Nov. 18, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
If No. 1 Notre Dame is to claim its second Preseason WNIT championship, it will be a well-earned crown as the Irish face a formidable No. 17 Washington team at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame has reached this stage by recording home wins over Central Michigan, Fordham and Green Bay to march through the tournament bracket.
Here are a few things to think about heading into Sunday’s game.
About the Huskies
Washington advanced to last year’s Final Four and will look to compete for the title of a deep Pac-12 Conference this year. The Huskies have advanced to Sunday’s matchup on the heels of home victories over Eastern Washington (100-52), Colorado State (101-68) and No. 25 Missouri (79-66).
Four WNBA teams will have a representative at the game and assuredly much of that focus will be on two seniors who also happen to be among the country’s best guards. Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen will go up against Kelsey Plum, Washington’s first-ever preseason All-American. Plum has scored in double figures in 105 of her 107 career games played and averages 30.0 points an 6.7 assists per game thus far on the young 2016-17 season.
Senior Chantel Osahor has left her mark for the Huskies throughout their Preseason WNIT run, averging 16.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. She posted double-doubles against both Colorado State and Missouri last week. Mike Neighbors is in his fourth year as head coach at Washington, compiling a 71-35 record to date.
“It’s a different kind of challenge than we’ve seen” said Irish Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw. “Plum is just an amazing scorer. She’s hard to guard because she’s a great shooter; she can put in on the floor; she can pass; she can do a lot of different things. She’s really talented. Then Osahor is big but she can shoot threes. She can post up. She’s a really good passer — that might be her biggest strength. So, a difficult matchup for us.”
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with the Huskies, 2-1, although the teams have not met since a 72-58 Irish win at the Joyce Center on Dec. 11, 2004.
Playing For a Title
In their fifth Preseason WNIT appearance, the Irish have reached the championship game for the third time. In 2004, Notre Dame defeated No. 10 Ohio State, 66-62, at the Joyce Center to win the event title. In 2011, the Irish fell, 94-81, on the road at No. 1 Baylor in the final.
Overall, Notre Dame has posted a 15-3 record in its all-time Preseason WNIT history, including a 13-0 record at home.
Home Winning Streak
One advantage the Irish will have in their favor on Sunday afternoon is a typically large crowd at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame has won each of its last 33 contests on its home floor and 67 of its last 68 contest at home wrapped around a 2014 loss to UConn.
One For the Money. Two for the Show. Three to Get Ready…
Thursday night’s game against Green Bay was 50’s Night and, among other things, the Irish sports marketing staff treated its loyal fans to an Elvis impersonator at halftime. The other treat was watching the Irish get their third win this season in as many contests.
Notre Dame has now started each of the last five seasons off by going at least 3-0. The Irish haven’t been 2-1 after three games since 2010 when No. 15 UCLA took an 86-83 double overtime victory away from South Bend in Notre Dame’s third game of the year.
Coach McGraw Says
On Jackie Young’s collegiate debut and health-status: “She only practiced one day (before Green Bay) and she looked it. She looked a little rusty. Plus, (it’s) the first game. That’s a lot for her. She had a lot of people here – first real game for her. She had to be a little bit nervous, but she had seven rebounds. She still did a lot of good things. She’s definitely a huge part of what we need to do. We need her in the game.”
How to Watch/Listen
The Washington game will be the first this season broadcast on regular cable television as CBS Sports Network (formerly CBS College Sports) airs the game live at 3 p.m. Thad Anderson will be on the call along with Connecticut Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller.
Bob Nagle returns for his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. He will be joined on Sunday by Irish legend Ruth Riley. Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.