Dec. 20, 2013
#4/4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-0 / 0-0 ACC) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (4-5 / 0-0 MAC)
DATE: Dec. 22, 2013
No. 4 Fighting Irish Return From Exam Break To Host Central Michigan
Notre Dame (9-0) has been on hiatus for the past week for its final exam period following an 86-64 victory at Michigan on Dec. 14. The Fighting Irish took control with a sharpshooting first half, making 22 of 32 shots (.688) in the period and never looking back en route to the win.
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd paced a balanced Notre Dame attack with 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa just missed a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds.
The Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series
The Last Time Notre Dame and Central Michigan Met
Diggins also added six steals and played a huge role in a defensive turnaround in the second half. Four of those takeaways came in the final seven minutes to help thwart a Central Michigan comeback.
Ariel Braker added 10 points and eight rebounds to help the Fighting Irish close the month of November undefeated for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Jessica Green scored 19 points and Niki DiGuilio had 12 points for Central Michigan.
Green scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes, and Crystal Bradford grabbed seven of the team's 21 first-half rebounds to help keep the Chippewas within reach of the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame opened the second half on a 7-0 run but Central Michigan pulled within one with under 12 minutes to play. The Fighting Irish led the entire second half but didn't truly pull away until Diggins hit a free throw for a 70-60 lead with 45 seconds to play.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Central Michigan Met At Purcell Pavilion
Four Notre Dame players scored in double figures on the afternoon, led by Melissa D'Amico, who tossed in 16 points despite playing only 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Charel Allen tallied 15 points, including 11 in the first half, while Breona Gray chipped in with 13 points.
The Fighting Irish shot the ball well on Opening Day, connecting at a 48.3 percent clip (29-of-60) from the field and a sharp 83.9 percent (26-of-31) at the free throw line. Notre Dame also enjoyed a +10 edge on the glass, with Erica Williamson collecting a game-high eight rebounds, not to mention a game-best five blocked shots.
Central Michigan's Candace Wilson led all scorers in the game with 17 points, with 12 of those coming in the second half on 4-of-4 three-pointers. Sharonda Hurd added 15 points and a team-best seven rebounds for the Chippewas, who bounced back from a .280 first-half field goal percentage with a .517 mark after the break.
Other Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Mid-American Conference
What's more, Notre Dame has won its last 20 games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss to Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995, in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) Tournament.
The Fighting Irish last faced a MAC opponent a little more than one year ago, when they defeated Central Michigan, 72-63, on Nov. 29, 2012, at McGuirk Arena in Mount Pleasant. Mich.
Notre Dame will be playing host to a MAC team for the first time since Nov. 11, 2011, when the Fighting Irish defeated Akron, 81-61 in a Preseason WNIT first-round game at Purcell Pavilion.
North Of The Border
Notre Dame is 57-20 (.740) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 37-8 (.822) mark against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
The Fighting Irish also have won 14 of their last 15 games against Michigan schools (dating back to the 2005-06 season), with their only loss in that span being a 63-59 overtime setback at Michigan on Dec. 10, 2008.
Caution -- Falling Bears!
At halftime, on the public address announcer's cue, fans will be invited to toss their teddy bears onto the court at Purcell Pavilion, creating the memorable sight of stuffed animals raining down on the floor (and occasionally pelting an unsuspecting media member or game official sitting courtside).
Last year, the Notre Dame women's basketball program collected approximately 2,000 stuffed animals through its Teddy Bear Toss, with those donations later presented to, among others, several young patients at Riley Children's Hospital in South Bend.
No More Teachers, No More Books
Recent examples of the nailbiters came in 1999 (a 68-62 win at Florida International, closing the game on an 11-5 run in the final 2:43), 2004 (a 50-47 win at Marquette on Jacqueline Batteast's three-pointer at the horn that lifted Muffet McGraw past Digger Phelps as the winningest coach in Notre Dame basketball history) and 2011 (a 92-83 home win over No. 8/7 Kentucky, taking the lead for good on an 11-0 run after UK led 75-74 with less than five minutes to play).
However, with the exception of that 2011 thriller against Kentucky, the Fighting Irish have looked remarkably fresh in their recent post-exam games, winning the other four contests by an average of 53.8 points per game in victories over Loyola-Chicago (89-45), Charlotte (90-31), Valparaiso (94-43) and most recently, Alabama A&M (100-39).
The last time Notre Dame lost a game when coming out of its final exam break was Dec. 21, 1985, when Mary DiStanislao's Fighting Irish squad dropped a 73-67 decision to UCLA at Purcell Pavilion.
