Dec. 27, 2009
DATE: December 29, 2009
#3 Irish Return To Action Tuesday Afternoon At Central Florida
Notre Dame extended its season-opening win streak to 10 games with a 90-31 victory over Charlotte on Dec. 20 at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish opened the game on a 16-0 run and forced the 49ers into 43 turnovers (the most by a Notre Dame opponent in 28 years) en route to their largest victory in two decades.
Senior guard Ashley Barlow led the Irish with game highs of 19 points and eight rebounds, while freshman guard Kaila Turner chalked up career highs of 11 points, five steals and four rebounds for Notre Dame, which also logged 24 steals, the highest total in its BIG EAST era.
Other Notre Dame Notables
A Quick Look At UCF
The Knights (3-5) have been on the wrong end of several close games this season (three losses by three points or less), but headed into the holidays on a winning note with a 76-38 rout of Jackson State on Dec. 20. Junior guard Marshay White scored a game-high 20 points, while junior forward Emma Cannon had a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for UCF.
Cannon also averages a double-double for the season (14.8 ppg., 10.6 rpg.), while White is second on the squad in scoring (12.1 ppg.) with an outstanding .542 three-point percentage.
Head coach Joi Williams is in her third season at the Knights' helm with a 30-42 (.417) record. Including her four-year tenure at Murray State, Williams has a 84-103 (.449) career record, with Tuesday marking her first-ever matchup with Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-UCF Series
The Last Time Notre Dame and UCF Met
Sara Liebscher added 14 points, Karen Robinson had 13 points and Lisa Kuhns chipped in with 12 points for the Irish, who had five double-figure scorers and shot 56.7 percent from the field (38-of-67) in the contest, not attempting a single three-point basket on the day.
Yolanda Rhodes had a team-high 19 points for UCF, while Jill Killen piled up eight points, a game-high 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Knights.
Notre Dame led by six points for much of the first half before a late 10-5 run ballooned its lead to 45-33 by halftime.
UCF got back within 53-45 on Kacie Kemmer's basket with 13 minutes to play, but Liebscher ignited a 10-4 Notre Dame run to push the Irish lead back to double digits for good.
Other Notre Dame-UCF Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. Conference USA
Notre Dame has not visited a current C-USA arena since Dec. 28, 2001, when it fell at Rice, 72-61, at Autry Court in Houston (the Owls were members of the Western Athletic Conference at the time).
Sunshine State Success
The only true road losses the Irish have taken in the state of Florida came on Feb. 3, 1998, at Miami (77-76 on Octavia Blue's free throw after time expired) and Jan. 13, 2007, at South Florida (87-78 in overtime).
Notre Dame also is 14-3 (.824) when playing in the state of Florida, regardless of the opposition, with the only other loss coming to James Madison, 53-51, on Jan. 3, 1986 at Miami's Burger King Classic in Coral Gables (JMU won on a three-point play with four seconds left).
Another Present Under The Tree
The Irish also have won their last six games coming off the Christmas break, including a 68-61 victory at Charlotte last season (Dec. 28, 2008). Tuesday will mark the first time Notre Dame has played on the road right after Christmas in consective years since a five-season run of post-Yuletide road contests from 2000-04.
Getting The Jump
Spread The Wealth
That trend has been particularly evident in Notre Dame's last six games, with a different player setting the pace in scoring each time out, while five separate players have taken the lead in either rebounds or assists.
Stat Sheet Stuffers
Junior guard Brittany Mallory has two 5-5-5 outings (Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Oklahoma), while senior guard Ashley Barlow (Iona), freshman guard Skylar Diggins (Charlotte) and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) each have one.
The Season For Taking
Most recently, Notre Dame harassed Charlotte into 43 turnovers in a Dec. 20 win, tying for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary's (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program's second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.
The Irish have been particularly hard on opponents in six home games this season, forcing 31.7 turnovers per game (at least 29 in five of the six Purcell Pavilion contests) while holding visitors to 49.8 points a night and a .313 field goal percentage (106-of-339).
The Five-Finger Discount
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
Pomp And Circumstance
With Williamson collecting her diploma next week, all 58 Notre Dame women's basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.
