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    Fighting Irish
    #16 Irish Return Home For ESPN2 Sunday Matinee Against Purdue

    FIGHTING IRISH Senior forward Devereaux Peters had a game-high eight rebounds and a critical last-second blocked shot in Notre Dame's 79-75 win at Purdue last season.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Senior forward Devereaux Peters had a game-high eight rebounds and a critical last-second blocked shot in Notre Dame's 79-75 win at Purdue last season.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 4, 2010

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    2010-11 ND Women's Basketball: Game 9
    #16/16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-3 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (4-1 / 0-0 Big Ten)

    DATE: December 5, 2010
    TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
    AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
    SERIES: PUR leads 14-9
    1ST MTG: PUR 62-59 (11/26/84)
    LAST MTG: ND 79-75 (1/4/10)
    TV: ESPN2 (live) (Pam Ward, p-b-p / Kara Lawson, color)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid/@UND_com

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame reaches a major milestone on Sunday, as the Fighting Irish play the 1,000th game in program history.
  • Sunday's game (which will air live on ESPN2) also is the second of eight over-the-air nationally-televised games for Notre Dame this season.
  • No. 16 Irish Return Home For ESPN2 Sunday Matinee Against Purdue
    After a gritty comeback effort on Wednesday night at second-ranked Baylor, No. 16 Notre Dame returns home to Purcell Pavilion on Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) nationally-televised matchup with in-state rival Purdue. This 24th installment in one of the nation's premier non-conference women's basketball rivalries will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

    The Fighting Irish (5-3) continue to live up to their nickname this season, as they put together a determined second-half rally at Baylor, reeling off 12 points in 92 seconds and eventually trimming a 22-point deficit to six with five minutes left, but the Lady Bears hung on for the 76-65 win in Waco, Texas.

    Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins scored eight of her game-high 21 points during that 12-point spree, while also adding a game-best five assists (the fifth time this season she's logged at least five assists in a game). Junior guard Natalie Novosel chipped in 12 points for Notre Dame.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 16 in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Purdue is receiving votes in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Quick Hitters

  • With its No. 16 ranking in this week's Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has appeared in the AP poll for a school-record 62 consecutive weeks, extending the program standard that began with the 2007-08 preseason poll.
  • The Fighting Irish have made the AP preseason poll in 11 of the past 12 seasons (since 1999-2000), something just seven other schools in the country can match.
  • Notre Dame has a rugged 2010-11 schedule lined up, with games against at least one team from each of the top six RPI conferences (BIG EAST, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC), and five matchups against four other teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Sweet 16 (Connecticut twice, Baylor, Gonzaga and Kentucky).
  • The Fighting Irish will play a school-record 17 regular-season home games this year, including their first regular-season tournament (outside of the Preseason WNIT) since the 1983 Notre Dame Thanksgiving Classic. Notre Dame won the three-day, round-robin WBCA Classic (also featuring IUPUI, Wake Forest and Butler) at Purcell Pavilion from Nov. 26-28.
  • There are lots of new faces on the Fighting Irish schedule this season, with Notre Dame playing seven first-time opponents as part of its 14-game non-conference slate. Those new opponents include: New Hampshire (Nov. 12 - W, 99-48), Morehead State (Nov. 15 - W, 91-28), Kentucky (L, 81-76), Wake Forest (W 92-69), Baylor (L, 76-65), Gonzaga (Dec. 29) and Southeast Missouri State (Jan. 2).
  • Notre Dame is closing in on the 1,000th game in the program's 34-year history, with that milestone contest set for Sunday when the Irish play host to in-state rival Purdue at Purcell Pavilion in a nationally-televised game on ESPN2. Notre Dame currently has an all-time record of 694-304 (.695).
  • The Fighting Irish have only one true senior on this year's roster -- forward Becca Bruszewski. Guard Brittany Mallory and forward Devereaux Peters both are listed as seniors on the roster based on their academic standing, but each player has the option to petition for a fifth year of eligibility after both suffered season-ending knee injuries (torn ACL) within the first seven games of the 2008-09 campaign.
  • Notre Dame welcomes a three-player freshman class that includes the program's first-ever international player (Canadian National Team forward Natalie Achonwa), a 2010 McDonald's All-American (Erie, Pa., native Kayla McBride) and a two-time Michigan Player of the Year (Ariel Braker from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.). Collectively, this group has been ranked as high as eighth in the country by ESPN Hoopgurlz.
  • The Fighting Irish made a shift on their coaching staff during the offseason, as former longtime assistant and post coach guru Carol Owens (who previously served as Notre Dame from 1995-2005) returns to the program as associate coach following a successful five-year run as the head coach at her alma mater, Northern Illinois. In addition, Angie Potthoff has moved into the newly-created role of associate director of operations & technology, a position that has seen her help direct Notre Dame's emergence as one of the nation's leaders in social media development among women's college basketball programs.
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 348 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 10 seasons. Last year, the program finished fourth in the final NCAA attendance rankings with 8,377 fans per game, both setting new school records in the process. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 147 of their last 149 home games, logging 12 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (including a school-record six last year, including four of the final five home games, most recently on March 1, 2010 vs. top-ranked Connecticut).
  • 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 decade. 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 '10 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fourth 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 '06 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 62-for-62 success rate), with all three members of this year's senior class on target to earn their diplomas.
  • A Quick Look At Purdue
    After missing out on the NCAA Championship last year with a 15-17 record, Purdue is set on returning to the tournament this year and has eight letterwinners, including three starters back in the fold to help make that happen.

