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    Fighting Irish
    #5 Irish Host #11 Purdue In Saturday Matinee

    FIGHTING IRISH Junior forward Natalie Achonwa is enjoying a breakout season, having doubled her scoring and rebounding averages (14.1 ppg., 9.2 rpg.) and leading the BIG EAST Conference with six double-doubles.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Junior forward Natalie Achonwa is enjoying a breakout season, having doubled her scoring and rebounding averages (14.1 ppg., 9.2 rpg.) and leading the BIG EAST Conference with six double-doubles.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 28, 2012

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    2012-13 ND Women's Basketball: Game 11
    #5/5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #11/11 Purdue Boilermakers (11-1 / 0-0 Big Ten)

    DATE: December 29, 2012
    TIME: 2 p.m. ET
    AT: Notre Dame, Ind. - Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
    SERIES: PUR leads 14-11
    1ST MTG: PUR 62-59 (11/26/84)
    LAST MTG: ND 66-38 (12/10/11)
    VIDEO: UND.com (live)
    RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
    LIVE STATS: UND.com
    TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
    TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets

    Storylines

  • Notre Dame is in the midst of a challenging stretch that features the Fighting Irish playing three ranked teams in a four-game span.
  • Notre Dame is 24-11 (.686) all-time in its first game after the Christmas break, including an active nine-game winning streak.
  • No. 5 Fighting Irish Host No. 11 Purdue In Saturday Matinee
    After a successful three-game run to the World Vision Classic title just before Christmas out in Las Vegas, No. 5 Notre Dame returns home to the familiar confines of Purcell Pavilion on Saturday when it plays host to in-state rival (and 11th-ranked) Purdue at 2 p.m. (ET). The game will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics web site, UND.com.

    Notre Dame (9-1) earned its fifth regular-season tournament title in the past four seasons with its 83-74 win over No. 22 Texas A&M in the championship game of the World Vision Classic on Dec. 21 at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. The Fighting Irish wiped out an early eight-point deficit with some strong defensive pressure, forcing the Aggies into 26 turnovers and converting those takeaways into 34 points.

    Skylar Diggins was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after scoring 24 points in the title game against Texas A&M. Natalie Achonwa added 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in the victory to secure her spot on the all-tournament team.

    Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 5 in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Purdue is No. 11 in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame is off to a 9-1 start for the fifth time in six seasons and the ninth time in school history (all since 1998-99).
  • The Fighting Irish are 3-1 against ranked opponents this season, and in a strange twist, all three wins have come away from home (at No. 19/22 UCLA, neutral sites against No. 19/21 Ohio State and No. 22 Texas A&M).
  • In four games (all wins) since its only loss of the season (Dec. 5 vs. third-ranked Baylor), Notre Dame is averaging 94.8 points per game, shooting .498 from the field, posting a rebounding margin of +16.8 rebounds per game, and has forced opponents into an average of 25.5 turnovers per night (14.5 of those coming on Fighting Irish steals).
  • According to the last NCAA statistical report (issued Dec. 17 before Notre Dame played three games at the World Vision Classic in Las Vegas), the Fighting Irish ranked among the top 25 in eight categories -- assists (4th - now 19.7 apg.), free throw percentage (7th - .803), scoring offense (8th - 83.2 ppg.), scoring margin (14th - +25.5 ppg.), field goal percentage (18th - .464), steals (18th - 13.4 spg.) and assist/turnover ratio (22nd - 1.22).
  • Notre Dame has shown remarkably balanced offensive production this season, with 10 of the 11 players on the roster having scored in double figures at least once.
  • With its No. 5 ranking in this week's Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media poll for 104 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 the vast majority of that time (54 of 65 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • The Fighting Irish also held down the No. 7 spot in the preseason AP poll, making the first media poll in 13 of the past 14 years (since 1999-2000), something only six other schools in the country can match.
  • Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner have helped Notre Dame win 104 games to date, matching the most victories by a Fighting Irish class through 123 games, first set by the one-player 2001-02 senior class of Ericka Haney, who was a part of 104 wins in the same number of career games, which came midway through her senior year (a run that was highlighted the 2001 national championship).
  • With 600 victories in her 26 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second 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).
  • McGraw also is 12 wins away from becoming the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to amass 700 victories (and should she do so within the next 54 games, she would be the 11th to compile 700 victories in less than 1,000 games coached). What's more, when McGraw reaches the 700-win milestone, she will be the third BIG EAST Conference skipper to hit that landmark, along with C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation's winningest programs during the past 17 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fourth with 418 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past three years), and is off to another hot start at the box office this year, averaging 8,748 fans per game. Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation (8,571), setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 180 of their last 182 home games (including an active streak of 23 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 27 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 21 in the past four seasons (a school-record eight in 2011-12). Notre Dame already has two home sellouts this season, most recently for the Dec. 5 matchup with Baylor.
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as nine Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 12 seasons. Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with both going in the first round (Peters third overall to Minnesota; Novosel eighth overall to Washington) of the 2012 WNBA Draft. Last year's draft marked the first time Notre Dame has had two first-round picks in the same year, while Peters was the highest-drafted player (and first lottery selection) in program history. Ruth Riley (Chicago) was active in the league during the '12 season, helping the Sky contend for a playoff berth into the final weeks of the season. Three of Notre Dame's 10 all-time 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. Peters nearly joined that list in 2012, helping Minnesota return to the WNBA Finals, but the Lynx could not defend their title, falling to Indiana in four games.
  • For the sixth 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, Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous five years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it twice, pulling off that feat in 2011 and 2012).
  • Scouting Purdue
    Bolstered by the return of eight letterwinners, including three starters, from last season's 25-win club that reached the second round of the NCAA Championship, Purdue (11-1) is off to its best start in a decade this season, rising to No. 11 in both of this week's national polls.

