March 6, 2010
BIG EAST Conference Championship -- Quarterfinal
#6/7 [#5 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-4 / 12-4 BIG EAST) vs. #16/16 [#4 seed] St. John's Red Storm (24-5 / 12-4 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 7, 2010
TIME: Noon ET
AT: Hartford, Conn. - XL Center (16,294)
SERIES: ND leads 18-3
1ST MTG: ND 74-48 (1/4/96)
LAST MTG: STJ 76-71 (2/16/10)
TV: ESPNU (live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Brooke Weisbrod, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com / bigeast.org
#6/7 Irish Set For BIG EAST Quarterfinal Date Sunday Against #16 St. John's
After a solid debut at this year's BIG EAST Conference Championship, No. 6/7 Notre Dame has advanced to Sunday's quarterfinal round, where it will play 16th-ranked (and fourth-seeded) St. John's at noon (ET) from the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPNU, and also will be available on the BIG EAST's multimedia web site, www.bigeast.tv.
Notre Dame (26-4) booked its place in the conference tournament quarterfinals with an 89-52 win over Louisville in second-round action on Saturday afternoon. The Irish made 14 of their first 19 shots and used a 16-3 run early in the first half to seize control, steadily pulling clear of the Cardinals the rest of the way. Notre Dame also shot a blistering 56.5 percent (35-of-62) from the field, including a season-high 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from three-point range, and collected 27 assists on 35 baskets in the victory.
Senior center Erica Williamson paced five Irish players in double figures with a season-high 16 points and six rebounds, while freshman guard Skylar Diggins added 13 points, including 10 in the first seven minutes of action.
The Notre Dame-St. John's Series
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with St. John's, 18-3, including a 2-0 record when playing at neutral sites (both in the BIG EAST Championship). However, the recent series history has been particularly close, as the teams have split the past six matchups following 15 consecutive victories by the Irish.
This will mark the second consecutive year, and third time overall, that Notre Dame and St. John's will square off in the BIG EAST Championship. In 1998, the Irish earned a 94-57 first-round win in Piscataway, N.J., behind a school-record eight three-pointers from Sheila McMillen. Notre Dame also came away victorious last year with a 62-45 second-round victory in Hartford (see recap later in this notes package).
The Last Time Notre Dame and St. John's Met
Shenneika Smith scored 23 points and Da'Shena Stevens added 21 to help No. 22/23 St. John's upset No. 4/3 Notre Dame 76-71 on Feb. 16, 2010, at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, N.Y.
Sky Lindsay scored 13 points for the Red Storm (21-5, 9-4 BIG EAST), who had never beaten a top-five opponent. They are off to the best start in coach Kim Barnes Arico's eight-year tenure.
Skylar Diggins scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half and Brittany Mallory added 17 to lead the Fighting Irish (23-2, 10-2), who had won eight straight since losing to Connecticut on Jan. 16 -- its only other loss of the season to this point.
Leading 61-57 with 8:30 left, St. John's held Notre Dame without a point for over six minutes to extend its lead to 69-57 with 3:15 left.
Ashley Barlow finally ended the Irish's drought, hitting a three-pointer with 2:25 left. The Irish cut the deficit to 69-65 on Diggins' three-point play with 52.6 seconds left after Lindsay had missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Stevens hit the first of two free throws and then rebounded her own miss and was fouled. The sophomore forward connected on both to make it 72-65.
Notre Dame was missing starting guard Lindsay Schrader, who sprained her left ankle in two days earlier in a win over DePaul.
St. John's led by 11 points early in the second half before Diggins took over. She scored seven of Notre Dame's 10 points as the Irish cut their deficit to one. The freshman guard started the spurt with a three-point play then converted four free throws around Mallory's three-point play.
Smith ended the run with five straight points to extend the lead back to 56-50 midway through the second half.
Notre Dame cut its deficit to 61-57 on Devereaux Peters' putback with 8:30 left.
St. John's took an 18-6 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the game as Lindsay had seven points. Nadirah McKenith's nifty drive down the middle of the lane for a layup capped the early spurt. St. John's made eight of its first 12 shots, but then went cold from the field missing nine straight as Notre Dame climbed within 21-20 on Erica Williamson's layup.
Kelly McManmon finally ended the seven-minute drought hitting a three-pointer to start a 16-5 spurt that restored the 12-point lead. Smith's layup with 2:08 left made it 37-25. Notre Dame closed to five and trailed by 39-32 at halftime.
The Last Time Notre Dame and St. John's Met At The BIG EAST Championship
Lindsay Schrader had 16 points and Natalie Novosel added 15 as No. 20/17 Notre Dame defeated St. John's 62-45, on March 7, 2009, in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
St. John's Da'Shena Stevens, chosen the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year two days earlier, had 12 points for the Red Storm.
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.
"It's like the dagger to the defense," said Irish head coach Muffet McGraw. "You play great defense for 29 seconds and then somebody hits a three and it really deflated them."
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.
"I felt like we ran out of gas a little bit, missed some chippies, allowed them to score some easy baskets," said St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico.
Other Notre Dame-St. John's Series Tidbits
The Second Time Around
Notre Dame and St. John's will be playing in the BIG EAST Championship for the second consecutive season. This isn't an entirely unique occurrence for the Irish, who have seen the same opponent in back-to-back tournaments seven times since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96. Most recently in 2005 and 2006, Notre Dame faced Connecticut in the semifinals (L, 67-54) and quarterfinals (L, 71-60), respectively, with both games taking place in Hartford.
