Senior guard/co-captain Brittany Mallory scored a season-high 12 points and added a game-high five steals in Notre Dame's last outing, a 94-43 win at Valparaiso on Dec. 20.

#17/15 Irish Head To Pacific Northwest This Week

Dec. 27, 2010

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2010-11 ND Women’s Basketball: Games 13-14
State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic
#17/15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-3 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (10-3 / 0-0 WCC) / Loyola Marymount Lions (5-7 / 0-0 WCC)

DATE: December 29-30, 2010
TIME: 4:30 p.m. PT (both days)
AT: Seattle, Wash. – KeyArena (17,072)
SERIES: ND/GU – First meeting / ND leads LMU 1-0
LAST MTG: ND 78-40 (1/3/87)
WEBCAST: (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid/@UND_com
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  • Notre Dame will be playing in its second tournament of the season, having previously won the WBCA Classic on the weekend after Thanksgiving.
  • The Fighting Irish have won 24 of their last 27 regular-season tournament games, including a current streak of six in a row.

No. 17/15 Irish Head To Pacific Northwest This Week
After playing just once in the past 18 days due to final exams and the Christmas holiday break, No. 17/15 Notre Dame will return to action this week as it takes part in the inaugural State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic at KeyArena in Seattle, Wash. The Fighting Irish will tangle with Gonzaga on Wednesday and Loyola Marymount on Thursday, with both games tipping off at 4:30 p.m. PT (7:30 p.m. ET).

Notre Dame (9-3, 1-0 BIG EAST) last took the hardwood on Dec. 20, leading wire-to-wire in a 94-43 win at Valparaiso. The Fighting Irish connected on 14 of their first 16 shots and never looked back en route to their fourth 50-point win of the season.

Junior guard Natalie Novosel scored a game-high 18 points (6-7 FG, 6-6 FT) in 20 minutes, while freshman forward Natalie Achonwa and senior guard Brittany Mallory each added 12 points for Notre Dame.


  • Notre Dame was No. 17 in last week’s Associated Press poll and No. 15 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount were not ranked last week.

Quick Hitters

  • With its No. 17 ranking in the Dec. 20 Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has appeared in the AP poll for a school-record 65 consecutive weeks, extending the program standard that began with the 2007-08 preseason poll.
  • The Fighting Irish have posted a school-record six wins this season by at least 35 points, topping the old program standard of four 35-point victories set in 2008-09.
  • Notre Dame has won seven games by 30 points or more, putting the Fighting Irish better than halfway to the school record of 10 30-point victories established in 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points in six games this season, just one shy of the program record of seven set in three separate seasons (1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
  • The Fighting Irish rank among the top 16 in the country in eight statistical categories, according to the Dec. 13 NCAA statistics report. Notre Dame leads the nation in steals (now 16.3 spg.), while placing sixth in field goal percentage (.500), scoring margin (+30.0 ppg.), assists (20.3 apg.) and turnover margin (+9.33). The Fighting Irish also are 10th in the country in scoring offense (85.2 ppg.), 13th in three-point percentage defense (.233) and 16th in assist/turnover ratio (1.16).
  • Notre Dame is closing in on the 700th win in school history, currently sporting a 698-305 (.696) record in 34 seasons of intercollegiate competition. There are 30 NCAA Division I programs that have reached the 700-win plateau, most recently Duke, Kansas and Missouri State earlier this month. Middle Tennessee has 699 victories, with the Blue Raiders set to play at No. 11 Kentucky on Wednesday.
  • Notre Dame celebrated another program milestone on Dec. 5 with its 1,000th all-time game (a 72-51 win over Purdue at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Part of Notre Dame’s success thus far can be traced to the improvement in three of its veterans, each of whom has exceeded her scoring output from last season by at least 50 percent. Junior guard Natalie Novosel (5.0 to 15.4), senior forward Devereaux Peters (6.7 to 9.2) and junior forward Erica Solomon (3.4 to 6.4) also are currently logging career-high scoring averages this year.
  • The Fighting Irish freshman class also has made significant contributions early on this season, led by forward Natalie Achonwa and guard Kayla McBride. Achonwa is averaging 9.1 points and a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game, and leads the BIG EAST with a .634 field goal percentage. McBride (who started four games around Thanksgiving when senior guard Brittany Mallory was slowed with an ankle injury) is averaging 8.2 points per game and is tied for seventh in the BIG EAST with a .539 field goal percentage. Between them, they have scored in double figures 10 times this season, with each scoring a season-high 14 points (Achonwa vs. Creighton Dec. 11, McBride vs. Morehead State on Nov. 15).

Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 15 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking sixth with 352 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 10 seasons. Last year, the program finished fourth in the final NCAA attendance rankings with 8,377 fans per game, both setting new school records in the process. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 149 of their last 151 home games, logging 13 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 5 vs. Purdue).
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past decade. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the ’10 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame’s eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the ’06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor’s degree (a 62-for-62 success rate), with all three members of this year’s senior class on target to earn their diplomas.

A Quick Look At Gonzaga
Coming off the school’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2010, Gonzaga has 10 letterwinners back in the fold, including two starters from that 25-5 squad.

The Bulldogs (10-3) seemingly haven’t missed a beat, riding a nine-game winning streak coming into this week’s tournament, most recently defeat Cal State Fullerton, 101-52 on Dec. 23 in Spokane. Senior guard/forward Janelle Bekkering had a near-perfect shooting day (10-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 4-4 FT), scoring 26 points in just 24 minutes. Junior forward Kayla Standish added 22 points (10-13 FG) and nine rebounds, while senior guard Courtney Vandersloot posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists, sparking a Gonzaga offense that topped the 100-point mark for the third time this season.

Junior guard/forward Katelan Redmon leads the Bulldogs in scoring (18.5 ppg.) and is second in both rebounding (6.1 rpg.) and assists (3.2 apg.). Vandersloot is second in scoring (17.5 ppg.) and leads the nation in assists (9.7 apg.), while Standish adds 15.3 points per game and team highs of 7.7 rebounds per game and a .572 field goal percentage.

Head coach Kelly Graves is in his 11th season at Gonzaga with a 207-117 (.639) record at the school. Including a three-year stint at Saint Mary’s (Calif.), Graves has a career record of 273-143 (.656).

The Notre Dame-Gonzaga Series
Wednesday’s game will mark the first time Notre Dame and Gonzaga will meet on the hardwood.

Other Notre Dame-Gonzaga Series Tidbits

  • Gonzaga is the sixth of seven first-time opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule this year. The Fighting Irish are 3-2 against these new foes this season, defeating New Hampshire (99-48), Morehead State (91-28) and Wake Forest (92-69) at Purcell Pavilion, while falling at No. 9/10 Kentucky (81-76) and No. 2/3 Baylor (76-65).
  • The Bulldogs will be the 186th different opponent in the 34-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball.
  • Notre Dame is 44-7 (.863) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including a 24-3 (.889) mark vs. new teams since the start of the 2000-01 season.
  • Notre Dame is 3-1 all-time against Washington schools, winning two of three matchups against the state’s flagship institution, including the last Fighting Irish game against a Washington team (72-58 over UW on Dec. 11, 2004). Notre Dame also won at Pacific Lutheran, 57-48, on March 12, 1980, in the AIAW Division III National Tournament.
  • Notre Dame has had three players on its all-time roster from the state of Washington. Kim Garrison (1986-87; Mill Creek) was the first Evergreen State product to suit up for the Fighting Irish, followed by Kari Hutchinson (1994-98; Nine Mile Falls). The most recent Washington native to suit up for Notre Dame was Yakima resident Teresa Borton, who played for the Fighting Irish from 2001-05.
  • Notre Dame freshman forward Natalie Achonwa and Gonzaga senior guard/forward Janelle Bekkering were teammates on the 2010 Canadian Senior National Team that finished 12th at the FIBA World Championships in Czech Republic. Achonwa averaged 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in the eight-game tournament, while Bekkering appeared in six contests, averaging 2.5 points and 0.7 rebounds per game. Achonwa and Bekkering also were two of the three NCAA Division I players competing in the 2010 FIBA World Championships along with Connecticut’s Maya Moore, who won a gold medal with Team USA.
  • While Wednesday will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and Gonzaga, Bulldogs head coach Kelly Graves has faced the Fighting Irish before. On March 13, 1999, Graves piloted Saint Mary’s (Calif.) to its first-ever NCAA Championship berth, with the Gaels dropping a narrow 61-57 decision to a shorthanded Notre Dame squad in Baton Rouge, La. (it was days after Fighting Irish point guard Niele Ivey was sidelined for the season with a torn ACL).

A Quick Look At Loyola Marymount
Hopes were high for Loyola Marymount entering this season, with 11 letterwinners and four starters returning from last year’s 13-17 squad. However, the Lions’ toughest opponent to date hasn’t been on the other end of the court, but rather the injury bug, which has done a number on LMU’s roster.

