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    #7/6 Irish Open Home Slate Sunday Against UMass

    FIGHTING IRISH Freshman guard Jewell Loyd had 12 rebounds in her college debut (a 57-51 win at #19/21 Ohio State on Nov. 9), the most rebounds by a Notre Dame player in a season opener since 2005 (when another rookie, Lindsay Schrader did so against Michigan).
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Freshman guard Jewell Loyd had 12 rebounds in her college debut (a 57-51 win at #19/21 Ohio State on Nov. 9), the most rebounds by a Notre Dame player in a season opener since 2005 (when another rookie, Lindsay Schrader did so against Michigan).
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 17, 2012

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    2012-13 ND Women's Basketball: Game 2
    #7/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Massachusetts Minutewomen (1-2 / 0-0 Atlantic 10)

    DATE: November 18, 2012
    TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
    SERIES: ND leads 1-0
    LAST MTG: ND 90-72 (3/25/95)
    VIDEO: UND.com (live-free)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
    TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame has won 17 consecutive home openers and is 21-4 (.840) record in its first home game of the season during the 25-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw.
  • The Fighting Irish are 8-1 all-time at home against teams from the state of Massachusetts, having last played host to a team from the Bay State since Nov. 24, 2007 (an 88-58 win over Boston College).
  • No. 7/6 Irish Open Home Slate Sunday Against Massachusetts
    After an unusual nine-day hiatus early in the season, No. 7/6 Notre Dame swings back into action quickly with three games in a six-day span, beginning at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday when it plays host to Massachusetts at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics web site, UND.com.

    Notre Dame (1-0) has not taken the hardwood since Nov. 9 when it posted a 57-51 victory over No. 19/21 Ohio State in the second annual Carrier Classic, outdoors on the deck of the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Junior forward Natalie Achonwa registered her second career double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds), while junior guard Kayla McBride added 16 points and six rebounds for the Fighting Irish, who opened up a 10-point second-half lead and stayed in front the rest of the way to earn a win over a ranked team for the first time since 2007.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 7 in this week's Associated Press poll and is No. 6 in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Massachusetts is not ranked.
  • Quick Hitters

  • With its No. 7 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media poll for 98 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 the vast majority of that time (48 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • The Fighting Irish also held down the No. 7 spot in the preseason AP poll, making the first media poll in 13 of the past 14 years (since 1999-2000), something only six other schools in the country can match.
  • Notre Dame could play as many as nine of the other 24 teams in the preseason AP poll if they meet No. 15 Texas A&M at the World Vision Classic in Las Vegas (Dec. 19-21).
  • Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner have helped Notre Dame win 96 games to date, easily the most victories by a Fighting Irish class in its first three seasons, surpassing the one-player 2001-02 senior class of Ericka Haney, who was a part of 87 wins through the end of her junior year (including the 2001 national championship).
  • With 592 victories in her first 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second 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).
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 17 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fourth with 410 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past three years). Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation with 8,571 fans per home game, setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 176 of their last 178 home games, logging 25 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 19 in the past three seasons, and a school-record eight in 2011-12 (most recently on Feb. 25, 2012, vs. South Florida).
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past three years). Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation with 8,571 fans per home game, setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 176 of their last 178 home games, logging 25 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 19 in the past three seasons, and a school-record eight in 2011-12 (most recently on Feb. 25, 2012, vs. South Florida).
  • For the sixth 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, Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous five years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it twice, pulling off that feat in 2011 and 2012).
  • Scouting Massachusetts
    Massachusetts returns eight letterwinners, including two starters from last year's squad that posted an 8-21 record, and tied for 12th place in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 3-11 mark.

    The Minutewomen (1-2) opened their season with an 83-53 win over Kent State, but have lost their last two games, a road contest at Central Connecticut (78-69 on Nov. 13) and most recently an 81-72 home contest against Quinnipiac on Friday. Freshman guard Rashida Timbilla had 17 points and a game-high nine rebounds, while senior center Jasmine Watson added 17 points and eight rebounds for UMass, which had a better field goal percentage (.388) and had a plus-15 rebound margin, but was undone by 25 turnovers.

