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    #3 Irish Visit Creighton For Sunday Matinee

    FIGHTING IRISH Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters scored a game-high 16 points in Friday's 69-38 win over Penn.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters scored a game-high 16 points in Friday's 69-38 win over Penn.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 3, 2011

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    2011-12 ND Women's Basketball: Game 8
    #3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Creighton Bluejays (4-2 / 0-0 MVC)

    DATE: December 4, 2011
    TIME: 1:35 p.m. CT/2:35 p.m. ET
    AT: Omaha, Neb. - D.J. Sokol Arena (2,500)
    SERIES: ND leads 2-0
    1ST MTG: ND 69-48 (1/9/82)
    LAST MTG: ND 91-54 (12/11/10)
    WEBCAST: gocreighton.com (free-live)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: gocreighton.com
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
    TICKETS: (402) 280-5297

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame visits the state of Nebraska for the first time in progam history for Sunday's game at Creighton.
  • In the past four seasons, the Fighting Irish are 18-7 (.720) when playing for the second time in a 48-hour span, with two wins in as many opportunities earlier this year (Nov. 13 vs. Indiana State; Nov. 26 vs. No. 7/6 Duke).
  • No. 3 Fighting Irish Visit Creighton For Sunday Metinee
    For the second consecutive weekend, No. 3 Notre Dame is in a brand-new locale, as the Fighting Irish head to Omaha, Neb., on Sunday for a 2:35 p.m. ET (1:35 p.m. CT) matinee against Creighton at D.J. Sokol Arena. The game will be webcast live and free of charge through the official Creighton athletics web site (gocreighton.com).

    The Fighting Irish (6-1) earned their third consecutive win on Friday with a wire-to-wire 69-38 victory over Penn at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame jumped out to leads of 14-3 and 32-7 in the first half and never looked back, holding the Quakers to an opponent season-low .288 field goal percentage.

    Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters became the fourth different player to lead the Fighting Irish in scoring this year with a game-high 16 points. Senior guard Natalie Novosel had 14 points, while sophomore guard Kayla McBride added 10 points and a career-high nine rebounds.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 3 in both the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Creighton 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 562 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 380 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 8,357 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 162 of their last 164 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 Creighton
    Creighton has eight letterwinners, including a pair of starters returning from last year's Bluejay squad that went 18-13, tied for second in the Missouri Valley Conference and earned a bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) for the fourth consecutive season (and seventh time in nine years).

    Creighton is 4-2 this season and has won its last two games, defeating ACC member North Carolina State, 74-67 on Nov. 27 in Omaha, then taking a 66-50 win at Wyoming on Thursday night. Sophomore forward Sarah Nelson leads the Bluejays in scoring (15.7 ppg.), rebounding (8.8 rpg.), field goal percentage (.644) and steals (2.0 spg.), highlighted recently by a 22-point, 10-rebound effort against N.C. State, and a 21-point, eight-rebound night at Wyoming.

    Sophomore guard Carli Tritz (a preseason All-MVC selection) adds 11.6 points per game, including a career-high 23 points at Big 12 member Kansas on Nov. 16. Junior guard Ally Jensen also posts a double-digit scoring average (10.2 ppg.), with a team-high 12 three-pointers (.387 three-point percentage) and a team-high 4.2 assists per game, chalking up 14 points and seven assists in the win over N.C. State.

    Head coach Jim Flanery is in his 10th season at Creighton with a 174-118 (.596) record at the Bluejays' helm. He is 0-1 against Notre Dame in his coaching career.

    The Notre Dame-Creighton Series
    Notre Dame and Creighton are playing for the second consecutive season, but only the third time in series history, with the Fighting Irish have won the previous two matchups.

    The teams first met on Jan. 9, 1982, at the Saint Catherine's Tournament in Minneapolis, Minn., with Notre Dame winning 69-48. Nearly 29 years later, the Fighting Irish won the revival of the long-dormant series, 91-54 on Dec. 11, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Creighton Met
    Skylar Diggins scored 18 points to lead No. 18 Notre Dame to a 91-54 win over Creighton on Dec. 11, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

    Diggins hit a three-pointer with 8:13 left to put Notre Dame up by 30, and Creighton never got the lead below that margin for the remainder of the game.

    Becca Bruszewski had 17 points and six rebounds, and Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame's leading scorer, had 11 points -- four below her season average.

    Natalie Achonwa scored 12 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting and finished with 14 for Notre Dame, which shot 63.3 percent from the field, including a highly-efficient 3-for-4 from the three-point line.

    Sam Schuett had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Kelly Woodward and Ally Jensen each scored 11 points for the Bluejays.

