Jan. 16, 2009
2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 17
#10/4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-2 / 3-1 BIG EAST) vs. St. John’s Red Storm (13-3 / 1-2 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 17, 2009
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: ND leads 16-2
1ST MTG: ND 74-48 (1/4/96)
LAST MTG: STJ 61-51 (3/3/08)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (video) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
- Notre Dame will play five of its next seven games at home, while also enjoying a week-long break after Saturday’s game.
- Since joining the BIG EAST 14 seasons ago, the Irish are 48-13 (.787) in “bounce back” games, their first after a double-digit loss.
No. 10/4 Irish Return Home Saturday To Face St. John’s
Every loss contains a lesson to be learned and No. 10/4 Notre Dame will try to put its latest educational experience into practice Saturday when it plays host to St. John’s in a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matchup at the Joyce Center.
The Irish (14-2, 3-1) had their seven-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night with a 75-65 loss at Marquette. Notre Dame trailed by nine early, but used a powerful 20-2 run to take a nine-point lead late in the first half. However, the Golden Eagles responded with a rally of their own, pulling away in the final five minutes to secure the victory.
Junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner scored a team-high 15 points apiece for Notre Dame, which shot 38.8 percent from the field in the contest. Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added 12 points and freshman guard Natalie Novosel chipped in 10 points to aid the Irish cause.
- Notre Dame is ranked 10th in this week’s Associated Press poll and fourth in this week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
- St. John’s is receiving votes in the current Associated Press poll.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th – 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th – +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the ’07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Notre Dame’s present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team’s top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year’s BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team’s recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference’s all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team’s most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 306 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past eight seasons. This year, the program has averaged 7,150 fans for its first six home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 116 of their last 118 home games, including six Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
- The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past eight seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Allen, Megan Duffy (New York) and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) all were active in the league during the ’08 season, with all three teams making the playoffs (San Antonio made the WNBA Finals, while New York was the Eastern Conference runner-up). Three of Notre Dame’s eight 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 ’06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. Notre Dame also was one of only four teams with a perfect ’07 GSR to advance to the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 (joining Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate).
A Quick Look At St. John’s
Fresh off a late-season surge in 2007-08 that culminated with a run to the WNIT quarterfinals, St. John’s is enjoying one of the best starts in program history, while positioning for a second NCAA Tournament berth in three years.
After a wildly-successful non-conference slate marred only by a 10-point loss at nationally-ranked Baylor, the Red Storm (13-3, 1-2) have encountered their first bump in the road this season with consecutive losses to South Florida (81-71 in overtime) and Georgetown (64-48), the latter at home on Tuesday night.
Senior guard Monique McLean posted team highs of 15 points and seven rebounds for St. John’s, which came into the game as the conference’s top three-point shooting team, but left with a .263 ratio for the night (.276 overall).
McLean has been one of the sparks for the Red Storm this season, ranking fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring (19.1 ppg.) and first in three-point percentage (.471). Rookie forward Da’Shena Stevens, a two-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week, is averaging 11.0 points and a team-best 7.6 rebounds per game, the latter mark tying for 12th in the conference.
Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is in her seventh season at St. John’s with a 99-94 (.513) record. The 12th-year mentor has an overall mark of 193-166 (.538), including a 2-5 record against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-St. John’s Series
Notre Dame and St. John’s will square off for the 19th time on Saturday, with the Irish maintaining a 16-2 series lead on the Red Storm (8-0 at the Joyce Center).
Notre Dame won its first 14 games with St. John’s from 1996-2005, but the Red Storm have come alive lately, winning in two of the past three seasons (both in Queens).
The Last Time Notre Dame And St. John’s Met
St. John’s guard Kia Wright scored 14 points and feisty, undersized Red Storm stunned No. 9/14 Notre Dame, 61-51 on March 3, 2008, at Carnesecca Arena in New York.
The only other time in 18 meetings that the Red Storm had beaten Notre Dame was on Jan. 4, 2006, when they upset the 12th-ranked Irish 66-63 at their 67-year-old gym. That win touched off a run to the Red Storm’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years.
