Feb. 26, 2008
2007-08 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 28
#14/14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-6 / 9-4 BIG EAST) vs. South Florida Bulls (13-13 / 3-10 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 27, 2008
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: ND leads 3-2
1ST MTG: 12/13/97 (ND 73-50)
LAST MTG: 1/13/07 (USF 87-78, ot)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM / UND.com (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
- Notre Dame needs two wins in its final three games to clinch a first-round bye for the upcoming BIG EAST Championship.
- The Irish and South Florida have gone to overtime in each of their two regular-season matchups since USF joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06.
No. 14 Irish Back Home Wednesday To Face South Florida
After a tough three-game road trip that featured two thrilling late-game victories and another near-miss, No. 14 Notre Dame returns to the Joyce Center Wednesday to start the final week of BIG EAST regular-season play with a 7 p.m. (ET) contest against South Florida. The Irish currently hold a tenuous one-game lead for fourth place in the conference standings, and with that position, a coveted first-round bye for the BIG EAST Championship.
Notre Dame (21-6, 9-4 BIG EAST) picked up its sixth win in seven games on Sunday with a 66-64 win at DePaul. The Irish led by seven points at halftime, then held off a late Blue Demon rally to secure their first win on the DePaul campus in more than 17 years.
Sophomore center Erica Williamson was strong in the post for Notre Dame, tying her career high with 16 points and adding a game-best eight rebounds. Senior guard Charel Allen chipped in with 12 points, seven rebounds and a team-high five assists for the Irish.
- Notre Dame is ranked 14th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls this week.
- South Florida 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 (7th, 78.0 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (10th, 1.10) and scoring margin (11th, +16.8 ppg.), with nearly half its wins by 30 points. The Irish also rank second in the BIG EAST (17th nationally) in steals (11.78 spg.) and have forced 20 turnovers on 17 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 (16th in BIG EAST) and owning the team lead with 53 steals (9th 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 (11.9 ppg.) and standing right behind Allen with 52 steals.
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 (10.7 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (5.9 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 288 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 7,090 fans to its 14 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 108 of their last 110 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 South Florida
After four consecutive postseason tournament berths, including its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid in 2006, South Florida was faced with the challenge this season of replacing six letterwinners, including three starts, who made up more than 60 percent of the team’s offense. The Bulls also have had to mesh six newcomers with the six returnees, which has made the season a difficult one for the Green and Gold.
USF (13-13, 3-10) is one game out of the final BIG EAST Championship berth (as of Tuesday) following a 66-56 loss at Georgetown this past Saturday. The Bulls shot 33.9 percent from the field (4-of-18 from the three-point line) and saw their bench outscored by the GU bench, 24-6.
Junior guard Shantia Grace had team highs of 15 points and six assists for USF. She currently ranks fifth in the BIG EAST in scoring (18.4 ppg) and 10th in assists (3.96 apg), and is a tremendous perimeter shooter, ranking ninth in the league with a .408 three-point percentage.
Head coach Jose Fernandez sports a 113-120 (.485) record in his eighth season with the Bulls. He is 2-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-South Florida Series
Although short on games played, the Notre Dame-South Florida series hasn’t lacked for drama. In fact, since the Bulls joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06, both regular-season contests have gone to overtime (both won by USF), while the third in the BIG EAST Championship went to the Irish by seven points.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series by a 3-2 count, with each side splitting a pair of games at home and the Irish owning the tiebreak by virtue of their win in the conference tournament.
The Last Time Notre Dame And South Florida Met
Erica Williamson recorded her first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, but it wasn’t quite enough as South Florida finally wore down Notre Dame in overtime and pulled out an 87-78 win on Jan. 13, 2007, in Tampa. Williamson’s 18 rebounds were a Notre Dame freshman record, as well as the most by any Irish player in nearly four years, and just two off the BIG EAST record for rebounds by a rookie in a conference game.
Williamson led five Notre Dame players in double figures, as Melissa D’Amico set the pace with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Ashley Barlow collected 12 points and nine rebounds. Melissa Lechlitner tied her (then) career high with 11 points, including the game-tying three-pointer with 11 seconds left in regulation, while Charel Allen also scored 11 points despite being one of many Notre Dame players who dodged foul trouble all day. The Irish were whistled for a school-record 33 fouls in the game, while the Bulls set a Notre Dame opponent record by attempting 45 free throws.
