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    #20/17 Irish Tangle With Villanova In BIG EAST Quarterfinals

    FIGHTING IRISH Freshman guard Natalie Novosel had a nearly perfect shooting day in Notre Dame's BIG EAST second-round game against St. John's, going 6-for-7 from the floor and scoring 15 points in a 62-45 Notre Dame win.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Freshman guard Natalie Novosel had a nearly perfect shooting day in Notre Dame's BIG EAST second-round game against St. John's, going 6-for-7 from the floor and scoring 15 points in a 62-45 Notre Dame win.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    March 7, 2009

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    2009 BIG EAST Championship -- Quarterfinals
    #20/17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-7 / 10-6 BIG EAST) vs. Villanova Wildcats (18-12 / 10-6 BIG EAST)

    DATE: March 8, 2009
    TIME: Noon ET
    AT: Hartford, Conn. - XL Center (16,294)
    SERIES: ND leads VU, 15-9
    BE CHAMP: ND leads VU, 2-1
    1ST MTG: VU 70-57 (1/6/81)
    LAST MTG: VU 55-48 (1/24/09)
    TV: ESPNU (live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Brooke Weisbrod, color / Bob Picozzi, studio host)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: bigeast.org
    TICKETS: (800) 745-3000

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame and Villanova will be meeting in the BIG EAST Championship for the fourth time, and ironically, all four matchups have come in the tournament quarterfinals.
  • Seven of the past nine games between the Irish and Wildcats have been decided by a total of 24 points (3.4 points per game).
  • No. 20/17 Irish Tangle With Villanova In BIG EAST Quarterfinals
    Following a tough defensive performance in its second-round victory, No. 20/17 Notre Dame will look for more of the same on Sunday at noon (ET) when it takes on Villanova in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. -- the game will be televised live on ESPNU.

    The fifth-seeded Irish (22-7) advanced to the quarterfinals with a 62-45 win over No. 13 seed St. John's in a second-round meeting on Saturday afternoon. After a sluggish first 30 minutes, Notre Dame came alive with a 16-2 run that flipped the momentum squarely in favor of the Irish, who collected their first BIG EAST Championship win since 2006.

    For the fourth time in six games, senior guard Lindsay Schrader recorded a double-double, collecting game highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds for her seventh double-dip of the year. Freshman guard Natalie Novosel chipped in 15 points (6-7 FG) off the bench for the Irish.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is ranked 20th in this week's Associated Press poll and 17th in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
  • Villanova is not ranked.
  • A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
    Having earned its 15th 20-win season in the past 16 years and a top-four BIG EAST finish for the 11th time in its 14-year conference membership, Notre Dame (22-7) is ranked 20th in this week's Associated Press poll and 17th in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll. The Irish have secured the No. 5 seed for this weekend's BIG EAST Championship and will be seeking their first league title of any kind since winning the 1994 Midwestern Collegiate Conference crown.

    Despite losing two key players (sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory) to season-ending knee injuries earlier in the year, Notre Dame consistently has ranked among the top 40 teams in the nation in scoring offense (23rd at 72.3 ppg.) and field goal percentage (33rd at .436).

    The Irish also feature a balanced offense that sees four players presently scoring in double figures. In addition, nine different players have led the team in scoring at least once during the year, while 10 of the 12 players have scored in double figures at least once to date.

    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader has posted career-high averages almost across the board this season, leading the squad in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and rebounding (7.6 rpg.). She also has recorded a team-high seven double-doubles this year, and is averaging 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in her last six games.

    Junior guard Ashley Barlow is second on the team in both scoring (12.5 ppg.) and rebounding (4.9 rpg.). She also is among the BIG EAST leaders in steals (2.48 spg.) and has knocked down a team-high 37 three-pointers (including a career-high four treys at top-ranked Connecticut).

    The Irish also are paced by two of the BIG EAST's most improved players in sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and junior point guard Melissa Lechlitner. In her first year as a starter, Bruszewski has doubled her scoring (10.8 ppg.) and rebounding (4.9 rpg.) averages, along with a team-high .490 field goal percentage that is 11th-best in the BIG EAST. What's more, she is in the midst of the most successful run of her young career, averaging 14.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in her last 10 games, including a career-high 20 points twice in that span (USF, Syracuse).

    Also a first-year starter, Lechlitner is fourth on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg.) while setting the pace with 3.52 assists per game and a 1.48 assist/turnover ratio (all well above her previous career highs). She also has scored in double figures 15 times after reaching that mark a combined 16 times in her first two years.

    The Notre Dame-Villanova Series
    Sunday will mark the silver anniversary (25th) meeting between Notre Dame and Villanova, with the Irish owning a 15-9 series lead on the Wildcats. Notre Dame also won two of the three prior matchups with VU in the BIG EAST Championship.

    The Last Time ND And Villanova Met
    Laura Kurz scored 16 points, including a key layup and two free throws in the final 2:29, and Villanova beat No. 13/9 Notre Dame 55-48 on Jan. 24, 2009, at The Pavilion in Villanova, Pa.

