March 5, 2008
#9/15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-7 / 11-5 BIG EAST) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (20-9 / 10-6 BIG EAST) or Villanova Wildcats (15-14 / 5-11 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 9, 2008
TIME: Noon ET
AT: Hartford, Conn. - XL Center (16,294)
SERIES: ND leads PITT, 17-1 / ND leads VU, 15-8
BE CHAMP: ND leads PITT, 1-0 / ND leads VU, 2-1
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM / UND.com (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
TV: ESPNU (live) (John Rooke, p-b-p / Leslie Hill, color / Bob Picozzi, sideline)
LIVE STATS: BIG EAST Championship web site
TICKETS: (860) 525-4500
No. 9/15 Irish Head To Hartford For BIG EAST Championship
The second season will get underway for No. 9/15 Notre Dame on Sunday when it takes the floor in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The fourth-seeded Irish will face either No. 5 seed Pittsburgh or 12th-seeded Villanova at noon (ET) in a game that will be televised live nationally on ESPNU.
Notre Dame stubbed its collective toe entering this year's tournament, ending the regular season with a 61-51 loss at St. John's on Monday night. The Irish never got on track offensively, shooting .254 in the contest, including a seven-minute first-half dry spell.
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow sparkled in defeat for Notre Dame, posting her second double-double of the season with a game-high 18 points and career-best 11 rebounds.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Behind a high-octane offense and an aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been a fixture in the national polls this season. The Irish have been ranked every week (except for the preseason ESPN/USA Today poll) and have appeared in the top 20 for the past 14 weeks, rising as high as ninth in this week's AP poll.
Notre Dame also ranks in the top 20 in six NCAA statistical categories (as of March 3), including scoring offense (6th, 77.3 ppg.), scoring margin (8th, +16.7 ppg.) and assist/turnover ratio (9th, 1.10), with nearly half its wins by 30 points. The Irish also rank second in the BIG EAST (16th nationally) in steals (11.8 spg.) and have forced 20 turnovers on 19 occasions.
Senior guard Charel Allen, a first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America pick last year, is setting the pace for a balanced Notre Dame attack, averaging a team-high 14.4 points per game (13th in BIG EAST).
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow has built upon last year's BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.7 ppg.) while ranking eighth in the BIG EAST with a team-high 59 steals (1.97 spg.).
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader continues to work her way back to peak form after missing last year with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader is third on the squad in scoring (10.6 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (601 rpg.), ranking 20th in the BIG EAST in the latter category, as one of the cornerstones of Notre Dame's unique Princeton-based four-guard lineup.
While Schrader is back from her ACL injury, freshman forward Devereaux Peters had her season end early with a torn ACL in her left knee, suffered Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh. Peters provided a strong spark off the bench, averaging 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and a BIG EAST-best 1.96 blocks per game. She also scored in double figures 14 times, including a season-high 15 points vs. Villanova and her first career double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) against top-ranked Connecticut.
Potent Notables About The Irish
The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series
Notre Dame leads the series with Pittsburgh, 17-1, including a win in their only prior neutral-site matchup (73-65 in the first round of the 2003 BIG EAST Championship). The Panthers got their first series victory last year, taking down the Irish, 71-62 at the Petersen Events Center. However, the Irish returned the favor earlier this season with an 81-66 win on Feb. 10 at the Joyce Center.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Pittsburgh Met In The BIG EAST Championship
Courtney LaVere tallied a team-high 18 points to lead four players in double figures as Notre Dame defeated Pittsburgh, 73-65 on March 8, 2003 in the first round of the BIG EAST Conference Championship at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.
LaVere connected on 8-of-10 shots, highlighting a 51-percent shooting night for Notre Dame. Alicia Ratay scored 16 points and added nine rebounds, while Jacqueline Batteast charted her eighth double-double of the season, and second in as many games with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Katy Flecky rounded out the double-digit scoring effort with 14 points and a career-high four blocked shots.