    The Boilermakers return from the Christmas break on a six-game winning streak, going into the holiday hiatus with a 78-53 home victory over IUPUI on Dec. 21. Junior guard Courtney Moses led a quartet of Purdue players in double figures with 18 points, as the Boilermakers shot .556 from the floor to secure the win.

    Moses paces Purdue in scoring (12.9 ppg.), steals (1.9 spg.) and free throw percentage (.917), and is third in three-point percentage (.413). Redshirt junior guard KK Houser is second in scoring (12.6 ppg.) and steals (1.7 spg.), and tops in assists (4.8 apg.) and three-point percentage (.440), while graduate student forward Drey Mingo pitches in 12.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and senior forward Sam Ostarello adds a team-high 9.0 rebounds a night.

    Head coach Sharon Versyp is in her seventh season at Purdue, having led her alma mater to a 147-71 (.674) record during her tenure. Versyp is a 13-year college coaching veteran, with prior stops at Maine and Indiana, and she has a 264-136 (.660) career record (0-6 against Notre Dame).

    The Notre Dame-Purdue Series
    Notre Dame and Purdue will be meeting for the 26th time in their in-state rivalry, with the Boilermakers holding a 14-11 edge in the all-time series against the Fighting Irish.

    However, Notre Dame is 6-4 all-time against Purdue at Purcell Pavilion, and has won its last six games against the Boilermakers, matching the longest winning streak by either team in a series that dates back to 1984 and has been played almost annually for the past 18 seasons.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Purdue Met
    Notre Dame's pressure defense harassed Purdue into one of its worst offensive performances ever, and the No. 3 Fighting Irish manufactured enough points to roll past the No. 12/14 Boilermakers, 66-38 on Dec. 10, 2011, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.

    Natalie Novosel scored 17 points and Devereaux Peters added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Notre Dame, which forced 24 turnovers. Skylar Diggins chipped in nine points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Irish.

    Courtney Moses scored 14 points and Antionette Howard added 13 for Purdue. Brittany Rayburn, Purdue's leading scorer for the season, was held to four points on 1-for-7 shooting.

    Notre Dame shot 44 percent against Purdue, which had been holding opponents to 31 percent shooting.

    Notre Dame went on an early 17-0 run to take a 25-5 lead, and it could have been even larger had the Fighting Irish not missed several layups on passes by Diggins. Purdue went scoreless for more than seven minutes and missed 13 of its first 15 shots, and trailed 36-17 at halftime.

    The Fighting Irish extended their lead in the second half, as Novosel scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes of the period to help put the game out of reach. A breakaway layup by Diggins pushed the lead to 30 points with more than eight minutes left and the Boilermakers never got closer than 26 the rest of the way.

    The Last Time Notre Dame And Purdue Met At Purcell Pavilion
    Natalie Novosel scored 16 points and No. 16 Notre Dame celebrated the 1,000th game in school history with a 72-51 victory over Purdue on Dec. 5, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

    The Fighting Irish forced 24 turnovers and converted them into 29 points, and dominated in the paint, scoring 46 points while holding Purdue to only 29 inside.

    Brittany Rayburn had 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds for Purdue, which struggled from the field, shooting just 36.5 percent for the game. Courtney Moses scored 11.

