Nov. 28, 2012
Full Notes Package in PDF Format
2012-13 ND Women's Basketball: Game 5
#5/5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-2 / 0-0 MAC West)
DATE: November 29, 2012
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Mount Pleasant, Mich. - McGuirk Arena (5,300)
SERIES: ND leads 2-1
1ST MTG: CMU 72-69 (12/21/83)
LAST MTG: ND 94-41 (11/20/07)
VIDEO: cmuchippewas.com (live-PPV)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: cmuchippewas.com
TICKETS: (888) 347-3872
StorylinesNotre Dame is looking to close out the month of November unbeaten for the first time since 2009-10. The Fighting Irish are 75-14 (.843) in November games since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.
Notre Dame is appearing in the Associated Press poll for the 100th consecutive week, becoming one of six schools in the nation with an active streak of that length.
No. 5 Irish Head North To Face Central Michigan Thursday
For the first time in four seasons, No. 5 Notre Dame will go on the road to play a Mid-American Conference opponent when the Fighting Irish travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich., on Thursday for a 7 p.m. (ET) contest against Central Michigan at McGuirk Arena. The game will be streamed live on a pay-per-view basis through the CMU athletics web site (cmuchippewas.com), while live audio and stats are available free of charge at UND.com.
Notre Dame (4-0) remained unbeaten early in the 2012-13 season with a 76-64 victory at No. 19/22 UCLA on Nov. 23 at Pauley Pavilion. Freshman guard Jewell Loyd led the Fighting Irish with 19 points, including six in a 15-2 first-half run that put Notre Dame ahead to stay. Junior guard Kayla McBride added 18 points and junior forward Natalie Achonwa posted her third double-double in four games (10 points/10 rebounds) to aid the Fighting Irish cause.
RankingsNotre Dame is No. 5 in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
Central Michigan is not ranked.
Quick HittersWith its No. 5 ranking in this week's Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media poll for 100 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 the vast majority of that time (50 of 61 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
The Fighting Irish also held down the No. 7 spot in the preseason AP poll, making the first media poll in 13 of the past 14 years (since 1999-2000), something only six other schools in the country can match.
Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner have helped Notre Dame win 99 games to date, narrowly holding the most victories by a Fighting Irish class in its first 117 games, surpassing the one-player 2001-02 senior class of Ericka Haney, who was a part of 98 wins in the same number of career games, which came midway through her senior year (a run that was highlighted the 2001 national championship).
With 595 victories in her 26 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second 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).
McGraw also is 17 wins away from becoming the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to amass 700 victories (and should she do so within the next 60 games, she would be the 11th to compile 700 victories in less than 1,000 games coached). What's more, when McGraw reaches the 700-win milestone, she will be the third BIG EAST Conference skipper to hit that landmark, along with C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Other Notre Dame NotablesNotre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 17 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fourth with 413 victories.
Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past three years), and is off to another hot start at the box office this year, averaging 8,720 fans per game. Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation (8,571), setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 178 of their last 180 home games (including an active streak of 21 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 26 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 20 in the past four seasons (a school-record eight in 2011-12). Notre Dame tipped off this year with its first home-opening sellout, packing the house for its Nov. 18 win over Massachusetts.
The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as nine Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 12 seasons. Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with both going in the first round (Peters third overall to Minnesota; Novosel eighth overall to Washington) of the 2012 WNBA Draft. Last year's draft marked the first time Notre Dame has had two first-round picks in the same year, while Peters was the highest-drafted player (and first lottery selection) in program history. Ruth Riley (Chicago) was active in the league during the '12 season, helping the Sky contend for a playoff berth into the final weeks of the season. Three of Notre Dame's 10 all-time 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. Peters nearly joined that list in 2012, helping Minnesota return to the WNBA Finals, but the Lynx could not defend their title, falling to Indiana in four games.
For the sixth 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, Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous five years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it twice, pulling off that feat in 2011 and 2012).
Scouting Central Michigan
Central Michigan returns all five starters and nine letterwinners off last year's club that went 20-16 and reached the Mid-American Conference Tournament title game, as well as the first round of the WNIT.