Mandy Wittenmyer led Pittsburgh with 19 points, while Laine Selwyn carded 17 points and Brooke Stewart chipped in with 10 points for the Panthers.
The first half was a tightly-played affair, with seven ties and seven lead changes in the opening 20 minutes. Neither side led by more than five points, as Pittsburgh took advantage of 11 Notre Dame turnovers, and the Irish countered by shooting 51.9 percent from the floor in the first half. A Flecky free throw gave Notre Dame the largest lead by either side at 27-22 with 5:47 remaining in the period. A 7-0 Panther run wiped out the Irish lead before Ratay's putback at the halftime horn gave her team a 35-33 lead.
Pittsburgh took its only lead of the second half when Wittenmyer made one of two free throws with 17:23 to play, forging a 39-38 edge for the Panthers. The lead was surprising considering Pittsburgh logged just one field goal over a 16-minute span crossing between halves (4:20, 1st half to 8:19, 2nd half).
Batteast answered with a layup on the next Notre Dame possession, putting her side ahead to stay with just under 17 minutes remaining. That ignited a 13-4 run that boosted the Irish lead into double figures at 53-43 at the 11:19 mark. A Megan Duffy free throw gave Notre Dame its largest advantage of the night at 62-48 with 7:17 to play. Pittsburgh made one final charge, going on an 11-3 run to get within six points with five and a half minutes to go. But, the Panthers would manage only two baskets the rest of the way as the Irish defense secured the win.
The Notre Dame-Villanova Series
Notre Dame owns a 15-8 series edge on Villanova, including a 2-1 record against the Wildcats at neutral sites (all in the BIG EAST Championship). However, VU has won five of the past nine games against Notre Dame, following a series-long six-game winning streak for the Irish. Notre Dame won this year's regular-season matchup, 69-58 at the Joyce Center on Jan. 16.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Villanova Met In The BIG EAST Championship
Trish Juhline scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half and No. 20/18 Villanova defeated Notre Dame 50-39 in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship on March 9, 2003 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.
Nicole Druckenmiller added 10 points and Kate Dessart-Mager had nine for Villanova. Jacqueline Batteast had 15 points and Courtney LaVere chipped in 12 for Notre Dame, but Alicia Ratay, who was averaging 12 points, was held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting in 31 minutes.
The first half was offensively challenged with the teams leaving the court tied at 13. Villanova took the lead for good on a layup by Juhline with 12:34 to play. The basket ignited a 12-2 run that featured two 3-pointers by Druckenmiller for a 35-26 lead.
Notre Dame managed to get within six points several times, the last at 45-39 on a layup with 1:44 to go by Batteast, who also had nine rebounds. However, Juhline hit two free throws and the Wildcats were never threatened again.
Other Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series Tidbits
Other Notre Dame-Villanova Series Tidbits
Irish In The BIG EAST Championship
Notre Dame begins play in its 13th BIG EAST Championship this weekend and has compiled a 14-12 (.538) record in its 12 previous appearances. The Irish have reached at least the semifinals in seven of the past 12 years and made the title game four times (1996, '97, '99 and 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 in Storrs).
Prior to joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League) tournament championship five times in its seven years in that league, with the last Irish conference tourney title coming in 1994.
The Not-So-Friendly Confines
The Irish will be playing inside the XL Center (formerly the Hartford Civic Center) for the 10th time, having compiled a 2-7 (.222) record in the building. In fact, Notre Dame lost its first four contests at 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 then added a 73-66 win over USF in the opening round of the 2006 tournament.
Aside from the WVU and USF games, Notre Dame is 0-4 against Connecticut at the XL Center (twice in the regular season, twice in the BIG EAST Championship), 0-1 vs. Rutgers (2004 BIG EAST quarterfinals), 0-1 vs. Penn State (2004 NCAA East Regional semifinals) and 0-1 vs. DePaul (2007 BIG EAST first round).
