Junior guard Natalie Novosel scored 15 points in Saturday's 82-50 win at Pittsburgh.

#12 Irish Tackle Another Tough Challenge Wednesday Against Louisville

Jan. 11, 2011

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2010-11 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 18

#12/12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-4 / 2-1 BIG EAST) vs. Louisville Cardinals (12-5 / 3-0 BIG EAST)

DATE: January 12, 2011
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 5-4
1ST MTG: LOU 80-75 (3/22/91)
LAST MTG: ND 89-52 (3/6/10)
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  • The Notre Dame-Louisville series features a unique twist in that the home team has won just twice in seven on-campus games to date.
  • The first seven games in the series were decided by 15 points or fewer (four by single digits) before Notre Dame won both matchups last year by wider margins.

No. 12 Irish Face Another Tough Challenge Wednesday Against Louisville
This season already has been one of discovery and challenge for No. 12 Notre Dame, and the Fighting Irish will be tested yet again when they welcome Louisville to Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST Conference contest.

Not only will the Cardinals present a stern challenge on the court, but the Fighting Irish (13-4, 2-1 BIG EAST) will face the mental demands of putting Saturday’s narrow 79-76 loss to second-ranked Connecticut in the rearview mirror. Notre Dame led the Huskies by as many as seven points in the second half and had UConn on the ropes much of the afternoon before the Huskies pulled out the win with a basket and two free throws in the final 15 seconds.

Senior forward Devereaux Peters posted her third double-double in five games with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while junior guard Natalie Novosel and sophomore guard Skylar Diggins added 16 points apiece.


  • Notre Dame is No. 12 in both the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Louisville is receiving votes in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.

Quick Hitters

  • With its season-high No. 12 ranking in the Jan. 10 Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has appeared in the AP poll for a school-record 68 consecutive weeks, extending the program standard that began with the 2007-08 preseason poll.
  • The Fighting Irish have posted a school-record eight wins this season by at least 35 points, topping the old program standard of four 35-point victories set in 2008-09.
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points in eight games this season, surpassing the school record of seven set in three separate seasons (1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
  • Notre Dame has won nine games by 30 points or more, putting the Fighting Irish one away from the school record of 10 30-point victories established in 2000-01.
  • The Fighting Irish rank among the top 10 in the country in seven statistical categories, according to the Jan. 3 NCAA statistics report. Notre Dame is second in the nation in steals (15.2 spg.) and field goal percentage (.495), fourth in scoring margin (+29.6 ppg.) and assists (19.7 apg.), sixth in three-point defense (.230), eighth in scoring offense (84.1 ppg.) and ninth in turnover margin (+7.94). These rankings are ironic for a Fighting Irish team that has no player ranking higher than 75th in any individual category.
  • Notre Dame became the 32nd NCAA Division I program to record 700 wins, earning the landmark victory (91-47) against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 30 at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle. The Fighting Irish are 702-306 (.696) in 34 seasons of varsity competition.
  • Notre Dame celebrated another program milestone on Dec. 5 with its 1,000th all-time game (a 72-51 win over Purdue at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Part of Notre Dame’s success thus far can be traced to the improvement in two of its veterans, both of whom have exceeded her scoring output from last season by at least 50 percent. Junior guard Natalie Novosel (5.0 to 15.1) and senior forward Devereaux Peters (6.7 to 10.7) also are currently logging career-high scoring averages this year.
  • The Fighting Irish freshman class also has made significant contributions early on this season, led by forward Natalie Achonwa and guard Kayla McBride. Achonwa is averaging 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and ranks sixth in the BIG EAST with a .583 field goal percentage. Meanwhile, McBride (who started four games around Thanksgiving when senior guard Brittany Mallory was slowed with an ankle injury) is averaging 8.7 points per game and is eighth in the BIG EAST with a .550 field goal percentage. Between them, they have scored in double figures 13 times this season — McBride tossed in a career-best 20 points vs. Loyola Marymount on Dec. 30, while Achonwa had a career-high 14 points against Creighton on Dec. 11.

Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking sixth with 356 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 10 seasons. Last year, the program finished fourth in the final NCAA attendance rankings with 8,377 fans per game, both setting new school records in the process. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 151 of their last 153 home games, logging 14 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut).
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past decade. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the ’10 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. 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 fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor’s degree (a 62-for-62 success rate), with all three members of this year’s senior class on target to earn their diplomas.

