
#3/3 [#1 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (29-2 / 15-1 BIG EAST) vs. [#5 seed] West Virginia Mountaineers (23-8 / 11-5 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 5, 2012
TIME: 6 p.m. ET
AT: Hartford, Conn. - XL Center (16,294)
SERIES: ND leads 18-3
1ST MTG: ND 73-55 (2/26/96)
LAST MTG: WVU 65-63 (2/12/12)
TV: ESPNU (live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Brooke Weisbrod, color / Allison Williams, sideline)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com / bigeast.org
#3 Fighting Irish Prepared To Face West Virginia Monday In BIG EAST Semifinal
Three weeks after dropping its first (and only) BIG EAST Conference game of the season, No. 3 Notre Dame has the opportunity to soothe the sting of that defeat, when the top-seeded Fighting Irish take on No. 5 seed West Virginia at 6 p.m. (ET) Monday in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU.
Notre Dame (29-2) advanced to the BIG EAST semifinals for the third consecutive year with a 69-54 victory over No. RV/23 DePaul on Sunday afternoon. The Fighting Irish used a 14-0 run that crossed over halftime to take command of the quarterfinal contests and the Blue Demons would not get closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters paced the Fighting Irish with a stellar all-around effort, chalking up a game-high 16 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high-tying six blocks, collecting her team-high 10th double-double of the season, and seventh in the past 11 games. Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel also added 16 points, while sophomore guard Kayla McBride chipped in with 14 points in her BIG EAST postseason debut for Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-West Virginia Series
Notre Dame and West Virginia will square off for the 22nd time on Monday night, with the Fighting Irish holding an 18-3 lead in the series with the Mountaineers. WVU won the regular season meeting between the clubs (65-63 on Feb. 12 at Purcell Pavilion), snapping Notre Dame's modest three-game winning streak in the series.
Monday will mark the second time Notre Dame and West Virginia have played in the postseason. On March 6, 2005, the Fighting Irish defeated the Mountaineers, 70-59 in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals, also played at the XL Center in Hartford.
The Last Time Notre Dame and West Virginia Met
Second-ranked Notre Dame almost played well enough, but West Virginia ended the Fighting Irish's 21-game winning streak with a 65-63 victory on Feb. 12, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion.
Brooke Hampton made two free throws with 4.6 seconds left to give the Mountaineers the lead and a potential game-tying 15-footer by Natalie Novosel bounced off the rim as time expired.
WVU center Asya Bussie had 22 points and eight rebounds, including a turnaround jumper with 39 seconds to go that tied the game at 63.
Skylar Diggins had a career-high 32 points for Notre Dame, which came into the game leading the nation at 83.2 points per game.
Diggins missed a contested layup with the score tied at 63 and less than 10 seconds to play. She then fouled Hampton at midcourt as she went for a steal with 4.6 seconds to go. Hampton then made the free throws that gave her four points for the game -- all from the line.
Ayana Dunning added 11 points for the Mountaineers, who finished with a 41-33 rebound advantage.
Novosel scored 16 points for Notre Dame and Devereaux Peters tied two (then) career highs by grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking six shots.
Notre Dame shot 41 percent from the field for the game while West Virginia shot 39 percent.
A three-pointer by WVU's Taylor Palmer tied the game at 35 with 17:26 to play. Diggins scored on consecutive possessions to start a 9-0 run. The Mountaineers rallied to tie it at 55 on two free throws by Bussie with 4:39 to play.
The Last Time Notre Dame and West Virginia Met In The BIG EAST Championship
Missing her first four shots didn't shake up Jacqueline Batteast.
The BIG EAST Player of the Year found other ways to help No. 10 Notre Dame early in the Fighting Irish's 70-59 BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal win over West Virginia on March 6, 2005, at the XL Center in Hartford. She grabbed a couple of defensive rebounds and stole the ball until she found her shot.
When she finally did, Batteast scored 16 points, including seven straight during a late second-half run to help Notre Dame reach the semifinals for the first time since 2001.
"That's how it's been for a while. You have to keep shooting," Batteast said. "It's going to fall eventually, so you can't stop."
Yolanda Paige led the Mountaineers with 23 points.
The game pitted the conference's top scorers in Batteast and West Virginia's Meg Bulger, who averaged a league-high 19.6 points. Batteast was second at 17.4.
Bulger struggled all night, making just three of 15 shots and finishing with eight points.
The second-seeded Fighting Irish were in control from the start and led by as many as 14 in the second half, shooting 61 percent in the period. Batteast made sure they kept the cushion, scoring seven points in a two-minute stretch.
The Mountaineers would get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Sherell Sowho added 11 points for West Virginia, and Olayinka Sanni grabbed a team-high seven boards.
Notre Dame controlled the boards, outrebounding West Virginia 32-23. The Fighting Irish also got 20 points from its backup players. Guard Charel Allen led the Notre Dame reserves with 11 points.
