Nov. 8, 2007
Preseason WNIT -- First Round
#24/rv Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (0-0 / 0-0 MAC East)
DATE: November 9, 2007
No. 24 Notre Dame Tips Off Preseason WNIT Friday Against Miami (Ohio)
Notre Dame completed its exhibition schedule on Monday with a 96-64 win over Division II member Hillsdale at the Joyce Center. Six Irish players scored in double figures, led by senior guard Tulyah Gaines, who converted 8 of 11 shots from the floor.
Miami (Ohio) brings back all five starters and 11 letterwinners from last year's squad that went 12-18, with a 6-10 record (fourth-place finish) in the Mid-American Conference's East Division. The RedHawks played two closed scrimmages during the preseason and will make their '07-08 public debut Friday night.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
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 (it was ranked 24th in the first AP poll of the year), 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 Miami (Ohio)
Last year's lessons could translate into this year's successes for Miami, as the RedHawks return 11 letterwinners and all five starters from last year's club. Leading the way is senior guard Amanda Jackson, a first-team all-MAC selection last year who averaged a team-high 17.7 points per game (20.0 ppg in conference play) and 2.7 steals per night. She also is one of the top 10 scorers in school history, currently standing eighth (1,267 pts).
Junior point guard Jenna Schone capably runs the Miami offense, having logged 11.8 points and 4.5 assists per game last year. Classmate and backcourt partner Ashley Hawkins also scored in double figures (10.9 ppg) and was second behind Jackson in steals (2.3 spg).
Head coach Maria Fantanarosa is beginning her 10th season at her alma mater. A 1990 graduate of Miami, she holds a 138-122 (.531) record at the RedHawks' helm and is the winningest coach in program history. She came back to MU after spending the 1997-98 season as the boss at Western Carolina, going 7-20 that year. She has never faced Notre Dame .
The Notre Dame-Miami (Ohio) Series
Three of the five series games have been played at the Joyce Center, with Miami winning twice (93-53 on Jan. 17, 1981; 69-65 on Feb. 17, 1991 - the team's most recent meeting in South Bend). The only Irish win in the series came on Dec. 10, 1982 at the Joyce Center, when Notre Dame took a 64-59 victory behind 16 points and six rebounds from Shari Matvey.
Other Notre Dame-Miami (Ohio) Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Mid-American Conference
Notre Dame also has won its last 13 games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss at Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995 in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament. Last year, the Irish swept home games against Central Michigan (88-66), league champion and NCAA Sweet 16 participant Bowling Green (85-81 in overtime) and Western Michigan (87-67).
The RedHawks are the first of three MAC opponents for the Irish this season, with road games at Central Michigan (Nov. 20) and Bowling Green (Dec. 5) on the slate in the next month.
In an interesting twist, Notre Dame will be facing a MAC school in its Preseason WNIT opener for the second time in three tournament appearances. In 1996, the Irish tipped off their season (which ended at the NCAA Women's Final Four in Cincinnati) with a 66-41 conquest of Kent State at the Joyce Center.
Blowing The Lid Off
Notre Dame also has done well in its first home game of the season, going 22-8 (.733) in Joyce Center lidlifters, including an active 12-game winning streak and a 16-4 (.800) under McGraw. The last Irish home-opening loss was Nov. 30, 1994, when 13th-ranked Purdue edged out Notre Dame, 87-83.
Getting An Early Start
Late Night With The Irish
The late tip time is needed because of the regularly-scheduled football pep rally, which will start at approximately 6 p.m. (ET), following the conclusion of the Irish volleyball match vs. Cincinnati.
Making A Good First Impression
In recent years, Notre Dame's freshmen have wasted little time in making their presence felt. The best example came last season, when guard Lindsay Schrader rolled up a double-double (10 points, 14 rebounds) in a victory over Michigan. Schrader is one of only two players in program history to register a double-double in her college debut (Shari Matvey also did so against Marion in 1979, when the Irish were still playing at the AIAW Division III level).
Two Birds, One Stone
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a 72-59 defeat at the hands of No. 3/2 Tennessee in the 1996 Preseason WNIT semifinals (Nov. 19, 1996 in Ruston, La.), and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
Preseason WNIT Rewind
Notre Dame last played in the Preseason WNIT in 2004, winning the championship with victories over Illinois State (92-73), Nebraska (73-57), No. 6 Duke (76-65) and No. 10/9 Ohio State (66-62), all at the Joyce Center. Jacqueline Batteast was named the event's Most Valuable Player after scoring a career-high 32 points in the final against OSU. Megan Duffy also earned a place on the all-tournament team. On the strength of their WNIT crown, the Irish moved as high as third in the national polls, finished as the BIG EAST Conference runner-up, and made a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame also participated in the 1996 Preseason WNIT, advancing to the semifinals after defeating Kent State (66-41) and No. 6 Iowa (61-50). Following a 72-59 loss to No. 3/2 Tennessee in the semifinals at Ruston, La., the Irish bounced back to defeat No. 8/12 North Carolina State, 64-53 in the third-place game (which no longer exists). Katryna Gaither was named to the all-tournament team after making a tournament-record 42 field goals in the four-game set (a record that still stands). Notre Dame went on to log a 31-7 record in 1996-97, advancing to its first NCAA Final Four.
The Irish will be looking to continue the BIG EAST's run of success in the Preseason WNIT. BIG EAST teams have reached the tournament championship game four times in the past six years and six times in the event's 13-year history. In addition to Notre Dame's 2004 crown, Connecticut won titles in 1997, 2001 and 2005, while Rutgers has been the tourney runner-up in 1998 and 2003. Purdue is the defending Preseason WNIT champion, taking a 69-55 win at Baylor in last year's title game.
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
Next Game: Preseason WNIT
Should Notre Dame lose to Miami (Ohio), it would be placed in a pool with the other losing teams from the first round of the Preseason WNIT. Those squads would be placed in a pair of four-team consolation brackets (matchups TBA based upon geographic considerations and preventing matchups vs. '07-08 regular-season opponents) -- two schools will be chosen to host the consolation games, which will take place Nov. 16-17.