Dec. 10, 2010
Full Notes Package in PDF Format
2010-11 ND Women's Basketball: Game 11
#18/18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-3 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. Creighton Bluejays (4-3 / 0-0 Missouri Valley)
DATE: December 11, 2010
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 1-0
1ST MTG: ND 69-48 (1/9/82)
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: Sign up at UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
StorylinesNotre Dame and Creighton will be playing for the first time in nearly 29 years, the longest hiatus between series games in Fighting Irish women's basketball history.
Notre Dame is 25-2 all-time against current Missouri Valley Conference teams, including an active seven-game winning streak.
No. 18 Irish Welcome Creighton To Town For Saturday Matinee
In the midst of studying for final exams and writing term papers, No. 18 Notre Dame will play its last game before a nine-day break on Saturday when it squares off with Creighton in a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee at Purcell Pavilion. It will be the first matchup between the Fighting Irish and Bluejays since January 1982.
Notre Dame (7-3, 1-0 BIG EAST) opened conference play on a high note Wednesday evening, leading virtually all the way in a 79-43 victory at Providence. The Fighting Irish needed a little more than one half of basketball to pull clear of the pesky Friars, using a 16-0 second-half run to ice the win.
Freshman forward Natalie Achonwa was slowed by the flu, but still found a way to score a team-high 13 points in just nine minutes. Sophomore forward Erica Solomon tallied her second career double-double (both in the past six games) with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds as well as a career-best five steals, while sophomore guard Skylar Diggins chipped in with 10 points for Notre Dame.
RankingsNotre Dame is No. 18 in both the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
Creighton is not ranked.
Quick HittersWith its No. 18 ranking in this week's Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has appeared in the AP poll for a school-record 63 consecutive weeks, extending the program standard that began with the 2007-08 preseason poll.
The Fighting Irish have made the AP preseason poll in 11 of the past 12 seasons (since 1999-2000), something just seven other schools in the country can match.
Notre Dame has a rugged 2010-11 schedule lined up, with games against at least one team from each of the top six RPI conferences (BIG EAST, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC), and five matchups against four other teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Sweet 16 (Connecticut twice, Baylor, Gonzaga and Kentucky).
The Fighting Irish will play a school-record 17 regular-season home games this year, including their first regular-season tournament (outside of the Preseason WNIT) since the 1983 Notre Dame Thanksgiving Classic. Notre Dame won the three-day, round-robin WBCA Classic (also featuring IUPUI, Wake Forest and Butler) at Purcell Pavilion from Nov. 26-28.
There are lots of new faces on the Fighting Irish schedule this season, with Notre Dame playing seven first-time opponents as part of its 14-game non-conference slate. Those new opponents include: New Hampshire (Nov. 12 - W, 99-48), Morehead State (Nov. 15 - W, 91-28), Kentucky (L, 81-76), Wake Forest (W 92-69), Baylor (L, 76-65), Gonzaga (Dec. 29) and Southeast Missouri State (Jan. 2).
Notre Dame recently celebrated a program milestone with its 1,000th all-time game on Dec. 5 against Purdue (fittingly, a 72-51 win over the Boilermakers). The Fighting Irish have a 696-305 (.695) record in 34 seasons of intercollegiate competition.
The Fighting Irish have only one true senior on this year's roster -- forward Becca Bruszewski. Guard Brittany Mallory and forward Devereaux Peters both are listed as seniors on the roster based on their academic standing, but each player has the option to petition for a fifth year of eligibility after both suffered season-ending knee injuries (torn ACL) within the first seven games of the 2008-09 campaign.
Notre Dame welcomes a three-player freshman class that includes the program's first-ever international player (Canadian National Team forward Natalie Achonwa), a 2010 McDonald's All-American (Erie, Pa., native Kayla McBride) and a two-time Michigan Player of the Year (Ariel Braker from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.). Collectively, this group has been ranked as high as eighth in the country by ESPN Hoopgurlz.
