Nov. 21, 2012
#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
No. 5 Irish Head West For Thanksgiving, Visit No. 19/22 UCLA Friday
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.
Other Notre Dame Notables
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
The Last Time Notre Dame And UCLA Met
Jasmine Dixon had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Bruins, while Morris added 17 and Markel Walker chipped in 16.
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
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
Notre Dame vs. The Pac-12 Conference
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
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
Diggins Challenging School Records
The Best Things In Life Are Free
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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...
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
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
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
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
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
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
Coming Soon: Irish in the ACC
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
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
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.