Feb. 15, 2008
2007-08 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 25
#16/16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-5 / 7-3 BIG EAST) vs. #21/23 Syracuse Orange (19-4 / 7-3 BIG EAST)
DATE: February 16, 2008
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Syracuse, N.Y. – Carrier Dome (33,633)
SERIES: ND leads 20-2
1ST MTG: 1/16/88 (ND 81-64)
LAST MTG: 1/20/07 (ND 83-55)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM / UND.com (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: SUAthletics.com
TICKETS: (888) 366-3849
- Notre Dame opens a three-game road trip, its longest of the season, with the first two stops coming against ranked opponents.
- The Irish need one victory to post their 14th 20-win season in the past 15 years, and their 18th in the 21-year Muffet McGraw era.
No. 16 Irish Open Three-Game Road Trip Saturday At No. 21/23 Syracuse
With only three weeks to go before the BIG EAST Championship, No. 16 Notre Dame faces one of its biggest challenges of the season, as it opens a three-game road trip Saturday at No. 21/23 Syracuse. The Irish are tied with the Orange for fifth place in the BIG EAST standings, one-half game behind Pittsburgh in the race for the all-important first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Notre Dame (19-5, 7-3 BIG EAST) picked up its fourth consecutive win on Wednesday night with a 99-76 victory over Marquette at the Joyce Center. The Irish fired on all cylinders offensively with a season-high .643 field goal percentage, their best shooting night in 11 years.
Senior guard Tulyah Gaines led Notre Dame in scoring for the second consecutive game with a season-high 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Junior guard Lindsay Schrader did a little bit of everything for the Irish, as she had 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.
- Notre Dame is ranked 16th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls this week.
- Syracuse is ranked 21st in this week’s Associated Press poll and 23rd in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.
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 11 weeks, rising as high as 14th just before the start of BIG EAST Conference play.
Notre Dame also ranks in the top 20 in six NCAA statistical categories (as of Monday), including scoring offense (7th, 79.6 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (8th, 1.13), and scoring margin (9th, +18.5 ppg.) with nearly half its wins by 30 points. The Irish also rank second in the BIG EAST (15th nationally) in steals (12.13 spg.) and have forced 20 turnovers on 15 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 13.8 points per game (18th in BIG EAST) and owning the team lead with 48 steals (8th in BIG EAST). She also has scored in double figures 20 times in 24 games, including 11 of her last 12.
Sophomore guard Ashley Barlow has built upon last year’s BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection, ranking second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg.) and standing right behind Allen with 47 steals. She also boasts a team-high .343 three-point percentage and is 23rd in the country with an .859 free throw percentage.
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 (5.8 rpg.) 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 286 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. 11 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 Syracuse
No team in the BIG EAST Conference, and arguably in the nation, has enjoyed a bigger coming-out party this season than Syracuse. On the backs of eight returning veterans and six talented newcomers, the Orange have turned last year’s 9-20 record into a distant memory and are poised to make the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002.
Syracuse (19-4, 7-3) last played Wednesday night, taking an 81-72 victory at Seton Hall. Freshman guard Erica Morrow scored a team-high 23 points and senior forward Fantasia Goodwin added 20 points off the bench to pace four Orange players in double figures. As a team, SU shot 55.1 percent from the floor, including a sharp 7-of-12 (.583) from three-point range.
Junior guard Chandrea Jones leads four Syracuse double-figure scorers this season with 15.9 points per game, along with 7.8 rebounds per night. Goodwin offers 13.0 points and a team-high 9.5 rebounds per game, while sophomore guard Nicole Michael is logging 13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds each time out.
In just his second season at Syracuse, head coach Quentin Hillsman owns a 282-24 (.538) record. He is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Syracuse Series
Saturday will mark the 23rd meeting between Notre Dame and Syracuse, with the Irish owning a 20-2 series edge over the Orange. Notre Dame also is 9-1 on the road against SU, having won on its last nine trips to central New York.
