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    Fighting Irish
    #5 Irish Head West For Thanksgiving, Visit #19/22 UCLA Friday

    FIGHTING IRISH Junior forward Natalie Achonwa is coming off her second double-double of the season (and third of her career), collecting a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday's win over Mercer.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Junior forward Natalie Achonwa is coming off her second double-double of the season (and third of her career), collecting a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday's win over Mercer.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 21, 2012

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    2012-13 ND Women's Basketball: Game 4
    #5/5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #19/22 UCLA Bruins (2-0 / 0-0 Pac-12)

    DATE: November 23, 2012
    TIME: Noon PT/3:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Los Angeles, Calif. - Pauley Pavilion (13,800)
    SERIES: UCLA leads 9-4
    1ST MTG: UCLA 50-45 (12/5/81)
    LAST MTG: UCLA 86-83, 2ot (11/18/10)
    TV: Pac-12 Networks (live) (Anne Marie Anderson, p-b-p / Ann Meyers Drysdale, color)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is facing its second ranked opponent of the year, marking the fifth consecutive season the Fighting Irish have played two Top 25 teams in November.
  • Notre Dame is 18-7 (.720) in its first post-Thanksgiving game during the Muffet McGraw era and has won its last five in a row (as well as seven of the past eight).
  • No. 5 Irish Head West For Thanksgiving, Visit No. 19/22 UCLA Friday
    While many Notre Dame fans may be venturing to southern California for a certain football game on Saturday night, the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish women's basketball team has its mind on other business, as Notre Dame travels to famed Pauley Pavilion at noon PT (3 p.m. ET) Friday to take on No. 19/22 UCLA in a game televised live to a regional audience on the Pac-12 Networks.

    The Fighting Irish (3-0) are coming off their second consecutive dominant home victory, leading wire-to-wire in a 93-36 pasting of Mercer on Tuesday night. Junior forward Natalie Achonwa led the way for Notre Dame, picking up her second double-double in three games with a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds in just 18 minutes. Freshman guard Jewell Loyd added a sparkling effort off the bench, piling up a season-high 19 points, six rebounds and season-best five assists in 19 minutes of action.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 5 in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • UCLA is No. 19 in this week's Associated Press poll and No. 22 in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Quick Hitters

  • With its No. 5 ranking in this week's Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media poll for 99 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 (49 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.
  • Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner have helped Notre Dame win 98 games to date, narrowly holding the most victories by a Fighting Irish class in its first 116 games, surpassing the one-player 2001-02 senior class of Ericka Haney, who was a part of 97 wins in the same number of career games, which came midway through her senior year (a run that was highlighted the 2001 national championship).
  • With 594 victories in her 26 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).
  • McGraw also is 18 wins away from becoming the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to amass 700 victories (and should she do so within the next 61 games, she would be the 11th to compile 700 victories in less than 1,000 games coached). What's more, when McGraw reaches the 700-win milestone, she will be the third BIG EAST Conference skipper to hit that landmark, along with C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • 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 412 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past three years), and is off to another hot start at the box office this year, averaging 8,720 fans per game. Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation (8,571), setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 178 of their last 180 home games (including an active streak of 21 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 26 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 20 in the past four seasons (a school-record eight in 2011-12). Notre Dame tipped off this year with its first home-opening sellout, packing the house for its Nov. 18 win over Massachusetts.
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as nine Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 12 seasons. Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with both going in the first round (Peters third overall to Minnesota; Novosel eighth overall to Washington) of the 2012 WNBA Draft. Last year's draft marked the first time Notre Dame has had two first-round picks in the same year, while Peters was the highest-drafted player (and first lottery selection) in program history. Ruth Riley (Chicago) was active in the league during the '12 season, helping the Sky contend for a playoff berth into the final weeks of the season. Three of Notre Dame's 10 all-time 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. Peters nearly joined that list in 2012, helping Minnesota return to the WNBA Finals, but the Lynx could not defend their title, falling to Indiana in four games.
  • 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 UCLA
    After an injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign, UCLA (2-0) appears to be headed back on the upswing this year, featuring a largely-healthy roster with nine returning letterwinners (including four starters), an early road win at a ranked opponent and a comfortable spot in the national polls (No. 19 AP/No. 22 ESPN-USA Today).

