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    Fighting Irish
    #4/3 Irish Head to Bahamas Over Thanksgiving To Play In Junkanoo Jam

    FIGHTING IRISH Senior guard Natalie Novosel scored a career-high 28 points in Sunday's loss at top-ranked Baylor.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Senior guard Natalie Novosel scored a career-high 28 points in Sunday's loss at top-ranked Baylor.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 22, 2011

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    2011-12 ND Women's Basketball: Game 5
    Junkanoo Jam -- First Round
    #4/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. USC Trojans (1-2 / 0-0 Pac-12)

    DATE: November 25, 2011
    TIME: 5:45 p.m. ET
    AT: Freeport, Bahamas - St. Georges High School (1,200)
    SERIES: ND leads 7-2
    1ST MTG: USC 69-53 (1/2/85)
    LAST MTG: USC 69-58 (11/24/06)
    WEBCAST: America One Sports (PPV-live)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p) LIVE STATS: TBA
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame heads to the Caribbean for the second time in three years, having won the 2009 Paradise Jam (Island Division) championship in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • The Fighting Irish are 21-13 (.618) all-time in their first game after Thanksgiving, including a 17-7 (.708) record under 25th-year head coach Muffet McGraw.
  • No. 4/3 Fighting Irish Head To Bahamas For Junkanoo Jam
    Following a runner-up finish in the Preseason WNIT, No. 4/3 Notre Dame goes international this weekend, visiting the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam. The Fighting Irish open tournament play at 5:45 p.m. (ET) Friday against USC at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas, with the game to be webcast live on a pay-per-view basis by America One Sports.

    Notre Dame (3-1) took its first loss of the season on Sunday, dropping a hard-fought 94-81 decision at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT title game. The Fighting Irish led for much of the opening 10 minutes, then rallied back to within a point midway through the second half before the hosts pulled away down the stretch.

    Senior guard Natalie Novosel scored a career-high 28 points, and junior guard Skylar Diggins added a season-best 27 points to pace a potent Notre Dame attack.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 4 in the current Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • USC is receiving votes in the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Quick Hitters

  • For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame is playing in multiple tournaments, having just finished second in the Preseason WNIT. The Fighting Irish have won 29 of their last 33 regular-season tournament games, dating back to the 1996-97 season, and have collected eight tournament titles in that span, including the 2009 Paradise Jam (Island Division) championship in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Notre Dame is ranked No. 4 in this week's Associated Press poll, and is No. 3 in the newest ESPN/USA Today survey, marking the third consecutive week the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls. It's the second time in three seasons that Notre Dame has spent at least three weeks in a row as a consensus top-five team (the Fighting Irish were in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 5 for 11 consecutive weeks from Dec. 7, 2009-Feb. 22, 2010).
  • With this week's No. 4 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 80 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 more than half that time (42 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • With 559 victories in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw is third 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) and men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87). McGraw passed baseball skipper Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) with her squad's 98-43 win over Hartford on Nov. 17.
  • McGraw also is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women's sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men's/women's track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame -- Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men's swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men's tennis).
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fifth with 377 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,322 fans per home game after the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans a night. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 161 of their last 163 home games, logging 17 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Feb. 26, 2011, vs. Cincinnati).
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 11 seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the '11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame's eight 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.
  • For the fifth 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, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor's degree (a 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.
  • A Quick Look At USC
    After an encouraging run at the end of last season, capped by a berth in the title game of the postseason WNIT, USC has its sights set on bigger things in 2011-12, led by an experienced returning crew of four starters and eight letterwinners.

    The Trojans (1-2) are the midst of a month-long stretch that will see them play eight of nine games on the road, including six east of the Rocky Mountains. USC began that run last week with trips to Nebraska (lost 68-50) and No. 12/11 Georgia (lost 67-60), following a season-opening 65-57 win at home over Fresno State.

