Dec. 9, 2008
#8/8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Michigan Wolverines (5-4 / 0-0 Big Ten)
DATE: December 10, 2008
No. 8 Irish Head To Michigan For Wednesday Night Matchup
Notre Dame (7-0) used a strong second-half defensive performance to pull free of No. 17/20 Purdue and take a 62-51 victory before a sold-out crowd on Sunday afternoon at the Joyce Center. The Irish trailed by nine points midway through the first half, but held the Boilermakers to just 33 points over the final 30 minutes on the way to their third consecutive victory over their in-state rivals.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th - 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th - +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the '07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Notre Dame's present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year's BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team's recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference's all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team's most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
A Quick Look At Michigan
UM is 5-4 this season and coming off a 60-45 loss at No. 12/14 Duke on Sunday. The Wolverines used a frenetic defense that forced 30 turnovers and a sharpshooting effort from the three-point line (10-for-24) to stay within striking distance of the Blue Devils before succumbing. It was Michigan's third game against a ranked opponent this season, with the others being a win over 13th-ranked Vanderbilt (50-42) and a close loss to No. 12 Texas A&M (59-56), both at Crisler Arena.
Senior guard Jessica Minnfield is averaging a team-high 11.4 points and 3.3 assists per game for the Wolverines this season. Senior forward Carly Benson is second in both scoring (10.3 ppg) and rebounding (5.0 rpg) with a team-high .349 three-point percentage and 22 three-pointers.
Head coach Kevin Borseth is in his second season at Michigan (24-18, .571) after successful stints at Wisconsin-Green Bay (nine years), Michigan Tech (11 years) and Gogebic Community College (five years). He has a career record of 530-228 (.699) in his 27th season and will be facing Notre Dame for the second time in as many years.
The Notre Dame-Michigan Series
UM has a 4-2 lead on the Irish when playing in Ann Arbor, but Notre Dame earned a 61-58 victory the last time the teams played at Crisler Arena on Dec. 1, 2006, going on a 10-2 run over the final 47.3 seconds, including a pair of free throws by Tulyah Gaines with 3.3 seconds left and two more by Charel Allen with 0.7 ticks remaining to complete the rally.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Michigan Met
As in past games, the Notre Dame defense generated much of the offense, as the Irish (6-1) scored 22 points off 22 UM turnovers.
The Irish also held Michigan (4-3) to 27 percent shooting and only two Wolverines had baskets from the floor until midway through the second half. It was Michigan's third loss by more than 20 points in its last four games.
The Irish had 10 players with 10 or more minutes of playing time and no starter played more than 28 minutes. Michigan used only eight players and four of the five starters played 31 minutes or more. The only starter who didn't was Krista Phillips, the Wolverines' leading scorer at 10.5 points a game, who played just 16 minutes because of foul trouble.
The Irish took control early with a 21-5 run and put the game away in the second half with a 22-5 run.
Other Notre Dame-Michigan Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten Conference
What's more, Notre Dame has won 11 of its last 15 games against Big Ten schools, including a pair of victories this season -- 78-72 over 24th-ranked Michigan State on Nov. 29 at the Joyce Center, and a 62-51 victory over No. 17/20 Purdue this past Sunday in South Bend.
Michigan is the last of three Big Ten opponents for the Irish this season, all coming in a four-game stretch.
North Of The Border
The Irish are 52-19 (.732) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 32-7 (.821) mark against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Notre Dame also has won its last nine games against Michigan schools, since an 82-73 overtime loss to No. 15 Michigan State on Dec. 2, 2004 at the Joyce Center.
Piping Hot Turnovers
The majority of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 81 thefts (11.6 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
The Upper Hand
Sunday's game against No. 17/20 Purdue saw that trend temporarily reversed, as the Irish fell behind by nine points (18-9) midway through the first half. However, a late three-point barrage by freshman forward Kellie Watson helped give Notre Dame a 23-22 lead at halftime and the Irish never looked back en route to the 62-51 win before a sold-out crowd at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame was particularly prolific from the arc in a four-game stretch from Nov. 19-29, making a combined 29 treys in that span (seven each in wins over Evansville and Boston College, six against Georgia Southern and nine vs. Michigan State).
One also has to go back seven years to find the last time Notre Dame made more than 29 combined three-pointers in a four-game span. From Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 2001, Notre Dame was lights-out from the arc at Colorado State (7), at Arizona (7), home vs. Army (10) and at a neutral site vs. Michigan (8).
The nine three-pointers and 25 attempts against MSU also were the most for Notre Dame in a single game since March 3, 2002, when the Irish went 10-for-26 from beyond the arc in an 84-79 loss to Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.
Late in November, the Irish posted two of the larger winning margins in the program's record books, rolling to a 48-point victory at Boston College (102-54), followed by a 49-point win at home over Georgia Southern (85-36).
In fact, the only time Notre Dame logged a larger combined margin of victory in consecutive games than this past week's 97-point spread was Nov. 24-25, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla., when the Irish downed Liberty (113-35) and host Central Florida (81-61) by a combined 98 points.
Spreading The Wealth
For the season, 10 of the 11 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club.