Loyola Marymount (5-7) comes into this week’s tournament on a three-game losing streak, most recently dropping a 54-33 verdict at Arkansas-Little Rock on Dec. 20. Junior guard Candice Nichols scored a team-high 11 points for the Lions, who were held to fewer than 40 points for the third consecutive game.

Part of the reason for LMU’s recent offensive struggles has been its adjustment to the season-ending foot injury to junior guard/forward Alex Cowling, who was among the national scoring leaders (22.5 ppg.) and added a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game before going down right after Thanksgiving. In her absence, Nichols is the Lions’ leading scorer (13.6 ppg.) and second-leading rebounder (5.3 rpg.), while freshman guard Hazel Ramirez adds 10.6 ppg.

Head coach Julie Wilhoit is in her 16th season at Loyola Marymount, sporting a 218-228 (.489) in southern California. Adding in her prior stops at IUPUI (1986-91) and Pitt-Bradford (1993-95), she has a 23-year career coaching record of 339-298 (.532).

The Notre Dame-Loyola Marymount Series
Notre Dame and Loyola Marymount will be meeting for just the second time, following a 78-40 Fighting Irish victory on Jan. 3, 1987, in Los Angeles (see recap below).

The Last Time Notre Dame And Loyola Marymount Met
Heidi Bunek turned in a near-perfect shooting day (6-7 FG, 8-9 FT), scoring a game-high 20 points as Notre Dame rolled to a 78-40 win over Loyola Marymount on Jan. 3, 1987, at Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles.

Sandy Botham added 10 points for the Fighting Irish, who shot 59.4 percent from the floor in the first half while racing to a 42-8 halftime lead (at the time, the second-fewest points ever allowed by Notre Dame in a single half).

Sylvia Bauer was the lone LMU player to score in double figures, tossing in 12 points.

Other Notre Dame-Loyola Marymount Series Tidbits

  • LMU is the last of four non-conference opponents Notre Dame is facing this season for the first time in more than a decade. The Fighting Irish also revived long dormant series with UCLA (12-year hiatus), Butler (11 years) and Creighton (29 years) earlier this season.
  • LMU head coach Julie Wilhoit is an Indiana native, having been born in Greensburg and raised in Osgood before turning a standout playing career at Marian College (now University) in Indianapolis. She also coached five seasons at IUPUI (1986-91), amassing an 88-44 (.667) record with the Jaguars.
  • Notre Dame and LMU have one common opponent this season — UCLA (currently ranked ninth in the nation). The Fighting Irish lost to the Bruins, 86-83 in double overtime on Nov. 18 at Purcell Pavilion, while the Lions dropped a 67-43 decision at home to UCLA on Dec. 3.

Notre Dame vs. The West Coast Conference
Notre Dame will be playing a current member of the West Coast Conference for just the seventh and eighth times in its 34-year history, and the first in more than a decade. The Fighting Irish are 5-1 all-time against the WCC, most recently defeating San Diego, 87-61 on March 17, 2000, in the first round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion.

Gonzaga will be the sixth different WCC school Notre Dame has played, with the Fighting Irish having faced every other program in that eight-team league except Pepperdine and Portland.

Other Notre Dame Tournament Tidbits

  • Notre Dame is 1-5 (.167) all-time when playing in the state of Washington, with that lone win coming during the program’s infancy (57-48 at Pacific Lutheran on March 12, 1980, in the AIAW Division III National Tournament).
  • The Fighting Irish are 0-5 when playing in Seattle, dropping a pair of games at the Seattle Times/Husky Classic in both 1986 (57-54 vs. Oklahoma; 50-48 vs. Montana) and 1994 (91-70 vs. No. 9 Colorado; 79-76 vs. Miami-Ohio), as well as a single game at Washington (85-74 on Dec. 7, 2003 – the last time Notre Dame has played in Seattle).
  • This week’s tournament features two of the winningest coaches in NCAA Division I history. Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw comes into the week with 622 victories in 29 seasons (the first five at Lehigh from 1983-87), while Seattle’s Joan Bonvicini also has amassed 622 wins in 31 years on the sidelines (including prior stops at Long Beach State and Arizona). Both coaches rank 11th on the all-time wins list among active Division I coaches, and 16th in Division I history.

Tournament Tested
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 15 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 24 of their last 27 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three-game runs to the title at last year’s Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and this year’s WBCA Classic at Purcell Pavilion.