    Other Notre Dame-Purdue Series Tidbits

  • The 70-point mark seems to be a magic figure in the series. One or both teams have scored 70 points in 16 of the 25 previous matchups, with the first team to reach that milepost winning each time.
  • Notre Dame has held Purdue to its lowest series point totals in five of the past six matchups, coinciding exactly with the current six-game Fighting Irish winning streak in the series (67-58 in 2006-07 at Purcell Pavilion; 61-48 in 2007-08 at Mackey Arena; 62-51 in 2008-09 at Purcell Pavilion; 72-51 in 2009-10 at Purcell Pavilion; 66-38 last year at Mackey Arena).
  • Prior to its current six-game winning streak against Purdue, Notre Dame had not held the Boilermakers to fewer than 60 points in a game (covering a span of 19 contests).
  • Thanks to their recent success, the Fighting Irish have significantly closed the gap in the aggregate score in the series. Through 25 games, Purdue has outscored Notre Dame by a mere 46 points (1,650-1,604), or an average of fewer than two points per game.
  • This will mark the 10th time both teams have been ranked at tipoff, with Notre Dame holding a 6-3 advantage in these games. Both the Fighting Irish and Boilermakers were ranked going into last year's matchup (coincidentally at nearly the same poll positions as this season), with No. 3 Notre Dame downing No. 12/14 Purdue, 66-38 in West Lafayette.
  • One of Notre Dame's most frequent NCAA Championship opponents has been Purdue. The Fighting Irish and Boilermakers have played one another four times in NCAA postseason competition, with each team winning twice (ND in 1996 and 2001; Purdue in 1998 and 2003). The only other opponent Notre Dame has played four times in the NCAA Championship is Tennessee, with the Lady Vols winning the first three (1997, 2002, 2008) before Notre Dame broke through in the 2011 Dayton Regional final.
  • The Fighting Irish and Boilermakers also remain the only teams from the same state ever to play for the NCAA championship.
  • Seventh-year Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp grew up in Mishawaka (minutes from the Notre Dame campus) and was named Indiana Miss Basketball in 1984 while attending Mishawaka High School.
  • Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins and Purdue senior forward Sam Ostarello were teammates on the White Team at the 2009 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Game in St. Louis. Diggins scored 24 points, while Ostarello had six points, but the White squad lost to the Blue, 79-77.
  • Diggins and Purdue junior guard Dee Dee Williams played significant roles in what many consider one of the greatest Indiana girls' high school basketball state championship games ever played. In the 2009 Class 4A title game (also a matchup of the nation's top two ranked prep programs) before 13,300 fans at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, Diggins almost singlehandedly led her South Bend Washington High School team back from an 11-point deficit in the final three minutes, only to see Williams' Indianapolis Ben Davis High School side pull out a last-second 71-69 victory. Diggins finished with a game-high 29 points, including eight in a 55-second span during the late rally.
  • Saturday's game will feature a matchup of two of the last four Indiana Miss Basketball recipients, as Diggins (the 2009 selection) squares off with Purdue junior guard Courtney Moses (the 2010 honoree). Another Indiana Miss Basketball could join the rivalry next season, as recent Notre Dame signee Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind.) is one of the leading candidates for this year's honor as a standout forward at Hamilton Southeastern High School. For more information on Reimer and the Notre Dame incoming class of 2013, see the sidebars on pages 10 and 11 of the PDF version of this notes package.
  • Notre Dame vs. the Big Ten Conference
    Notre Dame is 44-49 (.473) all-time against the Big Ten Conference, with a 24-18 (.571) record at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish also are 37-34 (.521) against the Big Ten in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with a 20-14 (.588) ledger at home.

    Of note, Notre Dame has won 16 of its last 22 games vs. Big Ten schools, including a current string of five in a row since Minnesota ended the 2008-09 Fighting Irish season with a 79-71 win in the first round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion.

    Purdue is the second of two Big Ten opponents on Notre Dame's 2012-13 regular season schedule. Back on Nov. 9, the Fighting Irish opened their season with a 57-51 victory over No. 19/21 Ohio State in the second annual Carrier Classic aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

    Border Patrol
    Purdue is the lone in-state opponents on Notre Dame's schedule this season.

    The Fighting Irish are 123-32 (.794) all-time against other Indiana schools, with a 61-11 (.847) record at Purcell Pavilion.

    Notre Dame also has won 18 consecutive games against in-state foes since a 54-51 loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006, at Purcell Pavilion.

    Another Present Under The Tree
    Notre Dame is 24-11 (.686) all-time in in its first game after the Christmas holiday, with a 13-6 (.684) record at Purcell Pavilion and a 18-7 (.720) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).