Ashley Barlow had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish, who had won eight of nine after a rough midseason stretch. Leading scorer Charel Allen was held to 11 points on 3-of-18 shooting, getting double- and triple-teamed every time she touched the ball.
Giving up several inches at most positions, St. John’s simply outscrapped and outhustled the Irish (23-7, 11-5). Kelly McManmon had 10 points in a balanced St. John’s offense on a night when all nine players who saw time scored and grabbed a rebound.
After trailing by as many as 14 points with six minutes left, Notre Dame cut its deficit to 54-48 on a pair of Allen free throws with 1:28 left, but the Irish missed their next six field goal attempts and St. John’s was just good enough from the foul line (7-of-12) in the closing minutes to put it away.
The Red Storm were 11-of-22 from the field in the second half and made more foul shots (17-of-28) than Notre Dame attempted (13-of-16) in maintaining a double-figure lead almost the entire final 20 minutes.
Notre Dame finished 18-of-71 from the field (25.4 percent), including 2-of-13 on three-point attempts and committed 17 turnovers against just seven assists, in a sloppy performance reminiscent of a loss at West Virginia earlier in the season.
The Last Time Notre Dame And St. John’s Met At The Joyce Center
Charel Allen tossed in a (then) career-high 31 points on 14-of-19 shooting, and Melissa D’Amico chipped in a double-double with 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, as Notre Dame roared back from an early five-point deficit to defeat St. John’s, 83-65 in BIG EAST action on Jan. 16, 2007, at the Joyce Center.
Monique McLean had a team-high 19 points for St. John’s, leading four Red Storm players in double figures. Kia Wright and Tiina Sten added 14 points each, while Angel Tate flirted with a double-double before ending up with 11 points and a team-best nine rebounds.
St. John’s knocked down seven of its first nine shots from the floor en route to a pair of five-point leads, the last at 19-14 on a jumper by Wright with 11:38 left in the first half. The Irish came back with five consecutive points, but SJU then tallied eight of the next 12 markers and led 27-23 when Sten drilled a three-pointer from the left wing at the 6:32 mark.
Notre Dame then came alive in a big way, ripping off 19 unanswered points during the next 4:15, with Allen scoring nine of the last 11 points in the run. Her transition layup with 2:17 to go in the half gave the Irish their largest lead to that point at 42-27. St. John’s made a dent in the margin with a 7-2 spurt to end the period, but still trailed by 10 at the break.
The lead remained static for the first four minutes of the second half, as McLean getting her team within 47-37 on the second of two foul shots at the 15:46 mark. Notre Dame then fired up its perimeter shooting, connecting on 4-of-5 three-point tries during a 14-2 run that essentially put the game on ice. Lechlitner started the long-range assault, with Allen sinking one and Barlow adding a pair of treys in the three-minute spree, boosting the Irish lead to a game-high 22 points (61-39) with 12:44 to play. St. John’s battled valiantly, but could not get closer than 14 points the rest of the night.
Other Notre Dame-St. John’s Series Tidbits
- St. John’s had not scored more than 60 points in its first 14 series games against Notre Dame, but has topped that mark in each of the past four matchups, including a series-high 66 points in a 66-63 victory over the Irish on Jan. 4, 2006 (the Red Storm’s first-ever win over Notre Dame).
- Conversely, the Irish have scored fewer than 66 points only twice in 18 series games against St. John’s, both in their last two visits to Queens, including a series-low 51 points last year.
- The first 14 games in the series were decided by 13 points or more, all going in Notre Dame’s favor. However, three of the past four contests have seen spreads of 10 points or fewer, with two of those three tipping in the Red Storm’s direction.
- Notre Dame has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in exactly half (nine) of the 18 series games with St. John’s, including a series-best .571 percentage (36-of-63) on Feb. 12, 2000, at the Joyce Center (a 94-51 Irish win, the largest by either side in the series). Ironically, Notre Dame posted one of its lowest field goal percentages vs. St. John’s last season, connecting on 25.4 percent of its shots in a 61-51 Red Storm win.