    The Bruins also should be well-rested coming into Friday's game with the Fighting Irish, having not seen action since an 86-80 win at No. 11 Oklahoma on Nov. 14. The Bruins led by as many as 18 points in the second half and crushed the Sooners on the boards, 56-34 to secure the win and a return to the Top 25.

    Senior guard/forward Markel Walker leads UCLA in scoring (15.5 ppg.), while senior forward Alyssia Brewer is averaging a double-double (13.5 ppg., 12.0 rpg.) after having one in the win over Oklahoma (15 points, 16 rebounds). Junior guard Thea Lemberger also is averaging double-digit points (11.5 ppg.) after a team-high 18 points at Oklahoma.

    Head coach Cori Close is in her second season at UCLA with a 16-16 record on the Bruins' bench. Friday will be her first career matchup against Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-UCLA Series
    Notre Dame and UCLA will be playing for the 14th time in series history on Friday afternoon, with the Bruins maintaining a 9-4 all-time lead against the Fighting Irish (5-1 at Pauley Pavilion). UCLA won its first five home games against Notre Dame before the Fighting Irish won on their most recent visit to Westwood in 1997.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And UCLA Met
    Darxia Morris scored five points in the second overtime and came up with a big steal to help No. 15 UCLA beat No. 12 Notre Dame, 86-83 on Nov. 18, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

    Jasmine Dixon had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Bruins, while Morris added 17 and Markel Walker chipped in 16.

    Skylar Diggins led Notre Dame with 22 points and Natalie Novosel tied her (then) career high with 19 points.

    Morris opened the second extra period with a three-pointer and Dixon had a basket as the Bruins went up 84-81.

    With the Fighting Irish trailing by one, Novosel missed two at the line with eight seconds left before Walker misfired on two at the other end.

    Notre Dame called timeout with 4.2 seconds remaining, but Morris stole the inbounds pass and hit two from the line. The Bruins finally wrapped it up when Diggins' long attempt was off at the buzzer.

    Novosel hit a follow-up shot with 8.9 seconds left in the first overtime to give the Fighting Irish a 79-77 lead, but UCLA got the ball down the floor and Dixon got a nice pass from Walker for a layup with 1.9 seconds remaining.

    Morris also sank a tying three-pointer with 8.8 seconds left in regulation. Diggins then missed a short shot just before the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

    UCLA reeled off eight straight points with Rebekah Gardner hitting a backdoor layup and Dixon driving for a banker to make it 58-51 with just under seven minutes remaining.

    The Fighting Irish rallied and finally tied it at 63 on Becca Bruszewski's basket. Novosel then added two buckets inside the final 1:15, but Notre Dame couldn't close the deal, as the Bruins kept their poise even when the noise at Notre Dame's home court grew louder.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And UCLA Met At Pauley Pavilion
    Sheila McMillen scored a career-high 29 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures as the Fighting Irish completed a two-game West Coast road trip with a 93-91 double-overtime victory over UCLA on Nov. 30, 1997. The win was the first-ever for a Notre Dame women's basketball team in fabled Pauley Pavilion.

    McMillen hit 9-of-13 from the field and 6-of-7 from three-point range, the latter tying the (then) school record for three-pointers made in a game.

    Kelley Siemon finished with a (then) career-high 20 points, going 4-for-7 from the floor and a school-record-tying 12-for-12 at the foul line (despite entering the game hitting just 52.6 percent from the charity stripe).

    Danielle Green recorded her second straight 19-point outing (8-14 FG) and led the Fighting Irish with nine rebounds, while Mollie Peirick had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists, scored all of her points in the second half.

    Notre Dame turned in a hot-shooting performance from the field and the line, making 23-of-26 foul shots (.885) and missing just eight shots in the second half and both overtimes (24-of-33, .727).

    The contest couldn't have been closer with 19 ties and 19 lead changes. The two teams were tied 28-28 at the half, 67-67 after regulation and 79-79 after the first overtime. No team led by more than five points in the second half.