    The Fighting Irish also have won their last nine games coming off the Christmas break, including a 92-26 win over Longwood last season (Dec. 28, 2011, at Purcell Pavilion).

    Notre Dame is playing a ranked opponent in its first game after Christmas for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish dropped a 77-61 decision to No. 5 Tennessee on Dec. 28, 2002, at Conseco (now Bankers Life) Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

    Start Me Up
    For the fifth time in six years, and the ninth time in school history (all in the past 15 seasons), Notre Dame has posted a 9-1 record or better through its first 10 games.

    Twice in their history, the Fighting Irish opened with at least 10 consecutive wins, doing so in their 2000-01 national championship season (school-record 23-game winning streak) and again in 2009-10 (15-0).

    Game #10 Recap: Texas A&M
    Skylar Diggins and Natalie Achonwa were two big reasons why Texas A&M didn't get the best of Notre Dame again.

    Diggins scored 24 points and had five steals, and Achonwa added 22 points and 14 rebounds as No. 5 Notre Dame beat No. 22 Texas A&M 83-74 on Dec. 21 in the title game of the World Vision Classic at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.

    Texas A&M topped Notre Dame in the championship game of the 2011 NCAA tournament. While much less was on the line this time, the Fighting Irish made sure they left the court on top.

    Notre Dame also got 19 points from Kayla McBride and 15 from Jewell Loyd. Muffet McGraw earned her 600th win as Notre Dame coach in the first meeting between the teams since Texas A&M won the title.

    Notre Dame (9-1) took control with a 13-0 run that turned a 48-46 deficit into a 59-48 lead with 11:25 remaining. Diggins and McBride both had four points during the spurt, and Achonwa supplied the final three points of the run.

    Kelsey Bone led Texas A&M (8-4) with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Courtney Walker had 12 points, and Kristi Bellock added 11.

    The Aggies committed 26 turnovers, compared to 13 for the Fighting Irish. Several miscues occurred at key points in the game.

    Notre Dame had its biggest lead of the first half, 44-37, after Loyd scored underneath off a feed from Diggins at the buzzer. The Aggies hurt their own cause in the opening half by making 17 turnovers and committing 10 personal fouls.

    Texas A&M rallied to take a two-point lead early in the second half, following seven consecutive points by Bone. However, Notre Dame countered with its decisive 13-0 run, and the Aggies got no closer than five points the rest of the way.

    Beyond The Box Score: Texas A&M

  • Notre Dame wins its fifth regular-season tournament title during the past four seasons, adding the 2012 World Vision Classic hardware to the 2009 Paradise Jam, 2010 WBCA Classic and State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic and 2011 Junkanoo Jam.
  • The Fighting Irish are 34-4 (.895) in regular-season tournament play since 1996-97.
  • Notre Dame is 3-1 against ranked opponents this season and 22-12 (.647) against the Top 25 during the past four seasons (2009-10 to present).
  • The Fighting Irish rallied from an early eight-point deficit (18-10 with 13:13 left in the first half), marking its biggest comeback win of the season (previous was seven points on Nov. 23 at No. 19/22 UCLA).
  • Notre Dame has won its final game before Christmas for 17 consecutive seasons and are 27-9 (.750) all-time in such contests.
  • Notre Dame improves to 31-9 (.775) in the past five seasons when playing on one day's rest or less, including a 3-0 record this year.
  • The Fighting Irish earn their first win in three tries against Texas A&M, and avenge their loss to the Aggies in the 2011 NCAA national championship game.
  • Notre Dame rises to 15-33 (.313) all-time against current SEC schools, including wins in eight of their last nine matchups (not counting the 2011 NCAA title game against TAMU, which was played before the Aggies joined the SEC last summer).
  • Diggins earned her second regular-season tournament Most Valuable Player award (also the 2009 Paradise Jam).
  • Achonwa was named to her first regular-season all-tournament team.
  • Skylar Diggins Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
    For the fifth time in her All-America career, senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week, it was announced Sunday afternoon by the conference office. Diggins is the first Fighting Irish women's basketball player to earn the award this season, with her five career honors tying for the second-most by a Notre Dame player in program history, topped only by Ruth Riley's eight citations from 1997-2001.

    In addition, this marks the 79th time a Fighting Irish women's basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (45 Players of the Week, 34 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).

    Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Dec. 3, was named the Most Valuable Player of the World Vision Classic on Dec. 21 after leading Notre Dame to the tournament title. The All-America point guard averaged 20.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 steals per game with a .511 field goal percentage, .375 three-point percentage, .857 free throw percentage and 1.4 assist/turnover ratio in wins over No. 22 Texas A&M (83-74), Kansas State (87-57) and Alabama A&M (100-39).

