Nov. 28, 2008
#14/10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #24/rv Michigan State Spartans (6-0 / 0-0 Big Ten)
DATE: November 29, 2008
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: MSU leads 8-4
1ST MTG: MSU 76-45 (2/26/81)
LAST MTG: MSU 82-73, ot (12/2/04)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (video) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
No. 14/10 Irish Set To Entertain No. 24/RV Michigan State Saturday Afternoon
Outside of its regular BIG EAST schedule, there's no conference that Notre Dame sees more on a consistent basis than the Big Ten. The No. 14/10 Irish will open the Big Ten portion of this year's schedule on Saturday when they play host to No. 24/rv Michigan State in a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame (4-0) offered a smooth blend of potent offense and solid defense to post an 85-36 win over visiting Georgia Southern on Tuesday night. The Irish shot 56.1 percent from the floor and forced the Eagles into 24 turnovers, parlaying those takeaways into 37 points.
Sophomore guard Brittany Mallory came off the bench to pour in a career-high 19 points in 24 points, knocking down 7-of-10 shots, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. Junior guard Ashley Barlow added 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds for Notre Dame.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Michigan State
Michigan State comes into Saturday's game already reaping the benefits from last year's run to the postseason WNIT championship game. With eight letterwinners and four starters back from that club, the Spartans are off to a 6-0 start and have moved into the Associated Press Top 25 poll, checking in at No. 24 this week.
MSU went into the Thanksgiving break on a high note with an impressive 74-48 win over No. 23/20 Old Dominion on Wednesday night in East Lansing. The Spartans used a smothering defense to limit ODU to a .278 field goal percentage and just 21 second-half points. Michigan State also held a dominating 49-34 edge on the boards, including 17 offensive rebounds.
Redshirt junior center Lauren Aitch led four Spartans in double figures against Old Dominion, coming off the bench to pocket a game-high 14 points and eight rebounds. Redshirt senior guard Mia Johnson added 13 points, knocking down a trio of three-pointers.
Redshirt junior forward Aisha Jefferson (12.2 ppg.) paces a balanced MSU offensive attack that features four players in double figures and a fifth at 9.2 ppg. The Spartans also are shooting .496 from the floor, led by freshman forward Courtney Schiffauer (.645) and 6-foot-9 junior center Allyssa DeHaan, who not only connects at a .596 clip, but also is blocking a team-high 19 shots (3.2 bpg.).
Head coach Suzy Merchant is in her second season at Michigan State with a 29-14 (.674) record. Also a successful coach in prior stops at Saginaw Valley State and Eastern Michigan, Merchant owns a career record at 230-134 (.632) in her 14th season, although Saturday will mark her first-ever meeting with Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Michigan State Series
Saturday's game will be the 13th in the series between Notre Dame and Michigan State, with the Spartans owning an 8-4 edge on the Irish. The series has been built entirely on home-and-home series, with the schools playing in consecutive seasons six times previously, most recently in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.
MSU also is one of the rare visitors to own a series lead on Notre Dame at the Joyce Center, having won four of its six previous visits.
Overall, the series margin is much slimmer during the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with Michigan State leading by only a 5-3 count.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Michigan State Met
Lindsay Bowen made a game-tying 3-pointer and scored five of her 23 points in overtime to lead No. 15 Michigan State to an 82-73 victory over third-ranked Notre Dame on Dec. 2, 2004, at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame's Teresa Borton tied the game at 73 with 2:11 left at overtime, but the Spartans finished the game on a 9-0 run. Rene Haynes drove inside, Bowen hit a 15-foot jumper, Kelli Roehrig made a pair of free throws and Bowen added free throws in the final seconds.
The Irish (7-1) opened a 67-61 lead when Megan Duffy made a free throw with 36 seconds left. Kristin Haynie scored underneath and added a free throw with 30 seconds left for Michigan State (5-1), but Duffy made a pair of free throws to give the Irish a 69-64 lead.
Bowen was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws to cut the lead to 69-67. After Duffy made just 1-of-2 free throws, Bowen hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to tie the score at 70.
Haynie finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Spartans and Roehrig added 14 points. Liz Shimek had nine points and 13 rebounds.
Michigan State opened its biggest lead when Maggie Dwyer made a pair of free throws 25 seconds into the second half to give the Spartans a 43-30. But Roehrig sat down after picking up her second foul and the Irish went on a 17-0 run to open a 47-43 lead.
Roehrig returned and the Spartans used a 9-0 spurt to move ahead 52-47 on a three-point play by Roehrig. Tied at 54, Duffy then hit a three-pointer to spark a 10-4 run by the Irish.
Other ND-Michigan State Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten Conference
Notre Dame is 36-46 (.439) all-time against the Big Ten Conference, including a 20-16 (.556) record at the Joyce Center. The Irish also are 29-32 (.475) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with a 15-11 (.577) home slate.
What's more, Notre Dame has won nine of its last 13 games against Big Ten schools, including a sweep of Michigan and Purdue last season.