    Sophomore guard Emily Mital is averaging a team-high 19.0 points per game (she did not play against Quinnipiac), paced by a stellar .583 field goal percentage and gaudy .625 three-point percentage (10-of-16). Watson is second in scoring (18.0 ppg.) and rebounding (8.7 rpg.) with a .559 field goal percentage, followed closely by Timbilla, who averages 11.3 points and a team-high 9.7 rebounds per game with a team-best .750 field goal percentage.

    Head coach Sharon Dawley is in her third season at Massachusetts with a 16-46 (.258) record at the school. She also has a 281-194 (.592) record in 19 seasons on the college sidelines, including prior stops at Division III Tufts (1984-93) and perennial America East Conference power Vermont (2003-10) -- she is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Massachusetts Series
    Notre Dame and Massachusetts will be playing for just the second time, with the Fighting Irish earning a 90-72 victory in the team's only prior meeting on March 25, 1995, at Cal Farley Coliseum in Amarillo, Texas, in the third-place game of the National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) -- the precursor to today's Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Massachusetts Met
    Current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham led five Notre Dame players in double figures with 21 points, as the Fighting Irish bolted to a 44-25 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 90-72 victory over Massachusetts in the third-place game of the National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) on March 25, 1995, at Cal Farley Coliseum in Amarillo, Texas.

    Katryna Gaither added 17 points for Notre Dame, which shot 53.2 percent from the field, including 18-of-32 (.563) in the second half. Octavia Thomas led all players with 25 points and 12 rebounds for UMass, while Melissa Gurile chipped in 21 points and eight rebounds, but the Minutewomen were undone by first-half foul trouble, as well as some poor free throw shooting in the opening 20 minutes, and could not dig out of their early hole.

    Other Notre Dame-Massachusetts Series Tidbits

  • Sunday will mark a reunion for two key players, as Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins and Massachusetts senior center Jasmine Watson lead their teams into Purcell Pavilion. Diggins and Watson were teammates during the 2008-09 season at South Bend Washington High School, leading the Panthers to the brink of not only an Indiana Class 4A state title, but the mythical national championship. Washington came up just short in the state final, as the nationally third-ranked Panthers fell to top-ranked Indianapolis Ben Davis, 71-69 on a last-second shot before more than 13,000 fans at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium (the site of Super Bowl XLVI).
  • While Massachusetts has never played at Purcell Pavilion, some members of the UMass staff aren't entirely unfamiliar with the trip to South Bend. Head coach Sharon Dawley and director of operations May Kotsopoulos helped lead Vermont into the 2010 NCAA Championship, with the Catamounts defeating Wisconsin, 64-55, in a Kansas City Region first-round game before falling to Notre Dame, 84-66 in the second round (Diggins scored a then-career-high 31 points for the Fighting Irish, while Kotsopoulos had 12 points as one of five Vermont players in double figures).
  • In addition to the Diggins and Watson reunion, some other players in Sunday's game will be renewing acquaintances from their high school days. Notre Dame junior forward Ariel Braker and UMass sophomore forward Aisha Rodney are from Grosse Pointe, Mich. (Braker from Grosse Pointe Woods, Rodney from Grosse Pointe Farms), while Braker graduated from North High School and Rodney matriculated from South High School. In addition, Notre Dame freshman guard Michaela Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) and UMass freshman guard Nola Henry (Willingboro, N.J./Willingboro) will bring their matchup from New Jersey to Indiana on Sunday.
  • Notre Dame is 13-6 (.684) all-time against teams from the state of Massachusetts, with the majority of those games coming against former BIG EAST Conference rival (and future Atlantic Coast Conference opponent) Boston College, against whom the Fighting Irish are 12-5 all-time. Notre Dame also is 8-1 all-time at home against Massachusetts schools, with the lone loss being a 74-72 setback at the hands of Boston University on Jan. 19, 1986.
  • Notre Dame vs. the Atlantic 10 Conference
    Notre Dame is 85-24 (.780) all-time against the current members of the Atlantic 10 Conference, including a 39-11 (.780) record at home.

