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    Fighting Irish
    #2 Irish Play Host To Hartford Thursday In Preseason WNIT Semifinal

    FIGHTING IRISH Sophomore guard Kayla McBride scored a game-high 16 points in Sunday's Preseason WNIT quarterfinal win over Indiana State at Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Sophomore guard Kayla McBride scored a game-high 16 points in Sunday's Preseason WNIT quarterfinal win over Indiana State at Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 16, 2011

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    2011-12 ND Women's Basketball: Game 3
    Preseason WNIT -- Semifinal
    #2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Hartford Hawks (2-0 / 0-0 America East)

    DATE: November 17, 2011
    TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
    SERIES: First meeting
    WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    LIVE CHAT: UND.com/blog

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame has advanced to the Preseason WNIT semifinals for the fourth time in as many appearances in that tournament (also 1996, 2004 and 2007).
  • The Fighting Irish need five steals to break the Preseason WNIT record for steals in the entire tournament (58 by Rutgers in a four-game stretch in 1998).
  • No. 2 Irish Play Host To Hartford Thursday Night In Preseason WNIT Semifinals
    For the third time in as many games this season, No. 2 Notre Dame will meet a first-time opponent as the Fighting Irish welcome Hartford to Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday for a semifinal contest in the Preseason WNIT. The game will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com.

    Notre Dame (2-0) advanced to the Preseason WNIT semifinals on the strength of a 99-34 victory over Indiana State on Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish jumped out to an 18-0 lead and then scored 23 unanswered points during a run crossing over halftime to roll past the Sycamores.

    Sophomore guard Kayla McBride led six Notre Dame players in double figures with 16 points, while freshman forward Markisha Wright collected her first career double-double with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 2 in the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Hartford is not ranked.
  • Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame has advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT for the fourth time in as many appearances in that tournament. The Fighting Irish won the title in 2004 (defeating Ohio State, 66-62 in the championship game), and fell in the semifinal round in 1996 (lost to Tennessee, 72-59 in Ruston, La.) and 2007 (lost at Maryland, 75-59).
  • Notre Dame has set two significant records in its first two games of the season. Against Akron on Nov. 11, the Fighting Irish set a new Preseason WNIT record with 29 steals, topping the old mark of 20 set by Northwestern State (La.) vs. Arkansas on Nov. 15, 1995. Against Indiana State on Sunday, Notre Dame raced out to a 58-15 halftime lead, its largest margin at the break in school history (two points more than a 53-12 lead the Fighting Irish had over New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010).
  • For the second consecutive week, Notre Dame is ranked second in both major national polls. The Fighting Irish also were No. 2 in both preseason rankings, their highest debut in either poll, topping their No. 4 AP ranking to open 2009-10, and their No. 5 ESPN/USA Today position to start 2000-01.
  • With this week's No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 79 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with more than half that time (41 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw is tied for third on Notre Dame's all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95), men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87) and drawing even with baseball skipper Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) after Sunday's win over Indiana State.
  • McGraw also is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women's sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men's/women's track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame -- Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men's swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men's tennis).
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fifth with 376 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. Last year, the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans per game, topping the previous year's mark of 8,377. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 160 of their last 162 home games, logging 17 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Feb. 26, 2011, vs. Cincinnati).
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 11 seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the '11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What's more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor's degree (a 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.
  • A Quick Look At Hartford
    Building upon last year's postseason surge that culminated with the America East Conference tournament title and an NCAA Championship berth, Hartford returns four starters and eight letterwinners as it seeks to take the next step up the ladder in 2011-12.

    The Hawks (2-0) earned their place in this year's Preseason WNIT semifinals with strong defensive performances in home victories over Manhattan (64-45) and Long Island (54-45) last weekend. After leading almost tip to buzzer in the opener against the Jaspers, Hartford had to battle back from an early nine-point deficit to take care of a scrappy LIU side that stayed within striking distance throughout much of the second half.

    Junior forward Ruthanne Doherty has been Hartford's talisman through the first two games of the season, averaging 18.5 points and 7.0 rebounds a contest on 60 percent shooting, highlighted by a double-double (18 points/12 rebounds) against Long Island. Junior guard Daphne Elliott has been a contributor at both ends, averaging 9.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.0 blocks per game, while flirting with double-doubles in both of the Hawks' outings to date.

    Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti is in her 13th season at Hartford with a 238-137 (.635) record. She will be coaching against Notre Dame for the first time, although she is certainly familiar with the Fighting Irish program from her days as an All-America point guard at Connecticut from 1993-96.

