Dec. 29, 2008
2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 12
#12/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #20/19 Vanderbilt Commodores (11-2 / 0-0 SEC)
DATE: December 30, 2008
TIME: 7:00 p.m. CT
AT: Nashville, Tenn. – Memorial Gymnasium (14,168)
SERIES: ND leads 2-1
1ST MTG: VU 86-64 (1/8/89)
LAST MTG: ND 72-64 (3/26/01)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (615) 323-4653
- Notre Dame faces its fourth ranked opponent of the season, and second on the road.
- The Irish will play Vanderbilt for the first time since the 2001 NCAA Midwest Regional final, when Notre Dame earned a 72-64 victory on the way to its first national championship.
#12/6 Irish Set To Visit #20/19 Vanderbilt Tuesday Night
A mere two days after a hard-fought win at Charlotte, No. 12/6 Notre Dame continues its four-game road trip Tuesday night when it travels to Nashville, Tenn., for a 7 p.m. (CT) contest at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt. It also will be the final non-conference game of the regular season for the Irish, who enter the crucible of the 16-game BIG EAST slate this weekend.
Notre Dame (10-1) shook off the rust from the Christmas holiday to push past a determined Charlotte club, 68-61 on Sunday. The Irish used a 13-2 run midway through the second half to take command, then hit six of seven free throws down the stretch to keep the 49ers at bay.
For the sixth time this year, Notre Dame had at least four players score in double figures, led by senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who tallied a season-high 19 points. Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner added 13 points, while freshman guard Natalie Novosel and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski chipped in 12 points each.
- Notre Dame is ranked 12th in the latest Associated Press poll and was sixth in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
- Vanderbilt is ranked 20th in the latest Associated Press poll and was 19th in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th – 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th – +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the ’07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Notre Dame’s present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team’s top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year’s BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team’s recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference’s all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team’s most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 302 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 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt (11-2) returns to the hardwood Tuesday night after an eight-day layoff for the Christmas holiday. The Commodores won three games at home in four days prior to the break, taking down Tennessee State (98-82), Tennessee-Martin (86-29) and Liberty (67-50) in succession.
Senior guard/forward Christina Wirth leads Vanderbilt in scoring (15.6 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.429). Sophomore forward Hannah Tuomi is second in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and tied for the team lead in rebounding (5.8 rpg.), while also sporting a .600 field goal percentage.
Head coach Melanie Balcomb is in her seventh season at Vanderbilt with a 157-54 (.744) record. She also has a 16-year career record of 320-158 (.669), with Tuesday being her first-ever matchup against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Vanderbilt Series
Tuesday night will mark the fourth meeting between Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, with the Irish having won two of the previous three games in the series. The two sides each have successfully defended their home court (VU 86-64 on Jan. 8, 1989; ND 77-63 on Jan. 4, 1990), with the Irish claiming the rubber match, 72-64, in the 2001 NCAA Midwest Regional final on a neutral floor at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.
The Last Time ND And Vanderbilt Met
When her All-America counterpart headed to the bench with foul trouble, Notre Dame’s Ruth Riley turned ruthless.
Riley scored a season-high 32 points as top-seeded Notre Dame beat third-seeded Vanderbilt, 72-64, on March 26, 2001, in the NCAA Midwest Regional final at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The victory propelled the Irish to their second NCAA Final Four.
Riley, a first-team All-America center, had 22 of her points in the second half as Vanderbilt’s Chantelle Anderson, a second-teamer, sat out much of the period.
Abandoning the sharp passing game she exhibited in a regional semifinal win over Utah two days earlier, Riley was intent on scoring — and forcing Anderson into foul trouble in the process.
Anderson, saddled with four fouls for much of the second half, fouled out with 6:22 left and the Commodores trailing 61-52. Vandy could get no closer than eight points after that.
Alicia Ratay had 17 points, and Kelley Siemon added 16 for Notre Dame (32-2), which set a school record for victories in a season.
Zuzana Klimesova led the Commodores (24-10) with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Anderson had 14 points, and guard Ashley McElhiney added 12.
Following a 40-40 halftime tie, the Fighting Irish outscored Vandy 32-24 in the second half, shooting 48 percent in the half compared to Vandy’s 29 percent. Notre Dame finished just under 56 percent for the game, while the Commodores shot 41.7 percent from the floor.
Other ND-Vanderbilt Series Tidbits
- Throw out Notre Dame’s 0-20 record against Tennessee, and the Irish are 4-1 against other schools from that state (2-1 vs. Vanderbilt, 1-0 vs. Memphis and Middle Tennessee).
- Notre Dame is 17-14 (.548) all-time in its final game before the start of the New Year, most recently closing out 2007 with an 82-39 home win over Saint Francis (Pa.).
- Two of the top high school players to come out of the state of Kentucky last year will square off Tuesday night, as Notre Dame guard Natalie Novosel and Vanderbilt guard Tia Gibbs suit up. Gibbs wound up edging out Novosel for Kentucky Miss Basketball honors after leading her Louisville Butler Traditional HS team to the state championship game, while Novosel’s 29-5 Lexington Catholic HS squad was upset by Henry Clay HS in the regional finals.
- Vanderbilt assistant coach Lisa Cermignano was a member of the 1997 George Washington team that reached the NCAA East Regional final before falling to Notre Dame, 62-52, in Columbia, S.C.
- VU assistant coach Kim Rosamond has faced the Irish before, serving as an aide at Middle Tennessee from 2003-05 and helping the Blue Raiders to the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament before they dropped a 59-46 decision at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame vs. The Southeastern Conference
Notre Dame is 7-30 (.189) all-time against the Southeastern Conference, although it should be noted that 20 of those losses have come to one opponent (Tennessee). The Irish also have earned more than half (four) of their seven wins over SEC schools in their last 11 meetings with that conference.
