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    #5/6 Irish Head to Virgin Islands For Paradise Jam

    FIGHTING IRISH Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow, a BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll selection on Monday, is averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game as the #5/6 Irish head to the Virgin Islands for their first appearance in the Paradise Jam, beginning Thursday at 3:15 p.m. (ET) vs. #23 San Diego State.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow, a BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll selection on Monday, is averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game as the #5/6 Irish head to the Virgin Islands for their first appearance in the Paradise Jam, beginning Thursday at 3:15 p.m. (ET) vs. #23 San Diego State.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 23, 2009

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    2009-10 ND Women's Basketball: Game 4
    10th annual Paradise Jam -- Island Division
    #5/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #23/rv San Diego State Aztecs (3-0 / 0-0 MWC)

    DATE: November 26, 2009
    TIME: 4:15 p.m. AT/3:15 p.m. ET
    AT: St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. - UVI Sports & Fitness Ctr. (3,000)
    SERIES: SDSU leads 1-0
    1ST MTG: SDSU 71-34 (3/21/81)
    WEBCAST: FCS Broadband/foxcollegesports.com (Brenda VanLengen, p-b-p)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame has won 18 of its last 21 regular season tournament games, dating back more than 14 seasons.
  • The Irish will be playing on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in program history.
  • #5/6 Irish Head To Virgin Islands For Paradise Jam
    In a locale where the only thing rivaling the tropical heat will be the powerful list of competing teams, No. 5/6 Notre Dame heads to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the 10th annual Paradise Jam, beginning Thursday with a 3:15 p.m. (ET) Island Division matchup against No. 23 San Diego State at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports & Fitness Center. The Irish and Aztecs are two of three ranked teams in the Island Division, and five in the entire eight-team tournament (which is split into two divisions).

    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.

    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins led all scorers with 17 points, and junior forward Becca Bruszewski added 14 points for Notre Dame.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is fifth in the Associated Press poll and was sixth in last week's ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • San Diego State is 23rd in the Associated Press poll and was receiving votes in last week's ESPN/USA Today poll.

    A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
    The faces may be the same, but the focus, drive and determination have never been greater for the Notre Dame women's basketball program as the Irish head into the 2009-10 season. With all 12 players returning from a year ago, along with an incoming freshman class ranked as high as ninth in the land, expectations are high as Notre Dame looks to not only reach a new level of success, but also wash away the bitter taste left by a first-round loss in last year's NCAA tournament.

    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

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 317 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past nine seasons. Last year, the program finished ninth in the country for the second year in a row with an average of 7,168 fans for its 13 home games (the second-highest single-season attendance average in school history). The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 126 of their last 128 home games, including six Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past nine seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent 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 '09 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the third 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 '06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. What's more, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate), with all five members of this year's senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Erica Williamson will complete work on her undergraduate degree one semester early in December 2009).
  • A Quick Look At San Diego State
    San Diego State (3-0) broke into the AP Top 25 for the first time in 14 years on Monday, checking in at No. 23. It's the latest step up the ladder for the reigning Mountain West Conference regular season champions, who return 10 letterwinners and four starters to Montezuma Mesa from last year's 24-8 club that reached the second round of the NCAA Championship.

    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
    To say it's been a while since Notre Dame and San Diego State have met on the hardwood would be putting it mildly. In fact, more than 28 years have passed since the Aztecs dealt the Irish a 71-34 loss in the teams' only prior matchup on March 21, 1981, at the Northern Lights Invitational in Anchorage, Alaska.

    The Last Time Notre Dame and San Diego State Met
    A cold offense and a hot-shooting opponent combined to do in Notre Dame, as the Irish dropped a 71-34 decision to San Diego State in the semifinals of the Northern Lights Invitational on March 21, 1981, at Buckner Fieldhouse in Anchorage, Alaska.