    The Notre Dame-Hartford Series
    Thursday night will mark the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Hartford.

    Other Notre Dame-Hartford Series Tidbits

  • Hartford is the third consecutive first-time opponent, and third of potentially six overall on this year's Notre Dame schedule. The Fighting Irish opened the season with win over new foes Akron (81-61) and Indiana State (99-34) last weekend.
  • The Hawks will be the 190th different opponent in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball.
  • Notre Dame and Hartford have not played in many sports through the years. In fact, the two schools have squared off in athletic competition a total of five times previously, with those coming in women's soccer (the Fighting Irish won all three meetings from 2001-03 by a combined 13-2 margin) and men's lacrosse (Notre Dame won both matchups - 17-4 in 1989 and 17-3 in 2003).
  • Notre Dame is 48-7 (.873) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including a 28-3 (.903) mark vs. new teams since the start of the 2000-01 season.
  • The Fighting Irish have won 25 consecutive home games against new opposition, dating back to Jan. 18, 1996, when Connecticut posted an 87-64 win at Purcell Pavilion.
  • ND vs. The America East Conference
    Notre Dame has a pretty thin history when it comes to playing America East Conference schools, with Thursday's game with Hartford being just the third all-time matchup between Notre Dame and the America East. The Fighting Irish are 1-1 all-time against the current America East membership, with both prior games also being played at Purcell Pavilion.

    On Jan. 19, 1986 (17 months before Muffet McGraw was hired as Notre Dame's head coach), Boston University edged the Fighting Irish, 74-72 at Purcell Pavilion, behind a game-high 23 points from Kim Dukes. Notre Dame was led by All-America forward Trena Keys (18 points) and Sandy Botham (14 points, 11 rebounds).

    Much more recently, on March 23, 2010, Notre Dame rallied from an early 10-point deficit to down Vermont, 84-66 in the second round of the NCAA Championship's Kansas City Region. Current junior guard (and then-freshman) Skylar Diggins led the way for the Fighting Irish with career highs of 31 points and seven steals, while Lindsay Schrader added a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

    Tournament Tested
    Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 16 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 28 of their last 31 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including runs to the title in last year's WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion (three games) and the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle (two games).

    The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) 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.

    Notre Dame is playing its first regular-season tournament of the 2011-12 campaign, with a trip to the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam on tap for the Fighting Irish over Thanksgiving weekend. It will mark the second consecutive year Notre Dame has competed in multiple tourneys.

    The Fighting Irish are playing in the Preseason WNIT for the fourth time, winning the tournament title in 2004 and reaching the semifinals in 1996 and 2007. The Fighting Irish are 11-2 all-time (9-0 at home) in Preseason WNIT games, including a 64-53 victory over No. 8/12 North Carolina State in the now-discontinued third-place game on Nov. 20, 1996, in Ruston, La.

    Two Games, Two Records
    Notre Dame wasted little time in carving a new spot in the record books during its first two games of the season.

    Against Akron on Nov. 11, the Fighting Irish piled up 29 steals, shattering the previous Preseason WNIT record for steals in a single game that had stood for nearly 16 years (20 by Northwestern State vs. Arkansas on Nov. 15, 1995). Notre Dame then tacked on 25 steals two days later against Indiana State, giving the Fighting Irish the top two single-game steal marks in the tournament's 17-year history and putting Notre Dame on the verge of breaking the Preseason WNIT record for steals in an entire tournament (58 by Rutgers through four games in 1998).

    The Fighting Irish set another record in that win over Indiana State on Nov. 13. Notre Dame led the Sycamores by 43 points (58-15) at halftime, topping the school record for the largest lead at the break (53-12 vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010). The 43-point spread also was the second-largest margin in favor of the Fighting Irish in a single half since Nov. 24, 1989, when Notre Dame outscored Liberty, 61-17 in the second half of a 113-35 win at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla.

    Helping Hands
    Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first two games of the year.

    The Fighting Irish are averaging 24.5 assists per game, with their 25 assists against Akron on Nov. 11 falling just three shy of the Preseason WNIT record for assists in a game (set on the same night - Nov. 9, 2001 - by Connecticut vs. Fairfield and Vanderbilt vs. Eastern Kentucky). What's more, Notre Dame has assisted on 71 percent of its field goals this season (49 of 69).

    Last year, the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.

    Spread The Wealth
    Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least five players (including at least one reserve) scoring in double figures in both games, although just one Fighting Irish player has tallied at least 20 points to date (junior guard Skylar Diggins had 21 points against Akron on Nov. 11).

