Dec. 19, 2011
Full Notes Package in PDF Format
2011-12 ND Women's Basketball: Game 12
#3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-1 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. UCF Knights (5-5 / 0-0 C-USA)
DATE: December 20, 2011
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 2-0
1ST MTG: ND 81-61 (11/25/89)
LAST MTG: ND 85-52 (12/29/09)
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
LIVE INTERACTIVE CHAT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets
StorylinesFor the fourth time this season, Notre Dame is playing its second game in 48 hours, having won on the back end of all three prior tight turnarounds this year (19-7 during the past four seasons).
Tuesday's game will become a BIG EAST matchup in 2013-14 when UCF joins the conference.
No. 3 Fighting Irish Back In Action Tuesday Night Against UCF
One of the trademarks for No. 3 Notre Dame this season has been its ability to celebrate success and then move on to the next task, something the Fighting Irish will once again be charged with doing when they play host to UCF at 7 p.m. (ET) Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com.
The Fighting Irish (10-1) stretched their winning streak to seven games with a pulsating 92-83 win over No. 8/7 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. In a game that saw four ties and eight lead changes, Notre Dame had the final say with a decisive 11-0 run inside the final five minutes.
Senior guard Natalie Novosel scored a game-high 23 points, while junior guard Skylar Diggins (16 points/11 assists) and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (13 points/13 rebounds) had double-doubles for the Irish.
RankingsNotre Dame is No. 3 in the current Associated Press poll and was No. 3 in last week's ESPN/USA Today poll (new poll to be released Tuesday afternoon).
UCF is not ranked.
Quick HittersNotre Dame has three wins in four games against Top 25 opponents this season, defeating No. 7/6 Duke at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas (56-54), going on the road to win at No. 12/14 Purdue (66-38), and downing No. 8/7 Kentucky (92-83) at home, while falling in a hard-fought battle at No. 1 Baylor (94-81).
This is the first time in school history the Fighting Irish have defeated three opponents ranked 12th or higher in the Associated Press poll before Christmas.
Notre Dame is off to a 10-1 start (or better) for the sixth time in school history (and the fourth in the past five seasons). Eight of those wins have come by 20+ points, and four by at least 30 points. In nine victories this year, the Fighting Irish have held their opponent to 61 points or fewer, with six games when the opposition scored 48 points or fewer.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the seventh consecutive week the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls. It's also the second time in three seasons that Notre Dame has spent at least seven weeks in a row as a consensus top-five team (the Fighting Irish were in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 5 for 11 consecutive weeks from Dec. 7, 2009-Feb. 22, 2010).
With this week's No. 3 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 84 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with more than half that time (46 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
With 566 victories in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw is third on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95) and men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87).
McGraw also is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women's sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men's/women's track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame -- Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men's swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men's tennis).
Other Notre Dame NotablesNotre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fifth with 384 victories.
Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,504 fans per home game after the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans a night. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 164 of their last 166 home games, logging 18 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Sunday afternoon vs. Kentucky).
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 11 seasons. 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 '11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth 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 2006 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 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.
A Quick Look At UCF
After earning its second Conference USA title and NCAA Championship berth in three years (the latter leading to hard-fought 83-69 first-round loss at Ohio State), UCF is off to a 5-5 start this season as it adjusts to the loss of three starters from last year's club.
The Knights come into Tuesday's game having won their last two contests, most recently a 41-32 defensive slugfest with Virginia Tech on Sunday in Orlando. UCF held the Hokies to a paltry .228 field goal percentage and found their own offensive rhythm in the second half to distance themselves from their ACC counterpart down the stretch. Senior guard Aisha Patrick posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while junior guard Gevenia Carter added 11 points and three steals for the Knights.
Patrick leads UCF in scoring (15.3 ppg.) and steals (2.6 spg.), and ranks second in rebounding (8.6 rpg.) and assists (2.1 apg.). Carter is second in scoring (10.2 ppg.) and tops in assists (3.6 apg.), while sophomore forward/center Erika Jones is grabbing a team-high 10.6 rebounds per game with a team-best .533 field goal percentage.
Head coach Joi Williams is 65-69 (.485) in her fifth season at UCF, with an eight-year career coaching mark of 119-130 (.478), including an 0-1 record against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-UCF Series
Tuesday will bring the third meeting in the series between Notre Dame and UCF, with the Fighting Irish winning both prior matchups that were played more than 20 years apart in Orlando.
