March 1, 2008
2007-08 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 29
#14/14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-6 / 10-4 BIG EAST) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (13-13 / 3-11 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 1, 2008
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: ND leads 15-4
1ST MTG: 12/11/93 (SHU 62-55)
LAST MTG: 1/2/07 (ND 64-61)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM / UND.com (Shawn Lewallen, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
- Notre Dame needs one win in its final two games to secure a first-round bye for next week’s BIG EAST Championship.
- The Irish are 24-6 (.800) all-time on Senior Day and have won 17 of their last 19 home finales.
No. 14 Irish Close Out Home Schedule Saturday Against Seton Hall
For the 61st and final time in their careers, the Notre Dame senior class will take the Joyce Center floor as they lead the 14th-ranked Irish into Saturday’s 2 p.m. (ET) matchup with Seton Hall. The Notre Dame veterans are 48-12 (.800) at home since they first arrived on campus in the fall of 2004, but in an ironic twist, the Irish have not defeated SHU at the Joyce Center since the ’04-05 season.
Notre Dame (22-6, 10-4 BIG EAST) won for the seventh time in the past eight games with a 92-49 victory over South Florida at home on Wednesday night. The Irish led from the opening tip to the final horn, using a 27-5 run midway through the first half to take control on the way to its largest BIG EAST win in more than eight years.
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader led a balanced Notre Dame attack, collecting her second double-double of the season with game highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Charel Allen and freshman guard Brittany Mallory added 14 points apiece, with Mallory making a season-best 4-of-5 three-pointers.
- Notre Dame is ranked 14th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls this week.
- Seton Hall is not ranked.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Behind a high-octane offense and an aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been a fixture in the national polls this season. The Irish have been ranked every week (except for the preseason ESPN/USA Today poll) and have appeared in the top 20 for the past 13 weeks, rising as high as 14th on four occasions (including each of the past two weeks).
Notre Dame also ranks in the top 20 in five NCAA statistical categories, including scoring offense (5th, 78.5 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (8th, 1.13) and scoring margin (9th, +17.7 ppg.), with nearly half its wins by 30 points. The Irish also rank second in the BIG EAST (16th nationally) in steals (11.82 spg.) and have forced 20 turnovers on 18 occasions.
Senior guard Charel Allen, a first-team all-BIG EAST and honorable mention All-America pick last year, is setting the pace for a balanced Notre Dame attack, averaging a team-high 14.2 points per game (17th in BIG EAST).
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow has built upon last year’s BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.7 ppg.) while tying for eighth in the BIG EAST with a team-high 56 steals (2.0 spg.).
Junior guard Lindsay Schrader continues to work her way back to peak form after missing last year with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader is third on the squad in scoring (10.9 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (6.1 rpg.), ranking 20th in the BIG EAST in the latter category, as one of the cornerstones of Notre Dame’s unique Princeton-based four-guard lineup.
While Schrader is back from her ACL injury, freshman forward Devereaux Peters had her season end early with a torn ACL in her left knee, suffered Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh. Peters provided a strong spark off the bench, averaging 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. She also scored in double figures 14 times, including a season-high 15 points vs. Villanova and her first career double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) against top-ranked Connecticut.
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 289 victories in that span.
- Notre Dame’s incoming class of 2008 (next year’s freshmen) has an average ranking of 15th (peaking at No. 8 by Dan Olsen Collegiate Girls Basketball Report), marking the 12th consecutive season that the Irish attracted a Top 25 recruiting class. Notre Dame is one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have an active streak of that length.
- Notre Dame ranked ninth in the Feb. 25 unofficial national attendance rankings (compiled by the Wisconsin Sports Information Office), averaging 6,980 fans to its 15 home games this season (including three of the top six crowds in school history). The Irish also have attracted 5,000-or-more fans to 109 of their last 111 home games, including five Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Jan. 27, 2008 vs. Connecticut). Last season, Notre Dame ranked 10th nationally in attendance (6,364 fans per game), marking the seventh consecutive year the Irish were among the national top 20 in attendance.
- The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as six Notre Dame players have been selected in the past seven seasons. Megan Duffy was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Minnesota Lynx in the third round (31st overall pick) of the 2006 WNBA Draft. Duffy and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) both were active in the league during the 2007 season, with Riley making her sixth playoff appearance (on her third different team) in a solid seven-year pro career. All told, seven Notre Dame alums have competed in WNBA regular-season play, with three of them combining to win 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.