- The 66-31 Irish victory over St. John’s in 2002 at the Joyce Center marked the fourth-lowest opponent scoring total in school history, the second-lowest by a Division I opponent, and the lowest ever by a conference opponent in any of Notre Dame’s three league affiliations (North Star, Midwestern Collegiate, BIG EAST).
- Although Notre Dame technically doesn’t have a New York resident on this year’s roster, junior center Erica Williamson spent many of her formative years growing up in Rochester, where she attended Honeoye Falls-Lima High School for three years and led them to a state title as a junior in 2004-05.
Empire (State) Records
Notre Dame is 42-4 (.913) all-time against New York schools, including a 22-0 record at the Joyce Center. In those 22 victories, only two have been by single digits — a 71-66 win over Syracuse on Dec. 8, 1990, and a 72-65 victory over St. John’s on Jan. 26, 2005.
Coincidentally, those two squads also account for all four New York wins over the Irish (two for each school). Notre Dame will play host to Syracuse Feb. 24 at the Joyce Center.
Getting Off On The Right Foot
Notre Dame opened 3-0 in BIG EAST play for the sixth time in its 14-year conference membership (1995-96 to present), but the first time since 2001-02.
In each of their five prior 3-0 BIG EAST starts, the Irish have gone on to finish no lower than second, either overall or in their division (when the conference featured divisional play from 1995-96 through 1997-98).
Notre Dame is 18-6 (.750) in true road games during the past two seasons. In addition, the past five road losses for the Irish have been decided by 10 points or fewer, including both setbacks this season (a 63-59 overtime loss at Michigan on Dec. 10, and a 75-65 defeat at Marquette on Jan. 13).
From Dec. 28-Jan. 6, the Irish embarked on a four-game road swing, their longest regular-season trip since early in the 2002-03 season, sweeping games at Charlotte (68-61), No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (59-57), Seton Hall (66-60) and DePaul (86-62). It’s the first time Notre Dame won four consecutive games, all on the road (opponent’s home floor) since Jan. 7-19, 1991, when the Irish won at Butler (80-64), DePaul (81-66), Loyola-Chicago (66-55) and Marquette (91-73) in succession during Notre Dame’s first full week as a ranked team in program history.
A Start We Can Believe In
Notre Dame’s 14-1 start was the second-best 15-game debut in school history. The only time an Irish squad started better than this year’s club was 2000-01, when Notre Dame opened the season with a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to the program’s first No. 1 ranking and eventually, its first national championship.
Four of Notre Dame’s wins this season have come against AP Top 25 opponents, marking the first time in school history the Irish have registered four non-conference Top 25 victories in the regular season. The four ranked wins also currently represent half of the BIG EAST’s eight Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule (no other league school has more than one Top 25 non-conference victory this season).
What’s more, of the nine teams ranked ahead of Notre Dame in this week’s Associated Press poll, none has more wins over ranked opponents than the Irish (through Thursday night’s action). In fact, only North Carolina even has as many road Top 25 wins as Notre Dame at this point in the season (Stanford has a pair of neutral-site ranked victories on its resume).
Novosel Named BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
Freshman guard Natalie Novosel has been chosen as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday by the conference office. Novosel joined forward Kellie Watson as Notre Dame’s two-time recipients of the award this season. This marks the first time the Irish have ever had two players chosen as BIG EAST Freshman of the Week multiple times in the same season.
Novosel averaged 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds with a .667 field goal percentage (10-of-15) last week, helping the Irish extend their winning streak to a season-high-tying seven games.
The Lexington, Ky., native tied her season (and career) high with 18 points (on 6-of-10 shooting) on Jan. 6 at DePaul, while her seven rebounds were one off her personal best. On Jan. 10 at home against Georgetown, she chalked up 12 points (on 4-of-5 shooting) and four rebounds.
Born To Run
Notre Dame has used some impressive scoring streaks to take command in several games this season. In fact, the Irish have fashioned nine game-changing runs during which they have outscored their opponent by at least 12 points.
Furthermore, Notre Dame has manufactured three streaks of at least 16 consecutive points this season, including a 27-0 blitz in the second half of its win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 25. That marked the second-longest run of unanswered points in school history, topped only by a 31-0 run in the first half of a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 1997, at the Joyce Center.