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

Notre Dame is playing its second regular-season tournament of the 2010-11 campaign, the first time the Fighting Irish have competed in multiple tourneys in the same season since 1996-97 (third place at Preseason WNIT; champion of Georgia Tech Comfort Inn Downtown Classic).

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

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into this week’s tournament leading the nation in steals with 16.3 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in nine of 12 games this season, including four contests with 20-plus steals.

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

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

Individually, Notre Dame has nine different players with double-digit steals this season, led by junior guard Natalie Novosel, who has registered 27 thefts (2.3 per game), and senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has collected a team-high 2.5 steals per game (tied for fifth in the BIG EAST).

The 700 Club
With an all-time record of 698-305 (.696), Notre Dame is closing in on the 700th win in school history, a milestone that 30 NCAA Division I programs have reached, including three this season (Duke, Kansas and Missouri State, all earlier this month).

The Fighting Irish actually are in a race with Middle Tennessee and Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) to see which school will be the next to reach the 700-win mark. MTSU currently has 699 victories as they prepare to visit No. 11 Kentucky on Wednesday. Meanwhile, SJU next will play host to New Hampshire Tuesday afternoon.

Another Present Under The Tree
Notre Dame is 22-11 (.667) all-time in in its first game after the Christmas holiday, with a 10-5 (.667) record away from South Bend and a 16-7 (.696) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).

The Fighting Irish also have won their last seven games coming off the Christmas break, including a 85-52 victory at Central Florida last season (Dec. 29, 2009). Wednesday will mark the first time Notre Dame has played on the road right after Christmas in three consective years since a five-season run of post-Yuletide road contests from 2000-04.

Ringing In The New Year
Notre Dame is 19-14 (.576) all-time in its last game of the calendar year, with an 11-11 record away from South Bend and a 16-7 (.696) record in the McGraw era. The Fighting Irish also have won their last three games when closing out the month of December, including a 74-69 victory over No. 18/16 Vanderbilt last Dec. 31 at Purcell Pavilion.

Game #12 Recap: Valparaiso
Natalie Novosel scored 18 points while Natalie Achonwa and Brittany Mallory added 12 apiece to help No. 17 Notre Dame easily beat Valparaiso 94-43 on Dec. 20 at VU’s Athletics-Recreation Center.

Notre Dame (9-3) had 24 steals and led by as many as 50 in the second half.

The Fighting Irish, who have a tradition of slow starts against the Crusaders, jumped out to a 10-2 lead at the first media time out and never looked back.

They built the lead to 34-11 with 6:45 left in the first half before subbing liberally.

Novosel and Mallory had 10 points each at halftime for Notre Dame, which also recorded 14 steals and four blocked shots at the intermission.

The second half was more of the same as the Irish built their lead as high as 54 points in the final five minutes.

Stefanie Lang scored 11 points to lead the Crusaders (2-9).

