Dec. 1, 2008
2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 6
#11/10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-4 / 0-0 Mid-American)
DATE: December 2, 2008
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Ypsilanti, Mich. – Convocation Center (8,824)
SERIES: ND leads 2-0
1ST MTG: ND 75-58 (12/15/82)
LAST MTG: ND 70-59 (11/30/84)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: emueagles.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (734) 487-2282
- Notre Dame will take on Eastern Michigan for the first time in more than 24 years, with the Eagles being the lone MAC opponent on this year’s Irish schedule.
- Notre Dame has been making some long-distance calls of late, sinking 29 three-pointers in its last four games (7.25 per game).
No. 11/10 Irish Visit Eastern Michigan Tuesday Night
November was good to Notre Dame this year, but now the calendar has turned to December and the Irish will look to build on their solid start when they head to Ypsilanti, Mich., Tuesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) game against Eastern Michigan at the Convocation Center.
Notre Dame (5-0) knocked off its second ranked opponent in five games this season with a hard-fought 78-72 win over No. 24 Michigan State last Saturday at the Joyce Center. The Irish led by as many as 15 points in the second half, but needed some timely free throws down the stretch to keep the pesky Spartans at bay.
Freshman forward Kellie Watson played a major role in Notre Dame’s victory over her homestate team, scoring a season-high 18 points and going 6-of-9 from three-point range. Watson hit her first five treys, all in the first half, and added six rebounds on the way to being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week.
- Notre Dame is ranked 11th in the latest Associated Press poll and was 10th in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll (new poll to be released Tuesday afternoon).
- Eastern Michigan is not ranked.
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 297 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 6,199 fans for its first three home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 113 of their last 115 home games, including five Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Jan. 27, 2008 vs. Connecticut).
- 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 Eastern Michigan
It’s been a case of trial and error for Eastern Michigan early this season, as the Eagles bring back one starter and six letterwinners from last year’s Mid-American Conference West Division title-winning squad.
EMU (2-4) recently returned from a Thanksgiving trip to Cancun, Mexico, where it dropped a pair of games in the Caribbean Challenge to James Madison (80-76) and No. 22/24 TCU (71-55). Despite the losses, the Eagles displayed strong balance on offense, fielding four double-figure scorers and an 11-player rotation in both games.
Sophomore guard Cassie Schrock has set the tone for Eastern Michigan early on, averaging a team-high 16.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Tavelyn James is second on the team in scoring (15.5 ppg.) and tops in steals (2.7 spg.), while redshirt junior guard/forward Mary Lawson (sister of former Tennessee guard and current WNBA All-Star Kara Lawson) adds 10.5 ppg., with a team-high .367 three-point percentage and 18 triples.
AnnMarie Gilbert is in her second season as the head coach at EMU, sporting a 19-16 (.543) record. She is in her 10th year overall (including eight seasons at her alma mater, Division III Oberlin) and has a 77-122 (.387) career record, although Tuesday will mark her first-ever matchup with the Irish.
The Notre Dame-Eastern Michigan Series
Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan will wake up the echoes on a series that began with a home-and-home set during Ronald Reagan’s first term in the White House. The Irish won both of those early 1980s meetings, played in an era before the shot clock and three-point line.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan Met
Two-time North Star Conference Player of the Year Trena Keys scored a game-high 24 points on 12-of-18 shooting, as Notre Dame overcame a one-point halftime deficit to topple Eastern Michigan, 70-59 on Nov. 30, 1984, at Bowen Field House in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Carrie Bates added 14 points, Lavetta Willis grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and Denise Basford distributed a game-best eight assists for the Irish, who shot an even 50 percent (29-for-58) in the victory.
Notre Dame jumped out to an early 17-6 lead, but EMU clawed its way back and eventually nudged in front, 36-35 just before halftime on a mid-range jumper by Bobbi Morse (part of her team-high 15 points).
The Hurons (as the school was then known) pushed their lead out to 46-40 five minutes into the second half before the Irish rallied to take the lead for good with a 14-4 run, fueled by eight points from Keys. EMU got back within four points on a pair of occasions, but Willis converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 3:13 remaining to put the hosts away for good.
Other ND-Eastern Michigan Series Tidbits
- The 24-year hiatus between series games is by far the longest of the season for Notre Dame. However, it’s just one of three series the Irish are dusting off this year following at least a decade of dormancy — Notre Dame faced Evansville on Nov. 19 (first time since Feb. 1994) and will take on Loyola-Chicago on Dec. 20 (Feb. 1995).
- No current member of either team’s roster was alive the last time these schools faced off on Nov. 30, 1984.