New Kids On The Block
It may not be exactly the way Irish head coach Muffet McGraw envisioned it prior to the season, but Notre Dame’s freshman class has been getting some valuable on-the-job training this year.
With season-ending knee injuries to sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, the Irish bench now basically consists of the four-player freshman class — forward Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson and guards Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.
Yet, despite their relative lack of experience at the college level, all four players have made solid contributions to Notre Dame’s 14-2 start. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least twice (Novosel-6, Solomon-5, Watson-2), with both Watson and Novosel also twice being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week (Watson – Dec. 1 & 8; Novosel – Dec. 29 & Jan. 12).
What’s more, those three aforementioned players each are averaging at least 16 minutes per night, while the speedy Miller has emerged as Notre Dame’s go-to defensive stopper, averaging one steal per game in her 11 appearances this season.
Notre Dame’s knack for quick player development should come as no surprise — the Irish have developed five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections in the past two seasons alone (including Peters and Mallory last year), the most of any team in the conference.
Piping Hot Turnovers
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again this year, causing 342 turnovers (21.3 per game) through 16 games.
Exactly half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 171 thefts (10.7 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
Long Distance Defense
One of the focal points of Notre Dame’s preseason workouts was improving its three-point defense, after opponents shot .355 from beyond the arc last year. So far, it would appear that emphasis in practice has paid off.
Notre Dame is 18th in the country (and third in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .259 percentage (58-of-224) from long range. What’s more, in the first 16 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 36.4-percent efficiency posted by Seton Hall (4-of-11) on Jan. 3 and Marquette on Jan. 13.
Wearing The Collar
Notre Dame held DePaul’s leading scorer, Deirdre Naughton, scoreless in its victory on Jan. 6, marking the first time in Naughton’s three-year career she had been shut out (she came into the game averaging 18.3 ppg.).
The last time the Irish blanked the opponent’s leading scorer was Dec. 22, 2001, when Notre Dame kept Marquette’s Rachel Klug out of the scorebook in a 60-33 win at the Joyce Center (Klug was averaging 13.7 ppg. at tipoff).
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen eight different players lead the team in scoring this season, with six of the Irish leading scorers registering a career-scoring high — Becca Bruszewski at Boston College (18), Brittany Mallory vs. Georgia Southern (19), Kellie Watson vs. Michigan State (18), Natalie Novosel at Eastern Michigan (18), Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19) and Erica Williamson vs. Georgetown (21). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish five times, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted three team-high scoring games.
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club (along with walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19).
More On The Balance Beam
Notre Dame was ranked among the top 50 in 10 of a possible 18 NCAA team statistical categories (as of Friday). Included in that count are five top 25 rankings, paced by a No. 7 rank in field goal percentage (.467) and a No. 14 rank in scoring offense (75.4 ppg.).
At the same time, only one Irish player is appearing in the top 50 of the 10 NCAA individual statistical rankings — junior guard Ashley Barlow currently stands 41st in the nation in steals (2.7 spg.).
Nostradamus In High Heels
With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Dec. 30, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw calmly walked into the locker room and assured her team that they were about to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As it turned out, she was right on the money.
After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.
The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program’s first national championship.
Last year, the Irish tied a school record with 10 wins by 30-or-more points. It would seem Notre Dame is intent on challenging that mark this season, having won four games this season by at least 35 points — a first in school history.
Just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Irish posted two of the larger winning margins in the program’s record books, rolling to a 48-point victory at Boston College (102-54), followed by a 49-point win at home over Georgia Southern (85-36).
In fact, the only time Notre Dame logged a larger combined margin of victory in consecutive games than its Thanksgiving Eve 97-point spread was Nov. 24-25, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla., when the Irish downed Liberty (113-35) and host Central Florida (81-61) by a combined 98 points.
Notre Dame is ranked 10th in this week’s Associated Press poll, moving up two spots from the previous three weeks’ rank. It is the 30th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who moved into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with their No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 169 weeks during the program’s 32-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 stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 30th consecutive ranking in Tuesday’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, holding steady at a season-high fourth for the second consecutive week. It’s the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 5, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 3. Notre Dame has appeared in the coaches’ poll for 161 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 169 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, 13 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #16 Recap: Marquette
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell has been waiting for a signature win over a top team for her program. She finally got one on Tuesday night when Marquette upset No. 10/4 Notre Dame 75-65 in Milwaukee.