    Other Notre Dame-Creighton Series Tidbits

  • Notre Dame not only will be visiting Omaha for the first time on Sunday, but it also will mark the first game the Fighting Irish have played in the state of Nebraska. It will be the 38th different state (plus the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands) that Notre Dame has played a game in during the program's 35-year history, with the most recent "new state" visit for the Fighting Irish coming just last year with their NCAA Championship first- and second-round games in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 12 states Notre Dame has yet to play in are: Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Wyoming.
  • In its 35-year history, Notre Dame has featured 147 players on its all-time roster that hail from 37 different states (28 during the Muffet McGraw era) -- but not one has come from the state of Nebraska. The other 12 states that have never produced a Fighting Irish women's basketball player are: Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.
  • The only other school from the state of Nebraska that Notre Dame has played in women's basketball is its flagship institution. The Fighting Irish are 1-1 all-time against the Cornhuskers, falling 98-88 in double overtime on Feb. 25, 1982, and earning a 73-57 win on Nov. 14, 2004, in the second round of the Preseason WNIT (both games were played at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Notre Dame freshman forward Markisha Wright hails from Des Moines, Iowa (approximately 150 miles east of Omaha) and graduated from Des Moines East High School in 2011.
  • Wright was an AAU teammate on the All-Iowa Attack from 2008-10 with Creighton freshman guard Sammy Jensen, with Jensen's older sister (Bluejays junior guard Ally Jensen) also playing for that AAU program. The team was coached by the Jensens' father, Dickson.
  • Notre Dame vs. The Missouri Valley Conference
    Notre Dame is 27-2 (.931) all-time against the current alignment of the Missouri Valley Conference, including a 13-1 (.929) record away from Purcell Pavilion (road/neutral sites combined) against MVC schools. Creighton is the second of two Valley teams on this year's Fighting Irish schedule, with Notre Dame defeating Indiana State, 99-34 back on Nov. 13 in the quarterfinals of the Preseason WNIT at Purcell Pavilion.

    In the 25-year tenure of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, the Fighting Irish are 18-1 (.947) against the Missouri Valley Conference, going 11-0 at home, 5-1 on the road and 2-0 at neutral sites.

    Her only setback also represents the last time a current MVC squad defeated Notre Dame. Evansville pulled off that feat on Jan. 28, 1993, when the Purple Aces handed the visiting Fighting Irish a 73-69 loss. Since then, Notre Dame has won nine consecutive games against current MVC schools.

    48 Hours
    Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Notre Dame has played 25 times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games, including two games in three days on the opening weekend of this season (Nov. 11 & 13 in first two rounds of the Preseason WNIT vs. Akron and Indiana State) and games on consecutive days at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas (Nov. 25-26 vs. USC and No. 7/6 Duke).

    When faced with such a tight turnaround, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion in recent seasons, going 18-7 (.720) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes, including wins over Indiana State and No. 7/6 Duke this year.

    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 seven games of the year.

    The Fighting Irish are averaging 15.4 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 54.8 percent of its field goals this season (108 of 197), 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 three players scoring in double figures six of seven games, and at least four double-digit scorers 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 1,095). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (tied-19th with 1,202 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 925 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 794 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 #7 Recap: Penn
    Devereaux Peters scored 16 points and Natalie Novosel added 14 to lead third-ranked Notre Dame to a 69-38 win over Penn on Friday night at Purcell Pavilion. Head coach Muffet McGraw still strives to improve their performance.

    "We had a lack of energy tonight," said McGraw, whose Fighting Irish improve to 6-1. "I gave them too much time off this week and that was a big mistake on my part. We had a lack of scoring and were not making our shots."

    Kayla McBride chipped in with 10 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame, which jumped out to a 14-3 lead and pressured the Quakers into 23 turnovers, including 15 on steals.

    "Kayla has tremendous upside potential," McGraw said. "She just needs game experience."

    Kara Bonenberger had nine points and seven rebounds to lead Penn (4-2). Leading scorer Alyssa Baron, who came in averaging better than 20 points, was held to seven.

    Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said Notre Dame's quickness was difficult for his team to handle.

    "First, you can't really recreate that in practice very well and then we didn't really have much time to practice since we played on Wednesday and got on the plane to come here on Thursday," he said. "Alyssa is required to do so much for us but when you rely so much on one player, you will get some days where she goes 3 for 15 from the field."

    Notre Dame outrebounded Penn 49-34.

    "Rebounding was a point of emphasis for us," McGraw said. "I was disappointed. With the bad habits, one or two practices isn't going to change that, but I thought at least it would make an impression. I thought there were times when it really looked like we were trying to box out and I think we got a little better at the beginning of the second half."

