Nov. 15, 2007
Preseason WNIT -- Semifinal
#23/25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #3/3 Maryland Terrapins (3-0 / 0-0 ACC)
DATE: November 16, 2007
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: College Park, Md. - Comcast Center (17,950)
SERIES: UM leads 3-1
1ST MTG: 1/8/83 (UM 84-62)
LAST MTG: 1/10/87 (UM 69-48)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM/UND.com (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (800) 462-8377
For the third time in as many trips to the Preseason WNIT, Notre Dame has advanced to the semifinals of the tournament. Now, the No. 23/25 Irish will seek to take the next step and get back to the title game and a chance to reclaim the hardware they won in 2004. Standing in their way is third-ranked Maryland, with the teams set to tangle Friday in a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
The Irish improved to 2-0 this season with a solid 78-59 victory over Western Kentucky on Tuesday night at the Joyce Center. For the second consecutive game, Notre Dame set the tone early, going on a 15-3 run in the first five and a half minutes and never looking back. The Irish got their lead as high as 32 points midway through the second half before WKU finally cut into the margin down the stretch.
Setting The Standard
Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women's Final Four twice, winning college basketball's ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.
In its history, Notre Dame has developed nine All-Americans, nine WNBA players (including six draft picks in the past seven years) and four USA Basketball veterans (nine medals won). Now in their 31st season in 2006-07, the Irish own an all-time record of 615-278 (.689).
Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
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 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.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Maryland
The Terrapins (3-0) are ranked third in both major national polls this week, after wrapping two Preseason WNIT wins around an impressive victory over then-No. 6 Oklahoma, 76-66 on Nov. 11 in Chapel Hill, N.C. Most recently, UM booked its place in the Preseason WNIT semifinals with a comfortable 91-43 win over Delaware on Tuesday night.
In that game, the Terrapins shot 60.7 percent from the field in the first half (.467 for the game) and were almost automatic from the foul line for the night, hitting 25 of 27 free throws (.926). Junior guard Kristi Toliver rang up a double-double with 19 points (5-9 FG, 4-6 3FG) and 10 assists, while senior forward/center Jade Perry was a force inside with 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Toliver leads a well-balanced Maryland attack at 17.0 points per night, along with a staggering 10.3 assists per game. Junior guard/forward Marissa Coleman is second in scoring (16.7 ppg.), while senior forward/center Laura Harper (12.3 ppg., 6.3 rpg.) and Perry (10.3 ppg., 10.0 rpg.) are hot on their heels. As a team, Maryland is averaging 81.0 points per game and shooting .497 from the field (.404 from three-point range). The Terrapins have been most effective on the glass, owning a massive +17.7 rebound margin through three games.
Head coach Brenda Frese is in her sixth season at Maryland with a 115-51(.693) record in College Park. She's also in her ninth year as a college coach, with previous stops at Minnesota and Ball State, and sports a career record of 172-81 (.680). Friday's game will be her first against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Maryland Series
The series has been dormant since Jan. 10, 1987, when Maryland earned a 69-48 win at the Joyce Center. Friday's game will be the first in the series to be played in College Park since Jan. 9, 1985, when Notre Dame claimed its lone victory over the Terrapins, 49-40.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Maryland Met
Brown scored a game-high 20 points, Bullett added 18 points, six rebounds and six steals, and Campbell chipped in with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting as the Terrapins shot a blistering .574 for the game.
Heidi Bunek was the lone Notre Dame player to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points. Playmaking point guard Mary Gavin registered eight points and a game-high six assists for the Irish, who couldn't keep up with the high-powered Terrapins.
UM led 38-26 at halftime, and Notre Dame couldn't get any closer after shooting just .345 in the second half.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Maryland Met In College Park
The Irish limited UM to just seven points in the opening 20 minutes, which remains the lowest scoring half ever recorded by a Notre Dame opponent. Maryland shot just 11.5 percent (3-of-26) in the first half -- and made only one basket in the first 14-plus minutes -- while the Irish jumped out a 26-7 lead at the break. The Terrapins actually outscored Notre Dame by 10 points in the second period, and got as close as seven points on four occasions in the final 3:05, but it wasn't enough to overcome their early offensive woes.
Trena Keys scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Irish, while Laura Dougherty contributed 12 points and a team-high three assists. Lisa Brown was the only Maryland player to score in double digits, coming off the bench to tally 10 points.
Other Notre Dame-Maryland Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Atlantic Coast Conference
Notre Dame last played an ACC school on March 20, 2007, when second-ranked North Carolina rallied for a 60-51 victory over the Irish in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh, Pa.
