Jan. 2, 2009
2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 13
#12/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (11-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 3, 2009
TIME: Noon ET
AT: South Orange, N.J. – Walsh Gymnasium (2,600)
SERIES: ND leads 16-4
1ST MTG: SHU 62-55 (12/11/93)
LAST MTG: ND 70-55 (3/1/08)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (973) 275-4255
- Notre Dame has won nine of its 13 BIG EAST openers since joining the conference in 1995-96.
- The past four games between the Irish and Seton Hall at Walsh Gymnasium have been decided by six points or less.
No. 12/6 Irish Open BIG EAST Play Saturday At Seton Hall
Most media outlets have labeled the BIG EAST as the nation’s toughest conference and No. 12/6 Notre Dame will step into that gauntlet on Saturday when it opens league play with a noon (ET) tipoff at Seton Hall. It also will be the third stop on a four-game road swing for the Irish, their longest stretch away from home in six years.
Notre Dame (11-1) is coming off one of the more remarkable games in program history, rallying from 18 points down in the second half to post a 59-57 win at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. The Irish used a 22-0 run to take the lead and then successfully defended VU’s last-second shot to earn their fourth win over a ranked opponent this season.
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Lindsay Schrader each scored a team-high 12 points, with 10 of Bruszewski’s 12 markers coming in the second half. Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner added 11 points for the Irish.
- Notre Dame is ranked 12th in the latest Associated Press poll and sixth in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
- Seton Hall 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 303 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 7,268 fans for its first five home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 115 of their last 117 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 Seton Hall
Seton Hall (11-1) is off to its best start in 14 years and can equal the top debut in school history with a win over Notre Dame on Saturday. The Pirates carry a seven-game winning streak into this weekend’s matchup and are 8-0 this season at Walsh Gymnasium.
SHU last played on Wednesday afternoon, dominating Norfolk State, 95-43 at home. Senior forward Noteisha Womack had a season-high 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead five Pirates who scored in double figures.
Womack has eight double-doubles this season and leads the country in rebounding (13.9 rpg.), while also ranking second on the team in scoring (15.7 ppg.) and tops in field goal percentage (.535). Sophomore guard Ebonie Williams is scoring a team-best 16.5 ppg., due in part to a team-high .407 three-point mark.
Head coach Phyllis Mangina is in her 24th season at her alma mater with a 337-334 (.502) career record (4-16 against Notre Dame).
The Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Seton Hall, 16-4, including four of the past five. After the Pirates won the first two series games, Notre Dame reeled off 12 consecutive victories before SHU returned to the win column on FEb. 8, 2004, with a 51-45 win in South Orange.
The Last Time ND And Seton Hall Met
Charel Allen scored 22 points and No. 14 Notre Dame made all eight of its free throws in the final 1:25 to beat Seton Hall 70-55 on March 1, 2008 at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame led by as many as 14 in the first half, but the Pirates closed to 36-27 at halftime when Ebonie Williams hit a 15-foot jumper with a second left. Then Nicole Emery hit a pair of 3-pointers for the Pirates to start the second half and cut the lead to 36-33.
The Irish extended the lead back to seven later when Melissa Lechlitner hit a 3, but Emery answered with another 3 to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 46-42.
The Irish regained control with a 12-2 run. Lechlitner started it with a drive inside, followed by a 16-foot jumper, and capped it with a long pass to Tulyah Gaines for a fastbreak layup to give Notre Dame a 58-44 lead.
The Pirates closed to 62-54 on a three-point play by Emery and another free throw by her with 1:26 left. But the Irish went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line while Seton Hall went 1-of-4 and failed to make another basket.
Lechlitner finished with 11 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Lindsay Schrader added 10 points for the Irish.
Emery led the Pirates with a career-high 23 points, 11 more than her previous high of 12 points against Georgetown last season. Williams finished with 20 points.
Other Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series Tidbits
- Five of the past eight series matchups have been decided by six points or less, including Notre Dame’s last visit to Walsh Gymnasium (a 64-61 victory on Jan. 2, 2007).
- The past four series games in South Orange each have been decided by six points or less, with Notre Dame winning three out of four.
- The Irish have limited the Pirates to 61 points or less in 16 of the past 17 series games, with the lone exception being SHU’s 74-61 win on Jan. 7, 2006 at the Joyce Center.
- The coaching matchup between Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and Seton Hall’s Phyllis Mangina dates back more than a quarter century to McGraw’s previous tenure at Lehigh (1982-87), when her teams split a pair of games with Mangina’s SHU clubs.