    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

  • Officially, it will be 28 years, eight months and five days since the last game between the Irish and Aztecs, making it the longest hiatus between series games in Notre Dame women's basketball history. Second on that list? South Carolina, whom the Irish will see for the first time in more than 27 years on Friday at the Paradise Jam.
  • As a point of reference, the last time Notre Dame and SDSU played, it was two months into Ronald Reagan's first team as U.S. president -- and nine days before a Colorado loner named John Hinckley would unsuccessfully attempt to assassinate Reagan outside a Washington, D.C. hotel.
  • Notre Dame and San Diego State will be meeting for the second time, with both games coming on neutral floors nearly 5,000 miles apart.
  • San Diego State president Dr. Steven Weber earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame in 1969.
  • SDSU assistant athletics director/ticket operations Jim Cordova studied architecture at Notre Dame from 1991-93.
  • SDSU assistant media relations director/women's basketball contact Peggy Curtin was a publicity assistant in the Notre Dame sports information office from 1998-2000.
  • Aztecs assistant coach Shanele Stires is the sister of former Irish radio play-by-play broadcaster (and current South Bend-area radio personality) Sean Stires, with the brother-sister tandem calling several of Notre Dame's postseason games in the past decade, including the 2001 NCAA national championship game win over Purdue.
  • Notre Dame is 21-14 (.600) all-time against teams from the state of California, including a 19-6 (.760) record in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era, and a 12-11 (.522) record away from home (road and neutral sites combined). The Irish last faced a team from the Golden State on March 18, 2007, toppling California, 62-59 in the first round of the NCAA Championship (Dallas Region) in Pittsburgh, Pa., with current senior guards/tri-captains Melissa Lechlitner (12 points) and Ashley Barlow (10 rebounds) playing critical roles in the win late in their freshman season.
  • Notre Dame vs. The Mountain West
    Notre Dame is 8-2 (.800) all-time against the current Mountain West Conference alignment, with a 7-2 (.778) record in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era, and a 5-2 (.714) record away from home (road and neutral sites combined).

    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.

    Tournament Tested
    Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 18 of their last 21 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including a four-game run to the 2004 Preseason WNIT championship.

    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.

    Continental Divide
    Not only is Notre Dame playing in the Paradise Jam for the first time, but this weekend's tournament is the first foray outside the continental United States for the Irish since the 1995 Kona Women's Basketball Classic in Kona, Hawaii.

    Experience Matters
    Four Notre Dame seniors are poised to appear in their 100th college games during this weekend's Paradise Jam. Guard Melissa Lechlitner and center Erica Williamson currently sit on 99 career games played, while guards Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader have seen action in 98 games to date.

    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
    Irish head coach Muffet McGraw currently has a record of 499-197 (.717) in her 23rd season at Notre Dame. That puts her only one victory away from becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 wins while coaching under the Golden Dome.

    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
    Rookie guard Skylar Diggins was selected as the first BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week for the 2009-10 women's college basketball season, it was announced Monday by the conference office. In addition, senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow was tapped for the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll after both players helped the No. 5/6 Fighting Irish tip off the year with three consecutive victories, including a one-point win at No. 21 Michigan State last Thursday.

    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's success during the past 15 years has been aided by its ability to get off to a good start. To wit -- the Irish are 58-11 (.841) in November games since they joined the BIG EAST Conference in time for the 1995-96 season.

    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.

    Road Warriors
    Notre Dame is 21-9 (.700) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 68-67 win at No. 21 Michigan State to begin this year.

    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).

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked fifth in this week's Associated Press poll, appearing in the top five for the third consecutive week -- it's the longest run in the AP Top 5 for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.