- Notre Dame has been an elite program in the classroom as well. For the second year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2007. Notre Dame was one of 23 Division I-A programs to achieve this distinction, and one of only two BIG EAST schools (Syracuse was the other). 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 perfect 53-for-53 success rate).
A Quick Look At Seton Hall
Injuries and adversity are part of any college basketball season, but Seton Hall may have been dealt more than its fair share of challenges this season. The Pirates came into this season with high hopes after last year’s 19-12 record and WNIT appearance. However, three key returnees have missed large portions of this season with injuries, forcing the SHU newcomers to put their adjustment to the college game on the fast track.
Seton Hall (13-13, 3-11) enters Saturday’s game having lost eight in a row, most recently dropping a 73-45 decision at St. John’s on Wednesday. Freshman guard Ebonie Williams scored a game-high 16 points and sophomore guard Shantel Brown added 13 points for the Pirates, who shot .309 for the game.
Williams leads the team in scoring (11.2 ppg), while injured junior forward Noteisha Womack averages a double-double (10.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg) with a team-high .497 field goal percentage.
Head coach Phyllis Mangina is closing out her 23rd season at the helm of her alma mater with a 326-331 (.496) record, which includes a 4-15 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series
Notre Dame holds a 15-4 edge in the all-time series with Seton Hall, including a 7-2 lead at the Joyce Center. The Irish also have won 15 of 17 games against the Pirates since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, with all but one of those wins coming in the regular season.
However, the past five series games have been nearly even split (ND leads 3-2), and Seton Hall claimed a 74-61 win on its last visit to the Joyce Center in 2006.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Seton Hall Met
Charel Allen posted game highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double, leading Notre Dame to a 64-61 win over Seton Hall in its BIG EAST Conference opener on Jan. 2, 2007 at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J. Breona Gray chipped in with 14 points, including a shot from midcourt at the halftime horn that ultimately provided the Irish with their margin of victory.
Notre Dame led virtually the entire second half, but never by more than seven points. The Irish fell behind by a bucket twice in the final six minutes, but used an 8-2 run down the stretch to pull out the win. Allen played a key role in the game-changing spurt, canning the go-ahead foul line jumper with 3:09 left, then sinking an insurance basket with 1:55 to go.
Gray added a pair of clutch free throws, converting both ends of a one-and-one with 17.4 seconds to play. Heta Korpivaara got SHU back within three points on a layup moments later, and the Pirates had a look at a game-tying shot after a missed Irish foul shot, but Jadis Rhodin’s desperation try was well off the mark.
Korpivaara and Monique Blake scored 14 points apiece to lead Seton Hall, although Blake missed the critical final three minutes with an injury. Ashley Booker added 10 points for the Pirates, with eight of her markers coming in the first half.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Seton Hall Met At The Joyce Center
Heta Korpivaara scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half, including six points during a decisive 17-6 run, to lead Seton Hall to a 74-61 upset of No. 12 Notre Dame on Jan. 7, 2006 at the Joyce Center.
The victory was the first for SHU against a ranked team since beating No. 23 Notre Dame 51-45 in South Orange on Feb. 8, 2004.
Korpivaara made a pair of free throws with 11:20 left to give the Pirates a 45-44 lead, then added another pair of free throws and a 17-foot jumper to make it 51-46. The Pirates extended the lead to 58-50 when Shantel Brown made a three-pointer and led by 10 when Monique Blake scored off her own miss.
The Pirates, who outrebounded the Irish 32-14 in the second half, made 12 of 14 free throws during the final 1:50 to seal the victory.
Jadis Rhodin had 13 points and six rebounds for Seton Hall and Amber Harris and Brown had 12 points each. Harris also added 11 rebounds and the Pirates had 14 second-chance points compared to five for the Irish.
Other Notre Dame-Seton Hall Series Tidbits
- Five of the past seven series games have been decided by six points or fewer.
- Only once in the past seven games has either team managed to break the 70-point mark. Seton Hall did it in 2006 with its 74-61 victory at the Joyce Center. By contrast, Notre Dame had scored at least 70 points in nine of 10 games vs. the Pirates from 1996-2002.
- The Irish have held Seton Hall to 61 points or fewer in 15 of the past 16 series games. The lone exception came in 2006, when the Pirates won 74-61 at the Joyce Center. It was the most SHU scored against Notre Dame since their first-ever BIG EAST meeting in 1996 (an 88-79 overtime win for the Irish) and the 13-point margin of victory also is the Pirates’ largest in the 19-game series.