    Diggins scored over 20 points twice in the tournament, notching a game-high 22 points (on 8-of-12 shooting) in the semifinal win over Kansas State, then tallying a team-high 24 points in the title contest against Texas A&M (a rematch of the 2011 NCAA national championship game). Diggins also chalked up a game-high eight assists (with just one turnover) in the semifinal win over K-State, and added a game-high five steals and four assists against Texas A&M, plus a game-clinching three-pointer with 4:02 left to cap a 7-1 run that locked up the championship. Diggins opened the tournament with 15 points (on 5-6 FG) in just 19 minutes against Alabama A&M, as Notre Dame scored 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time in school history.

    Diggins' tournament MVP honor was the fourth of her career, and second in the regular season following the 2009 Paradise Jam (she also has been Most Outstanding Player of the last two NCAA regionals won by Notre Dame). What's more, Diggins' 24 points against Texas A&M moved her into fourth place on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list (1,877 career points) and marked her 96th career double-figure scoring game (good for fifth in school history).

    For the season, Diggins ranks 11th in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.1 ppg.), while leading the conference in assists (5.4 apg) and also placing in the top 10 in the conference in free throw percentage (2nd - .870), steals (3rd - 3.1 spg.) and assist/turnover ratio (8th - 1.54).

    Canadian Ace
    According to the time-honored adage, "there's no substitute for experience." In the case of Notre Dame junior forward Natalie Achonwa, that experience was second to none and it's paid off exceptionally well for the veteran Fighting Irish frontliner this season.

    During the summer of 2012, Achonwa was a key contributor on Canada's Senior National Team, helping leading her country to its first Olympic appearance in 12 years. Not content to merely qualify, Canada then earned two hard-fought wins in the group stage to reach the Olympic quarterfinals (medal round) for the first time since 1984.

    As the second-youngest player in the London Olympic Basketball Tournament at the tender age of 19, Achonwa averaged 7.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, highlighted by a 14-point, eight-rebound effort against eventual Olympic silver medalist France during the preliminary round.

    Parlaying her Olympic experience, Achonwa has moved seamlessly into Notre Dame's starting lineup this season after spending her first two years as an important reserve. The Guelph, Ontario, native was expected to take on a larger role this year with the graduation of two-time All-American Devereaux Peters, but Achonwa has taken that growth to a whole new level, doubling her averages in scoring (7.6 to 14.1 ppg.) and rebounding (4.4 to 9.2 rpg.), while scoring in double figures eight times and grabbing double-digit rebounds on six occasions.

    What's more, Achonwa came into this season with one career double-double and a career scoring high of 20 points. This year, she leads the BIG EAST in double-doubles (6, including three in four games against ranked teams) and has three 20-point games to her credit (career-high 23 vs. Utah State on Dec. 8). She also ranks among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in scoring (16th - 14.1 ppg.), rebounding (3rd - 9.2 rpg.), field goal percentage (10th - .559) and free throw percentage (6th - .822).

    Achonwa's development has not gone unnoticed, as she was named to the World Vision Classic All-Tournament Team, helping to lead the Fighting Irish to the title with 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in the championship game win over No. 22 Texas A&M. Achonwa also is one of three Notre Dame players to make the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll at least once this season, earning her spot on the Dec. 10 rundown.

    Crown Jewell
    Freshman guard Jewell Loyd is rapidly making her presence felt as one of the top rookies, not only in the BIG EAST Conference, but around the country.

    The Lincolnwood, Ill., native has appeared in all 10 games for the Fighting Irish this season (starting nine times), scoring in double figures six times and posting two "5-5-5" games (at least "5" in three of the five main statistical categories - points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals).

    As of Friday, Loyd ranks among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in scoring (20th - 13.4 ppg.), three-point percentage (6th - .435) and free throw percentage (tied-7th - .800).

    Loyd also is a two-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week selection, first earning that honor on Nov. 26 after averaging 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists with a .727 field goal percentage in wins over Mercer (19 points/six rebounds/five assists) and at No. 19/22 UCLA (19 points/seven rebounds/five assists).

    She then became the first repeat honoree of the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week award this season when she was tapped for the designation on Dec. 10 after averaging 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals with a .481 field goal percentage (.556 three-point percentage) against No. 3 Baylor and Utah State.

    Loyd opened eyes on the national scene with a season- (and game-) high 24 points and team-best seven rebounds in the 73-61 loss to Baylor on Dec. 5 at Purcell Pavilion. The 5-foot-10 guard connected on her first four three-point attempts of the evening (finishing 4-of-5 from beyond the arc) on the way to notching the most points by a Fighting Irish rookie against a ranked opponent since Jan. 26, 2002, when Jacqueline Batteast scored 26 points in Notre Dame's 64-57 win over No. 16/17 Virginia Tech at Purcell Pavilion.