2007 BIG EAST Championship Rewind
Notre Dame rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to tie its BIG EAST Championship first-round game with DePaul, but the Irish couldn't quite finish off matters, as the Blue Demons prevailed, 76-71 on March 3, 2007 at the Hartford Civic Center (now the XL Center). Breona Gray got a good look at a game-tying three-pointer from the right corner with nine seconds to play, but her attempt rattled out and DePaul iced the game with two foul shots.
Charel Allen tallied 18 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead Notre Dame. Gray added 17 points (7-of-13 from the field), but the difference came at the foul line, where the Blue Demons were nearly flawless, making 22-of-23 free throws (95.7 percent).
The Irish and DePaul played to a virtual stalemate in the first half, with five ties and four lead changes in the period, with Notre Dame jumping out to a five-point lead on two occasions and the Blue Demons opening up a six-point edge. The Irish went on top, 36-34 at halftime on Crystal Erwin's layup with 33 ticks left in the period.
Notre Dame kept its momentum going with eight of the first 12 points in the second half, taking a 44-38 lead on two Allen free throws with three minutes gone. DePaul then went on a 19-2 run and held the Irish without a field goal for nearly seven minutes, with China Threatt scoring seven points in the run.
Allen ended the Notre Dame offensive drought with a long jumper 18 seconds later, but the Irish traded baskets for the next four minutes and faced a 66-56 deficit when Caprice Smith hit a jumper with 6:09 left. Notre Dame then ripped off 10 unanswered points in 2:25, with Ashley Barlow accounting for seven points in the surge. Allen capped the rally with the first of two free throws to tie the game at 66-66 with 3:44 remaining. Yet, she missed the second foul shots, and Jenna Rubino put DePaul back on top to stay with a baseline floater with 2:46 left as the shot clock expired. Allie Quigley then took over for the Blue Demons by scoring her team's final eight points on a jumper and six free throws (part of a 16-for-16 second-half effort by DePaul).
Notre Dame got within a point twice more, and was within one possession in the final 10 seconds, but Gray's game-tying three-point attempt was off the mark, knocking the Irish out of the conference tournament.
The Irish are 10-4 on the road this year, gaining their 10th win with a 66-64 victory at DePaul on Feb. 24. It's the first time Notre Dame has posted double-digit road wins in a season since 2004-05, when it went 11-2 on opponent's home floors. The school record for road wins in a season was set in 1996-97, when the Irish went 13-4 on the road as part of their first NCAA Final Four run.
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons with a 79-67 victory at Syracuse on Feb. 16. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 18 times in the 21-year Muffet McGraw era and 22 times in the program's 31-year history.
Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings (as of March 3). The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in six categories, led by a No. 6 ranking for scoring offense (currently 77.3), No. 8 ranking for scoring margin (+16.7 ppg) and a No. 9 ranking for assist/turnover ratio (1.10). Notre Dame also is 16th in both field goal percentage (.454) and steals per game (11.8), and 19th in assists per game (16.1).
A full recap of Notre Dame's positions on the NCAA statistics charts (and its relation to the national leaders) can be found on page 11 of this notes package.
Nearly half (10) of Notre Dame's 23 wins this season have come by at least 30 points, while the Irish have held 30-point leads late in the second half against Western Kentucky, Richmond and Marquette.
Notre Dame's 10 30-point wins this year have tied the school record originally set during the 2000-01 national championship season. However, in that campaign, only eight of those 30-point victories came in the first 30 games.
What's more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
Less than two seasons after posting the program's lowest scoring output (64.5 ppg) since 1980-81 (its first as a Division I program), Notre Dame has reversed that trend in a big way.
The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and sixth in the nation as of March 3) at 77.3 points per game, having tallied at least 80 points 15 times this season. What's more, Notre Dame also has the fifth-highest scoring average through 30 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 81.6 points at this juncture on the way to the single-season school scoring record (81.0).