The Fighting Irish made a shift on their coaching staff during the offseason, as former longtime assistant and post coach guru Carol Owens (who previously served as Notre Dame from 1995-2005) returns to the program as associate coach following a successful five-year run as the head coach at her alma mater, Northern Illinois. In addition, Angie Potthoff has moved into the newly-created role of associate director of operations & technology, a position that has seen her help direct Notre Dame's emergence as one of the nation's leaders in social media development among women's college basketball programs.
Other Notre Dame NotablesNotre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking sixth with 350 victories.
Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 10 seasons. Last year, the program finished fourth in the final NCAA attendance rankings with 8,377 fans per game, both setting new school records in the process. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 148 of their last 150 home games, logging 13 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 5 vs. Purdue).
The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past decade. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the '10 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame's eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships -- Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley's teammate on the '06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
For the fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What's more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women's basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor's degree (a 62-for-62 success rate), with all three members of this year's senior class on target to earn their diplomas.
A Quick Look At Creighton
A perennial postseason contender, Creighton was, for all intents and purposes, an NCAA Tournament team last season, going 21-11 (13-5 and finishing second in the Missouri Valley Conference) and only missing out on the NCAA tourney due to a controversial one-point loss to Northern Iowa in the MVC Tournament final.
The Bluejays return six letterwinners and three starters (who have more than 200 combined starts between them), while also introducing a six-player freshman class that is the program's largest in more than a decade.
Creighton (4-3) last played on Wednesday night, dropping a 63-55 decision at home to in-state rival Nebraska. Freshman guard/forward Carli Tritz came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points (4-6 3FG), while senior center Kellie Nelson added 12 points and senior forward Sam Schuett nabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
Senior guard Kelsey Woodard leads the Bluejays in scoring (12.1 ppg.), while Tritz (who has not started a game this year) is second in scoring (11.0 ppg.) and tops in steals (2.7 spg.), field goal percentage (.483) and three-point percentage (.455).
Head coach Jim Flanery is in his ninth season at his alma mater, sporting a 156-106 (.595) record.
The Notre Dame-Creighton Series
It's hard to label it a series, as Notre Dame and Creighton have met just once before. The Fighting Irish earned a 69-48 win over the Bluejays in that only other matchup on Jan. 9, 1982, at the Dial Classic, hosted by the College of St. Catherine's (now known as St. Catherine's University) in St. Paul, Minn.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Creighton Met
Freshman guard Ruth Kaiser flirted with the first triple-double in Notre Dame women's basketball history, finishing with game highs of 14 points (on 6-of-7 shooting), 12 rebounds and seven assists as the Fighting Irish knocked off Creighton, 69-48, on Jan. 9, 1982, in the first round of the Dial Classic at Butler Gymnasium on the College of St. Catherine's campus in St. Paul, Minn.
Mary Beth Schueth added 13 points and five rebounds, Laura Dougherty came off the bench to chip in 11 points, five assists and five steals, and Shari Matvey rounded out the Notre Dame double-digit scoring parade with 10 points.
The Fighting Irish shot 52.6 percent (30-of-57) from the field in the contests and harassed the Bluejays into 25 turnovers, with 16 of those coming off steals.
Ruth Beyerhelm was the lone Creighton player to score in double figures, winding up with 12 points.
Notre Dame would go on to win the Dial Classic the next afternoon, defeating Marquette, 50-36.
Other Notre Dame-Creighton Series TidbitsCreighton is the third of four non-conference opponents Notre Dame will be facing this season for the first time in more than a decade. The Fighting Irish also revived long dormant series with UCLA (12-year hiatus) and Butler (11 years) last month, and will do likewise with Loyola Marymount (14 years) just after Christmas at the State Farm Holiday Classic in Seattle.
Officially, it will be 28 years, 11 months and two days since the last game between the Fighting Irish and Bluejays, making it the longest hiatus between series games in Notre Dame women's basketball history. That's almost three months longer than the break between series matchups between the Fighting Irish and San Diego State (28 years, eight months, five days), with those two teams renewing acquaintances on Nov. 26, 2009, at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands (won by Notre Dame, 84-79).