    What's more, Loyd also scored the most points by a Notre Dame freshman against an opponent ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since Feb. 19, 2000, when Alicia Ratay netted 26 points (including a school-record 7-for-7 three-pointers) in a 78-74 overtime win at No. 8/11 Rutgers.

    McGraw's Milestone Moment
    In a career filled with landmark moments, Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached another milestone on her legendary 26-year tenure at Notre Dame, earning her 600th win under the Golden Dome by virtue of an 83-74 Fighting Irish victory over No. 22 Texas A&M on Dec. 21 in the championship game of the World Vision Classic in Las Vegas.

    Since arriving in South Bend prior to the 1987-88 season, McGraw has compiled a 600-216 (.735) record, and already is the second-winningest coach (regardless of sport) in the 125-year athletics history at Notre Dame, surpassed only by former men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).

    Factoring in her five-year run at Lehigh from 1982-87 prior to arriving at Notre Dame, McGraw has a 688-257 (.728) record in 31 years as a collegiate head coach. That puts her just 12 wins shy of becoming the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to register 700 career wins -- and should she reach that milestone in the next 54 games, she would be the 11th skipper to compile 700 victories in less than 1,000 games coached.

    What's more, McGraw is poised to become just the third BIG EAST Conference coach to reach the 700-win plateau, joining C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., along with joining McGraw in the pantheon of the sport at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

    Spreading The Wealth
    Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in eight of its 10 games this year. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 60-4 (.938) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including an active 30-game winning streak that dates back to Feb. 28, 2011 (70-69 loss at DePaul).

    Everyone Pitches In
    With the graduation of two-time honorable mention All-Americans (and 2012 WNBA first-round draft picks) Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame entered this season searching to find a way to make up for the talented duo's 27.0 points and 13.4 rebounds per game.

    Thus far in 2012-13, it would appear the Fighting Irish are making this mission truly a team effort. On the scoring side, 10 of the 11 players on the roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including junior forward Ariel Braker (five times, after having two double-figure games in her first two seasons combined), sophomore guards Madison Cable and Whitney Holloway (once each - the first double-digit games of their respective careers) and freshman guards Jewell Loyd (six times) and Michaela Mabrey (once).

    On the backboards, junior forward Natalie Achonwa is third in the BIG EAST at 9.2 rebounds per game and has piled up six of her eight career double-digit rebounding games this year. The Guelph, Ontario, native, and 2012 Canadian Olympic Team member also has a BIG EAST-leading six double-doubles after logging one double-double in her career prior to this season.

    The Best Things In Life Are Free
    Though it's early in the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame already is displaying an early penchant for making opponents pay at the free throw line.

    Through their first 10 games, the Fighting Irish lead the BIG EAST and rank seventh in the nation (as of Dec. 17), shooting a remarkable .803 (184-of-229) from the charity stripe, including a season-high .905 (19-of-21) in their Nov. 18 home-opening win over Massachusetts.

    On average, Notre Dame is getting to the line nearly 23 times per game, converting more than 18 free throws a night. At the same time, the Fighting Irish have made close to 40 percent more foul shots than their opponents have attempted (184 made, 132 opponent attempts).

    Last year, Notre Dame set a school record by connecting at a .763 clip from the foul line, leading the BIG EAST with a stellar .807 percentage during conference play.

    Junior guard Kayla McBride has had the most success cashing in on this strategy during the past two seasons, shooting .872 from the stripe last year (a league-leading .919 in BIG EAST games) and making 16 of 17 free throws (.941) so far this season -- in fact, she would be leading the conference in free throw percentage, but she is four made free throws shy of the minimum required for ranking (2.0 per game).

    Still, three other Notre Dame players do qualify for the BIG EAST free throw rankings, and all appear among the top seven in the league (as of Friday) with senior guard Skylar Diggins standing second (.870), junior forward Natalie Achonwa ranking sixth (.822) and freshman guard Jewell Loyd tied for seventh (.800).

    For her career, McBride has logged an .879 free throw percentage, putting her ahead of Alicia Ratay's school-record mark (.872) from 1999-2003.