The Chippewas (2-2) opened their 2012-13 home schedule last Friday with an 88-62 victory over South Dakota State at McGuirk Arena. Sophomore guard Crystal Bradford came off the bench to drop in a game-high 21 points (9-11 FG) and lead five CMU players in double figures. The Chippewas also were sharp from distance, making 11-of-22 three-pointers in the wire-to-wire victory.
Sophomore guard Jessica Green leads Central Michigan in scoring (15.5 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.560) this season, while Bradford is second in scoring (14.8 ppg.) and assists (3.3 apg.) and tops in rebounding (9.0 rpg.).
Head coach Sue Guevara is in her sixth season at CMU with a 78-84 (.481) record. Factoring in her successful run at Michigan (1996-2003), Guevara has a 13-year career record of 201-166 (.548), including a 1-2 mark against Notre Dame (the win coming on Dec. 2, 2001, when she led Michigan to a 78-63 victory in the Women's College Basketball Showcase at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.).
The Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series
Notre Dame and Central Michigan will square off for the fourth time in series history on Thursday night, with the Fighting Irish holding a 2-1 edge over the Chippewas, including a 94-41 victory in the teams' only prior matchup in Mount Pleasant in November 2007.
Notre Dame faced CMU for the first time in December 1983, dropping a 72-69 decision to the Chippewas at Purcell Pavilion. The two sides then renewed their series after a 23-year hiatus in 2006 and 2007, with the Fighting Irish sweeping both ends of the home-and-home series.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Central Michigan Met
Becca Bruszewski scored a (then) career-high 13 points to lead six Notre Dame players in double figures in a 94-41 rout of Central Michigan on Nov. 20, 2007, at McGuirk Arena (then known as Rose Arena) in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
The No. 23/24 Fighting Irish pulled away from the Chippewas for good with a 20-0 run in the final six minutes of the first half.
Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner each had 12 points. Barlow also had a career-high 11 rebounds. Tulyah Gaines added 11. Melissa D'Amico and Lindsay Schrader each had 10.
The Fighting Irish, who were coming off a 75-59 loss to Maryland four days earlier in the Preseason WNIT semifinals, shot 61 percent from the floor in the first half, and 56 percent for the game.
Central Michigan shot 27 percent from the floor, and no Chippewas finished in double digits. They also had 22 turnovers. Shonda Long led Central Michigan with eight points, while Britni Houghton and Candace Wilson each had seven.
Other Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series TidbitsJunior forward Ariel Braker (Grosse Pointe Woods) is the lone Michigan native on this year's Notre Dame roster. However, the Great Lakes State has produced 16 Fighting Irish players through the years, second only to Indiana (19) in the program's 36-year history.
Technically, this will be the second time in five games this season Notre Dame has played in Mount Pleasant. Back on Nov. 9, the Fighting Irish visited the South Carolina version of that city (located just outside Charleston), defeating No. 19/21 Ohio State, 57-51 aboard the USS Yorktown in the Carrier Classic.
Central Michigan also has a tie-in to Notre Dame's current success on the football field. Third-year Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly cut his teeth at the NCAA Division I level with the Chippewas from 2004-06, leading CMU to a 19-16 (.543) record and the 2006 Motor City Bowl before moving on to Cincinnati, and eventually to Notre Dame, where he has led the Fighting Irish to a 28-10 (.737) record, including a spotless 12-0 mark this season and the No. 1 spot in the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings.
Notre Dame vs. The Mid-American Conference
Notre Dame is 36-14 (.720) all-time against the current Mid-American Conference alignment, with a 15-10 (.600) record away from home (road/neutral sites combined). The Fighting Irish also sport a 21-5 (.808) record against MAC schools in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) with a 9-4 (.692) mark away from home.
What's more, Notre Dame has won its last 19 games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss to Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995, in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) Tournament.
The Fighting Irish last faced a MAC opponent in the 2011-12 season opener, defeating Akron, 81-61 on Nov. 11, 2011, in a Preseason WNIT first-round game at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame was led in scoring that night by current senior guard Skylar Diggins (21 points), current junior guard Kayla McBride (15 points) and current sophomore forward Markisha Wright (12 points).
Notre Dame will be playing a MAC team on the road for the first time since Dec. 2, 2008, when the Fighting Irish downed Eastern Michigan 83-63, at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich.
