Dec. 19, 2012
World Vision Classic -- Second Round
#5/5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-2 / 0-0 Big 12)
DATE: December 20, 2012
No. 5 Fighting Irish Meet Kansas State On Second Day Of World Vision Classic
Playing for the first time in 11 days after its final exam break, Notre Dame (7-1) led virtually from start to finish in Wednesday's 100-39 win over Alabama A&M in the first round of the World Vision Classic. The Fighting Irish used an 18-4 run midway through the first half to take command and then held the Lady Bulldogs to one field goal during the final 16:04 of the game en route to its second consecutive 100-point game (a first in the 36-year history of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program).
Junior guard Kayla McBride led five Notre Dame players in double figures with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while senior guard Skylar Diggins and sophomore guard Whitney Holloway each added 15 points (the latter being a career high). Holloway's classmate, Madison Cable, also posted a career scoring high with 13 points (including 3-of-4 three-pointers), while junior forward Ariel Braker continued her remarkable improvement this season with 12 points (her fourth double-digit game in six outings as a starter). Sophomore forward Markisha Wright also sparkled in a reserve role with a career-best 14 rebounds, posting her second double-figure rebounding effort in as many games.
Scouting Kansas State
The Wildcats (7-2) opened their season with seven consecutive wins, but enter Thursday's contest on a two-game losing streak, falling at home to UTEP, 52-50 on Sunday before Wednesday's 83-60 setback against No. 22 Texas A&M in the first round of the World Vision Classic. In that most recent outing against TAMU, freshman guard Haley Texada scored a season-high 19 points and junior guard Brittany Chambers made a rare reserve appearance (due to a high ankle sprain suffered early in the UTEP loss) and scored 15 points off the bench for K-State, which played the Aggies close for the majority of the first half behind 5-of-9 three-point shooting, but Texas A&M pulled away just before halftime and continued to widen its lead throughout the second half.
Chambers has been Kansas State's talisman throughout her career, particularly this season, as she leads the Wildcats in scoring (18.1 ppg.), rebounding (7.2 rpg.), field goal percentage (.488) and three-point percentage (.407). Meanwhile, Texada is second on the KSU roster in scoring (13.0 ppg.), field goal percentage (.453) and three-point percentage (.364).
Head coach Deb Patterson is in her 17th season at Kansas State with a 327-191 (.631) career record, including an 0-1 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Kansas State Series
The Last Time Notre Dame and Kansas State Met
Credit a defense called "The Storm."
The 11th-seeded (but unranked) Fighting Irish got 17 points from Le'Tania Severe and used an active matchup zone to beat No. 3 seed (and No. 8/7-ranked) Kansas State 59-53 on March 25, 2003, in the second round of the NCAA East Regional at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.
Notre Dame shut down a team that had been averaging 75 points a game and advanced to the round of 16 for the fifth time in seven years.
"Regardless of what (defense) we were in, we knew we just had to get out on the shooters and make sure we didn't give them any easy shots," Severe said. "I didn't realize we confused them, but I thought we did a great job on defense. We did what we practiced and it worked out for us."
Notre Dame had not used that particular defense since early January and brought it out at just the right time. Even with its potent offense, Kansas State couldn't recover after going 12:44 without a field goal and had a 22-game home winning streak broken.
"It was a good change of pace for us," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "It enabled us to get out a little better on their shooters and also be able to double-team inside. We call it `The Storm' because we put a lot of pressure on the ball and try to be real aggressive in it."
The Fighting Irish were too aggressive for Kansas State, which shot 33 percent and was 9-for-30 from three-point range.
"I thought for whatever reason that mentally we really froze," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "We were our own worst enemies a lot of possessions in the second half. I haven't seen this team play like this all year. It snuck up and got us."
Notre Dame took advantage of the Wildcats' struggles to open a 45-38 lead on freshman Megan Duffy's three-pointer with 7:45 left, just enough of a cushion to hold on down the stretch.
Duffy, who had been 5-for-30 from behind the arc coming in, had put Notre Dame ahead to stay at 35-32 with a three-pointer and made four of her team's eight free throws in the final 1:01. Her reward was a trip to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, for a regional semifinal game with Purdue.
Another freshman, Courtney LaVere, made two other free throws at the end.
"I was so pleased with the poise of our freshmen to step up and hit free throws like that," McGraw said.
Kansas State, cheered on by a purple-clad crowd of 11,534, managed a late run, but Notre Dame kept making free throws every time the Wildcats got to within two points.
Nicole Ohlde's layup with 28.2 seconds remaining left K-State trailing 55-53, but Duffy made two free throws to take the lead back to four. Kansas State's last hopes ended when Chelsea Domenico missed a three-point shot and Jacqueline Batteast rebounded for Notre Dame. Severe then made two final free throws.
LaVere added 14 points for Notre Dame, Alicia Ratay scored 12 and Duffy 10. Laurie Koehn hit seven three-pointers and led Kansas State with 23 points. Ohlde scored 15.
Notre Dame, the 2001 national champion, had previously pulled off upsets on the home courts of higher seeded teams in 1997 and 1998. Thanks to their defense, the Fighting Irish did it again.
Kansas State recovered from a miserable start to take a 31-26 lead on Koehn's three-pointer with 1:40 left in the first half. But the Wildcats did not make another basket until Koehn hit a three with 8:56 left in the game.