Noting The Valparaiso Game

  • Notre Dame posts its fourth 50-point win this season, and sixth by at least 35 points (both school records).
  • The 51-point margin tied for the third-largest road win in school history, and largest since Nov. 20, 2007 (94-41 at Central Michigan).
  • The Fighting Irish also top the 90-point mark for the sixth time this year, one shy of the school record set three times (1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
  • Notre Dame earns its 23rd consecutive win when coming out of its December final exam break, a run that started following a 73-67 home loss to UCLA on Dec. 21, 1985 (two seasons before Muffet McGraw took over as the Fighting Irish head coach — no games played between exams and Christmas in 1994 and 1997); the last two seasons, the Fighting Irish have won their first game after finals by at least 50 points (90-31 over Charlotte exactly one year earlier at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Notre Dame earns its 15th consecutive win heading into the Christmas holiday break and rises to 25-9 (.735) all-time in pre-Yuletide contests (last loss: 87-83 at Michigan State on Dec. 21, 1995, the program’s first in the BIG EAST Conference).
  • The Fighting Irish register their 36th consecutive victory against a current Horizon League member (second this season after an 85-54 win over Butler on Nov. 28 at Purcell Pavilion), a streak that began after a 65-62 home loss to Butler on Jan. 22, 1994; Notre Dame is 107-14 (.884) all-time against current Horizon League teams, including a 45-9 (.833) mark on the road.
  • The Fighting Irish have won 16 consecutive games against other Indiana schools, improving to 121-32 (.791) all-time against in-state opponents, with a 61-21 (.744) record outside of South Bend — Notre Dame went 4-0 against Indiana schools this season, also defeating IUPUI (95-29), Butler (85-54) and Purdue (72-51).
  • The Fighting Irish move to 24-0 all-time against Valparaiso, with an 11-0 series record on the road.
  • The 51-point margin is the second-largest in Notre Dame’s 24-game series with Valparaiso, topped only by an 84-27 Fighting Irish win over the Crusaders on Jan. 21, 1982, in Valparaiso.
  • Notre Dame has held Valparaiso to fewer than 60 points in 22 of 24 series games.
  • The Fighting Irish recorded at least 20 steals for the fourth time this season, notching at least 24 steals for the third time (Notre Dame had just seven 23-steal games in the program’s first 33 years of existence).
  • The Fighting Irish shot at least 50 percent from the field for the fourth consecutive game and seventh time in the past eight outings (season-low .387 at second-ranked Baylor on Dec. 1).
  • Notre Dame posted a season-high +21 rebound margin (44-23, including 18 offensive rebounds), its largest advantage on the glass since Jan. 6, 2009, at DePaul (50-29, +21).
  • The Fighting Irish dished out at least 20 assists for the eighth time this year.
  • Brittany Mallory scored a season-high 12 points and matched her season best with five steals.
  • Fraderica Miller scored a season-high eight points and tied her career high with five steals.
  • For the second consecutive game, a Notre Dame player came close to a perfect shooting night — Natalie Novosel had a game-high 18 points (6-7 FG, 6-6 FT) after freshman forward Natalie Achonwa scored a career-best 14 points (7-8 FG) in the Dec. 11 win over Creighton at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Devereaux Peters recorded a season-high four blocked shots.
  • Skylar Diggins handed out a game-high five assists, the seventh time this season she has had 5+ assists in a game.

Polling Station
Notre Dame was ranked 17th in the Dec. 20 Associated Press poll. That marked the 65th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001).

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

Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 204 weeks during the program’s 34-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.

In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked 15th in the Dec. 21 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll. Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches’ survey for 65 of the past 66 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for a total of 196 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).

More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 30 people in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Besides her 204 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation.

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

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

A Grand Occasion
The Dec. 5 game against Purdue marked a significant milestone in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, as the Fighting Irish played their 1,000th all-time game, defeating the Boilermakers, 72-51. Notre Dame has an all-time record of 697-305 (.696) in 34 seasons of varsity competition, including a 346-87 (.799) record at Purcell Pavilion.

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

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

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

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

Notre Dame Picked Fourth In 2010-11 BIG EAST Coaches’ Preseason Poll
Notre Dame was selected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference in 2010-11, according to a preseason vote of the league’s 16 head coaches released on Oct. 21 during the annual BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.

The Fighting Irish picked up 177 points in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only two-time defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points, West Virginia (207 points, one first-place vote) and Georgetown (186 points) — St. John’s rounded out the top five with 173 points.

Diggins Earns 2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
Along with picking Notre Dame to finish fourth in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches unanimously voted sophomore guard Skylar Diggins to the 10-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team.

A preseason candidate for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, as well as a consensus preseason All-American by most major media outlets, Diggins is coming off one of the finest rookie seasons in Fighting Irish women’s basketball history as the first freshman in 17 seasons to lead Notre Dame in scoring and the first rookie in 16 years to top 100 assists in her debut season. What’s more, she finished as just the third player in program history (and the first freshman) to log 400 points, 100 assists and 75 steals in a single season, joining a pair of All-Americans and Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (top senior in the nation 5-foot-8 and under) recipients — current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (2000-01) and Megan Duffy (2004-05) — in achieving that distinction.

A 2009-10 honorable mention All-America selection by both the Associated Press and WBCA, Diggins led Notre Dame in scoring (13.8 ppg.), steals (2.6 spg.) and assists (tied – 3.2 apg.) last season, while ranking third on the squad in three-point percentage (.350) and free throw percentage (.782). She also chalked up a team-high 24 double-digit scoring games, including seven 20-point outings, capped by a season-high 31 points against Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion. That scoring effort was the highest ever recorded by a Fighting Irish rookie in NCAA postseason play, while her 13 field goals made tied the program record for an NCAA tournament game.

