Nov. 22, 2008
#15/15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Boston College Eagles (3-0 / 0-0 ACC)
DATE: November 23, 2008
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Chestnut Hill, Mass - Conte Forum (8,606)
SERIES: ND leads 11-5
1ST MTG: BC 59-55 (12/30/83)
LAST MTG: ND 88-58 (11/24/07)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (617) 552-4622
Former Conference Foes Collide As No. 15 Irish Visit Boston College
The ties that bind will bring Notre Dame back to face a second consecutive former conference opponent as the 15th-ranked Irish square off with former BIG EAST rival Boston College Sunday at 2 p.m. (ET) inside Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass. It will be Notre Dame's first visit back to the BC campus since the Eagles departed for the Atlantic Coast Conference four seasons ago.
The Irish (2-0) picked up their second win in as many outings this year, leading almost all the way in a 96-61 victory over Evansville on Wednesday night at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame used a 22-6 run midway through the first half to put the game on ice, with the frenetic Irish defense once again leading the way with 31 turnovers (cashed in for 41 points on the offensive end).
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Boston College
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Sylvia Crawley and the leadership of two rapidly-developing post players in Stefanie Murphy and Carolyn Swords, Boston College has its sights set on growing from last year's third-round appearance in the WNIT and bringing the Eagles' program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
BC is off to a 3-0 start in the Crawley era, having posted comfortable double-digits wins over Saint Francis (Pa.) (99-68), Holy Cross (82-69) and Hofstra (71-60) during the first week of the season. In those three victories, the Eagles have done a good part of their damage in the paint, outrebounding their opponents by more than 13 boards per game (45.3-32.0) and shooting .466 from the field.
However, Boston College is far from a one-trick pony, as Thursday's win over Hofstra proved. Junior guard Mickel Picco and Ayla Brown tallied a game-high 16 points apiece, with Picco hitting 4-of-6 three-point tries and Brown adding seven rebounds. Swords complemented the backcourt pair with 14 points and nine rebounds, coming on the heels of a dominating 33-point, 15-rebound effort in the win at Holy Cross.
Swords is averaging a double-double through those first three games, registering 21.7 points and 10.0 rebounds a night on .750 shooting (30-of-40). Picco is second on the team in scoring (15.3 ppg.) with a team-best .467 three-point percentage (7-of-15), while Murphy is logging 11.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Crawley was hired at Boston College during the offseason after a successful two-year run at the helm of Ohio University. While in Athens, Ohio, she led the Bobcats to a 38-25 (.603) record, including a berth in the '08 Mid-American Conference Tournament championship game, the first for OU in 22 years. Crawley will face Notre Dame for the first time as a head coach on Sunday afternoon.
The Notre Dame-Boston College Series
Notre Dame holds an 11-5 series lead on Boston College (3-4 in Chestnut Hill) in a rivalry that dates back to the 1983-84 season. The vast majority of the games in the series (13 of 16) were played when the Irish and Eagles were members of the BIG EAST Conference from 1995-96 through 2004-05. In that time, Notre Dame went 10-3 against BC, including a 3-3 record at Conte Forum.
This year's game is the third in four years for the Irish and Eagles since Boston College joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. The teams split the previous two encounters, with BC winning 78-61 in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament (at West Lafayette, Ind.), and Notre Dame prevailing by an 88-58 score last year at the Joyce Center. Sunday's game is the back half of a regular-season home-and-home series between the two most prominent Catholic Division I institutions in the country.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Boston College Met
Notre Dame knocked Boston College out of its game plan with a pressing defense, forcing the Eagles into 33 turnovers.
The No. 23/24 Fighting Irish (4-1) got 41 points off the turnovers en route to an 88-58 victory on Nov. 24, 2007, at the Joyce Center. The Irish opened a 10-point lead in less than five minutes and the Eagles never got any closer.
Stefanie Murphy led the Eagles (2-2) with 18 points and Carolyn Swords added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Allen scored six points to help Notre Dame take a 14-4 lead as Boston College struggled against full-court pressure, turning the ball over four times in the first five minutes. The Irish went ahead 38-20 when Mallory hit a three-pointer with 4:13 left in the second half and led 46-30 at the half.
The Eagles scored two quick baskets by Murphy and Mickel Picco to start the second half and cut Notre Dame's lead to 46-34. However, the Irish defense quickly forced four turnovers, sparking a 9-0 run to regain control.
Other ND-Boston College Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Atlantic Coast Conference
Notre Dame is 39-17 (.696) all-time against the current alignment of the Atlantic Coast Conference, with a 14-10 (.583) record on the campus of current ACC members.
Not surprisingly, the three most common ACC opponents are th three schools that migrated from the BIG EAST to the ACC in the past few years -- Boston College (11-5), Miami-Fla. (14-3) and Virginia Tech (5-1). Take that trio out of the mix and Notre Dame is 9-8 all-time against the other longer-tenured ACC schools.
The Irish faced a pair of ACC squads last season, falling 75-59 at Maryland in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT (Nov. 16, 2007), but coming back eight days later to defeat Boston College, 88-58 at the Joyce Center.
The last time Notre Dame visited an ACC school other than one of the three recent transplants was almost 11 years ago to the day on Nov. 22, 1997, when the Irish fell at Duke, 80-62.