By that time, Notre Dame had built a 40-32 lead. Kansas State missed its first 11 shots of the second half and committed six turnovers in that stretch.
"A lot of this was us not getting in our spots and doing what we're capable of doing," Ohlde said. "You have to give them credit. They were aggressive and had their hands up all over the place."
Other Notre Dame-Kansas State Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Big 12 Conference
Thursday's game against Kansas State will be Notre Dame's second against a Big 12 opponent in a little more than two weeks. Back on Dec. 5, the Fighting Irish gave No. 3 Baylor all it could handle, leading the Lady Bears, 50-49 with less than five minutes remaining before BU rallied for a 73-61 win at Purcell Pavilion.
Take out West Virginia and the last time Notre Dame defeated a current Big 12 school was March 26, 2011, when the Fighting Irish toppled No. 21/20 Oklahoma, 78-53, in the NCAA Championship Dayton Regional semifinals (Sweet Sixteen) at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio. Current senior guard Skylar Diggins dished out a career-high 12 assists for Notre Dame, and current junior forward Natalie Achonwa nearly had a double-double (10 points, eight rebounds) in that victory.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were three defeats to teams ranked in the top three nationally during the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. No. 3/2 Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at No. 3 Maryland in 2007) or championship (94-81 at No. 1 Baylor in 2011), 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.
Notre Dame is playing its only regular-season tournament of the 2012-13 campaign, while this marks the third time in four years the Fighting Irish have participated in an event sponsored by Seattle-based Basketball Travelers, Inc. (having previously won the 2009 Paradise Jam and 2011 Junkanoo Jam).
When faced with such a tight turnaround, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion in recent seasons, going 29-9 (.763) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes during the past four years.
Notre Dame has already played on short rest once this season, defeating Mercer, 93-36, on Nov. 20 at Purcell Pavilion, two days after downing Massachusetts, 94-50, also in South Bend.
Game #8 Recap: Alabama A&M (World Vision Classic - First Round)
Kayla McBride scored 16 points to lead five teammates in double figures as the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish cruised to a 100-39 victory over Alabama A&M in the first round of the World Vision Classic on Wednesday at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.
Notre Dame, off for exams since a 109-70 victory against Utah State on Dec. 8, reached triple digits in consecutive games for the first time in school history.
"I was really pleased with the way we shot the ball," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We had 10 days off between games, and we didn't get to shoot on the court here before the game. I thought we'd be rusty, but I thought we looked pretty good. We only made 10 turnovers.
"You look at the layoff, and you think you're not going to look sharp, but 26 assists and 10 turnovers, those were the most pleasing statistics."
"It's funny, because when you're not allowed to practice, you are allowed to shoot," McGraw said. "Kayla McBride has done a lot of shooting over the past couple of weeks, and she really has looked good shooting the ball. Madison Cable, the same thing. She has gotten a lot of shots in."
Jasmine Sanders scored 10 points for Alabama A&M (1-6).
"Their pressure got to us," Alabama A&M coach Altherias Warmley said. "I thought that Notre Dame played a great 40-minute game. There were parts of the first half where we did well at making our reads and executing and doing some of the things that we wanted to, but at the end, we were worn down. They picked up the pressure in the second half."
Notre Dame never trailed and was up 45-24 at halftime. McBride led the Fighting Irish with 14 points in the opening half while Natalie Achonwa had seven rebounds and four assists.
"My teammates have faith in me and they find me in open spots," McBride said. "The 15-foot pull-up is my favorite shot. They know where to find me. They were making great assists, and I was able to make shots."
In the second half, Holloway led all scorers with 13 points and scored the final basket of the game that gave the Fighting Irish their record. Her 15 points were a career best.
Kaila Turner (seven assists and seven steals) and Cable were also big in the backcourt for the Fighting Irish, who had 19 steals and committed just 10 turnovers while the Lady Bulldogs had four steals and 29 turnovers. Notre Dame also finished with a 37-9 edge in points off turnovers.
Cable, who scored nine points on three three-pointers near the midway point of the second half, returned to the lineup this season after missing the 2011-12 campaign due to a foot injury. Cable and Holloway led a Fighting Irish bench that had a 44-16 scoring advantage over the Lady Bulldogs.
"I had some great passes from Whitney and K.T. (Turner), so they did the hard part," Cable said. "I just had open shots. They just found me."
Markisha Wright was another Fighting Irish bench player with a career best, as she grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds, including 11 in the second half.
Beyond The Box Score: Alabama A&M
Next Up: World Vision Classic (Final Round)
With a victory over Kansas State, the Fighting Irish would advance to the tournament championship game at 5:30 p.m. PT (8:30 p.m. ET) inside Cox Pavilion against the winner of Thursday's semifinal between No. 22 Texas A&M and Old Dominion. Notre Dame is 0-2 all-time against TAMU, most recently dropping a 76-70 decision to the Aggies in the 2011 NCAA national championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (then known as Conseco Fieldhouse) in Indianapolis.
The Fighting Irish are 1-5 all-time against ODU, with their last meeting against the Lady Monarchs coming on Jan. 2, 1994, at historic ODU Fieldhouse in Norfolk, Va. (with Old Dominion prevailing 76-67).
Should Notre Dame lose on Thursday against Kansas State, the Fighting Irish would likely face host UNLV at 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET) in a consolation game at Cox Pavilion. It would be the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and UNLV.