Jan. 23, 2009
2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 18
#13/9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-2 / 4-1 BIG EAST) vs. Villanova Wildcats (10-8 / 2-2 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 24, 2009
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Villanova, Pa. – The Pavilion (6,500)
SERIES: ND leads 15-8
1ST MTG: VU 70-57 (1/6/81)
LAST MTG: ND 69-58 (1/16/08)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (610) 519-4100
- Notre Dame returns from a week-long break, its longest of the BIG EAST season.
- Six of the past eight matchups between Notre Dame and Villanova have been decided by eight points or less.
No. 13/9 Irish Back On The Hardwood Saturday At Villanova
After a hard-earned seven-day hiatus, No. 13/9 Notre Dame gets back to action Saturday with a 2 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST contest at Villanova. It will be the lone road game for the Irish in a 17-day span that carries through into early February.
Notre Dame (15-2, 4-1) bounced back from just its second loss of the season with a gritty 70-67 win over St. John’s last Saturday at the Joyce Center. The Irish jumped out to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game and led by as many as 11 points early in the second half before the Red Storm rallied to take a five-point lead. However, paced by its veteran tri-captains (senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner), Notre Dame forged ahead in the closing minutes and turned back one last St. John’s flurry to claim the victory.
Lechlitner had a team-high 15 points and six assists, while Barlow, Schrader and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski each chipped in 13 points to aid the Irish cause.
- Notre Dame is ranked 13th in this week’s Associated Press poll and ninth in this week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
- Villanova is not ranked.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th – 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th – +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the ’07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Notre Dame’s present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team’s top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year’s BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team’s recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference’s all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team’s most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 307 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past eight seasons. This year, the program has averaged 6,990 fans for its first seven home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 117 of their last 119 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 Villanova
Villanova returns nine letterwinners, including four starters, from last season’s club that posted a 17-16 record and advanced to the third round of the WNIT before a narrow six-point loss to Colorado.
The Wildcats (10-8, 2-2 BIG EAST) looked sharp late in the non-conference season, winning six of eight in the run-up to BIG EAST play. However, since the start of the new year, Villanova has alternated wins and losses in five games, including its first four conference contests.
VU is coming off a 67-60 non-conference loss at George Washington on Wednesday night. The Wildcats trailed by nine at the half, but rallied to take a one-point lead with 3:26 remaining before GW answered with a 12-0 run to take command and ice the victory.
Senior forward Laura Kurz scored a game-high 29 points and junior guard Maria Getty added 10 points for Villanova, which bounced back from a cold-shooting first half (.208) with a much better final 20 minutes (.514 overall, .409 from three-point range on 9-of-22 shooting).
One of the conference’s top all-around players, Kurz ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (18.0 ppg., sixth), rebounding (7.8 rpg., 10th) and blocks (1.6 bpg., fifth). Getty is second on the team in scoring (9.2 ppg.) and tops in steals (1.22 spg.), while senior guard Siobhan O’Connor is third in scoring (7.9 ppg.) and tops in both free throw percentage (.849, fourth in BIG EAST) and assists (2.56 apg.).
Veteran head coach Harry Perretta worked his 900th game at Villanova on Wednesday night, having amassed a 563-337 (.626) record in 31 seasons on the Main Line. He is 8-15 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Villanova Series
Saturday will mark the 24th time Notre Dame and Villanova have tangled on the hardwood, with the Irish holding a 15-8 series lead after winning the past two matchups. Notre Dame also is 11-5 against the Wildcats in BIG EAST regular-season play since joining the conference in 1995-96.
The Irish have a slim 6-5 series lead at The Pavilion, having won on four of their last six visits to VU’s home court after the Wildcats won three of the first five.
The Last Time ND And Villanova Met
Devereaux Peters finished with a season-high 15 points, seven steals and three blocked shots, and No. 17/15 Notre Dame forced Villanova into a season-high 24 turnovers en route to a 69-58 victory on Jan. 16, 2008, at the Joyce Center.
Peters entered the game at 15:47 of the first half, grabbed her first steal 20 seconds later and scored her first basket just 29 seconds after that.
The Irish (14-3, 2-1 BIG EAST) went ahead 43-34 when Peters caught a pass inside from Tulyah Gaines and banked it in with 15:52 left. The Wildcats (11-6, 1-3) twice cut the lead to five points and had chances both times to cut it to three, but couldn’t do it.
