Junior center Erica Williamson is coming off one of the best nights of her career after piling up a personal-best 20 points and nine rebounds in Tuesday's 86-62 win at DePaul.

#12/6 Irish Open Four-Game Road Trip At Charlotte

Dec. 26, 2008

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2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 11
#12/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Charlotte 49ers (8-3 / 0-0 Atlantic 10)

DATE: December 28, 2008
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Charlotte, N.C. – Halton Arena (9,105)
SERIES: First meeting
TICKETS: (704) 687-4949
TV: ESPNU (live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Robin Muller, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)


  • Notre Dame opens a four-game road trip, its longest in the regular season since 2002.
  • The Irish are 38-5 (.884) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including wins in 18 of 19 games this decade.

No. 12/6 Irish Open Four-Game Road Trip At Charlotte
Heading into the final days of the non-conference season, No. 12/6 Notre Dame enters one of its more challenging stretches in many years as it tips off a four-game road swing Sunday with a 2 p.m. (ET) visit to Charlotte. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPNU.

The Irish (9-1) matched the second-best 10-game start in school history and headed into the Christmas break on a high note, defeating Loyola-Chicago, 89-45 on Dec. 20 at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame used a pair of 15-0 runs, one in each half, and a frenetic defense that forced a season-high-tying 31 turnovers, to post the victory.

A trio of Irish guards — senior Lindsay Schrader, junior Melissa Lechlitner and freshman Natalie Novosel — shared game-high scoring honors with 13 points apiece, while sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added 10 points for Notre Dame.


  • Notre Dame is ranked 12th in the latest Associated Press poll and sixth in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
  • Charlotte 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 301 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 Charlotte
There’s only one goal on the minds of those associated with the Charlotte women’s basketball program this season — the NCAA Tournament. After six consecutive postseason berths (the past five in the WNIT), the 49ers are aiming to get back to college basketball’s biggest stage, and with eight letterwinners and four starters returning, they seem ready to make that jump.

In its last outing on Dec. 21, Charlotte (8-3) had a five-game winning streak snapped with a narrow 78-76 loss at South Carolina. The 49ers led by as many as eight points in the first half, but ran into a sharpshooting Gamecock squad that pulled away after halftime and held off a late Charlotte rally in the closing minutes. Junior guard Aysha Jones and sophomore guard Shannon McCallum scored 16 points apiece to lead the 49ers.

Jones is Charlotte’s top scorer (15.2 ppg.) and three-point shooter (.457), while McCallum is third in scoring (11.4 ppg.) and second in rebounding (5.8 rpg.) despite not having started a game this season. Junior forward Erin Floyd is second in scoring (12.6 ppg.) and tops in field goal percentage (.573).

Head coach Karen Aston is in her second season at Charlotte with a 26-17 (.605) record. A former longtime assistant coach at Baylor (1994-96, 2006-07), North Texas (1996-98) and Texas (1998-2006), Aston will face Notre Dame for the first time as a head coach this weekend.

The Notre Dame-Charlotte Series
Sunday will mark the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Charlotte in the sport of women’s basketball.

Other Notre Dame-Charlotte Series Tidbits

  • Charlotte is the second of two first-time opponents on Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule this year. On Nov. 25, the Irish defeated Georgia Southern, 85-36, at the Joyce Center in the first-ever meeting between those two programs.
  • Charlotte will be the 178th different opponent in the 32-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball.
  • Notre Dame is 38-5 (.884) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including an 18-1 (.947) mark vs. new teams since the start of the 2000-01 season with a current 13-game overall winning streak. The last first-time opponent to defeat Notre Dame was Colorado State, which earned a 72-66 victory on Nov. 21, 2001, in Fort Collins, Colo. The last time the Irish faced a first-time opponent on its home floor was March 25, 2003, when Notre Dame downed No. 8/7 Kansas State, 59-53, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
  • Although they have never met in women’s basketball, Notre Dame and Charlotte have faced off on the men’s side, with the Irish defeating the 49ers, 82-63, in the first round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament (March 14, 2002, at Greenville, S.C.). The two schools also have met three times before in men’s soccer, with Charlotte winning two of the three matches, most recently on Dec. 1, 1996, taking a 1-0 decision in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 16 in the Queen City.
  • Notre Dame is 10-2 (.833) all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina, including a 2-1 record on the road. The last time the Irish faced a team from the Tar Heel State came on March 20, 2007, when North Carolina fought back a stiff challenge to defeat Notre Dame, 60-51 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh, Pa. Sunday’s game at Charlotte will mark the first time the Irish have played in the state of North Carolina since Nov. 22, 1997, when they dropped an 80-62 decision at 19th-ranked Duke.
  • Notre Dame has played in the city of Charlotte once before, defeating Davidson, 85-37, on Jan. 4, 1981. As a matter of reference, that game took place 16 days before Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the country’s 40th president, and it was more than a year before current Irish head coach Muffet McGraw took her first collegiate head coaching job at Lehigh University.
  • Notre Dame junior center Erica Williamson is a Charlotte resident, having moved to the city with her family from Rochester, N.Y., in the summer of 2005 when her father, Robert, took a job with one of the city’s primary employers, Bank of America. Williamson went on to graduate from South Mecklenburg High School in 2006, and in her one year at the school, she helped the Lady Sabres post a 27-3 record and win the North Carolina Class 4A title (the school’s first crown in 20 years); Williamson scored 13 points in the championship game and was named the Western Regional Most Valuable Player. Williamson and her family were scheduled to host the Irish women’s basketball team for dinner on Saturday evening.

