Dec. 20, 2007
#17/17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. IUPUI Jaguars (3-8 / 0-1 Summit League)
DATE: December 21, 2007
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Indianapolis, Ind. - IUPUI Gymnasium (1,215)
SERIES: ND leads 1-0
1ST MTG: 12/16/06 (ND 75-65)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM/UND.com (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
TV: TheSummitLeague.org (Internet PPV broadcast)
LIVE STATS: None
TICKETS: (317) 274-5453
No. 17 Irish Back In Action Friday At IUPUI
After a season-long nine-day break for final exams, No. 17 Notre Dame will carry a seven-game winning streak into Friday's 7 p.m. (ET) contest at IUPUI. The Irish are in the midst of their longest winning streak since the 2004-05 season, and will be closing out a string of three consecutive games against in-state opponents during the past two weeks.
Notre Dame (9-1) last took the court on Dec. 12, leading virtually from the opening tip to the final horn in a 94-56 victory over Valparaiso at the Joyce Center. The Irish used a 15-2 run midway through the first half to seize control, then opened up a 30-point lead early in the second half before rolling to the win. On the night, Notre Dame shot a blistering 54.7 percent from the floor and forced the Crusaders into 27 turnovers, cashing those miscues into 35 points at the offensive end.
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, connecting on 8-of-12 shots from the floor and 3-of-4 three-point attempts. Senior guard Charel Allen added 14 points for Notre Dame, making her final seven shots of the evening after starting off with four consecutive misses.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Even after a 20-12 record and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006-07, Notre Dame still continues to fly below the national radar. Head coach Muffet McGraw wouldn't want it any other way.
Last year, the Irish learned quickly that respect is something that isn't handed to you, but rather earned on the court. It's also a quality that takes time to develop and doesn't come from trophy cases or record books. So although Notre Dame was tabbed fifth in the preseason BIG EAST Conference balloting, it's not a great concern to McGraw and her charges. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and prefer to let the outside world judge them when the season is over.
This year could prove to be unlike any in recent memory for Notre Dame. For one, the Irish will roll out some impressive depth, going virtually two-deep at every floor position. In addition, Notre Dame's new offensive system (a Princeton-based set with four guards and a post) continues to evolve, building upon last year's 70.1 point-per-game average that was its highest since the 2000-01 NCAA national championship season.
Senior guard Charel Allen is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish, leading the team in both categories last year (17.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg.). She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA honorable mention All-America selection, and was a finalist for the 2007 USA U21 World Championship Team that struck gold this past summer in Moscow.
Allen's backcourt partner and classmate is point guard Tulyah Gaines. Now in her second full season at the helm of the Notre Dame offense, the speedy Gaines averaged 9.6 points per game along with team highs of 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. She also is a two-year team captain who commands instant respect from teammates, coaches and opponents.
The Irish will benefit from the return of junior guard Lindsay Schrader, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader, who retains three years of athletic eligibility, was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 and will look to regain that form this season.
Last year saw Notre Dame break new ground by becoming the first school ever to put three players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Guards Ashley Barlow (10.3 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Melissa Lechlitner (6.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) will provide a superb complement to the veteran Allen-Gaines tandem, while center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) showed flashes of potential throughout her rookie season and is poised for increased development this year.
Headlining a three-player freshman class (ranked 11th nationally by Blue Star Basketball) is Devereaux Peters, a smooth 6-2 forward who was a consensus All-American as a senior last year at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. Fellow post Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind.) finished third in last season's Indiana Miss Basketball voting and was a perennial all-state pick. And, guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md.) offers a perimeter shooting threat, as well as a cerebral player who will mesh well in the Irish offensive system.
A Quick Look At IUPUI
While the cast of characters may have changed, the goal remains the same for IUPUI -- to continue climbing the ladder in the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference). The Jaguars reached the conference tournament semifinals last year and finished 14-16, with four starters and six letterwinners returning this season, coupled with six newcomers.
IUPUI (3-8) has hit a rough patch in its schedule of late, losing five in a row after a 3-3 start. The Jaguars are coming off a 77-56 loss at Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday night, a game that saw MU score 14 unanswered points in the first half, then maintain that lead the rest of the night. Junior forward Jernisha Cann tallied a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while junior guard Brykeesha Tate came off the bench to chip in 11 points.
