Nov. 1, 2011
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (31-8 / 13-3 BIG EAST in 2010-11) vs. Windsor (Ontario) Lancers (34-2 / 20-2 OUA West in 2010-11)
DATE: November 2, 2011
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: First meeting
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
LIVE CHAT: UND.com/blog
No. 2 Irish Tip Off Exhibition Slate Wednesday Against Windsor
Less than seven months after a captivating run to the NCAA national championship game, Notre Dame returns to the court at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday as the second-ranked Fighting Irish play host to the reigning Canadian national champion, the University of Windsor, in an exhibition game at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.
Notre Dame returns four starters and nine monogram winners from last year's NCAA finalist squad, with three of those starters earning All-America honors last year, as well as preseason accolades this season.That trio -- junior guard Skylar Diggins, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters -- also led the United States to a 6-0 record and the gold medal at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Windsor
Much like Notre Dame's storybook run a year ago, it was a magical 2010-11 season for the University of Windsor, as the Lancers rolled to a 34-2 record and their first Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship, hoisting the Bronze Baby Trophy in front of their own fans with a 63-49 victory over Saskatchewan at the St. Denis Centre in Windsor, Ontario.
In the process, the three-time Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champion Lancers became the first Canadian national champion in 19 years to come from outside the powerful Canada West Conference.
Windsor has four starters back from last year's squad, led by arguably the best Canadian college player in junior center Jessica Clemencon, and a pair of youth national team members in junior guard Miah-Marie Langlois and sophomore guard Korissa Williams.
The Lancers have played six preseason games already, participating in tournaments at Ryerson University and the University of Calgary and posting a 5-1 record along the way. Not surprisingly, Clemencon has been her team's top threat thus far, averaging 17.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while Williams adds 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a night.
As a team, Windsor is averaging 75.8 points per game this season with a +14.5 rebounding margin, bolstered by a roster that includes four players standing 6-foot-3 or taller.
Head coach Chantal Vallee is in her seventh season at Windsor.
The Notre Dame-Windsor Series
Wednesday will mark the first time Notre Dame and Windsor have played in the sport of women's basketball.
Other Notre Dame-Windsor Series Tidbits
Exhibition Excellence For The Irish
Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable in exhibition games during the past 18 seasons. Since the 1993-94 campaign, the Fighting Irish are 31-1 (.969) in these preseason tilts and own an active 26-game exhibition winning streak. During that time, Notre Dame has outscored its preseason opponents by an aggregate score of 2,818-1,836, which is good for an average score of 88-57.
The last squad to defeat the Fighting Irish in exhibition play was the Lithuanian National Team, which edged Notre Dame, 94-89 in 1996-97. However, the Fighting Irish were not fazed by that loss -- they went on to reach their first NCAA Final Four that season.
New NCAA rules in recent years have allowed Division I teams to play exhibitions against Division II, III, NAIA or Canadian institutions. The Fighting Irish are 10-0 against these programs, having downed 10 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, Southern Indiana and Hillsdale in 2007-08, Gannon in 2008-09, Indianapolis again in 2009-10 and Michigan Tech last year).
Beginning with the 2008-09 season, Notre Dame has played just one exhibition game, electing to take part in a closed scrimmage in place of a second preseason contest.
Other Exhibition Game Tidbits
2010-11 Exhibition Recap: Michigan Tech
Natalie Novosel scored a game-high 21 points, including nine in a game-opening 17-0 run as the No. 12 Notre Dame women's basketball team charged past Michigan Tech, 102-30, in the exhibition debut for both teams on Nov. 3, 2010, before an enthusiastic crowd of 7,464 at Purcell Pavilion.
Novosel connected on 8-of-11 shots from the field while adding a game-best six steals and five rebounds, all in just 18 minutes of action. She also led five Fighting Irish players in double figures, with Kayla McBride coming off the bench to chip in 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Becca Bruszewski collected 13 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Skylar Diggins piled up 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.
The Fighting Irish shot 54.3 percent (38-of-70) in their first action of the season, and outrebounded the Huskies, 53-18 (including 25 offensive rebounds), leading to a 26-0 edge in second-chance points. Notre Dame also forced 33 turnovers, with 25 of those coming on steals, and limited MTU to a .211 field goal percentage (8-of-38) for the game.
No player scored in double figures for Michigan Tech, which was trying to replace the graduation of all five starters from the previous year's 31-3 squad that won its second consecutive NCAA Division II Midwest Regional title and returned to the NCAA Elite Eight. Lindsey Lindstrom and Paige Albi shared team-high scoring honors for the Huskies with six points apiece.