- Notre Dame has played Seton Hall on Senior Day once before. Exactly five years ago on March 1, 2003, the Irish pulled out a 62-60 win over the Pirates, thanks to a pair of Katy Flecky free throws with two seconds left.
Going Out On Top
Notre Dame is 24-6 (.800) all-time on Senior Day, including a 17-3 (.850) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present). In fact, the Irish lost their first Senior Day game under McGraw (69-68 vs. DePaul in 1988), but have proceeded to win on 17 of the past 19 Senior Nights since then. The only setbacks during this current stretch came in 2002, when Villanova edged the Irish, 48-45, to break Notre Dame’s school-record 51-game home winning streak, and last year, when Rutgers pulled away late for a 76-60 win.
A Six-Figure Season
For the second consecutive year, and the third time in school history, Notre Dame has welcomed more than 100,000 fans at home. The Irish have drawn 104,697 fans to their first 15 games at the Joyce Center, with one game left.
Last season, Notre Dame brought in 101,818 patrons for the 16-game home schedule. The only other time the Irish posted a six-figure women’s basketball attendance total was 2001-02, when a school-record 109,549 fans cheered on Notre Dame at the Joyce Center. The Irish will chase that mark Saturday vs. Seton Hall.
Boldly Going Where No Irish Player Has Gone Before
Senior guard Charel Allen is poised to do something no other player has done in the 31-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball. With three more steals, Allen will become the first Irish women’s cager to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in her career. The closest any player in program history has come to that all-around feat was in 2001, when current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey had 1,430 points, 482 rebounds, 727 assists and 348 steals.
By comparison, the Irish men’s basketball program has had only two players reach this milestone — Chris Thomas (2001-05) and David Graves (1998-2002). However, steals were first kept as a statistic in 1978-79, while individual assists were first kept in 1983-84.
The Irish improved to 10-3 on the road this year with their 66-64 win at DePaul on Feb. 24. It’s the first time Notre Dame has posted double-digit road wins in a season since 2004-05, when it went 11-2 on opponent’s home floors. The school record for road wins in a season was set in 1996-97, when the Irish went 13-4 on the road as part of their first NCAA Final Four run.
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons with a 79-67 victory at Syracuse on Feb. 16. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 18 times in the 21-year Muffet McGraw era and 22 times in the program’s 31-year history.
Peaking When It Counts
When the regular season enters its stretch run in the month of February, Notre Dame historically seems to raise its level of play. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Irish are 77-20 (.794) in February games, including a 44-4 (.917) mark at home.
In the 21-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 125-35 (.781) in the month of February, including a 66-10 (.868) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February, and only once did the Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw’s second season in South Bend).
This year, Notre Dame continued its trend of winning records in February under McGraw, going 6-1 with the only blemish being a 57-51 loss at No. 5/4 Rutgers on Feb. 19.
Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings (as of Friday). The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in five categories, led by a No. 5 ranking for scoring offense (78.5), a No. 8 ranking for assist/turnover ratio (1.13) and a No. 9 ranking for scoring margin (+17.7 ppg). Notre Dame also is 16th in both field goal percentage (.462) and steals per game (11.8).
A full recap of Notre Dame’s positions on the NCAA statistics charts (and its relation to the national leaders) can be found on page 11 of this notes package.
Nearly half (10) of Notre Dame’s 22 wins this season have come by at least 30 points, while the Irish have held 30-point leads late in the second half against Western Kentucky, Richmond and Marquette.
Notre Dame’s 10 30-point wins this year have tied the school record originally set during the 2000-01 national championship season. However, in that campaign, only eight of those 30-point victories came in the first 28 games.
What’s more, the Irish had a streak of four consecutive 30-point wins from Nov. 20-Dec. 2. The last time Notre Dame did that was Jan. 20-30, 1999, when the Irish had four straight 30-point victories, all during BIG EAST Conference play — at Seton Hall (87-47), home vs. St. John’s (99-60), at Syracuse (94-61) and at Providence (97-59).
Put A Tiger In Your Tank
Less than two seasons after posting the program’s lowest scoring output (64.5 ppg) since 1980-81 (its first as a Division I program), Notre Dame has reversed that trend in a big way.
The Irish currently rank second in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and fifth in the nation) at 78.5 points per game, having tallied at least 80 points 15 times this season. What’s more, Notre Dame also has the fourth-highest scoring average through 28 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 82.6 points at this juncture on the way to the single-season school scoring record (81.0).
