Dec. 1, 2007
#22/23 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Michigan Wolverines (4-2 / 0-0 Big Ten)
DATE: December 2, 2007
No. 22/23 Irish Face Michigan Sunday At Nearly-Sold Out Joyce Center
Notre Dame rang up a third consecutive 30-point victory for the first time in almost nine years with a 93-47 win over Canisius on Tuesday night at the Joyce Center. The Irish used a 14-0 run midway through the first half to blow the game wide open and forced the Golden Griffins to commit 29 turnovers en route to the victory.
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow turned in a balanced effort for Notre Dame, posting game highs of 18 points, seven rebounds, a career-high six assists and four steals. Senior guard Charel Allen added 17 points and freshman forward Devereaux Peters came off the bench to chip in 12 points for the Irish.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Last year, the Irish learned quickly that respect is something that isn't handed to you, but rather earned on the court. It's also a quality that takes time to develop and doesn't come from trophy cases or record books. So although Notre Dame was tabbed fifth in the preseason BIG EAST Conference balloting, it's not a great concern to McGraw and her charges. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and prefer to let the outside world judge them when the season is over.
This year could prove to be unlike any in recent memory for Notre Dame. For one, the Irish will roll out some impressive depth, going virtually two-deep at every floor position. In addition, Notre Dame's new offensive system (a Princeton-based set with four guards and a post) continues to evolve, building upon last year's 70.1 point-per-game average that was its highest since the 2000-01 NCAA national championship season.
Senior guard Charel Allen is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish, leading the team in both categories last year (17.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg.). She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA honorable mention All-America selection, and was a finalist for the 2007 USA U21 World Championship Team that struck gold this past summer in Moscow.
Allen's backcourt partner and classmate is point guard Tulyah Gaines. Now in her second full season at the helm of the Notre Dame offense, the speedy Gaines averaged 9.6 points per game along with team highs of 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. She also is a two-year team captain who commands instant respect from teammates, coaches and opponents.
The Irish will benefit from the return of junior guard Lindsay Schrader, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader, who retains three years of athletic eligibility, was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 and will look to regain that form this season.
Last year saw Notre Dame break new ground by becoming the first school ever to put three players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Guards Ashley Barlow (10.3 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Melissa Lechlitner (6.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) will provide a superb complement to the veteran Allen-Gaines tandem, while center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) showed flashes of potential throughout her rookie season and is poised for increased development this year.
Headlining a three-player freshman class (ranked 11th nationally by Blue Star Basketball) is Devereaux Peters, a smooth 6-2 forward who was a consensus All-American as a senior last year at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. Fellow post Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind.) finished third in last season's Indiana Miss Basketball voting and was a perennial all-state pick. And, guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md.) offers a perimeter shooting threat, as well as a cerebral player who will mesh well in the Irish offensive system.
A Quick Look At Michigan
The Wolverines have 13 letterwinners, including all five starters, back in the fold from last year's club that went 10-20 overall and 3-13 in the Big Ten Conference. However, seven of UM's losses were by single digits, and the Wolverines were only one game below .500 early in the conference season before closing the year with 11 losses in their final 13 games.
Hardened by some of the travails of the 2006-07 season, this year's Michigan squad looks ready to put the past behind it and carve a new path for the program. The Wolverines are off to a solid start in that pursuit, jumping out to a 4-2 record this season despite playing its last five games away from home.
Michigan opened the season with three consecutive victories, including a 55-46 win at Notre Dame's fellow BIG EAST Conference member Cincinnati back on Nov. 13. The Wolverines also posted an impressive 65-50 win at ACC member Miami (Fla.), then split a pair of games at the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament, losing to Iowa State (67-43), but bouncing back with a sharp 80-43 pasting of Belmont in the consolation game.
UM last took the court on Thursday night, dropping a 69-41 decision at No. 13/12 Texas A&M. The Wolverines found themselves in a deep early hole, falling behind 18-2 a little more than six minutes into the game, and they never completely recovered. Michigan got as close as 26-19 with less than three minutes to go in the first half, but Texas A&M responded with a 26-6 run that crossed over halftime and put the game away.
A pair of seniors -- guard Janelle Cooper and center/forward Ta'Shia Walker -- led the Wolverines with nine points apiece. Cooper also shared team-high rebounding honors with six boards for UM, which was charged with 33 turnovers and shot .308 from the floor.