A Quick Look At Louisville
Refreshed and recharged with six returning veterans, including two starters, Louisville (12-5, 3-0 BIG EAST) is quickly building momentum as it aims to get back to the peak it enjoyed two seasons ago with a run to the NCAA national championship game.

The Cardinals, who have three wins over ranked opponents this season, carry a four-game winning streak into Wednesday’s contest at Notre Dame. Most recently, Louisville downed visiting Pittsburgh, 79-68 on Sunday afternoon at the new KFC Yum! Center, erasing a seven-point deficit with less than six minutes to go by ending the game on a 23-9 run.

Junior forward Monique Reid tossed in a game-high 29 points for the Cardinals, while freshman guard Shoni Schimmel collected 15 points and a game-high seven assists and senior center Keshia Hines chipped in 10 points.

Reid and Schimmel provide a potent 1-2 offensive punch for UofL, with Reid posting team highs of 17.3 ppg. and a .588 field goal percentage, and Schimmel offering 16.4 ppg., a BIG EAST-best 6.0 apg., and a .388 three-point percentage. As a team, Louisville leads the conference with a .374 three-point mark, sparked by freshman guard Antonita Slaughter (.422) and junior guard Becky Burke (.415).

Head coach Jeff Walz is in his fourth season at Louisville, sporting an 86-38 (.694) record. He is 1-3 all-time against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Louisville Series
Wednesday will mark the 10th time Notre Dame and Louisville have met on the hardwood, with the Fighting Irish holding a slim 5-4 edge in the all-time series with the Cardinals. Notre Dame also has won two in a row and four of the past five against Louisville since the Cardinals joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Louisville Met
Erica Williamson led five players in double figures with 16 points and No. 6 Notre Dame downed Louisville 89-52 on March 6, 2010, in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

Skylar Diggins had 13 points, Devereaux Peters added 11, and Lindsay Schrader and Becca Bruszewski each had 10 for the Fighting Irish.

Monique Reid had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead Louisville.

Notre Dame used a 10-0 run to build an early 15-6 lead, and the rout was on. They hit 14 of their first 19 shots, and forced Louisville into 15 first-half turnovers.

Louisville missed its final seven shots of the half, did not score in the last four minutes and trailed 47-21 at halftime.

Notre Dame shot 56 percent from the floor, had 46 points in the paint and held Louisville to under 30-percent shooting in the first half.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Louisville Met at Purcell Pavilion
No. 22 Notre Dame was a second away from forcing 10th-ranked Louisville into a big turnover. Angel McCoughtry made sure it didn’t happen.

After Notre Dame used a 6-0 run to close within two points with less than two minutes left, there was one second left on the shot clock when McCoughtry threw up a hurried three-pointer. She missed, but Melissa Lechlitner was called for the foul. McCoughtry hit all three free throws and the Cardinals hung on for a 71-66 victory on Feb. 11, 2009, at Purcell Pavilion.

McCoughtry, who started the game making just 2-of-11 shots for four points in the first half, finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals. Candyce Bingham added 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Becca Bruszewski led Notre Dame with 18 points to tie her (then) career high, Natalie Novosel had 17 and Ashley Barlow added 16 points and eight rebounds.

Notre Dame, which trailed by 10 at halftime, opened the second half on an 11-4 run, closing to 42-39 on a three-pointer by Barlow. The Cardinals quickly regained control, though, with a 13-0 run. McCoughtry had a pair of steals for easy layups during the run. The Fighting Irish, though, made a game of it.

