Nov. 21, 2009
DATE: November 22, 2009
#5/6 Irish Back Home For Sunday Matinee Against Iona
The Irish passed their first road test of the season on Thursday with a 68-67 victory at MSU, as senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow hit the tiebreaking free throw with 10 seconds left and the Notre Dame defense held fast on the final Spartan possession for the win.
Barlow finished with a team-high 18 points and seven rebounds, while fellow senior guard and tri-captain Lindsay Schrader chipped in with a record-setting 12th career double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds).
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Setting the tone for the Irish will be a trio of senior captains, including returning all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow, both of whom also were tabbed for this year's preseason all-conference team. Schrader was a first-team all-BIG EAST pick last season after piling up career bests of 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. In addition, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a new single-season school record for guards, and now has 12 career double-doubles, tying the mark for guards set by current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey from 1996-2001.
Meanwhile, Barlow led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per game, and also logged 70 steals (2.4 spg.), making her only the fourth player in school history to record 60+ steals in three consecutive seasons. The Indianapolis native also made an early statement about her intentions this season, notching a team-high 13.0 ppg. with a .727 three-point percentage (8-11) and .577 field goal percentage during Notre Dame's three-game, 11-day European tour in May 2009.
Completing this leadership triumverate is point guard Melissa Lechlitner. As a first-year starter in 2008-09, Lechlitner averaged personal bests of 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, driving the Irish offense with a steady hand.
Another first-year starter who made huge strides last season was junior forward Becca Bruszewski. The Valparaiso product doubled her averages in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.), while honing a reliable three-point shot to the tune of a team-high .375 percentage from beyond the arc.
Not to be overlooked are a pair of returning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks in rapidly-maturing sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (6.9 ppg., 45 steals in 2008-09) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (6.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.2 bpg.), as well as their classmates in forward Kellie Watson (3.8 ppg., 28 3FGM) and Fraderica Miller (0.7 ppg., 0.7 spg.).
In addition, Notre Dame could get a significant boost this year from incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins, a three-time high school All-American from South Bend's Washington High School, who averaged 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during her prep career. The other Irish rookie guard, Kaila Turner of Joliet, Ill., has incredible upside as well, having twice earned all-state honors at Marian Catholic High School.
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
A Quick Look At Iona
Following a split of their opening-weekend Iona Tipoff Tournament, the Gaels most recently dispatched visiting Pacific, 76-54 on Friday afternoon. Redshirt senior center Anna McLean owned the paint with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while senior guard Thazina Cook highlighted a potent perimeter attack with 15 points, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Iona knocked down 10-of-20 three-pointers in the win, using a 24-6 game-ending run to put away the Tigers.
McLean leads the Gaels in scoring (16.7 ppg.), rebounding (13.0 rpg.) and field goal pecentage (.553) this season, while Cook is second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and rebounding (8.0 rpg.), and tops in three-point percentage (.412). Junior point guard Suzi Fregosi also is one to watch, with 6.3 assists per game and a sharp 6.3 assist/turnover ratio.
Head coach Anthony Bozzella is in his eighth season at Iona with a 92-123 (.428) record. Including prior stops at Southhampton College and Long Island University, Bozzella sports a 246-254 (.492) record in 17-plus seasons on the sidelines. He is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Iona Series
The teams first played on Dec. 19, 1980, in the first round of the Penn Holiday Tournament in Philadelphia, with Notre Dame edging the Gaels, 69-65. Janice Crowe paced the Irish with a double-double, tallying 20 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
Nearly a quarter century later, the series resumed, with Notre Dame pulling away in the second half for a 74-55 win over Iona on Nov. 29, 2005 at the former Joyce Center.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Iona Met
Duffy scored 13 of her 21 points during a decisive 16-4 run early in the second half, pacing 11th-ranked Notre Dame to a 74-55 victory over Iona, giving the absent McGraw her career 504th victory.
Duffy, who was just 2-of-10 shooting in the first half, hit a three-pointer early in the second half to get the Irish (5-0) and herself going. She hit her next four shots as well, including a pair of three-pointers, to extend Notre Dame's lead to 52-36.
"I just had to keep being aggressive," Duffy said. "I missed a few shots in the first half, good shots, wide open, and (my coaches) told me to stay aggressive."
The Irish (5-0) led by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Gaels (2-1) scored the first two baskets of the second half to cut the lead to 36-32. That's when Duffy got the Irish going.
"Our goal was obviously to have Notre Dame shoot the ball from the outside," Iona coach Anthony Bozzella said. "That was our plan and certainly at that point Duffy said, `I'll shoot it' and made a few which opened it up. It forced us out of a couple of things we wanted to do defensively."
Toni Horvath led the Gaels with 14 points and Martina Weber had 11 points and nine rebounds, although she had just two points and two rebounds in the second half.
"Part of it was fatigue. Part of it was good defense," Bozzella said.
Other Notre Dame-Iona Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The MAAC
In addition to the 74-55 Irish win at home over Iona in 2005-06 (recapped earlier in this notes package), Notre Dame downed Canisius, 93-47, on Nov. 27, 2007, also at the former Joyce Center.
The only other MAAC team to visit South Bend has been Loyola (Md.), which dropped an 84-49 decision to the Irish on Dec. 21, 1991. Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time against both the Greyhounds and Iona, as well as 1-0 against both Canisius and Fairfield.
Curiously, of the six previous Irish encounters with the MAAC, only the first Iona contest (Dec. 19, 1980 --a 69-65 Notre Dame win in Philadelphia at the Penn Holiday Tournament) took place prior to the arrival of Irish head coach Muffet McGraw in 1987.
Empire (State) Records
Coincidentally, those two squads also account for all four New York wins over the Irish (two for each school).