What’s more, Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points seven times this season, tying the school record first set in the 1996-97 NCAA Final Four season, and later matched in 1998-99. In fact, during the six seasons prior to the current one (2001-02 through 2006-07), Notre Dame had a combined total of four 90-point games.
Notre Dame also ranks second in the conference (and ninth in the nation) in scoring margin at +17.7 points per game. If it holds up, that margin would go down as the second-largest in school history for an entire season. The 2000-01 team won by an average of 21.4 points per game during its 34-2 run to the national title.
McGraw’s Shock Troops
During his coaching tenure with the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s, the legendary Knute Rockne was at the forefront of the two-platoon system, using his “shock troops” — a full team of second stringers — at the start of most games.
While Irish women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw may not quite be following Rockne’s philosophy to the letter, she could easily rotate in much of her second unit and not see much decline in productivity. In fact, Notre Dame’s bench is averaging 29.5 points per game (compared to 49.0 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored 27 of 28 opponent benches this season by an average of +14.8 points per night.
Prior to her season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, freshman forward Devereaux Peters was leading the way for this year’s Irish “shock troops”. The Chicago native averaged 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.96 blocks per game (second in BIG EAST and 45th in the nation) with a .522 field goal percentage (ninth in the conference). Peters came off the bench in 21 of 23 games this year, piling up a season-high 15 points and seven steals vs. Villanova before collecting her first career double-double (10 points, season-high 12 rebounds) on Jan. 27 against top-ranked Connecticut.
Last year’s Irish rookie class (aka the “BMW” trio of guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner and center Erica Williamson) became the first threesome from one school ever to be named to the BIG EAST Conference All-Freshman Team in the same season. Following on the heels of that success, Notre Dame has a new freshman trio that is aiming to make an early splash at the college level — the “BBD” lineup of guard Brittany Mallory and forwards Becca Bruszewski and Devereaux Peters.
All three Irish rookies have done their part to help Notre Dame to its 22-6 record, with each one averaging at least 12 minutes and having scored in double figures at least four times. Before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh, Peters was fourth on the team in scoring (9.0 ppg) and scored in double digits 14 times, while also placing second in the BIG EAST (45th in the nation) in blocked shots (1.96 bpg). Mallory is averaging 6.9 points per game, leads the team with 31 three-pointers and is coming off a 14-point (season-high 4-5 3FG), seven-rebound effort Wednesday vs. South Florida. Bruszewski, who will miss 7-10 days after left hand surgery on Feb. 25, is logging 4.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, collecting her fourth double-figure scoring performance of the season with 10 points and six rebounds on Feb. 10 vs. 15th-ranked Pittsburgh.
Spreading The Wealth
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s squad this season is its balance and depth. That’s been particularly evident, as six different players from all five floor positions and all four classes have led the team in scoring at least once. Senior point guard Tulyah Gaines became the latest new scoring leader for the Irish with 13 points vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh (Feb. 10) and a season-high 22 points vs. Marquette (Feb. 13).
Notre Dame’s balance this season can best be seen in its point distribution. No fewer than 10 of the 11 Irish players on this year’s roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, with only senior guard Amanda Tsipis yet to crack the 10-point mark.
Notre Dame also has had at least three double-figure scorers in all but four games (Purdue, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 16 West Virginia, No. 5/4 Rutgers) this year, with a season-high seven in double digits at Georgetown (the most in one game for the Irish since Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse).
What’s more, the Irish fielded five double-figure scorers in three consecutive games from Nov. 20-27. It’s believed to be the first time in school history (and certainly the first time in the Muffet McGraw era) the Irish have pulled off that feat of three straight games with five double-digit scorers, although records are incomplete prior to the 1983-84 season.
Protecting The Pill
Notre Dame has been sharp at the offensive end this season, thanks in large part to its ability to take care of the basketball. The Irish rank 21st in the nation with just 14.4 turnovers per game and have been charged with 20 or more turnovers just twice in the past 44 games (20 at Louisville on Jan. 8; 23 vs. Marquette on Feb. 13).
The Irish took ball protection to a new level in their loss at No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16. Notre Dame set a school record with only three turnovers against the Terrapins, with two of those giveaways coming on offensive fouls. The previous school record for fewest turnovers was six, set on Feb. 12, 2006 at DePaul.