    The Wildcats (11-8, 3-2 BIG EAST) defeated the Fighting Irish for the first time since Feb. 7, 2006. It was their first win over a ranked team since beating No. 22 Boston College in the quarterfinals of the 2005 BIG EAST Tournament.

    Ashley Barlow scored 11 points and Erica Solomon grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds for Notre Dame (15-3, 4-2), which lost for the second time in three road games.

    Villanova never trailed in leading by as many as 14 points in the first half and held a 30-20 advantage at halftime thanks to Notre Dame's 25 percent shooting (6-of-24).

    Melissa Lechlitner's three-pointer got the Irish within 49-48 with 2:54 left, but Kurz made a layup and two free throws and Maria Getty added two free throws to seal the victory.

    The Last Time ND And Villanova Met In The BIG EAST Championship
    Trish Juhline scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half and No. 20 Villanova defeated Notre Dame 50-39 in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship on March 9, 2003, 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 with 12 for Notre Dame. Alicia Ratay, who was averaging 12 points, was held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting in 31 minutes for the Irish.

    The last of four quarterfinals at the Louis Brown Athletic Center was offensively challenged in the first half 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 three-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.

    Other ND-Villanova Series Tidbits

  • Exactly half (12) of the 24 games in the series have been decided by eight points or fewer, with the two teams splitting those 12 close contests.
  • Since 2002, seven of the past nine series games have been decided by a grand total of 24 points (3.4 ppg.) and all seven were in doubt inside the final minute of play.
  • Notre Dame's 75-58 win at Villanova in 2007 marked the first time either team had scored 70 points in the series since Feb. 16, 2000 (a 70-52 Irish win, also at The Pavilion). In addition, it was the largest margin of victory in the series since Dec. 6, 2000 (a 64-33 Notre Dame win at the Joyce Center).
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 65 points in three of its last four matchups with Villanova after failing to reach that total in the previous seven contests.
  • The Irish have forced 59 VU turnovers in the past three series games (19.7 per game) after the Wildcats came into all three games ranked among the national leaders for fewest turnovers. In 2008, Notre Dame caused 24 Wildcat turnovers, Villanova's highest giveaway total since Dec. 1, 2001 (26 in a loss at Temple).
  • Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is a native of West Chester, Pa., is a 1977 graduate of Saint Joseph's University, before spending two years as head coach at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa. (50-3 record), and two years as an assistant coach at SJU under Jim Foster (now the head coach at Ohio State) from 1980-82. She also is a member of three halls of fame in the Philadelphia area -- the SJU Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted 1986), the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame (inducted 1990) and the SJU Athletics Hall of Fame (inducted 2002).
  • Villanova senior forward Laura Kurz is the younger sister of former Notre Dame men's basketball forward Rob Kurz, who is in the midst of his rookie season with the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
  • Second-year Villanova strength and conditioning coach Lon Record spent six years on the staff at Notre Dame from 2000-01 through 2005-06.
  • Game #29 Recap: St. John's
    Lindsay Schrader had 16 points and Natalie Novosel added 15 as No. 20/17 Notre Dame defeated St. John's 62-45 Saturday in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford.

    The Irish (22-7) will play fourth-seeded Villanova in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

    St. John's Da'Shena Stevens, chosen the BIG EAST freshman of the year on Friday, 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 junior guard Melissa Lechlitner had five during that stretch.

    A three-pointer by junior guard 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.

    The Irish have won five of their last six games, with only a 10-point loss at top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 22.