Michigan State opens a four-game stretch during which the Irish will play all three of their Big Ten opponents this year. Purdue visits the Joyce Center on Dec. 7, before Notre Dame heads to Michigan three days later to take on the Wolverines.
North Of The Border
Three of Notre Dame's next four games will come against teams from the state of Michigan -- Michigan State (Saturday), Eastern Michigan (Tuesday) and Michigan (Dec. 10).
The Irish are 50-19 (.725) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 20-13 (.606) record at home. Notre Dame also is 30-7 (.811) against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Notre Dame has won its last seven games against Michigan schools, since an 82-73 overtime loss to Michigan State on Dec. 2, 2004 at the Joyce Center. Last year, the Irish won a pair of games against Michigan institutions, winning at Central Michigan (94-41) and at home against Michigan (77-46).
Let's Talk Turkey
Notre Dame is 18-13 (.581) all-time in its first game after the Thanksgiving holiday, with a 7-3 (.700) home record and a 14-7 (.667) mark in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Last year, the Irish returned from the Thanksgiving break with an 88-58 win over Boston College at the Joyce Center (Nov. 24).
Last year, the Irish tied a school record with 10 wins by 30-or-more points. It would seem Notre Dame is intent on challenging that mark this season, having won its last three games by at least 35 points -- a first in school history.
The past two games have seen the Irish post two of the larger winning margins in the program's record books, rolling to a 48-point victory at Boston College (102-54), followed by a 49-point win at home over Georgia Southern (85-36).
In fact, the only time Notre Dame logged a larger combined margin of victory in consecutive games than this past week's 97-point spread was Nov. 24-25, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla., when the Irish downed Liberty (113-35) and host Central Florida (81-61) by a combined 98 points.
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Notre Dame reeled off a 27-0 run in the second half of Tuesday's win over Georgia Southern, marking the second-longest string of consecutive points in school history. On Jan. 18, 1997, the Irish used a 31-0 spurt midway through the first half to seize control and take a 65-49 over Pittsburgh at the Joyce Center.
Piping Hot Turnovers
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again early this year, causing 101 turnovers (25.3 per game) in its first four outings, including 83 in the past three games alone (31 vs. Evansville, 28 at Boston College, 24 vs. Georgia Southern).
The majority of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 55 thefts (13.8 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
The Upper Hand
In its first four games of the season, Notre Dame has trailed for all of 4:50 and not by more than one possession (three points). LSU had a 20-18 lead on the visiting Irish at the 4:46 mark of the first half of the State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 before senior guard Lindsay Schrader answered with a layup on the ensuing possession.
On Nov. 19, Evansville scored the opening points of the game on an old-fashioned three-point play, but sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski erased that deficit 45 seconds later with a three-pointer.
On Nov. 23 at Boston College, the Irish and Eagles traded buckets over the first three-plus minutes before junior guard Ashley Barlow drained a three-pointer at 16:17 to give Notre Dame the lead for good at 10-8.
Most recently on Tuesday night, Notre Dame trailed for combined total of one minute against Georgia Southern after the teams alternated baskets for the first two minutes and prior to Barlow's fastbreak layup at 17:01 that wound up putting the Irish ahead to stay.
Notre Dame has found its shooting eye from the three-point line in the first four games of the season, connecting at a .500 clip from distance (22-of-24). The Irish have been particularly prolific in the past three games, making seven treys each in wins over Evansville and Boston College and six more against Georgia Southern.
One has to go back nearly seven years to find the last time Notre Dame made more than 20 combined three-pointers in a three-game span. On Dec. 28, 2001, the Irish canned four treys at Rice, followed by eight triples three days later at home against DePaul. Notre Dame capped the spree with a school-record 13 three-pointers on Jan. 2, 2002, at Miami (Fla.).
Earlier in that 2001-02 season, you'll find the last time the Irish strung together three consecutive games with at least six three-pointers. From Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 2001, Notre Dame was lights-out from the arc at Colorado State (7), at Arizona (7), home vs. Army (10) and at a neutral site vs. Michigan (8).
Barlow Named To BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll
Junior guard Ashley Barlow was named to the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll on Monday, an accolade she picked up twice last season (Dec. 17, Jan. 21) en route to honorable mention all-BIG EAST status.
Barlow averaged a team-high 16.0 points and 4.3 steals per game in Notre Dame's first three outings, while also logging a sharp .636 three-point percentage (7-of-11) and 4.3 rebounds a night. She tossed in a game-high 19 points in the first two Irish wins (at No. 24/22 LSU and home vs. Evansville) before flirting with a triple-double on Sunday at Boston College and ending up with 10 points, seven steals and six assists. The latter two figures also were career highs for the Indianapolis native and team tri-captain.
Becca's A Bruiser
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski showed a hint of the promise to come late last season, chalking up a (then) career-high 16 points in two of her three NCAA Tournament games (first round vs. SMU, regional semifinal vs. Tennessee).