Notre Dame vs. The Atlantic 10 Conference
Notre Dame is 64-18 (.780) all-time against the current members of the Atlantic 10 Conference, including a 28-10 (.737) record on the road.

The Irish also have an active 11-game winning streak against that league’s present alignment, including victories in four of the past five seasons (Dayton in 2003-04 and 2004-05; Richmond in 2006-07 and 2007-08). The last time Notre Dame lost to a current A-10 school was on Feb. 18, 1995, when La Salle defeated Notre Dame, 84-68, in Philadelphia, when both schools were then part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).

For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame is visiting an A-10 campus with Sunday’s game at Charlotte. Almost exactly a year ago on Jan. 2, 2008, the Irish earned an 84-59 win at Richmond, following an 87-66 victory over the Spiders one season earlier (Nov. 28, 2006) at the Joyce Center.

Another Present Under The Tree
Notre Dame is 20-11 (.645) all-time in in its first game after the Christmas holiday, with an 8-5 (.615) record on the road and a 14-7 (.667) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).

The Irish also have won their last five games coming off the Christmas break, including an 82-39 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) last season (Dec. 29, 2007 at the Joyce Center). Sunday will mark the first time Notre Dame has played on the road right after Christmas since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish posted a 73-49 win at Northern Illinois (Dec. 30, 2004).

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 Sunday and continuing through Jan. 6. 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).

Notre Dame’s current two-game trip to Charlotte and Vanderbilt also represents a rare two-city swing for the Irish (unusual since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference, which primarily focuses on a Wednesday-Saturday league scheduling format). In fact, the Irish haven’t made a two-city road trip since Nov. 21 & 24, 2001, when they dropped games at Colorado State (72-66) and Arizona (72-70) in the opening week of the season following Notre Dame’s 2001 national title.

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 231 turnovers (23.1 per game) in its first 10 outings.

The majority of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 119 thefts (11.9 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 ranked eighth in the country (and first in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .230 percentage (31-of-135) from long range. What’s more, in the first 10 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 33.3-percent efficiency posted by Evansville (6-of-18) and Boston College (2-of-6).

In fact, in the seven games since that BC contest on Nov. 23, Notre Dame has posted a .215 three-point percentage defense (23-of-107), with nearly half of those 23 treys coming in two games (five each by Eastern Michigan and Valparaiso).

Deep Thoughts
Notre Dame also has found its shooting eye from the three-point line this season, connecting at a .397 clip from distance (46-of-116) to rank second in the BIG EAST and 11th in the country.

Notre Dame was particularly prolific from the arc in a four-game stretch from Nov. 19-29, making a combined 29 treys in that span (seven each in wins over Evansville and Boston College, six against 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 scorer this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish three times, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who posted her first team-high scoring game in Notre Dame’s last outing on Dec. 20 vs. Loyola-Chicago.

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 is ranked among the top 50 in 13 of a possible 18 NCAA team statistical categories (as of Monday). Included in that count are eight top 25 rankings, paced by a No. 8 rank in field goal percentage (.467) and three-point percentage defense (.230), and No. 10 in scoring offense (77.9 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 presently stands 22nd in the nation in steals with 3.13 per game.

Thirty Deeds
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.

Late in November, 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 past week’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.

Opening Ten-dencies
Notre Dame’s 9-1 start matches the second-best 10-game debut in school history, with the Irish also winning nine of their first 10 games to begin the 1998-99, 2004-05, 2005-06 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.

Three of Notre Dame’s wins this season have come against ranked opponents, marking just the second time in school history the Irish notched three Top 25 victories in their opening seven contests. In 1998-99, Notre Dame knocked off No. 6 UCLA (99-82), No. 6/4 Duke (84-57) and No. 25/23 Illinois (101-93) in its first four games on the way to a 26-5 record.

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked 12th in this week’s Associated Press poll, up one spot from last week’s No. 13 ranking. It’s the 27th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who rose into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with its No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.

