Nov. 23, 2009
DATE: November 26, 2009
#5/6 Irish Head To Virgin Islands For Paradise Jam
Notre Dame improved to 3-0 this season with an 80-45 win over Iona this past Sunday at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish jumped out to an 11-2 lead and never looked back, forcing 33 turnovers and turning those miscues into 34 points.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Setting the tone for the Irish will be a trio of senior captains, including returning all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow, both of whom also were tabbed for this year's preseason all-conference team. Schrader was a first-team all-BIG EAST pick last season after piling up career bests of 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. In addition, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a new single-season school record for guards, and now has 12 career double-doubles, tying the mark for guards set by current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey from 1996-2001.
Meanwhile, Barlow led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per game, and also logged 70 steals (2.4 spg.), making her only the fourth player in school history to record 60+ steals in three consecutive seasons. The Indianapolis native also made an early statement about her intentions this season, notching a team-high 13.0 ppg. with a .727 three-point percentage (8-11) and .577 field goal percentage during Notre Dame's three-game, 11-day European tour in May 2009.
Completing this leadership triumverate is point guard Melissa Lechlitner. As a first-year starter in 2008-09, Lechlitner averaged personal bests of 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, driving the Irish offense with a steady hand.
Another first-year starter who made huge strides last season was junior forward Becca Bruszewski. The Valparaiso product doubled her averages in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.), while honing a reliable three-point shot to the tune of a team-high .375 percentage from beyond the arc.
Not to be overlooked are a pair of returning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks in rapidly-maturing sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (6.9 ppg., 45 steals in 2008-09) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (6.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.2 bpg.), as well as their classmates in forward Kellie Watson (3.8 ppg., 28 3FGM) and Fraderica Miller (0.7 ppg., 0.7 spg.).
In addition, Notre Dame could get a significant boost this year from incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins, a three-time high school All-American from South Bend's Washington High School, who averaged 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during her prep career. The other Irish rookie guard, Kaila Turner of Joliet, Ill., has incredible upside as well, having twice earned all-state honors at Marian Catholic High School.
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
A Quick Look At San Diego State
The Aztecs last played on Sunday, grinding out a 57-38 win over visiting Arizona at Viejas Arena. Junior center Paris Johnson led the way for SDSU with a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds, while senior guard Jene Morris chipped in 12 points and four steals.
Johnson leads the Aztecs in scoring (14.3 ppg.) and blocks (3.7 bpg.), and is second in rebounding (7.0 rpg.), while Morris is second in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and tops in three-point percentage (.500, 6-of-12) and steals (4.0 spg.).
Head coach Beth Burns is in her 13th season at San Diego State (split over two stints) with a 211-144 (.594) record on the Mesa. Including her five-year tenure at Ohio State, the 1979 Ohio Wesleyan graduate is 292-209 (.583) in her 18-year coaching career, although Thursday will mark her first-ever matchup with Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-San Diego State Series
The Last Time Notre Dame and San Diego State Met
As it turned out, Notre Dame's offense was colder than the Alaskan tundra outside the arena, with the Irish shooting just 28.2 percent (13-of-46) in the contest en route to the fewest points in a game in program history (a record that still stands). Meanwhile, the Aztecs connected at a 52-percent clip (25-of-48) and added another 21 points at the foul line to secure a berth in the tournament title game.
Jenny Klauke was the lone Notre Dame player to score in double figures, finishing with 13 points. Diena Pels led three SDSU double-digit scorers with a game-high 18 points.
Other Notre Dame-San Diego State Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Mountain West
The Irish last faced a MWC opponent on Dec. 18, 2005, dispatching No. 22/21 Utah, 68-55 in the Gray Division title game of the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas.
In its history, Notre Dame has faced six of the nine MWC schools, but of those six, the only one they haven't seen since McGraw came to South Bend in 1987-88 is San Diego State.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) 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.
At no time in Notre Dame women's basketball history have four players hit the 100-game mark in the same season. Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.
