Nov. 14, 2009
#4/7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lady Lions (0-1 / 0-0 SWAC)
DATE: November 15, 2009
#4/7 Irish Tip Off Season Sunday Night Against Arkansas-Pine Bluff
The Irish played only one exhibition this year, defeating rising Division II power Indianapolis, 97-53 on Nov. 3 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame needed 10 minutes to shake loose the rust from its eight-month hiatus, but closed the first half on a 22-6 run to put the game on ice. The Irish also held the Greyhounds without a field goal for more than 10 minutes crossing over halftime.
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 Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Sunday night's contest at Notre Dame is the back half of a demanding opening weekend road trip for UAPB, which tipped off its season Friday with a 106-48 loss at Mississippi State. Junior guard LaQuisha Slaton was the lone Lady Lion to score in double figures, coming off the bench to finish with 10 points, while junior guard/forward Rekevia Brown added seven points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Collectively, Pine Bluff shot 25.4 percent from the floor (15-of-59), including 3-of-19 (.158) from three-point range, turned the ball over 27 times and found itself on the short end of a 71-43 rebounding margin.
Slaton and senior center Shay Holmes both were preseason second-team all-SWAC selection, with Slaton averaging a team-best 11.8 points and 2.5 assists per game last year. Meanwhile, Holmes logged 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds a night, even though she came off the bench in 24 of 26 games.
Head coach Cary Shelton is in his first season at UAPB (and as a head coach), following four seasons as an assistant on both the Lion men's and women's basketball teams.
The ND-Arkansas-Pine Bluff Series
Other ND-Arkansas-Pine Bluff Series Tidbits
ND vs. Southwestern Athletic Conference
On March 17, 2001, the Irish tipped off their run to the national championship with a 98-49 win over SWAC champion Alcorn State at the Joyce Center behind 16 points from consensus national player of the year Ruth Riley.
More recently on Dec. 28, 2006, Notre Dame toppled Prairie View A&M, 94-55, at the Joyce Center, getting a (then) career-high 21 points and nine rebounds from then-freshman (and current senior) guard Ashley Barlow, who also tied school and arena records by going a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line.
Other active Irish players who appeared in that PVAMU game included: center Erica Williamson (15 points on 7-8 FG, eight rebounds, four blocks) and point guard Melissa Lechlitner (four points, six assists, four steals), while current fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader was sidelined that season with a torn ACL in her right knee (allowing her to return for her final season in 2009-10).
Blowing The Lid Off
The Irish also are 24-8 (.750) all-time in home openers, with an 18-4 (.818) mark under McGraw, following a 96-61 win over Evansville in their Purcell Pavilion lidlifter last season.
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.
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 ranked seventh in the preseason ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll -- this year's No. 7 preseason ranking is the second-highest in program annals trailing only a No. 5 debut in 2000-01. It's also the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches' poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
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. With their '09-10 preseason return, the Irish now have appeared in the coaches' poll for 171 weeks 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.
Exhibition Game Recap: Indianapolis
Solomon also shared game-high honors with six rebounds and snared a game-best four steals, all in just 16 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Diggins connected on 6-of-10 shots from the floor (including her lone three-point attempt), grabbed four rebounds, all on the offensive glass, and added three steals for good measure. Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel made the most of her first starting assignment, getting the Fighting Irish off on the right foot in the first half before finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow tossed in 12 points, as did junior guard Brittany Mallory, the latter tacking on a game-high four assists while playing a team-high 23 minutes in her first action since missing all but seven games last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader rounded out Notre Dame double-digit scoring parade with 10 points and six rebounds.
Katie Dewey led Indianapolis with 16 points, and Samantha Meissel added 12 points for the Greyhounds, who were ranked fourth in the preseason Division II polls and were coming off a 67-56 exhibition win at Division I member Valparaiso two nights earlier.
Notre Dame's renewed sense of urgency on the defensive end of the floor this season showed in its preseason tilt, as the Fighting Irish forced 36 turnovers, coming up with 22 steals. They also easily won the rebounding battle by a 44-30 margin (allowing just five offensive boards) and held Indianapolis to a .389 field goal percentage (14-of-36). In fact, the Greyhounds did as much of their offensive damage at the foul line, trying almost as many free throws as field goals (20-of-31 at the stripe).
On offense, the Fighting Irish shot .444 from the floor (32-of-72), including a sharp 8-of-16 from the three-point line. Notre Dame also worked its way to the free throw line, making 25-of-33 charities (.758) on the night.
After taking the first few minutes to shake loose the rust from the off-season, Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run, fueled by five steals and a pair of transition layups, to take a 15-4 lead and force Indianapolis to burn a timeout with 14:23 left in the first half. The Greyhounds then answered back with their best offensive push of the evening, mounting a 10-2 charge that was capped by Dewey's three-pointer with 9:47 remaining. Although neither side knew it at the time, UIndy wouldn't make another shot from the field for the rest of the first half.
Leading 20-16, the Fighting Irish blew the game wide open by closing the period on a 22-6 run. Novosel knocked down a pair of three-pointers during the spurt, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski scored all five of her points in that stretch. Notre Dame forced five turnovers along the way, and the only saving grace for Indianapolis seemed to be the respite it enjoyed at the foul line, going 6-of-11 from the charity stripe over the final eight minutes, but still trailing by a 42-22 count.
However, the feisty Greyhounds weren't about to go quietly, as they ended a field goal drought of 10:18 with Jessica Canary's three-pointer 31 seconds into the second half. Meissel followed with a jumper in the lane to trim the lead to 15 points and Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw quickly used a timeout to settle her troops. Out of the break, the Fighting Irish briskly scored seven points (five from Barlow) and Indianapolis never got closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
As it turned out, the primary drama down the stretch was whether Notre Dame would send the Purcell Pavilion faithful home with full bellies, thanks to its popular Big Mac giveaway when the team scores 88 points in a game. Solomon did the honors, hitting a pair of free throws with 4:05 to play.
Noting The Indianapolis Game
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.).
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
Sunday'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: Michigan State
Coming off a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 last year, MSU (0-1) got an early wake-up call this season with a 77-74 upset loss at Dayton on Friday night. The Spartans will look to break into the win column Sunday afternoon when they pay a visit to Detroit before getting set for their home opener against the Irish.