This current ranking also marks the 45th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with the No. 3 ranking not only matching a season high (Dec. 7), but also being Notre Dame's highest since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What's more, Notre Dame's No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 185 weeks during the program's 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish rose to a season-high No. 3 in the Dec. 22 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll. It's the highest Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year.
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches' survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their most recent No. 3 ranking, the Irish have appeared in the coaches' poll for 177 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).
More Polling Data
Besides her 185 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph's (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #10 Recap: Charlotte
"I really have no complaints about this one," she said.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins wanted to make sure everyone knew how rare it was for McGraw to make such a statement.
"Make sure you're all recording this," Diggins said, drawing a laugh from her coach.
The fourth-ranked Irish (10-0) had reason to be happy after registering their most lopsided victory since a 113-35 win against Liberty to open the 1989-90 season. It was their fewest points allowed since a 66-31 win over St. John's in 2002.
Still, after a longer look at the final statistics, McGraw said she was disappointed that her team had 13 turnovers in each half.
"So there's something I can be unhappy about," she said.
Charlotte coach Karen Aston was disappointed her team didn't give Notre Dame a better game considering the 49ers played the Irish tough in a 68-61 loss last season.
"I was surprised by our lack of competitiveness," she said. "I'm disappointed we didn't compete better and give them a better game."
The 43 turnovers forced and 24 steals by the Irish were their most since they joined the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995-96 season. Five players had at least three steals, led by five by freshman guard Kaila Turner.
Senior guard Ashley Barlow scored a season-high 19 points, Turner added 11 and all 12 Irish players who got in the game scored.
Notre Dame missed its first seven shots, then scored seven points in 25 seconds when Barlow hit a three, Diggins had a steal and basket, then Diggins stole the ball again and scored on a rebound.
"It really ignited the whole team," McGraw said.
Aston said once the Irish got going, the 49ers couldn't stop them.
"It snowballed on us," she said. "We lost our composure and lost our character and completely lost our frame of mind as far as what our focus was in the game."
The Irish extended the lead to 16-0 before Charlotte scored its first points, and added a 30-3 run in the second half.
The Irish had more points in the paint (32), more points from their reserves (52) and more points off turnovers (44) than the 49ers had total points. Notre Dame also held Charlotte (5-6) to 24.5 percent shooting, the first time the 49ers shot below 30 percent in a game since 2006.
Shannon McCallum led Charlotte with 10 points.
Noting The Charlotte Game
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic -- a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women's Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.
Schrader reached another endurance milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 506-197 (.720) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 594-238 (.714) record in 28 seasons overall -- including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
Fencing's Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball's Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the "Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club," with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
Barlow currently ranks 16th in school history with 1,228 career points, while Schrader is 20th with 1,163 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 768 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time -- and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest -- Notre Dame's 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Irish Enjoy Successful '09 European Tour
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
Notre Dame has led at the break in all 10 games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
Notre Dame has added six more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), South Carolina (78-55), Eastern Michigan (69-59), Valparaiso (88-47) and Charlotte (90-31).
...But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Notre Dame already has added seven more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), No. 23/24 San Diego State (84-79), No. 20/17 Oklahoma (81-71), IPFW (96-60), Valparaiso (88-47) and Charlotte (90-31).
Now That's A Home Court Advantage
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 82 of their last 89 non-BIG EAST contests (.921) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) -- Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) -- with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 329-85 (.795) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
It's Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
While it's likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there's a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through six home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,423 fans per game, putting the Irish nearly 600 fans above their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped the Irish win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women's basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation's No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame's women's basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women's basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame's official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women's basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program's first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site's free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
This year's TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 147 televised games, including 94 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University's Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli ('59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It's also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm very excited about the class that we're signing this year," McGraw said. "I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They're going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We're going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we're adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we'll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we're going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we'll have some depth in the post as well."
"Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility," said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 17 times, including wins this season over Indianapolis (exhibition), Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso and Charlotte.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most "Big Mac" baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger -- junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion's inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of "SID has way too much time on his hands"), 10 different players have converted the "burger ball", including nine current members of the Irish roster.
What's more, of the 17 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, five on free throws, and three on three-pointers (including the past two home games).
Next Game: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt (10-1) has only a six-point home loss to Bowling Green marring its resume. Since that setback, the Commodores had won three in a row heading into their home game with East Tennessee State on Monday night.