Cann leads IUPUI in scoring (12.5 ppg.), rebounding (9.3 rpg.) and steals (3.3 spg.) this season. Sophomore center Julia Whitted is second in scoring (11.5 ppg.), rebounding (6.7 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.460), while also logging 2.5 blocks per night.
Shann Hart is in her fourth season at IUPUI with a 41-56 (.423) record at the school. Her 11-year coaching career also has included stops at St. Mary's (Md.) and American, with an all-time record of 168-151 (.527). She is 0-1 against Notre Dame in her career.
The Notre Dame-IUPUI Series
Friday night will mark just the second all-time meeting between Notre Dame and IUPUI, as well as the first-ever visit for the Irish to IUPUI Gymnasium. Last season, Notre Dame took a 75-65 decision from the Jaguars at the Joyce Center.
The Last Time Notre Dame And IUPUI Met
Melissa D'Amico matched her career high with 20 points, connecting on 8-of-10 shots from the field, as Notre Dame led from the opening tip to the final horn in a 75-65 victory over IUPUI on Dec. 16, 2006, at the Joyce Center. It was the 600th victory in the 30-year history of Irish women's basketball, making Notre Dame the 43rd NCAA Division I school to reach that milestone.
Tulyah Gaines added 16 points and a career-high five steals for the Irish (7-3), who earned their fourth win in five outings while seeing their first action following a season-long 10-day break for final exams. Ashley Barlow nearly picked up the second double-double of her rookie year, finishing with 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds. As a team, Notre Dame shot 53.1 percent from the floor in the first half, then expanded their advantage to as many as 24 points in the second period before the Jaguars made a late run to cut into the final margin.
Tiffany Finkton and Alicia Booyer scored 14 points apiece for IUPUI (5-5), which was playing Notre Dame for the first time ever. Jernisha Cann chipped in with a double-double for the Jaguars, collecting 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Despite their extended layoff, the Irish looked anything but rusty in the early going, surging out to a 24-7 lead on the last of four transition layups by Gaines with 12:31 to go in the first half. Notre Dame connected on 12 of its first 17 shots, while forcing IUPUI into 10 turnovers, including five on steals.
The Jaguars finally got on track later in the period, playing Notre Dame virtually even the remainder of the half and getting as close as seven points before the Irish stretched their lead back into double figures (42-29) by the intermission. In the opening 20 minutes, Notre Dame scored 22 points off IUPUI turnovers and scored 30 points in the paint.
The even nature of the game continued into the initial moments of the second half, with the Irish going basket-for-basket with the Jaguars while rotating in numerous lineup combinations. A 14-3 Notre Dame run, capped by a three-pointer from Crystal Erwin, hiked the Irish lead to 67-43 with 9:52 remaining.
Other Notre Dame-IUPUI Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Summit League
With the defection of longtime northern Indiana rival Valparaiso to the Horizon League this past summer, Notre Dame does not have a whole lot of experience against the current alignment of the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference).
In fact, aside from last year's win over IUPUI, the Irish have faced only two other current Summit League members, going 3-0 all-time against first-year league member IPFW and winning its lone contest against Oakland, 100-51 back in Dec. 9, 1987 (early in head coach Muffet McGraw's first season at Notre Dame.
Friday's visit to IUPUI will mark the second road game for Notre Dame at a current Summit League school. The only other such contest took place almost 29 years ago on Jan. 24, 1979, when the Irish claimed a 49-41 victory at IPFW.
Start Me Up
Notre Dame's 9-1 start matches the second-best 10-game debut in school history, with the Irish also winning nine of 10 games to begin the 1998-99, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. The only time a Notre Dame squad started better than this year's club was the 2000-01 team, which opened the season with a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to the program's first No. 1 ranking and eventually, its first national championship.
With a victory at IUPUI on Friday night (Dec. 21), Notre Dame would pick up its 10th win of the season, matching the second-quickest run to double-digit wins in program history (2000-01 -- 75-56 at Marquette). The 2004-05 club, bolstered by a four-game run to the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) title, earned its 10th win of the season on Dec. 19, 2004, with a 50-47 victory at Marquette.