North Of The Border
Thursday's game is the first for Notre Dame against a team from the state of Michigan since Dec. 2, 2009, when the Fighting Irish defeated another Mid-American Conference school, Eastern Michigan, 69-59, at Purcell Pavilion. Senior guard Skylar Diggins was the only current Notre Dame player to see action that night, scoring a team-high 15 points and grabbing six rebounds for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame also will be playing in the state of Michigan for the first time since Nov. 19, 2009, when the Fighting Irish edged No. 21 Michigan State, 68-67 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich., on Ashley Barlow's free throw with 10 seconds left.
Notre Dame is 54-20 (.730) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 34-8 (.810) mark against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
The Fighting Irish have won 11 of their last 12 games against Michigan schools, with their only loss in that span being a 63-59 overtime setback at Michigan on Dec. 10, 2008.
Jewell Loyd Named BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
Notre Dame rookie guard Jewell Loyd was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, the conference office announced Monday. It's the first time in Loyd's young college career she has been chosen for a weekly conference honor.
In addition, this marks the 77th time a Fighting Irish women's basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (44 Players of the Week, 33 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).
Loyd was a consistent force at both ends of the court for Notre Dame last week, averaging a team-high 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game with a .727 field goal percentage (16-of-22) and a .600 three-point percentage (3-of-5) as Notre Dame posted victories over Mercer (93-36) and at No. 19/22 UCLA (76-64).
Loyd's stat lines were virtually identical in last week's wins, as she piled up 19 points (on 8-of-10 shooting), six rebounds, five assists and two steals in only 19 minutes vs. Mercer on Nov. 20 at Purcell Pavilion. Three days later, Loyd scored 19 points (on 8-of-12 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range), and added seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in leading Notre Dame to its first win over UCLA at legendary Pauley Pavilion since 1997.
Loyd also led the Fighting Irish in scoring for the first time in her young career at UCLA, a performance that was highlighted by three baskets in a 47-second span midway through the first half to punctuate a 15-2 Notre Dame run that gave the Fighting Irish the lead for good and secured their second win over a Top 25 opponent (both away from home) in the first four games of the 2012-13 season.
Loyd is the sixth Fighting Irish rookie in the past five seasons to cop the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award, with current sophomore forward Markisha Wright to most recent Notre Dame recipient of that award on Jan. 2, 2012. Other current Fighting Irish players who previously garnered that honor include senior All-America guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins, who earned BIG EAST Freshman of the Week accolades four times during the 2009-10 season, and junior forward Natalie Achonwa, who was selected for the honor on Dec. 13, 2010.
Loyd is the second Fighting Irish player in as many weeks to earn conference recognition. On Nov. 19, junior guard Kayla McBride was chosen for a place on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll.
Game #4 Recap: UCLA
Skylar Diggins was nowhere near her best against UCLA. Fortunately for the Fighting Irish, her teammates did more than enough to beat the Bruins.
Jewell Loyd had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Kayla McBride scored 18 points, and fifth-ranked Notre Dame wasn't threatened in the second half in beating the No. 19/22 Bruins, 76-64 on Nov. 23 at Pauley Pavilion.
Diggins had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists, but shot 5 of 17 and committed four turnovers.
Natalie Achonwa had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting Irish (4-0), who shot 29 of 60 (48.3 percent) to UCLA's 24 of 61 (39.3 percent).
Loyd, who shot 8 of 12, including 2 of 3 from three-point range, made three straight baskets midway through the first half to cap a 15-2 run that put the Fighting Irish ahead for good.
Achonwa scored four points during an 8-2 run to start the second half, giving the Fighting Irish a 44-31 lead. UCLA drew within eight on two straight baskets by Markel Walker, but that was as close as the Bruins would get. Notre Dame then went on another 8-2 spurt for a 57-43 advantage with 10 1/2 minutes left.
Walker had 21 points and nine rebounds and Alyssia Brewer added 10 points for UCLA.
Beyond The Box Score: UCLANotre Dame is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
This was the first true road victory for Notre Dame at a Top 25 opponent since Feb. 27, 2012, when the Fighting Irish defeated No. 4 Connecticut, 72-59 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. (a win that clinched the outright BIG EAST Conference regular-season title).