The teams met four times in non-conference action as part of a home-and-home series from 1988-91 before resuming the rivalry under the BIG EAST Conference banner. The Irish are 16-0 against Syracuse in regular-season BIG EAST games (1-1 in the conference tournament, with the Orange win being an 84-79 decision on March 3, 2002 in Piscataway, N.J.).
The Last Time Notre Dame And Syracuse Met
Charel Allen posted her second career double-double with 25 points and a career-high-tying 10 rebounds to help Notre Dame earn an 83-55 BIG EAST win over Syracuse on Jan. 20, 2007, at the Joyce Center.
Melissa Lechlitner had arguably the best day of her young career, registering personal highs with 18 points and six rebounds, as well as five assists without a turnover. Tulyah Gaines nearly had a double-double of her own, finishing with 10 points and a career-high-tying nine assists, while Erica Williamson also came close to a double-double with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Fantasia Goodwin scored a team-high 16 points for Syracuse. Nicole Michael added a double-double with 14 points and a team-best 10 rebounds, and Vaida Sipaviciute also scored 14 points for the visitors.
After the teams traded opening baskets, Notre Dame surged in front with 11 of the next 13 points, with Allen accounting for nine markers. Syracuse got back within seven points twice, the second coming at 18-11 on Goodwin’s triple with 11:22 remaining in the first half. A minute later, the Irish had their first double-digit lead of the game, and Lechlitner kept Notre Dame up by double figures for good on a three-pointer for a 27-15 spread at the 7:52 mark. The teams played almost evenly the rest of the period, with the Irish taking a 41-23 lead at halftime.
Allen’s long jumper 17 seconds into the second half put Notre Dame up by 20 points. That margin remained for the next three minutes until the Orange went on a 9-0 run, getting within 49-38 on a jumper in the lane by Sipaviciute with 12:52 to go. However, Lechlitner converted an old-fashioned three-point play on the next Irish possession and SU never got closer than 13 points from then on. A game-ending 16-4 run helped Notre Dame finish with its largest margin of the afternoon.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Syracuse Met At The Carrier Dome
Lindsay Schrader scored 24 points and shared team-high honors with eight rebounds as Notre Dame posted a 67-55 victory over Syracuse on Jan. 31, 2006, at the Carrier Dome.
Courtney LaVere tossed in 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and Megan Duffy chipped in with 12 points for the Irish. Vaida Sipaviciute came off the bench to notch team highs of 19 points and seven rebounds for SU. Tracy Harbut was the only other player to score in double figures for the Orange, finishing with 11 points, a game-high six assists and five rebounds.
Notre Dame used a sharp shooting second half (53.8 percent on 14-of-26 field goals) and better ball handling (one turnover) to overcome a five-point deficit in the opening moments of the final stanza. The Irish also forced 21 Syracuse turnovers, coming up with 14 steals, including four thefts by Tulyah Gaines.
Neither side led by more than four points in a first half that featured eight ties and five lead changes, with Syracuse taking a 27-25 lead at the intermission.
SU seized its largest lead of the night in the opening minute of the second half, as baskets by Harbut and Cintia Johnson, sandwiched around a Schrader free throw, gave the Orange a 31-26 edge. LaVere answered with a pair of layups to trim the SU lead to a point at the 18:15 juncture, and it would remain a one-possession game for the next nine minutes.
The Irish then went to work on the defensive end, holding the Orange to just two field goals during the final nine and a half minutes of the contest. Notre Dame also put together an 8-0 run during a four-minute stretch, with LaVere draining a pair of jumpers to bookend the charge, and then Schrader posted half a dozen in the final 2:18 to seal the win.
Other Notre Dame-Syracuse Series Tidbits
- Saturday’s game will mark only the second time Notre Dame has played in the Carrier Dome. The Irish posted a 67-55 win over Syracuse in the building on their last visit to central New York (Jan. 31, 2006).
