June 4, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Eight months after they met in the NCAA Women's Final Four, Notre Dame and Maryland will square off again on Dec. 3, 2014, at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind., in one of the featured games of the eighth annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, it was announced Wednesday 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.
This game will be included among Notre Dame's season ticket package that will go on sale later this summer, with single-game tickets to go on sale in late September or early October. It's also the latest addition to a rapidly filling home schedule for the Fighting Irish -- Notre Dame previously announced it will play host to Connecticut (Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Women's Classic) as well as three games in the Hall of Fame Challenge against Holy Cross (Nov. 23), Harvard (Nov. 24) and Quinnipiac (Nov. 25).
The Fighting Irish, who will play this "off-site" home game in Fort Wayne due to a facility conflict at Purcell Pavilion (the Notre Dame-Michigan State men's basketball game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be the same night), are slated to make their third visit to the Summit City, but first since Jan. 24, 1979, when they defeated IPFW, 49-41 during Notre Dame's second season of varsity competition and while playing as an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Division III member (the Fighting Irish also won at Indiana Tech, 68-51 on Feb. 15, 1978).
Notre Dame athletics is no stranger to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, having served as the host school for a pair of postseason events that took place at the 13,000-seat facility, which currently is the home of the NBA D-League champion Fort Wayne Mad Ants and the East Coast Hockey League's Fort Wayne Komets. In 2004, Notre Dame played a men's basketball NIT second-round game against Saint Louis at the Coliseum, posting a 77-66 win behind a career-high 39 points from All-America guard Chris Thomas. Then in 2010, Notre Dame played host to the NCAA Midwest Regional hockey championship in Fort Wayne, with Miami (Ohio) winning twice on the Summit City sheet to earn a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
"What a great opportunity to play in front of some of our outstanding fans from not only the Fort Wayne area, but all of eastern Indiana and western Ohio," Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. "We're going to be centrally located within about a two-hour drive of not only the Notre Dame campus and all of Michiana, but also the hometowns of two of our players (sophomore forward and Fishers, Ind., native Taya Reimer, and freshman forward and Kettering, Ohio, product Kathryn Westbeld), not to mention that terrific crowd support we had during our NCAA first- and second-round games in Toledo last March.
"Notre Dame has had such a great partnership with the (Allen County War Memorial) Coliseum for many years, especially with all the tremendous work they've done to help us put on the men's NIT game and NCAA hockey regional in the past decade," McGraw added. "We've been exploring the possibility of playing down there for a while, and we're thrilled to be able to make this happen with such a high-profile event."
Notre Dame is beginning its second season in the ACC, while Maryland starts a new association with the Big Ten on July 1. The Fighting Irish and Terrapins will be meeting for the ninth time, with the all-time series deadlocked at 4-4. The teams met twice last year, with Notre Dame winning on both occasions -- 87-83 in the regular season at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md., and 87-61 in the NCAA Women's Final Four national semifinals at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
"We had two really entertaining games with Maryland last year and I would expect that this year's game will probably be more of the same," McGraw said. "They are a well-coached and talented team and it should be an exciting matchup."
Notre Dame is expected to return two starters and 10 monogram recipients from its 2013-14 squad that posted a 37-1 record and advanced to the NCAA Women's Final Four for the fourth consecutive year (sixth time in school history), while making its third trip to the NCAA national championship game in the past four seasons (fourth in school history). The Fighting Irish, who were ranked No. 2 in the final 2013-14 Associated Press and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today polls, also are the reigning ACC regular season and tournament champions, having posted a combined 19-0 record against conference foes last year to become the first ACC team to run the table since 2002-03 (as well as being the first ACC team to win the league title in its inaugural season).
Next season, Notre Dame will be led by the starting backcourt of junior All-America guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West), who currently is in Moscow, Russia, competing with the USA Basketball 3x3 National Team at the FIBA 3x3 World Championship, and sophomore guard Lindsay Allen (Mitchellville, Md./St. John's College), who smashed the Notre Dame freshman record for assists (150; previous was 116 by Mary Gavin in 1984-85) and posted the second-highest assist/turnover ratio in one season in school history (2.23, trailing only current assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey's 2.67 mark as a fifth-year senior in 2000-01). The Fighting Irish also will welcome a three-player incoming class that has been ranked as high as third in the nation by several national recruiting services, and includes Gatorade and USA Today National High School Player of the Year forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel), as well as Westbeld (like Turner, a McDonald's High School All-America selection) and two-time Gatorade West Virginia Player of the Year, guard Mychal Johnson (Huntington, W.Va./Huntington St. Joseph).
Meanwhile, Maryland is coming off its fourth trip to the NCAA Women's Final Four, having gone 28-7 and tying for second in the ACC while being ranked No. 4 in the final WBCA/USA Today poll and No. 11 in the year-end AP poll. Next year, the Terrapins will be led by redshirt senior guard Lauren Mincy, who earned honorable mention all-ACC status in 2012, and sophomore guards Lexie Brown (a member of last year's ACC All-Freshman Team) and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.
The ACC has won six of the previous seven ACC/Big Ten Challenge events, and holds a 48-32 all-time record against the Big Ten in the Challenge, with the 2011 competition ending in a tie (each conference earned six victories). Last year, the ACC posted a 7-5 victory over the Big Ten.
All 14 Big Ten schools and 14 of the 15 ACC members will compete in this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge (all but Clemson), including new ACC school Louisville and new Big Ten schools Maryland and Rutgers. The 14 head-to-head games will be the largest number played since the Challenge debuted in 2007, after the conferences played 12 times in each of the past three seasons, and 11 times in the first four years of the event.
As it turns out, Notre Dame and Maryland also are the only two undefeated teams in the history of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, with the Fighting Irish winning their inaugural game in the Challenge last year (77-67 at No. 10/11 Penn State), while the Terrapins are 7-0 all-time (as members of the ACC).
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 2014 event to be referred to as the ACC/Big Ten 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 2014 ACC/Big Ten 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.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director