Dec. 19, 2009
DATE: December 20, 2009
#4 Irish Done With Exams, Set To Host Charlotte Sunday
Notre Dame went into its final exam break on a high note with a 88-47 win over in-state rival Valparaiso on Dec. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish raced out to a 29-8 lead less than 10 minutes into the game and never looked back on the way to their school record-tying fourth 35-point win of the season.
Junior guard Brittany Mallory came off the bench with an explosive effort, scoring a career-high 22 points in only 20 minutes. Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel added a season-best 12 points, while senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow and junior forward Becca Bruszewski each chipped in with 11 points for Notre Dame.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At Charlotte
Charlotte has been off for the past eight days, following a 72-53 win over Southern Mississippi on Dec. 12. Senior forwards Erin Floyd and Ashley Spriggs paced four players in double figures with 16 points apiece, while junior guard Shannon McCallum added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
McCallum leads the 49ers in scoring (12.1 ppg.), rebounding (6.6 rpg.) and steals (2.3 spg.), while Floyd is second in scoring (10.5 ppg.) and third in rebounding (5.0 rpg.).
Karen Aston is in her third season as the head coach at Charlotte with a 46-28 (.622) record. She is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Charlotte Series
The Last Time Notre Dame and Charlotte Met
Melissa Lechlitner added 13 points, and Natalie Novosel and Becca Bruszewski had 12 each for the Fighting Irish (10-1), who led by as many as nine points midway through the second half in winning their third straight.
Aysha Jones scored 15 points, Danielle Burgin 13 and Erin Floyd 11 for the 49ers (8-4), who committed 24 turnovers in losing their second straight game.
Down two points with less that 14 minutes left in the second half, Notre Dame went on a 13-2 run. Bruszewski's short jumper with 13:28 left tied the score at 39, and Schrader's layup with 9:36 to go put the Fighting Irish ahead 50-41.
Charlotte managed to pull within five points five times in the final minutes, but Ashley Barlow hit a pair of free throws with four seconds left to seal the win.
Other Notre Dame-Charlotte Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Atlantic 10 Conference
The Irish also have an active 12-game winning streak against that league's present alignment, including victories in five of the past six seasons (Dayton in 2003-04 and 2004-05; Richmond in 2006-07 and 2007-08; Charlotte in 2008-09). The last time Notre Dame lost to a current A-10 school was on Feb. 18, 1995, when La Salle defeated Notre Dame, 84-68, in Philadelphia, when both schools were then part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).
Charlotte is the first A-10 school to play at Notre Dame since the Irish defeated Richmond, 87-66 on Nov. 28, 2006 at Purcell Pavilion.
Going Out On A High Note
No More Teachers, No More Books
Recent examples of this came in 1999 (a 68-62 win at Florida International, closing the game on an 11-5 run in the final 2:43) and 2004 (a 50-47 win at Marquette on Jacqueline Batteast's three-pointer at the horn). Last season, the Irish defeated Loyola-Chicago, 89-45 at Purcell Pavilion in a game most noteworthy for being the debut for then-junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the roster less than 24 hours earlier.
The last time Notre Dame lost a game when coming out of its final exam break was Dec. 21, 1985, when Mary DiStanislao's Irish dropped a 73-67 decision to UCLA at the Joyce Center.
Getting The Jump
Spread The Wealth
That trend has been particularly evident in Notre Dame's last five games, with a different player setting the pace in points, rebounds and assists each time out.
The Season For Taking
The Irish have been particularly hard on opponents in five home games this season, forcing 29.4 turnovers per game while holding visitors to 53.6 points a night and a .325 field goal percentage (93-of-286).
Pomp And Circumstance
With Williamson collecting her diploma this weekend, all 58 Notre Dame women's basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
This week's ranking also marks the 44th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with last week's No. 3 ranking being Notre Dame's highest since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 184 weeks during the program's 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish remain a season-high No. 4 for the second consecutive week in the latest ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. It's the second time in the current calendar year that Notre Dame has risen to fourth in that survey, having also done so for two weeks in January 2009 (Jan. 6 & 13).
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches' poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. their current No. 4 ranking, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 176 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 184 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #9 Recap: Valparaiso
The Irish were ahead 13-2 when Mallory came off the bench five minutes into the game. She made her first five baskets, scoring 13 points in just over four minutes to help the Irish extend the lead to 31-10 with a three-pointer midway through the first half. She finished with a career-high 22 points in 20 minutes of play to lead the Irish to an 88-47 win over Valparaiso on Dec. 12 at Purcell Pavilion.
"Brittany's been playing her role extremely well," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "She's playing great basketball. She has such great poise when she's on the floor. She's working hard defensively. She's doing a lot of little things. I'm really pleased with the way she's playing."
Mallory, whose previous career high was 19 points against Georgia Southern last season, said she focuses on making sure there is no letdown when she enters the game.
"I've just got to come in and do what I can," she said. "It's just a matter of keeping the intensity that my team's already started."
The Crusaders (3-5), who lost their fifth straight, went on a 10-2 run to close to 33-20 on a three-point play by Raegan Moore with 6:12 left before intermission. But Valparaiso missed its last nine shots of the half and trailed 45-22 at halftime.
The Irish pulled away throughout the second half. Valparaiso coach Keith Freeman was disappointed in his team's passive play. Betsy Adams, Valparaiso's leading scorer at 17.1 points a game, was held scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting.
"I think it just points to the fact that they're bigger, stronger, faster," Freeman said. "They overpowered her. They overpowered us in pretty much every position. How many times did we get knocked to the floor and how many times did they get knocked to the floor? That's the difference in the game."
Valparaiso shot 29 percent and had 29 turnovers and just six assists.
Moore led the Crusaders with 16 points and Lauren Kenney had 12 points. Becca Bruszewski had 11 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes of play for the Irish, Ashley Barlow had 11 points and Natalie Novosel added 12 points off the bench.
McGraw said she's just happy the Irish head into finals week undefeated, especially after seeing some upsets the past week.
"We really wanted to make sure we took care of business," she said.
Noting The Valparaiso Game
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.
Schrader reached another endurance milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
Barlow currently ranks 17th in school history with 1,209 career points, while Schrader is 20th with 1,159 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 766 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Irish Enjoy Successful '09 European Tour
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
Notre Dame has led at the break in all nine games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added five more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), South Carolina (78-55), Eastern Michigan (69-59) and Valparaiso (88-47).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame already has added six more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), No. 23/24 San Diego State (84-79), No. 20/17 Oklahoma (81-71), IPFW (96-60) and Valparaiso (88-47).
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 81 of their last 88 non-BIG EAST contests (.920) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 328-85 (.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.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through five home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,343 fans per game, putting the Irish more than 500 fans above their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped the Irish win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
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. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 146 televised games, including 93 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 16 times, including wins this season over Indianapolis (exhibition), Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW and Valparaiso.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has way too much time on his hands"), nine different players have converted the "burger ball", including eight current members of the Irish roster.
What's more, of the 16 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, five on free throws, and two on three-pointers.
Next Game: Central Florida
UCF (2-5), the defending Conference USA tournament champion, has dropped four in a row, including three by three points or less, and most recently a 70-58 loss to No. 10/6 Florida State at home on Thursday night. The Knights will play host to Jackson State Sunday afternoon for breaking for the holidays.