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    #23 Irish To Entertain Western Kentucky In Preseason WNIT Quarterfinal

    FIGHTING IRISH Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow scored 19 points in last week's 98-50 win over Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow scored 19 points in last week's 98-50 win over Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 12, 2007

    Game Notes Package in PDF FormatGet Acrobat Reader

    2007-08 ND Women's Basketball: Game 2
    Preseason WNIT -- Quarterfinal
    #23/rv Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Western Kentucky Lady Toppers (1-0 / 0-0 Sun Belt East)

    DATE: November 13, 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)
    TV: UND.com
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TICKETS: (574) 631-7356

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is looking to advance to the Preseason WNIT semifinals for the third time in as many tournament appearances.
  • The Irish have won 14 of their last 15 games against first-time opponents, including their last nine in a row.
  • No. 23 Irish Take On Western Kentucky In Preseason WNIT Quarterfinals
    After getting its season off to a strong start last week, No. 23 Notre Dame faces a tough early-season test when it plays host to Western Kentucky in a Preseason WNIT quarterfinal game Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ET) at the Joyce Center.

    The Irish tipped off their season with a resounding 98-50 win over Miami (Ohio) at home last Friday night. All 11 players scored for Notre Dame, which grabbed a 36-8 lead in the first 12 minutes and never looked back en route to its biggest win since the 2001 NCAA Tournament.

    Playing her first meaningful game in nearly 20 months, junior guard Lindsay Schrader set the tone for the Irish, scoring a game-high 20 points (on 10-of-12 shooting) in only 17 minutes. Sophmore guard Ashley Barlow added 19 points for Notre Dame, which connected on a Preseason WNIT-record 41 field goals.

    WKU opened its season with a 90-73 win over East Tennessee last Friday, getting a game-high 23 points from sophomore guard Kenzie Rich (including 4-of-5 three-pointers).

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is ranked 23rd in this week's Associated Press poll and was receiving votes in the preseason ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Western Kentucky was receiving votes in the preseason ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • 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 (it's currently 23rd in the AP 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 Western Kentucky
    All the pieces appear to be in place for Western Kentucky to not only make its return to the top of the Sun Belt Conference, but also contend on a national level. The league's preseason favorite in the East Division, the Lady Toppers return four starters and six letterwinners from last year's 23-9 squad that advanced to the semifinals of the postseason WNIT for the second consecutive year.

    WKU opened this season with a 90-73 home victory over East Tennessee State last Friday night. Sophomore guard Kenzie Rich scored a game-high 23 points, junior forward Dominique Duck added 17 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four blocks, while senior All-America forward Crystal Kelly logged a double-double with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

    Kelly is poised to claim both the school and Sun Belt records for career points this season. In three years at WKU, she never has averaged less than 19 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and has yet to shoot below 60 percent from the floor in a season. Fellow 2007 all-SBC selection Duck averaged career bests of 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game with a .480 field goal percentage. Rich provides exceptional punch from the perimeter, having ranked eighth in the Sun Belt in three-point percentage as a rookie last season (.357).

    Head coach Mary Taylor Cowles is in her sixth season at her alma mater, sporting a 113-49 (.698) record. She will be coaching against Notre Dame for the first time Tuesday night.

    The Notre Dame-Western Kentucky Series
    Tuesday will mark the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Western Kentucky in women's basketball.