Other Notre Dame-Louisville Series Tidbits

  • Seven of the nine games in the series have been decided by 15 points or fewer. Since Louisville joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06, four of the six series games have been decided by 10 points or fewer, with the lone exceptions coming in last year’s two meetings, both Notre Dame victories (78-60 at Freedom Hall; 89-52 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship).
  • Only five times in the nine-game series has either team scored at least 70 points, and ironically, both teams did it in the same game twice. The Cardinals won the first-ever matchup, 80-75, in the 1991 National Women’s Invitation Tournament consolation semifinals at Amarillo, Texas, while the Fighting Irish won in 2008 at Freedom Hall, 82-74. In its most recent matchup with Louisville in last year’s conference tournament, Notre Dame scored a series-high 89 points.
  • The home team has won only two of the seven on-campus games in the series to date, with the Cardinals winning at Freedom Hall in 2006 (61-51) and the Fighting Irish taking the 2007 contest at Purcell Pavilion (64-55).
  • Louisville is the third Kentucky school on Notre Dame’s schedule this season. The Fighting Irish defeated Morehead State (91-28) on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, then dropped a hard-fought decision at No. 9/10 Kentucky (81-76) on Nov. 21.
  • Junior guard Natalie Novosel hails from Lexington, Ky., and is the first Kentucky native to suit up for Notre Dame in the 34-year history of the program.
  • Novosel, Louisville redshirt sophomore guard Tia Gibbs (a transfer from Vanderbilt) and Cardinals’ junior forward Monique Reid were arguably three of the best players to come out of the Kentucky high school ranks in 2008, with Gibbs (a graduate of Louisville’s Butler Traditional High School) nosing out runner-up Novosel (who matriculated from Lexington Catholic High School) and third-place Reid (from Louisville’s Fern Creek High School) for Miss Basketball honors.
  • Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw earned her 600th career victory with last year’s 78-60 Fighting Irish win at Louisville.
  • Carole Banda, the Director of Olympic Sports Medicine at Louisville, spent 10 years on the sports medicine staff at Notre Dame from 1991-2000, the last four as the athletic trainer for the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team (including Notre Dame’s 1996-97 NCAA Final Four squad).

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Wednesday’s game a very close second in the nation in steals with 15.2 thefts per game (Oral Roberts is first at 15.19 to Notre Dame’s 15.18). The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 13 of 17 games this season, including four contests with 20-plus steals.

Highlighting this year’s takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a school-record 36-steal performance in the season-opening victory against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up three days later with 26 thefts in a win over Morehead State, and also logged 24 steals at Valparaiso (Dec. 2) and 23 steals against IUPUI (Nov. 26).

Prior to this season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years of the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program (and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991).

Individually, Notre Dame has 10 different players with double-digit steals this season (and another with eight), led by senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.5 steals per game (sixth in the BIG EAST).

Helping Hands
Notre Dame also enters the week ranked fourth in the country in assists (19.7 apg.), having dished out at least 20 assists in 10 games this season.

Further illustrating the Fighting Irish giving spirit, Notre Dame has assisted on 61.9 percent of its baskets this season, with 335 assists on 541 field goals.

At the head of the Fighting Irish assist company is sophomore Skylar Diggins, who has adapted well to her role as Notre Dame’s primary point guard, ranking sixth in the BIG EAST Conference at 4.5 assists per game (while flirting with the top 15 in the league with a 1.32 assist/turnover ratio). She also has handed out at least five assists in 10 games this season, after tallying seven five-assist games during her entire freshman campaign.

Sharp Shooters
Notre Dame also ranks second in the nation with a .495 field goal percentage (just behind conference foe Connecticut at .498), shooting 50 percent or better from the floor in 11 games this season, and at least 45 percent in 14 outings.

Notre Dame also has seen a recent rise in its three-point shooting numbers. During the past eight games, the Fighting Irish are connecting at a 39.0 percent clip (30-of-77) from beyond the arc. Compare that with the first nine contests of the season, when Notre Dame had a .269 (29-of-108) three-point percentage.

National Leaders
Notre Dame ranks among the top 10 in the nation in seven categories according to Monday’s NCAA statistics report — second in steals (15.2 spg.) and field goal percentage (.495), fourth in assists (19.7 apg.) and scoring margin (+29.6 ppg.), sixth in three-point field goal percentage defense (.230), eighth in scoring offense (84.1 ppg.) ninth in turnover margin (+7.94).

In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 20 in the NCAA in 10 of a possible 17 categories (not counting won-loss percentage), adding in assist/turnover ratio (12th, 1.14), rebound margin (14th, +10.1 rpg.) and field goal percentage defense (19th, .343).

Yet for all of these high statistical marks, no Fighting Irish player ranks higher than No. 75 in any single category — sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is exactly 75th in the nation in assists (4.5 apg.).