    Senior guard Briana Gilbreath leads the Trojans in scoring (16.3 ppg.) and blocked shots (4.0 bpg.), while redshirt senior guard Jacki Gemelos is second in scoring (12.7 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (10.0 rpg.), assists (3.0 apg.) and three-point percentage (.444). Sophomore forward Cassie Harberts (10.7 ppg., 7.0 rpg.) adds muscle in the post, while senior guard Ashley Corral (7.0 ppg., .333 3FG%, team-high 1.7 3FG/game) offers veteran punch on the perimeter.

    Head coach Michael Cooper is in his third season at USC with a 44-27 (.620) record. The former five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and former coach of the two-time WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks will be coaching against Notre Dame for the first time in his career.

    The Notre Dame-USC Series
    Notre Dame and USC will be playing for the 10th time in series history on Friday night, with the Fighting Irish holding a 7-2 edge against the Trojans. The teams squared off annually beginning in 1999-2000, but have not met since the 2006-07 season, when USC snapped a seven-game series losing streak to Notre Dame with a 69-58 victory at the new Galen Center in Los Angeles.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And USC Met
    Despite a game effort and a relentless defense that forced 27 turnovers, Notre Dame dropped a 69-58 decision at USC on Nov. 24, 2006, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The Fighting Irish played from behind virtually the entire evening, but stayed within striking distance for much of the contest, before an 8-0 Trojan run pushed the lead into double digits and Notre Dame was not able to get closer than seven points the rest of the way.

    Charel Allen scored in double figures for the fifth time in as many games during the '06-07 season, tallying 13 points and a (then) season-high eight rebounds. Erica Williamson turned in a solid effort in the post with (then) season bests of 12 points and nine rebounds.

    Shay Murphy led a quartet of USC players in double digits, scoring 15 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Murphy's board work was the highlight of a 54-rebound evening for the Women of Troy. Hailey Dunham, Jamie Hagiya and Chloe Kerr chipped in with 12 points apiece for USC, which snapped a seven-game losing streak to Notre Dame.

    The Fighting Irish drew first blood on a driving layup by Tulyah Gaines 39 seconds into the game. However, that would be Notre Dame's only lead of the night, as USC answered with a 10-2 run, with Kerr hitting a pair of jumpers in the lane and Hagiya capping off the spurt with a three-pointer (the first of three she hit in the opening 20 minutes). The Fighting Irish got back within a point twice later in the period, the last when Crystal Erwin canned her second trey of the year from the left corner to make it 19-18 with 7:19 left in the half.

    A 7-0 run by the Women of Troy ballooned their lead back to eight, but the Fighting Irish trimmed the margin to 28-24 when Chandrica Smith converted a fastbreak layup with 19 seconds remaining. But, Murphy took some of the luster off the late Notre Dame run by hitting a baseline jumper with two ticks to go before intermission.

    The Fighting Irish clawed back to within 34-31 early in the second half, when Allen hit a jumper with 17:16 to play. That's when USC made its game-changing 8-0 run, going ahead 42-31 on the second of two foul shots by Aarika Hughes at the 14:28 mark. Again, Notre Dame didn't go quietly, as buckets by Allen and Melissa Lechlitner made it a seven-point spread with still more than 11 minutes to play. However, USC kept the Fighting Irish at arm's length from that point on, hitting 11-of-14 free throws down the stretch to cement the win.