    Noting The St. John's Game

  • The Irish earn their first victory at the BIG EAST Championship since 2006, when they logged a 73-66 win over South Florida in a first-round contest, also at Hartford's XL Center.
  • The 45 points allowed by Notre Dame were the third-fewest for the Irish defense in a BIG EAST Championship game and fewest since the 2001 quarterfinals, when Notre Dame rolled over Georgetown, 89-33 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
  • Notre Dame is 4-1 all-time in BIG EAST Championship first/second round games and 15-13 overall in the league's postseason tournament.
  • The Irish earn their third win in 13 career games at the XL Center and first since that 2006 win over USF.
  • Notre Dame improves to 18-2 all-time against St. John's, including a 2-0 record in the BIG EAST Championship.
  • The Irish held the Red Storm to their lowest point total in the series since Jan. 14, 2003, when Notre Dame earned a 71-42 victory at Carnesecca Arena (then Alumni Hall) in Queens, N.Y.
  • The Irish are 45-4 all-time against New York-based schools, including a 21-4 record away from home (road/neutral sites).
  • Notre Dame posts its third win in eight games this season when trailing at halftime (others were at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt on Dec. 30 and at South Florida on Feb. 17).
  • For the first time in four games this year, the Irish collected a win when having two or fewer double-digit scorers.
  • Notre Dame's 20 first-half points tied a season low, set twice before (most recently on Jan. 24 at Villanova).
  • St. John's 22 first-half points were the fewest the Irish have allowed to a BIG EAST opponent this season, one fewer than the 23 points scored by Seton Hall on Jan. 3.
  • Notre Dame held the Red Storm to a .311 field goal percentage, the lowest by an Irish opponent since Dec. 2, when Eastern Michigan shot 26.5 percent from the floor.
  • Notre Dame's 50 rebounds tied for its second-highest total of the season (most vs. a BIG EAST opponent) behind only a 60-rebound effort in that win at Eastern Michigan.
  • Schrader registered her seventh double-double of the season (fourth in six games), setting a new school record for double-doubles by a guard in one year (previous was six by Danielle Green in 1998-99).
  • Schrader also tied Niele Ivey's career record for double-doubles by an Irish guard, a mark the current Notre Dame assistant coach set from 1996-2001.
  • Schrader is the first Notre Dame player to notch a double-double in the BIG EAST Championship since March 8, 2003, when Jacqueline Batteast chalked up 15 points and 10 rebounds in a first-round win over Pittsburgh at Piscataway, N.J.
  • Schrader moved into 23rd place on the Irish career scoring list with 1,042 points, passing Mollie Peirick (1,034 points from 1994-98).
  • Novosel posted her ninth double-figure scoring game of the season and first since Feb. 11 when she had 17 points against No. 10/12 Louisville.
  • For the second time in four games, junior center Erica Williamson grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds, having also done so on Feb. 24 against Syracuse.
  • Schrader and Williamson are the first pair of double-figure rebounders for the Irish in the same game since March 23, 2008, when Barlow had 12 boards and Charel Allen snared 11 caroms in an NCAA Tournament first-round win over SMU in West Lafayette, Ind.
  • The tandem's 11 rebounds are the most for a Notre Dame player in a BIG EAST Championship game since March 5, 2000, when Ruth Riley grabbed 14 rebounds in a quarterfinal win over Miami (Fla.) at Storrs, Conn.
  • Quartet Of Irish Honored By BIG EAST
    Senior guard Lindsay Schrader was named a first-team all-BIG EAST pick, while junior guard Ashley Barlow was a second-team all-conference choice in awards announced by the league office on Thursday.

    The Irish also placed two players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team for the third consecutive year, with guard Natalie Novosel and forward Erica Solomon making this year's squad.

    Schrader is a first-team all-BIG EAST selection for the first time in her career, following up on last year's honorable mention all-conference citation. This marks the sixth consecutive year, and 12th time in Notre Dame's 14-year BIG EAST membership (1995-96 to present), that the Irish have had at least one player garner first-team all-conference status. In fact, in Muffet McGraw's 22 seasons as head coach at Notre Dame, covering three conference affiliations (BIG EAST, Midwestern Collegiate/Horizon League, and North Star), the Irish have had at least one first-team all-conference selection an astounding 19 times (all but 1993, 1998 and 2003).

    Barlow's second-team all-BIG EAST certificate this year comes on the heels of her placement on the honorable mention all-conference squad last season. The combination of Schrader and Barlow gives Notre Dame multiple players on the top two all-BIG EAST teams for the first time since 2005 (when Jacqueline Batteast and Megan Duffy both collected first-team plaudits), and the eighth time since the Irish came into the conference 14 seasons ago.

    Notre Dame was the only school to have more than one player on this year's rookie squad. The choices of Novosel and Solomon give the Irish a total of seven BIG EAST All-Freshman selections in the past three seasons, more than any other school in the conference (Connecticut is the closest pursuer with five all-freshman honorees in this three-year span).

    McGraw Chosen To Receive WBCA's Carol Eckman Award
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the Carol Eckman Award by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), it was announced Thursday at the WBCA offices in Atlanta.

    McGraw will be formally recognized at the WBCA Awards Luncheon on April 7 at noon (CT) in the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront Grand Ballroom. The WBCA Awards Luncheon is part of the WBCA National Convention held in conjunction with the 2009 NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis, Mo.

    The Carol Eckman Award is presented annually to an active WBCA coach who exemplifies Eckman's spirit, integrity and character through sportsmanship, commitment to the student-athlete, honesty, ethical behavior, courage and dedication to purpose. The award is named in honor of the late Carol Eckman, the former West Chester (Pa.) State College coach who is considered the "Mother of the Women's Collegiate Basketball Championship." Eckman organized the first women's basketball championship at West Chester in 1969 and continued to garner recognition and support for the women's game until her death from cancer in 1985.

    McGraw, herself a native of West Chester, Pa., is the second BIG EAST Conference coach in as many years to receive the Carol Eckman Award, following the selection of DePaul's Doug Bruno in 2008. McGraw and Bruno have served together on the WBCA's Board of Directors in recent years, with Bruno completing his two-year term (2005-06 to 2007-08) as the association's president, while McGraw has been the Board's NCAA Division I Legislative Chair since June 2005, when Bruno appointed her to the post.

    -- ND --
     

     

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