The Irish extended the lead to 62-52 when Ashley Barlow, who led the Irish with 16 points, converted on a three-point play with 4:20 left, and went ahead 68-55 when Peters made a pair of free throws with 67 seconds left.
Laura Kurz led the Wildcats with 20 points. Stacie Witman had 14 points for Villanova, Lisa Karcic had 11 and Siobhan O’Connor added 10. The Wildcats hit five three-pointers in a row in the first half to keep the game close.
The Last Time ND And Villanova Met At The Pavilion
Charel Allen poured in a game-high 25 points to pace four players in double figures as Notre Dame turned in one of its best road performances of the 2006-07 season, rolling to a 75-58 BIG EAST Conference win over Villanova on Feb. 13, 2007, at The Pavilion. It was the most points Notre Dame has scored on VU’s home court since 1997.
Allen logged her second consecutive 25-point game and her fifth in nine contests. She also tallied six rebounds and tied her career high with six assists, all without a turnover in 37 minutes of action. Ashley Barlow chalked up 15 points, six rebounds and five steals, while Melissa D’Amico came off the bench to score 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Breona Gray also turned in an efficient performance with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-2 from the three-point line).
Stacie Witman and Jackie Adamshick carded 16 points and seven rebounds apiece for Villanova (7-18, 1-11), which lost its 10th consecutive game. Notre Dame also held the Wildcats to 4-of-19 (.211) from beyond the arc and forced the normally sure-handed VU offense into 20 turnovers, with 14 coming on Irish steals.
Allen’s three-pointer less than five minutes into the game ignited an 11-0 Irish run that put the visitors in front to stay. Notre Dame also held the Wildcats to one field goal over the final 6:06 while taking a 34-25 halftime lead.
Villanova got as close as 45-42 on Maria Getty’s three-pointer with 12:55 to go. But Allen hit a layup 40 seconds later as Notre Dame scored 10 of the next 12 points in a 6:30 span and VU never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Other ND-Villanova Series Tidbits
- Nearly half (11) of the 23 games in the series have been decided by eight points or fewer, with Notre Dame winning six of those 11 close contests.
- From 2002-06, six consecutive games in the series were decided by a grand total of 17 points (2.8 ppg.) and all six were in doubt inside the final minute of play. However, the past two contests both have gone to the Irish by double-digit margins.
- Notre Dame’s 75-58 win at Villanova in 2007 marked the first time either team had scored 70 points in the series since Feb. 16, 2000 (a 70-52 Irish win, also at The Pavilion). In addition, it was the largest margin of victory in the series since Dec. 6, 2000 (a 64-33 Notre Dame win at the Joyce Center).
- The 75 points put up by the Irish on their last visit to Villanova were the most they have scored against the Wildcats since Feb. 28, 1999, when Notre Dame chalked up an 83-53 victory in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.
- Notre Dame has scored at least 65 points in its last three matchups with Villanova after failing to reach that total in the previous seven contests.
- The Irish have forced 44 VU turnovers in the past two series games after the Wildcats came into both games ranked either first or second in the country for fewest turnovers. Last year, Notre Dame caused 24 Wildcat turnovers, Villanova’s highest giveaway total since Dec. 1, 2001 (26 in a loss at Temple).
- Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is a native of West Chester, Pa., is a 1977 graduate of Saint Joseph’s University, before spending two years as head coach at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa. (50-3 record), and two years as an assistant coach at SJU under Jim Foster (now the head coach at Ohio State) from 1980-82. She also is a member of three halls of fame in the Philadelphia area — the SJU Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted 1986), the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame (inducted 1990) and the SJU Athletics Hall of Fame (inducted 2002).
- Villanova senior forward Laura Kurz is the younger sister of former Notre Dame men’s basketball forward Rob Kurz, who is in the midst of his rookie season with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
- Second-year Villanova strength and conditioning coach Lon Record spent six years on the staff at Notre Dame from 2000-01 through 2005-06.
Notre Dame is 18-6 (.750) in true road games during the past two seasons. In addition, the past five road losses for the Irish have been decided by 10 points or fewer, including both setbacks this season (a 63-59 overtime loss at Michigan on Dec. 10, and a 75-65 defeat at Marquette on Jan. 13).