Notre Dame earns its first win over UCLA since Nov. 14, 1998 (a 99-82 win over the sixth-ranked Bruins at Purcell Pavilion, with UCLA still leading the all-time series, 9-5.
The Fighting Irish also have now won the past two series games at Pauley Pavilion, also defeating the Bruins, 93-91 in double overtime the last time the teams clashed in Los Angeles on Nov. 30, 1997.
Notre Dame held UCLA to its lowest point total in the series since Dec. 22, 1989, when the Fighting Irish edged the Bruins, 61-60 at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame is 24-20 (.545) all-time against the current Pac-12 Conference alignment, with a 14-16 (.467) record away from home (road/neutral sites combined) -- the Fighting Irish also have won 21 of their last 28 games against current Pac-12 schools.
Notre Dame is 25-15 (.625) all-time against teams from the state of California, with a 15-11 (.577) record away from home and 23-7 (.767) mark in the 26-year Muffet McGraw era.
The Fighting Irish are 9-10 (.474) all-time when playing a game in the state of California, including wins in eight of their last 10 contests played in the Golden State.
Notre Dame defeats a California school on its home court for the first time since Nov. 26, 2004, when the Fighting Irish downed USC, 60-56 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena (then the Trojans' home court prior to the construction of the Galen Center).
Achonwa registered her second consecutive double-double, third of the season and fourth of her career -- Achonwa is the first Fighting Irish player with consecutive double-doubles since Jan. 23-31, 2012, when Devereaux Peters chalked up three consecutive double-doubles against Tennessee (16p/16r), St. John's (18p/15r) and Rutgers (10p/17r).
Diggins Challenging School RecordsDiggins (444 rebounds) is 56 rebounds away to become the first women's basketball player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. Only one Notre Dame men's basketball player has ever compiled that impressive combination of statistics (Chris Thomas from 2001-05).
Throughout the 2012-13 season, senior guard Skylar Diggins will continue to close the gap that separates her from the highest eschelon of Notre Dame women's basketball players in a number of the program's top career categories. Here's a look at just a few of the notable milestones Diggins will have a shot to reach this season:
Diggins (1,771 points) is 229 points away from becoming the fourth 2,000-point scorer in school history, and she needs 551 points to catch current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham as the program's all-time leading scorer. Last Friday at No. 19/22 UCLA, Diggins moved into the top five on the Notre Dame career scoring list, passing sharpshooting All-America guard Alicia Ratay (1999-2003).
In addition, Diggins (278 steals) is 70 steals away from assistant coach Niele Ivey's school record for career thefts. Diggins also is closing in on third place on the Fighting Irish all-time steals list, needing three thefts to catch the co-holders of the No. 3 spot on the chart -- Mary Gavin (1984-88) and Ashley Barlow (2006-10).
Diggins (540 assists) has an outside shot at the Fighting Irish all-time record for assists held by Gavin, needing 238 helpers to reach the mark (Ivey is second, currently 187 ahead of Diggins). Diggins also is nearing the top five in this category, currently ranking sixth, just 14 behind Coquese Washington (1989-93).
The Best Things In Life Are Free
Though it's quite early in the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame already is displaying an early penchant for making opponents pay at the free throw line.
Through their first four games, the Fighting Irish lead the BIG EAST and rank fourth in the nation, shooting a remarkable .817 (67-of-82) from the charity stripe, including a season-high .905 (19-of-21) in their Nov. 18 home-opening win over Massachusetts.
Last year, Notre Dame set a school record by connecting at a .763 clip from the foul line, leading the BIG EAST with a stellar .807 percentage during conference play.
Junior guard Kayla McBride has had the most success cashing in on this strategy during the past two seasons, shooting .872 from the stripe last year (a league-leading .919 in BIG EAST games) and making all seven of her free throws so far this season.
For her career, McBride has logged an .877 free throw percentage, moving ahead of Alicia Ratay's .872 school-record mark from 1999-2003.