    The Boilermakers (4-1) currently are receiving votes in both major polls after winning the Preseason WNIT with four victories in less than two weeks, including a 67-58 win over Notre Dame's fellow BIG EAST member DePaul in the championship game. However, an unforeseen medical condition with one of Purdue's players (junior forward Drey Mingo) led to an unscheduled 10-day break in the schedule before the Boilermakers returned to the hardwood Thursday night, dropping a last-second 56-55 decision at home to No. 22 Maryland.

    Freshman guard Courtney Moses, who has stepped in to spell injured point guard KK Houser, led four Purdue players in double figures against Maryland with 12 points. Moses is third on the team in scoring this season (11.2 ppg.) with a team-high .538 three-point percentage. With Mingo recovering, junior guard Brittany Rayburn is averaging a team-best 16.2 ppg., while junior guard Antoinette Howard adds 10.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

    Head coach Sharon Versyp is in her fifth season at Purdue, sporting a 94-50 (.653) record at her alma mater. Including prior stops at Maine and Indiana, Versyp has an 11-year career mark of 211-115 (.647).

    The Notre Dame-Purdue Series
    Notre Dame and Purdue will meet for the 24th time in their in-state rivalry, with the Boilermakers holding a 14-9 edge in the all-time series. However, the Fighting Irish have won their last four games against Purdue (Notre Dame's longest winning streak in the series, which dates back to 1984), and they are 6-4 all-time against the Boilermakers at Purcell Pavilion.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Purdue Met
    Melissa Lechlitner has Purdue figured out.

    One year after setting a career scoring high in a victory over the Boilermakers, she did it again. She scored a career-best 20 points, and No. 3 Notre Dame held off Purdue 79-75 on Jan. 4, 2010, at Mackey Arena to remain unbeaten.

    Lechlitner, who was averaging 6.2 points per game, made 7 of 15 shots, including four three-pointers.

    Skylar Diggins and Lindsay Schrader each scored 15 points, and Ashley Barlow added 13 points and eight rebounds for Notre Dame (13-0), which is off to its best start since winning its first 23 games in 2000-01. It was the final test for the Fighting Irish before BIG EAST play.

    Jodi Howell scored 18 points and Chelsea Jones added a career-high 16 for Purdue.

    Purdue could have tied the game in the closing seconds, but Devereaux Peters blocked Samantha Woods' three-pointer from the right corner, and Notre Dame rebounded.

    Notre Dame recovered from a rough first half to shoot 48 percent after the break.

    The Irish had the ball with a 76-73 lead in the final minute. Diggins missed in close as the shot clock wound down, and Purdue gained possession.

    Howell made a layup with 12.1 seconds left to make it a one-point game.

    The Boilermakers fouled Diggins with 11.8 seconds to play. She made the first free throw and missed the second, but Schrader got the rebound. Schrader made the first free throw, but missed the second to give the Boilermakers a chance.

