May 16, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame women's basketball team learned the first piece of the puzzle for its 2013-14 schedule, as the Fighting Irish will take on Penn State on Dec. 4, 2013, at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa., as part of the seventh annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, it was announced Thursday by both the ACC and Big Ten conference offices. The exact tip time and broadcast coverage (television and broadband) will be announced at a later date.
Notre Dame, which begins its inaugural season in the ACC this fall, will face Penn State for the sixth time, with the Lady Lions holding a 5-0 lead in the all-time series. The teams last met on Nov. 16, 2006, at the Bryce Jordan Center, with PSU earning a 75-49 victory.
Notre Dame is expected to return four starters and nine monogram recipients from its 2012-13 squad that posted a 35-2 record and advanced to the NCAA Women's Final Four for the third consecutive year (fifth time in school history). The Fighting Irish, who were ranked No. 2 in the final 2012-13 Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, also are coming off the program's second consecutive outright BIG EAST Conference regular season title (third overall) and their first BIG EAST Championship crown in their final year in that conference.
Next season, Notre Dame will be led by a pair of senior All-Americans in guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) and forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic), along with sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West), who is the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year. The Fighting Irish also will welcome a four-player incoming class that has been ranked as high as third in the nation by several national recruiting services.
Meanwhile, Penn State is coming off its second consecutive Big Ten regular season title, having gone 26-6 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Championship while being ranked No. 8 in the final AP poll and No. 12 in the year-end ESPN/USA Today poll. Next year, the Lady Lions retain the services of senior All-America guard Maggie Lucas, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, and redshirt senior guard Dara Taylor, who was a member of last year's Big Ten All-Defensive Team.
Penn State is led by seventh-year head coach and former Notre Dame player/assistant coach Coquese Washington, who is a "double Domer", having earned her bachelor's degree in history from the University's College of Arts and Letters in 1992 and her Juris Doctorate from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. As a player, Washington twice earned all-Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) honors, while leading the Fighting Irish to three MCC Tournament titles and the program's first-ever NCAA Championship berth in 1992.
Washington returned to her alma mater in 1999-2000 and served on head coach Muffet McGraw's staff for eight seasons, including a stint as associate head coach in her final two years (2005-06 and 2006-07). During her tenure on the Fighting Irish bench, Notre Dame posted a 188-69 (.732) record, reaching the NCAA Championship all eight seasons, including four NCAA Sweet 16 berths and highlighted by the program's first national championship in 2001.
"We're looking forward to being part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and helping to successfully represent the ACC in our first year in the conference," McGraw said. "Coquese has done an outstanding job in making Penn State a consistent top-20 program and they will have a tremendous core group of players coming back next year, led by the Big Ten's best player in Maggie Lucas. It's going to be a test for us early on the season, and it's a matchup that should be exciting for women's basketball fans all around the country."
The ACC has won five of the previous six Big Ten/ACC Challenge events and holds a 41-27 all-time record against the Big Ten in the Challenge, with the 2011 competition ending in a tie (each conference earned six victories). All 12 Big Ten schools and 12 of the 15 ACC members will compete in this year's Challenge, including new ACC schools Notre Dame and Syracuse.
The ACC and Big Ten conference offices determine the Challenge schedule each season. In addition, the official title of the Challenge rotates each year, with the 2013 event to be referred to as the Big Ten/ACC Women's Basketball Challenge, continuing to mirror the official title of the two conferences' Challenge agreement for men's basketball.
For the full slate of games in the 2013 Big Ten/ACC Women's Basketball Challenge, visit the official ACC web site (theacc.com).
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women's basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.