Notre Dame won the first encounter, 81-61, on Nov. 25, 1989, in the championship game of the UCF Rotary Classic, before taking the series renewal, 85-52, on Dec. 29, 2009.
The Last Time Notre Dame And UCF Met
Brittany Mallory had 16 points, Ashley Barlow scored 15 and No. 3 Notre Dame rolled past UCF, 85-52 on Dec. 29, 2009, at UCF Arena in Orlando.
Barlow's layup as time expired in the first half highlighted a 13-0 run by the Fighting Irish that turned a tight game into a blowout, smothering the Knights with a full-court press that forced 36 turnovers.
Marshay White had 12 points, and D'Nay Daniels added 10 points for the Knights (3-6), who were going for one of the biggest wins in school history. Instead, they lost for the third time to a ranked opponent in 2009-10.
The sparse black and gold crowd were treated to a fast start by the Knights, with the home team trading baskets for most of the first half. White's three-pointer cut Notre Dame's lead to 31-29, but the celebration was short-lived.
The relentless full-court pressure by the Fighting Irish overwhelmed the Knights. Notre Dame's backcourt caused errant passes, quick shots and turnovers.
Skylar Diggins had five points as the Fighting Irish scored 13 straight before intermission, including Barlow's layup that came at the buzzer.
Her team scored the next two baskets of the second half, going ahead 48-29 as some of the fans who traveled with Notre Dame for the holiday break cheered "Let's Go Irish."
Notre Dame also got a boost with the return of forward Devereaux Peters, who hadn't played since tearing a ligament in her left knee on Nov. 23, 2008. She scored two points in 10 minutes.
Other Notre Dame-UCF Series TidbitsWhile this year's game is officially a non-conference contest, starting with the 2013-14 season, it will take on added luster as a BIG EAST matchup when UCF joins the conference. The Knights will come aboard in all sports, along with their current fellow Conference USA schools, SMU and Houston, after accepting a membership offer from the BIG EAST back on Dec. 7.
Dating back to last season, UCF is the eighth consecutive Fighting Irish non-conference opponent to make its first-ever visit to Purcell Pavilion, with the ninth on tap when Longwood comes calling on Dec. 28. The last non-BIG EAST team to be making a return trip to South Bend to face Notre Dame was Purdue on Dec. 5, 2010 (a game the Fighting Irish won, 72-51).
Notre Dame has had eight Floridians suit up in the 35-year history of the program, with guard Alena Christiansen (Fort Lauderdale/Cardinal Gibbons HS) the most recent Sunshine State resident to don the Fighting Irish colors (from 2008-10).
Notre Dame freshman guard Whitney Holloway (Plainfield, Ill./Montini Catholic) and UCF freshman guard Bryeasha Blair (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) both hail from the Chicagoland area and led their teams to the Final Four in their respective classes of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) state tournament. Holloway and Montini Catholic won Class 3A titles in 2010 and 2011, and finished third in 2008, while Blair and Whitney Young claimed the 2008 Class 4A championship, finished as runner-up in 2009 and 2010, and took fourth place in 2011.
Notre Dame vs. Conference USA
Notre Dame is 8-2 (.800) against the current Conference USA alignment, with a 3-0 record at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish last played a C-USA school on Dec. 29, 2009, when they defeated UCF, 85-52 in Orlando.
Notre Dame last played host to a Conference USA school on Dec. 31, 2000, doubling up Rice, 80-40 at Purcell Pavilion. That game marked the only prior time in the past 30 years a current C-USA team has come to South Bend, with both SMU and East Carolina making their lone visits back in 1982.
Going Out On A High Note
Notre Dame has made a habit of heading into the Christmas holiday with a victory, having won 15 consecutive pre-Yuletide games and going 25-9 (.735) all-time in such contests, including a 94-43 victory at Valparaiso last year.
The last time the Fighting Irish lost their final game before Christmas was Dec. 21, 1995 (their first season in the BIG EAST Conference), when Michigan State pulled out an 87-83 overtime win in East Lansing, Mich.
Novosel Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week, it was announced Monday afternoon by the conference office. It's the first time in Novosel's career she has been chosen for the honor, although she was twice named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week back in 2008-09.
