Nov. 2, 2009
#4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Indianapolis Greyhounds (0-0 / 0-0 GLVC)
DATE: November 3, 2009
Waiting Game Over As #4 Irish Tip Off Exhibition Slate Tuesday Night
Notre Dame posted a 22-9 record last season, tying for fourth in the BIG EAST Conference and advanced to its 14th consecutive NCAA Championship. However, the Irish saw their postseason run abruptly ended at home in round one by upset-minded Minnesota, giving Notre Dame nearly eight months to set their sights on writing a happier ending this time around.
Indianapolis is ranked fourth in the Women's Division II Bulletin preseason poll and returns four starters from last year's 24-10 club that made its first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. The Greyhounds opened preseason play Sunday afternoon by leading almost wire-to-wire in a 67-56 win at Division I foe Valparaiso.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Setting the tone for the Irish will be a trio of senior captains, including returning all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow, both of whom also were tabbed for this year's preseason all-conference team. Schrader was a first-team all-BIG EAST pick last season after piling up career bests of 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. In addition, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a new single-season school record for guards, and now has 11 career double-doubles, one off the mark for guards set by current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey from 1996-2001.
Meanwhile, Barlow led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per game, and also logged 70 steals (2.4 spg.), making her only the fourth player in school history to record 60+ steals in three consecutive seasons. The Indianapolis native also made an early statement about her intentions this season, notching a team-high 13.0 ppg. with a .727 three-point percentage (8-11) and .577 field goal percentage during Notre Dame's three-game, 11-day European tour in May 2009.
Completing this leadership triumverate is point guard Melissa Lechlitner. As a first-year starter in 2008-09, Lechlitner averaged personal bests of 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, driving the Irish offense with a steady hand.
Another first-year starter who made huge strides last season was junior forward Becca Bruszewski. The Valparaiso product doubled her averages in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.), while honing a reliable three-point shot to the tune of a team-high .375 percentage from beyond the arc.
Not to be overlooked are a pair of returning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks in rapidly-maturing sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (6.9 ppg., 45 steals in 2008-09) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (6.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.2 bpg.), as well as their classmates in forward Kellie Watson (3.8 ppg., 28 3FGM) and Fraderica Miller (0.7 ppg., 0.7 spg.).
In addition, Notre Dame could get a significant boost this year from incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins, a three-time high school All-American from South Bend's Washington High School, who averaged 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during her prep career. The other Irish rookie guard, Kaila Turner of Joliet, Ill., has incredible upside as well, having twice earned all-state honors at Marian Catholic High School.
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
A Quick Look At Indianapolis
Ranked fourth in the recently-released Women's D-II Bulletin preseason poll, UIndy got off to a flying start on Sunday, going on the road to knock off Division I foe Valparaiso, 67-56. Junior forward Samantha Meissel posted team highs of 18 points and seven rebounds to pace four Greyhound scorers in double figures. Indianapolis also won the battle on the boards, 37-33, and forced the Crusaders into 23 turnovers and a .367 field goal percentage.
The Greyhounds are playing a tough preseason slate with three games against Division I opponents. UIndy will close out its exhibition schedule Saturday at 11th-ranked Xavier.
Meissel was a second-team all-region and first-team all-conference selection last year after averaging 18.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Senior guard Jessica Canary pitched in 14.4 points and a team-high 5.3 rebounds a night on the way to second-team all-GLVC honors.
Head coach LeAnn Freeland is gearing up for her third season in Indianapolis, sporting a 46-18 (.719) record at the school. She will be coaching against Notre Dame for the first time.
The Notre Dame-Indianapolis Series
The Last Time ND And Indianapolis Met
Duffy connected on 7-of-13 shots from the floor, including 4-of-8 from three-point range, and added a game-high seven assists with just one turnover. Sophomore center Melissa D'Amico looked strong as well, collecting 16 points (7-12 FG) and a game-best seven rebounds. Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader got the starting nod in her first outing and responded with 13 points (6-13 FG), while matching D'Amico's game-high seven rebounds. Senior forward Courtney LaVere rounded out the double-figure scoring quartet with 10 points (5-9 FG).