South Florida was led by All-America forward Jessica Dickson, who scored 30 points (making 14-of-18 free throws) and grabbed 11 rebounds. Nalini Miller added a career-high 26 points and 14 rebounds and Daiane Packer came off the bench to chip in 11 points for the Bulls.
Notre Dame played from behind for much of the day, but never trailed by more than nine points at any time. The Irish defense rose up down the stretch, limiting South Florida to a single field goal in the closing seven-plus minutes of regulation (Rachel Sheats’ clutch layup with 2:02 left that made it 74-71, USF). Notre Dame then came up with two big stops, and Lechlitner made it all pay off, getting free on the left wing and finding nothing but cotton on a three-pointer with 11 seconds to play.
The Irish carried their momentum into the opening minutes of overtime, as Crystal Erwin hit a layup with 29 seconds gone. Dickson answered with two buckets following a Miller field goal, but Erwin came back with another layup in traffic to pull Notre Dame within 80-78 and still 2:47 to go in the extra session. However, that’s where the Irish went cold, missing their final five shots, while USF closed the game on a 7-0 run.
The Last Time Notre Dame And South Florida Met At The Joyce Center
South Florida’s Ezria Parsons hit a desperation three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to force overtime, then Jessica Jackson hit a key three in OT for the Bulls, who survived a late rally to beat No. 21 Notre Dame 68-64 on Jan. 28, 2006 at the Joyce Center.
USF, which led by as many as 15 points, needed Jackson’s three-pointer with 2:12 left in overtime for a 65-62 lead. Notre Dame cut the lead to a point on a fastbreak layup by Charel Allen, but USF’s Jessica Dickson, the nation’s leading scorer who scored 13 of her 18 points after halftime, hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left for a 67-64 lead. Megan Duffy, who led Notre Dame with 25 points, had a chance to tie it, but her contested three-pointer didn’t find iron with three seconds left.
USF appeared to take control midway through the first half after Duffy hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 20-18 with 8:51 left. The Bulls’ defense then held Notre Dame without a field goal the rest of the half, outscoring the Irish, 14-3 to take a 34-21 halftime lead.
Notre Dame didn’t hit a field goal for the first four minutes of the second half either, but the Bulls missed their first 11 shots. The Irish came within one point twice before Duffy’s layup finally gave them a 47-46 lead.
Duffy’s free throws extended the Irish lead to 58-55 with 24 seconds left. But Parsons, who was just 2-of-11 from three-point range all season, hit a long trey from the right wing as she was falling down to force the overtime.
Jackson finished with 12 points and Nalini Miller had 10 points and seven rebounds for South Florida, which had a 48-42 rebounding edge. Lindsay Schrader had 12 points for Notre Dame and Allen added 10.
Other Notre Dame-South Florida Series Tidbits
- The three series games played since USF joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06 have been wildly entertaining, with both regular season contests going to overtime (both won by the Bulls) and the third in the BIG EAST Championship going to the Irish by seven points.
- Notre Dame has scored at least 70 points in four of the five series matchups to date, while USF reached that mark for the first time last season.
- Last year’s game featured three entries into the Notre Dame record book –team fouls (33), opponent free throw attempts (45) and the first 30-point game by an opponent (USF’s Jessica Dickson) since Villanova’s Jen Beisel on Jan. 30, 1998.
- Last year’s contest in Tampa also saw three Notre Dame foul out of a game for the first time since Dec. 28, 2000 (a 70-61 win at USC where Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all were disqualified).
- Notre Dame junior guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) and USF junior guard Shantia Grace (Sarasota, Fla./Riverview HS) were the 2005 Gatorade High School Players of the Year in their respective states.
- Notre Dame has had seven Florida natives suit up in the program’s 31-year history. The most recent Sunshine State product to don the Irish colors was Pembroke Pines resident Le’Tania Severe, who attended Notre Dame from 2000-04, helping the Irish to three NCAA Sweet 16 berths and the 2001 NCAA title.
A Six-Figure Season
For the second consecutive year, and the third time in school history, Notre Dame is set to attract more than 100,000 fans at home this season. The Irish already have drawn 99,256 fans to their first 14 games at the Joyce Center, with two games left on the home docket.
