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    #3 Irish Back Home Friday To Take On Ivy League Member Penn

    FIGHTING IRISH Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw will go after the 650th win of her 30-year coaching career when her third-ranked Fighting Irish play host to Penn (a team from McGraw's hometown of Philadelphia) on Friday night at Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw will go after the 650th win of her 30-year coaching career when her third-ranked Fighting Irish play host to Penn (a team from McGraw's hometown of Philadelphia) on Friday night at Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 1, 2011

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    2011-12 ND Women's Basketball: Game 7
    #3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Penn Quakers (4-1 / 0-0 Ivy League)

    DATE: December 2, 2011
    TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
    SERIES: ND leads 1-0
    LAST MTG: ND 62-47 (12/18/81)
    WEBCAST: UND.com (free-live)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
    LIVE CHAT: UND.com/blog
    TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame will play host to an Ivy League school for the first time, while the Fighting Irish will be facing Penn for the first time in nearly 30 years (the longest hiatus between series games in program history).
  • Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw needs one victory to reach the 650-win mark in her storied 30-year coaching career.
  • No. 3 Fighting Irish Back Home Friday To Take On Ivy League Member Penn
    After a record-tying comeback win over a ranked opponent in a foreign country last weekend, No. 3 Notre Dame is back inside the familiar confines of Purcell Pavilion to open the month of December, as the Fighting Irish welcome Penn to town for a 7 p.m. (ET) contest on Friday that will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com.

    The Fighting Irish (5-1) will hope to learn some important lessons from their 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke last Saturday in the championship game of the Junkanoo Jam's Freeport Division in the Bahamas. Notre Dame fell behind by as many as 18 points early in the second half before mounting a furious comeback, culminating with a bank shot from the foul line by senior guard Natalie Novosel as time expired.

    Junior guard Skylar Diggins led the Fighting Irish with a game-high 19 points and season-best eight rebounds, while Novosel chipped in 15 points, including her game-winner.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 3 in both the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Penn is not ranked.
  • Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame won the Freeport Division of the Junkanoo Jam last weekend with victories over USC (80-58) and No. 7/6 Duke (56-54) in Freeport, Bahamas. It's the ninth regular-season tournament title for the Fighting Irish in their 11 tries (dating back to the 1996-97 season), including their fourth in the past three years, with Notre Dame now 31-4 in its last 35 regular-season tourney games.
  • Notre Dame trailed 38-20 with 19:15 to play against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 before rallying for the 56-54 victory. That tied the largest comeback win in school history, while senior guard Natalie Novosel's buzzer-beating shot was the first Fighting Irish game-winner at the horn since 2006.
  • Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the fourth consecutive week the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls. It's also the second time in three seasons that Notre Dame has spent at least four weeks in a row as a consensus top-five team (the Fighting Irish were in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 5 for 11 consecutive weeks from Dec. 7, 2009-Feb. 22, 2010).
  • With this week's No. 3 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 81 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 more than half that time (43 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • With 561 victories in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw is third 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) and men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87). McGraw passed baseball skipper Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) with her squad's 98-43 win over Hartford on Nov. 17.
  • McGraw also is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women's sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men's/women's track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame -- Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men's swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men's tennis).
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fifth with 379 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,322 fans per home game after the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans a night. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 161 of their last 163 home games, logging 17 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Feb. 26, 2011, vs. Cincinnati).
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 11 seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the '11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the fifth 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, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor's degree (a 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.
  • A Quick Look At Penn
    Just two years removed from a two-win season, Penn has pulled a complete 180, as the Quakers are off to the best five-game start in program history at 4-1, following a 49-39 win over Lafayette on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Although a fairly young crew, Penn does have a large contingent of eight veterans, including three starters back in the fold this season.

    Leading the way for the Quakers is sophomore guard Alyssa Baron (the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year), who averages a team-high 20.0 points per game with a .458 three-point percentage (second on the squad). Senior forward Jess Knapp is second on the team in scoring (8.2 ppg.) and tops in rebounds (7.2 rpg.), while freshman guard Renee Busch posted the best outing of her young career with five three-pointers and a game-high 15 points in Wednesday's win over Lafayette (she is shooting a team-best .500 from long distance).