The team captain for the Fighting Irish entering their 1982 matchup with Creighton was senior forward Missy Conboy, who came off the bench to tally two points, four rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes of action. Today, Conboy is Notre Dame's senior deputy athletics director and senior woman administrator, having been a member of the University's athletic administration since August 1987.
As a point of reference, the last time Notre Dame and Creighton played, it was less than one month after Muhammad Ali's last fight (a unanimous decision loss to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas), more than two months before ground was broken on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. -- and the exact day when Michael and Carole Middleton of Reading, Berkshire, England, celebrated the birth of their oldest daughter, Kate ... or as she's known to much of the world today, the fiancee of Prince William of Wales, the future King of England.
In its 34-year history, Notre Dame has featured 144 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). Ironically, Nebraska and Notre Dame were the top two seeds in last year's NCAA Kansas City Regional and were slated to meet in the regional final, but both lost their semifinal games (the Fighting Irish in overtime to eventual regional champion Oklahoma, 77-72; Nebraska to Kentucky, 76-67).
Notre Dame vs. The Missouri Valley Conference
Notre Dame is 25-2 (.926) all-time against the current alignment of the Missouri Valley Conference, including a 12-1 (.923) record at home against MVC schools. The Fighting Irish last played a Valley school on Nov. 19, 2008, downing Evansville, 96-61, at Purcell Pavilion behind a (then) career-high 18 points from (then) sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and 11 points and six assists from (then) sophomore guard Brittany Mallory.
The bulk of Notre Dame's games against the present MVC membership have come against Evansville, when the Fighting Irish and Purple Aces were rivals in both the North Star and Midwestern Collegiate conferences.
In the 24-year tenure of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, the Fighting Irish are 16-1 (.941) against the Missouri Valley Conference, going 9-0 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 seven consecutive games against current MVC schools.
Notre Dame also has an active 11-game home winning streak against MVC teams, since Illinois State edged the Fighting Irish, 61-59, on Feb. 8, 1984, at Purcell Pavilion.
Young Fan To Represent Riley Hospital For Teddy Bear Toss
Saturday's game has been designated for the sixth annual Notre Dame Women's Basketball Teddy Bear Toss, in which fans bring teddy bears and other stuffed animals to donate to several South Bend-area children's charities including Riley Hospital. At halftime, on the public address announcer's cue, fans are invited to toss their teddy bears onto the court at Purcell Pavilion, creating the memorable sight of stuffed animals raining down on the floor (and occasionally pelting an unsuspecting media member or game official sitting courtside).
Bremen, Ind., resident and Riley Hospital patient Brenna Blosser will be honored as the "Riley Kid of the Game" on Saturday in conjunction with the Teddy Bear Toss. Brenna will join the Fighting Irish for the introduction of their starting lineup, and she will be recognized during a first half timeout.
At just 13 months old, an unknown virus attacked Brenna's major organs and sent her into cardiac and pulmonary failure. She was airlifted to Riley Hospital in serious condition, but after five weeks in the hospital, she recovered to the point that she was allowed to go home. She continues to recover, and several surgeries have been instrumental in helping her walk. Today, Brenna is a healthy and energetic six-year-old girl with an optimistic future.
A Grand Occasion
The Dec. 5 game against Purdue marked a significant milestone in Notre Dame women's basketball history, as the Fighting Irish played their 1,000th all-time game, defeating the Boilermakers, 72-51. Notre Dame has an all-time record of 696-305 (.695) in 34 seasons of varsity competition, including a 345-87 (.799) record at Purcell Pavilion.
The Fighting Irish played their first game on Dec. 3, 1977, defeating Valparaiso, 48-41 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame would play its first three seasons as a Division III program in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) before moving up to the Division I level in 1980-81. The following season, the Fighting Irish would begin competing under the NCAA banner.