A Capital Idea
When Notre Dame visits IUPUI on Friday night, it will be playing its first game in Indianapolis since Dec. 28, 2002, when No. 5 Tennessee defeated the 12th-ranked Irish, 77-61 at Conseco Fieldhouse (home of the NBA's Pacers and WNBA's Fever). Notre Dame is 9-4 (.692) all-time when playing in the Indiana capital city, with the other 12 games all taking place at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Irish were 7-3 vs. Butler in the historic venue, while also defeating both La Salle and Xavier in the 1994 Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament that was played there.
No More Papers, No More Books
The Irish will be returning from a season-long nine-day layoff for final exams when they face IUPUI on Friday. That's proven to be a mixed blessing for Notre Dame -- on the one hand, the Irish have won 19 consecutive games coming off the final exam break (no game played between finals and Christmas in 1994 and 1997). However, many of these contests have been exceptionally close, with the most recent examples coming in 1999 (68-62 win at Florida International, closing game on 11-5 run over final 2:43) and 2004 (50-47 win at Marquette on Jacqueline Batteast's three-pointer at the horn).
The last time Notre Dame lost a game 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.
Notre Dame has won 11 consecutive games heading into the Christmas holiday and is 21-9 (.700) all-time in such contests. The Irish have not lost a pre-Yuletide game since Dec. 21, 1995, when Michigan State pulled out an 87-83 overtime win in East Lansing, Mich.
Six of Notre Dame's nine wins this season have come by at least 30 points, while the Irish held a 32-point lead midway through the second half of their 78-59 conquest of Western Kentucky on Nov. 13. This marks the first time in school history that Notre Dame has fashioned six 30-point wins in its first 10 games.
It's also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least six 30-point wins in a single season. That year, Notre Dame collected a school-record 10 30-point victories, but only four of those came in the first 10 games.
What's more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play -- at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John's (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
Less than two seasons after posting the program's lowest scoring output (64.5 ppg) since 1980-81 (its first as a Division I program), Notre Dame has reversed that trend in a big way.
The Irish currently rank third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and fourth in the country) at 82.8 points per game, having tallied at least 77 points in eight of their nine wins. What's more, Notre Dame also has the highest scoring average after 10 games in program history, topping the 1995-96 (82.6 ppg.) and 1998-99 squads (81.3 ppg.), the latter of which went on to post a single-season school record with an 81.0-ppg. scoring average.
What's more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points four times this season. That's the most 90-point games for the Irish in one year since 2000-01, when they also had four such outings. In fact, during the six seasons between then and now (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks third in the conference (and sixth in the nation) in scoring margin, outpointing its opposition by 26.4 points per night.
Spreading The Wealth
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame's squad this season is its balance and depth. That's been particularly evident through the first 12 games of the season (counting the exhibitions), with six different players from all five floor positions and all four classes leading the team in scoring.
Another example of Notre Dame's balance this season is seen in its point distribution. No fewer than nine of the 11 Irish players on this year's roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, with only sophomore center Erica Williamson and senior guard Amanda Tsipis yet to crack the 10-point mark.
Notre Dame also has had at least three double-figure scorers in all but one game (Purdue) and has fielded five double-figure scorers in four of the past seven games, including three in a row from Nov. 20-27. It's believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat of three straight games with five double-digit scorers, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
Notre Dame has gotten off to a strong start this season, thanks in large part to its ability to take care of the basketball. The Irish are averaging just 12.7 turnovers per game (second-best in the nation) and have yet to commit more than 18 giveaways this year. On the flip side, Notre Dame is forcing 23.4 turnovers per night, resulting in a BIG EAST Conference-best +10.70 turnover margin (more than two takeaways better than second-place Connecticut).
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in eight of its 10 games this season, only finding the red in its Nov. 13 win over Western Kentucky (12 assists, 15 turnovers) and Dec. 8 victory at Purdue (15/18).