    The architect of Penn's revival is head coach Mike McLaughlin, who enjoyed tremendous success at the NCAA Division II level at Philadelphia's Holy Family University before taking over the Quakers' reins in 2009-10. McLaughlin is 17-44 in three years at Penn, with an overall record of 424-105 (.802) in 17 seasons on the sidelines. Friday will mark McLaughlin's first-ever matchup with Notre Dame.

    The Notre Dame-Penn Series
    After a nearly three-decade hiatus, Notre Dame and Penn will square off on the hardwood for the second time on Friday night. The Fighting Irish and Quakers first met back on Dec. 18, 1981, in the first round of the Penn Holiday Invitational at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia, with Notre Dame earning a 62-47 victory.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Penn Met
    Freshman forward Mary Beth Schueth rang up a double-double with game highs of 17 points and 14 rebounds to help pace Notre Dame to a 62-47 win over Penn on Dec. 18, 1981, in the first round of the Penn Holiday Invitational at the Palestra in Philadelphia.

    Schueth's performance was the highlight of a solid effort from the Fighting Irish rookie class, with Carrie Bates (14 points/eight rebounds) and Laura Dougherty (eight points/seven assists) also helping to make up for the loss of talented center Shari Matvey, who was able to play just 10 minutes in the contest.

    The Quakers got 14 points and six rebounds from Auretha Fleming, but no other Penn player finished in double figures.

    Notre Dame led almost the entire way, thanks to an aggressive offensive attack that resulted in 27 free throw attempts (to just two for the hosts). However, the Quakers remained within striking distance throughout the evening, trailing by just three points (28-25) at halftime on the strength of an opportunistic defense that forced 20 Fighting Irish turnovers, with 13 of those coming on steals.

    Notre Dame would fall to Mount St. Mary's, 57-44, in the tournament championship game the next day, while Penn defeated Delaware, 59-43 in the consolation game.

    Other Notre Dame-Penn Series Tidbits

  • Officially, it will be 29 years, 11 months and 14 days since Notre Dame and Penn last played, making it the longest break between series games in Fighting Irish women's basketball history. That's more than a full year longer than the series hiatus between Notre Dame and Creighton, who renewed acquaintances last season after a break of 28 years, 11 months and two days.
  • This will be the third time in the past three seasons Notre Dame has revived a series that had been dormant for at least 28 years. In addition to the aforementioned Creighton series, the Fighting Irish faced San Diego State on Nov. 26, 2009, at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, meeting the Aztecs for the first time in 28 years, eight months and five days.
  • As a point of reference, the last time Notre Dame and Penn played, it was three days before Muhammad Ali's last fight (a unanimous decision loss to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas), more than three months before ground was broken on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and two weeks before CNN's Headline News (now known as HLN) went on the air.
  • Notre Dame's head coach for its last matchup with Penn was second-year skipper Mary DiStanislao, who has been the senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Penn since October 1999. DiStanislao posted a 115-79 (.593) in seven seasons at the Fighting Irish helm from 1980-81 through 1986-87, leading Notre Dame to a pair of North Star Conference titles (1983-84 and 1984-85) and earning NSC Coach of the Year honors both seasons. The Fighting Irish also earned their first-ever postseason berth under DiStanislao's guidance in 1985, finishing third at the now-defunct National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas. DiStanislao stepped down as Notre Dame's head coach in 1987 to pursue graduate studies, paving the way for the arrival of an up-and-coming coach from Lehigh University named Muffet McGraw.
  • The team captain for the Fighting Irish entering their 1981 matchup with Penn was senior forward Missy Conboy, who did not play against the Quakers after being shaken up in the previous game six days earlier against Northern Illinois. Today, Conboy is Notre Dame's senior deputy athletics director and senior woman administrator, having been a member of the University's athletic administration since August 1987.
  • Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is a native of West Chester, Pa., and graduated from Saint Joseph's in 1977. She also was a head girls' basketball coach at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa., from 1977-79, and an assistant coach at SJU from 1980-82, before earning her first collegiate head coach position at Lehigh in 1982. Also a former staff member at the renowned Cathy Rush Basketball Camps (named for the legendary former head coach at 1970s powerhouse Immaculata, and the focal point of the new movie "The Mighty Macs"), McGraw was inducted into the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame in 1990, one of four halls of fame that McGraw has become a member of during her storied career. However, her latest enshrinement may have been perhaps the most notable -- a June 2011 induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • During her five-year tenure as head coach at Lehigh, McGraw led the Engineers (now Mountain Hawks) to a 3-2 record against Penn. As the starting point guard for the nationally-ranked Saint Joseph's women's basketball team from 1973-77, McGraw (then known as Muffet O'Brien) guided the Hawks to a 4-0 record against Penn.
  • Notre Dame fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters and Penn freshman guard Kathleen Roche both are graduates of Fenwick High School in suburban Chicago (Peters matriculated in 2007, while Roche earned her high school diploma last spring).
  • Notre Dame vs. The Ivy League
    Notre Dame will be playing an Ivy League school for just the third time in its 35-year history, with Penn being the first member of that conference ever to visit Purcell Pavilion.