    Other Notre Dame-Purdue Series Tidbits

  • Sunday's game likely will mark the second time in 20 on-campus series games (and second in a row at Purcell Pavilion) that the teams will play before a sellout crowd. Although a handful of tickets could be freed up on Sunday morning, it's expected that all 9,149 tickets will be exhausted by game time, leading to the 13th sellout in school history, the 10th in the past three-plus seasons and the first this year. When these two teams met in 2008 (a 62-51 Fighting Irish win), all 11,418 tickets were sold for one of the final sellouts at the arena's old capacity before its summer 2009 renovation.
  • The 70-point mark seems to be a magic figure in the series. One or both teams have scored 70 points in 15 of the 23 matchups, with the first team to reach that milepost winning each time. That trend continued last year when Notre Dame edged Purdue, 79-75 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette.
  • Notre Dame has held Purdue to its lowest series point totals in three of the past four matchups (67-58 in 2006-07 at Purcell Pavilion; 61-48 in 2007-08 at Mackey Arena, 62-51 in 2008-09 at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Notre Dame's most frequent NCAA Championship opponent has been Purdue. The Fighting Irish and Boilermakers have played one another four times in NCAA postseason competition, with each team winning twice (ND in 1996 and 2001; Purdue in 1998 and 2003).
  • The Fighting Irish and Boilermakers also remain the only teams from the same state ever to play for the NCAA championship.
  • Fifth-year Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp grew up in Mishawaka (minutes from the Notre Dame campus) and was named Indiana Miss Basketball in 1984 while attending Mishawaka High School.
  • Irish senior forward Devereaux Peters and Purdue redshirt junior forward Samantha Woods were teammates at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill., from 2003-04 through 2004-05 before Woods transferred to Bolingbrook High School for her final two prep seasons.
  • Notre Dame sophomore guard Skylar Diggins and Purdue sophomore forward Sam Ostarello were teammates on the White Team at the 2009 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Game in St. Louis. Diggins scored 24 points, while Ostarello had six points, but the White squad lost to the Blue, 79-77.
  • Diggins and Purdue freshman guard/forward Dee Dee Williams played significant roles in what many consider one of the greatest Indiana girls' high school basketball state championship games ever played. In the 2009 Class 4A title game (also a matchup of the nation's top two ranked prep programs) before 13,300 fans at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, Diggins almost singlehandedly led her South Bend Washington High School team back from an 11-point deficit in the final three minutes, only to see Williams' Indianapolis Ben Davis High School side pull out a last-second 71-69 victory. Diggins finished with a game-high 29 points, including eight in a 55-second span during the late rally.
  • Sunday's game will feature a matchup of the last two Indiana Miss Basketball recipients, as Diggins (the 2009 selection) squares off with Purdue freshman guard Courtney Moses (the 2010 honoree).
  • Notre Dame vs. the Big Ten Conference
    Notre Dame is 40-48 (.455) all-time against the Big Ten Conference, with a 23-17 (.575) record away from Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish also are 33-34 (.493) against the Big Ten in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with a 18-12 (.600) home slate.

    What's more, Notre Dame has won 13 of its last 19 games vs. Big Ten schools, following last year's victories at No. 21 Michigan State (68-67) and Purdue (79-75).

    Border Patrol
    Purdue is the third of four in-state opponents on Notre Dame's schedule this season, following wins at home over IUPUI (95-29 on Nov. 26) and Butler (85-54 on Nov. 28) in last weekend's WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion.

    The Fighting Irish are 119-32 (.788) all-time against other Indiana schools, with a 59-11 (.843) record at Purcell Pavilion.

    Notre Dame also has won 14 consecutive games against in-state foes since a 54-51 loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006, at Purcell Pavilion.

    A Grand Occasion
    Sunday's game marks a significant milestone in Notre Dame women's basketball history, as the Fighting Irish will play their 1,000th all-time game when they take the floor against Purdue. Notre Dame has an all-time record of 694-305 (.695) in 34 seasons of varsity competition, including a 344-87 (.798) record at Purcell Pavilion.

    The Fighting Irish played their first game on Dec. 3, 1977, defeating Valparaiso, 48-41 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame would play its first three seasons as a Division III program in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) before moving up to the Division I level in 1980-81. The following season, the Fighting Irish would begin competing under the NCAA banner.