Notre Dame made a bit of women's basketball history on Nov. 9, joining with Ohio State to play the first women's game ever on the deck of an aircraft carrier, as the teams squared off outdoors in the second annual Carrier Classic aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (on the shores of Charleston Harbor).
The game was played to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project, which aids returning veterans who have been injured while in the service of our country, and the Fighting Irish were exceptionally proud and honored to have former Notre Dame guard, U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (`00) join the team on the bench for their historic game against Ohio State. Green, who lost her left (shooting) hand in May 2004 during a rocket-propelled grenade attack while on patrol on the roof of a police station in Baghdad, Iraq, delivered an inspiring pre-game speech to the current Fighting Irish squad before they came out to face Ohio State.
Notre Dame won this year's Carrier Classic game, 57-51, behind the second career double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) from junior forward Natalie Achonwa and 16 points from junior guard Kayla McBride. After the game, head coach Muffet McGraw said the victory was dedicated to Green.
Notre Dame Picked Second In 2012-13 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
Following its second BIG EAST Conference regular-season title (and first outright championship) in 2011-12, Notre Dame was selected as the No. 2 team in the annual BIG EAST preseason women's basketball poll, according to a vote of the league's 15 head coaches released Oct. 18 during the 2012-13 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.
Connecticut was the preseason BIG EAST favorite by the conference coaches, earning 194 total points, including 12 of a possible 15 first-place votes. Notre Dame was second, collecting 182 points along with the remaining three first-place votes. Louisville (167 points), St. John's (144 points) and Rutgers (143 points) rounded out the top five in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll, with league skippers not allowed to vote for their own teams or players.
Diggins AP Preseason All-American/BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Even before the ball has been tossed for the first time in 2011-12, Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins already has been tapped for numerous accolades.
Most notably, she was a unanimous choice for the Associated Press Preseason All-America Team, appearing on that squad for the second consecutive year. She is the first Fighting Irish player to garner AP Preseason All-America honors twice in her career.
In addition, Diggins was chosen as the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, becoming the first Fighting Irish player to receive that accolade more than once. A year ago, Diggins followed up her preseason selection by earning BIG EAST Player of the Year honors at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.
Diggins also was a unanimous choice for the preseason all-conference team for the third consecutive year. What's more, she already has been named to the State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List, and is a prime candidate for all other major national honors in 2012-13.
Last season, Diggins was a consensus first-team All-America selection (including her spot on the State Farm Coaches All-America Team, as selected by the WBCA), and she was a finalist for every major national player-of-the-year award, taking home the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard. She also was chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Year (the third Notre Dame player to be so honored and the first since 2005) and is a two-time unanimous first-team all-conference selection.
The Diggins Factor
Notre Dame has posted a 99-18 (.846) record in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), a mark that can be traced in no small part to the arrival of guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a spot in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA national championship games and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 21-11 record against AP Top 25 teams (10-9 vs. the AP Top 10) and a 63-game winning streak against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll) from the start of the 2009-10 season before falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012 (now 70-1 vs. unranked teams).
Upon closer examination, Notre Dame's 18 losses in Diggins' career primarily have been ones that could have gone either way, with 11 decided by single digits (six were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.
With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted three of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 78.9 ppg. last year, after logging 77.0 ppg. in 2010-11, and 77.2 ppg. in her freshman season of 2009-10.
In addition, thanks to Diggins' penchant for steals (she has a 2.38 spg. career mark that is fourth-best in school history), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top three single-season steal marks in program history with 502 thefts last year, 495 steals in 2010-11, and 450 thefts in 2009-10.
The past two years also have seen Notre Dame post two of the four best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing a school-record 52.9 ppg., last season (well ahead of the previous mark of 55.1 ppg., in 1981-82) and giving up just 56.2 ppg., in 2010-11.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll, its 30th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting, dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season.
This week's No. 5 ranking also represents a milestone for the Notre Dame women's basketball program, which is making its 100th consecutive AP poll appearance, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). The Fighting Irish also are one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of 100 consecutive AP poll appearances.
What's more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (61 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (50) of those appearances in the AP Top 10 (and never lower than 18th).