November To Remember
Notre Dame also owns an active 10-game winning streak that started on Nov. 20, 2007 with a 94-41 victory at Central Michigan. That win came four days after a 75-59 loss at third-ranked Maryland in the Preseason WNIT semifinals.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
This week's ranking also marks the 40th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with their No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 being the highest ever for Notre Dame, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10) with that No. 4 preseason ranking being the highest for the program since the week of Jan. 4, 2005, when the Irish also rose to fourth following a 12-1 start and the 2004 Preseason WNIT title.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 180 weeks during the program's 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 12th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish rose one spot to sixth in the latest ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. It's the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches' poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their current ranking, the Irish now have appeared in the coaches' poll for 172 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 180 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 rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #2 Recap: Michigan State
Barlow scored 18 points and hit a tiebreaking free throw with 10 seconds left, lifting the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish to a 68-67 victory over No. 21 Michigan State on Thursday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
The Spartans had a chance to win after Barlow's late foul shot, but Aisha Jefferson missed a jumper from the lane with four seconds to go.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw wasn't happy with ill-timed turnovers, sketchy shot selection and occasional lapses on defense. But she liked her team's character at crunch time.
"I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping our poise down the stretch," McGraw said.
Allyssa DeHaan led Michigan State (1-2) with 20 points.
Michigan State trailed 45-35 when DeHaan, a 6-foot-9 senior, limped off the court with an apparent ankle injury early in the second half. The Spartans, sparked by their defense and forcing turnovers, went on a 15-2 tear immediately afterward to grab a 50-47 lead with 11:52 remaining.
DeHaan returned and increased Michigan State's lead to 56-51 with a basket with about 10 minutes to go.
"She showed a lot of heart to come back," coach Suzy Merchant said.
But the Irish (2-0) regained the lead with an 8-0 run capped by Erica Williamson's layup with 8:41 left.
Michigan State tied the score at 67 on a free throw by Porsche Poole with 55 seconds left.
A foul by Michigan State after a missed free throw by the Irish put Notre Dame in the double bonus. Barlow missed her first free throw with 10 seconds left, but sank her second opportunity to put the Irish in front.
"I was confident I was going to make the first one, and it didn't go in," Barlow said. "But I didn't hang my head."
Lindsay Schrader had 12 points and 14 rebounds for Notre Dame.
Lykendra Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Michigan State.
Michigan State started the season ranked 10th in The Associated Press poll. The Spartans fell after losing their season opener at Dayton.
Michigan State bounced back to win at Detroit last Sunday. But on Tuesday, the Spartans lost sophomore forward Courtney Schiffauer for the season with a right knee injury sustained in practice.
Schiffauer started one of the first two games this season for the Spartans, leading the team in scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounds (7.5 per game).
Notre Dame opened its season last Sunday with a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Noting The Michigan State Game
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Barlow currently ranks 20th in school history with 1,140 career points, while Schrader is 22nd with 1,080 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 718 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
McGraw Set To Join Elite ND Club
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only current members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
Notre Dame Picked Second In 2009-10 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
The Fighting Irish picked up 210 points and one first-place vote in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points. DePaul and reigning NCAA runner-up Louisville shared the third spot in the BIG EAST preseason poll with 171 points, while Pittsburgh rounded out the top five with 167 points.
Trio Of Irish Earn 2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
Schrader, a two-time all-conference selection, garnered first-team recognition last year after averaging career highs of 12.6 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game with a .463 field goal percentage. What's more, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a single-season school record for guards, and giving her 11 career double-doubles, one behind current assistant coach Niele Ivey for the Notre Dame all-time record for guards in that category.
Meanwhile, Barlow is another returning two-time all-BIG EAST honoree, having copped second-team laurels a season ago with a team-high 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, as well as a career-high .364 three-point percentage. Barlow is one of only four players in school history to record at least 60 steals in three consecutive seasons (she had a career-high 70 thefts last year) and she and Schrader both are members of Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Club -- Barlow is 20th in program history with 1,107 points, while Schrader is 23rd all-time with 1,057 points.
In addition to the preseason accolades for the two Fighting Irish veterans, rookie guard Skylar Diggins was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year, according to the league's head coaches. Diggins was the consensus 2008-09 national high school player of the year, and also was named the `08-09 Gatorade National High School Female Athlete of the Year (for all sports) during a ceremony held just prior to the ESPY Awards this past summer in Los Angeles.
Diggins averaged 29.0 points and 6.3 assists per game as a senior last season, leading Washington High School to the cusp of the Indiana Class 4A title and the mythical prep national championship before a last-second loss in the final. She went on to earn MVP honors at both the McDonald's and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Games (joining former Tennessee guard Alexis Hornbuckle as the only players ever to pull off that double) and she was a co-captain on the 2009 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, back in August.
Irish Enjoy Successful '09 European Tour
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
Notre Dame has led at the break in both of its games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame added another tally on this ledger in its season opener with a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion.
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame easily eclipsed the 80-point mark in its season-opening 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 77 of their last 84 non-BIG EAST contests (.917) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the 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 two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 324-85 (.792) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02.
The Irish have posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped Notre Dame win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
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. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 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 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 All-Access multimedia 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 second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 139 televised games, including 87 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Next Game: San Diego State
The Irish will open up on Thanksgiving Day (a program first) at 3:15 p.m. ET (4:15 p.m. local) against reigning Mountain West Conference regular-season champion San Diego State. The Aztecs were 2-0 this season heading into their matchup with visiting Arizona on Saturday night, SDSU's final contest before heading to the Paradise Jam.
Notre Dame also will play South Carolina (Friday) and No. 20/16 Oklahoma (Saturday) during its trip to the Caribbean.