Some other notable landmarks along the way have been:
Jan. 7, 1984 - Notre Dame plays its first-ever conference game, earning a 85-68 win at Xavier in its North Star Conference opener.
March 20, 1985 - The Fighting Irish defeat U.S. International, 86-61 in their first postseason tournament game at the old National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas.
Nov. 28, 1987 - Muffet McGraw makes her debut as head coach at Notre Dame, leading the Fighting Irish to a 67-61 win at Loyola-Chicago.
Feb. 6, 1988 - The Fighting Irish post a 78-66 victory at No. 17 Duke, logging the program's first-ever win over a ranked opponent.
March 11, 1989 - Notre Dame defeats Loyola-Chicago, 75-53, in Dayton, Ohio, to win the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament (predecessor to the Horizon League), its first conference tournament title.
Jan. 3, 1991 - The Fighting Irish play their first game as a Top 25 team, with No. 25 Notre Dame earning an 87-53 win over Detroit at Purcell Pavilion.
Nov. 28, 1995 - Notre Dame plays its first game in the BIG EAST Conference, downing fellow new league member Rutgers, 66-54 at Purcell Pavilion.
March 15, 1996 - The Fighting Irish record their first NCAA Championship win, defeating Purdue, 73-60 in a first-round game at Lubbock, Texas.
March 17, 1997 - Notre Dame earns its first Sweet 16 berth with an 86-83 win at Texas.
March 30, 1997 - The Fighting Irish play in their first NCAA Women's Final Four, falling to Tennessee, 80-66 at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum.
Jan. 15, 2001 - Notre Dame defeats its first top-ranked opponent, ousting Connecticut, 92-76, before the first women's basketball sellout crowd in Purcell Pavilion history.
April 1, 2001 - The Fighting Irish win their first national championship, toppling Purdue, 68-66, at the Savvis Center in St. Louis on Ruth Riley's two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Saturday's game leading the nation in steals with 16.1 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in seven of 10 games this season, including three contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 23 steals in a Nov. 26 home victory against IUPUI.
Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program (and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991).
Individually, Notre Dame has eight different players with double-digit steals this season, led by sophomore guard Skylar Diggins, who has registered 22 thefts (2.2 per game).
Peters Adds Griner To SWAT Team
Senior forward Devereaux Peters has made a living as a shot blocking presence in the paint for Notre Dame throughout her career, with her 6-foot-2 frame and 77-inch wingspan. However, on Dec. 1 at No. 2/3 Baylor, she added another notch to her belt in historic fashion.
At the 10:22 mark of the second half, the Lady Bears threw an entry pass in to their 6-foot-8 sophomore All-America center Brittney Griner, but as she turned to shoot, Peters rotated perfectly from the weak side and rejected Griner's shot out of bounds. It was one of the highlights in a 17-2 Fighting Irish run that pulled Notre Dame within six points of Baylor with five minutes remaining.
It's believed to be the first time in Griner's two-year college career that she has had a shot blocked. A video clip of Peters' block has been posted on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball YouTube channel (search for "notredameirishhoops" or click the link through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at www.UND.com).
Diggins Named To BIG EAST Honor Roll
For the second consecutive week, a Notre Dame women's basketball player earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Honor Roll, as sophomore guard Skylar Diggins was tapped for this week's squad, the league office announced Monday. Following in the footsteps of junior guard Natalie Novosel, Diggins was one of five players chosen for this week's honor, which recognizes outstanding weekly achievements by conference players who are not chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Week.
Diggins averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game with a .484 field goal percentage (15-of-31) last week, as Notre Dame dropped a 76-65 decision at No. 2/3 Baylor on Dec. 1 before bouncing back with a near wire-to-wire 72-51 win over in-state rival Purdue four days later at Purcell Pavilion.