    Other Notre Dame-Western Kentucky Series Tidbits

  • Western Kentucky will be the initial first-time opponent for Notre Dame this season, and the 174th different opponent in the 31-year history of Irish women's basketball. Notre Dame is scheduled to take on two other first-time opponents this season, welcoming Canisius (Nov. 27) and Saint Francis (Pa.) (Dec. 29) to the Joyce Center.
  • Notre Dame is 34-5 (.872) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. That includes a 14-1 (.933) record since the start of the 2000-01 season (7-0 at home) and a current nine-game winning streak.
  • The most recent first-time opponent for the Irish was California, which Notre Dame defeated by a 62-59 count in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh.
  • Notre Dame has faced only one other Kentucky school in its history -- current BIG EAST Conference member Louisville. The Irish are 2-3 all-time against the Cardinals, following last year's 64-55 win at the Joyce Center.
  • While Tuesday will be their first meeting in the sport of women's basketball, Notre Dame and Western Kentucky did meet in men's basketball back on Nov. 21, 1986, with the 14th-ranked Hilltoppers claiming an 80-63 victory in South Bend.
  • Other sports in which the Irish have played head-to-head against WKU include: softball (ND won lone meeting, 2-1 at 2004 Hoosier Invitational in Bloomington, Ind.); women's soccer (ND blanked WKU, 5-0 on Sept. 13, 2003 at Alumni Field); men's swimming (WKU took two of three matchups from 1995-96 to 1997-98) and baseball (ND won at WKU, 5-2 in lone matchup on April 1, 1926).
  • Two of the premier high school players to come out of the Pittsburgh metro area will be on display Tuesday night. Notre Dame senior guard Charel Allen (Monessen/Monessen) led her team to the PIAA Class A title as a prep senior in 2004 and is the No. 5 scorer in state history (3,110 points). WKU junior forward Dominique Duck (Pittsburgh/Schenley) paced her squad to a pair of Pittsburgh City League titles and was named to the 2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Fab Five," one year after Allen was named that paper's Player of the Year.
  • Western Kentucky assistant Nikki McCray was teammates with two of Notre Dame's assistant coaches during their professional playing days. McCray and Irish assistant Angie (Potthoff) Barber were members of American Basketball League (ABL) champion Columbus Quest during the 1997-98 season. Then, McCray and Notre Dame assistant Niele Ivey were teammates with the WNBA's Indiana Fever from 2002-03, helping that franchise to its first-ever playoff berth in '02. Another member of that playoff squad was former Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington (now the head coach at Penn State).
  • Notre Dame vs. The Sun Belt Conference
    Notre Dame is 3-0 (1.000) all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference, including a 1-0 record at home. All three of those games have taken place during the Muffet McGraw era.

    The Irish played their first-ever Sun Belt opponent on Dec. 19, 1999, downing Florida International, 68-62 in Miami. Notre Dame then played host to Middle Tennessee on March 23, 2004 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, downing the Lady Raiders, 59-46. The last time the Irish faced a Sun Belt school was Dec. 17, 2005, when Notre Dame toppled Arkansas State, 77-54 in a first-round Gray Division game at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas.

    Current Irish players who saw action in that ASU contest include: senior center Melissa D'Amico (20 points on 10-12 FG, six rebounds), senior guard Tulyah Gaines (five points, three assists), senior guard Charel Allen (four points, five rebounds), senior guard Amanda Tsipis (did not score in five minutes) and junior guard Lindsay Schrader (six points, eight rebounds, four assists).

    Guess Who's Back ... Back Again?
    Junior guard Lindsay Schrader looked very sharp in her return to action last Friday vs. Miami (Ohio). In her first meaningful game in nearly 20 months, Schrader scored exactly one point for every month she was out, finishing with 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, converting her first six shots before the game was eight minutes old. The Bartlett, Ill., native wound up playing just 17 minutes against the RedHawks, resulting in the first "point-a-minute" game of her career.

    Prior to the Miami game, Schrader's last outing was a career-high 29-point performance against Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 19, 2006. She went 12-for-23 from the field in that game, meaning that in her last two games, Schrader is averaging 24.5 points per game and shooting .629 (22-of-35) from the floor.

    Tournament Tested
    Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 12 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 17 of their last 19 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including a four-game run to the 2004 Preseason WNIT championship.

    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
    For the second time in four years, but just the third time in school history, Notre Dame is taking part in the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). The Irish are 8-1 (.889) all-time in the tournament, including a 6-0 record when playing at home.

    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.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked 23rd in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, moving up one spot from its position in the preseason media balloting.

    Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 141 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 one week.

    Next Game: Preseason WNIT
    Should Notre Dame emerge victorious on Tuesday, the Irish would meet the winner of the Maryland-Delaware game in a Preseason WNIT semifinal at a date, time and location to be announced. Notre Dame is 1-3 all-time against Maryland and 0-1 vs. Delaware.

    If Notre Dame falls to Western Kentucky, the Irish would be placed in a pool with the three other losing teams from the quarterfinal round of the Preseason WNIT (Evansville, TCU and the Maryland-Delaware loser). Those squads will be paired up for a single consolation-round game (matchups TBA based upon geographic considerations and preventing matchups vs. '07-08 regular-season opponents) to be played either Friday or Saturday.

    -- ND --
     

     

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