    The Fighting Irish also have an active 20-game winning streak against that league's present alignment, including victories in eight of the past nine seasons (Dayton in 2003-04 and 2004-05; Richmond in 2006-07 and 2007-08; Charlotte in 2008-09 and 2009-10; Temple in 2010-11; Saint Bonaventure last year). The last time Notre Dame lost to a current A-10 school was on Feb. 18, 1995, when La Salle defeated Notre Dame, 84-68, in Philadelphia, when both schools were then part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).

    It hasn't been that long since Notre Dame last played an Atlantic 10 opponent. In fact, one need only go back to last year's NCAA Raleigh Regional semifinal to find the Fighting Irish defeating No. 21/25 St. Bonaventure, 79-35, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Current Fighting Irish senior guard/co-captain Kaila Turner scored 14 points, knocking down 4-of-5 three-pointers, and present junior guard Kayla McBride added 10 points as Notre Dame posted its largest margin of victory ever in an NCAA tournament game.

    Blowing The Lid Off
    Notre Dame is 27-8 (.771) all-time in home openers, with a 21-4 (.840) record during the 25-year tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw. The Fighting Irish also have won 17 consecutive home openers, dating back to the 1994-95 season, when they dropped their first game of the year at Purcell Pavilion, 87-83 to No. 13/11 Purdue (Nov. 30, 1994).

    Game #1 Recap: Ohio State
    Natalie Achonwa had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 7/6 Notre Dame to a 57-51 victory over No. 19/21 Ohio State on Nov. 9 in the Carrier Classic.

    Kayla McBride added 16 points and Skylar Diggins 11 for the Fighting Irish, who improved to 23-3 in season openers under coach Muffet McGraw. Not that it was easy in the first women's game played on an aircraft carrier -- the USS Yorktown.

    The Yorktown was bathed in bright sunshine at the start, leaving players on both teams squinting. Once the sun set on Charleston Harbor, the converted flight deck turned downright chilly.

    None of that stopped Achonwa and Notre Dame.

    Notre Dame went on a 10-3 run to start the second half for a 35-25 lead. Ohio State, though, chipped away behind Tayler Hill's play. Her driving basket cut Notre Dame's lead to 47-43 with 4:52 to go and moments later teammate Amber Stokes stole a mid-court pass and took it in for an uncontested layup.

    Hill, who led the Big Ten in scoring last season at 20.4 points a game, hit two foul shots with 2:30 to go that brought Ohio State as close as it would come after that, 50-47.

    It was Diggins, as usual, who orchestrated Notre Dame's victory.

    She got the Fighting Irish off to a quick start in the second half, funneling the ball to Achonwa and McBride to build a 35-25 lead over the first four minutes of the period that Notre Dame would not give up.

    Both teams paid tribute to the military in their uniforms, the Buckeyes wearing a camouflage design while the Fighting Irish had camo accents down the sides with a red-white-and-blue USA on the back where their names are.