    Diggins Challenging School Records
    Throughout the 2012-13 season, senior guard Skylar Diggins will continue to close the gap that separates her from the highest eschelon of Notre Dame women's basketball players in a number of the program's top career categories. Here's a look at just a few of the notable milestones Diggins will have a shot to reach this season:

  • Diggins (458 rebounds) is 42 rebounds away to become the first women's basketball player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. Only one Notre Dame men's basketball player has ever compiled that impressive combination of statistics (Chris Thomas from 2001-05).
  • Diggins (1,877 points) is 123 points away from becoming the fourth 2,000-point scorer in school history, and she needs 445 points to catch current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham as the program's all-time leading scorer. On Dec. 21 against No. 22 Texas A&M, Diggins moved into fourth place on the Notre Dame career scoring list, passing All-America forward (and another South Bend Washington High School graduate) Jacqueline Batteast (1,874 points from 2001-05).
  • In addition, Diggins (298 steals) is 50 steals away from assistant coach Niele Ivey's school record for career thefts. Diggins needs two steals to become just the third player in school history to record 300 thefts in her career, and she is eight away from catching Coquese Washington for second place on Notre Dame's all-time list (307 from 1989-93).
  • Diggins (574 assists) has an outside shot at the Fighting Irish all-time record for assists held by Gavin, needing 204 helpers to reach the mark (Ivey is second, currently 153 ahead of Diggins). Diggins also is has moved into the top five in this category, currently needing five assists to catch Karen Robinson for fourth place in school history (579 from 1987-91).
  • The Diggins Factor
    Notre Dame has posted a 104-19 (.846) record in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), a mark that can be traced in no small part to the arrival of guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a spot in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA national championship games and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 22-12 record against AP Top 25 teams (10-10 vs. the AP Top 10) and a 74-1 record against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll), including a 63-game winning streak from the start of the 2009-10 season before falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012.

    Upon closer examination, Notre Dame's 19 losses in Diggins' career primarily have been ones that could have gone either way, with 11 decided by single digits (six were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.

    With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted three of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 78.9 ppg. last year, after logging 77.0 ppg. in 2010-11, and 77.2 ppg. in her freshman season of 2009-10. Notre Dame is on pace to mirror those figures this season, currently averaging 83.2 ppg. (which ranks eighth nationally as of Dec. 17).

    In addition, thanks to Diggins' penchant for steals (she has a 2.42 spg. career mark that is fourth-best in school history), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top three single-season steal marks in program history with 502 thefts last year, 495 steals in 2010-11, and 450 thefts in 2009-10. And again, Notre Dame is in position to challenge those totals this season, currently averaging 13.4 spg. (which would put the Fighting Irish close to 400 steals by the end of the regular season).

    The past two years also have seen Notre Dame post two of the four best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing a school-record 52.9 ppg., last season (well ahead of the previous mark of 55.1 ppg., in 1981-82) and giving up just 56.2 ppg., in 2010-11. The Fighting Irish aren't far off those marks so far this year, presently allowing 57.7 points per game.

    Tournament Tested
    Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 17 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 34 of their last 38 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three in a row to claim this year's World Vision Classic, and similar runs to the title in four other tournaments since 2009-10 -- 2009 Paradise Jam (Island Division), 2010 WBCA Classic, 2010 State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic and 2011 Junkanoo Jam (Freeport Division).

    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.

    Celebrity Sightings
    Southern California is known for its frequent celebrity sightings. So it came as no surprise on Nov. 23 when a luminary was spotted in the post-Thanksgiving crowd at Pauley Pavilion watching Notre Dame defeated No. 19/22 UCLA.

    Renowned rapper, actor, author, poet, model and activist (and Chicago native) Common was on hand to witness the 76-64 Fighting Irish victory, and then stopped by the Notre Dame locker room after the game to greet and take photos with the Fighting Irish players and coaches.

    Notre Dame also had a celebrity take in one of its home games, as Grammy Award-winning rapper Lil Wayne had a courtside seat on Dec. 5 to watch the Fighting Irish play host to Baylor at Purcell Pavilion.

    Anchors Aweigh
    Notre Dame made a bit of women's basketball history on Nov. 9, joining with Ohio State to play the first women's game ever on the deck of an aircraft carrier, as the teams squared off outdoors in the second annual Carrier Classic aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (on the shores of Charleston Harbor).

    The game was played to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project, which aids returning veterans who have been injured while in the service of our country, and the Fighting Irish were exceptionally proud and honored to have former Notre Dame guard, U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (`00) join the team on the bench for their historic game against Ohio State. Green, who lost her left (shooting) hand in May 2004 during a rocket-propelled grenade attack while on patrol on the roof of a police station in Baghdad, Iraq, delivered an inspiring pre-game speech to the current Fighting Irish squad before they came out to face Ohio State.