Piping Hot Turnovers
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again early this year, causing 49 turnovers (24.5 per game) in its first two outings, including 31 in the home opener vs. Evansville on Wednesday night. The majority of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 29 thefts (14.5 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
The Upper Hand
In its first two games of the season, Notre Dame has trailed for all of 1:09 and not by more than one possession. LSU had a 20-18 lead on the visiting Irish at the 4:46 mark of the first half on Nov. 16 (State Farm Tip-Off Classic) before senior guard Lindsay Schrader answered with a layup on the ensuing possession.
On Wednesday night, Evansville scored the opening points of the game on an old-fashioned three-point play, but sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski erased that deficit 45 seconds later with a three-pointer.
Becca's A Bruiser
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski showed a hint of the promise to come late last season, chalking up a (then) career-high 16 points in two of her three NCAA Tournament games (first round vs. SMU, regional semifinal vs. Tennessee).
That improvement has carried over into this season, as the Valparaiso, Ind., native has earned her way into the Irish starting lineup and has not disappointed. On Wednesday against Evansville, she poured in a career-best 18 points, knocking down 7-of-9 shots from the field, including both of her three-point attempts. The latter statistic was particularly noteworthy, considering she was just 1-of-2 from beyond the arc during her entire freshman season.
Game #2 Recap: Evansville
Junior guard Ashley Barlow scored 19 points and No. 15 Notre Dame's defense forced 31 turnovers in a 96-61 victory over Evansville on Wednesday night at the Joyce Center.
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added a career-high 18 points in the home opener for the Irish (2-0). Ashley Austin, Anaris Sickles and Ashlee Barrett each scored 10 points to lead the Purple Aces (1-1).
UE had eight turnovers in the first eight minutes, and Notre Dame used a 15-3 run early in the first half to jump out to a 27-10 lead. The Irish increased their lead to 22 points with 7:20 left in the half following an 11-0 run. The Purple Aces had 16 turnovers in the first half, and Notre Dame increased its 49-31 halftime lead to 30 points with 6:55 to play after a 13-2 run.
Noting The Evansville Game
Notre Dame is ranked 15th in this week's Associated Press poll, up one spot from its preseason ranking. It's the 22nd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, which opened last season at No. 24 and rose as high as ninth on March 3, marking the eight time in the past 12 seasons (1996-97 through 2007-08) that the Irish have reached the AP Top 10.
Notre Dame also has been ranked in the AP poll for 161 weeks during the program's 32-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 22nd consecutive ranking in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, placing 15th this week (down one spot from the preseason balloting). Notre Dame ended last year at No. 13, its highest ranking of the 2007-08 season, and has appeared in the coaches' poll for 153 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 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 161 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 23 people on this list, 11 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Irish Fourth In BIG EAST Preseason Poll
The Notre Dame women's basketball team has been projected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference this season, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches that was announced during the 2008 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day on Oct. 23 at the ESPN Zone in New York City.
The Irish collected 182 points, with Connecticut (14 first-place votes, 224 points), Rutgers (one first-place vote, 201 points) and Louisville (one first-place vote, 200 points) joining Notre Dame in the top four.
In addition, senior guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as a Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection, one of 14 players to garner preseason all-conference status. Schrader averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game last season while scoring in double figures 21 times.
A 2008 honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection, Schrader is one of three starters and seven monogram winners back for the Irish from last year's 25-9 club that finished fourth in the BIG EAST and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons.
Half And Half
During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 147-14 (.913) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 75 of their last 83 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 1-0 when up at the break, doing so in Wednesday's home opener against Evansville. Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 Irish have an amazing 185-12 (.939) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame added its first tally of the season to this ledger with its seaso-opening 62-53 win at LSU in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16.
...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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 115-4 (.966) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame notched its first 80-point game of the season in Wednesday's 96-61 win over Evansville. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
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 Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 163 of their last 184 games (.886) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 93-15 (.861) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 72 of their last 78 non-BIG EAST contests (.923) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- 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 313-82 (.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.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 19 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including four games on the ESPN family of networks (beginning with the Nov. 16 State Farm Tip-Off Classic win at LSU, which aired on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com) and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, 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 117 televised games, including 67 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the second annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
Notre Dame's Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year's NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.
All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its "Big Mac" promotion for 2008-09, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a game.
It hasn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame topped the 88-point mark in both its lone exhibition game (96-30 win over Gannon on Nov. 5) and its regular-season opener (96-61 win over Evansville on Wednesday night).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition win and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
The Final Countdown
Less than 500 tickets remain for the Dec. 7 game with in-state rival Purdue at the Joyce Center (2 p.m. ET tipoff). Should that allotment be exhausted, it would represent the sixth women's basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons.
Last year, Notre Dame sold out its games against Tennessee and Connecticut, and nearly did the same for the Michigan contest, drawing 10,825 fans for that game.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first 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, 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 Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project 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.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: Georgia Southern
It's a quick turnaround for Notre Dame as the Irish return home Tuesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) non-conference game with Georgia Southern at the Joyce Center. It will mark the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and the Eagles in women's basketball.
GSU (2-1) opened this season with wins at home over Brewton-Parker (93-44) and on the road at Florida Atlantic (83-67) before falling at home to 20th-ranked Auburn, 71-45, on Wednesday night. The Eagles were slated to host to UNC-Asheville Saturday afternoon.