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    Fighting Irish
    #2 Irish Visit #1 Baylor Sunday In Preseason WNIT Title Game

    FIGHTING IRISH Senior guard Natalie Novosel scored 20 points in Thursday night's Preseason WNIT semifinal win over Hartford.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Senior guard Natalie Novosel scored 20 points in Thursday night's Preseason WNIT semifinal win over Hartford.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 18, 2011

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    2011-12 ND Women's Basketball: Game 4
    Preseason WNIT -- Championship
    #2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #1/1 Baylor Lady Bears (3-0 / 0-0 Big 12)

    DATE: November 20, 2011
    TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. CT
    AT: Waco, Texas - Ferrell Center (10,284)
    SERIES: BU leads 1-0
    LAST MTG: BU 76-65 (12/1/10)
    TV: CBS Sports Network (live) (Thad Anderson, p-b-p / Ceal Barry, color)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is playing in the Preseason WNIT championship game for the second time, winning the 2004 crown with a 66-62 victory over No. 10/9 Ohio State.
  • The Fighting Irish are part of a "1-vs-2" matchup for the third time, and first since splitting a pair of these contests during their 2000-01 national championship season.
  • No. 2 Fighting Irish Visit No. 1 Baylor Sunday In Preseason WNIT Title Game
    While it won't have the finality of an NCAA tournament game, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 1 Baylor should provide excellent early-season theater, as the Fighting Irish and Lady Bears square off at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT) Sunday in the Preseason WNIT championship game at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by CBS Sports Network.

    Notre Dame (3-0) moved into Sunday's title clash with a 98-43 win over Hartford on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion. For the second consecutive game, the Fighting Irish rode some early hot shooting, making 14 of their first 17 shots against the Hawks and taking a 30-point lead with less than 15 minutes gone, effectively taking all the steam out of the visitors.

    Junior guard Skylar Diggins scored a game-high 22 points in 23 minutes and senior guard Natalie Novosel added 20 points in 22 minutes to lead an efficient Notre Dame offense.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 2 in the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Baylor is No. 1 in the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame has advanced to the championship game of the Preseason WNIT for the second time in its four 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 three significant records in its first three 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 Nov. 13, 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). Most recently on Thursday against Hartford, Notre Dame surpassed the Preseason WNIT record for steals in the tournament with 69 through three games (Rutgers had the old mark of 58 steals over four games in 1998).
  • 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.
  • With 559 victories in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw is third on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95) and men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87). McGraw passed baseball skipper Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) with Thursday's win over Hartford.
  • 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 377 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 161 of their last 163 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 Baylor
    Baylor returns four starters and 12 letterwinners from last year's 34-3 club that won the Big 12 Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight before being eliminated by eventual national champion Texas A&M.

    The top-ranked Lady Bears (3-0) have won their three Preseason WNIT contests by an average of 49 points per game, most recently downing No. 22/RV UCLA, 83-50 on Thursday night in Waco. Sophomore guard Odyssey Sims scored a game-high 22 points, while junior center Brittney Griner (18 points/14 rebounds) and redshirt junior forward Destiny Williams (16 points/10 rebounds) added double-doubles for Baylor, which nearly doubled up the Bruins in the second half (53-27) after leading by seven at the break.

    The 6-foot-8 Griner leads BU in scoring (19.7 ppg.), rebounding (11.7 rpg.) and blocks (5.7 bpg.), while Sims is second in scoring (18.3 ppg.) and tops in steals (2.7 spg.) and three-point percentage among regulars (.353). Williams chips in a well-rounded stat line with 12.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, as well as a team-high .591 field goal percentage.

    Head coach Kim Mulkey is in her 12th year at Baylor with a 301-79 (.792) record, including a win in her only prior meeting with Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Baylor Series
    Notre Dame and Baylor met for the first time last season, with the Lady Bears earning a 76-65 victory in Waco. The teams are slated to meet next year at Purcell Pavilion.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Baylor Met
    Brooklyn Pope provided quite a boost for Brittney Griner and second-ranked Baylor.