    During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 36-4 when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 - 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 - 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 - 70-69 at DePaul).

    Novosel Reaches Career Milestone
    On a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Sunday against Indiana State, senior guard Natalie Novosel became the 29th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 career points (currently at 1,001). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (24th with 1,104 points) in that elite Fighting Irish club, with Notre Dame's two fifth-year seniors also having the chance to reach the scoring millennium later this season -- forward Devereaux Peters has tallied 884 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 765 career points.

    Should all four players hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time. In both 2000-01 and 2009-10, Notre Dame had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).

    What's more, Novosel becomes the sixth player from Notre Dame's 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (ninth at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (13th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (22nd at 1,148) -- and that doesn't even include Peters or Mallory, who also were part of that 13-player roster.

    The Kid Is All Wright
    Freshman forward Markisha Wright already is showing flashes of promises through the first weekend of the season. The Des Moines, Iowa, resident is third on the team in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.579) and tops in rebounding (9.0 rpg.) despite coming off the bench and averaging 24 minutes per game.

    In her first college game against Akron on Nov. 11, Wright tallied 12 points and seven rebounds, tying for the eighth-highest scoring total by a Fighting Irish rookie in her debut during the 25-year Muffet McGraw era.

    Two days later against Indiana State, Wright secured her first career double-double with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Wright's double-dip was the earliest for a Notre Dame freshman in exactly five years (Nov. 13, 2006), when Ashley Barlow collected 19 points and 10 rebounds in an 85-81 overtime victory against Bowling Green at Purcell Pavilion.

    Game #2 Recap: Indiana State
    Kayla McBride scored 16 points, and No. 2 Notre Dame placed six players in double figures in a 99-34 victory over Indiana State on Sunday afternoon in the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals at Purcell Pavilion.

    Skylar Diggins, Devereaux Peters and Markisha Wright had 14 points apiece for the Fighting Irish (2-0). Wright also had a game-high 11 rebounds, while Fraderica Miller and Natalie Novosel each scored 10 points.

    Anna Munn scored 13, but Indiana State (1-1) committed 36 turnovers.

    Notre Dame, which finished with 25 steals, used its stellar defense to get off to a quick start for the second consecutive game. The Fighting Irish jumped to an 18-0 lead in the first six minutes, forcing eight early turnovers. Deja Mattox converted a layup at the 14:32 mark to get Indiana State on the board, but Notre Dame reeled off another nine straight to build a 27-2 advantage at the 12:27 mark.

    The Fighting Irish carried a 58-15 lead into halftime. They forced 21 first-half turnovers while committing only four, and Diggins had 11 points at the break.