- Irish sophomore guard Brittany Mallory and Seton Hall freshman forward Kandice Green are no strangers to one another, having played regularly during their high school days in Baltimore — Mallory’s McDonogh School and Green’s St. Frances Academy are in the same conference, with the schools playing a minimum of twice annually; McDonogh and St. Frances also met in the 2007 IAAM A Conference title game with St. Frances pulling out a 68-63 win. However, a rematch will not be in the cards on Saturday, as Mallory is out for the season with a torn ACL in her left knee.
Blowing The Lid Off The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 9-4 (.692) in BIG EAST Conference openers since it joined the league for the 1995-96 season. The Irish also have won seven of their last nine BIG EAST lidlifters, including an 82-74 win at Louisville last season.
Saturday’s game will mark the third consecutive time (and eighth overall) that Notre Dame has opened BIG EAST play on the road, having gone 4-3 in its previous seven outings. The Irish have won the past two times they have started the conference season on the road, also pulling out a 64-61 win at Seton Hall in 2006-07.
Calling Our Travel Agent
Notre Dame is in the midst of one of its most challenging schedule stretches in recent memory, playing six out of seven games on the road from Dec. 10-Jan. 6. The last time the Irish faced such an extended regular-season road test was Nov. 17-Dec. 5, 1996, when they played seven consecutive games away from the Joyce Center (four road, three neutral), with the first three games coming in the final three rounds of the Preseason WNIT.
This year’s stretch includes four consecutive road games beginning earlier this week with trips to Charlotte (W, 68-61) and No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (W, 59-57) and continuing through next Tuesday at DePaul. The last time Notre Dame played four consecutive road games in the regular season was Nov. 29-Dec. 11, 2002, when the Irish went 3-1 at USC (69-57 win), Valparaiso (74-68 win), Arizona State (81-52 win) and DePaul (75-59 loss).
Nostradamus In High Heels
With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Tuesday night, 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.
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 266 turnovers (22.2 per game) in its first 12 outings.
Exactly half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 133 thefts (11.1 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 was ranked eighth in the country as of Dec. 22 (and is now second in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .241 percentage (40-of-166) from long range. What’s more, in the first 12 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 35.7-percent efficiency posted by Charlotte (5-of-14) on Dec. 28.
Notre Dame also has found its shooting eye from the three-point line this season, connecting at a .371 clip from distance (53-of-143) to rank fifth in the BIG EAST and 11th in the country (as of Dec. 22).
Notre Dame was particularly prolific from the arc in a four-game stretch from Nov. 19-29, making 29 treys in that span (seven in wins over Evansville and Boston College, six vs. Georgia Southern and nine vs. Michigan State).
One 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).
In addition, the nine three-pointers and 25 attempts against Michigan State on Nov. 29 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.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen seven different players lead the team in scoring this season, with five 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) and Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish three times, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted her first team-high scoring games of the year in Notre Dame’s last three outings, including a season-high 19 points at Charlotte on Dec. 28.
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 13 of a possible 18 NCAA team statistical categories (as of Dec. 22). Included in that count are eight top 25 rankings, paced by a No. 8 rank in field goal percentage (currently .463) and three-point percentage defense (.241), and No. 10 in scoring offense (75.5 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 stood 22nd in the nation in steals (as of Dec. 22), now with 2.7 per game.
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.
A Start We Can Believe In
Notre Dame’s 11-1 start matches the second-best 12-game debut in school history, with the Irish also winning 11 of their first 12 games to begin the 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons.
The only time a Notre Dame squad started better than this year’s club was 2000-01, when the Irish 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 ranked opponents, marking just 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 Conference’s eight Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule.
Notre Dame is ranked 12th in this week’s Associated Press poll, holding steady from last week’s ranking. It’s the 28th 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 also now has been ranked in the AP poll for 167 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 28th consecutive ranking in Tuesday’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, remaing at a season-high sixth for the second consecutive week. It’s the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 12, 2005, when the Irish also checked in at No. 6. The Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 159 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 167 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).
Novosel Named BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
Freshman guard Natalie Novosel was chosen as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday by the conference office. It’s the first career weekly honor for Novosel, who is the second Irish player selected for the award this season, joining two-time recipient Kellie Watson (Dec. 1 & 8).
This also marks the first time since 2001-02 that Notre Dame has had multiple players receive the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award — that season, Jacqueline Batteast claimed the honor a school-record-tying six times, while Katy Flecky garnered it twice.
Novosel played a pivotal role in Sunday’s 68-61 win at Charlotte, coming off the bench to score 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, while adding five rebounds (four offensive) and a season-high four steals in 30 minutes. She also came up with four points and a crucial defensive rebound in the final 30 seconds to help thwart a late 49er rally and secure the victory.
Game #12 Recap: Vanderbilt
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski scored 10 points in the second half and No. 12/6 Notre Dame completed the largest comeback in program history with a 59-57 victory over No. 20/19 Vanderbilt on Tuesday night at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.