- EMU is the third (and final) Irish opponent in a four-game stretch to feature an Eagle as a mascot. Notre Dame visited Boston College on Nov. 23 (W, 102-54) and played host to Georgia Southern two days later (W, 85-36). The Irish will battle a fourth Eagle squad on Jan. 13, when they travel to Milwaukee to meet BIG EAST Conference foe Marquette (the Golden Eagles).
- In a unique twist, the Irish are opening their season with six consecutive opponents whose coaches have never faced the Irish before. This six-pack (in order) is: LSU’s Van Chancellor, Evansville’s Misty Murphy, Boston College’s Sylvia Crawley, Georgia Southern’s Rusty Cram, Michigan State’s Suzy Merchant and Tuesday’s opponent, Eastern Michigan’s AnnMarie Gilbert.
- In an eight-day span, Notre Dame travels to Ypsilanti to take on Eastern Michigan (Dec. 2), returns home to face Purdue (Dec. 7), then comes back to Ann Arbor — less than seven miles west of Ypsilanti — on Dec. 10 to take on Michigan.
- Freshman forward Erica Solomon is a resident of Oak Park, Mich., and a 2008 graduate of Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, Mich., located less than 40 miles northeast of the EMU campus.
- Freshman forward Kellie Watson hails from Ionia, Mich., located less two hours northwest of the EMU campus (halfway between Lansing and Grand Rapids).
- Including Watson and Solomon, Notre Dame has had 16 Michigan natives on its all-time roster, second only to Indiana (18).
- Although Notre Dame technically has never played in EMU’s Convocation Center, there was a recent Fighting Irish flavor on the Eagles’ home court. On Oct. 5, 1979 Notre Dame graduate Bill Laimbeer coached the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to their third league championship, closing out former Irish All-American center Ruth Riley’s San Antonio Silver Stars in a three-game sweep, with the decisive third game (a 76-60 Detroit win) played at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti due to a scheduling conflict with the Shock’s regular home, the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Notre Dame vs. The Mid-American Conference
Notre Dame is 33-14 (.702) all-time against the current Mid-American Conference alignment, with a 13-10 (.565) record away from home (road/neutral sites combined). The Irish also sport an 18-5 (.783) record against MAC schools in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) with a 6-4 (.600) record outside the Joyce Center.
What’s more, Notre Dame has won its last 16 games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss to Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995, in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) Tournament.
After the Irish went 3-0 against the MAC last year (home win over Miami-Ohio, and road wins at Central Michigan and Bowling Green), Eastern Michigan is the lone MAC opponent on Notre Dame’s schedule this season.
North Of The Border
Notre Dame is in the midst of a stretch where three out of four games come against teams from the state of Michigan. The run began last Saturday at home against Michigan State (W, 78-72), followed by Tuesday’s game at Eastern Michigan and a Dec. 10 visit to Michigan.
The Irish are 51-19 (.729) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 30-6 (.833) record away from home. Notre Dame also is 31-7 (.816) against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Notre Dame has won its last eight games against Michigan schools, since an 82-73 overtime loss to Michigan State on Dec. 2, 2004 at the Joyce Center.
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 three consecutive games (Nov. 19-25) by at least 35 points — a first in school history.
Within the past two weeks, 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 this year’s 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.
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
Notre Dame reeled off a 27-0 run in the second half of its Nov. 25 over Georgia Southern at the Joyce Center, marking the second-longest string of consecutive points in school history. On Jan. 18, 1997, the Irish used a 31-0 spurt midway through the first half to seize control and take a 65-49 over Pittsburgh at the Joyce Center.
Piping Hot Turnovers
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again early this year, causing 125 turnovers (25.0 per game) in its first five outings, including 107 in the past four games alone (31 vs. Evansville, 28 at Boston College, 24 vs. Georgia Southern and Michigan State).
The majority of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 64 thefts (12.8 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
The Upper Hand
In its first five games of the season, Notre Dame has trailed for all of 7:34 and not by more than one possession (three points). LSU had a 20-18 lead on the visiting Irish at the 4:46 mark of the first half of the State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 before senior guard Lindsay Schrader answered with a layup on the ensuing possession.
On Nov. 19, Evansville scored the opening points of the game on an old-fashioned three-point play, but sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski erased that deficit 45 seconds later with a three-pointer.
On Nov. 23 at Boston College, the Irish and Eagles traded buckets over the first three-plus minutes before junior guard Ashley Barlow drained a three-pointer at 16:17 to give Notre Dame the lead for good at 10-8.
On Nov. 25, Notre Dame trailed for combined total of one minute against Georgia Southern after the teams alternated baskets for the first two minutes and prior to Barlow’s fastbreak layup at 17:01 that wound up putting the Irish ahead to stay.
