Dec. 7, 2009
#3/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. IPFW Mastodons (2-4 / 1-0 Summit League)
DATE: December 8, 2009
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 3-0
1ST MTG: ND 68-39 (1/24/78)
LAST MTG: ND 82-54 (12/21/02)
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
No. 3 Irish Play Host To IPFW Tuesday Night
A tough mental and physical challenge awaits third-ranked Notre Dame on Tuesday night, as the Irish have their focus split between the classroom (with final exams on the horizon) and the basketball court (as a hungry IPFW squad comes to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff). The game will be webcast live and free of charge at www.UND.com.
Notre Dame is coming off a sluggish 69-59 win over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 2 at Purcell Pavilion. Battling through travel fatigue following their Paradise Jam title in the Virgin Islands four days earlier, the Irish weren't able to shake the feisty Eagles until midway through the second half, using 11-0 and 8-0 runs to ice the win.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
The faces may be the same, but the focus, drive and determination have never been greater for the Notre Dame women's basketball program as the Irish head into the 2009-10 season. With all 12 players returning from a year ago, along with an incoming freshman class ranked as high as ninth in the land, expectations are high as Notre Dame looks to not only reach a new level of success, but also wash away the bitter taste left by a first-round loss in last year's NCAA tournament.
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 IPFW
Returning all five starters, including preseason first-team all-Summit League choice Chelsey Jackson, IPFW (2-4, 1-0) features a balanced offensive attack with four of those five returning starters averaging in double figures.
The Mastodons broke a four-game losing streak and simultaneously opened Summit League play on a high note with a hard-fought 64-58 win over visiting Oakland on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore forward Stephanie Rosado (a transfer from UTEP) scored the game's final six points, including the go-ahead bucket with 2:15 left, to propel IPFW to the victory.
Rosado finished with a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) against Oakland, boosting her team-high scoring and rebounding averages (14.7 ppg., 8.2 rpg.). Junior guard Jordan Zuppe is second on the team in scoring (11.5 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.490), while Jackson, another junior guard, is third in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and tops in three-point percentage (.375).
Head coach Chris Paul is in his fifth season at IPFW, owning a 41-74 (.357) record with the Mastodons. He will be coaching against Notre Dame for the first time on Tuesday night.
The Notre Dame-IPFW Series
Tuesday will mark the fourth series meeting between Notre Dame and IPFW, with the Irish owning a 3-0 lead all-time over the Mastodons. This will be the second matchup between the in-state foes in the past eight seasons, following a nearly 24-year hiatus between series games from January 1979-December 2002.
As is the case with many regional opponents, Notre Dame and IPFW also met a handful of times before the Irish program elevated to varsity status at the AIAW Division III level in 1977-78. Played when Notre Dame was still a club program, these results are not reflected in the Irish all-time series records.
The Mastodons won two of three games between the schools in 1976-77, taking 67-55 and 47-45 verdicts a week apart in late February after Notre Dame won the first encounter, 52-44.
The Last Time Notre Dame and IPFW Met
Courtney LaVere caught the pass underneath the backboard and went up for an easy basket. Same thing the next time down the court. Then she picked up a loose ball underneath and tossed it in.
Then another easy basket underneath. Then she scored on a lefthanded layup. Then another easy basket inside. In the span of 5 minutes, 20 seconds, LaVere scored 12 of Notre Dame's 14 points as the 11th-ranked Irish began pulling away from IPFW midway through the first half en route to an 82-54 victory on Dec. 21, 2002 at the Joyce Center.
"She had a mismatch inside, then she had some openings against the zone that got us on a roll," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "That was an important part of the game."
With the scored tied at 12, the Irish (6-1) used an 18-3 run to begin pulling away from the Mastodons (2-8). When the Mastodons began focusing on stopping the Irish inside, Alicia Ratay started hitting outside, making all three of her 3-point attempts in the first half.
"They had such a substantial size advantage inside and we had made a determination that we were going to plug it off inside and try to make them shoot it from the outside," IPFW coach Bruce Patterson said.
LaVere and Ratay each finished with 20 points and Jacqueline Batteast added 16 for the Irish.
Batteast said LaVere's inside play opened things up for the rest of the Irish, especially Ratay.