    UCLA was led scoring by Melanie Pearson who came off the bench and finished with a career-high 30 points. She led five Bruins players in double figures. Marie Philman finished with 17 points, while Tawana Grimes added 15.

    Siemon hit two free throws to put the Fighting Irish up by three (67-64) with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, but UCLA forced overtime when Pearson hit an off-balance three-pointer at the horn.

    Green then missed an open shot in the lane at the end of the first overtime which would have given the Fighting Irish an 81-79 lead with just seconds to play. Instead, the two teams played on into another extra session.

    Siemon's two free throws in the second overtime made the score 93-90. Grimes was then fouled on the rebound of a UCLA missed shot and hit the second of two free throws to narrow the margin to 93-91 with 21 seconds to play.

    The Bruins then forced a Fighting Irish turnover with five seconds left and inbounded the ball under the UCLA basket. Philman took a pass into the frontcourt and fired from straight away at the top of the three-point circle. Her shot bounced off the front of the rim and Irish had their first-ever win at Pauley Pavilion.

    Other Notre Dame-UCLA Series Tidbits

  • Seven of the 13 games in the series have been decided by single digits, including three in overtime (two in double OT, half of the four double-overtime games in Notre Dame history).
  • Expect to see some offensive fireworks in this series, with the past three games featuring both teams topping the 80-point mark and at least one side doing so in the past five meetings.
  • Notre Dame is 24-15 (.615) all-time against teams from the state of California, including a 14-11 (.560) record away from home (road/neutral sites combined) and a 22-7 (.759) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). The Fighting Irish played two teams from the Golden State last year, defeating USC (80-58) at the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas, and eliminating California (73-62 in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame is making its first visit to the state of California since Nov. 24, 2006, when the Fighting Irish dropped a 69-58 decision to USC at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. Notre Dame last won in the Golden State on March 19, 2005, defeating Santa Barbara, 61-51, in the first round of the NCAA Championship at the Save Mart Center in Fresno. The Fighting Irish are 8-10 (.444) all-time when playing in the state of California, but have won seven of the last nine games they have played there.
  • UCLA defeated Notre Dame, 86-83 in double overtime on Nov. 18, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion, marking the last multiple-overtime game in program history (and one of only four in the 36-year tenure of Fighting Irish women's basketball).
  • The Notre Dame-UCLA men's basketball rivalry is arguably the most famous in NCAA history, punctuated by the memorable 71-70 Fighting Irish win over the Bruins on Jan. 19, 1974, at Purcell Pavilion (then known as the Joyce Center), snapping UCLA's record 88-game winning streak. Notre Dame's Dwight Clay hit the decisive shot in that victory from the deep right corner in front of the Fighting Irish bench with 29 seconds remaining -- at the time, the team benches were located on the north side of the court (currently where the broadcast tables sit), and the location of Clay's historic shot is now directly in front of the ramp leading to the Notre Dame women's basketball locker room.
  • Notre Dame vs. The Pac-12 Conference
    The Fighting Irish are 23-20 (.535) all-time against current Pac-12 Conference teams, with a 13-16 (.448) record away from home (road/neutral sites combined). Notre Dame also has won 20 of its last 27 games against Pac-12 schools since a 93-72 loss at UCLA in the first round of the 1992 NCAA Championship (in what was the first-ever NCAA tournament game for the Fighting Irish).

    Notre Dame went 2-0 against the Pac-12 last year, defeating USC in the regular season (80-58 at the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas) and California in the second round of the NCAA Championship (73-62 at Purcell Pavilion).

    Game #3 Recap: Mercer
    Natalie Achonwa scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead No. 5 Notre Dame to a 93-36 rout over Mercer on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion.

    Freshman Jewell Loyd added 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting for the Fighting Irish (3-0), who jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back, pushing it to 26-7 midway through the first half before taking a 48-12 lead at the break.

    The Bears resorted to fouling Achonwa and Ariel Braker in the post to try and stop the easy baskets, but the pair combined to hit 10 of 13 at the free throw line. Notre Dame outrebounded Mercer 52-27 and outscored the Bears 60-12 in the paint. Braker had 12 points and five rebounds.

    Notre Dame's aggressive defense forced 20 turnovers and the Fighting Irish shot nearly 54 percent (37 for 69).