    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
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 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
    No. 5 Notre Dame used defense to overcome a complacent offense and beat Iona 80-45 on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

    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 posts its second 35-point win in three games this season, having defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff by 45 points (102-57) back on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The Fighting Irish tied their season high by forcing 33 opponent turnovers, having also reached that mark against UAPB.
  • Similarly, Notre Dame tied the 21-steal total it originally posted against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
  • Iona's 45 points are the fewest allowed by Notre Dame since March 7, 2009, when the Fighting Irish ousted St. John's, 62-45, in the second round of the BIG EAST Conference Championship in Hartford, Conn.
  • It's the fewest points allowed by Notre Dame in a regular season game since Dec. 20, 2008, when the Fighting Irish toppled Loyola-Chicago, 89-45 at the former Joyce Center.
  • Iona's 42 field goal attempts are the fewest by a Notre Dame opponent since Nov. 16, 2006, when Penn State tried just 41 shots, but parlayed an extended stay at the foul line into a 75-49 home win over the Fighting Irish.
  • Notre Dame had a season-low 15 turnovers and got 11 different players into the scoring column.
  • The Fighting Irish also extends their run of success against New York schools, rising to 46-4 (.920) all-time against the Empire State, including a 25-0 record at home; what's more 22 of those 25 home wins have been by double digits.
  • The Fighting Irish are 3-0 all-time against Iona (2-0 at home), and 7-0 all-time against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference teams (3-0 at home).
  • Skylar Diggins scored a career-high 17 points, the highest output for a Notre Dame reserve to date in this young season.
  • Playing on her 20th birthday, Natalie Novosel tied her career high with five steals against Iona, having first set that mark at Providence on Feb. 28, 2009.
  • Fraderica Miller also tied her career high with three steals, after having three thefts on Dec. 20, 2008 vs. Loyola-Chicago.
  • Ashley Barlow registered at least five steals for the ninth time in her career. Barlow now has 210 career steals, moving her past both Charel Allen (206 from 2004-08) and Katryna Gaither (207 from 1993-97) into seventh place on the Notre Dame career charts; up next in Megan Duffy, who amassed 220 steals from 2002-06.
  • Senior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen knocked down her first career basket, a three-pointer with 12 seconds to play.
  • Century City
    With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).

    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)
    Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.

    Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
    Notre Dame's 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.

    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.

    Upwardly Mobile
    Two of Notre Dame's senior guards and tri-captains -- Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader -- are already members of the program's 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.

    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.

    First Impressions
    Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.

    Notre Dame Picked Second In 2009-10 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
    Notre Dame was selected to finish second in the BIG EAST Conference in 2009-10, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches released Oct. 22 during the annual BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the ESPN Zone in New York City.

    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
    Along with picking Notre Dame to finish second in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches voted fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader and senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow to the 12-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team.

    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
    In May, the Notre Dame women's basketball program embarked on a memorable 11-day adventure to France, Monaco and Italy, visiting some of the world's most historic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Prince's Palace in Monaco, picturesque Lake Como in the foothills of the Italian Alps, the famed El Duomo cathedral in Milan, the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, as well as St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel located at The Vatican.

    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
    During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 166-17 (.907) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 94 of their last 105 such contests.

    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...
    During the past 15 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 Irish have an amazing 197-14 (.934) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

    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
    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 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 125-4 (.969) 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.

    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
    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 175 of their last 199 games (.879) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 99-17 (.853) 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 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
    If the preseason is any indication, Notre Dame women's basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women's basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened.

    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
    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. 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
    Notre Dame will have at least 15 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).

    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
    Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

    This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.

    Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
    Following an intensive five-month, $26.3 million interior renovation, the arena for the newly-christened Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center made its regular season women's basketball debut on Nov. 15 when Notre Dame defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 102-57.

    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
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country's top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.

    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
    Notre Dame continues play in the 2009 Paradise Jam on Friday when it meets up with South Carolina in a 1 p.m. ET (2 p.m. local) contest at the UVI Sports & Fitness Center in St. Thomas. The Irish and Gamecocks have not faced off in nearly 28 years, the second-longest series hiatus in school history behind (ironically enough) the San Diego State series.

    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.

    -- ND --
     

     

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