    Other Notre Dame-USC Series Tidbits

  • The series has been a close one, with the nine games decided by an aggregate total of 48 points (5.3 points per game), and the past seven meetings all featuring margins of 13 points or fewer.
  • Both USC wins in the series have come in the state of California -- one at a neutral site (Cal State Fullerton) in 1985, and the most recent series matchup in 2006 at the Trojans' new arena, the Galen Center, in Los Angeles.
  • Notre Dame and USC are part of an elite group of 14 schools who have won NCAA national championships since the NCAA began sponsoring the Division I women's basketball tournament in 1982. The Trojans (back-to-back winners in 1983 and 1984) will be the second consecutive former NCAA champion the Fighting Irish have faced this season (following 2005 titleist Baylor), with Notre Dame going 30-85 (.261) all-time against other former or current national champions. Among that group, the Fighting Irish have a series record of .500 or better against USC (7-2), North Carolina (2-1) and Texas (1-1).
  • Notre Dame is 22-15 (.595) all-time against teams from the state of California, including a 13-11 (.542) record away from South Bend (road and neutral sites combined) and a 20-7 (.741) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). The Fighting Irish will be facing a team from the Golden State for the third consecutive season, defeating No. 23/24 San Diego State, 84-79, on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26, 2009) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands before most recently dropping an 86-83 double-overtime thriller to No. 15 UCLA on Nov. 18, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.
  • For the second consecutive game, Notre Dame guards Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel and forward Devereaux Peters will meet up with one of their teammates from the 2011 USA World University Games Team that posted a 6-0 record and won the gold medal this summer in Shenzhen, China. USC guard Jacki Gemelos played with the Fighting Irish trio over in China, as did Baylor guard Odyssey Sims, whom Notre Dame faced this past Sunday.
  • Notre Dame has had six California resident suit up for the program during its 35-year history, most recently Rancho Cucamonga native Crystal Erwin (2003-07). The Fighting Irish will add a seventh Golden State product to their ranks next season when Diablo resident (and Carondelet High School guard) Hannah Huffman arrives on campus.
  • Longtime Notre Dame women's volleyball head coach Debbie (Landreth) Brown was twice named the national player of the year while helping USC win the 1976 and '77 AIAW national championships. She is winding down her 21st season at Notre Dame (and 27th overall), having piloted the Fighting Irish to a 17-12 record and a berth in the BIG EAST Championship final, heading into Friday's regular-season non-league finale at Dayton. Brown also is a five-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year (1995, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005) and she received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in January 2003.
  • Notre Dame vs. The Pac-12 Conference
    The Fighting Irish are 21-20 (.512) all-time against current Pac-12 Conference teams, with a 12-16 (.429) record outside of South Bend (road and neutral sites combined). Notre Dame also has won 18 of its last 25 games against Pac-12 schools since a 93-72 loss at UCLA in the first round of the 1992 NCAA Championship.

    Friday's game will be the first for the Fighting Irish against a current Pac-12 opponent since the first round of last year's NCAA Championship, when Notre Dame defeated future Pac-12 school (and then-Mountain West Conference) member Utah, 67-54, on March 19, 2011, in Salt Lake City behind 20 points each from guards Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel.

    Tournament Tested
    Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 16 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 29 of their last 33 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including runs to the title in last year's WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion (three games) and the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle (two games).

    The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were three defeats to teams ranked in the top three nationally during the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. No. 3/2 Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at No. 3 Maryland in 2007) or championship (94-81 at No. 1 Baylor in 2011), and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003, in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.

    Notre Dame is playing its second regular-season tournament of the 2011-12 campaign, having finished as the runner-up at this year's Preseason WNIT. This marks the second consecutive year the Fighting Irish are competing in multiple tourneys, and the second time in three seasons they have played in a Caribbean tournament (after winning the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship in the U.S. Virgin Islands).

    November To Remember
    Notre Dame's success during the past 17 years has been aided by its ability to get off to a good start. To wit -- the Fighting Irish are 69-14 (.831) in November games since they joined the BIG EAST Conference in time for the 1995-96 season.

    Turkey Trot
    Notre Dame is 21-13 (.618) all-time in its first game after the Thanksgiving holiday, including a 17-7 (.708) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). The Fighting Irish also have won their last four post-Thanksgiving games (and six of their last seven), including a 95-29 win over IUPUI last year (Nov. 26, 2010 at Purcell Pavilion) in the WBCA Classic.

    Helping Hands
    Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first four games of the year.

    The Fighting Irish are averaging 20.3 assists per game, with their 25 assists against Akron on Nov. 11 falling just three shy of the Preseason WNIT record for assists in a game (set on the same night - Nov. 9, 2001 - by Connecticut vs. Fairfield and Vanderbilt vs. Eastern Kentucky).