As a team, Notre Dame shot 53 percent from the floor (35-of-66) and owned a 40-29 edge on the boards. The Irish also had 25 assists and only 14 turnovers on the evening, with sophomore guard Tulyah Gaines nearly equalling Duffy's performance with six assists and one turnover.
Indianapolis was led by Mandy Geryak's game-high 23 points, as the transfer from Xavier was making her first appearance in a Greyhound uniform after redshirting last season. Vanessa Jackson, a transfer from Morehead State, added 11 points off the bench.
Notre Dame stormed from the gate with a 15-5 run during the first 6:08 of the contest, getting six points from D'Amico in the stretch. However, Indianapolis rallied back with a 19-7 run of its own and actually took the lead when Geryak hit a layup at the 9:54 mark.
With the crowd buzzing nervously, the Irish went to work, closing the first half on a 22-7 spurt, with Schrader and LaVere each kicking in six points for the home team. Sophomore guard Amanda Tsipis also contributed during the run with a basket, two rebounds, an assist and a steal in the final four minutes of the period as Notre Dame went to the locker room on top, 44-31.
The Greyhounds kept the margin at 13 points for the first two minutes of the second half. The Irish then iced the game with a 20-8 run that pushed them in front by a 68-43 count on a three-pointer by Duffy at the 8:33 juncture.
Other Notre Dame-Indianapolis Series Tidbits
ND vs. Great Lakes Valley Conference
Exhibition Excellence For The Irish
The last squad to defeat the Irish in exhibition play was the Lithuanian National Team, which edged Notre Dame, 94-89 in 1996-97. However, the 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 or NAIA institutions. The Irish are 8-0 against these College Division programs, having downed seven 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, and Gannon last season).
Warming Up Quickly
Notre Dame Picked Second In 2009-10 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
The Fighting Irish picked up 210 points and one first-place vote in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points. DePaul and reigning NCAA runner-up Louisville shared the third spot in the BIG EAST preseason poll with 171 points, while Pittsburgh rounded out the top five with 167 points.
Trio Of Irish Earn 2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
Schrader, a two-time all-conference selection, garnered first-team recognition last year after averaging career highs of 12.6 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game with a .463 field goal percentage. What's more, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a single-season school record for guards, and giving her 11 career double-doubles, one behind current assistant coach Niele Ivey for the Notre Dame all-time record for guards in that category.
Meanwhile, Barlow is another returning two-time all-BIG EAST honoree, having copped second-team laurels a season ago with a team-high 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, as well as a career-high .364 three-point percentage. Barlow is one of only four players in school history to record at least 60 steals in three consecutive seasons (she had a career-high 70 thefts last year) and she and Schrader both are members of Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Club -- Barlow is 20th in program history with 1,107 points, while Schrader is 23rd all-time with 1,057 points.
In addition to the preseason accolades for the two Fighting Irish veterans, rookie guard Skylar Diggins was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year, according to the league's head coaches. Diggins was the consensus 2008-09 national high school player of the year, and also was named the `08-09 Gatorade National High School Female Athlete of the Year (for all sports) during a ceremony held just prior to the ESPY Awards this past summer in Los Angeles.
Diggins averaged 29.0 points and 6.3 assists per game as a senior last season, leading Washington High School to the cusp of the Indiana Class 4A title and the mythical prep national championship before a last-second loss in the final. She went on to earn MVP honors at both the McDonald's and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Games (joining former Tennessee guard Alexis Hornbuckle as the only players ever to pull off that double) and she was a co-captain on the 2009 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, back in August.