That improvement has carried over into this season, as the Valparaiso, Ind., native has earned her way into the Irish starting lineup and has not disappointed. On Nov. 19 against Evansville, she poured in a career-best 18 points, knocking down 7-of-9 shots from the field, including both of her three-point attempts. The latter statistic was particularly noteworthy, considering she was just 1-of-2 from beyond the arc during her entire freshman season.
Not to be outdone, Bruszewski matched her career high four days later on Nov. 23 at Boston College, connecting for a game-high 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
In her last seven games (dating back to the start of last year's NCAA Tournament), Bruszewski is averaging 11.4 points per game with a .593 field goal percentage (32-of-54), including a .731 clip from the floor (19-of-26) in the past three games.
The Final Countdown
Less than 250 tickets remain for the Dec. 7 game with in-state rival Purdue at the Joyce Center (2 p.m. ET tipoff). Should that allotment be exhausted, it would represent the sixth women's basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons.
Last year, Notre Dame sold out its games against Tennessee and Connecticut, and nearly did the same for the Michigan contest, drawing 10,825 fans for that game.
Notre Dame is ranked 14th in this week's Associated Press poll, up one spot from its preseason ranking. It's the 23rd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, which opened last season at No. 24 and rose as high as ninth on March 3, marking the eight time in the past 12 seasons (1996-97 through 2007-08) that the Irish have reached the AP Top 10.
Notre Dame also has been ranked in the AP poll for 162 weeks during the program's 32-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 23rd consecutive ranking in Tuesday's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, moving up to 10th (rising four spots from last week's balloting). It's the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since Dec. 6, 2005, when also checked in at No. 10. The Irish now have appeared in the coaches' poll for 154 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 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 162 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 23 people on this list, 11 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #4 Recap: Georgia Southern
Sophomore guard Brittany Mallory scored a career-high 19 points and No. 14 (AP)/No. 10 (ESPN/USA Today/WBCA) Notre Dame jumped on visiting Georgia Southern early in an 85-36 win on Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame (4-0), coming off a 102-54 win Sunday at Boston College, scored 37 points off of 24 Georgia Southern turnovers and harassed the Eagles into shot clock trouble all night.
J'Lisia Ogburn, Ashley Rivens and Ashley Melson each scored eight points to lead the Eagles (3-2), who shot just 21.4 percent from the field.
The Irish quickly took control with a 23-3 run early in the first half to take an 18-point lead. Mallory and freshman guard Natalie Novosel came off the Irish bench to score 11 of those points during the stretch that was highlighted by Notre Dame's defense.
The Irish then closed the door on any comeback by the Eagles, reeling off 27 unanswered points midway through the second half.
Noting The Georgia Southern Game
Irish Fourth In BIG EAST Preseason Poll
The Notre Dame women's basketball team has been projected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference this season, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches that was announced during the 2008 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day on Oct. 23 at the ESPN Zone in New York City.
The Irish collected 182 points, with Connecticut (14 first-place votes, 224 points), Rutgers (one first-place vote, 201 points) and Louisville (one first-place vote, 200 points) joining Notre Dame in the top four.
In addition, senior guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as a Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection, one of 14 players to garner preseason all-conference status. Schrader averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game last season while scoring in double figures 21 times.
A 2008 honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection, Schrader is one of three starters and seven monogram winners back for the Irish from last year's 25-9 club that finished fourth in the BIG EAST and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons.
Half And Half
During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 149-14 (.914) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 77 of their last 85 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 3-0 when up at the break, doing so in its last three games. Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 187-12 (.940) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added three more wins to the ledger this season with its victories at LSU and Boston College, as well as Tuesday night's win at home over Georgia Southern.
...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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 117-4 (.967) 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.
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in its last three outings, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
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 164 of their last 185 games (.886) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 93-15 (.861) 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 73 of their last 79 non-BIG EAST contests (.924) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- 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 314-82 (.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.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 19 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including four games on the ESPN family of networks (beginning with the Nov. 16 State Farm Tip-Off Classic win at LSU, which aired on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com) and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 118 televised games, including 68 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the second annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
Notre Dame's Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year's NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.
All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its "Big Mac" promotion for 2008-09, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a game.
It hasn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame topped the 88-point mark in both its lone exhibition game (96-30 win over Gannon on Nov. 5) and its regular-season opener (96-61 win over Evansville on Nov. 19).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition win and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first 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, 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 Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project 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.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: Eastern Michigan
Notre Dame will play seven of its next nine games on the road, beginning Tuesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) contest at Eastern Michigan. It will be the first meeting between the Irish and Eagles since 1984 and Notre Dame's first-ever visit to the EMU Convocation Center.
Eastern Michigan (2-4) is coming off a pair of losses at the Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, Mexico, falling to James Madison (80-76) and No. 22 TCU (71-55) on Thursday and Friday, respectively. EMU now returns home to get ready for Tuesday's game with the Irish.