Notre Dame wasted little time in taking control, scoring the first 17 points of the contest in the opening 4:38 of play. In addition to Novosel's nine points in the run, the Fighting Irish also forced Michigan Tech to commit six turnovers on its first seven possessions, with five of those giveaways coming via Notre Dame steals. Lindstrom finally broke the ice for the Huskies by connecting on a three-pointer from the left side exactly five minutes into the game.
MTU seemed to stop the bleeding for the next four minutes, but then the Fighting Irish put together a 13-2 run right up to the eight-minute media timeout that hiked their lead to 37-7. Brittany Mallory tallied five points and Achonwa added four markers in the surge.
The Huskies again righted themselves temporarily, but Notre Dame then closed the half on a 15-3 run covering the final 6:08 of the period. Six different Fighting Irish players scored during that spree, led by Diggins' five points, as Notre Dame took a 52-14 lead to the locker room.
Defense continued to be the story for the Fighting Irish in the second half, as Notre Dame held Michigan Tech without a single field goal for 11:35 during the middle portion of the stanza. All 12 Fighting Irish players in uniform would eventually find their way into the scorebook, including their two walk-ons -- Mary Forr and Veronica Badway -- who each scored in the final two minutes.
Noting The Michigan Tech Game
Notre Dame Claims Top Spot In 2011-12 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
For the first time in its 17-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has been selected as the outright No. 1 team in the annual BIG EAST preseason women's basketball poll, according to a vote of the league's 16 head coaches released Oct. 20 during the 2011-12 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.
In the closest vote since Notre Dame shared top honors with Connecticut in the 2002-03 BIG EAST preseason poll, the Fighting Irish picked up 219 points and nine first-place votes in the balloting (coaches are not permitted to select their own teams), edging out Connecticut, which collected the remaining seven first-place votes and finished with 216 points. Louisville (191 points) was chosen third, while Rutgers (176 points) finished a close fourth ahead of Georgetown (175 points).
Fighting Irish Trio Earns Numerous 2011-12 Preseason Honors
Along with picking Notre Dame to finish first in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches voted junior guard Skylar Diggins as the league's Preseason Player of the Year. Diggins is just the second Fighting Irish player to earn that honor, and the first since fellow South Bend Washington High School graduate and Notre Dame All-American Jacqueline Batteast did so prior to her senior season (2004-05).
Diggins also joined a pair of her teammates -- senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters -- on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, with Novosel and Peters making the preseason squad for the first time, while Diggins was a unanimous choice for the preseason all-conference team for the second consecutive year.
Notre Dame's three Preseason All-BIG EAST honorees (who also have been named preseason candidates for this year's Wade Trophy and Wooden Award, both of which go to the national player of the year) were more than any school, with three others having two selections (Connecticut had a third player earn honorable mention status).
Diggins -- who added Associated Press Preseason All-America honors to her trophy case on Tuesday (the second Fighting Irish player to collect that status and first since Batteast in 2004-05) -- put together one of the finest sophomore seasons in Notre Dame women's basketball history in 2010-11 while sparking the Fighting Irish to their second NCAA title game berth and third NCAA Women's Final Four appearance. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.0 ppg.), assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), posting career highs in all three areas. What's more, her 585 total points and 186 total assists were the second-most ever accrued by a Notre Dame sophomore -- Katryna Gaither scored 590 points in 1994-95, while Mary Gavin dished out 205 assists in 1985-86 -- and her 75 steals were fourth on the Fighting Irish sophomore charts (just eight off the school record), while her 1,226 total minutes were just one shy of Beth Morgan's school record set in 1996-97.
A State Farm Coaches' All-America and third-team AP All-America selection last year, Diggins also ranked second on the team with 32 double-digit scoring games, leading the squad in scoring 14 times and rolling up 10 20-point outings, including the last three NCAA Championship games against Tennessee (24), Connecticut (season-high 28) and Texas A&M (23). She added at least five assists in 22 different games (after having seven five-assist games her entire freshman season), capped by a career-high 12 assists against Oklahoma in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinal, the most helpers ever for a Fighting Irish player in the NCAA tournament, and most in any game since 2000.
A unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection, the NCAA Dayton Regional Most Outstanding Player and a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team, as well as being a finalist for the three major national player-of-the-year awards (Wooden Award, Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy) and the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard), Diggins also made history in that regional final win over Tennessee, becoming just the second Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points in less than two seasons with the Fighting Irish (Morgan had exactly 1,000 points at the end of her sophomore season of 1994-95), and doing so in 72 games, tying for the fourth-fastest run to the scoring millennium in program history. Diggins currently ranks 24th on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,069 points.