Sophomore center Krista Phillips leads Michigan in scoring (10.5 ppg.), field goal percentage (.667) and blocked shots (1.5 bpg.) although she has not yet started a game this season. Cooper is second in scoring (9.2 ppg.) and rebounding (4.5 rpg.) while making a team-best 12-of-25 (.480) from the three-point line.
Head coach Kevin Borseth is in his first season at Michigan after a successful runs at Wisconsin-Green Bay (1998-99 to 2006-07), Michigan Tech (1987-88 to 1997-98) and Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, Mich. (1982-83 to 1986-87). He has a 510-212 (.706) career record in 26 years of coaching, although Sunday will mark his first matchup with Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Michigan Series
Notre Dame also has won four of the past five games and eight of the past 11 contests in the series with Michigan, since the Wolverines took the first three matchups with the Irish. The teams met annually from 1978-79 through 1985-86, but the rivalry then went dormant with the exception of a home-and-home series in 1991 and 1992.
The two sides renewed acquaintances with a pair of tournament contests -- the Irish defeated Michigan, 88-54 in the second round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament (at the Joyce Center) before the Wolverines returned the favor the following year with a 78-63 triumph at the Women's College Basketball Showcase in Grand Rapids.
The schools are in the third year of a four-year series, with Notre Dame having won the first two contests against UM (55-45 at the Joyce Center in 2005; 61-58 last year in Ann Arbor).
The Last Time Notre Dame And Michigan Met
Notre Dame went on a 10-2 run and forced three turnovers in the final 47.3 seconds to rally past Michigan, 61-58 before a noisy and hostile crowd of 3,817 in Ann Arbor. Tulyah Gaines canned both ends of a one-and-one free throw situation with 3.3 seconds to go, giving the Irish the lead, before Charel Allen added two huge security foul shots in the final second to secure the win.
Allen finished with a game-high 15 points and three steals, while Gaines chipped in 11 points and three thefts. Ashley Barlow played a pivotal role off the bench, coming up with 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds, along with three steals. As a team, the Irish (5-2) struggled to find their shooting touch (.355 for the night), but were sharp at the foul line when it counted, going 10-of-13 (.769) in the second half.
Notre Dame's defense also turned out to be key on this night, as the Irish forced Michigan (5-3) into an opponent season-high 30 turnovers, with 15 of those coming on steals. The Irish also held the Wolverines to 58 points, their best defensive effort of the '06-07 season to date. Janelle Cooper had 11 points and Krista Phillips added 10 points for UM, but Phillips, a 6-6 post, didn't score during the final 30:48 of the contest.
Notre Dame took its largest lead of the evening (42-33) on an old-fashioned three-point play by Gaines with 13:34 to play. However, that margin evaporated during the next four minutes, with Michigan's Stephany Skrba pulling her team alongside Notre Dame at 46-46 on two foul shots just past the midpoint of the second half.
After going bucket for bucket, the Wolverines nosed in front when Kayln McPherson slashed in for a layup with 5:29 left. UM then backed the Irish into a corner when Jessica Minnfield and Carly Benson hit bookend three-pointers around a layup by Notre Dame's Erica Williamson, leaving Michigan with a crowd-pleasing 56-51 edge at the final media timeout. The assembled multitude didn't know it at the time, but the Wolverines wouldn't score another basket the rest of the way.
Still trailing by five with 1:01 left, Allen fouled Phillips to put UM in the double bonus situation. The Wolverine center missed both of her charities, and Barlow drew Notre Dame within two on a right-wing three-pointer with 47.3 seconds to go. Allen then stole the Michigan in-bounds pass under the Irish basket, but her reverse layup attempt hung tantalizing on the rim before falling out and the Wolverines drew a held ball (and the resulting possession arrow) with 40.9 ticks remaining.
Following a Michigan timeout, Notre Dame fouled Cooper, who converted one of her two foul shots to keep the Irish within one possession. Yet, Notre Dame's fortunes seemed to dim when Gaines' driving layup try was blocked by Phillips and the Irish guard then fouled UM's Sireece Bass with 22.3 seconds left. Like Cooper, Bass made the front end of her two free throws, rebuilding a 58-54 Michigan lead.
Without a timeout, Gaines pushed into the front court and got the ball on the left wing to Allen, who buried a three-pointer with 10.9 seconds to go. Allen fouled Bass again on the inbounds (:07.5), but Bass missed both free throws, giving Notre Dame an opportunity. Gaines took advantage, navigating through the backtracking Michigan defense before Bass fouled her at the top of the key with 3.3 seconds to be played, putting the Wolverines over the limit and giving the Irish co-captain a one-and-one free throw possibility.
