Nov. 27, 2009
10th annual Paradise Jam -- Island Division
#5/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #20/16 Oklahoma Sooners (4-1 / 0-0 Big 12)
DATE: November 28, 2009
TIME: 4:15 p.m. AT/3:15 p.m. ET
AT: St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. - UVI Sports & Fitness Center (3,000)
SERIES: Tied 1-1
1ST MTG: OU 57-54 (12/30/86)
LAST MTG: ND 79-75, ot (3/25/08)
WEBCAST: FCS Broadband (pay-per-view)/foxcollegesports.com (Brenda VanLengen, p-b-p)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: paradisejam.com
Tournament Title At Stake As #5/6 Notre Dame Battles #20/16 Oklahoma
After each posting dominant victories on Friday, No. 5/6 Notre Dame and No. 20/16 Oklahoma are set to meet for the Paradise Jam Island Division championship on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. AT/3:15 p.m. ET at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports & Fitness Center in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The game will be webcast live on a pay-per-view basis by Fox College Sports Broadband (visit foxcollegesports.com or paradisejam.com for more information) with Brenda VanLengen on the call.
Notre Dame (5-0) used an impressive second-half defensive effort to blow past South Carolina, 78-55 on Friday afternoon at the Paradise Jam. The Irish connected on 10 of their first 14 shots from the field and raced out to a 22-8 lead just seven minutes into the game, boosting the margin as high as 17 before the Gamecocks clawed back to within 44-37 by halftime.
After the lead was trimmed to six points in the first minute of the second half, Notre Dame responded by going on a 14-2 run to slam the door on South Carolina's comeback. The Irish held the Gamecocks to only five field goals in the second half (on 26 attempts, a .192 percentage) and an opponent season-low 18 points to secure the win.
Senior guard Melissa Lechlitner led a quartet of Notre Dame double-figure scorers with a season-high 15 points, while senior guard Ashley Barlow filled the stat sheet with 14 points and team bests of six rebounds and four assists. As a team, the Irish shot 47 percent from the floor (31-of-66), committed a season-low 11 turnovers and won the rebounding battle by a 41-34 margin.
Oklahoma (4-1) is unbeaten at this year's Paradise Jam, following wins over South Carolina (75-67) and No. 23/24 San Diego State (87-48) earlier this week.
The Notre Dame-Oklahoma Series
Much like its other two opponents at this weekend's Paradise Jam, there's not a whole lot of history to work with when it comes to the Notre Dame-Oklahoma series. The teams are slated to meet for just the third time on Saturday, having split the prior two games, both of which also were played at neutral sites.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Oklahoma Met
Senior guard Charel Allen scored a career-high 35 points, had six rebounds and made all the big plays late to help fifth-seeded Notre Dame rally from a five-point overtime deficit and beat fourth-seeded Oklahoma 79-75 in overtime on March 25, 2008, in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
After spending the first half of the first-round win over SMU in foul trouble, Allen responded with the biggest performance of her life against the Sooners. She hit 10 of 21 shots, all three three-pointers, all 12 free throws and when the Irish needed her late, she did it all: force turnovers, score, draw fouls, even block shots.
It was just the kind of effort the Irish needed to get back to the regional semis for the first time since 2004.
Oddly enough, the Irish's biggest advantage against SMU -- inside play -- was their biggest weakness against Oklahoma.
They struggled against Courtney Paris, last year's national player of the year. She finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds for her 92nd straight game with a double-double. OU forward Amanda Thompson had 19 points, and guard Jenna Plumley finished with 18, all on threes.
But nobody was better than Allen, who almost single-handedly erased a seven-point deficit with a little more than eight minutes to go in regulation. Allen scored 10 points in the crucial 16-4 run, which gave Notre Dame a 65-60 lead with 2:02 left in regulation.
But the Sooners tied it on Paris' post-up basket with 13.7 seconds to go. Allen had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but the shot bounced on the rim twice before falling off.
In overtime, Allen again brought the Irish back after Oklahoma scored the first five points. This time, Allen hit a three, stole the ball and made the outlet pass that led to sophomore guard Ashley Barlow's layup to tie it at 70.
The Irish finally regained the lead when Barlow and senior guard Tulyah Gaines combined to make 3 of 4 foul shots, and Barlow and Allen sealed it by making their last four free throws. Barlow finished with 16 points.