    Beyond The Box Score -- Indiana State

  • The Fighting Irish set a school record with their 43-point halftime lead (previous: 53-12 vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010).
  • Notre Dame's 25 steals are second-most in a Preseason WNIT game, topped only by the 29 Fighting Irish thefts recorded two days earlier vs. Akron.
  • Notre Dame has won 28 of its last 31 regular-season tournament games, while the Fighting Irish have advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT for the fourth time in as many appearances in that tournament (also 1996, 2004 and 2007).
  • Notre Dame's 65-point margin of victory is the fourth-largest in school history, and third 65-point win in less than a calendar year (95-29 vs. IUPUI on Nov. 26, 2010; 97-21 vs. Southeast Missouri State on Jan. 2, 2011 - both games played at Purcell Pavilion).
  • The Fighting Irish scored 58 points in the first half, tying for the third-most points in one half in school history (and matching the second-most in the first half of a game) -- Notre Dame last scored that many points in a half on Nov. 15, 2009, with a similar 58-point first half in a 102-54 win over visiting Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
  • The 99 points were the most scored by the Fighting Irish since last year's season opener, when they downed New Hampshire, 99-48 on Nov. 12, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame's .581 field goal percentage was its best since Feb. 8, 2011 (.640 vs. Seton Hall at home), and its .571 three-point percentage was the best (min. 10 attempts) since Jan. 18, 2011 (a similar 8-of-14 effort from distance in a home win over No. 16/17 Georgetown).
  • For the second consecutive season, the Fighting Irish opened with consecutive 25-steal efforts (29 vs. Akron; 25 vs. Indiana State) -- last year, Notre Dame had a school-record 36 steals vs. New Hampshire, followed three days later by 26 steals in a win over Morehead State, also at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The Fighting Irish had six double-figure scorers for the first time since they also had six in last year's Seton Hall win (Feb. 8, 2011).
  • Notre Dame is 27-2 (.931) against the current Missouri Valley Conference alignment (18-1 in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era), including a 14-1 (.933) record at home (11-0 in the McGraw era); Notre Dame also has won nine consecutive games overall and 13 in a row at home against MVC teams.
  • Indiana State was the 21st different in-state opponent the Fighting Irish have faced, with Notre Dame rising to 122-32 (.792) against other Indiana schools and a 61-11 (.847) record at home and an active 17-game winning streak against the Hoosier State; ISU is the eighth of the other nine NCAA Division I schools in Indiana that Notre Dame has played, with the lone exception being Ball State.
  • Novosel tied her career high with six assists, matching her total for the third time, and first since March 6, 2011, vs. Louisville in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford, Conn.
  • Wright registered her first career double-double (14 points/11 rebounds) in her second college game, the earliest a Fighting Irish rookie has posted a double-double in her career since Nov. 13, 2006, when Ashley Barlow chalked up 19 points and 10 rebounds in an 85-81 overtime win over Bowling Green at Purcell Pavilion.
  • For the first time this season (including the exhibition game), Notre Dame went over the 88-point mark, earning Big Mac coupons for the 8,157 fans in attendance -- it's the 27th "Big Mac" game in the promotion's five-year history, with sophomore forward Ariel Braker putting the Fighting Irish over the mark on two free throws with 5:14 left (it was Braker's first career "Big Mac Basket").
  • Sunday's win was No. 558 of McGraw's career at Notre Dame, tying her for third on the Fighting Irish athletics all-sports coaching victory list with former baseball skipper Jake Kline (558 from 1934-75) -- former men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon coached 579 wins from 1957-87, while longtime men's & women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco was at the helm of 774 Fighting Irish wins from 1962-95.
  • Notre Dame Claims Top Spot In 2011-12 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
    For the first time in its 17-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has been selected as the outright No. 1 team in the annual BIG EAST preseason women's basketball poll, according to a vote of the league's 16 head coaches released Oct. 20 during the 2011-12 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.

    In the closest vote since Notre Dame shared top honors with Connecticut in the 2002-03 BIG EAST preseason poll, the Fighting Irish picked up 219 points and nine first-place votes in the balloting (coaches are not permitted to select their own teams), edging out Connecticut, which collected the remaining seven first-place votes and finished with 216 points. Louisville (191 points) was chosen third, while Rutgers (176 points) finished a close fourth ahead of Georgetown (175 points).

    The complete 2011-12 BIG EAST preseason coaches' poll can be found in the sidebar on page 3 of of the PDF version of this notes package.

    Fighting Irish Trio Earns Numerous 2011-12 Preseason Honors
    Along with picking Notre Dame to finish first in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches voted junior guard Skylar Diggins as the league's Preseason Player of the Year. Diggins is just the second Fighting Irish player to earn that honor, and the first since fellow South Bend Washington High School graduate and Notre Dame All-American Jacqueline Batteast did so prior to her senior season (2004-05).

    Diggins also joined a pair of her teammates -- senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters -- on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, with Novosel and Peters making the preseason squad for the first time, while Diggins was a unanimous choice for the preseason all-conference team for the second consecutive year.

    Notre Dame's three Preseason All-BIG EAST honorees (who also have been named preseason candidates for this year's Wade Trophy and Wooden Award, both of which go to the national player of the year) were more than any school, with three others having two selections (Connecticut had a third player earn honorable mention status).

    Diggins -- who added Associated Press Preseason All-America honors to her trophy case on Nov. 1 (the second Fighting Irish player to collect that status and first since Batteast in 2004-05) -- put together one of the finest sophomore seasons in Notre Dame women's basketball history in 2010-11 while sparking the Fighting Irish to their second NCAA title game berth and third NCAA Women's Final Four appearance. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.0 ppg.), assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), posting career highs in all three areas. What's more, her 585 total points and 186 total assists were the second-most ever accrued by a Notre Dame sophomore -- Katryna Gaither scored 590 points in 1994-95, while Mary Gavin dished out 205 assists in 1985-86 -- and her 75 steals were fourth on the Fighting Irish sophomore charts (just eight off the school record), while her 1,226 total minutes were just one shy of Beth Morgan's school record set in 1996-97.