That was the fifth time the Irish and Huskies met in consecutive BIG EAST tourneys, having also squared off for the conference title in Notre Dame's first four seasons as a league member (1996-99). In addition, the Irish saw Villanova in back-to-back tournament quarterfinals in Piscataway, N.J. (1998 - W, 56-48; 1999 - W, 83-53), and also tangled with Rutgers in consecutive semifinals -- 1999 in Piscataway (W, 68-61) and 2000 in Storrs, Conn. (L, 81-72 in overtime).
Empire (State) Records
Notre Dame is 47-5 (.904) all-time against New York-based teams, including a 4-1 (.800) record when playing at a neutral site. The Irish are 2-1 against New York schools this season, having defeated Iona, 80-45 on Nov. 22 at Purcell Pavilion, and edging Syracuse, 74-73, on Jan. 30 at the Carrier Dome, before the 76-71 loss at St. John's back on Feb. 16.
Coincidentally, St. John's and Syracuse account for all five Empire State wins over Notre Dame (three by the Red Storm and two by the Orange). In addition, Syracuse owns the only neutral-site win for a New York team over the Irish, having shaded Notre Dame, 84-79, on March 3, 2002, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.
Since the start of last season, Notre Dame has played 11 times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games, including three games in three days over this year's Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, when faced with such a tight turnaround, the Irish have risen to the occasion, going 8-3 (.727) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes.
This season, Notre Dame is 4-2 in these 48-hour challenges, winning twice at the Paradise Jam (South Carolina and No. 20/17 Oklahoma), and then at home on New Year's Eve vs. No. 18/16 Vanderbilt (returning from a road trip to UCF less than two days earlier). The Irish also earned a 75-63 win at Rutgers on Feb. 1, two days after 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.
Sunday's game will mark the fourth time in a little more than a month Notre Dame has tackled a tight turnaround.
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen at least eight different players led the team in scoring and rebounding this season. That has been even more evident in the past eight games, with seven different players leading the Irish in scoring during that time.
In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Irish roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including sophomore guard Fraderica Miller, and freshman guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who each topped the 10-point mark for the first time in their careers.
What's more, five different players have scored at least 20 points in a game this year. Diggins has five 20-point games (San Diego State, Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, St. John's), while senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner (Purdue, Marquette) has reached that mark twice. Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Georgetown), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (DePaul) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso) have one 20-point game apiece.
Notre Dame has faced a rigorous schedule this season, taking on nine ranked opponents. The Irish also have risen to that challenge quite well, winning five of those nine contests (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and West Virginia), including three victories away from home (MSU, SDSU and OU).
In addition, two of the four losses to ranked opponents (at St. John's and at Georgetown) came by 10 points or fewer and occurred while fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader was sidelined with a sprained left ankle (the first two games Schrader missed in her college career).
Four of Notre Dame's five wins over ranked opponents this season came during the non-conference portion of the schedule, marking the second consecutive year in which the Irish defeated four Top 25 non-conference foes.
Game #30 Recap: Louisville
Notre Dame was the only one among five ranked BIG EAST teams not to get a bye into the conference tournament quarterfinals.
The Irish didn't need it.
Erica Williamson led five players in double figures with 16 points and No. 6 Notre Dame routed Louisville 89-52 Saturday in the tournament's second round.
"It's nice to get a feel for the gym," Williamson said. "We weren't able to have a shootaround, with the schedule that we had, and the teams playing yesterday. So, it's great to go out there, feel comfortable in the first half and just work on things in the second."
Skylar Diggins had 13 points, Devereaux Peters added 11, and Lindsay Schrader and Becca Bruszewski each had 10. The Irish (26-4) advance to play No. 16 St. John's in the quarterfinals on Sunday (noon ET on ESPNU).
Monique Reid had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead Louisville. The Cardinals end the season 14-17, a year after losing in the national championship game to Connecticut.
Notre Dame and St. John's ended the regular season in a fourth-place tie in the BIG EAST, but the Red Storm earned the No. 4 seed with a 76-71 win over the Irish last month. Notre Dame also had to play undefeated Connecticut twice, something that hurt its seeding.
But Irish coach Muffet McGraw said the extra game might end up helping her team.
"I was really pleased to be able to get out on the floor and get Skylar a run and Devereaux" she said. "Those guys didn't play last year, so it was still a little bit new for them. So, it was great to be able to get out, get on the floor and see what it's going to be like tomorrow."
The Irish used a 10-0 run to build an early 15-6 lead, and the rout was on. They hit 14 of their first 19 shots, and forced Louisville into 15 first-half turnovers.
A 13-0 run gave the Irish a 38-16 lead.
Louisville missed its final seven shots of the half, did not score in the last four minutes and trailed 47-21 at halftime.
Notre Dame shot 56 percent from the floor, had 46 points in the paint and held Louisville to under 30-percent shooting in the first half.
A three-pointer by Brittany Mallory made it 60-28 with 12 minutes left.
Williamson put an exclamation point on the game with a three-point shot with 1:35 left, the first three-pointer of the senior center's career.
"Our team is a great three-point shooting team, so it was fun to go out there and be a part of it," she said. "I think I'm officially 1 for 3 on the career, so 33 percent, not that bad. I'm pretty happy."
Louisville was hampered by the loss of several key players this season. Point guard Deseree Byrd and Laura Terry both sustained season-ending knee injuries and Ashley Rainey left the team for personal reasons. Center Chauntise Wright, who missed last season with an injury, was not granted an extra semester of eligibility.
"I feel like we responded the best way we could with all the injuries and everything that's been going on this year," Reid said. "I think we did good."
Noting The Louisville Game