At Baylor, Diggins scored a game-high 21 points (including a career-high-tying 4-of-7 from three-point range) and dished out a game-best five assists, and played a major role in a second-half comeback that saw the Fighting Irish rally from a 22-point deficit to get within six points with five minutes remaining before the host Lady Bears held on for the win. Diggins scored eight of her 21 points during a lightning-fast 12-0 spurt in 79 seconds that helped get Notre Dame right back in the contest.
Against Purdue, Diggins scored all 14 of her points in the first half, including six in the first three minutes, as the Fighting Irish rolled to their largest win in the 24-game series with the Boilermakers. Diggins also handed out a game-high six assists, expertly piloting a Notre Dame offense that shot 50 percent from the field and led by double figures for the final 24 minutes of the afternoon.
Diggins currently ranks second on the team (and 18th in the BIG EAST) in scoring at 13.5 points per game, having scored in double figures eight times this season. She also is seventh in the conference in assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and ninth in the loop in steals (2.2 spg.).
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 15 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 24 of their last 27 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three-game runs to the title at last year's Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and this year's WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion.
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.
Game #10 Recap: Providence
Despite not feeling well, freshman forward Natalie Achonwa provided a big lift for Notre Dame.
Achonwa scored a career-high 13 points off the bench and the No. 18 Irish routed Providence, 79-43 on Wednesday in the BIG EAST opener for both teams at Alumni Hall.
"She didn't even come to practice and couldn't keep any food down," coach Muffet McGraw said. "She had a rough night. But she said I'll play if you need me and I'm a little weak.
"She played great. I was really pleased, but I don't think she could have gone too many more minutes."
Achonwa only played nine minutes but was 5 for 6 from the floor and 3 of 4 from the free throw line.
Mi-Khida Hankins scored 16 points for the Friars (5-6), who were held to 16 points in the second half.
Notre Dame (7-3) broke the game open when it went on a 16-0 run in the second half, during which the Fighting Irish held Providence without a point for 9:11.
The Fighting Irish forced the Friars into seven of their 28 turnovers during that run.
"I thought our press was good," McGraw said. "I thought we came out and put a little pressure on them.
"I also thought Devereaux Peters missing most of the first half (because of foul trouble) was a problem for us. But Erica Solomon (11 points, 10 rebounds) had a great game off the bench. She gave us great energy. She gave us rebounding."
Notre Dame also made a defensive adjustment in the half court that made a difference.
"We switched up defensively," McGraw said. "We didn't front as much. I thought they were getting inside a little bit more so we played behind in the post.
"I thought that stopped them a little bit."
Notre Dame led 35-27 at halftime and after the Friars cut their deficit to seven points (40-33), junior guard Natalie Novosel ignited the Fighting Irish's 16-0 run.
Noting The Providence GameNotre Dame now has won 10 of its last 12 BIG EAST Conference openers and is 12-4 (.750) in league lidlifters since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96.
This was the eighth time in 10 seasons that the Fighting Irish tipped off conference play on the road, with Notre Dame posting a 6-3 (.667) record in BIG EAST openers away from home since joining the conference 16 seasons ago.
This marked the earliest BIG EAST opener for Notre Dame since Dec. 6, 2000, when the Fighting Irish defeated Villanova, 64-33 at Purcell Pavilion.
The 36-point margin of victory was Notre Dame's largest in a conference opener during both its BIG EAST membership and the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present); in fact, the last time the Fighting Irish won a league opener by more than the margin at PC was Dec. 13, 1985, when Notre Dame earned a 90-46 win at Marquette to tip off that year's play in the now-defunct North Star Conference (almost exactly 25 years ago and two seasons before McGraw took the head coaching reins at Notre Dame).
The win also was the largest for the Fighting Irish on the road since Nov. 23, 2008, when Notre Dame won 102-54 at Boston College.
The Fighting Irish improve to 19-0 all-time against Providence, winning by double digits for the 16th time in the series.
The 36-point spread was the largest for Notre Dame over the Friars since Jan. 30, 1999 (a 97-59 win at Providence).
