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
No. 9/15 Irish Head To Hartford For BIG EAST Championship
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
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
The Last Time Notre Dame And Pittsburgh Met In The BIG EAST Championship
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
The Last Time Notre Dame And Villanova Met In The BIG EAST Championship
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Off And Running
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
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
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
Clutch When It Counts
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
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
Oh Captain, My Captain
Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
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 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
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
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