From Dec. 28-Jan. 6, the Irish embarked on a four-game road swing, their longest regular-season trip since early in the 2002-03 season, sweeping games at Charlotte (68-61), No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (59-57), Seton Hall (66-60) and DePaul (86-62). It’s the first time Notre Dame won four consecutive games, all on the road (opponent’s home floor) since Jan. 7-19, 1991, when the Irish won at Butler (80-64), DePaul (81-66), Loyola-Chicago (66-55) and Marquette (91-73) in succession during Notre Dame’s first full week as a ranked team in program history.
Born To Run
Notre Dame has used some impressive scoring streaks to take command in several games this season. In fact, the Irish have fashioned nine game-changing runs during which they have outscored their opponent by at least 12 points.
Furthermore, Notre Dame has manufactured three streaks of at least 16 consecutive points this season, including a 27-0 blitz in the second half of its win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 25. That marked the second-longest run of unanswered points in school history, topped only by a 31-0 run in the first half of a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 1997, at the Joyce Center.
A Start We Can Believe In
Notre Dame’s 14-1 start was the second-best 15-game debut in school history. The only time an Irish squad started better than this year’s club was 2000-01, when Notre Dame 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.
Getting Off On The Right Foot
Notre Dame opened 3-0 in BIG EAST play for the sixth time in its 14-year conference membership (1995-96 to present), but the first time since 2001-02.
In each of their five prior 3-0 BIG EAST starts, the Irish have gone on to finish no lower than second, either overall or in their division (when the conference featured divisional play from 1995-96 through 1997-98).
Four of Notre Dame’s wins this season have come against AP Top 25 opponents, marking the first time in school history the Irish have registered four non-conference Top 25 victories in the regular season. The four ranked wins also currently represent nearly half of the BIG EAST’s nine Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule (no other league school has more than two Top 25 non-conference victories this season).
What’s more, of the 12 teams ranked ahead of Notre Dame in this week’s Associated Press poll, none has more wins over ranked opponents than the Irish (through Thursday night’s action). In fact, only North Carolina even has as many road Top 25 wins as Notre Dame at this point in the season (Stanford has a pair of neutral-site ranked victories on its resume).
Piping Hot Turnovers
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again this year, causing 358 turnovers (21.1 per game) through 17 games.
Almost half of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 178 thefts (10.5 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 27th in the country (and third in the BIG EAST) in three-point percentage defense this season, holding opponents to a .267 percentage (65-of-243) from long range. What’s more, in the first 17 games, the best any Irish opponent has managed to connect from outside of the 19-9 arc was the 36.8-percent efficiency posted by St. John’s (7-of-19) on Jan. 17.
Wearing The Collar
Notre Dame held DePaul’s leading scorer, Deirdre Naughton, scoreless in its victory on Jan. 6, marking the first time in Naughton’s three-year career she had been shut out (she came into the game averaging 18.3 ppg.).
The last time the Irish blanked the opponent’s leading scorer was Dec. 22, 2001, when Notre Dame kept Marquette’s Rachel Klug out of the scorebook in a 60-33 win at the Joyce Center (Klug was averaging 13.7 ppg. at tipoff).
New Kids On The Block
It may not be exactly the way Irish head coach Muffet McGraw envisioned it prior to the season, but Notre Dame’s freshman class has been getting some valuable on-the-job training this year.
With season-ending knee injuries to sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, the Irish bench now basically consists of the four-player freshman class — forward Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson and guards Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.
Yet, despite their relative lack of experience at the college level, all four players have made solid contributions to Notre Dame’s 15-2 start. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least twice (Novosel-6, Solomon-5, Watson-2), with both Watson and Novosel also twice being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week (Watson – Dec. 1 & 8; Novosel – Dec. 29 & Jan. 12).
What’s more, those three aforementioned players each are averaging at least 16 minutes per night, while the speedy Miller has emerged as Notre Dame’s go-to defensive stopper, averaging nearly one steal per game in her 12 appearances this season.
Notre Dame’s knack for quick player development should come as no surprise — the Irish have developed five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections in the past two seasons alone (including Peters and Mallory last year), the most of any team in the conference.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen eight different players lead the team in scoring this season, with six 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), Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19) and Erica Williamson vs. Georgetown (21). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish five times, and senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted three team-high scoring games.
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club (along with walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19).