    Beyond The Box Score: Ohio State

  • Notre Dame wins its opening game for the 18th consecutive season, coinciding exactly with the program's membership in the BIG EAST Conference -- its last opening-day loss was Nov. 26, 1994, a 65-60 overtime setback at 25th-ranked Seton Hall.
  • The Fighting Irish improve to 28-8 (.778) all-time in season openers, including a 23-3 (.885) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
  • Notre Dame is 9-2 (.818) away from home in season openers, including a 7-2 (.778) record during McGraw's tenure.
  • This marked the first time Notre Dame opened its season against a ranked opponent since Nov. 16, 2008, when the Fighting Irish earned a 62-53 victory at No. 24/22 LSU in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic.
  • Notre Dame opens with a win over an opponent ranked in the top 20 of the Associated Press poll (Ohio State was ranked 19th) for the first time since Nov. 14, 1998, when the Fighting Irish downed No. 6 UCLA, 99-82 at Purcell Pavilion, a win that included a career-high 23 points from senior guard Danielle Green; coincidentally Green (a 2000 Notre Dame graduate) was in attendance at the Carrier Classic game against Ohio State as a guest of the Notre Dame program, which dedicated the victory to her (in 2004, Green was wounded in action while serving in Baghdad, Iraq, with the U.S. Army 571st MP Company as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom - Green lost her left hand in a rocket-propelled grenade attack and later received the Purple Heart).
  • Notre Dame raises its all-time record against current Big Ten Conference schools to 44-49 (.473), including a 20-31 (.392) mark away from home (road/neutral combined).
  • The Fighting Irish are 37-34 (.521) against the Big Ten in the McGraw era (17-20, .459 away from home) and have won 16 of their last 22 games against Big Ten opponents, including the past five in a row.
  • Notre Dame now has won 19 consecutive games against teams from the state of Ohio and is 76-16 (.826) all-time against the Buckeye State, including a 38-7 (.844) record away from home; the last Ohio school to defeat the Fighting Irish was Ohio State, which earned a 74-67 victory over Notre Dame on Jan. 4, 1997, at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Notre Dame is 2-1 all-time against OSU, with all three games decided by seven points or fewer (this was the lowest scoring game by either side in the abbreviated series).
  • McGraw improves to 4-3 all-time against her coaching mentor, Ohio State's Jim Foster (whom she worked for as an assistant at her alma mater, Saint Joseph's (Pa.) from 1980-82), including a 4-0 record since she became the head coach at Notre Dame in 1987 (the three losses all occurred when she coached Lehigh against Saint Joseph's in the mid-1980s).
  • Notre Dame earns its first win when shooting below 35 percent from the field since Nov. 26, 2011, when it defeated No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 in the Junkanoo Jam championship game at Freeport, Bahamas, despite connecting on just 32.7 percent of its shots (Duke shot .322 in that game).
  • The Fighting Irish shot 87.5 percent from the foul line, their best effort from the stripe since Feb. 20, 2012, when they hit at a .944 clip (17-of-18) in a 68-52 win at No. 16 Louisville.
  • Junior forward Natalie Achonwa registered her second career double-double and first since March 8, 2011, when she posted 12 points and 10 rebounds in a 73-64 loss at top-ranked Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship title game.
  • Achonwa also is the first Notre Dame player to tally a double-double in a season opener since Nov. 15, 2009, when Becca Bruszewski had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Sophomore forward Markisha Wright grabbed seven rebounds, her best performance on the glass since Jan. 14, 2012, when she had seven caroms in a 76-50 win at Cincinnati.
  • Freshman guard Jewell Loyd had 12 rebounds, the most for a Notre Dame player in a season opener since another Fighting Irish rookie, Lindsay Schrader, had 14 rebounds in a 55-45 win over Michigan on Nov. 18 2005, at Purcell Pavilion (in what was McGraw's 500th career victory).
  • Notre Dame had two players get their first career starts in their first college games (Loyd and sophomore guard Madison Cable, who missed all of last year with stress fractures in her feet) for the first time since Nov. 18, 2001, when freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast and freshman center Teresa Borton started in their college debuts, helping the Fighting Irish to a 42-35 win over Valparaiso at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame was playing in the state of South Carolina for the first time since March 24, 1997, when the Fighting Irish defeated No. 22/16 George Washington, 62-52, at Frank McGuire Arena in Columbia, S.C., to win the NCAA East Regional title and advance to the program's first NCAA Women's Final Four -- all four current Notre Dame coaches were part of the team that season (McGraw as head coach, associate head coach Carol Owens was an assistant, associate coach Beth Cunningham was the team's leading scorer under her maiden name of Beth Morgan, assistant coach Niele Ivey was sidelined during what was her freshman year after a knee injury in the season's fifth game).
  • Anchors Away
    Notre Dame made a bit of women's basketball history on Nov. 9, joining with Ohio State to play the first women's game ever on the deck of an aircraft carrier, as the teams squared off outdoors in the second annual Carrier Classic aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (on the shores of Charleston Harbor).