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
Piping Hot Turnovers
Notre Dame is forcing 22.1 turnovers per night and currently leads the BIG EAST with a +7.75 turnover margin, more than three takeaways better than second-place Connecticut. The Irish have caused at least 20 turnovers in 18 games this season, including a season-high 33 takeaways against Boston College on Nov. 24.
Notre Dame has made even the strongest ball-handling teams struggle this season. In fact, Villanova came into its Jan. 16 game at the Joyce Center leading the nation with only 11.2 turnovers per game. However, the Wildcats left town with 24 turnovers, their highest single-game giveaway mark in more than six years (Dec. 1, 2001 at Temple).
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference and 16th nationally in steals, averaging 11.82 thefts per game (10.93 in conference play), including eight games this season where the Irish had at least 15 steals. What’s more, Notre Dame’s season-high 23 steals vs. Providence on Jan. 30 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Jan. 28, 1995 (23 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the Joyce Center), and only one off the BIG EAST record.
Individually, the Irish have seven players with at least 25 steals this season. Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow leads the way with 56, tying for eighth in the BIG EAST in that category (2.0 spg), including a combined seven steals in the past two games.
Notre Dame tied Connecticut for the BIG EAST title in steals last season (9.69 spg. in league play; 10.47 overall), the first time the Irish won a conference steals crown since 1989-90, when they led the Horizon League with 10.93 steals per game.
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 16 games this season and ranks third in the BIG EAST (eighth nationally) with a 1.13 assist-to-turnover ratio. Notre Dame also has assisted on 55.5 percent of its field goals this year (456 assists on 821 baskets), ranking fifth in the conference and 23rd in the country with 16.29 assists per game.
Off And Running
Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In nine of their 22 wins, the Irish have opened up a double-digit lead less than 12 minutes into the game, while other first-half runs against Central Michigan (20-0), Bowling Green (18-3), Villanova (16-6), Georgetown (15-3) and Marquette (21-1) aided those wins.
Even in its defeat at third-ranked Maryland on Nov. 16, Notre Dame made a statement early with a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of action and led by as many as five points in the first half before the Terrapins rallied back for the win.
Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
Senior guard Charel Allen continues to make her way up Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list, moving up to ninth on that chart with 14 points on Wednesday vs. South Florida. Allen now has 1,451 career points, putting her hot on the heels of Sandy Botham, who scored 1,460 points from 1984-88. Botham currently serves as the head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Notre Dame is ranked 14th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, holding steady from last week’s survey. This week’s ranking matches the best of the season for the Irish, and their highest in the media poll since the week of Jan. 2, 2006, when they were ranked 12th prior to losses at St. John’s (66-63) and home vs. Seton Hall (74-61).
Notre Dame now has been ranked in the AP poll for 156 weeks during the program’s history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era. McGraw currently ranks 14th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also stands 25th all-time in that category.
The Irish also were in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 15th consecutive time last week, staying even at 14th. This week’s ranking ties the season-high for Notre Dame and is its highest poll position in two years, when the Irish were tabbed 12th by the coaches prior to the aforementioned losses to St. John’s and Seton Hall.
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 23 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 156 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 23 people on this elite list, 12 are currently NCAA Division I head coaches.
The Jan. 27 game vs. Connecticut was the fifth women’s basketball sellout (11,418) in school history and second this season (also Jan. 5 vs. Tennessee). It also is the second time in school history Notre Dame has posted multiple sellouts in one season, having also done so in 2000-01 (Connecticut and Georgetown).
In addition, the Jan. 27 audience marked the first time the Irish have attracted three crowds of 10,000 fans in the same season, as 10,825 fans took in the Dec. 2 win over Michigan.
Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is 81-of-102 (.794) from the free throw line in the final two minutes (plus overtime) this season, including an impressive 14-of-16 (.875) display in the Feb. 10 win over No. 15 Pittsburgh.
Among those with a minimum of 10 attempts, senior guard Tulyah Gaines leads the way with an .824 free throw percentage (14-of-17) in crunch time. Also worth noting — even after missing two free throws at Syracuse on Feb. 16, sophomore guard Ashley Barlow is 21-of-26 (.808) in her career when toeing the line down the stretch.
Start Me Up
Notre Dame’s 13-2 start matched the second-best 15-game mark in the program’s 31-year history. In 2000-01, the Irish opened with 23 consecutive victories, en route to their first-ever No. 1 ranking and eventually, the program’s first national championship.