Going Out On A High Note
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.
Irish Closing In On 800 Wins
The last school to reach the 800-win mark was LSU (which did so on Nov. 25, 2012, at Florida International), with Notre Dame's fellow ACC members, Duke and North Carolina State, also nearing 800 all-time victories (the Blue Devils currently have 795 wins, while the Wolfpack have recorded 786 wins). Currently, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland are the three ACC members in the 800-victory club.
Getting The Jump
A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish also have collected at least 50 rebounds in three games, including their first two outings, nabbing 54 rebounds against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9, followed by 52 caroms against No. 19/18 Michigan State two nights later.
This marked the first time the Fighting Irish have had consecutive 50-rebound games since Dec. 12 & 22, 2001, when they did so in home wins over Western Michigan (56 rebounds) and Marquette (54 rebounds).
Notre Dame nearly made it three for three on the boards to open the season, finishing with 49 caroms on Nov. 16 against Valparaiso. The last time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 50-rebound contests was Jan. 15-29, 1992, in wins over Louisville (56) and at Butler (50), followed by a home loss to Detroit (54).
Dialing Long Distance
Junior guard Madison Cable leads the way with an ACC-best .600 three-point percentage, thanks in part to her 5-for-6 effort from long range in the Dec. 7 win over UCLA. Cable's five triples were the most for a Notre Dame player in a game since Jan. 23, 2012, when Skylar Diggins made five in a home win over Tennessee.
The Fighting Irish also connected on 10-of-17 three-pointers in that victory over UCLA, their highest production from the arc in nearly four years, dating back to a similar 10-triple performance on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
Prior to the past two-plus years, the school record for consecutive regular season road wins was held by Notre Dame's 2000-01 national championship team that won its first 10 road outings before a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 16 consecutive conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The previous school record for consecutive regular season conference road wins was seven, set numerous times, most recently crossing between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.
The previous Notre Dame record for consecutive regular season road victories in any conference was 15, which the Fighting Irish set from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 during their time in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League).
McGraw Headed To Indiana Basketball Hall Of Fame
McGraw will receive the Hall's Silver Medal, which is presented annually in recognition of contributions to Indiana high school basketball other than as an Indiana high school player or high school coach. With the Silver Medal comes induction to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame as part of its Class of 2014, marking the fifth time the Fighting Irish coach has been chosen for a prestigious hall of fame, and first since her induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
The '14 class officially will be enshrined in the Hall during its 13th annual Women's Awards Banquet on April 26, 2014, at the Primo Banquet Hall in Indianapolis. Earlier in the day, a free reception will be held at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle, Ind., before the evening's induction banquet takes place. Tickets for the banquet will go on sale early in 2014 -- for more information, contact the Hall at (765) 529-1891 or go online to www.hoopshall.com.
McGraw will be the second Notre Dame selection, and first female, to receive the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame's Silver Medal, following in the footsteps of former Fighting Irish All-America basketball player, and later Notre Dame coach and athletics director, Edward "Moose" Krause ('34), who received the Silver Medal in 1989. Other notables who have earned the Silver Medal include legendary men's basketball coaches Bob Knight (1982) and Gene Keady (2001), as well as noted screenwriter and producer (and Indiana native) Angelo Pizzo, who received the honor last year and is best known for bringing two of history's greatest sports movies to the silver screen, "Rudy" and "Hoosiers."
McGraw also will be the 18th inductee with Notre Dame ties to earn a place in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and the third from the Fighting Irish women's basketball program (all within the past six years). Former Notre Dame standout and Indianapolis native Mary Beth Schueth-Cain ('85) was inducted in 2008, followed a year later by former Fighting Irish great and 1982 Indiana Miss Basketball selection Trena Keys ('86).
Call Her Mabrey
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures five times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.
It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.
Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 assists per game (the latter ranking 13th in the ACC). She also is third in the ACC with a .617 field goal percentage, ranks sixth with a 1.94 assist/turnover ratio, and is tied for 14th in the conference with 1.9 steals per game.
Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Scorers
McBride currently ranks 17th in program history with 1,333 career points, having moved up one spot on Dec. 7 with her 12 points against UCLA to pass former teammate Devereaux Peters (1,319 from 2007-12).
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 27th in Notre Dame history with 1,138 points, with the next player above her on the program's career scoring ladder being a former teammate -- Becca Bruszewski had 1,148 points from 2007-11.
Coming Up Aces
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .544 career field goal percentage, presently ranking ninth in program annals.
Firing Out Of The Blocks
Loyd's point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the opening three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).
Next Game: Oregon State
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director