    Some other notable landmarks along the way have been:

  • Jan. 7, 1984 - Notre Dame plays its first-ever conference game, earning a 85-68 win at Xavier in its North Star Conference opener.
  • March 20, 1985 - The Fighting Irish defeat U.S. International, 86-61 in their first postseason tournament game at the old National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas.
  • Nov. 28, 1987 - Muffet McGraw makes her debut as head coach at Notre Dame, leading the Fighting Irish to a 67-61 win at Loyola-Chicago.
  • Feb. 6, 1988 - The Fighting Irish post a 78-66 victory at No. 17 Duke, logging the program's first-ever win over a ranked opponent.
  • March 11, 1989 - Notre Dame defeats Loyola-Chicago, 75-53, in Dayton, Ohio, to win the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament (predecessor to the Horizon League), its first conference tournament title.
  • Jan. 3, 1991 - The Fighting Irish play their first game as a Top 25 team, with No. 25 Notre Dame earning an 87-53 win over Detroit at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Nov. 28, 1995 - Notre Dame plays its first game in the BIG EAST Conference, downing fellow new league member Rutgers, 66-54 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • March 15, 1996 - The Fighting Irish record their first NCAA Championship win, defeating Purdue, 73-60 in a first-round game at Lubbock, Texas.
  • March 17, 1997 - Notre Dame earns its first Sweet 16 berth with an 86-83 win at Texas.
  • March 30, 1997 - The Fighting Irish play in their first NCAA Women's Final Four, falling to Tennessee, 80-66 at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum.
  • Jan. 15, 2001 - Notre Dame defeats its first top-ranked opponent, ousting Connecticut, 92-76, before the first women's basketball sellout crowd in Purcell Pavilion history.
  • April 1, 2001 - The Fighting Irish win their first national championship, toppling Purdue, 68-66, at the Savvis Center in St. Louis on Ruth Riley's two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.
  • Happy Birthday, Coach
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw will celebrate her birthday on Sunday. The Fighting Irish are 4-1 on McGraw's birthday during her 24-year tenure at Notre Dame, most recently earning a last-second 86-84 overtime win at Bowling Green on Dec. 5, 2007.

    The Five-Finger Discount
    Notre Dame comes into Sunday's game leading the nation in steals with 17.1 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in six of eight games this season, including three contests with 20-plus steals.

    Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 23 steals in a Nov. 26 home victory against IUPUI.

    Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program (and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991).

    Individually, Notre Dame has eight different players with double-digit steals this season, led by sophomore guard Skylar Diggins, who has registered 20 thefts (2.5 per game).

    Novosel Named To BIG EAST Honor Roll
    For the first time in her career, junior guard Natalie Novosel has been named to this week's BIG EAST Conference Honor Roll, the league office announced Monday. The Fighting Irish wing was one of five players tapped for the award, which recognizes outstanding weekly achievements by conference players who are not chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Week.

    Novosel was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the 2010 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Classic last weekend after averaging 18.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.3 assists per game with a .533 field goal percentage (16-of-30), a .385 three-point percentage (5-of-13) and an .818 free throw percentage (18-of-22) while leading Notre Dame to wins over IUPUI, Wake Forest and Butler at Purcell Pavilion and the tournament championship.

    Novosel scored better than 20 points in two of the three Fighting Irish victories, including a career-high 23 points (with a career-best 11-of-12 effort at the free throw line) in a 92-69 win over Wake Forest last Saturday. She currently leads Notre Dame (and is tied for fourth in the BIG EAST) in scoring this season at 17.0 ppg., while adding 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.

    Game #8 Recap: Baylor
    Brooklyn Pope provided quite a boost for Brittney Griner and second-ranked Baylor.

    Pope had 20 points with 14 rebounds and got her three assists on baskets by Griner, and the Lady Bears withstood a quick second-half surge by No. 16 Notre Dame for a 76-65 victory Wednesday night in Waco, Texas.

    Griner finished with 21 points. She and Pope combined to score Baylor's first 15 points in the game, putting the Lady Bears (8-1) ahead to stay.

    When Pope made a layup with 11:18 left, they led 56-37. Notre Dame (5-3) then scored 12 consecutive points in 79 seconds before Pope ended that stretch with a jumper.

    Griner, the preseason AP All-American, added eight rebounds and four blocks in her fifth consecutive 20-point game -- she averaged 29.8 points her previous four games.

    Pope and Griner were among five Baylor players scoring in double figures. Kimetria Hayden had 14 points, including her own 7-0 run in the first half, while Odyssey Sims had 11 and Melissa Jones 10.