The last time Notre Dame got off to a 13-2 start was the 2004-05 season, when the Irish won their first seven games (including the Preseason WNIT title) before a Dec. 2 overtime loss to 15th-ranked Michigan State. Notre Dame (which rose as high as third in the national polls that season) then reeled off six more wins before suffering consecutive loss at Villanova (59-54) and home vs. No. 16 Connecticut (67-50). However, the Irish rebounded with a 10-game win streak, finishing the year at 27-6 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame posted a 13-2 record on three other occasions, also doing so in 1999-2000 (27-5, NCAA Sweet 16), 1998-99 (26-5, NCAA second round) and 1977-78 (13-4, program’s first varsity season when playing at AIAW Division III level).
We’re Going Streaking!
Notre Dame’s 10-game win streak from Nov. 20-Jan. 2 was its longest since a similar 10-game run from Jan. 16-Feb. 15, 2005. The Irish now have amassed 10 double-digit win streaks in program history (eight in the Muffet McGraw era), led by the school-record 23-game success string to open the 2000-01 national championship season.
Notre Dame also won six consecutive road games earlier this season (Nov. 20-Jan. 2). That was the longest run for the Irish away from the Joyce Center since a 10-game run from Nov. 17, 2000 to Feb. 14, 2001, a streak that ended with a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers (one of only two defeats for the Irish on their run to the NCAA title).
No Easy Road
Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule, using it as a means of preparation for future tests in both the BIG EAST Conference and the postseason. However, this year’s slate could be one of the more rugged ones in recent memory.
With the addition of Maryland to the docket in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (75-59 loss on Nov. 16), the Irish faced four of the top five teams in the latest Associated Press poll at some point this season. Besides the Terrapins (currently No. 5), Notre Dame also played No. 1 Connecticut (lost 81-64 on Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center), No. 3 Tennessee (lost 87-63 on Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), and No. 4 Rutgers (lost 57-51 on Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top five teams in the poll have combined to win five of the past six national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware after defeating Rutgers in last year’s title game.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games In ’09, ’10
Notre Dame’s Joyce Center has been selected as a host site for first- and second-round games in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, it was announced Feb. 13. This selection comes on the heels of last summer’s announcement that the Irish also would play host to early-round action in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Tournament 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 play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Notre Dame has introduced a new promotion this season, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a game. The coupons are issued at the Joyce Center gates as fans leave the arena following the game.
This season’s burger watch is at eight, as the Irish have hit the 88-point mark in both exhibition wins, as well as regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and USF.
It’s probably also not a surprise that the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac baskets” this season has the same initials as that of the tasty burger — freshman guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
Friends In Need
Longtime Irish women’s basketball fan and Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies employee Patricia McAdams continues to recuperate at the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend after a Jan. 13 auto accident. While returning from Notre Dame’s game at West Virginia earlier in the day, Patricia was severely injured when she stopped on a highway outside Fort Wayne, Ind., to help a fellow motorist and was then struck by a car.
A loyal supporter of the Irish for many years, Patricia has assisted Notre Dame’s coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio with numerous marketing and promotional activities, and also coordinated regular bus trips for fans to see the Irish on the road.
Patricia’s OIT colleagues have created a web page to update supporters on her progress: http://oit.nd.edu/patricia.
Notre Dame also lost a treasured friend on Jan. 22, when longtime Joyce Center clock operator Mark Tulchinsky passed away. Mark was a dedicated educator in the South Bend Community School Corporation, most recently serving as principal at Tarkington Traditional School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark, his wife, Nan (the official scorer for Notre Dame basketball), and the Tulchinsky family.
Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the tickets page at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (UND.com). Please note — additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site (www.notredamepromotions.com) for the latest information:
- March 1 vs. Seton Hall — Senior Day (pregame ceremony) … foam leprechaun hats to first 1,000 fans, courtesy of Papa Vino’s … post-game autograph session courtside with entire Notre Dame team.
Next Game: St. John’s
The Irish will bring down the curtain on the 2007-08 regular season Monday when they travel to St. John’s for a 7 p.m. (ET) game against the Red Storm. Notre Dame will be making its first visit to Carnesecca Arena since a 66-63 upset loss to SJU in 2006, marking the first Red Storm win in the series.
St. John’s (14-13, 5-9) was helped by Notre Dame’s win over USF on Wednesday, which locked up a BIG EAST Championship berth for the Red Storm. SJU has won two of its last three games heading into Saturday’s road game at Cincinnati.
— ND —