What's more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points seven times this season, tying the school record first set in the 1996-97 NCAA Final Four season, and later matched in 1998-99. In fact, during the six seasons prior to the current one (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the conference (and eighth in the nation) in scoring margin at +16.7 points per game. If it holds up, that margin would go down as the second-largest in school history for an entire season. The 2000-01 team won by an average of 21.4 points per game during its 34-2 run to the national title.
McGraw's Shock Troops
During his coaching tenure with the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s, the legendary Knute Rockne was at the forefront of the two-platoon system, using his "shock troops" -- a full team of second stringers -- at the start of most games.
While Irish women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw may not quite be following Rockne's philosophy to the letter, she could easily rotate in much of her second unit and not see much decline in productivity. In fact, Notre Dame's bench is averaging 28.9 points per game (compared to 48.4 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored 28 of 30 opponent benches this season (all but the second DePaul game and St. John's contest) by an average of +14.4 points per night.
Prior to her season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, freshman forward Devereaux Peters was leading the way for this year's Irish "shock troops". The Chicago native averaged 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.96 blocks per game (tops in BIG EAST and 44th in the nation) with a .522 field goal percentage (eighth in the conference). Peters came off the bench in 21 of 23 games this year, piling up a season-high 15 points and seven steals vs. Villanova before collecting her first career double-double (10 points, season-high 12 rebounds) on Jan. 27 against top-ranked Connecticut.
Last year's Irish rookie class (aka the "BMW" trio of guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner and center Erica Williamson) became the first threesome from one school ever to be named to the BIG EAST Conference All-Freshman Team in the same season. Following on the heels of that success, Notre Dame has a new freshman trio that is aiming to make an early splash at the college level -- the "BBD" lineup of guard Brittany Mallory and forwards Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters.
All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 23-7 record, with each one averaging at least 12 minutes and having scored in double figures at least four times. Before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, Peters was fourth on the team in scoring (9.0 ppg) and scored in double digits 14 times, while also leading the BIG EAST (44th in the nation) in blocked shots (1.96 bpg). Mallory is averaging 6.7 points per game, leads the team with 33 three-pointers and posted a 14-point (season-high 4-5 3FG), seven-rebound effort on Feb. 27 vs. South Florida. Bruszewski is logging 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, collecting her fourth double-figure scoring performance of the season with 10 points and six rebounds on Feb. 10 vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh.
Spreading The Wealth
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's squad this season is its balance and depth. That's been particularly evident, as six different players from all five floor positions and all four classes have led the team in scoring at least once. Senior point guard Tulyah Gaines became the latest new scoring leader for the Irish with 13 points vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh (Feb. 10) and a season-high 22 points vs. Marquette (Feb. 13).
Notre Dame's balance this season can best be seen in its point distribution. No fewer than 10 of the 11 Irish players on this year's roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, with only senior guard Amanda Tsipis yet to crack the 10-point mark.
Notre Dame also has had at least three double-figure scorers in all but five games (Purdue, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 16 West Virginia, No. 5/4 Rutgers, St. John's) this year, with a season-high seven in double digits at Georgetown (the most in one game for the Irish since Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse).
What's more, the Irish fielded five double-figure scorers in three consecutive games from Nov. 20-27. It's believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat of three straight games with five double-digit scorers, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
Notre Dame has been sharp at the offensive end this season, thanks in large part to its ability to take care of the basketball. The Irish rank 22nd in the nation (as of March 3) with just 14.6 turnovers per game and have been charged with 20 or more turnovers just twice in the past 46 games (20 at Louisville on Jan. 8; 23 vs. Marquette on Feb. 13).
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Piping Hot Turnovers
Notre Dame is forcing 21.9 turnovers per night and currently leads the BIG EAST with a +7.30 turnover margin, more than three takeaways better than second-place Connecticut. The Irish have caused at least 20 turnovers in 19 games this season, including a season-high 33 takeaways against Boston College on Nov. 24.