    What's more, Notre Dame has assisted on 62.8 percent of its field goals this season (81 of 129), compared to last year when the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.

    Spread The Wealth
    Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least four players scoring in double figures in three of its first four games.

    During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 37-4 (.902) when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 - 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 - 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 - 70-69 at DePaul).

    Diggins Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
    Junior guard Skylar Diggins was selected as the first BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week for the 2011-12 season, it was announced Monday afternoon by the conference office.

    It's the second time in Diggins' career she has been chosen for the honor, having first been selected on Feb. 14, 2011. In addition, it's the 70th time a Fighting Irish women's basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (40 Players of the Week, 30 Freshmen of the Week), the second-most selections in conference history despite the fact Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96, a full 14 seasons after the league began sponsoring women's basketball (1982-83).

    The BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, as well as an Associated Press and ESPN.com preseason All-America selection, and a candidate for both the State Farm Wade Trophy and John R. Wooden Award (which go to the nation's top women's college basketball player), Diggins averaged 21.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.3 steals per game with a .544 field goal percentage (31-of-57), .864 free throw percentage (19-of-22) and 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in leading Notre Dame to a runner-up finish in the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

    Diggins was named to the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team after scoring at least 20 points in three of the four Fighting Irish contests during the event, including a season-high 27 points in Sunday's 94-81 loss at top-ranked Baylor in the championship game. The South Bend native also chalked up 21 points and a season-best eight assists in the opening-round win over Akron (81-61), as well as 14 points, seven assists (with no turnovers) and a season-high six steals in a 99-34 quarterfinal victory over Indiana State. She then helped propel Notre Dame into the Preseason WNIT final with a game-high 22 points (on 9-of-14 shooting) and six assists in only 23 minutes of a 98-43 semifinal win over Hartford.

    Novosel Reaches Career Milestone
    On a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Nov. 13 against Indiana State, senior guard Natalie Novosel became the 29th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 career points (currently 26th at 1,049). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (21st with 1,153 points) as the two active players in that elite Fighting Irish club, with Notre Dame's two fifth-year seniors also having the chance to reach the scoring millennium later this season -- forward Devereaux Peters has tallied 897 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 779 career points.

    Should all four players hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time. Twice (in both 2000-01 and 2009-10), Notre Dame has had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).

    What's more, Novosel becomes the sixth player from Notre Dame's 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (ninth at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (13th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (23rd at 1,148) -- and that doesn't even include Peters or Mallory, who also were part of that 13-player roster.

    Game #4 Recap: Baylor
    Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was already prepared that 6-foot-8 Baylor phenom Brittney Griner would probably have her way inside against the Fighting Irish.

    Griner did just that, scoring 32 points with 14 rebounds and five blocks. The problem was she wasn't alone for the top-ranked Lady Bears.

    Point guard Odyssey Sims had one of her best overall games and Destiny Williams also had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds for Baylor in a 94-81 victory over Notre Dame in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the Preseason WNIT championship game Sunday in Waco, Texas.

    Notre Dame had a pair of 25-point scorers in the same game for the first time since 2000. Natalie Novosel scored a career-high 28 points and Skylar Diggins, like Griner a preseason AP All-America pick, had 27.

    Sims has 25 points, six assists, six steals and only two turnovers in 38 minutes after she wasn't in the starting lineup for a reason that coach Kim Mulkey wouldn't specify -- or allow Sims to address.

    Kayla McBride, who had 13 points for the Fighting Irish, had made two free throws and Diggins followed with two more charities with 13:41 left to cap a 19-9 run that opened the second half and cut the margin to 56-55.

    However, Baylor's game-clinching spurt came a couple of minutes later. The Lady Bears went on a 14-3 run that was capped when Sims had a steal that she turned into a breakaway layup for a 70-58 lead with 9 1/2 minutes left, and Notre Dame got no closer than nine points after that.