High Octane Offense
Behind one of the nation’s top 10 scoring offenses (84.1 ppg., eighth as of Monday), Notre Dame is moving into uncharted territory in the school’s record books.

The Fighting Irish have scored 90 points in a game in nearly half (8) of their 17 contests this season, setting a new school record for 90-point games in a season (the previous mark was seven, set on three occasions – 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).

Notre Dame also has set a new school record with eight wins by at least 35 points, doubling the previous program standard of four 35-point victories set in 2008-09.

What’s more, the Fighting Irish have won nine games by at least 30 points, just one shy of the school record of 10 30-point victories, which was set during the program’s 2000-01 national championship season.

Last year, Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game, the fifth-highest single-season scoring average in school history, and best since the Fighting Irish logged a school-record 81.0 ppg. mark in 1998-99.

Everyone Gets Into The Act
The Fighting Irish have spread the wealth so far this season, with five different players leading the team in scoring in at least one game thus far, with four different 20-point scorers along the way. That includes freshman guard Kayla McBride, who came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points in the Dec. 30 win over Loyola Marymount, the highest point total by a Fighting Irish reserve since Dec. 12, 2009, when current senior guard/co-captain Brittany Mallory dropped in a career-high 22 points in a win over Valparaiso at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame also has seen no fewer than seven different players claim team-high rebounding and assist honors this season.

Peters A Repeat Selection On BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll
For the second consecutive week, senior forward Devereaux Peters has been named to the BIG EAST Conference Women’s Basketball Weekly Honor Roll, the league office announced Monday. Peters was one of five players chosen for this week’s honor (also the second of her career), which recognizes outstanding weekly achievements by conference players who are not chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Week.

As she did the week prior, Peters nearly averaged a double-double in two games last week, registering 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game with a .560 field goal percentage (14-of-25) and a double-double as Notre Dame earned a convincing BIG EAST road win at Marquette (73-55) on Jan. 5 and then pushed No. 2 Connecticut to the breaking point on Jan. 8 before the Huskies pulled out a last-second 79-76 decision at Purcell Pavilion.

At Marquette, Peters chalked up game highs of 18 points (on 9-of-12 shooting), eight rebounds and four steals, pacing the Fighting Irish to their first win at MU’s Al McGuire Center since 2004. Three days later against Connecticut, Peters was dominant to the tune of 17 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and a game-best/season-high four blocks, posting her third double-double of the season, all in the past five games. Peters also was a major contributor in Notre Dame’s 38-30 scoring edge in the paint (the most points allowed by UConn in the paint this season), as well as the 23 offensive rebounds collected by the Fighting Irish (also the most by a Huskies’ opponent this year).

Peters currently ranks third on the team in scoring at 10.7 points per game, while leading the squad in rebounding (6.5 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.6 bpg.), and placing second in field goal percentage (.550), free throw percentage (.848) and steals (2.1 spg.). She also ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in blocked shots (seventh), field goal percentage (ninth), steals (13th) and rebounding (tie-19th).

The first multiple BIG EAST weekly honoree for Notre Dame this season, Peters is part of a group of four Fighting Irish players that feature at least one conference weekly award recipient from all four classes. Junior guard Natalie Novosel and sophomore guard Skylar Diggins join Peters as Notre Dame players who have been selected for the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll this season — Novosel was chosen on Nov. 29 and Diggins was cited a week later on Dec. 6. In addition, freshman forward Natalie Achonwa was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Dec. 13.

Diggins Makes Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 Candidate List
Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins is among a group of 20 women’s basketball players who have been chosen as midseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award, it was announced Tuesday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Wooden Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top player, compiled its midseason candidates based upon individual performance and team results, with the current list of student-athletes comprising the frontrunners for this year’s award.

Diggins presently ranks second on the team in scoring at 13.4 points per game, while leading the squad in assists (4.5 rpg.) and adding 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game with a 1.33 assist/turnover ratio. She also ranks sixth in the BIG EAST Conference in assists, having registered at least five assists in 10 of Notre Dame’s 17 contests this season, paced by an eight-assist effort against Morehead State on Nov. 15, after posting seven five-assist games during her entire rookie year.