    Peters scored eight points and Novosel had the other six during Notre Dame's opening 14-3 run, while the Quakers made only one of their first ten shots. The Fighting Irish broke off a 14-0 run later in the first half for a 32-7 lead with 6:32 to go before halftime.

    "I think Natalie came out well," McGraw said. "She was really ready to play and just took over offensively and then she found Dev a couple of times and I thought Dev had a really good game, too, with no fouls. Those two pretty much carried us."

    Notre Dame opened the second half on a 16-8 run to put the game out of reach.

    Beyond The Box Score -- Penn

  • Notre Dame posts its third 30-point win of the season, while holding an opponent to fewer than 40 points for the second time this year.
  • The Fighting Irish held Penn to 15 first-half points, marking the fifth time in 14 halves this year that Notre Dame has limited an opponent to 20 points or fewer in a single half.
  • For the second time this season, the Fighting Irish did not allow an opposing player to score in double figures, having also pulled off that feat on Nov. 17 in a 98-43 win over Hartford in the Preseason WNIT semifinals at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame chalked up double-digit steals for the fifth time in seven games this season, nabbing 15 or more thefts for the fourth time.
  • The Fighting Irish grabbed a season-high 49 rebounds and ended up with a season-best +15 rebounding margin.
  • Notre Dame also held Penn to an opponent season-low .288 field goal percentage (previous was .306 by Indiana State on Nov. 13 in the Preseason WNIT quarterfinals at Purcell Pavilion).
  • The Fighting Irish were charged with only 12 turnovers, the fifth time in seven games this year they have had 14 giveaways or fewer, including each of the past three contests (season-low is 11 turnovers on Nov. 13 vs. Indiana State, as well as Nov. 25 vs. USC).
  • Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time against Penn, having faced the Quakers for the first time since Dec. 18, 1981 (a break of 29 years, 11 months and 14 days -- the longest hiatus between series games in the 35-year history of Fighting Irish women's basketball).
  • Penn also was the first Ivy League school ever to play at Purcell Pavilion, while Friday's game was just the third all-time for Notre Dame against an Ivy League opponent (the Fighting Irish are 3-0).
  • Notre Dame improves to 27-18 (.600) all-time against Philadelphia Big Five schools, with a 13-4 (.765) record at home.
  • McBride snared a career-high nine rebounds, two more than her previous best set earlier this year against Akron (Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion); McBride also finished one rebound shy of her first career double-double.
  • Junior guard Kaila Turner added a personal-high five rebounds after having registered four rebounds on four occasions, the last on Feb. 22, 2011, at West Virginia.
  • Junior guard Skylar Diggins chalked up her first "5-5-5" game of the season (and 19th of her career) with eight points and game-highs of five assists and five steals.
  • Diggins also topped the 1,200-point mark for her career (now at 1,202) and moved into a tie with Heidi Bunek (1985-89) for 19th place on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list; in the process, Diggins broke out of a tie with Krissi Davis for 20th place (1,194 from 1987-91).
  • Notre Dame rises to 221-18 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 season when it leads at the half, including wins in 149 of its last 161 such games and a 58-1 (.983) mark in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present).
  • Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 236-15 (.940) when holding their opponents to fewer than 60 points in a game.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw won the 650th game of her coaching career, improving to 650-253 (.720) in 30 seasons on the sidelines, including a 562-212 (.726) record in 25 years at Notre Dame.
  • 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.

    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), 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 221-18 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 149 of their last 161 such contests.

    What's more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 58-1 (.983) 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 236-15 (.940) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including five of seven 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.

    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 208 of their last 235 games (.885) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 113-19 (.863) 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 97 of their last 105 non-BIG EAST contests (.924) 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 358-88 (.803) 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 the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship.

    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 Friday's game vs. Penn (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 206 televised games, including 151 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 took place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame played host to Penn at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish held their seventh 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 came at halftime, when fans were invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they were then collected by volunteers.

    Notre Dame's second outreach event is called Food For Friends, to be held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday (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 third 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: Marquette
    Notre Dame tips off its 17th season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference at 7 p.m. (ET) when it plays host to Marquette at Purcell Pavilion (free live webcast at www.UND.com). This is the second consecutive year that the BIG EAST has started conference play prior to Christmas, with the Fighting Irish scoring a 79-43 win at Providence in last season's pre-Yuletide lidlifter.

    Marquette is 4-4 this season following a 66-50 loss at No. 23/17 Wisconsin-Green Bay on Friday night. The Golden Eagles are back home Sunday afternoon to take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee before heading to South Bend.

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