Meanwhile, Novosel was easily one of the nation's most improved players in 2010-11, nabbing State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST laurels, as well as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player award, after more than tripling her scoring average from a year ago from 5.0 points to a team-high 15.1 points per game. She also scored in double figures a team-best 33 times, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Gaither had 37 double-digit games in 1996-97) and nearly doubled her combined total of 17 from her first two years. What's more, Novosel had seven 20-point games (her career high entering the season was 19 points) and posted a team-best .413 three-point percentage, in addition to being second on the squad in steals (tied-1.9 spg.) and third in assists (1.9 apg.).
In 2010-11, Novosel set a new school record with 183 free throws made and 39 games started (tying with Peters and Becca Bruszewski), while her 232 free throw attempts were second-most in school history. In addition, she placed among the top 10 on the program's single-season charts for total points (7th - 588) and minutes played (9th - 1,102).
Peters (who garnered honorable mention preseason All-America status from the AP on Tuesday) also enjoyed her finest season at Notre Dame in 2010-11, having fully recovered from a pair of knee injuries earlier in her career. Peters set new career highs in virtually every category, ranking third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and tops in double-doubles (10), rebounding (7.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (.593), and blocked shots (1.7 bpg.), not to mention fourth in steals (1.7 spg.). Furthermore, she placed fifth in the country in field goal percentage, and ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (22nd), rebounding (6th), field goal percentage (2nd), blocked shots (4th) and double-doubles (2nd). As if that weren't enough, she was one of just two players in the nation to record at least 60 blocks and 60 steals last season (she had 68 blocks and 66 steals), joining Illinois' Karisma Penn (78/62) in that select company.
Like Novosel, Peters was named a State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2010-11, while also taking home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. She scored in double figures 25 times and tied the school record by starting all 39 games during Notre Dame's run to the NCAA national championship game. In that title clash against Texas A&M, Peters rang up a double-double with 21 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and a game-high 11 rebounds, securing her place on the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in the 2011-12 preseason Associated Press poll, released on Oct. 29. It's the highest the Fighting Irish have ever been ranked in the AP preseason survey, topping their No. 4 debut in 2009-10.
Notre Dame also received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll, the first time it has received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes as part of its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.
This latest preseason ranking marks the 78th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (40) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.
This year's No. 2 ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 217 weeks during the program's 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 2 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, and like the AP poll, it's Notre Dame's best-ever preseason ranking, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year's preseason coaches' survey, their first nods for the top spot since the final '00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 79 of the past 80 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 210 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 217 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches, with McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
Half And Half
During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 216-18 (.923) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 144 of their last 156 such contests.
Notre Dame had a two-year streak of 53 consecutive wins when leading at the half before falling to Texas A&M, 76-70, on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led 35-33 at intermission).
Despite that season-ending loss, the Fighting Irish went 28-1 last year when they were up at the break.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 17 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame's first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 231-15 (.939) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in 23 contests last season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount, Southeast Missouri State, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Louisville, Utah, Oklahoma, Tennessee).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 153-5 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
In the past two years, Notre Dame is 30-1 when topping the 80-point mark, including a 13-1 record last season (the exception being the aforementioned double-overtime loss to UCLA).
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past two seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the third consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out the Jan. 23 game with Tennessee, push the Jan. 7 Connecticut game to a virtual sell-out, and put four other games (Dec. 20 vs. Central Florida, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. South Florida) within striking distance of a sell out.
In fact, while some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it's entirely possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2010-11 regular season.
Hall of Fame Coach Muffet McGraw
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of nearly 650 games in her illustrious career, offically was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame during a gala ceremony on June 11, 2011, at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn.
McGraw was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class. The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class included former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).
In addition, the legendary All-American Red Heads, one of the nation's first women's basketball teams which barnstormed around the country from 1936-86, were honored for their contributions to the game with a display at the Hall entitled "Trailblazers of the Game," that was unveiled during the 2011 Induction Weekend.
McGraw is the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Fighting Irish skipper also became the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.
McGraw also was the seventh active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this notable list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina) and Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia).
Fighting Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women's basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Fighting Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish Digital Media package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his fourth season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as Wednesday's exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free Fighting Irish Video Channel.