In an interesting twist, Notre Dame will be playing an ACC opponent in the Preseason WNIT semifinals for the second consecutive time. Back in 2004, the 11th-ranked Irish toppled No. 6 Duke, 76-65 at the Joyce Center, on the way to winning the tournament title. Notre Dame also played an ACC school during its 1996 Preseason WNIT appearance, defeating No. 8/12 North Carolina State, 64-53 in the third-place game (which no longer exists) at Ruston, La.
Maryland is one of two ACC schools on Notre Dame's schedule this season.
The Irish will return from the Thanksgiving break to play host to Boston College on Nov. 24 (noon ET) at the Joyce Center. Aside from its regular matchups with BC, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech when those schools were in the BIG EAST, Notre Dame has not faced multiple ACC opponents in the same season since 1996-97. That year, the Irish followed up the aforementioned win over N.C. State with a 76-69 victory at Georgia Tech in the championship game of the Comfort Inn Downtown Classic.
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.
Been Down This Road Before
Overall, Notre Dame is 24-57 (.296) all-time against top-10 teams and has knocked off at least one top-10 opponent in 10 of the past 11 seasons. Last year, the Irish defeated No. 10/9 Purdue, 67-58 at the Joyce Center.
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.
A November To Remember
Spreading The Wealth
Guess Who's Back ... Back Again?
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.
The Irish also returned to the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll this week, checking in at No. 25. It's the first appearance for Notre Dame in that poll since Jan. 24, 2006, when the Irish were ranked 21st prior to losses at Rutgers (69-43) and at home to South Florida (68-64, ot) which dropped them out of the survey.
Game #2 Recap: Western Kentucky
Notre Dame (2-0) dominated throughout, opening its big lead with Western Kentucky's top two players, Crystal Kelly and Dominique Duck, sitting much of the half because of foul trouble. The Irish shot 51 percent in the first half while the Lady Toppers (1-1) shot 31 percent.
The Irish, who had 98 points in their opening-game victory against Miami of Ohio, scored 50 in the first half but couldn't keep up the pace in the second half. The Lady Toppers fell to 2-12 against ranked opponents since the start of the 2002-03 season. Western Kentucky, which shot 54 percent in its 90-73 victory over East Tennessee State in the opener, shot 38 percent against the Irish. The Irish defense forced two shot-clock violations, a held-ball call and 26 turnovers. Notre Dame was in control from the start, with Barlow hitting a three-pointer 28 seconds in to ignite a 15-3 run by the Irish. The two teams then traded baskets for the next seven minutes, but the Irish used a 15-2 run to put the game away.
The Irish went ahead by as much as 66-34 when freshman guard Brittany Mallory scored on a fastbreak layup. The Lady Toppers closed the game on an 8-2 run to make the score a bit more respectable.
Kelly, WKU's leading scorer last season at 24.1 points, had seven points in 21 minutes, ending a 49-game streak of scoring at least 10 points. Duck, who averaged 11.8 points, was held to seven points in 26 minutes. Kenzie Rich led the Lady Toppers with 15 points and Whitney Ballinger added 14. Sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner added 12 points for the Irish.
Noting The Western Kentucky Game
Irish Picked Fifth In BIG EAST Poll
Senior guard Charel Allen was one of 11 players selected to this year's Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Allen averaged a team-high 17.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season and ranked second in the BIG EAST with 19.3 points per game in league play. She went on to earn first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America laurels. while helping the Irish go 20-12 and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Half And Half
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame topped the 80-point mark in its season opener vs. Miami (Ohio), downing the RedHawks, 98-50.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 66 of their last 71 non-BIG EAST contests (.930) 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 fifth defeat coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51). 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 301-79 (.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. For the third time in four years, and the second consecutive season, Notre Dame will equal the most regular-season home games (16) in school history.
However, in 2004-05, the Irish played host to all four rounds of the Preseason WNIT before its regular 12-game home slate began. Notre Dame also will play at least two Preseason WNIT games at home this season, in addition to its previously-scheduled 14-game Joyce Center docket.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame has expanded its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish home games (11 regular-season, two exhibition) that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will be televised live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Since the start of its 2000-01 NCAA championship season (and including this year's broadcasts to date), Notre Dame now has played in 94 televised games, including 52 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
The first phase of the project, to begin next September, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena.
That structure will include a new two-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 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 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 last October that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III. A month later, another major gift of $5 million from Notre Dame graduate Vincent J. Naimoli was announced.
The arena will be named Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center < and the new club/hospitality area and two outdoor patios will be named for the Naimoli family.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Next Game: TBA
If Notre Dame loses at Maryland, the Irish would be back in action on Nov. 20, opening the remainder of their non-conference schedule with a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Central Michigan. Notre Dame and CMU have split their previous two meetings, with the Irish winning the most recent encounter last season (88-66 at the Joyce Center). Notre Dame will be making its first-ever visit to CMU's Rose Arena next week.