More On The Balance Beam
Notre Dame was ranked among the top 50 in 10 of a possible 18 NCAA team statistical categories (as of Monday). Included in that count are four top 25 rankings, paced by a No. 5 rank in field goal percentage (.466) and a No. 14 rank in scoring offense (75.1 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 currently stands 38th in the nation in steals (2.67 spg.).
Nostradamus In High Heels
With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Dec. 30, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw calmly walked into the locker room and assured her team that they were about to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As it turned out, she was right on the money.
After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.
The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program’s first national championship.
Notre Dame is ranked 13th in this week’s Associated Press poll, dropping three spots from the last week’s rank. Still, it is the 31st consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who moved into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with their No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 170 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 31st consecutive ranking in Tuesday’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, tumbling to No. 9 after spending the previous two weeks at a season-high fourth. It was the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 5, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 3. Notre Dame has appeared in the coaches’ poll for 162 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 170 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).
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.
Game #17 Recap: St. John’s
No. 10/4 Notre Dame missed some easy shots, didn’t play defense as well as coach Muffet McGraw would have liked and still came away with a victory over St. John’s.
The Fighting Irish (15-2, 4-1 BIG EAST), who led by as many as 11 in the second half and trailed by as many as five with 9:40 left, held on for a 70-67 victory when senior guard Lindsay Schrader deflected a three-pointer by Kelly McManmon in the corner as the buzzer sounded.
The St. John’s bench jumped up thinking McManmon, who fell down, was fouled, but there was no call.
The Irish, who led 34-27 at halftime, extended the lead to 40-29 early in the second half on a three-point play by junior center Erica Williamson. But with the Irish missing eight straight shots, the Red Storm (13-4, 1-3) used a 12-0 run to take their first lead. The Red Storm went ahead 52-48 when Monique McLean, who led St. John’s with 17 points and eight rebounds, hit a three-pointer midway through the period.
The teams traded the lead five times in the last six minutes, including four times on four possessions. The final time came when freshman forward Erica Solomon scored inside with 1:24 left to give the Irish a 67-66 lead. St. John’s failed to keep up when Da’Shena Stevens, who finished with 11 points, missed inside and Solomon came up with the rebound.
Solomon, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds, then made a free throw with 26 seconds left to give the Irish a 68-66 lead.
Sky Lindsay made a free throw with 14 seconds left for St. John’s to cut the lead to 68-67. Junior guard Ashley Barlow, who finished with 13 points, made a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining to give the Irish the three-point lead.
Schrader added nine of her 13 points in the final 8:07 and sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski also had 13.
Noting The St. John’s Game
- Notre Dame improves to 17-2 all-time against St. John’s, including 9-0 at the Joyce Center.
- Four of the past five series games have been decided by 10 points or fewer, with the teams splitting those four nailbiters.
- Notre Dame has scored at least 66 points in 17 of 19 series games vs. St. John’s, winning all 17 times.
- The Red Storm scored a series-high 67 points, one more than they totaled in a 66-63 win over the Irish on Jan. 4, 2006, in Queens.
- Notre Dame rises 43-4 (.915) all-time against New York schools, including 23-0 at home, although this was just the third single-digit margin in those 23 victories.
- The Irish extend their current Joyce Center winning streak to 12 games.
- Notre Dame fielded four double-figure scorers for the fourth consecutive game and the 10th time this season (9-1 record).
- For some reason, the Irish also love playing during the afternoon, when they are 10-0 this season.
- Notre Dame’s six three-pointers were the most the Irish have knocked down in a game since Nov. 29, when they canned a season-high nine treys in a 78-72 win over #24 Michigan State.
- The seven three-pointers by St. John’s were a Notre Dame opponent season high, one more than Evansville made on Nov. 19.
- St. John’s had an opponent season-high 14 steals, three more than the totals posted by LSU (Nov. 16) and Vanderbilt (Dec. 30).
- Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner tallied a season-high six assists and is averaging 5.0 assists in her last four games (with a 1.82 assist/turnover ratio).
- Lechlitner also logged her second career complete game, going all 40 minutes to match her ironman performance on Dec. 13 at Valparaiso.
- Schrader tied her season high with five assists and is averaging 4.3 assists over her last three contests.
- For the 10th time in her career (and second time in as many games), Barlow tied her personal best with three three-pointers.
- Solomon was one rebound off her season (and career) high set on Dec. 2 at Eastern Michigan.
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. Mallory underwent successful corrective surgery on Jan. 6, while Peters is expected to do the same in the coming weeks before both players begin 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 has appeared in three games, averaging 1.0 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.3 minutes per contest.
