April 10, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) and fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) were selected as the co-recipients of the Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award, it was announced Tuesday night during the 2011-12 Notre Dame Women's Basketball Awards Banquet at Purcell Pavilion. In addition, junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) was chosen by members of the media to receive the Woody Miller Player of the Year award for the second consecutive season, while four other Fighting Irish players received individual honors as part of the year-end celebration.
An overflow crowd of approximately 1,200 people was in attendance (among the largest crowds in banquet history), as Notre Dame capped off a historic and record-setting 2011-12 season that culminated with a 35-4 record (the highest win total in program history) and a second consecutive trip to the NCAA national championship game (third in program history), not to mention the school's fourth NCAA Women's Final Four appearance. The Fighting Irish also were ranked in the top five in both major national polls for all 19 weeks of the '11-12 campaign, setting a school record for the longest run of consecutive top-five poll appearances, finishing at No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll (taken before the NCAA Championship) and No. 2 in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll (taken after the completion of this year's Women's Final Four).
As if that weren't enough, the Fighting Irish earned the BIG EAST Conference regular season championship by two full games over runners-up St. John's and Connecticut, marking the program's second league title and first outright crown since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96. In addition, Notre Dame defeated Connecticut in three of four matchups this season (including their NCAA Women's Final Four meeting for the second year in a row), becoming the first school to defeat the Huskies three times in the same season since Miami (Fla.) in 1992-93. Furthermore, the Fighting Irish toppled both Connecticut and Tennessee for the second consecutive season, becoming just the second program to accomplish that feat (and first since North Carolina in 2005-06 and 2006-07).
Notre Dame posted a pair of rare team milestones this season, most notably becoming only the third school in the past decade (2001-02 to present) to have four players score at least 450 points in a single season (the others being Connecticut in 2001-02 and Maryland in 2007-08). The Fighting Irish also had three players with at least 75 steals for the second consecutive season, becoming the only team in the past decade to pull off that feat twice, while marking two of just 12 times it's been done since 2001-02 (Fresno State and Virginia were the other schools with three 75-steal players in 2011-12).
This season, the Fighting Irish recorded their 10th NCAA Sweet 16 appearance (third in a row and fourth in five years), fourth 30-win campaign and ninth 25-win season, all in the past 16 years, and their 18th 20-win season in the past 19 years, not to mention their 20th consecutive winning season, 24th in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era and 31st in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball. The Fighting Irish also ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation in 10 NCAA statistical categories -- scoring offense (2nd - 78.9 ppg.), scoring margin (3rd - +26.0 ppg.), field goal percentage (4th - .468), assists (4th - 17.9 apg.), turnover margin (6th - +6.54), steals (7th - 12.9 spg.), assist/turnover ratio (9th - 1.13), scoring defense (13th - 52.9 ppg.), rebounding margin (13th - +8.5 rpg.) and free throw percentage (13th - .763).
What's more, the Fighting Irish set or tied no fewer than 22 single-season school records -- wins (35), games played (39), total points (3,076), scoring margin (+26.0 ppg.), field goals made (1,118), field goals attempted (2,388), total rebounds (1,589), free throws made (674), free throw percentage (.763), assists (698), steals (502), scoring defense (52.9 ppg.), lowest opponent rebounding average (32.2 rpg.), opponent turnovers (873), wins over Top 25 opponents (15), 100-point games (2), 90-point games (9), 30-point wins (14), 40-point wins (8), 50-point wins (7), games allowing 50 points or fewer (20) and games allowing 40 points or fewer (7).
Those marks don't even include yet another single-season attendance record, as Notre Dame finished fifth in the country in attendance this season with an average of 8,571 fans per game (setting a school record in that category and placing in the top five nationally for the third consecutive year). That also represents Notre Dame's 12th consecutive NCAA top-20 attendance ranking, and the Fighting Irish had a school-record eight sellout crowds this year (plus four others within 700 fans of a sellout), giving Notre Dame 19 capacity crowds in the past three seasons alone, after having attracted a total of six sellouts in its first 32 seasons of competition.
Other honorees at Tuesday night's banquet (as chosen by a vote of their teammates) included: fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh School), who garnered the team's Defensive Player of the Year honor for the second year in a row; sophomore guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy), who was tapped as the team's Most Improved Player; and freshman guard Whitney Holloway (Plainfield, Ill./Montini Catholic), who took home the Spirit Award. In addition, senior guard Fraderica Miller (Atlanta, Ga./The Marist School) was honored by the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley with this year's Rockne Student-Athlete Award.