Most recently, Notre Dame and Michigan State battled through five ties and five lead changes in the first 16 minutes of play before the Irish seized control late in the first half behind a 5-for-5 three-point shooting from freshman forward Kellie Watson (with the last three triples coming in a span of 1:32).
Notre Dame has found its shooting eye from the three-point line in the first four games of the season, connecting at a .449 clip from distance (31-of-69). The Irish have been particularly prolific in the past four games, making a combined 29 treys (seven each vs. Evansville and at Boston College, six against Georgia Southern, nine vs. Michigan State).
The nine three-pointers and 25 attempts against MSU were the most for Notre Dame in a single game since March 3, 2002, when the Irish went 10-for-26 from beyond the arc in an 84-79 loss to Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.
One also has to go back seven years to find the last time Notre Dame made more than 29 combined three-pointers in a four-game span. From Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 2001, Notre Dame was lights-out from the arc at Colorado State (7), at Arizona (7), home vs. Army (10) and at a neutral site vs. Michigan (8).
Watson Named BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
Freshman forward Kellie Watson has been chosen as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday by the conference office. Watson is the first Irish rookie to earn the award in more than three years, dating back to the selection of current senior guard Lindsay Schrader on Nov. 21, 2005.
Last week, Watson averaged 12.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game with a .529 field goal percentage (9-of-17) and a .636 three-point percentage (7-of-11) after helping Notre Dame post wins over Georgia Southern (85-36) and No. 24 Michigan State (78-72).
After registering a (then) season-high seven points against GSU, Watson exploded against MSU for a season-best 18 points, canning 6-of-9 three-point attempts to tie the Notre Dame Joyce Center record for treys in a single game (last set by Megan Duffy on Dec. 4, 2003, against Wisconsin). Watson connected on her first five three-point attempts of the day, including three in a stretch of 1:32 late in the first half, before adding her record-tying sixth triple early in the second half. She also grabbed a season-best (and team-high) six rebounds in only 20 minutes of action.
Becca’s A Bruiser
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski showed a hint of the promise to come late last season, chalking up a (then) career-high 16 points in two of her three NCAA Tournament games (first round vs. SMU, regional semifinal vs. Tennessee).
That improvement has carried over into this season, as the Valparaiso, Ind., native has earned her way into the Irish starting lineup and has not disappointed. On Nov. 19 against Evansville, she poured in a career-best 18 points, knocking down 7-of-9 shots from the field, including both of her three-point attempts. The latter statistic was particularly noteworthy, considering she was just 1-of-2 from beyond the arc during her entire freshman season.
Not to be outdone, Bruszewski matched her career high four days later on Nov. 23 at Boston College, connecting for a game-high 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
In her last eight games (dating back to the start of last year’s NCAA Tournament), Bruszewski is averaging 10.6 points per game with a .586 field goal percentage (34-of-58), including a .700 clip from the floor (21-of-30) in the past four games.
The Final Countdown
Less than 250 tickets remain for the Dec. 7 game with in-state rival Purdue at the Joyce Center (2 p.m. ET tipoff). Should that allotment be exhausted, it would represent the sixth women’s basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons.
Last year, Notre Dame sold out its games against Tennessee and Connecticut, and nearly did the same for the Michigan contest, drawing 10,825 fans for that game.
Notre Dame is ranked a season-high 11th in this week’s Associated Press poll, up three spots from last week’s ranking. It’s the 24th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, which opened last season at No. 24 and rose as high as ninth on March 3, marking the eight time in the past 12 seasons (1996-97 through 2007-08) that the Irish have reached the AP Top 10.
Notre Dame also has been ranked in the AP poll for 163 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 23rd consecutive ranking in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, moving up to 10th (rising four spots from last week’s balloting). It was the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since Dec. 6, 2005, when also checked in at No. 10. The Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 154 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
The newest edition of the coaches’ poll is expected to be released late Tuesday afternoon, just prior to Notre Dame’s game at Eastern Michigan.
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 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 163 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 23 people on this list, 11 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #5 Recap: Michigan State
Notre Dame couldn’t do much against Michigan State’s Aisha Jefferson defensively, so freshman forward Kellie Watson got the No. 14/10 Fighting Irish going offensively.
Watson made five consecutive 3-pointers in the first half and finished with six from long range, igniting a sluggish Notre Dame offense in a 78-72 victory last Saturday at the Joyce Center. The freshman attempted six 3-pointers in the Irish’s first four games of the season.
Watson, who had 18 points, helped the Irish overcome a 34-point effort by Jefferson, who scored 22 in the first half. That surpassed her previous career best of 20 points set three years ago against Iowa. She also had 11 boards as the 24th-ranked Spartans outrebounded the Irish 48-32.