    Beyond The Box Score -- Baylor

  • Notre Dame finished the Preseason WNIT with a record-setting 78 steals, easily smashing the old mark of 58 steals set by Rutgers in 1998.
  • The Fighting Irish are 1-2 all-time in "1-vs-2" matchups, having previously split a pair of contests with Connecticut in 2000-01 (lost to No. 2 UConn, 78-76 in BIG EAST final; won 90-75 vs. No. 1 UConn in NCAA national semifinals at St. Louis).
  • Notre Dame falls to 8-9 against the current Big 12 alignment, with its last five losses to Big 12 teams coming by 13 points or fewer.
  • Notre Dame had two players score at least 25 points in the same game for the first time since Feb. 19, 2000, when Alicia Ratay and Ruth Riley each scored 26 points in a 78-74 overtime win at Rutgers.
  • Notre Dame's 81 points tied for the 10th-most points scored in a loss in school history, and most by the Fighting Irish in a regulation defeat since Dec. 8, 1998 (a 106-81 loss to Connecticut).
  • Novosel scored a career-high 28 points, one more than her previous high set on Dec. 29, 2010, against Gonzaga at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle.
  • Novosel's 15 free throw attempts tied for eighth in school history, and were the most by a Fighting Irish player in a single game since Jan. 25, 2003, when Courtney LaVere went 12-for-16 at Villanova.
  • Novosel and Diggins represented Notre Dame on the Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team.
  • Notre Dame Claims Top Spot In 2011-12 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
    For the first time in its 17-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has been selected as the outright No. 1 team in the annual BIG EAST preseason women's basketball poll, according to a vote of the league's 16 head coaches released Oct. 20 during the 2011-12 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.

    In the closest vote since Notre Dame shared top honors with Connecticut in the 2002-03 BIG EAST preseason poll, the Fighting Irish picked up 219 points and nine first-place votes in the balloting (coaches are not permitted to select their own teams), edging out Connecticut, which collected the remaining seven first-place votes and finished with 216 points. Louisville (191 points) was chosen third, while Rutgers (176 points) finished a close fourth ahead of Georgetown (175 points).

    Fighting Irish Trio Earns Numerous 2011-12 Preseason Honors
    Along with picking Notre Dame to finish first in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches voted junior guard Skylar Diggins as the league's Preseason Player of the Year. Diggins is just the second Fighting Irish player to earn that honor, and the first since fellow South Bend Washington High School graduate and Notre Dame All-American Jacqueline Batteast did so prior to her senior season (2004-05).

    Diggins also joined a pair of her teammates -- senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters -- on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, with Novosel and Peters making the preseason squad for the first time, while Diggins was a unanimous choice for the preseason all-conference team for the second consecutive year.

    Notre Dame's three Preseason All-BIG EAST honorees (who also have been named preseason candidates for this year's Wade Trophy and Wooden Award, both of which go to the national player of the year) were more than any school, with three others having two selections (Connecticut had a third player earn honorable mention status).

    Diggins -- who added Associated Press Preseason All-America honors to her trophy case on Nov. 1 (the second Fighting Irish player to collect that status and first since Batteast in 2004-05) -- put together one of the finest sophomore seasons in Notre Dame women's basketball history in 2010-11 while sparking the Fighting Irish to their second NCAA title game berth and third NCAA Women's Final Four appearance. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.0 ppg.), assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), posting career highs in all three areas. What's more, her 585 total points and 186 total assists were the second-most ever accrued by a Notre Dame sophomore -- Katryna Gaither scored 590 points in 1994-95, while Mary Gavin dished out 205 assists in 1985-86 -- and her 75 steals were fourth on the Fighting Irish sophomore charts (just eight off the school record), while her 1,226 total minutes were just one shy of Beth Morgan's school record set in 1996-97.