With the crowd reaching a fever pitch, Gaines coolly stepped to the foul line and found nothing but net on her first free throw. The bonus toss was a little more ticklish, hanging on the front lip of the rim for an instant before tipping softly into the twine. Michigan, which also had exhausted its prescribed number of timeouts, tried to advance the ball to midcourt, but Melinda Queen was called for traveling after making the catch at the timeline with two seconds left. Allen took the subsequent inbounds pass, was fouled and hit two free throws with a scant 0.7 seconds to go, leaving the Wolverines with a baseball pass down the floor, which was picked off as the horn sounded.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Michigan Met At The Joyce Center
McGraw became the 27th women's coach with 500 wins and the 10th to accomplish the feat before turning 50. Three other active BIG EAST coaches also won 500 before 50: Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer, Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Villanova's Harry Perretta.
It looked for a while like McGraw might have to wait for the milestone victory with the Irish offense struggling. But Allen scored inside with 13:39 left to start a 12-3 run, during which she scored six points as the Irish went ahead 42-38. The Irish opened a 49-43 lead when Allen hit a 16-footer.
The 14 rebounds by Schrader were the most by an Irish player since Jacqueline Batteast had 18 against Connecticut nearly three years earlier. Melissa D'Amico added 10 points for the Irish. Ta'Shia Walker led Michigan with 16 points and nine rebounds, making her first six shots before missing the final four. The Irish outrebounded the Wolverines 54-33.
Other Notre Dame-Michigan Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten Conference
Michigan is the first of two Big Ten teams on Notre Dame's '07-08 schedule, with the Irish slated to visit Purdue next Saturday (Dec. 8) in a 4 p.m. (ET) game that will be broadcast regionally on the Big Ten Network. Last season, Notre Dame split four games against the Big Ten, winning at Michigan (61-58) and home vs. Purdue (67-58), while losing at Penn State (75-49) and home vs. Indiana (54-51).
It's also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least four 30-point wins in a single season. That year, Notre Dame collected a school-record 10 30-point victories, but only two of those came in the first six games.
What's more, the Irish are on a current streak of three consecutive 30-point wins. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
The Irish currently lead the BIG EAST Conference in scoring at 85.0 points per game, having tallied at least 78 points in each of their five wins. What's more, Notre Dame also has the second-highest scoring average after six games in program history, topped only by the 1998-99 squad (85.2 ppg.), which went on to post a single-season school record with an 81.0-ppg. scoring average.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the conference in scoring margin, outpointing its opposition by 30.0 points per night.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame also has had at least five double-figure scorers in the past three games. It's believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it's probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Keeping It On The Plus Side
For the year, the Irish rank second in the BIG EAST with a 1.49 assist-to-turnover ratio, trailing only second-ranked Connecticut (1.63). Notre Dame also has assisted on 53.1 percent of its field goals this year (110 assists on 207 baskets), ranking third in the conference with 18.33 assists per game.
Off And Running
Even in its lone defeat at third-ranked Maryland, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 143 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw now ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and with this week's poll selection, she moves into sole possession of 25th place all-time in that category, breaking a tie with retired Colorado mentor Ceal Barry.
The Irish also are appearing in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the third consecutive week on Nov. 20, checking in at No. 23 after placing 24th in the previous poll.
(Nearly) Crowded House
Even if not another ticket is sold for the Michigan game, it already will go down as the fourth-largest crowd in school history and the fourth audience of 10,000 fans in the Notre Dame women's basketball record books. A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 7 of this notes package.
No Easy Road
With the addition of third-ranked Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals, the Irish now will face four of the top five teams (including the top three) in the latest Associated Press poll. Still to come this season are No. 1 Tennessee (Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), No. 2 Connecticut (Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center) and No. 5 Rutgers (Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). The top three teams in the poll have combined to win three of the past four national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware.
Leave The Driving To Us
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
This season's burger watch already is at five, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in exhibition wins over Southern Indiana and Hillsdale, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College and Canisius.
It's probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) three times, including the past two home games.
Next Game: Bowling Green
Despite losing six seniors, including four starters, from last year's NCAA Sweet 16 club, Bowling Green is a perfect 6-0 this year after winning the Cornell Classic with a 70-54 win over the host school on Saturday afternoon. The Falcons will be hosting Notre Dame for the first time since Nov. 23, 1996, when the Irish claimed an 85-70 win at Anderson Arena.