Nov. 4, 2008
#16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Gannon Lady Knights (0-0 / 0-0 PSAC)
DATE: November 5, 2008
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: First meeting
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
No. 16 Irish Open Exhibition Play Wednesday Night
Building off a strong finish to last season, No. 16 Notre Dame will play its one and only exhibition game for 2008-09 on Wednesday when it plays host to NCAA Division II entity Gannon in a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame begins an unusual two-year cycle in its history without a single graduating senior on the roster. The Irish have three starters and seven monogram winners returning from last season's 25-9 club that made the program's seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16. Add to that a talented group of four freshmen that has been ranked as high as ninth in the country and the pieces appear to be in place for the Irish to be a continuing major player on the national level.
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader (10.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) was a preseason honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection this fall, while junior guard Ashley Barlow (12.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.0 spg) is the team's top returning scorer. Both players were honorable mention all-conference picks a year ago, and will share the captain's duties with junior point guard Melissa Lechlitner.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Gannon
Located in Erie, Pa., Gannon is an NCAA Division II member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). The Lady Knights were ranked third in the PSAC preseason poll in their first year in the conference after an extended run of success in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), culminating with the 2007 league title and a run to the second round of the NCAA Division II Championship.
Gannon returns four starters and eight letterwinners from last year's squad that posted a 16-12 record and finished second in the GLIAC's South Division with a 10-7 record.
Junior forward Kim Vargas leads the way for the Lady Knights, having averaged 16.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game during an injury-shortened season. Junior guards Kristina Freeman (15.3 ppg) and Tiffany Crocker (6.0 ppg, 5.9 apg) also have played integral roles to Gannon's success.
Head coach Cleve Wright is set to open his seventh year at Gannon with a 104-69 (.601) record. He has never faced Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Gannon Series
Notre Dame and Gannon will be playing for the first time in women's basketball.
Other Notre Dame-Gannon Series Tidbits
Exhibition Excellence For The Irish
Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable in exhibition games during the past 15 seasons. Since the 1993-94 campaign, the Irish are 28-1 (.966) in these preseason tilts and own an active 23-game exhibition winning streak. During that time, Notre Dame has outscored its preseason opponents by an aggregate score of 2,523-1,723, 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. 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 7-0 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, and Southern Indiana and Hillsdale last year.
Warming Up Quickly
In addition to Notre Dame's team success in exhibition games, several Irish players also have performed well during preseason play. Here's a brief thumbnail on how the returning Notre Dame players have done in exhibition games during their careers:
Irish Fourth In BIG EAST Preseason Poll
The Notre Dame women's basketball team has been projected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference this season, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches that was announced during the 2008 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day on Oct. 23 at the ESPN Zone in New York City.
The Irish collected 182 points, with Connecticut (14 first-place votes, 224 points), Rutgers (one first-place vote, 201 points) and Louisville (one first-place vote, 200 points) joining Notre Dame in the top four.
In addition, senior guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as a Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection, one of 14 players to garner preseason all-conference status. Schrader averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game last season while scoring in double figures 21 times.
A 2008 honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection, Schrader is one of three starters and seven monogram winners back for the Irish from last year's 25-9 club that finished fourth in the BIG EAST and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons.
Other Storylines For The Irish In '08-09
2007-08 Season Rewind
Half And Half
During the past eight seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 146-14 (.913) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 74 of their last 82 such contests. Last year, Notre Dame led at the half 24 times and went on to win 22 times, although both losses came in the postseason -- against Pittsburgh in the BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinals after leading 22-21; and against Tennessee in the NCAA Oklahoma City Regional Semifinals after leading 33-31, the first time the Irish were up at the break on the Lady Vols in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 13 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 Irish have an amazing 184-12 (.939) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame went 16-2 last year when keeping the opposition below 60 points, only losing road games at nationally-ranked West Virginia (56-50) and Rutgers (57-51).
...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 13 seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 114-4 (.966) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008. Notre Dame won 14 of 15 games last season when it reached the 80-point mark.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 162 of their last 183 games (.885) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 93-15 (.861) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 71 of their last 77 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- 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 312-82 (.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.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 will originate all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish will be heard on an FM station. 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 new women's basketball network will stretch 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 will continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics Web site (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The agreement also includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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), will return as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will at least 19 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including four games on the ESPN family of networks and another three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 115 televised games, including 65 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
On September 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first 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, 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 Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the men's and women's basketball seasons and the end of the women's volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project 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.
In November 2007, another major gift of $5 million from Notre Dame graduate Vincent J. Naimoli was announced. A third lead gift was received from South Bend automobile dealership owner Mike Leep Sr.
The arena will be named Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center -- and the new club/hospitality area (and two outdoor patios) will be named the Naimoli Family Club Room. The new varsity shop will be named the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: LSU
Notre Dame will open its 2008-09 season Nov. 16 when it travels to Baton Rouge, La., to take on No. 24 LSU in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic. The Irish will be playing in the event for the first time in its 16-year history and will open against a ranked opponent for the first time since 2003 (a 77-64 win over No. 22/25 Auburn in the WBCA Classic at Boulder, Colo.)
LSU has four letterwinners back from last year's team that made the program's fifth consecutive Final Four appearance. The Lady Tigers have exhibitions against Loyola-New Orleans (Wednesday) and the Houston Jaguars (Nov. 11) before taking on Notre Dame.