In addition, it marks the 71st time a Fighting Irish women's basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (41 Players of the Week, 30 Freshmen of the Week), the second-most selections in conference history despite the fact Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96, a full 14 seasons after the league began sponsoring women's basketball (1982-83). Junior guard Skylar Diggins was named BIG EAST Player of the Week back on Nov. 21, collecting the second citation of her career, and the first by a Fighting Irish player this year.
A preseason all-BIG EAST selection, as well as a candidate for the State Farm Wade Trophy, John R. Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy (each of which go to the nation's top women's college basketball player), Novosel led Notre Dame to a 92-83 victory over No. 8/7 Kentucky in their only action of the week this past Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion. The Lexington native helped defeat her hometown school by scoring a game-high 23 points (on 7-of-13 shooting and a perfect 8-of-8 showing at the free throw line) and adding seven rebounds, as the Fighting Irish picked up their third win over a Top 25 opponent (all ranked 12th or higher) this season.
Novosel ranks sixth in the BIG EAST in scoring at a team-high 16.8 points per game and stands ninth in the conference with a .781 free throw percentage. She has scored in double figures in all 11 games this season (extending her current streak of double-digit games to 18 in a row, dating back to last year), including three 20-point games.
Start Me Up
For the fourth time in five years, and the sixth time in school history (all in the past 12 seasons), Notre Dame has opened with a 10-1 record or better.
Twice in their history, the Fighting Irish opened with at least 11 consecutive wins, doing so in their 2000-01 national championship season (school-record 23-game winning streak) and again in 2009-10 (15-0).
'Tis The Season For Taking
Fueled by its aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in eight games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 26.6 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +9.9 turnover margin that is third-best in the nation (as of Monday).
The Fighting Irish wasted little time in setting the tone for their opponents this season, forcing a combined 112 turnovers in their first three games, an average of 37.3 per night, and converting those into 142 points (47.3 ppg.). That run was highlighted by an opponent season-high 46 turnovers against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion, the third-most takeaways in school history, and second-most in the program's Division I era (49 vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010).
The Fighting Irish have been especially hard on opponents in their six home games this season, forcing 31.8 turnovers per game and collecting at least 19 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Sunday's game leading the BIG EAST (and ranking seventh in the nation) in steals with 15.0 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in eight games this season, including two contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year's takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a season-high 29-steal performance in the opening night victory against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up two days later with 25 thefts in a win over Indiana State.
Prior to last season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years (and 991 games) 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. What's more, Notre Dame had not earned a conference steals title since 1989-90, when it led the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) with 10.9 spg.
Yet, in the past two years (50 games), the Fighting Irish have had seven 23-steal games, with four outings of at least 25 thefts, and they claimed last year's BIG EAST steals crown with 11.8 steals per game during regular-season league play.
Individually, Notre Dame has seven different players with double-digit steals this season (and another with nine), led by junior guard Skylar Diggins, who is third in the BIG EAST with 3.0 steals per game, and fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who is fourth in the conference at 2.9 steals per game.
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first 11 games of the year.
The Fighting Irish are second in the BIG EAST at 18.4 assists per game, including a season-high 29 assists against Marquette on Dec. 7 (their fifth 20-assist contest this year).
What's more, Notre Dame has assisted on 62.7 percent of its field goals this season (202 of 322), compared to last year when the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.
Diggins' Daily Dish
Junior guard Skylar Diggins has dished out at least seven assists in the past four games, averaging 8.3 assists per game in that span, including a season-high 11 handouts in Sunday's win over No. 8/7 Kentucky.
The last Fighting Irish player to post four consecutive seven-assist outings was current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey, who pulled off that feat from Jan. 13-24, 2001, against Virginia Tech (8), Connecticut (10), Seton Hall (7) and West Virginia (9).
Ivey is the last Notre Dame player to have five-or-more consecutive games with seven assists, putting together a six-game streak from Dec. 29, 1999-Jan. 15, 2000 -- Valparaiso (8), Marquette (12), West Virginia (7), Georgetown (9), Seton Hall (10) and Syracuse (8).
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least three players scoring in double figures in 10 games, and at least four double-digit scorers in five games.
During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 39-4 (.907) when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 - 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 - 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 - 70-69 at DePaul).