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 go after that mark when they play host to USF (Wednesday) and Seton Hall (Saturday) to close out the ’07-08 home slate.
Boldly Going Where No One 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 four 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 finished with 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 Sunday’s 66-64 win at DePaul. 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 76-20 (.792) in February games, including a 43-4 (.915) mark at home.
In the 21-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 124-35 (.780) in the month of February, including a 65-10 (.867) 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 has continued its trend of winning records in February under McGraw, going 5-1 this month with only a 57-51 loss at No. 5/4 Rutgers on Feb. 19.
Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings (as of Monday). The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in five categories, led by a No. 7 ranking for scoring offense (78.0) and a No. 10 ranking for assist/turnover ratio (1.10). Notre Dame also is 11th in scoring margin (+16.8 ppg) and 17th in both field goal percentage (.460) 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 (9) of Notre Dame’s 21 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. This marks the first time in school history that Notre Dame has fashioned nine 30-point wins in its first 27 games.
It’s also the first time since the 2000-01 national championship season that the Irish have logged at least nine 30-point wins in a single season. That year, Notre Dame collected a school-record 10 30-point victories, but only seven of those came in the first 27 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 third in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (and seventh in the nation) at 78.0 points per game, having tallied at least 80 points 14 times this season. What’s more, Notre Dame also has the fourth-highest scoring average through 27 games in program history, and highest since the 1998-99 squad averaged 83.1 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 six times this season. That’s the most 90-point games for the Irish in one year since 1998-99, when they tied the school record with seven 90-point games. 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 third in the conference (and 11th in the nation) in scoring margin at +16.8 points per game.
McGraw’s Shock Troops
During his coaching tenure with the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s, 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 29.2 points per game (compared to 48.8 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored 26 of 27 opponent benches this season by an average of +14.3 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 (tops in BIG EAST and 43rd 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 21-6 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 leading the BIG EAST (and placing 43rd in the nation) in blocked shots (1.96 bpg). Mallory is averaging 6.7 points per game, leads the team with 27 three-pointers and chalked up a season-high 15 points on Jan. 19 at Georgetown. 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 22nd in the nation with just 14.6 turnovers per game and have been charged with 20 or more turnovers just twice in the past 43 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 +7.56 turnover margin, more than three takeaways better than second-place Connecticut. The Irish have caused at least 20 turnovers in 17 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 17th nationally in steals, averaging 11.78 thefts per game (10.77 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. Senior guard Charel Allen leads the way with 53, ranking ninth in the BIG EAST in that category (1.96 spg). Allen has been especially potent of late with 18 steals in the past seven games (2.57 spg), including a career-high six in the win over Providence.
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.
Off And Running
Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In eight of their 21 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.
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 15 games this season and ranks third in the BIG EAST (10th nationally) with a 1.10 assist-to-turnover ratio. Notre Dame also has assisted on 55.4 percent of its field goals this year (434 assists on 783 baskets), ranking fifth in the conference and 26th in the country with 16.07 assists per game.
Allen Climbing Irish Points Ladder
Senior guard Charel Allen continues to make her way up Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list, breaking into the Top 10 on Sunday with 12 points at DePaul. With 1,437 points in her All-American career, Allen just passed first-year assistant coach Niele Ivey for 10th place on the Irish career scoring chart — Ivey had 1,430 points from 1996-2001.
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 now will face four of the top five teams in the latest Associated Press poll. Besides the Terrapins (currently No. 5), Notre Dame also has or will play 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 seven, 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 and Marquette.
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 on 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:
- Feb. 27 vs. South Florida — Midweek Mania (buy one ticket, get one free) … post-game autograph session courtside with selected Notre Dame players.
Next Game: Seton Hall
Notre Dame wraps up its 2007-08 home schedule Saturday with a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee against Seton Hall at the Joyce Center. Prior to the game, the Irish will honor their departing seniors in an on-court ceremony.
SHU (13-12, 3-10) has its back to the wall in the race for a BIG EAST Championship berth, as the Pirates were tied for 13th place in the league standings (one game out of the final tourney spot) entering their game at St. John’s on Tuesday night.
— ND —