All told, Notre Dame has harassed its opponents into 658 turnovers, putting the Irish within striking distance of the school record in that category. The 1996-97 Final Four club holds the program high-water mark with 731 takeaways, but that occurred in a 38-game season.
Notre Dame has made even the strongest ball-handling teams struggle this season. In fact, Villanova came into its Jan. 16 game at the Joyce Center leading the nation with only 11.2 turnovers per game. However, the Wildcats left town with 24 turnovers, their highest single-game giveaway mark in more than six years (Dec. 1, 2001 at Temple).
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference and 16th nationally in steals (as of March 3), averaging 11.8 thefts per game (11.0 in conference play), including eight games this season where the Irish had at least 15 steals. What's more, Notre Dame's season-high 23 steals vs. Providence on Jan. 30 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Jan. 28, 1995 (23 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the Joyce Center), and only one off the BIG EAST record.
As a team, the Irish have piled up 354 steals, which currently is the third-highest single-season total in school history. The 1990-91 Notre Dame squad holds the record with 397 thefts.
Individually, the Irish have seven players with at least 30 steals this season. Senior guard Charel Allen and sophomore guard Ashley Barlow share the team lead with 57 steals, also tying for eighth in the BIG EAST (1.97 spg).
For the second consecutive year, Notre Dame has tied for the BIG EAST title in steals, sharing this season's crown with Marquette. Last year's trophy was split with Connecticut (9.69 spg. in league play; 10.47 overall), marking the first time the Irish won a conference steals crown since 1989-90, when they led the Horizon League with 10.93 steals per game.
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 17 games this season and ranks third in the BIG EAST (ninth nationally as of March 3) with a 1.10 assist-to-turnover ratio. Notre Dame also has assisted on 56.1 percent of its field goals this year (484 assists on 862 baskets), ranking fifth in the conference and 19th in the land with 16.13 assists per game.
Off And Running
Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In 10 wins, the Irish have opened up a double-digit lead less than 12 minutes into the game, while other first-half runs vs. Central Michigan (20-0), Bowling Green (18-3), Villanova (16-6), Georgetown (15-3) and Marquette (21-1) aided those wins.
Even in its defeat at third-ranked Maryland on Nov. 16, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Boldly Going Where No Irish Player Has Gone Before
Senior guard Charel Allen has done something no other player has done in the 31-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball. With three steals against Seton Hall, Allen became the first Irish women's cager to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in her career. The closest any player in program history had previously come to that all-around feat was in 2001, when current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey had 1,430 points, 482 rebounds, 727 assists and 348 steals.
By comparison, the Irish men's basketball program has had only two players reach this milestone -- Chris Thomas (2001-05) and David Graves (1998-2002). However, steals were first kept as a statistic in 1978-79, while individual assists were first kept in 1983-84.
Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
Senior guard Charel Allen continues to make her way up Notre Dame's all-time scoring list, moving up to eighth on that chart with 22 points on Saturday vs. Seton Hall. Allen now has 1,484 career points as she chases Trena Keys, who scored 1,589 points from 1982-86.
Notre Dame is ranked a season-high ninth in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, rising five spots from the previous survey. It's the highest the Irish have been ranked in the media poll since Feb. 14, 2005, when they were tabbed fifth. Notre Dame also has now appeared in the AP Top 10 in eight of the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 157 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw currently ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
The Irish also are in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 17th consecutive time this week, dropping one spot to 15th after their loss at St. John's on Monday.
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Besides her 157 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 23 people on this elite list, 12 are currently NCAA Division I head coaches.
Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is 92-of-114 (.807) from the free throw line in the final two minutes (plus overtime) this season, including an 8-of-8 display on March 1 against Seton Hall.
Among those with a minimum of 10 attempts, senior guard Tulyah Gaines leads the way with an .842 free throw percentage (16-of-19) in crunch time.