    The game was played to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project, which aids returning veterans who have been injured while in the service of our country, and the Fighting Irish were exceptionally proud and honored to have former Notre Dame guard, U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (`00) join the team on the bench for their historic game against Ohio State. Green lost her left (shooting) hand in May 2004 during a rocket-propelled grenade attack while on patrol on the roof of a police station in Baghdad, Iraq.

    Notre Dame won this year's Carrier Classic game, 57-51, behind the second career double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) from junior forward Natalie Achonwa and 16 points from junior guard Kayla McBride.

    Notre Dame Picked Second In 2012-13 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
    Following its second BIG EAST Conference regular-season title (and first outright championship) in 2011-12, Notre Dame was selected as the No. 2 team in the annual BIG EAST preseason women's basketball poll, according to a vote of the league's 15 head coaches released Oct. 18 during the 2012-13 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.

    Connecticut was the preseason BIG EAST favorite by the conference coaches, earning 194 total points, including 12 of a possible 15 first-place votes. Notre Dame was second, collecting 182 points along with the remaining three first-place votes. Louisville (167 points), St. John's (144 points) and Rutgers (143 points) rounded out the top five in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll, with league skippers not allowed to vote for their own teams or players.

    Diggins AP Preseason All-American/BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
    Even before the ball has been tossed for the first time in 2011-12, Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins already has been tapped for numerous accolades.

    Most notably, she was a unanimous choice for the Associated Press Preseason All-America Team, appearing on that squad for the second consecutive year. She is the first Fighting Irish player to garner AP Preseason All-America honors twice in her career.

    In addition, Diggins was chosen as the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, becoming the first Fighting Irish player to receive that accolade more than once. A year ago, Diggins followed up her preseason selection by earning BIG EAST Player of the Year honors at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

    Diggins also was a unanimous choice for the preseason all-conference team for the third consecutive year. What's more, she already has been named to the State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List, and is a prime candidate for all other major national honors in 2012-13.

    Last season, Diggins was a consensus first-team All-America selection (including her spot on the State Farm Coaches All-America Team, as selected by the WBCA), and she was a finalist for every major national player-of-the-year award, taking home the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard. She also was chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Year (the third Notre Dame player to be so honored and the first since 2005) and is a two-time unanimous first-team all-conference selection.

    Early in her senior season, Diggins already ranks among the top 10 on nine Fighting Irish statistical charts -- scoring average (4th - 15.2 ppg.), 20-point games (4th - 33), free throws made (4th - 421), free throws attempted (5th - 549), points (6th - 1,737), assists (6th - 522), steals (6th - 269), double-figure scoring games (6th - 89), double-doubles by a guard (6th - 6) and games started (9th - 108).

    Diggins currently needs 70 rebounds to become the first player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. She also is 274 points away from becoming the fourth 2,000-point scorer in school history, and she needs 585 points to catch current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham as the program's all-time leading scorer. In addition, Diggins is 79 steals away from assistant coach Niele Ivey's school record for career thefts, and Diggins even has an outside shot at the Fighting Irish all-time record for assists held by Mary Gavin, needing 256 helpers to reach the mark (Ivey is second, currently 205 ahead of Diggins).

    The Diggins Factor
    Notre Dame has posted a 96-18 (.842) record in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), a mark that can be traced in no small part to the arrival of guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a spot in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA national championship games and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 20-11 record against AP Top 25 teams (10-9 vs. the AP Top 10) and a 63-game winning streak against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll) from the start of the 2009-10 season before falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012 (now 68-1 vs. unranked teams).

    Upon closer examination, Notre Dame's 18 losses in Diggins' career primarily have been ones that could have gone either way, with 11 decided by single digits (six were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.

    With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted three of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 78.9 ppg. last year, after logging 77.0 ppg. in 2010-11, and 77.2 ppg. in her freshman season of 2009-10.