    Notre Dame won this year's Carrier Classic game, 57-51, behind the second career double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) from junior forward Natalie Achonwa and 16 points from junior guard Kayla McBride. After the game, head coach Muffet McGraw said the victory was dedicated to Green.

    Polling Station
    Notre Dame is ranked No. 5 in this week's Associated Press poll, its 34th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting, dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season, and marking 104 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.

    The Fighting Irish reached a milestone on Nov. 26 with their No. 5 ranking, which was their 100th consecutive AP poll appearance. It not only extended the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), but it made the Fighting Irish are one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of 100 consecutive AP poll appearances.

    What's more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (65 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (54) of those appearances in the AP Top 10 (and never lower than 18th).

    Notre Dame started the year at No. 7 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 13th time in the past 14 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only seven schools in the nation have done -- Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 14 during that span, while Georgia, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 13 preseason AP poll berths.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 243 weeks during the program's 36-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks ninth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.

    In addition, the Fighting Irish held steady at No. 5 for the sixth consecutive week in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches' poll, after starting the season at No. 6 for the first two weeks.

    Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches' poll for 104 of the past 105 weeks (and 68 in a row), 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 237 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw's tenure).

    This marks the fifth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 11 of the past 15 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 243 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 and 2012).

    Half And Half
    During the past 12 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 256-19 (.931) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 184 of their last 197 such contests (.934).

    What's more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 93-2 (.979) when leading at the half, with the only losses 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), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).

    The Best Offense Is A Good Defense...
    During the past 18 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 263-15 (.946) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including five outings this season.

    ...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 18 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 174-6 (.967) 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 four years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 51-2 (.962) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level six times this season.

    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 224 of their last 253 games (.885) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 25 and 20 games in that span (the latter from 2011-12, ending on Feb. 12, 2012, vs. West Virginia).

    Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 51-5 (.911) -- including wins in 27 of their last 29 home games -- and three of the five Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).

    Notre Dame also has a 120-20 (.857) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 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 106 of their last 115 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the nine 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), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT) and Baylor in 2012 (73-61). 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 374-90 (.806) 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, a mark that lasted only two seasons before the Fighting Irish posted a 17-1 record at Purcell Pavilion last year.

    Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
    The past three 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 (8,571 fans per game in 2011-12) and most sellouts in a single season (eight in 2011-12). And, as the old saying goes -- "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    For the fourth consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program's season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish produce two advanced sellouts (Dec. 5 vs. Baylor; March 4 vs. Connecticut).

    Notre Dame has gotten its home slate off to a fine start at the box office with two sellouts in four home games, and the Nov. 18 game against Massachusetts marking the first home-opening sellout in school history. All told, the Fighting Irish have welcomed 27 sellout crowds in the program's 36-year tenure, including 21 in the past four years alone (2009-10 to present).

    The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,748 fans through their first four home games of 2012-13.

    Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
    Now in its sixth season, Notre Dame's wildly-successful "Big Mac" promotion will once again look to send fans home with full bellies, offering 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 six-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 38 times, most recently on Dec. 8 against Utah State.

    Junior forward Ariel Braker, senior guard Kaila Turner and sophomore forward Markisha Wright are the leaders among current Fighting Irish players, with all three players having registered three "Big Mac baskets" during their respective careers.

    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"), 20 different players have converted the "burger ball", including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

    What's more, of the 38 Big Mac games, 17 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and eight on three-pointers.

    Coming Soon: Irish in the ACC
    On Sept. 12, 2012, the University of Notre Dame announced that it had accepted an offer of admission into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for all sports except football (the league does not offer championships in ice hockey or fencing).

    The change in conference affiliation (for which a timetable has not yet been established) will be the first for Notre Dame since 1995, when the Fighting Irish moved from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) to the BIG EAST Conference.

    In its 18 seasons in the BIG EAST, the Notre Dame women's basketball program has been the one of the conference's best, winning two BIG EAST regular-season titles (2001 and 2012) and compiling a 216-64 (.771) record in league play that remains the second-best regular-season winning percentage in BIG EAST women's basketball history.

    Next Game: Saint Francis (Pa.)
    Notre Dame wraps up the 2012 calendar year with a quick turnaround, as it plays host to Saint Francis (Pa.) at 1 p.m. (ET) Monday at Purcell Pavilion.

    Led by first-year head coach Joe Haigh (a 1995 Notre Dame graduate and husband of former Fighting Irish sharpshooting guard Sherri Orlosky), Saint Francis (5-5) is in the midst of a 10-day break for the Christmas holiday, having last played on Dec. 21, when it posted a 98-81 win at Wright State.

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