The Irish (5-0) are off to their best start since opening the 2005-06 season with six straight wins. The Spartans (6-1) fell a win shy of matching their best start in school history.
The last two of Watson’s consecutive three-pointers were part of a 13-6 run that gave the Irish a 39-34 halftime lead. The Irish then opened the second half with a 7-0 run, highlighted by a three-point play by junior guard/co-captain Ashley Barlow, who finished with 14 points and six assists. They went ahead 46-34 on a 15-foot jumper by senior guard/co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half.
The Irish stretched the lead to 55-40 when Barlow hit three of four free throws after MSU head coach Suzy Merchant and forward Kalisha Keane were called for technical fouls seven seconds apart with 13 minutes left. The Spartans played better after the technicals and closed to 75-72 on a layup by Keane with 27 seconds left but couldn’t get any closer.
The Irish held Michigan State’s 6-foot-9 center Allyssa DeHaan to 2-of-10 shooting. The only other player in double figures for the Spartans was Keane with 10.
Noting The Michigan State Game
- Notre Dame picks up its second win over a ranked opponent in five games this season.
- The Irish earns their first win over Michigan State since Dec. 11, 1999, when the Irish downed the Spartans, 84-54 at the Joyce Center.
- Notre Dame collects its 10th win in its last 14 games against Big Ten Conference opponents, moving to 37-46 (.446) all-time against that conference and 16-11 (.593) at home.
- Watson tied the Notre Dame Joyce Center record for three-pointers in a game, which had been set six times before by four different players (most recently on Dec. 4, 2003, by Megan Duffy on 10 attempts in an 82-64 win over Wisconsin); Duffy’s six triples vs. UW also marked the last time a Notre Dame player hit that many shots from distance in any game.
- Watson is the fourth different player to lead the Irish in scoring in as many games; only Barlow has finished with team-high scoring honors more than once this year.
- Barlow tied her career high with six assists, a mark she last set less than a week ago on Nov. 23 at Boston College.
- Barlow also extended her streak of double-digit scoring games to 10 in a row, dating back to last year.
- Freshman forward Erica Solomon scored in double figures for the third consecutive game, averaging 13.0 points with a .765 field goal percentage (13-of-17) in that span.
- Notre Dame has had at least three double-figure scorers in all five games this season, with four or more for the third time.
Peters Out For Season With Knee Injury
Sophomore forward Devereaux Peters will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 women’s basketball season after re-injuring her surgically-repaired left knee in the first half of Notre Dame’s 102-54 win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Peters suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee, an injury that she first suffered last season (Feb. 10 against Pittsburgh), with the latest diagnosis confirmed by team orthopedist Dr. Fred Ferlic after Peters underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam. Peters will undergo surgery to repair the injury at a later date, and her rehabilitation timetable has not yet been established.
At the time of her current injury, Peters had played in only three games this season, well within the NCAA guidelines for medical redshirt status (appearing in less than 30 percent of a team’s regular-season games). The second-year Irish forward is expected to petition for that status, and if granted, Peters would retain three years of athletic eligibility.
In her abbreviated 2008-09 season, Peters averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game with a .688 field goal percentage (11-of-16). She made an impressive return to action on Nov. 16 in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic at No. 24/22 LSU, coming off the bench to tally 12 points (on 6-of-7 shooting), six rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 28 minutes of a 62-53 Irish win. She then added six points in a starting role on Nov. 19 against Evansville, and scored four points in the Nov. 23 game against Boston College when she was injured.
Half And Half
During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 150-14 (.915) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 78 of their last 86 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 4-0 when up at the break, doing so in its last four games. 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 187-12 (.940) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added three more wins to the ledger this season with its victories at LSU and Boston College, as well as its home win over Georgia Southern.
…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 117-4 (.967) 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 its last three outings, 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 165 of their last 186 games (.887) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 93-15 (.861) 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 74 of their last 80 non-BIG EAST contests (.925) 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 315-82 (.793) 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.
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 19 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 four games on the ESPN family of networks (beginning with the Nov. 16 State Farm Tip-Off Classic win at LSU, which aired on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com) and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games that have not been 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 119 televised games, including 69 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 will debut their ideas at the Purdue game on Dec. 7.
- 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.
ND 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 game.
It hasn’t take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame topped the 88-point mark in both its lone exhibition game (96-30 win over Gannon on Nov. 5) and its regular-season opener (96-61 win over Evansville on Nov. 19).
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 win 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: Purdue
The Irish return home Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matchup with in-state rival Purdue at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame has won three of the past four games in the series, including a 61-48 victory at Mackey Arena last season.
The Boilermakers (5-1) are coming off a weekend trip to Hawaii and will stop over at home Thursday to face No. 8/14 Maryland before heading to South Bend on Sunday.
— ND —