    The Quakers also were the first Ivy League foe for the Fighting Irish back on Dec. 18, 1981 (a 62-47 Notre Dame win in Philadelphia).

    More recently (at least relatively speaking) on Dec. 5, 1993, the Fighting Irish rallied from a six-point halftime deficit to earn a 58-54 win at Brown in the championship game of the Brown PowerBar Invitational.

    Notre Dame vs. The Big Five
    Notre Dame is 26-18 (.591) all-time when playing teams that are members of the Big Five, an informal association of college programs in the Philadelphia metro area that was created in 1955. The majority (27) of the 44 Fighting Irish games against the Big Five have come against Villanova, who also is a member of the BIG EAST Conference along with Notre Dame.

    The Fighting Irish are 12-4 (.750) all-time at home against Big Five schools, with Penn being the fourth different member of that association to visit Purcell Pavilion (only Saint Joseph's, the alma mater of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, has yet to come to South Bend).

    Caution -- Falling Bears!
    Friday's game has been designated for the seventh annual Notre Dame Women's Basketball Teddy Bear Toss, in which fans bring teddy bears and other stuffed animals to donate to several South Bend-area children's charities including Riley Hospital. At halftime, on the public address announcer's cue, fans are invited to toss their teddy bears onto the court at Purcell Pavilion, creating the memorable sight of stuffed animals raining down on the floor (and occasionally pelting an unsuspecting media member or game official sitting courtside).

    Friday's event is the first of five cornerstone events for this year's "Heart of the Irish" community outreach series that is outlined in greater detail later in this notes package.

    A Rally To Remember
    Notre Dame tied a school record by digging out of an 18-point second-half hole to defeat No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

    Nearly three years earlier on Dec. 30, 2008, the Fighting Irish trailed 46-28 at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt with 15:56 remaining and came back to win, 59-57 at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.

    This year's comeback victory over Duke marked just the fourth time in program history Notre Dame has ralled from a deficit of 15 points or more to post a victory, with all four of these comebacks occurring in the past 11 seasons (see accompanying chart).

    Beat The Clock
    Senior guard Natalie Novosel hit a running bank shot at the foul line as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

    Novosel's buzzer-beater was the first winning shot at the horn by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 10, 2006, when Megan Duffy scored the last of her career-high 32 points with an off-handed layup at the overtime siren to earn a 67-65 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.

    Notre Dame also has had several players nail winning shots in the final minute of games during recent seasons. Ashley Barlow was the most recent Fighting Irish player to pull off such late-game heroics, canning a three-pointer with 34.2 seconds remaining to help Notre Dame take a 74-73 win at Syracuse on Jan. 30, 2010.

    Another notable recent "beat-the-clock" moment for Notre Dame occurred on Dec. 5, 2007, when Charel Allen sank a foul-line jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Fighting Irish to an 86-84 win at Bowling Green.