What’s more, Diggins has chalked up 13 double-figure scoring games this season, including two 20-point outings, topped by a season-high 22 points against 15th-ranked UCLA on Nov. 18. Diggins also collected her second career double-double at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 29 against Gonzaga, scoring 19 points and pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds in a 70-61 Fighting Irish victory. She is coming off a strong all-around performance last Saturday afternoon against No. 2 Connecticut, scoring 16 points while adding five assists and four rebounds in the near-victory over the Huskies (79-76).

A consensus preseason All-America selection and candidate for every major national player of the year award, Diggins was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Dec. 6 after averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game with a .484 field goal percentage in games against second-ranked Baylor and Purdue.

Diggins is one of three BIG EAST players on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 List, joined by Connecticut’s Maya Moore and Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers. Diggins also is one of just three sophomores on the Wooden Award candidate rundown, along with Rodgers and Baylor’s Brittney Griner.

Novosel Is Just Plain Nasty
Nicknamed “Nasty” for her playmaking abilities, junior guard Natalie Novosel is rapidly making a strong case as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference, if not the entire country.

The Lexington, Ky., native currently leads the Fighting Irish (and ranks 10th in the league) in scoring at 15.1 points per game, more than tripling her offensive output from a season ago. She also has scored at least 20 points in a game four times this year (after coming into the campaign with a career single-game high of 19 points) and has scored in double figures 14 times after doing so a combined total of 14 times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

In addition, Novosel added some hardware to her personal trophy case as well, taking home Most Valuable Player honors at the WBCA Classic, and earning a spot on the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic All-Tournament Team.

Thus, it’s no surprise that ESPN.com’s Graham Hays tweeted the following comment after Novosel’s career-high 27 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 9-9 FT) vs. Gonzaga in a 70-61 Fighting Irish win on Dec. 29 in Seattle:

“Is Natalie Novosel the most improved player in the nation? Gotta be on the short list.”

Peters Showing Her Own Dev-elopment
If Novosel is among the nation’s most improved players, senior forward Devereaux Peters can’t be far behind. The veteran frontliner is playing some of the best basketball of her career this season, putting a pair of knee injuries and three surgeries well in the rearview mirror.

Peters currently is averaging career highs of 10.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game (the latter is tied for 19th in the BIG EAST), along with a .550 field goal percentage (ninth in the BIG EAST), 1.6 blocks per game (seventh in the BIG EAST) and a career-high .848 field goal percentage.

Like Novosel, Peters regularly has been pulling in accolades this season, earning a spot on the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team, and most recently garnering MVP honors at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle. During the Dec. 29-30 tournament, she averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game with a .684 field goal percentage (13-of-19) in wins over Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount.

That tournament effort has been the cornerstone of Peters’ recent post-Christmas surge. In the past five games, the Chicago native is averaging 14.4 points and 9.6 rebounds with three double-doubles with a .571 field goal percentage (32-of-56).

Game #17 Recap: Connecticut
Kelly Faris scored a career-high 20 points, including a layup with 14.7 seconds left that allowed No. 2 Connecticut to escape with a 79-76 victory over No. 13 Notre Dame on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion. Maya Moore added 31 points, eight rebounds and two blocks for the Huskies (14-1, 4-0 BIG EAST), whose victory was only their second by single digits this season.

Skylar Diggins missed two shots in the last five seconds for Notre Dame, including a last-ditch three-pointer at the buzzer that sailed way beyond the basket. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Fighting Irish (13-4, 2-1), whose only losses this year have been against ranked teams, and disappointed the 9,149 fans who came out despite a snowstorm that dumped more than two feet of snow on South Bend.

The Huskies picked up four fouls in the first two minutes of the game — including two on Tiffany Hayes — and never seemed in sync. But Faris kept UConn close, making a big layup and a three to tie the game midway through the second half after Notre Dame had matched its largest lead of the game at seven.

Faris was 2 of 3 from three-point range and also made all 10 of her free throws.

Moore made back-to-back three-pointers to put UConn in front 67-64 with 7:29 to play. But the Huskies would go almost four minutes without scoring, and Natalie Novosel continued an impressive second half by capping an 8-0 run with a layup to give the Fighting Irish a 72-67 lead with 4:24 left.

The Huskies wouldn’t lead again until Moore shook off a bump from Devereaux Peters and drilled a pull-up jumper with 50 seconds left.