The victory was the first over a Top 10 opponent in school history.
Angel Robinson scored 19 and Krystal Ellis added 18 to help Marquette snap the Fighting Irish’s seven-game winning streak.
The game was tied at 52 with 10:18 remaining. Marquette closed the game on a 23-13 run. Ellis sparked the surge with two 3-pointers and Robinson added seven points for the Golden Eagles (11-5, 2-1 BIG EAST).
Noting The Marquette Game
- The Irish still lead the all-time series with Marquette, 28-6, although the Golden Eagles have won two of the past three games after Notre Dame had won 26 of 27 from 1982-2006.
- Five of MU’s six series wins over Notre Dame have come in Milwaukee.
- The Irish drop to 10-2 all-time in conference play against Marquette, covering three leagues (4-0 in North Star, 4-0 in Midwestern Collegiate and 2-2 in BIG EAST).
- The Golden Eagles scored at least 70 points against Notre Dame for the fifth time in series history, but the third consecutive game.
- Prior to the game, Notre Dame had allowed more than 63 points in a game only once this season (Nov. 29 in a 78-72 win over #24 Michigan State at the Joyce Center) or more than 38 points in a single half (three times, most recently in the second half of an 84-63 win over Georgetown on Jan. 10).
- Marquette’s .458 field goal percentage was the best by a Notre Dame opponent this season, topping the old mark of .444 by Michigan on Dec. 10 (the only other loss on the Notre Dame resume this season, 63-59 in overtime).
- The Irish forced at least 20 opponent turnovers for the ninth time this season.
- Notre Dame also chalked up double-digit steals for the ninth time, registering a season-high 17 thefts on Nov. 19 and 23 vs. Evansville and at Boston College, respectively.
- Senior guard Lindsay Schrader grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds, also the most by any Notre Dame player in a game this year (three others had 10 boards, most recently by junior center Erica Williamson vs. Georgetown on Jan. 10).
- The starting lineup of sophomore forward Bruszewski, Williamson, Barlow, Lechlitner and Schrader had been 11-0 this season (3-0 in the BIG EAST) prior to the loss at Marquette.
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
Sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 season after each player suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Peters’ injury occurred in the first half of Notre Dame’s win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Meanwhile, Mallory went down in the opening minute of overtime on Dec. 10 at Michigan. Mallory underwent successful corrective surgery on Jan. 6, while Peters is expected to do the same in the coming weeks before both players begin their respective rehabilitation programs.
Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA’s hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a “medical redshirt”) that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team’s scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).
Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.
Christiansen Joins Irish Roster
With the injuries to Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, Notre Dame added junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen to its roster on Dec. 19. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has appeared in three games, averaging 1.0 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.3 minutes per contest.
A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players’ section of the PDF version of these game notes.
Half And Half
During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 158-16 (.908) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 86 of their last 96 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 12-2 when it is ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, and 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13.
Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 Irish have an amazing 191-12 (.941) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added seven more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago and Vanderbilt.
…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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 121-4 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in seven games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
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 Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 168 of their last 189 games (.889) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 94-15 (.862) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 76 of their last 82 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) — 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 Joyce Center, posting a 318-82 (.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.
The Dec. 7 home game vs. No. 17/20 Purdue was sold out, representing the sixth women’s basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons. It also was the first time in the 22-game series between the Irish and Boilermakers that an on-campus game sold out.
Additional sellouts could be on the horizon, as approximately 1,000 tickets remain for the Jan. 27 Rutgers game, while admissions for the Feb. 8 WBCA Pink Zone game vs. DePaul also are rapidly dwindling.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF edition of this notes package.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
On Aug. 27, 2008, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women’s basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA now originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 20 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including five games on the ESPN family of networks and three others on CBS College Sports (including this past Tuesday night’s game at Marquette).