    A State Farm Coaches' All-America and third-team AP All-America selection last year, Diggins also ranked second on the team with 32 double-digit scoring games, leading the squad in scoring 14 times and rolling up 10 20-point outings, including the last three NCAA Championship games against Tennessee (24), Connecticut (season-high 28) and Texas A&M (23). She added at least five assists in 22 different games (after having seven five-assist games her entire freshman season), capped by a career-high 12 assists against Oklahoma in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinal, the most helpers ever for a Fighting Irish player in the NCAA tournament, and most in any game since 2000.

    A unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection, the NCAA Dayton Regional Most Outstanding Player and a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team, as well as being a finalist for the three major national player-of-the-year awards (Wooden Award, Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy) and the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard), Diggins also made history in that regional final win over Tennessee, becoming just the second Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points in less than two seasons with the Fighting Irish (Morgan had exactly 1,000 points at the end of her sophomore season of 1994-95), and doing so in 72 games, tying for the fourth-fastest run to the scoring millennium in program history. Diggins currently ranks 24th on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,090 points.

    Meanwhile, Novosel was easily one of the nation's most improved players in 2010-11, nabbing State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST laurels, as well as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player award, after more than tripling her scoring average from a year ago from 5.0 points to a team-high 15.1 points per game. She also scored in double figures a team-best 33 times, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Gaither had 37 double-digit games in 1996-97) and nearly doubled her combined total of 17 from her first two years. What's more, Novosel had seven 20-point games (her career high entering the season was 19 points) and posted a team-best .413 three-point percentage, in addition to being second on the squad in steals (tied-1.9 spg.) and third in assists (1.9 apg.).

    In 2010-11, Novosel set a new school record with 183 free throws made and 39 games started (tying with Peters and Becca Bruszewski), while her 232 free throw attempts were second-most in school history. In addition, she placed among the top 10 on the program's single-season charts for total points (7th - 588) and minutes played (9th - 1,102).

    Peters (who garnered honorable mention preseason All-America status from the AP on Nov. 1) also enjoyed her finest season at Notre Dame in 2010-11, having fully recovered from a pair of knee injuries earlier in her career. Peters set new career highs in virtually every category, ranking third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and tops in double-doubles (10), rebounding (7.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (.593), and blocked shots (1.7 bpg.), not to mention fourth in steals (1.7 spg.). Furthermore, she placed fifth in the country in field goal percentage, and ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (22nd), rebounding (6th), field goal percentage (2nd), blocked shots (4th) and double-doubles (2nd). As if that weren't enough, she was one of just two players in the nation to record at least 60 blocks and 60 steals last season (she had 68 blocks and 66 steals), joining Illinois' Karisma Penn (78/62) in that select company.

    Like Novosel, Peters was named a State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2010-11, while also taking home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. She scored in double figures 25 times and tied the school record by starting all 39 games during Notre Dame's run to the NCAA national championship game. In that title clash against Texas A&M, Peters rang up a double-double with 21 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and a game-high 11 rebounds, securing her place on the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press poll, its third consecutive week in the top five of the media balloting. The Fighting Irish also earned a preseason No. 2 ranking that was their highest since the final 2000-01 poll (taken before the the NCAA Championship), and also was the highest Notre Dame has ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.

    Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four last week), the first time it received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.

    This week's No. 4 ranking marks the 80th 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 more than half (42) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.

    This year's No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 219 weeks during the program's 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.

    In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 3 in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (falling one spot from their season-high No. 2 ranking the previous two weeks), and like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year's preseason coaches' survey (and two last week), their first nods for the top spot since the final '00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 81 of the past 82 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for a total of 212 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 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 219 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 31 people on this list, 16 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).

    Half And Half
    During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 219-18 (.924) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 147 of their last 159 such contests.

    What's more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 56-1 when leading at the half, with the only loss 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).

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 17 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 233-15 (.940) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

    ...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 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 156-6 (.963) 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 three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 33-2 when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in all four games thus far and winning three times.

    Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
    The past two 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 (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program's season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out two games (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee), and put six others (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 20 vs. UCF, Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.

    In fact, while some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it's entirely possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2010-11 regular season.

    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-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Fighting Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.

    Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.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 now in the fourth 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 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast.

    In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free Fighting Irish Video Channel.