Stefanie Dolson blocked one Novosel effort with 34 seconds left, but the gritty Fighting Irish guard put up another shot as she fell to the floor and it went in, giving Notre Dame a 76-75 lead with 30 seconds left. But Faris, who hadn’t had a field goal in more than 10 minutes, made the critical layup, grabbing a deflected pass on a backdoor cut and just beating the Fighting Irish defense to the hoop.

After Diggins missed a short jumper, Dolson got the rebound and was fouled by Peters with three seconds left. The freshman, who’s made all but two free throws this year, made both for the final margin.

The loss spoiled an outstanding effort by Novosel, who scored Notre Dame’s last six points and all but two of her 16 in the second half. Diggins also had 16 and Peters had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but she was held to just four points and three boards in the second half.

Noting The Connecticut Game

  • Notre Dame has lost all four of its games this season to top-15 opponents by an average of 5.5 points per game — 86-83 in double overtime vs. #15 UCLA, 81-76 at #9/10 Kentucky, 76-65 at #2/3 Baylor and 79-76 vs. #2 Connecticut … both three-point losses came at home (UCLA and UConn) in games where the Fighting Irish had a shot to tie the game in the closing seconds.
  • The 76 points scored by Notre Dame were the most by any team against Connecticut in more than two years — Nov. 30, 2008, when the Huskies defeated fourth-ranked Oklahoma, 106-78 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
  • While Connecticut won its 10th consecutive game in the series, this was the closest margin between Notre Dame and UConn since March 6, 2001, when the Huskies won the BIG EAST title with a 78-76 championship game win at Gampel Pavilion (on Sue Bird’s jumper at the horn).
  • Saturday’s 76 points were the most Notre Dame has scored against Connecticut since March 30, 2001, when the Fighting Irish avenged their BIG EAST title game loss with a 90-75 win over the Huskies in the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis (paving the way for Notre Dame’s first NCAA national championship two days later).
  • This was Notre Dame’s closest game against a top-five opponent since Jan. 13, 2004, when the Fighting Irish defeated fourth-ranked Connecticut, 66-51 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The 41-41 halftime tie marked the first time Notre Dame was tied or leading Connecticut at the break since Jan. 30, 2005, when the Fighting Irish were up 34-24 on the way to earning their most recent win over Connecticut (65-59 at Gampel Pavilion).
  • Notre Dame shot a season-low .360 from the floor, just the third time all season the Fighting Irish have connected on less than 45 percent of their shots (first since a then-season low .387 at #2/3 Baylor on Dec. 1).
  • Notre Dame’s 23 offensive rebounds were third-best this season, exceeded only by 25 offensive boards at #9/10 Kentucky (Nov. 21) and 24 offensive rebounds against Southeast Missouri State (Jan. 2) … prior to Saturday’s game, Connecticut had not given up more than 20 offensive rebounds in a game (season high by a UConn opponent was 19 by Marquette on Dec. 9).
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in the paint in every game this season and has outscored or tied its opponent in the paint in all but one game this year (30-46 at #2/3 Baylor on Dec. 1) … the 38 points in the paint also were the most allowed by Connecticut this season.
  • Peters chalked up her third double-double of the season, all in the past five games — Peters had one double-double in her career prior to this season.
  • Peters also tied her season high with four blocked shots.
  • Diggins not only went a season-best 6-for-6 from the foul line, but also dished out at least five assists for the 10th time this season (she had seven five-assist games in her entire rookie season of 2009-10).

A Defensive Effort Like No Other
Defense has been a major focal point for Notre Dame this season, but in their 97-21 win over Southeast Missouri State on Jan. 2 at Purcell Pavilion, the Fighting Irish took that emphasis to record-setting levels:

  • Notre Dame set six school records in the victory — fewest points allowed in a game (21), fewest points allowed in a half (6 – first half), lowest opponent field goal percentage (.125), largest rebound margin (+42, 66-24), most consecutive points scored at any time (36) and most consecutive points scored at the start of the game (36).
  • Notre Dame also posted the second-largest margin of victory in school history (76 points), topped only by a 78-point margin in a 113-35 win over Liberty on Nov. 24, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando.
  • The Fighting Irish pulled down 66 rebounds, the fifth-highest total in school history and most since Nov. 21, 1998, when they had 67 boards against Duke in an 84-57 home win.