Other Notre Dame-Oklahoma Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Big 12 Conference
Notre Dame is 7-9 (.438) all-time against current Big 12 Conference members, including wins in five of its last seven games against that conference. The two losses in that time both came by four points -- 69-65 to Texas Tech in the 2000 NCAA Mideast Regional semifinals at The Pyramid in Memphis (the Irish led 17-0 to start that game), and 67-63 in overtime at Colorado in the 2003 WBCA Classic title game (CU forced OT with a 30-foot desperation shot at the regulation horn).
Notre Dame also will be playing a Big 12 opponent for the eighth time since that conference was founded in 1996-97. In an odd coincidence, all eight games will have been played in a tournament format -- 1997 NCAA second round at Texas (W, 86-83), 1998 NCAA second round at Texas Tech (W, 74-59), 2000 NCAA regional semifinal vs. Texas Tech at Memphis (L, 69-65), 2003 NCAA second round at Kansas State (W, 59-53), 2003 WBCA Classic final at Colorado (L, 67-63, ot), 2004 Preseason WNIT quarterfinal at home vs. Nebraska (W, 73-57) and 2008 NCAA second round vs. Oklahoma at West Lafayette, Ind. (W, 79-75, ot), in addition to Saturday's Paradise Jam title matchup with OU.
Yet Another Ranked Opponent
For the third time in six games this season, Notre Dame will take the court against a ranked opponent, as the Irish square off with No. 20/16 Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon at the Paradise Jam. Back on Nov. 19, Notre Dame earned a 68-67 win at No. 21 Michigan State, then on Thursday, the Irish downed No. 23/24 San Diego State, 84-79 in their Paradise Jam opener.
The last time Notre Dame played three ranked teams in its first six games of the season was 2003-04, when the Irish opened with a 77-64 win over No. 22/25 Auburn at the WBCA Classic in Boulder, Colo., on Nov. 14. They then fell in overtime, 67-63 to the host Buffaloes (ranked 20th in both polls) the next evening, and also dropped an 83-59 decision at third-ranked Tennessee on Nov. 30.
Only once in program history has Notre Dame recorded three wins over ranked opponents in the season's first six games. In 1998-99, the Irish defeated No. 6 UCLA, 99-82 in their opener on Nov. 14 at home. One week later, they posted an 84-57 victory over visiting No. 6/4 Duke, and three days after that, Notre Dame downed No. 25/23 Illinois, 101-93, also at home.
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 20 of their last 23 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.
Four Notre Dame seniors have appeared in their 100th college games during this weekend's Paradise Jam. Guard Melissa Lechlitner and center Erica Williamson reached the century mark for career games played on Thursday against San Diego State, while guards Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader played in their 100th career games on Friday vs. South Carolina.
At no time in Notre Dame women's basketball history (prior to this season) had 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 Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With Thursday's 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 501-197 (.718) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 589-238 (.712) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
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 other 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).
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 60-11 (.845) in November games since they joined the BIG EAST Conference in time for the 1995-96 season.
Notre Dame also owns an active 13-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.
Game #5 Recap: South Carolina
Melissa Lechlitner scored 15 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures, and the No. 5/6 Fighting Irish defeated South Carolina 78-55 in the Paradise Jam on Friday.
Valerie Nainima led South Carolina (2-3) with 15 points, and Kelsey Bone scored 14 points.
Notre Dame went on a 15-2 run midway through the first half and led by as many as 17 points at 40-23.
"I loved the second-half defense," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I thought we did an outstanding job in the zone. I thought we got out and guarded the shooter in the second half."
After South Carolina pulled to within six early in the second half, the Irish reeled off an 11-0 run and cruised from there.
Lechlitner, a 5-foot-7 guard, hit 6-of-12 shots, including a pair of three-pointers.
"The screen and rolls were really open, because they were going under," Lechlitner said. "It opened free-throw jumpers wide open for a lot of us. We got a lot of easy looks in transition. In our half-court game, they would go two people with a back-door cutter, and it would leave me or whoever open."
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley's club is playing three ranked teams in three days in the Paradise Jam. The Gamecocks lost to No. 20 Oklahoma on Thursday, 75-67, and will play No. 23 San Diego State on Saturday.
"It's tough for a young team, but I'd rather play these teams than get three 60-point blowouts," Staley said. "I would rather play a competitive schedule, because the other thing does nothing but blow our heads up and make us think we're better than what we are. We will learn from being in this tournament.
Noting The South Carolina Game