A Six-Figure Season
For the second consecutive year, and the third time in school history, Notre Dame welcomed more than 100,000 fans at home. The Irish drew a school-record 112,253 fans to their 16 games at the Joyce Center, topping the old school mark of 109,549 set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame also finished with an average attendance of 7,016 fans per game, its highest since the 2002-03 campaign (7,132 per game). The school record for average attendance is 7,825 in 2001-02.
The Jan. 27 game vs. Connecticut was the fifth women's basketball sellout (11,418) in school history and second this season (also Jan. 5 vs. Tennessee). It also is the second time in school history Notre Dame has posted multiple sellouts in one season, having also done so in 2000-01 (Connecticut and Georgetown).
In addition, the Jan. 27 audience marked the first time the Irish have attracted three crowds of 10,000 fans in the same season, as 10,825 fans took in the Dec. 2 win over Michigan.
Start Me Up
Notre Dame's 13-2 start matched the second-best 15-game mark in the program's 31-year history. In 2000-01, the Irish opened with 23 consecutive victories, en route to their first-ever No. 1 ranking and eventually, the program's first national championship.
The last time Notre Dame got off to a 13-2 start was the 2004-05 season, when the Irish won their first seven games (including the Preseason WNIT title) before a Dec. 2 overtime loss to 15th-ranked Michigan State. Notre Dame (which rose as high as third in the national polls that season) then reeled off six more wins before suffering consecutive loss at Villanova (59-54) and home vs. No. 16 Connecticut (67-50). However, the Irish rebounded with a 10-game win streak, finishing the year at 27-6 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame posted a 13-2 record on three other occasions, also doing so in 1999-2000 (27-5, NCAA Sweet 16), 1998-99 (26-5, NCAA second round) and 1977-78 (13-4, program's first varsity season when playing at AIAW Division III level).
We're Going Streaking!
Notre Dame's 10-game win streak from Nov. 20-Jan. 2 was its longest since a similar 10-game run from Jan. 16-Feb. 15, 2005. The Irish now have amassed 10 double-digit win streaks in program history (eight in the Muffet McGraw era), led by the school-record 23-game success string to open the 2000-01 national championship season.
Notre Dame also won six consecutive road games earlier this season (Nov. 20-Jan. 2). That was the longest run for the Irish away from the Joyce Center since a 10-game run from Nov. 17, 2000 to Feb. 14, 2001, a streak that ended with a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers (one of only two defeats for the Irish on their run to the NCAA title).
No Easy Road
Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule, using it as a means of preparation for future tests in both the BIG EAST Conference and the postseason. However, this year's slate has been one of the tougher ones in recent memory.
With the addition of Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (75-59 loss on Nov. 16), the Irish faced four of the top five teams in the latest Associated Press poll at some point this season. Besides the Terrapins (No. 5), Notre Dame also played No. 1 Connecticut (lost 81-64 on Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center), No. 3 Tennessee (lost 87-63 on Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), and No. 4 Rutgers (lost 57-51 on Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top five teams in the poll have combined to win five of the past six national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year's title game.
Game #30 Recap: St. John's
St. John's guard Kia Wright scored 14 points and feisty, undersized Red Storm stunned No. 9/14 Notre Dame, 61-51 on Monday night at Carnesecca Arena in New York.
The only other time in 18 meetings that the Red Storm have beaten Notre Dame was on Jan. 4, 2006, when they upset the 12th-ranked Irish 66-63 at their 67-year-old gym. That win touched off a run to the Red Storm's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years.
Ashley Barlow had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish, who had won eight of nine after a rough midseason stretch. Leading scorer Charel Allen was held to 11 points on 3-of-18 shooting, getting double- and triple-teamed every time she touched the ball.