This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through last year's national championship game vs. Texas A&M (televised live nationally on ESPNHD), Notre Dame has played in 200 televised games, including 145 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Breaks New Ground With "Heart of the Irish" Service Initiative
For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame women's basketball team will be front and center in the South Bend and greater Michiana communities with its groundbreaking outreach program (renamed "Heart of the Irish"), which will involve numerous interactive events during the 2011-12 season. The goal of this year's "Heart of the Irish" program is to highlight community leaders who are making a difference, as well as encourage fans to give back to their community and make an impact through a variety of special initiatives.
The expanded "Heart of the Irish" schedule gets underway at 7 p.m. (ET) on Nov. 11, when Notre Dame opens its regular season schedule against Akron in the first round of the Preseason WNIT at Purcell Pavilion. That game will feature Notre Dame's first-ever Proud To Be An American event, honoring those who have served our country on the occasion of Veterans Day. There also will be a special recognition ceremony at halftime as part of the tipoff for this year's "Heart of the Irish" series.
The first of five cornerstone events for the 2011-12 "Heart of the Irish" drive will take place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame plays host to Pennsylvania in a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish will hold their annual Teddy Bear Toss, collecting new teddy bears and other stuffed animals for patients at Riley Children's Hospital, which serves many Michiana children, as well as local youth patients. The highlight of the event comes at halftime, when fans are invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they are then collected by volunteers.
Less than one week after the Teddy Bear Toss, Notre Dame will have a second outreach event called Food For Friends, to be held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette at 7 p.m. (ET) on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion. Fans can bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that will be collected and delivered as part of the Food Drive for the St. Joseph Country chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
Notre Dame's next special "Heart of the Irish" event is entitled Reading One on One and it's scheduled for Jan. 17, when the Fighting Irish play host to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. The That evening, the team will collect children's books for the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.
The Fighting Irish will hold their annual fund-raising game in support of breast cancer awareness and research on Feb. 12 (3:30 p.m. ET vs. West Virginia) at Purcell Pavilion. Known locally as the Pink Zone game (and nationally renamed as Play4Kay), it will feature numerous informational booths and donation opportunities for fans to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, with the highlight being the always-memorable halftime ceremony to honor those who have been touched by (and in many cases, conquered) the disease. Last year, Notre Dame raised more than $130,000 through its Pink Zone game for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, lifting its three-year donation total to more than a quarter of a million dollars.
The last event in the "Heart of the Irish" series comes on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), when Notre Dame welcomes Providence to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. This will be the inaugural Splish Splash, in which fans can bring towels, wash cloths or toiletries such as small bottles of shampoo, soap or toothpaste for the YWCA of St. Joseph County.
Throughout the season, the Fighting Irish also will recognize community leaders who have made exceptional contributions.
In addition to this five-event series, Notre Dame women's basketball will take part in a cooperative effort with the University's Office of Sustainability as the Fighting Irish encourage all fans to recycle in their daily lives, particularly when they attend Notre Dame basketball games at Purcell Pavilion.
The Office of Sustainability is one of four groups partnering with the Notre Dame women's basketball program for the 2011-12 "Heart of the Irish" series. Other partners include the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, the Notre Dame Office of Public Affairs, and the Notre Dame Department of Student Welfare & Development.
Originally called the "Spirit of Giving" program, Notre Dame's community outreach efforts began in earnest during the summer of 2009. Since then, Fighting Irish players, coaches, staff and fans have taken part in hundreds of hours of service projects designed to give back to the South Bend and greater Michiana communities.
The Notre Dame women's basketball team was honored for its community outreach efforts in 2008-09, receiving the Trophy Award (symbolic of the Fighting Irish program with the most service hours in one academic year) from the Notre Dame athletics department.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year five of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 26 times, including wins last year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Wake Forest, Creighton and Southeast Missouri State and Seton Hall.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "media relations director has too much time on his hands"), 15 different players have converted the "burger ball", including five current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 26 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, nine on free throws, and four on three-pointers.
Next Game: Akron (Preseason WNIT)
Notre Dame officially tips off its 35th season of varsity competition at 7 p.m. (ET) Nov. 11 when it plays host to Akron in the first round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) at Purcell Pavilion. It will be the first-ever matchup between the Fighting Irish and Zips on the hardwood.
Akron returns 10 letterwinners (four starters) from last year's club that went 14-16 and finished fourth in the Mid-American Conference West Division. The Zips face Ohio Dominican Saturday in their lone exhibition game.
Notre Dame will be playing in the Preseason WNIT for the fourth time, having reached the semifinals in 1997 and 2007 and winning the tournament championship in 2004.