    Helping Hands
    Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first six games of the year.

    The Fighting Irish are averaging 15.8 assists per game, with their 25 assists against Akron on Nov. 11 falling just three shy of the Preseason WNIT record for assists in a game (set on the same night - Nov. 9, 2001 - by Connecticut vs. Fairfield and Vanderbilt vs. Eastern Kentucky).

    What's more, Notre Dame has assisted on 55.2 percent of its field goals this season (95 of 172), compared to last year when the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.

    Spread The Wealth
    Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least four players scoring in double figures in three games.

    During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 37-4 (.902) when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 - 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 - 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 - 70-69 at DePaul).

    Novosel Reaches Career Milestone
    On a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Nov. 13 against Indiana State, senior guard Natalie Novosel became the 29th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 career points (currently 25th at 1,081). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (tied-20th with 1,194 points) as the two active players in that elite Fighting Irish club, with Notre Dame's two fifth-year seniors also having the chance to reach the scoring millennium later this season -- forward Devereaux Peters has tallied 909 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 792 career points.

    Should all four players hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time. Twice (in both 2000-01 and 2009-10), Notre Dame has had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).

    What's more, Novosel becomes the sixth player from Notre Dame's 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (ninth at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (13th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (23rd at 1,148) -- and that doesn't even include Peters or Mallory, who also were part of that 13-player roster.

    Game #6 Recap: Duke
    Natalie Novosel couldn't have had much worse of a first half for Notre Dame.

    The senior guard missed nine of her 10 shots and just wasn't in sync on offense.

    Yet she didn't stop shooting, banking in a shot from the foul line with under a second left to lift the No. 4/3 Fighting Irish to a 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division final on Saturday night at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

    Junior guard Skylar Diggins scored a game-high 19 points and added a season-best eight rebounds, while Novosel had 15 for the Fighting Irish (5-1), who rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit and an 18-point hole early in the second half.

    Elizabeth Williams had 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks for Duke (4-1).

    Trailing 54-51 with 1:35 left, the Fighting Irish had three chances to tie the game, but missed three 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Kayla McBride got fouled on an offensive rebound and made the first of two free throws to cut the deficit to two.

    After Chelsea Gray missed a shot for Duke on the other end, the rebound was tipped out to Diggins, who raced all the way in and scored to tie it at 54 with 13.9 seconds left. Shay Selby missed a scoop shot with 3.6 seconds left, with the ball going out of bounds on the baseline to set the stage for Novosel's game-winner.

    Notre Dame trailed 36-20 at the half, but clamped down on defense. After Haley Peters' layup gave Duke an 18-point lead 45 seconds into the second half, the Blue Devils missed their next 14 shots.

    Diggins had six points during a 21-3 run and Novosel scored to tie it at 41.

    Gray finally ended an 11 1/2-minute drought for Duke with a layup that gave it a 43-41 edge with 7:48 left.

    Neither team could build more than a four-point lead the rest of the way.

    With the game tied at 51, Williams made a layup with 2:44 left. After a stop by Duke, Richa Jackson hit one of two free throws with 1:35 left, setting up the exciting finish.

    The Fighting Irish, who matched the biggest rally in school history, missed 11 of their first 12 shots as the Blue Devils raced out to a 15-6 lead.

    The Blue Devils shot just 19 percent from the field in the second half.