    A State Farm Coaches' All-America and third-team AP All-America selection last year, Diggins also ranked second on the team with 32 double-digit scoring games, leading the squad in scoring 14 times and rolling up 10 20-point outings, including the last three NCAA Championship games against Tennessee (24), Connecticut (season-high 28) and Texas A&M (23). She added at least five assists in 22 different games (after having seven five-assist games her entire freshman season), capped by a career-high 12 assists against Oklahoma in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinal, the most helpers ever for a Fighting Irish player in the NCAA tournament, and most in any game since 2000.

    A unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection, the NCAA Dayton Regional Most Outstanding Player and a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team, as well as being a finalist for the three major national player-of-the-year awards (Wooden Award, Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy) and the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard), Diggins also made history in that regional final win over Tennessee, becoming just the second Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points in less than two seasons with the Fighting Irish (Morgan had exactly 1,000 points at the end of her sophomore season of 1994-95), and doing so in 72 games, tying for the fourth-fastest run to the scoring millennium in program history. Diggins currently ranks 24th on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,090 points.

    Meanwhile, Novosel was easily one of the nation's most improved players in 2010-11, nabbing State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST laurels, as well as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player award, after more than tripling her scoring average from a year ago from 5.0 points to a team-high 15.1 points per game. She also scored in double figures a team-best 33 times, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Gaither had 37 double-digit games in 1996-97) and nearly doubled her combined total of 17 from her first two years. What's more, Novosel had seven 20-point games (her career high entering the season was 19 points) and posted a team-best .413 three-point percentage, in addition to being second on the squad in steals (tied-1.9 spg.) and third in assists (1.9 apg.).

    In 2010-11, Novosel set a new school record with 183 free throws made and 39 games started (tying with Peters and Becca Bruszewski), while her 232 free throw attempts were second-most in school history. In addition, she placed among the top 10 on the program's single-season charts for total points (7th - 588) and minutes played (9th - 1,102).

    Peters (who garnered honorable mention preseason All-America status from the AP on Nov. 1) also enjoyed her finest season at Notre Dame in 2010-11, having fully recovered from a pair of knee injuries earlier in her career. Peters set new career highs in virtually every category, ranking third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and tops in double-doubles (10), rebounding (7.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (.593), and blocked shots (1.7 bpg.), not to mention fourth in steals (1.7 spg.). Furthermore, she placed fifth in the country in field goal percentage, and ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (22nd), rebounding (6th), field goal percentage (2nd), blocked shots (4th) and double-doubles (2nd). As if that weren't enough, she was one of just two players in the nation to record at least 60 blocks and 60 steals last season (she had 68 blocks and 66 steals), joining Illinois' Karisma Penn (78/62) in that select company.

    Like Novosel, Peters was named a State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2010-11, while also taking home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. She scored in double figures 25 times and tied the school record by starting all 39 games during Notre Dame's run to the NCAA national championship game. In that title clash against Texas A&M, Peters rang up a double-double with 21 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and a game-high 11 rebounds, securing her place on the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team.

    Polling Station
    For the second consecutive week, Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, its highest showing in that survey since the end of the 2000-01 season (when the Fighting Irish also stood second heading into the NCAA Championship). The preseason No. 2 ranking also was the highest Notre Dame has ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.

    Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four this week), the first time it has received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.

    This week's ranking marks the 79th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (41) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.

    This year's No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 218 weeks during the program's 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.

    In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 2 in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (their second week in a row at that spot), and like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year's preseason coaches' survey (and two this week), their first nods for the top spot since the final '00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 80 of the past 81 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 211 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

    Besides her 218 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 to No. 3 in the nation.

    Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart in PDF version of notes), with McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).

    Half And Half
    During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 218-18 (.924) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 146 of their last 158 such contests.

    What's more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 55-1 when leading at the half, with the only loss coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70).

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 17 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 Fighting Irish have an amazing 232-15 (.939) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

    ...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 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 155-5 (.969) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.

    In the past three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 32-1 when topping the 80-point mark, including both wins this year.

    Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
    The past two seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program's season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out the Jan. 23 game with Tennessee, push the Jan. 7 Connecticut game to a virtual sell-out, and put four other games (Dec. 20 vs. Central Florida, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. South Florida) within striking distance of a sell out.

    In fact, while some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it's entirely possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2010-11 regular season.

    Hall of Fame Coach Muffet McGraw
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of nearly 650 games in her illustrious career, offically was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame during a gala ceremony on June 11, 2011, at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn.

    McGraw was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class. The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class included former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).

    In addition, the legendary All-American Red Heads, one of the nation's first women's basketball teams which barnstormed around the country from 1936-86, were honored for their contributions to the game with a display at the Hall entitled "Trailblazers of the Game," that was unveiled during the 2011 Induction Weekend.

