Dec. 1, 2009
DATE: December 2, 2009
No. 5/6 Irish Open Four-Game Homestand Wednesday Night
The Irish picked up their second win over a ranked opponent in three days, and their third this season, with an 81-71 victory over No. 20/17 Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon at the Paradise Jam. Notre Dame led almost all the way against the Sooners, using a 20-0 second-half run to put the game on ice.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins capped off a tournament MVP performance with a team-high 16 points against OU, including 4-of-6 three-pointers. She was joined on the all-tournament team by senior guard Melissa Lechlitner.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Setting the tone for the Irish will be a trio of senior captains, including returning all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow, both of whom also were tabbed for this year's preseason all-conference team. Schrader was a first-team all-BIG EAST pick last season after piling up career bests of 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. In addition, she registered seven double-doubles, breaking the school single-season record for guards previously set by Danielle Green (1998-99).
Meanwhile, Barlow led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per game, and also logged 70 steals (2.4 spg.), making her only the fourth player in school history to record 60+ steals in three consecutive seasons. The Indianapolis native also made an early statement about her intentions this season, notching a team-high 13.0 ppg. with a .727 three-point percentage (8-11) and .577 field goal percentage during Notre Dame's three-game, 11-day European tour in May 2009.
Completing this leadership triumverate is point guard Melissa Lechlitner. As a first-year starter in 2008-09, Lechlitner averaged personal bests of 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, driving the Irish offense with a steady hand.
Another first-year starter who made huge strides last season was junior forward Becca Bruszewski. The Valparaiso product doubled her averages in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.), while honing a reliable three-point shot to the tune of a team-high .375 percentage from beyond the arc.
Not to be overlooked are a pair of returning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks in rapidly-maturing sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (6.9 ppg., 45 steals in 2008-09) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (6.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.2 bpg.), as well as their classmates in forward Kellie Watson (3.8 ppg., 28 3FGM) and Fraderica Miller (0.7 ppg., 0.7 spg.).
In addition, Notre Dame could get a significant boost this year from incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins, a three-time high school All-American from South Bend's Washington High School, who averaged 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during her prep career. The other Irish rookie guard, Kaila Turner of Joliet, Ill., has incredible upside as well, having twice earned all-state honors at Marian Catholic High School.
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
A Quick Look At Eastern Michigan
That sharpshooting was in evidence Sunday in EMU's 93-81 win over visiting Missouri State, as the Eagles connected on a staggering 15-of-28 (.536) from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Tavelyn James had a game-high 31 points (7-15 3FG), while junior guard Cassie Schrock added 26 points (4-6 3FG, 12-14 FT), six rebounds, six assists and four steals.
James leads EMU in scoring (19.2 ppg.), while Schrock is a multi-talented threat who is second in scoring (13.3 ppg.) and rebounding (6.8 rpg.), as well as the team leader in assists (8.0 apg.) and steals (2.5 spg.).
Head coach AnnMarie Gilbert is in her third season in Ypsilanti with a 30-34 (.469) record, part of an 11-year coaching ledger -- the first eight at her alma mater, Division III Oberlin College in Ohio -- that now stands at 88-140 (.386). She is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Eastern Michigan Series
The Last Time Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan Met
The Fighting Irish led by as many as 19 points early in the second half before the Eagles cut the lead to 59-50 with 9 minutes to play. Notre Dame answered with six points and three steals in the next two minutes to push the lead back to double digits for good.
Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner added a season-high 15 points for the Irish, who outrebounded the Eagles, 60-44 and outscored them in the paint, 44-20.
Cassie Schrock had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Eastern Michigan, which fell to 0-9 against ranked opponents.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan Met at Purcell Pavilion
Keys connected on 9-of-14 shots from the field, highlighting a sharp shooting performance by the Irish, who logged a .516 field goal percentage (32-of-62) in the contest, including a .538 mark in the second half, when they outscored the Eagles, 49-25.
Shari Matvey chipped in with 14 points and Ruth Kaiser added 10 points for Notre Dame. Jane Shaffer had a game-high 24 points (11-18 FG) and nine rebounds for EMU, while Kris Matthes tossed in 17 points for the Eagles.