    Beyond The Box Score -- Duke

  • Notre Dame tied a school record for the largest comeback victory in school history, matching the 18-point rally it posted in a 59-57 win at No. 20/18 Vanderbilt on Dec. 30, 2008, in Nashville, Tenn. (the Fighting Irish trailed 46-28 with 15:56 to play in that game before coming back to earn the victory).
  • Novosel's shot was the first buzzer-beating game-winner by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 10, 2006, when Megan Duffy hit an off-handed layup at the buzzer in overtime for a 67-65 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The Fighting Irish won their ninth regular-season tournament title in the past 11 tries, dating back to the 1996-97 season, and their first since last year's State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle.
  • The Fighting Irish have won 31 of their last 35 regular-season tournament games, including the aforementioned nine tournament titles.
  • Notre Dame is 5-0 all-time when playing in the Caribbean (the Fighting Irish won three in a row to claim the 2009 Paradise Jam title in the U.S Virgin Islands), and 10-0 all-time in tournament sponsored by Basketball Travelers, Inc. (adding in three wins at the 2010 WBCA Classic and two at the 2005 Duel in the Desert).
  • Notre Dame earns its first win over a top-10 opponent this season.
  • The Fighting Irish finish with a 5-1 record in the month of November, improving to 71-14 (.835) all-time in the opening month of the season.
  • Notre Dame is 5-1 all-time against Duke and has defeated the Blue Devils in their last three series matchups, all when Duke was ranked seventh or higher in the Associated Press poll.
  • The 54 points are the fewest Notre Dame has allowed to the Blue Devils in the six-game series.
  • Notre Dame allowed its fewest points against a top-10 opponent since Jan. 23, 2005, when it defeated No. 6/7 Rutgers, 63-47 at Purcell Pavilion; it's also the fewest points the Fighting Irish have allowed to a top-10 foe away from home (road or neutral sites) since March 27, 2004, when Notre Dame fell to No. 5/7 Penn State, 55-49 in the NCAA East Regional semifinals at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
  • Novosel was named the Freeport Division Most Valuable Player for the Junkanoo Jam, while Diggins was named to the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division All-Tournament Team.
  • Notre Dame earned the 725th win in the program's 35-year history.
  • Notre Dame Claims Top Spot In 2011-12 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
    For the first time in its 17-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has been selected as the outright No. 1 team in the annual BIG EAST preseason women's basketball poll, according to a vote of the league's 16 head coaches released Oct. 20 during the 2011-12 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.

    In the closest vote since Notre Dame shared top honors with Connecticut in the 2002-03 BIG EAST preseason poll, the Fighting Irish picked up 219 points and nine first-place votes in the balloting (coaches are not permitted to select their own teams), edging out Connecticut, which collected the remaining seven first-place votes and finished with 216 points. Louisville (191 points) was chosen third, while Rutgers (176 points) finished a close fourth ahead of Georgetown (175 points).

    Fighting Irish Trio Earns Numerous 2011-12 Preseason Honors
    Along with picking Notre Dame to finish first in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches voted junior guard Skylar Diggins as the league's Preseason Player of the Year. Diggins is just the second Fighting Irish player to earn that honor, and the first since fellow South Bend Washington High School graduate and Notre Dame All-American Jacqueline Batteast did so prior to her senior season (2004-05).

    Diggins also joined a pair of her teammates -- senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters -- on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, with Novosel and Peters making the preseason squad for the first time, while Diggins was a unanimous choice for the preseason all-conference team for the second consecutive year.

    Notre Dame's three Preseason All-BIG EAST honorees (who also have been named preseason candidates for this year's Wade Trophy, Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy, all of which go to the national player of the year) were more than any school, with three others having two selections (Connecticut had a third player earn honorable mention status).

    Diggins -- who added Associated Press Preseason All-America honors to her trophy case on Nov. 1 (the second Fighting Irish player to collect that status and first since Batteast in 2004-05) -- put together one of the finest sophomore seasons in Notre Dame women's basketball history in 2010-11 while sparking the Fighting Irish to their second NCAA title game berth and third NCAA Women's Final Four appearance. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.0 ppg.), assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), posting career highs in all three areas. What's more, her 585 total points and 186 total assists were the second-most ever accrued by a Notre Dame sophomore -- Katryna Gaither scored 590 points in 1994-95, while Mary Gavin dished out 205 assists in 1985-86 -- and her 75 steals were fourth on the Fighting Irish sophomore charts (just eight off the school record), while her 1,226 total minutes were just one shy of Beth Morgan's school record set in 1996-97.