Strong Out Of The Gate
Three of Notre Dame's wins this season have come against ranked opponents, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have notched three Top 25 victories in their opening seven contests. In 1998-99, Notre Dame knocked off No. 6 UCLA (99-82), No. 6/4 Duke (84-57) and No. 25/23 Illinois (101-93) in its first four games on the way to a 26-5 record.
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Watson Repeats As BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
Last week, Watson averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with a .714 field goal percentage (5-of-7) and an .800 three-point percentage (4-of-5) as Notre Dame improved to 7-0 for the first time in four seasons with double-digit victories last week at Eastern Michigan and at home over No. 17/20 Purdue.
The highlight of Watson's week came last Sunday against Notre Dame's in-state rival Purdue, when she came off the bench to score 13 points (4-6 FG, 3-4 3FG) and snag six rebounds in a 62-51 Irish win. All three of Watson's triples came in the final 4:17 of the first half, as she almost single-handedly flipped what had been a nine-point deficit into a one-point halftime lead. What's more, her last trey with 38 seconds remaining in the first half put the Irish ahead for good.
Becca's A Bruiser
That improvement has carried over into this season, as the Valparaiso, Ind., native has earned her way into the Irish starting lineup and has not disappointed. On Nov. 19 against Evansville, she poured in a career-best 18 points, knocking down 7-of-9 shots from the field, including both of her three-point attempts. The latter statistic was particularly noteworthy, considering she was just 1-of-2 from beyond the arc during her entire freshman season.
Not to be outdone, Bruszewski matched her career high four days later on Nov. 23 at Boston College, connecting for a game-high 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
Last year, Notre Dame sold out its games against Tennessee and Connecticut, and nearly did the same for the Michigan contest, drawing 10,825 fans for that game.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of this notes package.
Notre Dame also has been ranked in the AP poll for 164 weeks during the program's 32-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 stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 25th consecutive ranking in Tuesday's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, remaining eighth for the second consecutive week. It's the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Feb. 15, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 7. The Irish now have appeared in the coaches' poll for 156 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 164 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).
Watson cut No. 17/20 Purdue's lead to two points by making two three-pointers after the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish went seven minutes in the first half without a basket, starting the game by making just 3 of 22 shots. Lechlitner then scored 13 of her career-high 19 points in the second half to lead Notre Dame to the 62-51 victory on Sunday.
The Irish (7-0) needed Lechlitner to play well with leading scorer Ashley Barlow missing her second straight game with a concussion. Lechlitner was 2-of-3 from three-point range, hit several more jumpers from outside and scored inside as well, driving to the basket when the Boilermakers (5-3) focused more on Notre Dame's perimeter game.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton led the Boilermakers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but the Irish outrebounded Purdue 47-35, repeatedly holding them to one shot. The Irish also outscored the Boilermakers 22-18 in the paint to overcome Notre Dame's 34.4-percent shooting.
Watson finished with 13 points and Lindsay Schrader added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish. Lakisha Freeman had 12 points for the Boilermakers.
Notre Dame, which hadn't trailed by more than three points all season, fell behind 18-9 when FahKara Malone made a pair of free throws with 7:04 left in the first half. That's when Watson made her three-pointers, then Schrader tied the score on a 15-foot jumper with 3 minutes left. The Irish led 23-22 at halftime on Watson's third three-pointer.
Lechlitner scored seven points during a decisive 14-4 run in the second half, giving the Irish a 41-29 lead on an inside basket with 8:48 left. The Irish extended the lead to 45-32 when Schrader scored on a driving layup.
Purdue used a 6-0 run to close to 45-38 on a jumper by Freeman, but couldn't get any closer.
Noting The Purdue Game
Irish Fourth In BIG EAST Preseason Poll
The Irish collected 182 points, with Connecticut (14 first-place votes, 224 points), Rutgers (one first-place vote, 201 points) and Louisville (one first-place vote, 200 points) joining Notre Dame in the top four.
In addition, senior guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as a Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection, one of 14 players to garner preseason all-conference status. Schrader averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game last season while scoring in double figures 21 times.
A 2008 honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection, Schrader is one of three starters and seven monogram winners back for the Irish from last year's 25-9 club that finished fourth in the BIG EAST and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons.
Half And Half
This season, Notre Dame is 6-0 when up at the break, doing so in its last six games. Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added four more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern and Purdue.
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in four games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 75 of their last 81 non-BIG EAST contests (.926) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 316-82 (.794) 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.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
LeSEA now originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 120 televised games, including 70 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame's Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities -- Women's Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA's Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA's official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
All-session tickets for this year's NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program's sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It hasn't take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame topped the 88-point mark in both its lone exhibition game (96-30 win over Gannon on Nov. 5) and its regular-season opener (96-61 win over Evansville on Nov. 19).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
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 -- sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it's been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the "Big Mac" mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition win and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
The first 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, 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 Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project 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.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame's competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
Next Game: Valparaiso
Valparaiso (3-2) has had an up-and-down season, winning the Coors Classic title out in Fort Collins, Colo., with a win over Florida State in the championship game. However, the Crusaders are coming off a 71-67 loss at North Texas last Saturday. Valparaiso is slated to play host to No. 23/21 Purdue Wednesday before the Irish come to town this weekend.