The Fighting Irish also have had five different players lead them in scoring through the first 11 games (including five different top scorers in the past six games). Three of the five leading scorers this season also have registered at least one 20-point game to date.
A Rally To Remember
Notre Dame tied a school record by digging out of an 18-point second-half hole to defeat No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.
Nearly three years earlier on Dec. 30, 2008, the Fighting Irish trailed 46-28 at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt with 15:56 remaining and came back to win, 59-57 at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
This year's comeback victory over Duke marked the fourth time in program history Notre Dame has ralled from a deficit of 15 points or more to post a victory, with all four of these comebacks occurring in the past 11 seasons.
Beat The Clock
Senior guard Natalie Novosel hit a running bank shot at the foul line as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.
Novosel's buzzer-beater was the first winning shot at the horn by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 10, 2006, when Megan Duffy scored the last of her career-high 32 points with an off-handed layup at the overtime siren to earn a 67-65 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has had several players nail winning shots in the final minute of games during recent seasons. Prior to Novosel, Ashley Barlow was the last Fighting Irish player to pull off such late-game heroics, canning a three-pointer with 34.2 seconds remaining to help Notre Dame take a 74-73 win at Syracuse on Jan. 30, 2010.
Another notable recent "beat-the-clock" moment for Notre Dame occurred on Dec. 5, 2007, when Charel Allen sank a foul-line jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Fighting Irish to an 86-84 win at Bowling Green.
The game-winning basket by senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 was the fourth time in the past two seasons the Lexington, Ky., native had a hand in a go-ahead basket in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime. What makes this run by Novosel even more remarkable is the fact that all four of her late-game performances came against top-15 opponents, with the past two coming away from home.
Novosel Reaches Career Milestone
On a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Nov. 13 against Indiana State, senior guard Natalie Novosel became the 29th Notre Dame women's basketball player to score 1,000 career points (currently 22nd at 1,163). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (17th with 1,252 points) as the two active players in that elite Fighting Irish club, with Notre Dame's two fifth-year seniors also having the chance to reach the scoring millennium later this season -- forward Devereaux Peters has tallied 973 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 816 career points.
Should all four players hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time. Twice (in both 2000-01 and 2009-10), Notre Dame has had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).
What's more, Novosel becomes the sixth player from Notre Dame's 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (ninth at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (13th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (23rd at 1,148) -- and that doesn't even include Peters or Mallory, who also were part of that 13-player roster.
Game #11 Recap: Kentucky
Skylar Diggins and No. 3 Notre Dame carry a grudge.
Diggins made her only three-pointer of the game and then forced a turnover as Notre Dame used an 11-0 run to finish off No. 8/7 Kentucky on Sunday, winning 92-83 at Purcell Pavilion and handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season.
Not only did the Fighting Irish snap Kentucky's 10-game winning streak, which was tied for second-best in the country, they avenged a loss last season in Lexington, Ky., in the first meeting between the teams.
Natalie Novosel, a Lexington native, led five Irish players in double figures with 23 points, while Diggins (16 points, 11 assists) and Devereaux Peters (13 points, 13 rebounds) each had double-doubles. Notre Dame (10-1) has now won seven straight since losing to top-ranked Baylor.
Samantha Drake had 21 points for the Wildcats (10-1), who were playing their third ranked team in four games. A'dia Mathies had 17 before fouling out with 7:25 to play, and Samarie Walker, playing in her first game since transferring from Connecticut, had seven points and seven rebounds.
The Wildcats had won 10 straight behind one of the country's nastiest defenses. They came in leading the country in turnover margin (plus 17) and steals (16.5), and were holding opponents to below 52 points a game.
Kentucky did force the Fighting Irish into 22 turnovers, scoring 27 points off the miscues. But the Fighting Irish, runners-up in last year's national championship game, simply have too many options.
The Fighting Irish led by as much as 10 early in the second half, only to have Kentucky keep finding ways to come back. Drake's layup gave the Wildcats a 75-74 lead with 5:07 to play.
But the Fighting Irish showed a little nasty D of their own, holding the Wildcats to just two field goals the rest of the game while their offense kicked it up a notch with the 11-0 run.
Novosel made a pair of free throws and Peters scored on a layup to put the Irish up 78-75 with 4:09 to play. Kentucky's Bernisha Pinkett attempted a three-pointer but it sailed over the rim and the Wildcats couldn't corral the rebound, watching helplessly as it rolled out of bounds. After a timeout, Diggins coolly drilled a three, drawing a roar from the sellout crowd of 9,149.