The most recent Notre Dame victory over an SEC opponent came just last month (Nov. 16, 2008), when the Irish picked up a 62-51 win over No. 24/22 LSU in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.
That victory also was a landmark in that it was Notre Dame’s first-ever win over an SEC school on its home floor. The Irish did win twice in an SEC arena at the 1997 NCAA East Regional (played at South Carolina’s old home, the Frank McGuire Center). That weekend, Notre Dame downed Alabama, 87-71, and George Washington, 62-52, to advance to the program’s first NCAA Final Four.
Besides the aforementioned wins over LSU, Alabama and George Washington, the other Irish win over an SEC opponent outside of South Bend came on March 26, 2001, when Notre Dame defeated Tuesday’s opponent, Vanderbilt, 72-64, in the NCAA Midwest Regional final at Denver’s Pepsi Center.
That 2000-01 campaign also marks the only time Notre Dame has defeated multiple SEC opponents in the same season. In addition to the Vanderbilt win, the Irish also edged Georgia, 75-73, on Nov. 24, 2000, in Madison, Wis., to claim the Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge title.
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.
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 this past Sunday at Charlotte 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 255 turnovers (23.2 per game) in its first 11 outings.
The majority of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 131 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 as of Dec. 22 (and first in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .242 percentage (36-of-149) from long range. What’s more, in the first 11 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 Sunday afternoon.
Notre Dame also has found its shooting eye from the three-point line this season, connecting at a .383 clip from distance (49-of-128) to rank second 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 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 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 posted her first team-high scoring games of the year in Notre Dame’s last two outings against Loyola-Chicago and Charlotte (tallying a season-high 19 points in the latter contest).
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 Dec. 22). Included in that count are eight top 25 rankings, paced by a No. 8 rank in field goal percentage (currently .466) and three-point percentage defense (.242), and No. 10 in scoring offense (77.0 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 stands 22nd in the nation in steals (as of Dec. 22) with 3.0 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 10-1 start matches the second-best 11-game debut in school history, with the Irish also winning 10 of their first 11 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.
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.
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 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 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 27th consecutive ranking in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, moving up one spot to a season-high sixth. It was 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 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 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).
Game #11 Recap: Charlotte
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader scored a season-high 19 points and No. 12/6 Notre Dame pulled away in the second half to beat Charlotte, 68-61, on Sunday afternoon at Halton Arena in Charlotte, N.C.
Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner added 13 points, and freshman guard Natalie Novosel and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski had 12 each for the Fighting Irish (10-1), who led by as many as nine points midway through the second half in winning their third in a row.
Aysha Jones scored 15 points, Danielle Burgin 13 and Erin Floyd 11 for the 49ers (8-4), who committed 24 turnovers in losing their second consecutive game.
Down two points with less than 14 minutes left in the second half, Notre Dame went on a 13-2 run. Bruszewski’s short jumper with 13:28 left tied the score at 39, and Schrader’s layup with 9:36 remaining put the Fighting Irish ahead 50-41.
Charlotte managed to pull within five points five times in the final minutes, but Schrader tipped out an offensive rebound off Bruszewski’s missed free throw with 16 seconds left, and junior guard Ashley Barlow hit a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining to seal the win.
Noting The Charlotte Game
- Notre Dame is off to a 10-1 start or better for the fourth time in school history and the second consecutive season (also 2000-01 when the Irish started 23-0, 2004-05 when they opened 13-1, and last year when they began 12-1).
- The Irish improve to 39-5 (.886) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference (1995-96 to present), including wins in 19 of 20 games this decade and 14 in a row.
- Notre Dame moves to 11-2 (.846) all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina, including a 3-1 record on the road; the Irish were playing their first game in the Tar Heel State since Nov. 22, 1997 (an 80-62 loss at 19th-ranked Duke).
- Notre Dame rises to 65-18 (.783) all-time against the current Atlantic 10 Conference alignment, including a 29-10 (.744) record on the road and a current 12-game overall winning streak against the A-10.
- The Irish lift their record in the first game after Christmas to 21-11 (.656), with a 9-5 (.643) record on the road and 15-7 (.682) mark in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
- Notre Dame now has led at halftime in its last 10 games, going 9-1 in that stretch.
- For the 10th time in 11 games this season, the Irish held their opponent to 63 points or fewer (lone exception was 78-72 win over No. 24 Michigan State on Nov. 29 at the Joyce Center).
- Notre Dame had at least four players score in double figures for the sixth time this season (6-0 record) with four other games in which the Irish had three double-digit scorers (4-0 record); however, no Notre Dame player has scored more than 19 points in a game this season.
- Schrader scored a season-high 19 points and added a season-high-tying three steals, while narrowly missing her third double-double of the season (although she did knock down her first three-pointer on her first attempt of the year).
- Novosel posted her second consecutive double-figure scoring game with 12 points, while adding a season-high four steals.
- Lechlitner notched her fifth double-digit scoring game in the past six outings (and sixth of the season), while Bruszewski collected her third double-figure game in the past four contests (and fifth of the season).
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, doing so in its last 10 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.
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 this past Sunday’s 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 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: Seton Hall
Notre Dame opens BIG EAST Conference play Saturday when it travels to Seton Hall for a noon (ET) game at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J.
The Pirates (10-1) are off to their best start since 1994-95, with one remaining non-conference game (Wednesday afternoon at home vs. Norfolk State) before facing the Irish this weekend.
— ND —