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 159-16 (.909) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 87 of their last 97 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 13-2 when it is ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, and 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13.
Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 191-12 (.941) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added seven more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago and Vanderbilt.
…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 121-4 (.968) 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 seven 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 169 of their last 190 games (.889) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 95-15 (.864) 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 319-82 (.796) 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 vs. No. 17/20 Purdue was 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 sold out.
Additional sellouts could be on the horizon, as approximately 1,000 tickets remain for next Tuesday’s Rutgers game, while admissions for the Feb. 8 WBCA Pink Zone game vs. DePaul also are rapidly dwindling.
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 and three others on CBS College Sports (including next Tuesday’s home game against Rutgers).
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 128 televised games, including 78 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 $5 donations for every special-edition Notre Dame women’s basketball beanie bear and team calendar sold during the season.
- T-Shirt Sales – Specially-commissioned “Irish Believe” pink t-shirts are on sale in the Hammes Bookstore and Varsity Shop on the Notre Dame campus. Proceeds from the sales of the t-shirt will go to breast cancer awareness and research.
- Brittany and Becca’s Class – Sophomores Brittany Mallory and Becca Bruszewski currently are taking a management class in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business under the guidance of Chuck Lennon, an Irish women’s basketball season ticket holder, as well as Associate Vice President for University Relations and Executive Director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association. This class has been focusing on ways to help promote and enhance the Pink Zone initiative on the Notre Dame campus and rolled out their ideas at the Dec. 7 Purdue game.
- Pink Zone Challenge – The Irish women’s basketball program has challenged some of the other top-drawing teams in the country to a friendly fund-raising competition to see which school can raise the most money for breast cancer awareness and research during the WBCA’s designated Pink Zone games (Feb. 13-22, 2009). A total of 15 schools from among the top 20 in last year’s final NCAA attendance rankings have committed for this inaugural challenge — Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, LSU, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. The school raising the most money during their specific Pink Zone game will earn the first-ever Pink Zone Challenge Trophy, to be commissioned by Notre Dame and awarded during the WBCA National Convention, to be held April 3-7, 2009, at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.
- Game Day (Feb. 8 vs. DePaul) – The Irish have selected their Feb. 8 home game against DePaul as Notre Dame’s Pink Zone game, presented by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. The Irish will take the court in white, pink and navy uniforms, specially-designed by the school’s official athletics apparel provider, adidas. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a free pink Irish t-shirt, compliments of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and pink pom-poms, balloons and posters will fill the crowd. In addition, breast cancer survivors will be recognized on the court during a special halftime ceremony. What’s more, should Notre Dame sell out this game, the Irish will donate an additional $10,000 to the Pink Zone initiative.
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame’s Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities — Women’s Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA’s Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA’s official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
Notre Dame’s Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year’s NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.
All-session tickets for this year’s NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program’s sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its “Big Mac” promotion for 2008-09, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
It hasn’t take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark three times — in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19) and Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac” baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger — sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it’s been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the “Big Mac” mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University’s Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame’s competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
- New, blue chair-back seating from top to bottom of the arena, including all-new upper-arena sections. All seating will be replaced in the lower bowl (including platform seats), and the wooden bleachers in the upper bowl will be removed and replaced with treads and risers and permanent arena seats. The exchange of the bleacher sections for chair back seats will change the capacity from the current 11,418 to approximately 9,800.
- A stadium club/hospitality area (approximately 16,500 square feet) in the south end of the arena, with a separate, private entry and with premium club seating for nearly 800 fans (that figure is part of the projected 9,800 capacity). Included in this area will be food service and restroom facilities.
- New fixed concession areas, increased numbers of women’s restrooms and increased handicapped seating options.
- The interior seating changes provide an opportunity to consider new options for student seating. Students currently sit in both lower- and upper-arena sections behind the basket on the east end of the arena.
Next Game: Rutgers
Notre Dame will play three of its next four games at home, beginning Tuesday with an 8 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matchup against No. 21/24 Rutgers at the Joyce Center. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by CBS College Sports, and fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for the contest.
After a rocky start to the season, Rutgers (11-5, 3-2) appears to be finding its rhythm, having won three in a row as it embarks on a two-game Midwest road swing that opens Saturday night at DePaul before continuing Tuesday at Notre Dame.
— ND —