Diggins then stripped Amber Smith on Kentucky's next possession.
Drake fouled Novosel, who made both free throws. After a Kentucky miss, Peters scored on an easy layup and, just like that, the Fighting Irish were back up 85-75 with 2:40 to play. Kentucky never threatened again.
Beyond The Box Score -- KentuckyNotre Dame earns its third win against a Top 25 opponent in four tries this season, while also picking up its second victory over a top-10 foe this year (56-54 vs. No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26).
This marks the third time in four years the Fighting Irish have collected three wins over ranked opponents prior to Christmas.
Notre Dame registers two top-10 wins before Christmas for the fifth time in school history and first since the 2004-05 season, when it defeated No. 6 Duke (76-65) and No. 10/9 Ohio State (66-62) at Purcell Pavilion in the semifinals and final of the Preseason WNIT (Nov. 17 & 20, 2004).
The Fighting Irish post their first win at home against a top-10 opponent since Jan. 23, 2005, when they defeated No. 6/7 Rutgers, 63-47.
Notre Dame's 92 points are the most it has scored against a ranked opponent since Feb. 25, 2003 (93-58 vs. No. 21/19 Miami-Fla. at Purcell Pavilion), and the most against a top-10 foe since Jan. 15, 2001 (92-76 vs. No. 1 Connecticut, also at Purcell Pavilion).
The Fighting Irish have won 24 consecutive games when coming off their mid-December final exam break, with their last post-exam loss coming on Dec. 21, 1985 (73-67 vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion).
The Fighting Irish have won six of their last seven games against Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams, with the one loss being at UK last season.
Notre Dame had two players post double-doubles in the same game for the first time since Dec. 29, 2010, in a 70-61 win over Gonzaga in Seattle, Wash. (Diggins - 19 pts/11 rebs; Peters - 10 pts/10 rebs).
Diggins notched her third career double-double with a season-high 11 assists, becoming the first Fighting Irish player to tally a points/assists double-double since Feb. 12, 2011, when Brittany Mallory had 10 points and 10 assists against Rutgers.
Diggins posted her second career double-digit assist game, logging a career-high 12 assists on March 26, 2011, against No. 21/20 Oklahoma in a 78-53 victory in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinals in Dayton, Ohio.
Peters collected her 13th career double-double, and second in as many games (second this season).
Peters also was the last Notre Dame player with double-doubles in consecutive games, doing so against Temple (17 pts/12 rebs) and Oklahoma (17 pts/13 rebs) in the second round and regional semifinals of last year's NCAA Championship on March 21 & 26.
Notre Dame welcomed its first women's basketball sellout crowd of the season, as well as the 12th in the past three years and 18th in school history (first since Feb. 26, 2011, vs. Cincinnati).
Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll, its seventh consecutive week in the top five of the media balloting. The Fighting Irish also earned a preseason No. 2 ranking that was their highest since the final 2000-01 poll (taken before the the NCAA Championship), and also was the highest Notre Dame has ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.
Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four the following week), the first time it received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.
This week's No. 3 ranking marks the 84th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (46) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.
This year's No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 223 weeks during the program's 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, for the fourth consecutive week, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 3 in last week's ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll (one spot below their season-high No. 2 ranking the first two weeks of the year), and like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year's preseason coaches' survey (and two a week later), their first nods for the top spot since the final '00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 84 of the past 85 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 215 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 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 223 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 to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
Half And Half
During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 225-18 (.926) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 153 of their last 165 such contests.
What's more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 62-1 (.984) when leading at the half, with the only loss coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
During the past 17 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 239-15 (.941) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including eight contests this year.
...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 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 159-6 (.964) 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, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.
In the past three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 36-2 (.947) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in seven games this season and winning six times.
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 210 of their last 237 games (.886) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span (and an active run of 13 in a row). Notre Dame also has a 114-19 (.857) 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 98 of their last 106 non-BIG EAST contests (.925) 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 360-88 (.804) 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 the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past two seasons have seen 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 in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."
For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program's season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out three games (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee), and put five others (Tuesday vs. UCF, Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.
