Dec. 10, 2010
DATE: December 11, 2010
No. 18 Irish Welcome Creighton To Town For Saturday Matinee
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.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Creighton
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
The Last Time Notre Dame And Creighton Met
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 Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Missouri Valley Conference
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
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 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:
The Five-Finger Discount
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
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
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.).
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
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 Game
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
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
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
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
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
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
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
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
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.