    Pope had 20 points with 14 rebounds and got her three assists on baskets by Griner, and the Lady Bears withstood a quick second-half surge by No. 16 Notre Dame for a 76-65 victory on Dec. 1, 2010, in Waco, Texas.

    Griner finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. She and Pope combined to score Baylor's first 15 points in the game, putting the Lady Bears ahead to stay.

    Skylar Diggins had 21 points and Natalie Novosel added 12 for Notre Dame, which trailed by 22 points with a little less than 13 minutes to play, and when Pope made a layup with 11:18 left, Baylor still led 56-37.

    Notre Dame then scored 12 consecutive points in 79 seconds before Pope ended that stretch with a jumper. The Fighting Irish would get as close as 65-59 on Kayla McBride's two free throws with 5:00 left, and had a chance to cut even further into the lead on their next possession, but Novosel misfired on a three-pointer and the Lady Bears iced the win by making 9-of-12 free throws down the stretch.

    Pope and Griner were among five Baylor players scoring in double figures. Kimetria Hayden had 14 points, including her own 7-0 run in the first half, while Odyssey Sims had 11 and Melissa Jones 10.

    Other Notre Dame-Baylor Series Tidbits

  • Notre Dame is 7-8 (.467) all-time against Texas schools, following losses last year to Baylor (76-65) and Texas A&M (76-70). The Fighting Irish also are 4-8 (.333) against Texas schools away from Purcell Pavilion.
  • Factoring in its numerous visits to the state for postseason tournaments (both NCAA and NWIT), Notre Dame is 10-13 (.435) all-time when playing in Texas. The last Fighting Irish victory in the Lone Star State came on March 15, 1998, when Notre Dame won at No. 6/5 Texas Tech, 74-59, in the second round of the NCAA Championship (Midwest Region) behind a game-high 23 points from then-freshman center Ruth Riley.
  • Notre Dame has had four players on its all-time roster from the state of Texas. Kelly Hicks (1977-80; Bandera) was the first Lone Star State product to suit up for the Fighting Irish, followed by Ellen Mauch (1987; Mineral Wells). More recently, two members of Notre Dame's 2001 NCAA national championshp teams came from Texas -- Imani Dunbar (1997-2001; San Angelo) and Amanda Barksdale (1999-2002; Friendswood).
  • Notre Dame guards Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel and forward Devereaux Peters were teammates with Baylor guard Odyssey Sims on the 2011 USA World University Games Team that posted a 6-0 record and won the gold medal this summer in Shenzhen, China.
  • Both former college point guards, Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only coaches to both play for and coach a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, and then also coach that same team to a national championship. McGraw played at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) when it rose to No. 3 in 1977, while Mulkey was the floor general for top-ranked Louisiana Tech in 1982. McGraw then took Notre Dame to the 2001 national championship, while Mulkey did the same with Baylor four years later.
  • McGraw and Mulkey also are members of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, with McGraw being enshrined this past June, while Mulkey was a 2001 inductee.
  • Baylor redshirt junior forward Destiny Williams is a native of Benton Harbor, Mich., and attend Benton Harbor High School, located less than 40 miles from the Notre Dame campus.
  • Veteran Fighting Irish women's soccer coach Randy Waldrum held a similar post at Baylor from 1996-98, starting the Lady Bear program from scratch and leading BU to the school's first Big 12 title (in any sport) in 1998 and the women's soccer program's first NCAA Championship berth before leaving in 1999 to come to Notre Dame (where he has led the Fighting Irish to a pair of national titles in 2004 and 2010).
  • One of Waldrum's first recruits at Baylor was goalkeeper Dawn Greathouse, who went on to be a three-time All-Big 12 selection and a second-team All-America choice in 1998. The holder of virtually every meaningful goalkeeping record in both school and Big 12 history when she departed, Greathouse graduated from Baylor in 2001, and recently completed her ninth season as an assistant coach at Notre Dame. She returned to the BU campus on Nov. 4 as a member of the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2011.
  • Notre Dame vs. The Big 12 Conference
    Notre Dame is 8-8 (.500) all-time against current Big 12 Conference members, including wins in six of its last 10 games against that conference (most recently falling to Texas A&M, 76-70 in the NCAA national championship game on April 5, 2011, in Indianapolis). The four losses in that time all came by 11 points or less (three by six or fewer and one in OT):

