Nov. 1, 2007
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs.
Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles (0-0 / 0-0 GLVC)
DATE: November 1, 2007
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. (Joyce Center - 11,418)
SERIES: First meeting
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM/UND.com (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
Irish Tip Off Exhibition Season Thursday Against Southern Indiana
More than seven months after a close loss to second-ranked North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame gets back on the hardwood Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET) when it plays host to Division II foe Southern Indiana in the exhibition opener for both teams at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame returns eight monogram winners and three starters from its 2006-07 squad that posted a 20-12 record and earned a fifth-place tie in the rugged BIG EAST Conference. Add in the nation's 11th-ranked rookie class and you have the makings of a deep and talented team built for the long haul.
On the other hand, USI will have many new faces in uniform this season, with only four players returning from last year's 16-12 club. However, the Screaming Eagles are no strangers to Division I success, having won at Morehead State, 75-74 in an exhibition game last year.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Even after a 20-12 record and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006-07, Notre Dame still continues to fly below the national radar. Head coach Muffet McGraw wouldn't want it any other way.
Last year, the Irish learned quickly that respect is something that isn't handed to you, but rather earned on the court. It's also a quality that takes time to develop and doesn't come from trophy cases or record books. So although Notre Dame doesn't appear in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, and was tabbed fifth in the preseason BIG EAST Conference balloting, it's not a great concern to McGraw and her charges. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and prefer to let the outside world judge them when the season is over.
This year could prove to be unlike any in recent memory for Notre Dame. For one, the Irish will roll out some impressive depth, going virtually two-deep at every floor position. In addition, Notre Dame's new offensive system (a Princeton-based set with four guards and a post) continues to evolve, building upon last year's 70.1 point-per-game average that was its highest since the 2000-01 NCAA national championship season.
Senior guard Charel Allen is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish, leading the team in both categories last year (17.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg.). She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA honorable mention All-America selection, and was a finalist for the 2007 USA U21 World Championship Team that struck gold this past summer in Moscow.
Allen's backcourt partner and classmate is point guard Tulyah Gaines. Now in her second full season at the helm of the Notre Dame offense, the speedy Gaines averaged 9.6 points per game along with team highs of 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. She also is a two-year team captain who commands instant respect from teammates, coaches and opponents.
The Irish will benefit from the return of junior guard Lindsay Schrader, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader, who retains three years of athletic eligibility, was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 and will look to regain that form this season.
Last year saw Notre Dame break new ground by becoming the first school ever to put three players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Guards Ashley Barlow (10.3 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Melissa Lechlitner (6.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) will provide a superb complement to the veteran Allen-Gaines tandem, while center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) showed flashes of potential throughout her rookie season and is poised for increased development this year.
Headling a three-player freshman class (ranked 11th nationally by Blue Star Basketball) is Devereaux Peters, a smooth 6-2 forward who was a consensus All-American as a senior last year at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. Fellow post Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind.) finished third in last season's Indiana Miss Basketball voting and was a perennial all-state pick. And, guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md.) offers a perimeter shooting threat, as well as a cerebral player who will mesh well in the Irish offensive system.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Southern Indiana
If any team could truly say it was unsure of what lies ahead this season, it would likely be Southern Indiana. The Screaming Eagles return just four players (including one starter) from last year's squad that registered a 16-12 record and placed fourth in the West Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) with a 10-9 mark. However, with eight newcomers on board, the future for USI is exceptionally bright, as it looks to return to the national spotlight that saw the Eagles finish as the 1997 NCAA Division II runner-up and reach the 2001 NCAA Division II Elite Eight as part of seven NCAA Tournament appearances.
Southern Indiana was picked to finish third in the GLVC West this season, according to a preseason poll of the league's head coaches. The Eagles are led by senior forward Jasmine Baines, who started 20 games last season, averaging 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds a night. No other player on the USI roster averaged more than four points or four rebounds per game last season.
Highlighting the large incoming class for Southern Indiana is sophomore guard VaNita Smart, who transferred from Indiana during the offseason. Smart played in 23 games for the Hoosiers last season, averaging 1.6 points per game. She actually is the only current USI player who has ever played a college game at the Joyce Center, seeing one minute of action in IU's 54-51 win over Notre Dame on Dec. 3, 2006.
Southern Indiana is playing a Division I opponent in exhibition play for the second consecutive season and fourth time since the 2001-02 season. The Eagles are 1-2 against Division I foes, most recently pulling out a 75-74 victory at Morehead State on a last-second three-pointer by current senior guard Marshay Jolly.
Rick Stein is beginning his ninth season as the head coach at his alma mater, following eight years (1991-99) as an assistant coach. He has a career record of 143-92 (.609).
The Notre Dame-Southern Indiana Series
Thursday will mark the first time Notre Dame and Southern Indiana have ever faced one another on the hardwood.
Other Notre Dame-Southern Indiana Series Tidbits
Exhibition Excellence For Irish
Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable in exhibition games during the past 14 seasons. Since the 1993-94 campaign, the Irish are 26-1 (.963) in these preseason tilts and own an active 21-game exhibition winning streak. During that time, Notre Dame has outscored its preseason opponents by an aggregate score of 2,337-1,621, which is good for an average score of 87-60. The last squad to defeat the Irish in exhibition play was the Lithuanian National Team, which edged Notre Dame, 94-89 in 1996-97. But the Irish were not fazed by that loss -- they went on to reach their first NCAA Final Four that year. New NCAA rules in recent years have allowed Division I teams to play exhibitions against Division II, III or NAIA institutions. The Irish are 5-0 against these College Division programs, having downed four NCAA Division II schools since 2001 (Christian Brothers in 2001-02, Indianapolis and Ferris State in 2005-06, Lake Superior State and Northwood (Mich.) in 2006-07).