    McGraw is the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Fighting Irish skipper also became the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in for her efforts as a player at Old Dominion.

    McGraw also was the seventh active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this notable list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina) and Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia).

    Fighting Irish On Your Radio Dial
    Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, 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 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. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 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 Fighting 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 Digital Media 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), is now in the fourth season of his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.

    Notre Dame On The Small Screen
    Notre Dame will have at least 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast.

    In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free Fighting Irish Video Channel.

    This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through Sunday's game vs. Indiana State (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 203 televised games, including 148 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    It's year five of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.

    In the five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 27 times, including Sunday's win over Indiana State.

    It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.

    And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "media relations director has too much time on his hands"), 16 different players have converted the "burger ball", including five current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 27 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, 10 on free throws, and four on three-pointers.

    Notre Dame Breaks New Ground With "Heart of the Irish" Service Initiative
    For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame women's basketball team will be front and center in the South Bend and greater Michiana communities with its groundbreaking outreach program (renamed "Heart of the Irish"), which will involve numerous interactive events during the 2011-12 season. The goal of this year's "Heart of the Irish" program is to highlight community leaders who are making a difference, as well as encourage fans to give back to their community and make an impact through a variety of special initiatives.

    The first of five cornerstone events for the 2011-12 "Heart of the Irish" drive will take place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame plays host to Pennsylvania in a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish will hold their annual Teddy Bear Toss, collecting new teddy bears and other stuffed animals for patients at Riley Children's Hospital, which serves many Michiana children, as well as local youth patients. The highlight of the event comes at halftime, when fans are invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they are then collected by volunteers.

    Less than one week after the Teddy Bear Toss, Notre Dame will have a second outreach event called Food For Friends, to be held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette at 7 p.m. (ET) on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion. Fans can bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that will be collected and delivered as part of the Food Drive for the St. Joseph Country chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

    Notre Dame's next special "Heart of the Irish" event is entitled Reading One on One and it's scheduled for Jan. 17, when the Fighting Irish play host to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. The That evening, the team will collect children's books for the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.

    The Fighting Irish will hold their annual fund-raising game in support of breast cancer awareness and research on Feb. 12 (3:30 p.m. ET vs. West Virginia) at Purcell Pavilion. Known locally as the Pink Zone game (and nationally renamed as Play4Kay), it will feature numerous informational booths and donation opportunities for fans to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, with the highlight being the always-memorable halftime ceremony to honor those who have been touched by (and in many cases, conquered) the disease. Last year, Notre Dame raised more than $130,000 through its Pink Zone game for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, lifting its three-year donation total to more than a quarter of a million dollars.

    The last event in the "Heart of the Irish" series comes on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), when Notre Dame welcomes Providence to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. This will be the inaugural Splish Splash, in which fans can bring towels, wash cloths or toiletries such as small bottles of shampoo, soap or toothpaste for the YWCA of St. Joseph County.

    Throughout the season, the Fighting Irish also will recognize community leaders who have made exceptional contributions.

    In addition to this five-event series, Notre Dame women's basketball will take part in a cooperative effort with the University's Office of Sustainability as the Fighting Irish encourage all fans to recycle in their daily lives, particularly when they attend Notre Dame basketball games at Purcell Pavilion.

    Originally called the "Spirit of Giving" program, Notre Dame's community outreach efforts began in earnest during the summer of 2009. Since then, Fighting Irish players, coaches, staff and fans have taken part in hundreds of hours of service projects designed to give back to the South Bend and greater Michiana communities.

    The Notre Dame women's basketball team was honored for its community outreach efforts in 2008-09, receiving the Trophy Award (symbolic of the Fighting Irish program with the most service hours in one academic year) from the Notre Dame athletics department.

    Next Game: TBA
    Notre Dame's next opponent is dependent upon the result of Thursday night's contest against Hartford. With a victory, the Fighting Irish would advance to the Preseason WNIT championship game at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday against the winner of the No. 1 Baylor-No. 22/RV UCLA semifinal, also being played Thursday night in Waco, Texas. Should Notre Dame and Baylor advance, the title game would be in Waco, while a Notre Dame-UCLA matchup would be played at Purcell Pavilion. Either way, the Preseason WNIT final will be televised live to a national audience on CBS Sports Network (formerly CBS College Sports).

    If the Fighting Irish lose to Hartford, their next game would be at 5:45 p.m. (ET) Nov. 25 when they face No. 23/22 USC in the first round of the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas.

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