Other Notre Dame-Eastern Michigan Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Mid-American Conference
What's more, Notre Dame has won its last 17 games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss to Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995, in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) Tournament.
For the second consecutive season, Eastern Michigan is the lone MAC opponent on Notre Dame's schedule. The Irish defeated the Eagles, 83-63, last year in Ypsilanti.
North Of The Border
The Irish are 53-20 (.726) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 33-8 (.805) mark against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Notre Dame has won 10 of its last 11 games against Michigan schools, with its only loss in that span being a 63-59 overtime setback at Michigan on Dec. 10, 2008.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the latest BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll, is the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.
Schrader could hit another milestone in the coming weeks, as she needs just three starts to become the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw will reach two other notable landmarks on Wednesday vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coaches her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
This week's ranking also marks the 42nd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with their No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 being the highest ever for Notre Dame, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10) with that No. 4 preseason ranking being the highest for the program since the week of Jan. 4, 2005, when the Irish also rose to fourth following a 12-1 start and the 2004 Preseason WNIT title.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 182 weeks during the program's 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 12th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is tied for 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish remain sixth in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll for the third consecutive week. It's the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches' poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With its current ranking, the Irish now have appeared in the coaches' poll for 174 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 182 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 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #6 Recap: Oklahoma
Freshman Skylar Diggins scored 16 points and the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish beat its third ranked opponent in six games, knocking off No. 20 Oklahoma 81-71 on Saturday to win the Island Division of the Paradise Jam.
Notre Dame (6-0) beat then-No. 21 Michigan State (on Nov. 19), then eased past No. 23 San Diego State on Thursday in the Paradise Jam.
Oklahoma (4-2) led 51-48 with 12:53 left when the Fighting Irish locked down on defense, triggering a 20-0 run. The Sooners, with leading scorer Danielle Robinson on the bench with four fouls, were 0-of-8 shooting and committed eight turnovers during the run.
Notre Dame led 68-51 with 5:27 left, but Robinson scored 10 points during a 12-5 spurt that made it 73-63. Oklahoma got no closer the rest of the way.
"This is a confidence boost, and the good thing about it is, I thought we played really well for three days," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We had some slips, but the third game in three days, I thought we really came out and played hard."
McGraw said switching from a zone helped trigger the 20-0 run.
"That was the point where we decided to go man-to-man," McGraw said. "We felt like they were strong inside against the zone. We had a little trouble in the high post area, so we switched to man-to-man and tried to put a little pressure on the ball. I thought we helped each other more. We got a hand in on the dribbles. We did a really nice job."
Robinson finished with 26 points to lead the Sooners. Amanda Thompson contributed 12 points, while Carlee Roethlisberger and Abi Olajuwon scored 11 points each.
Oklahoma was hampered by the absence of Whitney Hand, who averages 13.4 points. Hand hurt her right knee during Friday's victory over San Diego State.
With Hand sidelined and Robinson on the bench in foul trouble, the Sooners were in trouble.
"Obviously, our experienced backcourt is Danielle Robinson and Whitney Hand," coach Sherri Coale said. "Whitney is not in the game all night with a knee injury, and then when Danielle comes out with foul trouble, there's no steady presence there.
"Notre Dame's strength is obviously in its guard play, and in execution against a zone, you have to have somebody who is poised, and we weren't. Our inexperience showed right there. That was the beginning of the end. A lot of factors that you don't want to line up, lined up."
Noting The Oklahoma Game
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Barlow currently ranks 19th in school history with 1,181 career points, while Schrader is 21st with 1,121 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 753 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Irish Enjoy Successful '09 European Tour
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
Notre Dame has led at the break in all six games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added three more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45) and South Carolina (78-55).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame already has added four more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), No. 23/24 San Diego State (84-79) and No. 20/17 Oklahoma (81-71).
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 78 of their last 85 non-BIG EAST contests (.918) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other 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 325-85 (.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.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
The Irish have posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped Notre Dame win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
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. 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 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 (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia 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), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
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 143 televised games, including 90 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) 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, which will house 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 arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation 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.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Next Game: IPFW
IPFW (1-3) has a pair of games on its docket before visiting Notre Dame next week, as the Mastodons head to Akron on Wednesday night and return home to take on Oakland on Saturday afternoon.