Each departing member of the senior class (which helped Notre Dame to a record-setting 117 victories, two NCAA title games, three NCAA Sweet 16 berths and a BIG EAST title during their careers), along with student managers Lucy Eckard and Nick Sigmund, also delivered moving speeches about their careers at Notre Dame, while nine-year associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis added a few heartfelt words of thanks to the Fighting Irish faithful as he prepares to embark on his new journey as the head coach at George Washington. A senior video tribute and the always-popular season highlight and behind-the-scenes videos capped off the evening's festivities.
Notre Dame is expected to have two starters and eight total players returning next season, along with a three-player freshman class that was ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report (and is a consensus top-10 class by all major recruiting services). It's the 16th consecutive year that the Fighting Irish have attracted a top-20 recruiting class, with Notre Dame being one of only three schools in the country that holds that distinction.
Here's a closer look at the 2011-12 Fighting Irish women's basketball award winners:
Natalie Novosel (Sr., G, Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) - Notre Dame Monogram Club Co-MVP
Novosel is a two-time Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches' All-America Team finalist (and subsequent honorable mention All-America choice), as well as a two-time WBCA Coaches' All-Region I Team and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2011 and 2012. She also was a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award first-team All-America pick this year, and was one of 10 finalists for the Award, which goes annually to the nation's top senior who excels in the four cornerstone areas of Competition, Classroom, Character and Community. In addition, Novosel garnered Most Valuable Player honors at the this year's Junkanoo Jam (after banking in the game-winning shot at the buzzer in the title game against No. 7/6 Duke, capping a school record-tying 18-point second-half comeback) and a spot on the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team.
The 5-foot-11 guard started all 39 games for the Fighting Irish this season, ranking sixth in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.2 ppg.), while leading the conference in three-point percentage (.411 - 10th-best single-season mark in school history) and ranking second in free throw percentage (career-high .829; also 57th in nation). She scored in double figures a team high-tying 32 times this season, and placed second on the team with 11 20-point games, including a career-high 32 points against USF on Feb. 25 (Senior Day) at Purcell Pavilion.
For her career, Novosel ranks among the top 10 on six Fighting Irish statistical charts -- games played (2nd - 144), free throws made (2nd - 464), free throws attempted (2nd - 588), three-point percentage (5th - .392), points (9th - 1,569) and double-figure scoring games (9th - 79).
Novosel is one of two Notre Dame players who have been invited to attend the 2012 WNBA Draft, scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET) April 16 at the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn. (first round televised on ESPN2, second/third rounds televised on ESPNU and NBATV, full three-round simulcast coverage online at ESPN3).
Devereaux Peters (5th-Year Sr., F, Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) - Notre Dame Monogram Club Co-MVP
Like Novosel, Peters was a two-time Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches' All-America Team finalist (and subsequent honorable mention All-America choice), as well as a two-time WBCA Coaches' All-Region I Team and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2011 and 2012. She also was a finalist for the 2012 WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year award, and earned the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honor the past two seasons, in addition to garnering a spot on the 2012 BIG EAST Championship All-Tournament Team.
This year, Peters was the only BIG EAST player to rank among the top 10 in the conference in three of the five major defensive statistical categories -- rebounding (2nd - 9.3 rpg.), blocked shots (3rd - 2.0 bpg.) and steals (10th - 2.0 spg.) -- while ranking 40th in the nation in blocks and 42nd in rebounding. She also ranked fifth in the BIG EAST with a .544 field goal percentage, and wound up 26th on the conference's scoring rolls at 11.8 points per game.
In her final season at Notre Dame, Peters tied longstanding school records for 15-rebound games (7) and 15-point/15-rebound games (4) in a single campaign, with both marks first set nearly 35 years ago during the program's first varsity season (1977-78). She also amassed a career-high 12 double-doubles this year (tying for fifth-most in school history and most by a Fighting Irish player since 2004), including nine in her final 18 games. What's more, she is the first player in program annals to pile up 75 blocks, 75 steals and 75 assists in one season, and just the second NCAA Division I player in the past decade (since 2001-02) to pull off that feat (Tennessee's Candace Parker did so in 2007-08), while Peters' 78 total blocks tied her for fifth on the Fighting Irish single-season charts.