In 2009-10, Diggins set Notre Dame freshman records for steals (90), free throws made (111), free throws attempted (142) and minutes played (1,028), while ranking among the top five on the Irish rookie charts for points (3rd – 484), scoring average (tied/4th – 13.8 ppg.), field goals made (3rd – 169), field goals attempted (3rd – 385), three-point field goals made (4th – 35), three-point attempts (5th – 100), three-point percentage (5th – .350), assists (3rd – 112), steals per game (2nd – 2.6 spg.), games started (tied/2nd – 30), games played (2nd – 35) and minutes per game (5th – 29.4).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riley’s Double Zero Goes To The Rafters
Ruth Riley, a three-time All-America center at Notre Dame during her storied career from 1997-2001, and the 2001 consensus national player of the year, was inducted into Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor on Nov. 12 during a pre-game ceremony before the Fighting Irish opened their 2010-11 season against New Hampshire at Purcell Pavilion.

A banner honoring Riley’s number 00 was unveiled and now permanently hangs in the rafters of Purcell Pavilion, making her the first women’s basketball player added to the Ring of Honor, and the second player overall following last spring’s induction of men’s basketball All-America forward Luke Harangody.

Beginning in 2010-11, the Notre Dame Athletics Department plans to honor annually additional former and present men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball players who have made distinguished and noteworthy contributions during their career while student-athletes at the University. A committee that will consist of Fighting Irish coaches and administrators will be formed to determine future inductees.

The only player in Notre Dame women’s basketball history with 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds, Riley ranks as the program’s all-time leader in seven categories, including rebounds (1,007), blocked shots (370 – fifth in NCAA history) and field goal percentage (.632 – 11th in NCAA history). What’s more, the Macy, Ind., native ranks third in school history with 2,072 points, and holds the Fighting Irish single-game scoring record with 41 points in a January 1998 win over Providence. Riley also played a pivotal role in Notre Dame’s run to the 2001 NCAA national championship, earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors after scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the title game victory over Purdue, capped by her gamewinning free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.

A 10-year WNBA veteran (the past four with the San Antonio Silver Stars), two-time WNBA champion and 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Riley was back on campus with the other members of the 2001 championship team for ceremonies honoring the 10th anniversary of that milestone achievement in Notre Dame athletics history.

Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 197-17 (.921) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 125 of their last 136 such contests, and 34 in a row since a 58-47 loss to Villanova on March 8, 2009, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford’s XL Center (Notre Dame led 25-21 at intermission).

The Fighting Irish have been up at the break in nine games this year, including their Dec. 20 win at Valparaiso when they led 49-23 through the first 20 minutes.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 16 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 216-15 (.935) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in eight contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton, Valparaiso).

…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 16 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 147-5 (.967) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.

Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark in eight games this year (7-1 record) after going 17-0 last season when it scored at least 80 points, including four games when it topped the 90-point mark (a plateau the Fighting Irish already have attained six times this season, one short of the school record set on three occasions – 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).

Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 196 of their last 222 games (.883) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 106-18 (.855) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 92 of their last 100 non-BIG EAST contests (.920) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 346-87 (.799) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to last year, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship.

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

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

Notre Dame has wasted little time in getting started with that challenge, averaging 8,452 fans for its first eight home games this season, including a sellout crowd of 9,149 for the Dec. 5 win over in-state rival Purdue.

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

Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women’s basketball in the South Bend market.

LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.

Women’s basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame’s official athletics web site ( through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.

Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women’s basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program’s first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his third season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 24 regular season games televised during the 2010-11 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are seven nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women’s basketball contests, including the program’s fourth-ever appearance on network television (Jan. 8 vs. Connecticut on CBS), two showings on the ESPN family of networks, and three others on CBS College Sports.

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

This year’s TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Dec. 20 Valparaiso contest (a Horizon League TV webcast), Notre Dame has played in 177 televised games, including 123 that were broadcast nationally.

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

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

In the four-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 24 times, including wins this year over Michigan Tech (exhibition), New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Wake Forest and Creighton.

It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac” baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger — senior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.

And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “media relations director has too much time on his hands”), 14 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

What’s more, of the 24 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, eight on free throws, and three on three-pointers.

Next Game: Southeast Missouri State
After returning from Seattle, Notre Dame will ring in the new year at home on Jan. 2, as it plays host to Southeast Missouri State in a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee at Purcell Pavilion. It will be the first-ever matchup between the schools, while the Fighting Irish will be aiming to open January with a victory for the 14th time in its 16-year BIG EAST Conference era.

Southeast Missouri (4-8) has lost three in a row as it prepares to come off the Christmas break on Thursday, playing host to Lindenwood-Belleville in an afternoon contest, its lone game prior to visiting South Bend next weekend.

— ND —