    A State Farm Coaches' All-America and third-team AP All-America selection last year, Diggins also ranked second on the team with 32 double-digit scoring games, leading the squad in scoring 14 times and rolling up 10 20-point outings, including the last three NCAA Championship games against Tennessee (24), Connecticut (season-high 28) and Texas A&M (23). She added at least five assists in 22 different games (after having seven five-assist games her entire freshman season), capped by a career-high 12 assists against Oklahoma in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinal, the most helpers ever for a Fighting Irish player in the NCAA tournament, and most in any game since 2000.

    A unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection, the NCAA Dayton Regional Most Outstanding Player and a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team, as well as being a finalist for the three major national player-of-the-year awards (Wooden Award, Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy) and the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard), Diggins also made history in that regional final win over Tennessee, becoming just the second Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points in less than two seasons with the Fighting Irish (Morgan had exactly 1,000 points at the end of her sophomore season of 1994-95), and doing so in 72 games, tying for the fourth-fastest run to the scoring millennium in program history. Diggins currently ranks 24th on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,090 points.

    Meanwhile, Novosel was easily one of the nation's most improved players in 2010-11, nabbing State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST laurels, as well as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player award, after more than tripling her scoring average from a year ago from 5.0 points to a team-high 15.1 points per game. She also scored in double figures a team-best 33 times, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Gaither had 37 double-digit games in 1996-97) and nearly doubled her combined total of 17 from her first two years. What's more, Novosel had seven 20-point games (her career high entering the season was 19 points) and posted a team-best .413 three-point percentage, in addition to being second on the squad in steals (tied-1.9 spg.) and third in assists (1.9 apg.).

    In 2010-11, Novosel set a new school record with 183 free throws made and 39 games started (tying with Peters and Becca Bruszewski), while her 232 free throw attempts were second-most in school history. In addition, she placed among the top 10 on the program's single-season charts for total points (7th - 588) and minutes played (9th - 1,102).

    Peters (who garnered honorable mention preseason All-America status from the AP on Nov. 1) also enjoyed her finest season at Notre Dame in 2010-11, having fully recovered from a pair of knee injuries earlier in her career. Peters set new career highs in virtually every category, ranking third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and tops in double-doubles (10), rebounding (7.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (.593), and blocked shots (1.7 bpg.), not to mention fourth in steals (1.7 spg.). Furthermore, she placed fifth in the country in field goal percentage, and ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (22nd), rebounding (6th), field goal percentage (2nd), blocked shots (4th) and double-doubles (2nd). As if that weren't enough, she was one of just two players in the nation to record at least 60 blocks and 60 steals last season (she had 68 blocks and 66 steals), joining Illinois' Karisma Penn (78/62) in that select company.

    Like Novosel, Peters was named a State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2010-11, while also taking home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. She scored in double figures 25 times and tied the school record by starting all 39 games during Notre Dame's run to the NCAA national championship game. In that title clash against Texas A&M, Peters rang up a double-double with 21 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and a game-high 11 rebounds, securing her place on the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll, its fourth consecutive week in the top five of the media balloting. The Fighting Irish also earned a preseason No. 2 ranking that was their highest since the final 2000-01 poll (taken before the the NCAA Championship), and also was the highest Notre Dame has ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.

    Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four the following week), the first time it received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.

    This week's No. 3 ranking marks the 81st consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (43) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.

    This year's No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 220 weeks during the program's 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.

    In addition, for the second consecutive week, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 3 in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (one spot below their season-high No. 2 ranking the first two weeks of the year), and like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year's preseason coaches' survey (and two a week later), their first nods for the top spot since the final '00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 82 of the past 83 weeks, 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 213 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 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 220 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 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart in PDF version of this notes package), 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).

    Half And Half
    During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 220-18 (.924) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 148 of their last 160 such contests.

    What's more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 57-1 when leading at the half, with the only loss 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).

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 17 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 235-15 (.940) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including four of six contests this year.

    ...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 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 157-6 (.963) 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 three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 34-2 when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in five of six games thus far and winning four times.

    Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
    The past two 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 (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program's season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out two games (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee), and put six others (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 20 vs. UCF, Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.

    In fact, while some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it's entirely possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2010-11 regular season.

    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-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former 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 on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.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 now in the fourth 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 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast.

    In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free Fighting Irish Video Channel.