Other Notre Dame-West Virginia Series Tidbits
Fighting Irish In The BIG EAST Championship
Notre Dame is in the midst in its 17th BIG EAST Championship appearance this week, having compiled a 20-16 (.556) record at the conference tournament. Counting Monday's appearance, the Fighting Irish now have reached the semifinals 10 times and advanced to the title game five times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2011). Ironically, four of Notre Dame's five BIG EAST finals appearances came when the tournament was held in the state of Connecticut (1996, 1997 and 2001 on the UConn campus at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs; 2011 in Hartford).
Prior to joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame was a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League). During its seven-year affiliation with that conference, the Fighting Irish won the MCC Tournament five times, with Notre Dame's most recent conference tourney title (of any kind) coming in 1994, following a 72-63 championship game win over Xavier at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Other BIG EAST Championship Tidbits
Notre Dame needs one victory to reach the 30-win mark for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in program history. The Fighting Irish have never had back-to-back 30-win seasons, with its three prior campaigns of at least 30 victories coming in 1996-97 (31-7), 2000-01 (34-2) and 2010-11 (31-8).
Notre Dame has a 749-312 (.706) record in 35 seasons of varsity competition, starting with its roots as an AIAW Division III independent program in 1977-78. With one victory, the Fighting Irish would be the 25th Division I program to reach the 750-win mark, and the second to do so this season -- Virginia recorded its 750th all-time victory on Dec. 28 with an 84-41 conquest of Wagner.
Three other programs are hot on Notre Dame's heels to be the next 750-win program, including a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference schools. Duke (748) and North Carolina State (747) could reach the mark during postseason play later this month, while Ole Miss (744) also is within striking distance.
Since its Nov. 20 loss at No. 1 Baylor, Notre Dame has won its last 11 games against ranked opponents (including five against top-10 teams), earning eight of those victories by double digits (three by 25 points or more).
The major driving force in this turnaround has been the play of the Fighting Irish defense, which has held those last 11 Top 25 opponents to just 56.5 points per night, including eight games when the opposition scored 60 points or fewer.
Notre Dame also has held its ranked foes to a .356 field goal percentage (.261 from the three-point line), and posted a +6.7 rebounding margin after being outrebounded by 15 at Baylor.
Improvement Continues On The Glass
After averaging 37.2 rebounds in its first six games (and holding the upper hand in that category only three times, with an aggregate minus-2 rebounding margin), Notre Dame has featured a marked improvement on the boards since its return from the Bahamas after the Thanksgiving weekend.
In their last 25 games, the Fighting Irish are averaging 42.4 rebounds a night, with an average rebounding margin of +12.6 rpg., winning or finishing even in the rebounding battle all but twice in that span (41-33 against West Virginia on Feb. 12; 35-28 at No. 16 Louisville on Feb. 20). Furthermore, Notre Dame has grabbed at least 40 rebounds 20 times in the past 25 games after not reaching that mark once in its first six contests.
According to last Friday's NCAA statistics report, Notre Dame ranked ninth in the country in rebounding margin (now +10.1 rpg.) this year.
Windy City Warrior
Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters is in the midst of one of the best stretches of her college career, averaging 13.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game with a .535 field goal percentage (61-of-114) and seven double-doubles in her last 11 outings.
Here's a look at some of the rare feats Peters (the two-time BIG EAST Conference Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-BIG EAST selection) has been accomplished in the past six weeks:
Game #31 Recap: DePaul (BIG EAST Championship Quarterfinal)
Devereaux Peters had 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks to lead No. 3 Notre Dame to a 69-54 win over No. RV/23 DePaul in the BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinals Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford.
Katherine Harry had 10 of her 14 points in the first half for eighth-seeded DePaul (22-10).
Notre Dame took control of the game with a 14-0 run that began in the first half and ended three minutes into the second with a three-pointer from Novosel that gave the Fighting Irish a 48-26 lead.
The Blue Demons fought back, cutting the lead to 11 on a jumper by Jasmine Penny with 7:30 left in the game. But three straight layups from Peters, along with a blocked shot on the other end, stretched the lead back out to 17.
DePaul hit four of its first six shots and led 10-7 early on the strength of two three-pointers by Deanna Ortiz. But Notre Dame responded with an 11-2 run to take the lead for good.
Peters and Diggins scored the final two buckets of the half, and Notre Dame blocked three DePaul shots down the stretch to go into halftime with a 38-26 lead.
The Fighting Irish outrebounded DePaul 41-28 and Peters had six of the team's seven blocks.
Notre Dame now has won two consecutive games at the XL Center. It closed the regular season with a 72-59 win over Connecticut to sweep the regular-season series with the Huskies and secure sole possession of the regular-season conference title.
DePaul had defeated South Florida, 76-62 on Saturday in the tournament's second round, behind 33 points from Anna Martin, her second consecutive 30-point game. However, Martin was held to seven points by the Fighting Irish on 3 of 10 shooting.
Beyond The Box Score -- DePaul