    Skylar Diggins had 21 points for Notre Dame (5-3), whose other losses this season were to ninth-ranked Kentucky and No. 13 UCLA.

    It was the closest home game of the season for Baylor, which won its previous seven by an average margin of 42 points. The smallest margin had been 26 points over then-No. 25 Michigan State.

    Noting The Baylor Game

  • Notre Dame was playing its third top-15 team in the past 13 days, with those three opponents (#15 UCLA, #9/10 Kentucky and #2/3 Baylor) accounting for the three Fighting Irish losses this season, all by 11 points or fewer, two on the road (UK and BU) and the UCLA defeat coming by three points in double overtime; in all three losses, Notre Dame either led or was within six points of the lead with less than five minutes remaining.
  • Baylor was the fifth of seven first-time opponents on Notre Dame's schedule this year, with the Fighting Irish tumbling to 3-2 against those new foes.
  • Notre Dame also drops to 44-7 (.863) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, with a 24-3 (.889) record since the start of the 2000-01 season.
  • The Fighting Irish are 7-7 all-time against Texas schools (4-7 away from South Bend), with Wednesday's game the first for Notre Dame in the Lone Star State since Dec. 28, 2001 (a 72-61 loss at Rice).
  • The Fighting Irish are 8-11 (.421) all-time against the current Big 12 Conference alignment; Wednesday's game marked the first time Notre Dame played a Big 12 school outside of a tournament setting (regular season or postseason) in 10 meetings since the conference was founded in 1996-97.
  • This was the first time all season Notre Dame did not have at least four players score in double figures (although two players finished with eight points in addition to the two double-digit scorers).
  • The Fighting Irish were outrebounded for just the second time all season (UCLA finished with a 46-43 edge on the glass on Nov. 18 in its double-OT matchup at Notre Dame).
  • Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins tied her career high with four three-pointers, a total she reached twice before (most recently on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse).
  • Diggins' four treys were part of a season-high six three-pointers made by the Fighting Irish.
  • Diggins also dished out at least five assists for the fifth time in eight games this season.
  • Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked 16th in this week's Associated Press poll. That marks the 62nd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08.

    This year's No. 12 preseason ranking also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 201 weeks during the program's 34-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 is 22nd all-time in that category.

    In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked 16th in the latest ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches' survey for 62 of the past 63 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 193 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    More Polling Data
    Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 28 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 201 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 28 people on this list, 15 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the AP poll at No. 23 on Jan. 25, 2010.

    Six of the 15 active coaches in this group -- including McGraw -- led their teams to this year's NCAA Championship, while McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and also coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).

    Notre Dame Picked Fourth In 2010-11 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
    Notre Dame was selected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference in 2010-11, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches released on Oct. 21 during the annual BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.

    The Irish picked up 177 points in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only two-time defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points, West Virginia (207 points, one first-place vote) and Georgetown (186 points) -- St. John's rounded out the top five with 173 points.

    Diggins Earns 2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
    Along with picking Notre Dame to finish fourth in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches unanimously voted sophomore guard Skylar Diggins to the 10-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team.

    A preseason candidate for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, as well as a consensus preseason All-American by most major media outlets, Diggins is coming off one of the finest rookie seasons in Fighting Irish women's basketball history as the first freshman in 17 seasons to lead Notre Dame in scoring and the first rookie in 16 years to top 100 assists in her debut season. What's more, she finished as just the third player in program history (and the first freshman) to log 400 points, 100 assists and 75 steals in a single season, joining a pair of All-Americans and Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (top senior in the nation 5-foot-8 and under) recipients -- current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (2000-01) and Megan Duffy (2004-05) -- in achieving that distinction.

    A 2009-10 honorable mention All-America selection by both the Associated Press and WBCA, Diggins led Notre Dame in scoring (13.8 ppg.), steals (2.6 spg.) and assists (tied - 3.2 apg.) last season, while ranking third on the squad in three-point percentage (.350) and free throw percentage (.782). She also chalked up a team-high 24 double-digit scoring games, including seven 20-point outings, capped by a season-high 31 points against Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion. That scoring effort was the highest ever recorded by a Fighting Irish rookie in NCAA postseason play, while her 13 field goals made tied the program record for an NCAA tournament game.