- Notre Dame is 9-1 in true road games against Syracuse, having won nine in a row after dropping its first-ever game at SU (63-56 on Feb. 4, 1989). During that current nine-game road winning streak in the series, the Irish have won by an average of 19.4 points per game, although the past three have been decided by 13 points or less.
- The Irish have scored at least 70 points in 17 of 22 series games with the Orange, while SU has topped that mark twice in the series (last coming in its most recent win, 84-79 on March 3, 2002 in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.).
- Syracuse is one of eight programs against whom Notre Dame has at least 20 series wins; the others are Marquette (28), Dayton/Detroit/Georgetown (22), Valparaiso (21), and Loyola (Ill.)/Xavier (20).
- The Irish defense has been a key during its current seven-game series winning streak. Notre Dame has limited Syracuse to 50.1 points per game in that stretch, including two games of 35 points or less.
- In each of the past four games vs. Syracuse, Notre Dame has had a different player set (at the time) a new career high in scoring — Breona Gray (17 on Jan. 5, 2005), Charel Allen (17 on Jan. 19, 2005), Lindsay Schrader (24 on Jan. 31, 2006) and Melissa Lechlitner (18 on Jan. 20, 2007). All but Lechlitner went on to eclipse those point totals.
- Notre Dame is 41-3 (.932) all-time against New York schools, with a 19-3 (.864) record outside the Joyce Center. Syracuse, which is responsible for two of those three losses (St. John’s has the other), is the second of three Empire State institutions on this year’s Irish schedule — Canisius visited the Joyce Center back on Nov. 27 (a 93-47 Notre Dame win) and the Irish will close out the regular season at St. John’s on March 3.
- Notre Dame freshman forward Devereaux Peters and Syracuse freshman guard Erica Morrow both played in the 2007 McDonald’s High School All-America Game in Louisville. Peters had one point, five rebounds and two blocks as a reserve for the West squad, while Morrow came off the bench to tally four points, three rebounds and three steals for the East team, which earned a 105-76 victory. Peters is out for the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee on Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburgh.
- Notre Dame has one New York native on its 2007-08 roster. Senior center Melissa D’Amico is from Manorville and graduated from William Floyd High School in 2004. Meanwhile, sophomore center Erica Williamson is a former New York resident — she spent her first three prep seasons at Honeoye Falls-Lima High School in Rochester, N.Y., before moving with her family to Charlotte, N.C., in the summer of 2005.
Peters To Miss Rest Of 2007-08 Season
Freshman forward Devereaux Peters will miss the remainder of the 2007-08 women’s basketball season after injuring her left knee in the second half of Notre Dame’s 81-66 win over No. 15 Pittsburgh on Feb. 10 at the Joyce Center. Peters suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), an injury that was confirmed by team orthopedist Dr. Fred Ferlic after Peters underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam on Feb. 11. Peters will undergo surgery to repair the injury at a later date, and her rehabilitation timetable has not yet been established.
At the time of her injury, Peters ranked fourth on the team in scoring at 9.0 points per game, second in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and third in steals (1.7 spg). She also ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in blocked shots (3rd – 1.96 bpg.) and field goal percentage (10th – .522), and she scored in double figures 14 times this season, including the final four games of her rookie campaign. In addition, she logged her first career double-double on Jan. 27 against top-ranked Connecticut with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
What’s more, her total blocks (45) and blocks-per-game average rank third all-time among Irish freshmen, trailing only Shari Matvey (94 blocks, 3.1 bpg. in 1979-80) and Ruth Riley (71 blocks, 2.2 bpg. in 1997-98).
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 74-19 (.796) in February games, including a 43-4 (.915) mark at home.
In the 21-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 122-34 (.782) 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).
Last year, Notre Dame went 6-2 in February, winning its first six before ending with losses to No. 21/22 Rutgers (76-60 at home) and DePaul (87-73 on the road).
Notre Dame is peppered throughout the latest NCAA statistical rankings (as of Monday). The Irish among the top 20 in the nation in six categories, led by a No. 7 ranking for scoring offense (currently 79.6) and and No. 8 ranking for assist/turnover ratio (1.13). Notre Dame also is ninth in scoring margin (+18.5), 12th in fewest turnovers (14.4), 15th in steals (12.1), and 18th in field goal percentage (.466).