McGraw Set To Join Elite ND Club
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only current members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
Diggins, Barlow Cop BIG EAST Honors
Diggins is the first Notre Dame player to earn BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors since current sophomore guard Natalie Novosel copped the second of her two awards last season on Jan. 12, 2009. Meanwhile, Barlow collects her fourth career BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll citation, having previously been chosen twice as a sophomore (Dec. 17, 2007 and Jan. 21, 2008), and most recently during her junior year (Nov. 24, 2008).
In her first week as a collegian, Diggins averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game in a reserve role, logging 24.3 minutes per contest. At the same time, the veteran Barlow averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game with a .429 three-point percentage (6-of-14) last week, leading Notre Dame in scoring and ranking second in steals, three-point percentage and free throw percentage (.733).
November To Remember
Notre Dame also owns an active 11-game winning streak that started on Nov. 20, 2007 with a 94-41 victory at Central Michigan. That win came four days after a 75-59 loss at third-ranked Maryland in the Preseason WNIT semifinals.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
This week's ranking also marks the 41st consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with their No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 being the highest ever for Notre Dame, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10) with that No. 4 preseason ranking being the highest for the program since the week of Jan. 4, 2005, when the Irish also rose to fourth following a 12-1 start and the 2004 Preseason WNIT title.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 181 weeks during the program's 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 12th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish rose one spot to sixth in last week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (new rankings were to be released Tuesday afternoon). It's the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches' poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With last week's ranking, the Irish now have appeared in the coaches' poll for 172 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 181 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #3 Recap: Iona
Irish coach Muffet McGraw said a one-point victory over No. 21 Michigan State on Thursday as well as the team's upcoming games at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands may have been to blame for Notre Dame's sluggish offense.
"I think we were just a little lackadaisical," she said. "I think we got up 11-2 and said, `Let's pack our bags, we're going to the Virgin Islands. Whose got the sun screen?'"
The Irish shined defensively, though, particularly in the second half when the Irish (3-0) held the Gaels (2-2) to 29 percent shooting. Notre Dame also forced 33 turnovers for the game, leading to 34 points off of turnovers.
Skylar Diggins, who led the Irish with 17 points, said the goal for the Irish defense was to try to slow Iona from getting the ball upcourt quickly. They also wanted to keep the ball away from Anna McLean, who entered the game averaging 16.7 points and 13 rebounds. Notre Dame forward Becca Bruszewski, who scored 14, held McLean to 10 points and six rebounds.
Iona coach Anthony Bozzella said the Gaels knew the Irish were going to press them but couldn't do anything about it.
"Not to take anything away from Notre Dame, but I think we made some poor decisions," he said. "I'm disappointed in that."
The Irish dominated from the start, going ahead 11-2 in less than three minutes when Lindsay Schrader scored on a layup. They extended the lead to 27-11 when Brittany Mallory hit a three-pointer, and the Gaels never got closer than 12.
Thazina Cook led the Gaels with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Noting The Iona Game
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Barlow currently ranks 20th in school history with 1,148 career points, while Schrader is 22nd with 1,086 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 725 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Notre Dame Picked Second In 2009-10 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
The Fighting Irish picked up 210 points and one first-place vote in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points. DePaul and reigning NCAA runner-up Louisville shared the third spot in the BIG EAST preseason poll with 171 points, while Pittsburgh rounded out the top five with 167 points.
Trio Of Irish Earn 2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
In addition to the preseason accolades for the two Fighting Irish veterans, rookie guard Skylar Diggins was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year, according to the league's head coaches.
Irish Enjoy Successful '09 European Tour
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
Notre Dame has led at the break in all three games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added two more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57) and Iona (80-45).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Like its defensive proficiency, Notre Dame already has added two more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57) and Iona (80-45).
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 78 of their last 85 non-BIG EAST contests (.918) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 325-85 (.793) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02.
The Irish have posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped Notre Dame win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, this weekend's Paradise Jam can be seen in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
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 140 televised games, including 87 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Next Game: South Carolina
South Carolina heads to the Virgin Islands with a 2-1 record this season, following a hard-fought 63-56 win at home over Penn State on Sunday.