For the year, the Irish rank second in the BIG EAST (and second nationally) with a 1.43 assist-to-turnover ratio, trailing only second-ranked Connecticut (1.74). Notre Dame also has assisted on 54.8 percent of its field goals this year (181 assists on 330 baskets), ranking fourth in the conference and 12th in the country with 18.10 assists per game.
Off And Running
Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In six of their nine wins, the Irish have opened up a double-digit lead less than 10 minutes into the game, while a 20-0 run late in the first half at Central Michigan aided that win, as did a 18-3 first-half surge at Bowling Green.
Even in its lone defeat at third-ranked Maryland, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Going Into Lockdown
Notre Dame has held eight of its 10 opponents this season below 60 points. The Irish also currently rank seventh in the BIG EAST in scoring defense at 56.4 points per game.
That's the fourth-lowest opponent scoring average through 10 games for Notre Dame, third-lowest since elevating to Division I in 1980-81, and second-lowest of the Muffet McGraw era. In fact, the only Irish squad in the past 26 seasons that has gotten off to a better defensive start was the 2000-01 national championship team (54.3 ppg.).
(Nearly) Crowded House
The season-best crowd of 10,825 that took in the Dec. 2 win over Michigan at the Joyce Center marked the fourth-largest crowd in school history and the fourth audience of 10,000 fans in the Notre Dame women's basketball record books. A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 7 of this notes package.
Notre Dame is ranked 17th in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, holding steady from the previous survey. The No. 16 ranking on Dec. 3 was the highest for the Irish in the media poll since the week of Jan. 2, 2006, when they were ranked 12th prior to losses at St. John's (66-63) and home vs. Seton Hall (74-61).
Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 146 weeks during the program's history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw now ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
The Irish also are appearing in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the sixth consecutive week, checking in at a season-high 17th for the second week in a row. Notre Dame's ranking of 17th is its highest since the week of Jan. 2, 2006, when the Irish were tabbed 12th by the coaches prior to losses at St. John's (66-63) and home vs. Seton Hall (74-61).
No Easy Road
Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule, using it as a means of preparation for future tests in both the BIG EAST Conference and the postseason. However, this year's slate could be one of the more rugged ones in recent memory.
With the addition of Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals, the Irish now will face four of the top six teams (including the top three) in the latest Associated Press poll. Still to come this season are No. 1 Tennessee (Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), No. 2 Connecticut (Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center) and No. 6 Rutgers (Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top four teams in the poll have combined to win three of the past four national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year's title game.
Leave The Driving To Us
Friday's game at IUPUI is the last of five road contests for the Irish prior to the end of the calendar year. Even more notable -- the last four road games will be played no further than 200 miles from the Notre Dame campus, either within the state of Indiana or in neighboring states (Michigan or Ohio).
Irish Debut Dish For The Holidays Food Drive
The Notre Dame women's basketball team took time to give back to the northern Indiana community with its first-ever "Dish For The Holidays" food drive on Dec. 20. All of the Irish players and coaches manned various entrances to the Notre Dame campus that morning, collecting non-perishable food items and monetary donations that were presented to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana later in the day. In addition to eight full cartons of food (close to 400 pounds), the Irish also collected $646 to help others in need around Michiana during the holidays.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Notre Dame has introduced a new promotion this season, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald's restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a game. The coupons are issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans leave the arena following the game.
This season's burger watch already is at six, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in exhibition wins over Southern Indiana and Hillsdale, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius and Valparaiso.
It's probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac baskets" this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger -- freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times, including each of the past three games that the Irish have scored 88 points at home.
Here's a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women's basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the Internet at Notre Dame's official athletics web site (UND.com). Please note -- additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site (www.notredamepromotions.com) for the latest information:
Next Game: Saint Francis (Pa.)
Notre Dame will head home for the holidays before returning to action Dec. 29 with a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee against Saint Francis (Pa.) at the Joyce Center. It will be the first-ever matchup between the Irish and Red Flash on the hardwood.
Saint Francis is 3-6 this season following a 64-43 loss at Bucknell on Tuesday night. The Red Flash are in the midst of a four-game road trip, and are scheduled to visit Morgan State Friday evening before heading to South Bend after the Christmas break.