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. The latest NCAA statistics report was scheduled for release late Friday afternoon.
Nearly half (9) of Notre Dame’s 19 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 24 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 six of those came in the first 24 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 as of Monday) at 79.6 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 24 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 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 second in the conference (and ninth in the nation) in scoring margin at +18.5 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 30.8 points per game (compared to 49.6 ppg. by the starters) and has outscored all 24 opponent benches this season by an average of +16.0 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 (third in BIG EAST and 45th in the nation) with a .522 field goal percentage (10th 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 19-5 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 ranking third in the BIG EAST (45th in the nation) in blocked shots (1.96 bpg). Mallory is averaging 6.7 points per game, is second on the team with 22 three-pointers and chalked up a season-high 15 points on Jan. 19 at Georgetown. Bruszewski 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 last Sunday 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. In the past two games, enior point guard Tulyah Gaines has become the latest scoring leader for the Irish with 13 points vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh and a season-high 22 points vs. Marquette.
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 three games (Purdue, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 16 West Virginia) 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 12th in the nation (as of Monday) with just 14.4 turnovers per game and have been charged with 20 or more turnovers just twice in the past 40 games (20 at Louisville on Jan. 8; 23 vs. Marquette on Wednesday).
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 22.5 turnovers per night and currently leads the BIG EAST with a +8.13 turnover margin, almost four takeaways better than second-place Connecticut. The Irish have caused at least 20 turnovers in 16 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 15th nationally in steals (as of Monday), averaging 12.13 thefts per game (11.30 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 six players with at least 30 steals this season (and another with 24). Senior guard Charel Allen leads the way with 48, ranking eighth in the BIG EAST in that category (2.0 spg). Allen has been especially potent of late with 13 steals in the past four games, 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.
Keeping It On The Plus Side
Notre Dame has registered a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in 14 games this season and ranks four in the BIG EAST (eighth nationally as of Monday) with a 1.13 assist-to-turnover ratio. Notre Dame also has assisted on 54.6 percent of its field goals this year (390 assists on 714 baskets), ranking fifth in the conference and 29th in the country with 16.25 assists per game.
Off And Running
Notre Dame has wasted little time in jumping ahead of its opponents this season. In nearly half (8) of their 19 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, currently standing 11th with 1,385 points and just 45 points away from moving into the top 10 on the Irish career scoring charts. The person currently holding down that 10th position? First-year assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had 1,430 points from 1996-2001.
Notre Dame is ranked 16th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, holding steady from last week’s survey. The season-high No. 14 rankings on Dec. 31-Jan. 7 were the highest for the Irish 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 154 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 are in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll for the 14th consecutive week, moving up one spot to 16th in this week’s balloting. Notre Dame’s No. 14 rankings on Jan. 2-8 were the highest poll position for Notre Dame 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 154 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 68-of-84 (.810) 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.
Leading the way is sophomore guard Ashley Barlow, who is 11-of-12 (.917) this year and 21-of-24 (.875) 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. 4), Notre Dame also has or will play No. 1 Tennessee (lost 87-63 on Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), No. 2 Connecticut (lost 81-64 on Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center), and No. 5 Rutgers (Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). Three of the top four 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.
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 Internet on 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 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: Rutgers
For the fourth time this season, Notre Dame will face a top-five opponent when it travels to No. 5/4 Rutgers Tuesday for an 8 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST game. The contest will be broadcast live to a national cable audience by CSTV.
Coming off last year’s trip to the NCAA title game, the Scarlet Knights (19-4, 9-1) have knocked off several high-profile opponents this season, including top-ranked and previously-undefeated Connecticut on Feb. 5. Following Monday’s highly-controversial 59-58 loss at No. 1 Tennessee, RU looks to rebound Saturday night at South Florida before returning home to face Notre Dame next week.
— ND —