Irish Enjoy Successful '09 European Tour
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10) with their No. 4 ranking being the highest for the program since the week of Jan. 4, 2005, when the Irish also rose to fourth following a 12-1 start and the 2004 Preseason WNIT title.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 179 weeks during the program's 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 12th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish are likely to be ranked in the preseason ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll that will be released Tuesday. Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. Nevertheless, the Irish are poised to appear in the coaches' poll for the 171st week during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 179 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 rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
2008-09 Exhibition Recap: Gannon
Notre Dame forced the Knights into a whopping 46 turnovers (with 29 coming on Irish steals), and parlayed those takeaways into 56 points while registering its largest exhibition victory in 16 years and improving to 29-1 in preseason play since 1993-94, including an active 24-game exhibition winning streak.
Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner tossed in 13 points, all in the second half, while senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added 12 points apiece. Four other Irish players had at least eight points, while all 10 players in uniform scoring at least five points. Collectively, Notre Dame shot 46.8 percent from the field (37-of-79), won the rebounding battle by a 45-42 margin, and finished with a positive assist/turnover ratio (19 assists, 12 turnovers).
Gannon, an NCAA Division II school from Erie, Pa., was led by Brittany Tabron, who posted a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds before fouling out with a little less than seven minutes to play. The Knights, who return four starters and eight letterwinners from last year's 16-12 squad, shot 22.4 percent from the floor (11-of-49), including 1-of-10 from the three-point line.
The Irish jumped out to an 8-0 lead 3:26 into the game on the strength of three steals and four Gannon turnovers. However, Lechlitner picked up her second foul moments later and would be relegated to the bench for the rest of the half. Meanwhile, the Knights battled back and got as close as three points on two occasions, the second at 10-7 on Kristina Freeman's layup with 13:51 remaining in the first half.
From there, Notre Dame slammed its foot on the accelerator and didn't let up, with Novosel's fast break layup igniting a 27-2 run covering the next 8:44 that blew the game wide open. Bruszewski had steals on four out of five Gannon possessions early in the surge, while nine different Irish players (all but Lechlitner) scored during the run and none of them had more than five points. The Knights managed to stem the tide for the remainder of the first half, but still found themselves looking up at a 45-16 deficit going to the locker room.
Things didn't get much better for the visitors in the second half, as Notre Dame continued to rotate in fresh bodies -- every player saw between 13 and 27 minutes of action on the night. A Schrader layup in the first minute of the period hiked the Irish lead over 30 points, while a massive 34-8 run across the middle stages of the half quashed any hopes for a Gannon comeback. The Notre Dame defense also maintained its level of intensity despite the wide margin, holding the Knights to a single basket and forcing 11 turnovers during the final 9:42 of the game.
Noting The Gannon Game
Half And Half
Last season, Notre Dame went 17-3 when it was ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan, 75-65 at Marquette and 58-47 to Villanova in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford, Conn.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame was 11-2 in such games last season, with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, DePaul (second game), Providence and St. John's (second game).
As is often the case, both of last year's losses in this category came against Villanova and its methodical style of play -- 55-48 in the regular season (at VU) and 58-47 in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals (at Hartford, Conn.).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame scored at least 80 points in nine games last year, winning each time.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 76 of their last 83 non-BIG EAST contests (.916) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 323-85 (.792) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
In fact, while it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could sell out every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish have posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped Notre Dame win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Only one Division I women's basketball program has ever sold out all of its games for an entire season -- Connecticut filled the stands for more than 100 consecutive home sellouts during the early part of this decade.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
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. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 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 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 All-Access multimedia 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 second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. At least four Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. At press time, those games scheduled for webcast on UND.com are: Iona (Nov. 22), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 2), IPFW (Dec. 8) and Valparaiso (Dec. 12).
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 138 televised games, including 87 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
Tuesday's tipoff is part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Next Game: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
UAPB opens its season on Nov. 13 with a visit to Mississippi State, then will immediately travel to South Bend to get ready for its matchup with Notre Dame.