    In addition, thanks to Diggins' penchant for steals (she has a 2.36 spg. career mark that is fourth-best in school history), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top three single-season steal marks in program history with 502 thefts last year, 495 steals in 2010-11, and 450 thefts in 2009-10.

    The past two years also have seen Notre Dame post two of the four best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing a school-record 52.9 ppg., last season (well ahead of the previous mark of 55.1 ppg., in 1981-82) and giving up just 56.2 ppg., in 2010-11.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked No. 7 in the latest Associated Press poll, its 28th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting, dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season.

    The No. 7 ranking also marks the 98th 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 nearly all (48) of those appearances in the AP Top 10 (and never lower than 18th).

    This year's No. 7 preseason ranking also represented the 13th time in the past 14 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only seven schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 14 during that span, while Georgia, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 13 preseason AP poll berths.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 237 weeks during the program's 36-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks ninth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.

    In addition, the Fighting Irish are No. 6 in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, the same place they held in the preseason balloting.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 98 of the past 99 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 231 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    This marks the fifth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 11 of the past 15 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 32 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 237 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 32 people on this list, 15 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), 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 and 2012).

    Half And Half
    During the past 12 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 248-19 (.929) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 176 of their last 189 such contests (.931).

    What's more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 85-2 (.977) when leading at the half, with the only losses 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), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 18 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 259-15 (.945) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including last week's season opener against No. 19/21 Ohio State.

    ...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 18 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 168-6 (.966) 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, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.

    In the past four years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 45-2 (.957) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in 16 games last season and winning 14 times.

    Now That's A Home Court Advantage
    One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 221 of their last 249 games (.888) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 25 and 20 games in that span (the latter from 2011-12, ending Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia). Notre Dame also has a 120-20 (.857) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the `02 home finale.

    The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 103 of their last 111 non-BIG EAST contests (.928) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

    Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 371-89 (.807) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, a mark that lasted only two seasons before the Fighting Irish posted a 17-1 record at Purcell Pavilion last year.

    Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
    The past three 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 (8,571 fans per game in 2011-12) and most sellouts in a single season (eight in 2011-12). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    For the fourth consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out the Dec. 5 game with Baylor and March 4 Connecticut game.

    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, for the second consecutive season, Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games.

    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-Mishawaka-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains approximately 1.5 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 (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), returns for his fifth season in 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 22 regular season games televised during the 2012-13 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 15 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's sixth-ever appearance on network television, and third in as many years (Jan. 5 at Connecticut on CBS) and eight showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast (matching the most by any women's basketball program in the nation this season).

    In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the seventh consecutive season, all Fighting Irish home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.

    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 the Nov. 9 season opener against Ohio State in the Carrier Classic (televised live to a national audience on NBC Sports Network), Notre Dame has played in 235 televised games, including 179 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2012-13 season. Both players 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
    Now in its sixth season, Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion will once again look to send fans home with full bellies, offering 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 six-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 35 times, most recently in the Nov. 1 exhibition win over Edinboro.

    Sophomore forward Markisha Wright is the leader among current Fighting Irish players with three "Big Mac baskets", all coming during her rookie season of 2011-12.

    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"), 20 different players have converted the "burger ball", including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 35 Big Mac games, 16 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and six on three-pointers.

    Next Game: Mercer
    It's a quick turnaround for Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish play their second game in three days at 7 p.m. (ET) Tuesday when they welcome Mercer to Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame will be facing the Bears for the second consecutive season, having posted a record-setting 128-42 victory at Mercer last year, behind a career-high 24 points from current sophomore forward Markisha Wright and a perfect 8-for-8 shooting, 21-point night by senior All-America guard Skylar Diggins.

    Mercer (3-0) is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season, most recently dispatching Jacksonville State, 63-51 on Saturday afternoon in Macon, Ga. Sophomore guard Precious Bridges scored a game-high 18 points and sophomore guard Tabitha Bradshaw came off the bench to add in 16 points for the Bears, who have won all three of their games to date by 12 points or fewer.

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