Vanderbilt (11-3) had a chance to tie, but Jessica Mooney’s driving layup bounced off the rim as time expired.
The Fighting Irish trailed by 18 (46-28) with 15:56 to play but outscored the Commodores 22-0 over the next 8:40.
Bruszewski’s layup with 8:36 left put Notre Dame (11-1) in front for the first time since it led 4-2 in the opening minutes.
The Irish led by as many as four five times in the closing minutes, but a turnover with four seconds left led to Mooney’s last-second shot.
Notre Dame had a 27-13 rebounding advantage (10-5 at the offensive end) in the second half and 45-34 overall. Barlow led the team with a season-high nine, senior guard Lindsay Schrader had eight and Bruszewski and freshman forward Erica Solomon each had seven.
The Irish went 4-for-7 from 3-point range over the final 15:44 after missing their first eight from beyond the arc. Freshman forward Kellie Watson made two, and junior guard Melissa Lechlitner made one during the 22-0 run. Bruszewski made the last with 3:29 remaining after Vanderbilt pulled to 52-51.
Notre Dame pressured Vanderbilt into 10-of-29 shooting (34.5 percent) in the second half, and Christina Wirth, who made four three-pointers in the opening half, was held scoreless for the final 20 minutes.
Bruszewski and Schrader led Notre Dame with 12 points each and Lechlitner added 11.
Vanderbilt’s Hannah Tuomi led all scorers with 20 points.
Noting The Vanderbilt Game
- In their previous school-record comeback over Connecticut in the 2001 NCAA Final Four semifinals (March 30, 2001 in St. Louis), the Irish trailed the Huskies, 47-31 with two minutes left in the first half, before outscoring UConn, 59-28 the rest of the way.
- Notre Dame used a 22-0 second-half run to highlight its rally at Vanderbilt, but it wasn’t even its longest string of unanswered points this season — on Nov. 25, Notre Dame reeled off 27 consecutive points in the second half of an 85-36 win over Georgia Southern at the Joyce Center.
- Prior to this season, Notre Dame had never defeated an SEC opponent on its home floor — the Irish now have two victories at SEC schools in the past six weeks, having also downed #24/22 LSU, 62-53 in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16.
- This marks the second time in school history Notre Dame has defeated multiple SEC opponents in the same season, having also done in 2000-01 (d. Georgia, 75-73, in Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge final at Madison, Wis.; d. Vanderbilt, 72-64, in NCAA Midwest Regional final at Denver).
- The Irish move to 3-1 all-time against Vanderbilt, picking up their first-ever win over the Commodores in Nashville.
- Notre Dame trailed at the half for the first time all season, and was held to its second-lowest first-half point total of the season (23 vs. Purdue on Dec. 7).
- Notre Dame has held 11 of 12 opponents to 63 points or fewer, including three of four Top 25 opponents to 57 points or fewer (only exception in both cases was a 78-72 win over #24 Michigan State on Nov. 29).
- The Irish limited Vanderbilt to a .387 field goal percentage after the Commodores came into the game ranked fifth in the nation in that category with a .477 percentage at tipoff.
- Bruszewski tied her career high with seven rebounds (twice before, most recently on Jan. 5, 2008, vs. Tennessee).
- Barlow collected a season-high nine rebounds (previous was eight on Nov. 25 vs. Georgia Southern.
- Solomon posted her second perfect shooting night of the season, having gone 5-for-5 on the way to a season-high 15 points on Nov. 23 at Boston College.
- Notre Dame had at least three double-figure scorers for the 11th time in 12 games this season, going 11-0 in those games.
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. Both players are expected to undergo corrective surgery in the coming weeks before beginning 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 made her collegiate debut the following afternoon against Loyola-Chicago, logging one point, one rebound and one steal in five minutes.
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 155-15 (.912) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 83 of their last 92 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 9-1 when up at the break, losing only in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10.
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 119-4 (.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 five 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 167 of their last 188 games (.888) 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 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 317-82 (.794) 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 against No. 17/20 Purdue was officially 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 has sold out.
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.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF version 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 (most recently the Dec. 28 game at Charlotte, which aired live on ESPNU) 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 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 124 televised games, including 74 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.
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 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: DePaul
Notre Dame wraps up its four-game road trip Tuesday with an 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET) game at BIG EAST Conference rival DePaul. The contest, which is the first of a home-and-home series with the Blue Demons this season, will be televised live to a national cable audience by CBS College Sports.
DePaul (12-2) is receiving votes in both major polls this week and is riding a seven-game winning streak as it heads to No. 10/13 Louisville for its BIG EAST opener Saturday afternoon.
— ND —