"She got a lot of open 3s. Alicia hasn't been getting a lot of shots lately. The way Courtney was scoring you have to start doubling on her and Alicia was wide open," Batteast said.
The Irish dominated inside. Teresa Borton had three of Notre Dame's eight blocked shots and added 11 rebounds as the Irish outrebounded the Mastodons 46-33.
The Mastodons, in their second season in Division I, were led by 17 points from Amy Gearlds, who missed two games with a separated left shoulder, while Geneva Murdock had 12 points and Courtney Nicley 11.
LaVere, a freshman, had 17 points in the first half, a point shy of her (then) season high against Cleveland State in her first college game.
"I just felt it," LaVere said. "I had a lot of openings in the zone. So when I saw an opening I would just try to go there."
LaVere and Ratay were the first Irish players to score 20 points in the same game since Ratay and Batteast in a January 2002 win over Virginia Tech. The Irish shot 50 percent to 32 percent for the Mastodons.
The Irish led by as many as 32 points in the second half when Ratay made two free throws with 13:29 left to open a 65-34 lead. IFPW cut the lead to 72-51 when Ashley Elmore scored from inside with 4:29 left.
Other Notre Dame-IPFW Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Summit League
With the defection of longtime northern Indiana rival Valparaiso to the Horizon League in 2007-08, Notre Dame does not have a whole lot of experience against the current alignment of the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference).
The Irish are 6-0 all-time against current Summit League teams, including a 3-0 mark at home. Notre Dame will be facing a Summit League member for the third time in four seasons, having swept IUPUI in a home-and-home series in 2006 (75-65 at the former Joyce Center) and 2007 (67-44 in Indianapolis).
In addition to the three series games against IPFW (detailed elsewhere in these notes), the only other Summit League opponent in the Notre Dame record books is Oakland, whom the Irish defeated, 100-51 on Dec. 9, 1987 (early in head coach Muffet McGraw's first season at Notre Dame).
It should be noted that these records do not include two series games against South Dakota, which accepted an invitation to join the Summit League in April 2009 and will have full league membership in 2011-12. USD won both of its games against Notre Dame (76-61 on Jan. 14, 1980 in Vermillion, S.D., and 67-60 on Nov. 22, 1980 at the former Joyce Center).
IPFW is the first of three in-state opponents on Notre Dame's schedule this season, with Valparaiso (Saturday) and Purdue (Jan. 4) to follow in the coming days and weeks.
The Irish are 114-32 (.781) all-time against other Indiana schools, including a 55-11 (.833) record at Purcell Pavilion, following last season's victories at home over Evansville (96-61) and Purdue (62-51).
Notre Dame has won nine consecutive games against in-state opponents (five in a row at home) since a 54-51 loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006 at the former Joyce Center.
Right From The Start
For the second consecutive season, and the fourth time in program history, Notre Dame is off to a 7-0 start. The Irish previously opened the season with seven consecutive wins in 2000-01, 2004-05 and 2008-09 -- however, in the past two seven-win debuts, Notre Dame dropped its eighth game of the season, both in overtime vs. Michigan schools (82-73 vs. No. 15 Michigan State at home in 2004-05; 63-59 at Michigan last year).
Conversely, in the 2000-01 national championship season, the Irish opened with a school-record 23 consecutive wins. That year, the eighth game came against an in-state opponent (Purdue), with Notre Dame knocking off the No. 6/5 Boilermakers, 72-61 at home in what would be a preview of the NCAA title game in St. Louis less than four months later.
A Fork In The Road?
Thus far, this season has shown some eerie similarities to last year for Notre Dame, leaving some to ponder if Tuesday's game vs. IPFW is the time when the Irish leave the memory of last season behind and head in a new direction.
Here's a look at the parallels between last year and the current campaign:
Notre Dame is 21-9 (.700) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 68-67 win at No. 21 Michigan State to begin this year.
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).
Notre Dame is ranked third (a season high) in this week's Associated Press poll, appearing in the top five for the fourth consecutive week -- it's the longest run in the AP Top 5 for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.
This week's ranking also marks the 43rd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with the current No. 3 ranking being Notre Dame's highest since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, 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).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 183 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 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish were ranked No. 6 for the third week in a row in last week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (the new poll will be released Tuesday afternoon). 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 last week's No. 6 ranking, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 174 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 183 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 #7 Recap: Eastern Michigan
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick had a reason to celebrate with a coach.