  • 2000 NCAA Mideast Regional semifinal vs. Texas Tech at Memphis (L, 69-65 ... ND led 17-0 to start the game)
  • 2010 NCAA Kansas City Regional semifinal vs. Oklahoma at Kansas City, Mo. (L, 77-72, ot ... OU nailed game-winning 3FG with 4.4 seconds left in overtime)
  • 2010-11 regular season at Baylor (L, 76-65 ... margin was six points with five minutes left; BU one FG over final 8:23)
  • 2011 NCAA national championship game vs. Texas A&M (L, 76-70 ... ND led by seven points with 15:52 left, had FT to regain lead with 3:56 left and possession to tie with 0:29 left; TAMU ended game on 10-4 run)
  • Best Of The Best
    For the third time (and first in more than a decade), Notre Dame will be playing in a matchup of the nation's top two teams, as the second-ranked Fighting Irish visit No. 1 Baylor on Sunday.

    Notre Dame is 1-1 in its previous two "1-vs-2" games, losing at No. 2 Connecticut, 78-76 on March 6, 2001, in the BIG EAST Championship title game, and then avenging that loss a little more than three weeks later with a 90-75 victory over the top-ranked Huskies on March 30, 2001, in the NCAA national semifinals (Women's Final Four) at the Saavis Center (now Scottrade Center) in St. Louis.

    The Fighting Irish have three wins against No. 1 teams in their history, most recently defeating Connecticut, 72-63, on April 3, 2011, in the NCAA national semifinals at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

    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 29 of their last 32 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, previously having won the tournament title in 2004 and reaching the semifinals in 1996 and 2007. The Fighting Irish are 12-2 all-time (10-0 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.

    With a victory, Notre Dame would become the fourth school to win multiple Preseason WNIT titles, joining three-time champion Connecticut (1997, 2001, 2005) and two-time winners Louisiana Tech (1996, 2000) and Purdue (2006, 2010).

    BIG EAST No Strangers To WNIT Final
    Sunday will mark the eighth time a BIG EAST Conference team has played in the Preseason WNIT championship game in the tournament's 17-year history -- league schools are 4-3 in the prior seven outings when battling for the title. Connecticut (3-0) and Notre Dame (1-0) have accounted for those four wins, while Rutgers lost in the 1998 and 2003 finals, and DePaul fell at Purdue, 67-58 last year.

    No conference has had more Preseason WNIT championship game appearances among its current members than the BIG EAST and Big 12, as Baylor is making the eighth showing for the latter conference (not counting appearances by now-departed Big 12 members Colorado in 1995 and Nebraska in 1997).

    Three Games, Three Records
    Notre Dame wasted little time in carving new spots in the record books during its first three 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.

    Notre Dame set another record in that win over Indiana State on Nov. 13. The Fighting Irish 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 Notre Dame in a single half since Nov. 24, 1989, when it outscored Liberty, 61-17 in the second half of a 113-35 win at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla.

    In Thursday's win over Hartford, the Fighting Irish eclipsed the Preseason WNIT record for steals in the entire tournament (currently at 69 through three games), breezing by Rutgers' old mark of 58 thefts in a four-game span in 1998.

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

    The Fighting Irish are averaging 23.3 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 69.3 percent of its field goals this season (70 of 101), and is not far from the Preseason WNIT record for assists in the entire tournament (87 by Texas Tech in 1994).

    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 four players scoring in double figures in all three games.

    During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 37-4 (.902) 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 Nov. 13 against Indiana State, senior guard Natalie Novosel became the 29th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 career points (currently 27th at 1,021). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (23rd with 1,126 points) as the two active players 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 891 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 777 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. Twice (In both 2000-01 and 2009-10), Notre Dame has 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.

