Nov. 17, 2012
#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
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets
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.
Other Notre Dame Notables
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
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 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.
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.