After battling back from an injury-riddled start to her college career, Peters broke new ground in Notre Dame women's basketball history as the first Fighting Irish player to register 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 blocks, 200 steals and 200 assists in her career. She also was the only player in the country to post at least 60 blocks, 60 steals and 60 assists in each of the past two seasons (and one of only four in the past decade along with Parker, Minnesota's Janel McCarville and Appalachian State's Anna Freeman). Overall, she appears in the top 10 on five of Notre Dame's career statistical lists -- blocked shots (2nd - 227), rebounds (5th - 937), field goal percentage (7th - .550), steals (9th - 222) and double-doubles (9th - 23). She also stands 17th in school history with 1,319 career points.
Peters will join Novosel in attending the 2012 WNBA Draft, scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET) April 16 at the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn. (first round televised on ESPN2, second/third rounds televised on ESPNU and NBATV, full three-round simulcast coverage online at ESPN3).
Skylar Diggins (Jr., G, South Bend, Ind./Washington) - Woody Miller Player of the Year (voted by media)
Diggins was a consensus first-team All-America selection and a finalist for every major national player-of-the-year award in 2011-12, going to on earn the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard. She also was chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Year (the third Notre Dame player to be so honored and the first since 2005) and a two-time unanimous first-team all-conference selection.
This season, Diggins became the first Fighting Irish player and just the fourth NCAA Division I player in the past decade (since 2001-02) to register 600 points, 200 assists and 100 steals in a single season. In fact, she set a school record with 102 steals, while her 222 assists were third-most on the Notre Dame single-season list, and her 657 points ranked fourth on the school's single-season chart. In addition, she posted the second-best assist-turnover ratio (2.16) by a Fighting Irish player in one season, and her four double-doubles tied for fourth-most by a Notre Dame guard in a single season. That doesn't include the triple-double (22 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) she registered on March 27 in the NCAA Raleigh Regional final victory over No. 5 Maryland, just the third triple-double in program history and the first in 22 years. It also was the first recorded by a BIG EAST player in the NCAA Championship, not to mention being only the second triple-double posted by any player in a regional final game (it's never happened in a Final Four contest), and the first since Old Dominion's Anne Donovan in 1983.
In 2011-12, Diggins was the only BIG EAST player to rank among the top five in the conference in three of the five major statistical categories. She led the conference in both assists (5.7 apg. - 16th in nation) and steals (2.6 spg. - 55th in nation; school-record 102 steals overall), and she was fourth in scoring (16.8 ppg. - 70th in nation), while also posting her conference-best 2.16 assist-turnover ratio (10th in nation). What's more, she ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in free throw percentage (9th - .786) and field goal percentage (tied-10th - .500; 35th in nation).
Diggins also wrapped up the BIG EAST regular season statistical titles in assists (5.8 apg. - second Notre Dame player to win the BIG EAST assist title, and first since current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey in 1999-2000), steals (2.6 spg.), and assist-turnover ratio (2.3). She finished conference play among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (3rd - 17.8 ppg.), field goal percentage (9th - .508) and free throw percentage (12th - .788).
Besides her seasonal awards, Diggins was chosen as the NCAA Raleigh Regional Most Outstanding Player and was a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team, becoming the first Notre Dame cager to be selected for either honor twice in her career (she was the 2011 NCAA Dayton Regional MOP before making the Final Four squad). She also was named to the Preseason WNIT and Junkanoo Jam all-tournament teams this past season.
In her career, Diggins already ranks among the top 10 on nine Fighting Irish statistical charts -- scoring average (4th - 15.3 ppg.), 20-point games (4th - 33), free throws made (4th - 414), free throws attempted (5th - 541), points (6th - 1,726), assists (6th - 520), steals (6th - 267), double-figure scoring games (6th - 88), double-doubles by a guard (6th - 6) and games started (9th - 107). She will enter her senior season needing 74 rebounds to become the first player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career.