Notre Dame also has been ranked in the AP poll for 166 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 27th consecutive ranking in Tuesday’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, moving up one spot to a season-high sixth. 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 now have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 158 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 166 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 #10 Recap: Loyola-Chicago
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw couldn’t have asked for a much better performance by the No. 13/7 Fighting Irish.

Coming off a week of exams with just one mandatory practice, the Fighting Irish showed no signs of rust, taking control early en route to an 89-45 victory over Loyola of Chicago on Dec. 20 at the Joyce Center. Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner, senior guard Lindsay Schrader and freshman guard Natalie Novosel scored 13 points each and the Irish forced 31 turnovers.

Notre Dame (9-1) was in control from the start, using an early 29-7 run to pull away. The Irish forced 12 turnovers during the stretch, including seven turnovers on eight Loyola possessions. On the other possession, Maggie McCloskey threw up a desperation shot just before the shot clock buzzer.

The Irish led 47-21 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 15-0 run. Notre Dame led 86-36 when Novosel drove for a layup with 4:25 left.

Keisha Collins led Loyola (5-4) with 11 points. McCloskey, Loyola’s leading scorer at 15.6 points a game, was 1-of-6 shooting, finishing with three points.

Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added 10 points and all 10 Irish players scored, including junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen, who was officially added to the team the night before. McGraw initially didn’t think the Irish needed a walk-on with 11 players on the roster. But with sophomores Brittany Mallory and Devereaux Peters out for the season with knee injuries, McGraw called Christiansen, who had practiced against the Irish as a freshman and sophomore, and asked her to join the team.

The home crowd of 6,323 began chanting for Christiansen with seven minutes to go, and McGraw put her in with 4:37 left. Christiansen missed her first two free throws, but later made a free throw and the crowd erupted.

Noting The Loyola-Chicago Game

  • Notre Dame is off to a 9-1 start for the fourth time in the past five seasons and the sixth time in school history (others were 1998-99, 2000-01, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2007-08).
  • The Irish also now have won 10 consecutive home games and are 76-6 (.927) in their last 82 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season.
  • Notre Dame’s 26-point halftime lead was its largest this season.
  • The Irish win their 13th consecutive game heading into the Christmas break and are 23-9 (.719) all-time in their final pre-Yuletide contest.
  • Notre Dame also has won 21 consecutive games coming off the final exam break (no games held between exams and Christmas in 1994 and 1997), with the last loss coming on Dec. 21, 1985 (73-67 vs. UCLA at home).
  • Notre Dame improves to 21-3 all-time against Loyola and picks up its 14th consecutive win over the Ramblers, as well as its 20th in the past 21 series meetings; the 21 series victories tie for the sixth-most against one opponent in Notre Dame women’s basketball history.
  • The 44-point margin of victory and Loyola’s 45 points were series highs/lows.
  • Notre Dame moves to 103-14 (.880) all-time against the current Horizon League membership and has won 28 consecutive games against that league’s present alignment (13 in a row at the Joyce Center).
  • Lechlitner’s perfect 6-for-6 shooting day was the best by a Notre Dame player since Schrader went 6-for-6 at Wisconsin on Dec. 4, 2005; it’s also the best by an Irish player at the Joyce Center since Dec. 11, 2004 against Washington, when Crystal Erwin went 9-for-9 en route to a career-high 24 points.
  • Junior center Erica Williamson pulled down a season-high eight rebounds, while freshman guard Fraderica Miller had season bests of seven points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 17 minutes.
  • Junior guard Ashley Barlow had her 12-game double-figure scoring streak snapped with eight points vs. Loyola in a season-low 23 minutes; it was her first single-digit scoring game since March 1, 2008, against Seton Hall at the Joyce Center (six points).

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, with the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native making 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 154-15 (.911) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 82 of their last 91 such contests.

This season, Notre Dame is 8-1 when up at the break, doing so in its last nine games (losing only in OT 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 190-12 (.941) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

Notre Dame has added six more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso and Loyola-Chicago.

…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.

Crowded House
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 (including Sunday’s game at Charlotte, which will air 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 123 televised games, including 73 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 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: Vanderbilt
Following Sunday’s game at Charlotte, Notre Dame will hop a flight to Nashville, Tenn., for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. (CT) game at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt. It will be the first matchup between the Irish and Commodores since the 2001 NCAA Midwest Regional final in Denver (won by Notre Dame, 72-64) and the first Irish visit to Music City USA since Jan. 8, 1989, when VU defeated Notre Dame, 86-64 at historic Memorial Gymnasium.

Vanderbilt (11-2) will be taking the hardwood for the first time after the Christmas holiday, a break the Commodores entered with wins over Tennessee State (98-82), Tennessee-Martin (86-29) and Liberty (67-50) in a four-day span.

— ND —