    In 2009-10, Diggins set Notre Dame freshman records for steals (90), free throws made (111), free throws attempted (142) and minutes played (1,028), while ranking among the top five on the Irish rookie charts for points (3rd - 484), scoring average (tied/4th - 13.8 ppg.), field goals made (3rd - 169), field goals attempted (3rd - 385), three-point field goals made (4th - 35), three-point attempts (5th - 100), three-point percentage (5th - .350), assists (3rd - 112), steals per game (2nd - 2.6 spg.), games started (tied/2nd - 30), games played (2nd - 35) and minutes per game (5th - 29.4).

    McGraw Is Simply Legendary
    The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time -- head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.

    McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game" that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.

    The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).

    The '11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game (McGraw was not able to attend due to NCAA regulations). The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

    McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.

    McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this notable list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 - LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 - Virginia).

    Riley's Double Zero Goes To The Rafters
    Ruth Riley, a three-time All-America center at Notre Dame during her storied career from 1997-2001, and the 2001 consensus national player of the year, was inducted into Notre Dame's Ring of Honor on Nov. 12 during a pre-game ceremony before the Fighting Irish opened their 2010-11 season against New Hampshire at Purcell Pavilion.

    A banner honoring Riley's number 00 was unveiled and now permanently hangs in the rafters of Purcell Pavilion, making her the first women's basketball player added to the Ring of Honor, and the second player overall following last spring's induction of men's basketball All-America forward Luke Harangody.

    Beginning in 2010-11, the Notre Dame Athletics Department plans to honor annually additional former and present men's and women's basketball and volleyball players who have made distinguished and noteworthy contributions during their career while student-athletes at the University. A committee that will consist of Fighting Irish coaches and administrators will be formed to determine future inductees.

    The only player in Notre Dame women's basketball history with 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds, Riley ranks as the program's all-time leader in seven categories, including rebounds (1,007), blocked shots (370 - fifth in NCAA history) and field goal percentage (.632 - 11th in NCAA history). What's more, the Macy, Ind., native ranks third in school history with 2,072 points, and holds the Fighting Irish single-game scoring record with 41 points in a January 1998 win over Providence. Riley also played a pivotal role in Notre Dame's run to the 2001 NCAA national championship, earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors after scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the title game victory over Purdue, capped by her gamewinning free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.

    A 10-year WNBA veteran (the past four with the San Antonio Silver Stars), two-time WNBA champion and 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Riley was back on campus with the other members of the 2001 championship team for ceremonies honoring the 10th anniversary of that milestone achievement in Notre Dame athletics history.

    Half And Half
    During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 193-17 (.919) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 121 of their last 132 such contests, and 30 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford's XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).

    The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in five games this year, including all three games at last weekend's WBCA Classic, when they led for all but 1:37 during the entire tournament.

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 16 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 212-15 (.934) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in four contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler).

    ...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 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 145-5 (.967) 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, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.

    Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in six of seven games this year (5-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points, including four games when it topped the 90-point mark (a plateau the Fighting Irish already have attained four times in their first seven games this season).

    Now That's A Home Court Advantage
    One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 194 of their last 220 games (.882) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 106-18 (.855) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former 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 Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 90 of their last 98 non-BIG EAST contests (.918) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

    Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 344-87 (.798) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.

    Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
    The 2009-10 season saw 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), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans have all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and are snapping up single-game ducats at a rate that will have the Fighting Irish challenging their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.

    Notre Dame has wasted little time in getting started with that challenge, averaging 8,270 fans for its first six home games this season.

    Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women's basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer's table.

    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 1.35 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 third season in 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 21 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.

    In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage 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.

    This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through last Sunday's Butler contest, Notre Dame has played in 174 televised games, including 120 that were broadcast nationally.

    Oh Captain, My Captain
    Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.

    Next Game: Providence
    Notre Dame gets an early jump on BIG EAST Conference play when it tips off its 16th season in the league Wednesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) game at Providence. It will mark the first time the Fighting Irish have opened the conference campaign before Christmas since 2000-01, when Notre Dame earned a 64-33 win over Villanova at Purcell Pavilion in its BIG EAST opener on Dec. 6, 2000.

    PC (5-5) had its two-game winning streak snapped Saturday with a 73-56 loss to Florida in the championship game of the Brown Bear Classic in Providence, R.I.

    -- ND --
     

     

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