Nov. 4, 2007
#24 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Hillsdale Chargers (0-0 / 0-0 GLIAC)
DATE: November 5, 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
No. 24 Irish Close Out Exhibition Season Against Hillsdale
With the start of the 2007-08 regular season looming at the end of the week, Notre Dame gets one final chance to fine-tune its game when it plays host to Division II member Hillsdale in an exhibition contest Monday at 7 p.m. (ET) in the Joyce Center.
The Irish made their first appearance of the season last Thursday, registering an impressive 90-38 home victory over Southern Indiana. The Irish raced out to a 51-13 halftime lead and never looked back, forcing USI into 37 turnovers and a .240 field goal percentage for the night.
Sophomore center Erica Williamson led four Notre Dame players in double figures with 18 points in only 17 minutes. Freshman forward Devereaux Peters also looked sharp, chipping in 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Hillsdale makes its season debut Monday night. The Chargers went 19-9 last year and finished second in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) South Division.
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.
Headlining 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.
A Quick Look At Hillsdale
The attitude around the Hillsdale women's basketball program has to be one of excitement and anticipation, but not for the reasons some might be thinking.
On the one hand, the Chargers are coming off a 19-9 season and 12-5 record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), good for a second-place finish in that league's South Division. Hillsdale then advanced to the GLIAC Tournament championship game before dropping an 88-77 decision to Gannon (Pa.). That loss turned out to be just enough to keep the Chargers out of the NCAA Division II Tournament, sending six seniors, including all five starters, out on a sour note.
This season, the excitement on the Hillsdale campus (located in Hillsdale, Mich., about two hours east-northeast of South Bend) could be attributed to the seven returning letterwinners and four newcomers who will infuse a new energy into the Chargers' program. The GLIAC coaches also believe Hillsdale may not be rebuilding so much as it will reload, picking the Chargers to finish second in the GLIAC South during this year's preseason poll.
With no returning everyday starters and 95 percent of its offense lost to graduation, Hillsdale will have to look to its top reserves from last year to take over the bulk of the scoring load. Senior forward Julie Slot is the most likely candidate for that role, having averaged 5.8 points and 2.0 rebounds with a .353 three-point percentage while appearing in all 28 games last year (making two starts). Junior forward Katie Cezat also will be called upon to contribute in the post, having averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 rebounds with a team-best .536 field goal percentage in 19 games last year. Sophomore guard/forward Brooke Knight saw significant action last year as well, starting nine times and averaging 2.5 points per contest.
While the Chargers will be taking the court for the first time this season when they face Notre Dame Monday night, Hillsdale is no stranger to facing Division I programs in exhibition play. Last year, the Chargers dropped a narrow 87-79 decision at Western Michigan, but in 2005-06, Hillsdale defeated the Broncos, 72-66 at WMU's University Arena in Kalamazoo.
Head coach Claudette Charney has spent the past five seasons at Hillsdale, having compiled an 87-51 (.630) record at the school. She also has coached at Muskegon (Mich.) Community College, Alma College, Saginaw Valley State and Grand Valley State during her 23-year career, amassing a 403-238 (.629) record.
The Notre Dame-Hillsdale Series
Notre Dame and Hillsdale will be playing one another for the first time ever in women's basketball when they tangle at the Joyce Center Monday night.
Other Notre Dame-Hillsdale Series Tidbits
Exhibition Excellence For Irish
Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable in exhibition games through the years, going 30-5 (.857) all-time in the preseason, dating back to the 1987-88 season (Muffet McGraw's first as Irish head coach). What's more, during the past 15 seasons (1993-94 to present), Notre Dame is 27-1 (.964) in these preseason tilts and own an active 22-game exhibition winning streak. Also since 1993-94, Notre Dame has outscored its preseason opponents by an aggregate score of 2,427-1,659, which is good for an average score of 87-59. 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 6-0 against these College Division programs, having downed six 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, and Southern Indiana last week).
Warming Up Quickly
In addition to Notre Dame's team success in exhibition games, several players also have performed well during preseason play. Here's a brief thumbnail on how some of the Irish players have done in exhibitions during their careers:
Exhibition Easy For "E"
Sophomore center Erica Williamson -- nicknamed "E" by her teammates -- was remarkably efficient in Notre Dame's exhibition win over Southern Indiana last Thursday. Williamson scored a game-high 18 points (7-10 FG) while adding six rebounds and four blocks in just 17 minutes of action. Had it been a regular-season game, it would have been the first career "point-a-minute" game for the Charlotte, N.C., native, while her 18 points would have topped her career high of 15 (set vs. Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28, 2006).
A Dandy Debut
The Notre Dame freshmen wasted little time in making their presence felt during last week's exhibition opener vs. Southern Indiana. Forward Devereaux Peters and guard Brittany Mallory combined to make six of their first seven shots from the field (Peters 4-4 FG, Mallory 2-3 3FG) during a 22-6 first-half run as the Irish took command by the midway point of the opening period. Peters finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes, while Mallory's two treys accounted for her six points in 16 minutes.
For the first time since the 2005-06 season, Notre Dame is appearing in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, checking in at No. 24 in the preseason edition of the media survey announced Nov. 3. The Irish last were ranked in the AP poll during the week of Jan. 23, 2005, when they were slotted 21st before losses at Rutgers (69-43) and at home to South Florida (68-64, ot) knocked them out of the AP Top 25.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 140 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw now ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and is poised to break into the top 25 all-time in that category, trailing retired Colorado mentor Ceal Barry by just two weeks.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Notre Dame has introduced a new promotion this season, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a game. The coupons are issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans leave the arena following the game.
Next Game: Miami (Ohio)
The Irish tip off the 2007-08 season Friday at 9 p.m. (ET) against Miami (Ohio) in the opening round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame will be making its third appearance in the Preseason WNIT, winning the title in 2004 and placing third in 1996. Friday's late start is necessitated by the volleyball match (vs. Cincinnati, 4 p.m.) and football pep rally (approximately 6 p.m.) taking place in the arena before the basketball game.