    Game #3 Recap: Hartford
    Skylar Diggins scored 22 points and Natalie Novosel added 20 points, while Kayla McBride and Brittany Mallory chipped in the rest to help No. 2 Notre Dame rout Hartford 98-43 on Thursday night in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT.

    McBride had 14 points and Mallory added 12 (going 4-of-4 from beyond the arc) for the Fighting Irish (3-0), who shot 56.1 percent from the field and connected on 8-of-14 three-point tries for the second consecutive game.

    Hartford (2-1) had no answer for Notre Dame on either side of the court. The Hawks committed 30 turnovers and only shot 39.5 percent from the field. Daphne Elliott led the way for the Hawks with nine points and three assists.

    The Fighting Irish came out strong opening with a 10-2 lead and set the tone of the game on the defensive end by forcing a shot-clock violation on the opening possession (one of three they would cause during the game).

    Notre Dame broke the game open with a 14-0 run over a 5:29 stretch midway through the first half. The Fighting Irish implemented a full-court press on defense for the majority of the half and stifled any kind of Hartford rally.

    Hartford struggled with turnovers against the Notre Dame defense, committing 18 in the first half -- one more than its total shots in the period.

    Beyond The Box Score -- Hartford

  • For the first time in the 35-year history of Fighting Irish women's basketball, Notre Dame scored at least 98 points in consecutive games.
  • The combined 197 points in the past two games are the most scored by the Fighting Irish in a two-game span since Nov. 19-23, 2008, when they piled up 198 points in a home win over Evansville (96-61) and a road victory at Boston College (102-54).
  • Notre Dame registered consecutive wins by at least 55 points for the first time in school history.
  • Mallory is the eighth Notre Dame player to go perfect from the three-point line (min. four attempts), and first since Nov. 22, 2000, when current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey knocked down all four of her long-distance tries in an 83-56 victory at No. 19/RV Wisconsin.
  • Mallory is fourth Notre Dame player to go 4-for-4 or better on three-pointers at Purcell Pavilion, and the first since Dec. 8, 1998, when Sheila McMillen set an arena record by going 5-for-5 in a 106-81 loss to top-ranked Connecticut.
  • The Fighting Irish held their opponent without a double-figure scorer for the first time since Jan. 23, 2011, in a 69-36 win over No. RV/23 St. John's at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame is 49-7 (.875) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, including a 29-3 (.906) mark against new foes since the start of the 2000-01 season.
  • The Fighting Irish have won 26 consecutive home games against first-time opponents dating back to January 1996.
  • The victory was No. 559 of head coach Muffet McGraw's career, giving her sole possession of third place on the Notre Dame all-time coaching wins list (for all sports), passing baseball coach Jake Kline (558 from 1934-75).
  • Prior to the game, a banner was raised at Purcell Pavilion to recognize McGraw's induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in June 2011.
  • 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 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 this notes package), 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 219-18 (.924) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 147 of their last 159 such contests.

    What's more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 56-1 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 233-15 (.940) 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 156-5 (.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 33-1 when topping the 80-point mark, including all three 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 two games (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee), and put six others (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 20 vs. UCF, Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.

    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.

    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 Thursday's game vs. Hartford (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 204 televised games, including 149 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.

    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.

    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 28 times, including Thursday's win over Hartford.

    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 "the media relations director has way too much time on his hands"), 17 different players have converted the "burger ball", including six current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 28 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 10 on free throws, and four on three-pointers.

    Next Game: USC
    For the second time in three seasons, Notre Dame will spend Thanksgiving weekend in the Caribbean, as the Fighting Irish head to Freeport, Bahamas, for the Junkanoo Jam, presented by Basketball Travelers. Notre Dame opens the tournament at 5:45 p.m. (ET) Friday against No. 23/22 USC at St. Georges High School, with No. 8 Duke meeting Gardner-Webb in the other Freeport Division first-round game immediately after the Fighting Irish and Trojans square off.

    Notre Dame is 7-2 all-time against USC, but has not faced the Trojans since Nov. 24, 2006, when USC posted a 69-58 victory in Los Angeles.

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