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site’s free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 127 televised games, including 77 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the second annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
- Open Practice/Tip-Off Luncheon – On Oct. 19, the Irish open the doors to one of their preseason practice sessions and allowed approximately 600 season ticket holders to watch the team prepare for the upcoming season. A luncheon with the team followed and a total of $3,311 was raised.
- Three-Point Pledge – Fans can pledge an amount to donate for every three-pointer the Irish make this season. Pledge cards are available at the Joyce Center Gate 10 marketing table prior to each home game.
- Beanie Bears/Calendars – The Irish are collecting a $5 donation for every special-edition Notre Dame women’s basketball beanie bear and team calendar sold during the season.
- T-Shirt Sales – Specially-commissioned “Irish Believe” pink t-shirts are on sale in the Hammes Bookstore and Varsity Shop on the Notre Dame campus. Proceeds from the sales of the t-shirt will go to breast cancer awareness and research.
- Brittany and Becca’s Class – Sophomores Brittany Mallory and Becca Bruszewski currently are taking a management class in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business under the guidance of Chuck Lennon, an Irish women’s basketball season ticket holder, as well as Associate Vice President for University Relations and Executive Director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association. This class has been focusing on ways to help promote and enhance the Pink Zone initiative on the Notre Dame campus and rolled out their ideas at the Dec. 7 Purdue game.
- Pink Zone Challenge – The Irish women’s basketball program has challenged some of the other top-drawing teams in the country to a friendly fund-raising competition to see which school can raise the most money for breast cancer awareness and research during the WBCA’s designated Pink Zone games (Feb. 13-22, 2009). A total of 15 schools from among the top 20 in last year’s final NCAA attendance rankings have committed for this inaugural challenge — Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, LSU, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. The school raising the most money during their specific Pink Zone game will earn the first-ever Pink Zone Challenge Trophy, to be commissioned by Notre Dame and awarded during the WBCA National Convention, to be held April 3-7, 2009, at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.
- Game Day (Feb. 8 vs. DePaul) – The Irish have selected their Feb. 8 home game against DePaul as Notre Dame’s Pink Zone game, presented by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. The Irish will take the court in white, pink and navy uniforms, specially-designed by the school’s official athletics apparel provider, adidas. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a free pink Irish t-shirt, compliments of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and pink pom-poms, balloons and posters will fill the crowd. In addition, breast cancer survivors will be recognized on the court during a special halftime ceremony. What’s more, should Notre Dame sell out this game, the Irish will donate an additional $10,000 to the Pink Zone initiative.
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame’s Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities — Women’s Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA’s Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA’s official web site at www.wbca.org.
Notre Dame To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
Notre Dame’s Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year’s NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.
All-session tickets for this year’s NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program’s sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its “Big Mac” promotion for 2008-09, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
It hasn’t take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark three times — in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19) and Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
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 — sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it’s been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the “Big Mac” mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first 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, 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 Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University’s Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project 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.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame’s competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
- New, blue chair-back seating from top to bottom of the arena, including all-new upper-arena sections. All seating will be replaced in the lower bowl (including platform seats), and the wooden bleachers in the upper bowl will be removed and replaced with treads and risers and permanent arena seats. The exchange of the bleacher sections for chair back seats will change the capacity from the current 11,418 to approximately 9,800.
- A stadium club/hospitality area (approximately 16,500 square feet) in the south end of the arena, with a separate, private entry and with premium club seating for nearly 800 fans (that figure is part of the projected 9,800 capacity). Included in this area will be food service and restroom facilities.
- New fixed concession areas, increased numbers of women’s restrooms and increased handicapped seating options.
- The interior seating changes provide an opportunity to consider new options for student seating. Students currently sit in both lower- and upper-arena sections behind the basket on the east end of the arena.
Next Game: Villanova
The Irish will have a week off before returning to the hardwood Jan. 24 with a 2 p.m. (ET) game at Villanova. If past history is any indicator, the matchup should be entertaining, with six of the past nine series games decided by five points or less.
The Wildcats (9-7, 1-2 BIG EAST) will play host to West Virginia Saturday before stepping out of conference next Wednesday with a trip to George Washington prior to taking on Notre Dame next weekend.
— ND —