Giving up several inches at most positions, St. John's simply outscrapped and outhustled the Irish (23-7, 11-5). Kelly McManmon had 10 points in a balanced St. John's offense on a night when every player who saw time scored and grabbed a rebound.
Allen then made both of her foul shots late, cutting the lead to 54-48, but Notre Dame missed its next six field goal attempts and St. John's was just good enough from the foul line in the closing minutes to put it away.
The Red Storm were 11-of-22 from the field in the second half and made more foul shots (17-of-28) than Notre Dame attempted (13-of-16) in maintaining a double-figure lead almost the entire final 20 minutes.
Notre Dame finished 18-of-71 from the field (25.4 percent), 2-of-13 on 3-point attempts and committed 17 turnovers against just seven assists, in a sloppy performance reminiscent of a loss at West Virginia earlier in the season.
Noting The St. John's Game
Half And Half
During the past eight seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 144-12 (.923) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 72 of their last 78 such contests. Notre Dame has earned 20 victories in as many games after taking the lead to the locker room.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 13 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 a 184-12 (.939) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame is 16-2 this year when holding opponents below 60 points, with losses at No. 16 West Virginia (56-50 on Jan. 13) and No. 5/4 Rutgers (57-51 on Feb. 19) the exceptions.
...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 13 seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 114-4 (.966) 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 a 81-80 loss to DePaul earlier this year (Jan. 22). Notre Dame has won 14 of 15 games this season when it reaches the 80-point mark.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guards Charel Allen, Tulyah Gaines and Amanda Tsipis are team captains for the 2007-08 season. Gaines is in her second year as a captain for the Irish, while Allen and Tsipis are first-time captains. All three players received the captain's honor through a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
On Oct. 3, 2007, Notre Dame announced that construction on the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation will begin in September 2008. The University has selected the architects for the project, and they currently are in the process of completing final design plans.
The first phase of the project, to begin this September, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new two-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the men's and women's basketball seasons and the end of the women's volleyball season.
The University announced last October that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III. A month later, another major gift of $5 million from Notre Dame graduate Vincent J. Naimoli was announced.
The arena will be named Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center -- and the new club/hospitality area and two outdoor patios will be named for the Naimoli family.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games In '09, '10
Notre Dame's Joyce Center has been selected as a host site for first- and second-round games in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, it was announced Feb. 13. This selection comes on the heels of last summer's announcement that the Irish also would play host to early-round action in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Tournament on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Notre Dame introduced a new promotion this season, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish scored at least 88 points in a game. The coupons were issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans left the arena following the game.
This season's burger watch ended at eight, as the Irish hit the 88-point mark in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and USF.
It's probably not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
Friends In Need
Longtime Irish women's basketball fan and Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies employee Patricia McAdams continues to recuperate at the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, Ind., after a Jan. 13 auto accident. While returning from Notre Dame's game at West Virginia earlier in the day, Patricia was severely injured when she stopped on a highway outside Fort Wayne to help a fellow motorist and was then struck by a car.
A loyal supporter of the Irish for many years, Patricia has assisted Notre Dame's coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio with numerous marketing and promotional activities, and also coordinated regular bus trips for fans to see the Irish on the road.
Patricia's OIT colleagues have created a web page to update supporters on her progress: http://oit.nd.edu/patricia.
Notre Dame also lost a treasured friend on Jan. 22, when longtime Joyce Center clock operator Mark Tulchinsky passed away. Mark was a dedicated educator in the South Bend Community School Corporation, most recently serving as principal at Tarkington Traditional School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark, his wife, Nan (the official scorer for Notre Dame basketball), and the Tulchinsky family.
Next Game: NCAA Tournament
Following the conclusion of this week's BIG EAST Championship, Notre Dame will learn its postseason fate on St. Patrick's Day (March 17) when the 64-team field for the 2008 NCAA Championship is unveiled at 7 p.m. (ET) live on ESPN. The Irish have been selected for the tournament 14 times in program history, including each of the past 12 seasons.