Tournament Tested
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 15 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 26 of their last 29 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three-game runs to the title at last year’s Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and this year’s WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion, as well as a two-game sweep at this past week’s State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle (which did not officially crown a champion because of its pre-determined matchups).

The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic — a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.

Notre Dame played two regular-season tournaments this year, the first time the Fighting Irish have competed in multiple tourneys in the same season since 1996-97 (third place at Preseason WNIT; champion of Georgia Tech Comfort Inn Downtown Classic).

Only twice in school history has Notre Dame won two regular-season tournament titles in the same year, and both occurred during the program’s Division III era. In 1978-79, the Fighting Irish won the Huntington (Ind.) University Tournament and the Northern Illinois Huskie Invitational. The following season, Notre Dame claimed top honors at the Taylor (Ind.) University Invitational and repeated as the champion of the Northern Illinois Huskie Invitational.

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked 12th (matching its season high) in the Jan. 10 Associated Press poll. That marked the 68th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001).

This year’s No. 12 preseason ranking also represented the 11th time in the past 12 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only eight schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 12 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Irish with 11 preseason AP poll berths.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 207 weeks during the program’s 34-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 is 22nd all-time in that category.

In addition, the Fighting Irish held steady at No. 12 in the Jan. 11 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, maintaining their season-high ranking in that survey (also achieved during the first two weeks of the season). Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 68 of the past 69 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for a total of 199 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).

More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 30 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 207 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 30 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Fighting Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington (’92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her fourth season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the AP poll at No. 23 on Jan. 25, 2010.

Six of the 16 active coaches in this group — including McGraw — led their teams to this year’s NCAA Championship, while McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and also coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).

The 700 Club
With a 91-47 win over Loyola Marymount on Dec. 30 at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle, Notre Dame became the 32nd NCAA Division I program to record 700 victories — the Fighting Irish now own an all-time record of 702-306 (.696).

Notre Dame is one of six Division I programs to reach the 700-win milestone this season, joining Duke, Kansas, Missouri State, Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) and Middle Tennessee in that club (MT became the 33rd school on that list on Jan. 2).

Ironically, SJU (the alma mater of Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw) earned its 700th win one day before Notre Dame, edging out the Fighting Irish as the first Catholic Division I program to hit the mark.

A Grand Occasion
The Dec. 5 game against Purdue marked a significant milestone in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, as the Fighting Irish played their 1,000th all-time game, defeating the Boilermakers, 72-51. Notre Dame has an all-time record of 702-306 (.696) in 34 seasons of varsity competition, including a 347-88 (.798) record at Purcell Pavilion.

The Fighting Irish played their first game on Dec. 3, 1977, defeating Valparaiso, 48-41 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame would play its first three seasons as a Division III program in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) before moving up to the Division I level in 1980-81. The following season, the Fighting Irish would begin competing under the NCAA banner.

Peters Adds Griner To SWAT Team
Senior forward Devereaux Peters has made a living as a shot blocking presence in the paint for Notre Dame throughout her career, with her 6-foot-2 frame and 77-inch wingspan. However, on Dec. 1 at No. 2/3 Baylor, she added another notch to her belt in historic fashion.

At the 10:22 mark of the second half, the Lady Bears threw an entry pass in to their 6-foot-8 sophomore All-America center Brittney Griner, but as she turned to shoot, Peters rotated perfectly from the weak side and rejected Griner’s shot out of bounds. It was one of the highlights in a 17-2 Fighting Irish run that pulled Notre Dame within six points of Baylor with five minutes left.

It’s believed to be the first time in Griner’s two-year college career that she has had a shot blocked. A video clip of Peters’ block has been posted on the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball YouTube channel (search for “notredameirishhoops” or click the link through the sidebar on the women’s basketball page at www.UND.com).

Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 200-17 (.922) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 128 of their last 139 such contests, and 37 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford’s XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).

The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in 12 games this year, including their Jan. 5 win at Marquette when they led 40-31 through the first 20 minutes.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 16 seasons, 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 Fighting Irish have an amazing 219-15 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in 11 contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso, Loyola Marymount, SE Missouri State, Marquette).

…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 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 149-5 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.

Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in 10 games this year (9-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points.