    Tabitha Bradshaw scored 10 points to lead Mercer (3-1), which was limited to perimeter shot attempts and hit only 26 percent (15 of 58) from the field.

    Beyond The Box Score: Mercer

  • Notre Dame posted its largest margin of victory (57 points) since Jan. 17, 2012 (120-44 over Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Mercer's 36 points were the fewest allowed by the Fighting Irish in a home game since Dec. 28, 2011 (92-26 over Longwood).
  • This was the 14th time in the past four years (2009-10 to present) Notre Dame held its opponent to fewer than 40 points in a game, and the 40th time in that same span it held the opposition to fewer than 50 points.
  • At the same time, this was Notre Dame's 36th win by at least 30 points and its 23rd 90-point game in the past four seasons, covering a stretch of 116 games.
  • The Fighting Irish shot 69 percent (20-of-29) from the field in the second half, their best shooting percentage in a single half since Feb. 5, 2012, when they connected at a .719 clip (23-of-32) in the first half against No. RV/23 DePaul at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame's 52 rebounds and +25 rebound margin are its best since Jan. 31, 2012 (52-24 edge at No. 13/14 Rutgers).
  • Achonwa registered her second double-double of the season and third of her career, while posting the first 20-point, 10-rebound game for a Notre Dame player since March 27, 2012, when Skylar Diggins had a triple-double (22 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) against No. 5 Maryland in the NCAA Raleigh Regional final.
  • Achonwa scored a career-high 22 points, two more than her previous best that she set on Dec. 4, 2011, at Creighton.
  • Loyd scored a season-high 19 points and added a season-best five assists en route to her first career "5-5-5" game.
  • Diggins logged the 30th "5-5-5" game of her career, and took sole possession of fifth place on Notre Dame's all-time steals list (276).
  • Braker and senior guard Kaila Turner earned their first career starts, meaning eight of the 11 players on the Fighting Irish roster have started at least once in the first three games.
  • Braker made the most of her debut in the lineup, collecting career highs for points, assists, field goals made and attempted.
  • Sophomore forward Markisha Wright had 11 points for her fifth career double-digit scoring night and first since the Jan. 17, 2012, win over Pittsburgh.
  • Achonwa and Loyd were the first "point-a-minute" scorers for Notre Dame since the Feb. 5, 2012, win over No. RV/23 DePaul, when Achonwa had 16 points in 14 minutes.
  • The Jan. 17, 2012 Pittsburgh game was the last time two Fighting Irish players pulled off that feat on the same night (Devereaux Peters 20 points in 18 minutes; Achonwa 19 points in 17 minutes).
  • Notre Dame had its 21st consecutive regular-season home game drawing 8,000 fans or more, and 178th time in the past 180 Purcell Pavilion games the Fighting Irish have had at least 5,000 fans in attendance.
  • Diggins Challenging School Records
    Throughout the 2012-13 season, senior guard Skylar Diggins will continue to close the gap that separates her from the highest eschelon of Notre Dame women's basketball players in a number of the program's top career categories. Here's a look at just a few of the notable milestones Diggins will have a shot to reach this season:

  • Diggins (438 rebounds) is 62 rebounds away to become the first women's basketball player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. Only one Notre Dame men's basketball player has ever compiled that impressive combination of statistics (Chris Thomas from 2001-05).
  • Diggins (1,759 points) is 241 points away from becoming the fourth 2,000-point scorer in school history, and she needs 563 points to catch current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham as the program's all-time leading scorer. On the way to both marks, Diggins can move into the top five on the Notre Dame career scoring list on Friday, just four points shy of catching sharpshooting All-America guard Alicia Ratay (1999-2003) for the No. 5 spot.
  • In addition, Diggins (276 steals) is 72 steals away from assistant coach Niele Ivey's school record for career thefts. Diggins also is closing in on third place on the Fighting Irish all-time steals list, needing five thefts to catch the co-holders of the No. 3 spot on the chart -- Mary Gavin (1984-88) and Ashley Barlow (2006-10).
  • Diggins (535 assists) has an outside shot at the Fighting Irish all-time record for assists held by Gavin, needing 243 helpers to reach the mark (Ivey is second, currently 192 ahead of Diggins). Diggins also is nearing the top five in this category, currently ranking sixth, just 19 behind Coquese Washington (1989-93).
  • The Best Things In Life Are Free
    Though it's quite early in the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame already is displaying an early penchant for making opponents pay at the free throw line.