Brittany Mallory (5th-Year Sr., G, Baltimore, Md./McDonogh School) - Defensive Player of the Year Award
One of the premier on-ball defenders in the nation, Mallory often was given the assignment of guarding some of the country's best perimeter players and she embraced the challenge each time out. Among the many players shut down by Mallory's bulldog defense this season were: USC's Jacki Gemelos (13 points on 3-11 FG), Duke's Chelsea Gray (11 points on 4-14 FG), Purdue's Brittany Rayburn (four points on 1-7 FG), Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers (13 points on 3-18 FG), Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen (five points on 2-10 FG), Rutgers' April Sykes (two points on 1-9 FG), DePaul's Anna Martin (combined 16 points on 6-28 FG in two games) and Louisville's Shoni Schimmel (nine points on 3-16 FG).
A two-year team captain, Mallory started all 39 games this season, averaging 5.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, the latter total ranking eighth in the BIG EAST. The Baltimore native also chalked up a career-high 81 steals, ranking ninth on the Notre Dame single-season list in that category.
For her career, Mallory was the textbook definition of tough, missing just three games outside of the 2008-09 campaign, when she was sidelined after seven games with a season-ending knee injury. She winds up as the school's career leader in games played (151), while placing fifth on the Notre Dame all-time steals list (272) and sixth with 153 career three-point field goal made.
Kayla McBride (So., G, Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) - Most Improved Player Award
McBride emerged as one of the rising young stars in women's college basketball in 2011-12, earning NCAA Raleigh Regional and BIG EAST Championship all-tournament team honors to punctuate a steady improvement throughout her first full season. The Erie, Pa., resident appeared in all 39 games for the Fighting Irish this year, starting 36 times and ranking fourth on the team (27th in the BIG EAST) in scoring at 11.6 points per game. She also was among the conference leaders in field goal percentage (13th - .496) and her .872 free throw percentage would have led the BIG EAST, but she finished three made free throws short of qualification. Nevertheless, McBride did win the BIG EAST free throw crown during regular-season conference play with a .919 mark from the stripe, becoming the first Notre Dame player to take home that honor since Megan Duffy in 2005.
Overall, McBride was third on the team with a career-high 25 double-digit scoring games, and she posted the first two double-doubles of her career in wins over No. 2 Connecticut (10 points/career-best 12 rebounds) and at No. 13/14 Rutgers (13 points/10 rebounds). What's more, McBride showed flashes of continued growth during the postseason, raising her scoring average in that nine-game conference and NCAA tournament run to 12.3 points per game with a remarkable .643 three-point percentage (9-of-14).
Whitney Holloway (Fr., G, Plainfield, Ill./Montini Catholic) - Spirit Award
In her first season at Notre Dame, Holloway was a fountain of energy and enthusiasm, both on the court and in the locker room. A tireless worker in practice and games while competing daily against a stable full of All-America veteran guards, Holloway showed consistent growth during the 2011-12 season, appearing in 31 games and averaging 1.0 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. Her best offensive performance came against Hartford in the Preseason WNIT semifinals on Nov. 17 at Purcell Pavilion, when she scored six points, while she added a season-high four assists and four rebounds on Dec. 7 in her BIG EAST debut against Marquette (also at Purcell Pavilion).
Fraderica Miller (Sr., G, Atlanta, Ga./The Marist School) - ND Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Notre Dame would not have reached the heights it did in 2011-12 without veteran leadership and Miller provided that guidance in numerous ways. As the Fighting Irish defensive stopper, Miller saw action in 36 games this season, earning a pair of starting assignments at Mercer (Dec. 30) and at home against USF (Feb. 25). She averaged a career-high 1.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game this year and ranked fifth on the team with 47 steals. The Atlanta native also scored a season-high 10 points in two home games (Nov. 13 vs. Indiana State; Dec. 28 vs. Longwood), and nearly had a double-double in the win at Mercer, finishing with eight points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
For her career, Miller appeared in 107 games, averaging 1.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. In addition, she collected 126 steals, averaging a team-high one steal for every 7.8 minutes played, a mark that ranks among the best in the nation during her four-year career.
In the classroom, Miller has been an exemplary student, holding a 3.109 cumulative GPA as an accountancy major in the top-ranked Mendoza College of Business, while pursuing a secondary major in film, television & theater (TV concentration). She also is a two-time BIG EAST All-Academic Team selection (2009, 2010; 2012 team announcement pending), and has served as the president of Notre Dame's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) for the 2011-12 academic year. Following her graduation from Notre Dame next month, Miller has a full-time job waiting for her in the Atlanta offices of the prestigious financial consulting firm, Deloitte & Touche.
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