The 43 points allowed were the second-fewest by the Fighting Irish defense in the 19-game series, topped only on Jan. 19, 2002, with a 69-41 Notre Dame win at Alumni Hall.
Junior forward Erica Solomon recorded her second career double-double, with both coming in the past six games (12 points, 12 rebounds vs. IUPUI).
Solomon also notched a career-high five steals (previous high was three on three occasions, the last on Nov. 27 against Wake Forest at Purcell Pavilion) and tied her personal best with three assists (last achieved on Nov. 15 against Morehead State at Purcell Pavilion).
Three days after scoring a season (and career) high 12 points against Purdue, freshman forward Natalie Achonwa did one better at Providence with a team-high 13 points in just nine minutes; Achonwa is the second Fighting Irish player this season to register a "point-a-minute" performance (min. 10 points scored), after Devereaux Peters had a career-high 23 points in 16 minutes against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 in the season opener at Purcell Pavilion.
Speaking of Peters, the senior forward tied her career high with four assists, a mark she first set in the Nov. 18 home game against UCLA.
Notre Dame is ranked 18th in this week's Associated Press poll. That marks the 63rd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08.
This year's No. 12 preseason ranking (currently a season high) also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 202 weeks during the program's 34-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in t2hat category.
In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked 18th in this week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches' survey for 63 of the past 64 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 194 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 28 people in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 202 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 28 people on this list, 15 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington ('92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the AP poll at No. 23 on Jan. 25, 2010.
Six of the 15 active coaches in this group -- including McGraw -- led their teams to this year's NCAA Championship, while McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and also coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
Notre Dame Picked Fourth In 2010-11 BIG EAST Coaches' Preseason Poll
Notre Dame was selected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference in 2010-11, according to a preseason vote of the league's 16 head coaches released on Oct. 21 during the annual BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.
The Irish picked up 177 points in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only two-time defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points, West Virginia (207 points, one first-place vote) and Georgetown (186 points) -- St. John's rounded out the top five with 173 points.
Diggins Earns 2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
Along with picking Notre Dame to finish fourth in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches unanimously voted sophomore guard Skylar Diggins to the 10-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team.
A preseason candidate for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, as well as a consensus preseason All-American by most major media outlets, Diggins is coming off one of the finest rookie seasons in Fighting Irish women's basketball history as the first freshman in 17 seasons to lead Notre Dame in scoring and the first rookie in 16 years to top 100 assists in her debut season. What's more, she finished as just the third player in program history (and the first freshman) to log 400 points, 100 assists and 75 steals in a single season, joining a pair of All-Americans and Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (top senior in the nation 5-foot-8 and under) recipients -- current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (2000-01) and Megan Duffy (2004-05) -- in achieving that distinction.
A 2009-10 honorable mention All-America selection by both the Associated Press and WBCA, Diggins led Notre Dame in scoring (13.8 ppg.), steals (2.6 spg.) and assists (tied - 3.2 apg.) last season, while ranking third on the squad in three-point percentage (.350) and free throw percentage (.782). She also chalked up a team-high 24 double-digit scoring games, including seven 20-point outings, capped by a season-high 31 points against Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion. That scoring effort was the highest ever recorded by a Fighting Irish rookie in NCAA postseason play, while her 13 field goals made tied the program record for an NCAA tournament game.
In 2009-10, Diggins set Notre Dame freshman records for steals (90), free throws made (111), free throws attempted (142) and minutes played (1,028), while ranking among the top five on the Irish rookie charts for points (3rd - 484), scoring average (tied/4th - 13.8 ppg.), field goals made (3rd - 169), field goals attempted (3rd - 385), three-point field goals made (4th - 35), three-point attempts (5th - 100), three-point percentage (5th - .350), assists (3rd - 112), steals per game (2nd - 2.6 spg.), games started (tied/2nd - 30), games played (2nd - 35) and minutes per game (5th - 29.4).
McGraw Is Simply Legendary
The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time -- head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.
McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people -- and the lone coach -- named to the 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game" that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.
The others in McGraw's Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).
The '11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game (McGraw was not able to attend due to NCAA regulations). The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.
McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this notable list are: Pat Summitt (1999 - Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 - LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 - Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 - North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 - Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 - Virginia).
Riley's Double Zero Goes To The Rafters
Ruth Riley, a three-time All-America center at Notre Dame during her storied career from 1997-2001, and the 2001 consensus national player of the year, was inducted into Notre Dame's Ring of Honor on Nov. 12 during a pre-game ceremony before the Fighting Irish opened their 2010-11 season against New Hampshire at Purcell Pavilion.
A banner honoring Riley's number 00 was unveiled and now permanently hangs in the rafters of Purcell Pavilion, making her the first women's basketball player added to the Ring of Honor, and the second player overall following last spring's induction of men's basketball All-America forward Luke Harangody.
Beginning in 2010-11, the Notre Dame Athletics Department plans to honor annually additional former and present men's and women's basketball and volleyball players who have made distinguished and noteworthy contributions during their career while student-athletes at the University. A committee that will consist of Fighting Irish coaches and administrators will be formed to determine future inductees.
The only player in Notre Dame women's basketball history with 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds, Riley ranks as the program's all-time leader in seven categories, including rebounds (1,007), blocked shots (370 - fifth in NCAA history) and field goal percentage (.632 - 11th in NCAA history). What's more, the Macy, Ind., native ranks third in school history with 2,072 points, and holds the Fighting Irish single-game scoring record with 41 points in a January 1998 win over Providence. Riley also played a pivotal role in Notre Dame's run to the 2001 NCAA national championship, earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors after scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the title game victory over Purdue, capped by her gamewinning free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.
A 10-year WNBA veteran (the past four with the San Antonio Silver Stars), two-time WNBA champion and 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Riley was back on campus with the other members of the 2001 championship team for ceremonies honoring the 10th anniversary of that milestone achievement in Notre Dame athletics history.
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 195-17 (.920) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 123 of their last 134 such contests, and 32 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford's XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).
The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in seven games this year, including Wednesday's win at Providence when they led 35-27 through the first 20 minutes.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 16 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame's first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 214-15 (.934) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in six contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 145-5 (.967) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in six games this year (5-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points, including four games when it topped the 90-point mark (a plateau the Fighting Irish already have attained four times this season).
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 195 of their last 221 games (.882) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 106-18 (.855) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the '02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 91 of their last 99 non-BIG EAST contests (.919) 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 345-87 (.799) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The 2009-10 season saw an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women's basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans have all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and are snapping up single-game ducats at a rate that will have the Fighting Irish challenging their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.
Notre Dame has wasted little time in getting started with that challenge, averaging 8,396 fans for its first seven home games this season, including a sellout crowd of 9,149 for the Dec. 5 win over in-state rival Purdue.
Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women's basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer's table.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women's basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his third season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 21 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year's TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through last Sunday's Purdue contest (which aired on ESPN2), Notre Dame has played in 175 televised games, including 121 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year four 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 four-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 23 times, including wins this year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI and Wake Forest.
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 -- senior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "media relations director has too much time on his hands"), 13 different players have converted the "burger ball", including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 23 Big Mac games to date, 12 have been reached on two-point baskets, eight on free throws, and three on three-pointers.
Next Game: Valparaiso
Following a nine-day break for final exams, Notre Dame will get back on the hardwood Dec. 20 when it heads west on the Indiana Toll Road for for a 7:05 p.m. (CT) matchup with in-state foe Valparaiso.
The Crusaders (2-6) have dropped five of their last six games, most recently a 73-65 decision at IPFW on Wednesday night. Valparaiso tips off a three-game homestand Saturday afternoon against BIG EAST opponent Pittsburgh, with a matchup against Chicago State (Dec. 18) also on the docket before the Fighting Irish come to town.
-- ND --