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 Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 197 of their last 224 games (.879) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 106-19 (.848) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former 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 Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 93 of their last 101 non-BIG EAST contests (.921) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 347-88 (.798) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.

Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The 2009-10 season saw an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth), highest average attendance (8,377 fans per game) and most sellouts (six) in a single season. And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

For the second consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans have all but exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (close to 7,500) and are snapping up single-game ducats at a rate that will have the Fighting Irish challenging their freshly-minted single-season average attendance record in 2010-11.

Notre Dame has wasted little time in getting started with that challenge, averaging 8,542 fans for its 10 home games this season, including sellout crowds of 9,149 for its games against nationally-televised games against Purdue (Dec. 5) and Connecticut (Jan. 8).

Part of the appeal of Notre Dame women’s basketball can be traced to the renovated Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, which has yet another new feature this season with the addition of a four-sided LED video scoreboard high above center court, as well as LED auxiliary scoreboards above all four court-level entrance ramps and at the scorer’s table.

McGraw Is Simply Legendary
The announcement on July 10, 2010, may have made it official, but it really only confirmed what Notre Dame fans have known for a very long time — head coach Muffet McGraw is a Hall of Famer.

McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, was one of six people — and the lone coach — named to the 2011 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the “WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game” that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena.

The others in McGraw’s Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist).

The ’11 class offically was introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before the Connecticut-Baylor game. The group will be enshrined June 10-12, 2011, during the 13th annual Induction Weekend at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The Irish skipper also is the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. First-year Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion.

McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this list are: Pat Summitt (1999 – Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 – LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 – Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 – North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 – Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 – Virginia).

Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, 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 originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 91 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 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 (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.

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 for his third season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 26 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women’s basketball contests, including the program’s fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.

In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site’s free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.

This year’s TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Jan. 8 Connecticut contest (shown live on CBS), Notre Dame has played in 181 televised games, including 127 that were broadcast nationally.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior forward Becca Bruszewski and senior guard Brittany Mallory are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2010-11 season. Both players received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.

Notre Dame Pink Zone Efforts Underway
Following last year’s wildly-successful fundraising efforts for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Pink Zone breast cancer initiative, Notre Dame is aiming even higher this season, as it draws closer to the Feb. 12 Pink Zone game vs. Rutgers. For that game, the Fighting Irish will wear unique white and pink uniforms, with Notre Dame also holding special events during the game in honor and memory of those touched by breast cancer.

In 2009-10, the Fighting Irish collected more than $103,000 for the global unified effort by the WBCA’s membership to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.

Notre Dame’s local Pink Zone drive is led by primary sponsor Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, with donations divided between the Foundation for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center’s Women’s Task Force and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

This year, Notre Dame is bringing back some of its more popular fundraising activities, including the Fighting Irish Three-Point Pledge (fans donate a certain amount for every three-pointer made by Notre Dame this season) and the Notre Dame Pink Zone Store (sales of various Pink Zone items, including t-shirts, buttons, tote bags, etc., in the Joyce Center’s Heritage Hall at all Fighting Irish home games). The Notre Dame Gameday Silent Auction also returns in 2010-11, with bids being taken in the Monogram Room at the Joyce Center on Feb. 12 from 12:30 p.m. (ET) to 30 minutes following the Pink Zone game against Rutgers.

Some new events added for this year include the Pink Zone Treadmill Campaign (walk on a treadmill during the Jan. 23, Feb. 1, 8 and 12 games) and the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball SPIN-A-THON (a 24-hour event to ride stationary bikes at South Bend’s Knollwood Country Club).

For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the Notre Dame Pink Zone web page at www.UND.com/pinkzone.

Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It’s year four of Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.

In the four-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 25 times, including wins this year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Wake Forest, Creighton and Southeast Missouri State.

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 — senior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.

And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “media relations director has too much time on his hands”), 15 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

What’s more, of the 25 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, eight on free throws, and four on three-pointers.

Next Game: Pittsburgh
The Fighting Irish head back on the road Saturday for a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST contest at Pittsburgh. Notre Dame will be seeking its first win over the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center, having lost on its last two regular-season visits to the arena.

Pittsburgh (8-7, 0-2) has dropped its last two games, with the Panthers looking to right their ship Wednesday night at Seton Hall.

— ND —