    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 the Nov. 20 game at Baylor (televised live on CBS Sports Network), Notre Dame has played in 205 televised games, including 150 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.

    Notre Dame Breaks New Ground With "Heart of the Irish" Service Initiative
    For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame women's basketball team will be front and center in the South Bend and greater Michiana communities with its groundbreaking outreach program (renamed "Heart of the Irish"), which will involve numerous interactive events during the 2011-12 season. The goal of this year's "Heart of the Irish" program is to highlight community leaders who are making a difference, as well as encourage fans to give back to their community and make an impact through a variety of special initiatives.

    The first of five cornerstone events for the 2011-12 "Heart of the Irish" drive will take place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame plays host to Penn in a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish will hold their annual Teddy Bear Toss, collecting new teddy bears and other stuffed animals for patients at Riley Children's Hospital, which serves many Michiana children, as well as local youth patients. The highlight of the event comes at halftime, when fans are invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they are then collected by volunteers.

    Less than one week after the Teddy Bear Toss, Notre Dame will have a second outreach event called Food For Friends, to be held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette at 7 p.m. (ET) on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion. Fans can bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that will be collected and delivered as part of the Food Drive for the St. Joseph Country chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

    Notre Dame's next special "Heart of the Irish" event is entitled Reading One on One and it's scheduled for Jan. 17, when the Fighting Irish play host to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. The That evening, the team will collect children's books for the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.

    The Fighting Irish will hold their annual fund-raising game in support of breast cancer awareness and research on Feb. 12 (3:30 p.m. ET vs. West Virginia) at Purcell Pavilion. Known locally as the Pink Zone game (and nationally renamed as Play4Kay), it will feature numerous informational booths and donation opportunities for fans to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, with the highlight being the always-memorable halftime ceremony to honor those who have been touched by (and in many cases, conquered) the disease. Last year, Notre Dame raised more than $130,000 through its Pink Zone game for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, lifting its three-year donation total to more than a quarter of a million dollars.

    The last event in the "Heart of the Irish" series comes on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), when Notre Dame welcomes Providence to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. This will be the inaugural Splish Splash, in which fans can bring towels, wash cloths or toiletries such as small bottles of shampoo, soap or toothpaste for the YWCA of St. Joseph County.

    Throughout the season, the Fighting Irish also will recognize community leaders who have made exceptional contributions.

    In addition to this five-event series, Notre Dame women's basketball will take part in a cooperative effort with the University's Office of Sustainability as the Fighting Irish encourage all fans to recycle in their daily lives, particularly when they attend Notre Dame basketball games at Purcell Pavilion.

    Originally called the "Spirit of Giving" program, Notre Dame's community outreach efforts began in earnest during the summer of 2009. Since then, Fighting Irish players, coaches, staff and fans have taken part in hundreds of hours of service projects designed to give back to the South Bend and greater Michiana communities.

    The Notre Dame women's basketball team was honored for its community outreach efforts in 2008-09, receiving the Trophy Award (symbolic of the Fighting Irish program with the most service hours in one academic year) from the Notre Dame athletics department.

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    It's year five of Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion, offering fans 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 five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 28 times, most recently with the Nov. 17 win over Hartford.

    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 -- fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.

    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"), 17 different players have converted the "burger ball", including six current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 28 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 10 on free throws, and four on three-pointers.

    Next Game: Creighton
    It's a quick turnaround for Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish will hop on a plane for Omaha, Neb., where it will take on Creighton at 2:35 p.m. ET/1:35 p.m. CT Sunday at D.J. Sokol Arena. It will not only be Notre Dame's first-ever visit to Creighton, but also the first time it has ever played in the state of Nebraska.

    The Bluejays are 3-2 this season heading into their game at Wyoming on Thursday night. Creighton is coming off a 74-67 victory over ACC member North Carolina State last weekend in Omaha.

    Notre Dame and Creighton will be playing for the second consecutive season, with the Fighting Irish earning a 91-54 win over the Bluejays last year at Purcell Pavilion.

    -- ND --
     

     

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