This year's No. 7 ranking in the preseason AP poll also represented the 13th time in the past 14 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only seven schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 14 during that span, while Georgia, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 13 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 239 weeks during the program's 36-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks ninth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish are holding steady at No. 5 for the second consecutive week in the latest ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, after starting the season at No. 6 for the first two weeks.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 100 of the past 101 weeks (and 64 in a row), 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 233 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the fifth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 11 of the past 15 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 32 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 239 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 32 people on this list, 15 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 and 2012).
Half And Half
During the past 12 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 251-19 (.930) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 179 of their last 192 such contests (.932).
What's more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 88-2 (.978) when leading at the half, with the only losses 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), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 18 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 261-15 (.946) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including three outings so far this season.
...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 18 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 170-6 (.966) 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 four years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 47-2 (.959) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level twice this season.
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 Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 223 of their last 251 games (.888) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 25 and 20 games in that span (the latter from 2011-12, ending Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia).
Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 50-4 (.926) -- including wins in 26 of their last 27 home games -- and three of the four Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).
Notre Dame also has a 120-20 (.857) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the `02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 105 of their last 113 non-BIG EAST contests (.929) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight 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 defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 373-89 (.807) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, a mark that lasted only two seasons before the Fighting Irish posted a 17-1 record at Purcell Pavilion last year.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past three 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 (8,571 fans per game in 2011-12) and most sellouts in a single season (eight in 2011-12). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the fourth consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out the Dec. 5 game with Baylor and March 4 Connecticut game.
Notre Dame got its home slate off to a fine start at the box office on Nov. 18, welcoming the first home-opening sellout in school history for its victory over Massachusetts. That capacity crowd also was the 26th in the program's 36-year tenure, including the 20th in the past four years alone.
The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,720 fans through their first two home games of 2012-13.
While some individual tickets may be made available on the day or week of the game for selected contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it's entirely possible that, for the second consecutive season, Notre Dame will flirt with a sellout for every one of its home games.
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-Mishawaka-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains approximately 1.5 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, the Notre Dame women's basketball radio footprint 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 around the world on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (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 in his fifth 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 22 regular season games televised during the 2012-13 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 15 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's sixth-ever appearance on network television, and third in as many years (Jan. 5 at Connecticut on CBS) and eight showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast (matching the most by any women's basketball program in the nation this season).
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the seventh consecutive season, all Fighting Irish home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com.
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 Friday's win at No. 19/22 UCLA (televised live to a regional audience on the Pac-12 Networks, the first-ever women's basketball telecast on that entity), Notre Dame has played in 238 televised games, including 182 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2012-13 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Coming Soon: Irish in the ACC
On Sept. 12, 2012, the University of Notre Dame announced that it had accepted an offer of admission into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for all sports except football (the league does not offer championships in ice hockey or fencing).
The change in conference affiliation (for which a timetable has not yet been established) will be the first for Notre Dame since 1995, when the Fighting Irish moved from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) to the BIG EAST Conference.
In its 18 seasons in the BIG EAST, the Notre Dame women's basketball program has been the one of the conference's best, winning two BIG EAST regular-season titles (2001 and 2012) and compiling a 216-64 (.771) record in league play that remains the second-best regular-season winning percentage in BIG EAST women's basketball history.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
Now in its sixth season, Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion will once again look to send fans home with full bellies, offering 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 six-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 37 times, most recently on Tuesday against Mercer.
Junior forward Ariel Braker, senior guard Kaila Turner and sophomore forward Markisha Wright are the leaders among current Fighting Irish players, with all three players having registered three "Big Mac baskets" during their respective careers.
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"), 20 different players have converted the "burger ball", including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 37 Big Mac games, 17 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and seven on three-pointers.
Next Game: Baylor
Notre Dame is back home at 7 p.m. (ET) Dec. 5 when it welcomes No. 3 Baylor to Purcell Pavilion for a rematch of the 2012 NCAA national championship game won by the Bears, 80-61 in Denver. This year's contest will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN2, which recently added the game to its schedule after it was initially slated to air on ESPNU.
Baylor (6-1) saw its 42-game winning streak snapped Nov. 16 with a 71-69 loss to then-No. 3 Stanford, but the Bears have bounced back with four wins since then, most recently an 89-49 victory at Rice on Tuesday evening.
-- ND --