    Through their first three games, the Fighting Irish are shooting a remarkable .846 (55-of-65) from the charity stripe, including a season-high .905 (19-of-21) in their Nov. 18 home-opening win over Massachusetts.

    Last year, Notre Dame set a school record by connecting at a .763 clip from the foul line, leading the BIG EAST with a stellar .807 percentage during conference play.

    Junior guard Kayla McBride has had the most success cashing in on this strategy during the past two seasons, shooting .872 from the stripe last year (a league-leading .919 in BIG EAST games) and making all five of her free throws so far this season.

    For her career, McBride has logged an .875 free throw percentage, moving slightly ahead of Alicia Ratay's .872 school-record mark from 1999-2003.

    Anchors Aweigh
    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, who 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, delivered an inspiring pre-game speech to the current Fighting Irish squad before they came out to face Ohio State.

    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. After the game, head coach Muffet McGraw said the victory was dedicated to Green.

    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.

    The Diggins Factor
    Notre Dame has posted a 98-18 (.845) 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 70-1 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 2.38 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. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll, its 29th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting, dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season.

    The No. 5 ranking also marks the 99th 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 (49) 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 238 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 up to No. 5 in this week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, up on spot from the place they held in the preseason balloting.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 99 of the past 100 weeks (and 63 in a row), 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 232 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 238 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 250-19 (.929) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 178 of their last 191 such contests (.932).

    What's more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 87-2 (.978) 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 261-15 (.946) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including all three outings so far this season.

    ...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 170-6 (.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 47-2 (.959) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in their last two outings.

    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 223 of their last 251 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).

    Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 50-4 (.926) -- including wins in 26 of their last 27 home games -- and three of the four Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).

    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 105 of their last 113 non-BIG EAST contests (.929) 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 373-89 (.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.

    Notre Dame got its home slate off to a fine start at the box office on Nov. 18, welcoming the first home-opening sellout in school history for its victory over Massachusetts. That capacity crowd also was the 26th in the program's 36-year tenure, including the 20th in the past four years alone.

    The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,720 fans through their first two home games of 2012-13.

    While some individual tickets may be made available on the day or week of the game for selected 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 sellout 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, the Notre Dame women's basketball radio footprint 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 around the world 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), is in his fifth 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 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 Tuesday's win over Mercer (streamed live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 237 televised games, including 181 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.

    Coming Soon: Irish in the ACC
    On Sept. 12, 2012, the University of Notre Dame announced that it had accepted an offer of admission into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for all sports except football (the league does not offer championships in ice hockey or fencing).

    The change in conference affiliation (for which a timetable has not yet been established) will be the first for Notre Dame since 1995, when the Fighting Irish moved from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) to the BIG EAST Conference.

    In its 18 seasons in the BIG EAST, the Notre Dame women's basketball program has been the one of the conference's best, winning two BIG EAST regular-season titles (2001 and 2012) and compiling a 216-64 (.771) record in league play that remains the second-best regular-season winning percentage in BIG EAST women's basketball history.

    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 37 times, most recently on Tuesday against Mercer.

    Junior forward Ariel Braker, senior guard Kaila Turner and sophomore forward Markisha Wright are the leaders among current Fighting Irish players, with all three players having registered three "Big Mac baskets" during their respective careers.

    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 37 Big Mac games, 17 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and seven on three-pointers.

    Next Game: Central Michigan
    Notre Dame returns to the Midwest, but is back on the road for its next outing at 7 p.m. (ET) Nov. 29, when the Fighting Irish head up to Mount Pleasant, Mich., to tangle with Central Michigan at McGuirk Arena.

    CMU (1-2) has opened the season with three consecutive road games, winning at Bradley before falling at Northwestern and Green Bay. The Chippewas tip off their home slate Friday night when they welcome South Dakota State to town in their final game before meeting Notre Dame next week.

    -- ND --
     

     

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