March 7, 2009
#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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.