    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 last Sunday's game at Baylor (televised live on CBS Sports Network), Notre Dame has played in 205 televised games, including 150 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.

    Notre Dame Breaks New Ground With "Heart of the Irish" Service Initiative
    For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame women's basketball team will be front and center in the South Bend and greater Michiana communities with its groundbreaking outreach program (renamed "Heart of the Irish"), which will involve numerous interactive events during the 2011-12 season. The goal of this year's "Heart of the Irish" program is to highlight community leaders who are making a difference, as well as encourage fans to give back to their community and make an impact through a variety of special initiatives.

    The first of five cornerstone events for the 2011-12 "Heart of the Irish" drive will take place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame plays host to Pennsylvania in a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish will hold their annual Teddy Bear Toss, collecting new teddy bears and other stuffed animals for patients at Riley Children's Hospital, which serves many Michiana children, as well as local youth patients. The highlight of the event comes at halftime, when fans are invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they are then collected by volunteers.

    Less than one week after the Teddy Bear Toss, Notre Dame will have a second outreach event called Food For Friends, to be held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette at 7 p.m. (ET) on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion. Fans can bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that will be collected and delivered as part of the Food Drive for the St. Joseph Country chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

    Notre Dame's next special "Heart of the Irish" event is entitled Reading One on One and it's scheduled for Jan. 17, when the Fighting Irish play host to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. The That evening, the team will collect children's books for the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.

    The Fighting Irish will hold their annual fund-raising game in support of breast cancer awareness and research on Feb. 12 (3:30 p.m. ET vs. West Virginia) at Purcell Pavilion. Known locally as the Pink Zone game (and nationally renamed as Play4Kay), it will feature numerous informational booths and donation opportunities for fans to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, with the highlight being the always-memorable halftime ceremony to honor those who have been touched by (and in many cases, conquered) the disease. Last year, Notre Dame raised more than $130,000 through its Pink Zone game for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, lifting its three-year donation total to more than a quarter of a million dollars.

    The last event in the "Heart of the Irish" series comes on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), when Notre Dame welcomes Providence to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. This will be the inaugural Splish Splash, in which fans can bring towels, wash cloths or toiletries such as small bottles of shampoo, soap or toothpaste for the YWCA of St. Joseph County.

    Throughout the season, the Fighting Irish also will recognize community leaders who have made exceptional contributions.

    In addition to this five-event series, Notre Dame women's basketball will take part in a cooperative effort with the University's Office of Sustainability as the Fighting Irish encourage all fans to recycle in their daily lives, particularly when they attend Notre Dame basketball games at Purcell Pavilion.

    Originally called the "Spirit of Giving" program, Notre Dame's community outreach efforts began in earnest during the summer of 2009. Since then, Fighting Irish players, coaches, staff and fans have taken part in hundreds of hours of service projects designed to give back to the South Bend and greater Michiana communities.

    The Notre Dame women's basketball team was honored for its community outreach efforts in 2008-09, receiving the Trophy Award (symbolic of the Fighting Irish program with the most service hours in one academic year) from the Notre Dame athletics department.

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    It's year five of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, offering fans 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 five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 28 times, most recently with the Nov. 17 win over Hartford.

    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 -- fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.

    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"), 17 different players have converted the "burger ball", including six current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 28 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 10 on free throws, and four on three-pointers.

    Next Game: TBA
    Depending on the results from Friday's first-round games in the Junkanoo Jam, Notre Dame will face either No. 7/6 Duke or Gardner-Webb in the tournament's consolation or championship games on Saturday (consolation at 5:45 p.m. ET; championship at 8 p.m. ET) at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

    The Fighting Irish are 4-1 all-time against Duke, but the teams have not played since Nov. 17, 2004, when Notre Dame earned a 76-65 win over the No. 6 Blue Devils in the Preseason WNIT semifinals at Purcell Pavilion.

    The Fighting Irish have never faced Gardner-Webb.

    -- ND --
     

     

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