Swarbrick presented women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw a basketball and a bouquet after the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish beat Eastern Michigan 69-59 on Dec. 2 in her first home game since getting her 500th win at Notre Dame during the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
"Five-hundred career wins here, you ever think about coaching football," joked Swarbrick, who is in the midst of trying to find a new football coach. "I'm quite certain you could coach anything you put your mind to."
McGraw laughed afterward when asked whether she was considering the football job.
"It hasn't been offered," she said.
The victory gave McGraw 503 wins in 23 seasons at Notre Dame and 591 wins overall in 28 seasons as a head coach. The win against Eastern will not go down as one of her more memorable victories as the Irish were sloppy with the ball and had defensive lapses.
McGraw said her team appeared to be tired from its trip to the Virgin Islands.
"We just weren't there mentally," she said. "We were lucky to win the game."
Eastern Michigan (5-2) opened the second half with an 11-1 run, taking a 38-36 lead when Lindsey Mahone drove inside for a jumper. The Irish trailed 42-40 when Natalie Novosel scored inside to spark an 11-0 run highlighted by a three-point play by Diggins.
The Eagles closed to 53-49 when Kristin Thomas scored on a layup with 3:53 left. But the 8-0 run by the Irish put the game out of reach.
Tavelyn James led Eastern with 21 points and Mahone and Sydney Huntley-Rogers added 10 points each. Eastern Michigan fell to 0-10 all-time against ranked opponents.
Eastern coach AnnMarie Gilbert was pleased with the way the Eagles started the second half.
"I thought we put them on their heels for a change. I don't think they expected that," she said. "But a good team always finds a way."
Noting The Eastern Michigan Game
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was 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.
For the first time in Notre Dame women's basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).
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 two starts to become the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 503-197 (.719) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 591-238 (.713) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
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 reached two other notable landmarks in the last Irish game on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coaches her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
Two of Notre Dame's senior guards and tri-captains -- Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader -- are already members of the program's 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.
Barlow currently ranks 19th in school history with 1,186 career points, while Schrader is 21st with 1,136 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 761 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.
With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).
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)
Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Notre Dame's 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.
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.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.
Irish Enjoy Successful '09 European Tour
In May, the Notre Dame women's basketball program embarked on a memorable 11-day adventure to France, Monaco and Italy, visiting some of the world's most historic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Prince's Palace in Monaco, picturesque Lake Como in the foothills of the Italian Alps, the famed El Duomo cathedral in Milan, the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, as well as St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel located at The Vatican.
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
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 170-17 (.909) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 98 of their last 109 such contests.
Notre Dame has led at the break in all seven games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 15 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 Irish have an amazing 199-14 (.934) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added four more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), South Carolina (78-55) and Eastern Michigan (69-59).
...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 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 127-4 (.969) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
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
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 176 of their last 200 games (.880) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 99-17 (.853) 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 Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 79 of their last 86 non-BIG EAST contests (.919) at Purcell Pavilion, 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 326-85 (.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
If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women's basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women's basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
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
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. 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
Notre Dame will have at least 18 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women's basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).
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 144 televised games, including 91 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain's honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
Following an intensive five-month, $26.3 million interior renovation, the arena for the newly-christened Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center made its regular season women's basketball debut on Nov. 15 when Notre Dame defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 102-57.
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
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country's top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.
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.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year three 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 Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 14 times, including a pair of wins this season over Indianapolis (exhibition) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
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 -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotions' inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has way too much time on his hands"), nine different players have converted the "burger ball", including eight current members of the Irish roster.
What's more, of the 14 Big Mac games to date, eight have been reached on two-point baskets, five on free throws, and once on a three-pointer (Mallory vs. Canisius in 2007-08).
Next Game: Valparaiso
The Irish will play their last game before final exams on Saturday when they entertain northern Indiana rival Valparaiso Saturday afternoon in the team's annual matchup, with tipoff set for 2 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion.
The Crusaders (3-3) have lost three in a row after opening with three consecutive wins. Most recently, Valparaiso dropped a heartbreaking 70-68 decision at home to Central Michigan last Saturday, falling on a pair of free throws with one second left.
It's a BIG EAST week for the Crusaders, who will visit Pittsburgh Tuesday night before turning their attention to the Irish this weekend.