What's more, through its first six home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,504 fans per game, including its first sellout of the season (9,149) vs. Kentucky on Dec. 18. It also was the 12th Fighting Irish women's basketball sellout in the past three years and 18th in program history.
While some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it's entirely possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2011-12 regular season.
Fighting 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 1.4 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 Fighting 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 Digital Media 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), is now in the fourth season of 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 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year's broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women's basketball contests, including the program's fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity's famed "Big Monday" telecast.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free Fighting Irish Video Channel.
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 Sunday's game against Kentucky (televised live on ESPNU), Notre Dame has played in 209 televised games, including 154 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame's team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain's honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Breaks New Ground With "Heart of the Irish" Service Initiative
For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame women's basketball team will be front and center in the South Bend and greater Michiana communities with its groundbreaking outreach program (renamed "Heart of the Irish"), which will involve numerous interactive events during the 2011-12 season. The goal of this year's "Heart of the Irish" program is to highlight community leaders who are making a difference, as well as encourage fans to give back to their community and make an impact through a variety of special initiatives.
The first of five cornerstone events for the 2011-12 "Heart of the Irish" drive took place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame played host to Penn at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish held their seventh annual Teddy Bear Toss, collecting new teddy bears and other stuffed animals for patients at Riley Children's Hospital, which serves many Michiana children, as well as local youth patients. The highlight of the event came at halftime, when fans were invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they were then collected by volunteers.
Notre Dame's second outreach event, called Food For Friends, was held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion. Fans were invited to bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that were collected and subsequently delivered as part of the Food Drive for the St. Joseph County chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
Notre Dame's third special "Heart of the Irish" event is entitled Reading One on One and it's scheduled for Jan. 17, when the Fighting Irish play host to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. That evening, the team will collect children's books for the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.
The Fighting Irish will hold their annual fund-raising game in support of breast cancer awareness and research on Feb. 12 (3:30 p.m. ET vs. West Virginia) at Purcell Pavilion. Known locally as the Pink Zone game (and nationally renamed as Play4Kay), it will feature numerous informational booths and donation opportunities for fans to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, with the highlight being the always-memorable halftime ceremony to honor those who have been touched by (and in many cases, conquered) the disease. Last year, Notre Dame raised more than $130,000 through its Pink Zone game for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, lifting its three-year donation total to more than a quarter of a million dollars.
The last event in the "Heart of the Irish" series comes on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), when Notre Dame welcomes Providence to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. This will be the inaugural Splish Splash, in which fans can bring towels, wash cloths or toiletries such as small bottles of shampoo, soap or toothpaste for the YWCA of St. Joseph County.
Throughout the season, the Fighting Irish also will recognize community leaders who have made exceptional contributions.
In addition to this five-event series, Notre Dame women's basketball will take part in a cooperative effort with the University's Office of Sustainability as the Fighting Irish encourage all fans to recycle in their daily lives, particularly when they attend Notre Dame basketball games at Purcell Pavilion.
Originally called the "Spirit of Giving" program, Notre Dame's community outreach efforts began in earnest during the summer of 2009. Since then, Fighting Irish players, coaches, staff and fans have taken part in hundreds of hours of service projects designed to give back to the South Bend and greater Michiana communities.
The Notre Dame women's basketball team was honored for its community outreach efforts in 2008-09, receiving the Trophy Award (symbolic of the Fighting Irish program with the most service hours in one academic year) from the Notre Dame athletics department.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It's year five 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 five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 30 times, most recently in Sunday's win over Kentucky.
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 -- fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "the media relations director has way too much time on his hands"), 18 different players have converted the "burger ball", including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What's more, of the 30 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 11 on free throws, and five on three-pointers.
Next Game: Longwood
After an eight-day break for the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame returns to action at 2 p.m. (ET) Dec. 28, playing host to Longwood at Purcell Pavilion. It will be the first-ever matchup between the Fighting Irish and NCAA Division I independent Lancers, whose coaching staff includes former Notre Dame All-America guard Lindsay Schrader ('10).
Longwood (2-8) is in the midst of a seven-game road swing through the Midwest, most recently falling at Wright State, 77-44 on Sunday in its first game at the WSU Invitational. The Lancers played Central Michigan Monday night, face Southeast Missouri State Tuesday, and visit Cincinnati Thursday before going on their Christmas break.
-- ND --