Rookie forward Natalie Achonwa, the reigning BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, is averaging 13.0 points and shooting .708 from the floor in her last three games.

#17/16 Irish Back In Action Monday At Valparaiso

Dec. 19, 2010

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2010-11 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 12

#17/16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-3 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. Valparaiso Crusaders (2-8 / 0-0 Horizon League)

DATE: December 20, 2010
TIME: 7:05 p.m. CT
AT: Valparaiso, Ind. – Athletics-Recreation Ctr. (5,000)
SERIES: ND leads 23-0
1ST MTG: ND 48-41 (12/3/77)
LAST MTG: ND 88-47 (12/12/09)
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 and Valparaiso are meeting for the 12th consecutive season and 24th time in a series that dates back to the inaugural game in Fighting Irish history (Dec. 3, 1977).
  • Notre Dame has won 22 consecutive games coming off its final exam break and 14 in a row going into the Christmas holiday hiatus.

No. 17/16 Irish Back In Action Monday At Valparaiso
For the only time in an 18-day period, No. 17/16 Notre Dame will step on the hardwood at 7:05 p.m. CT (8:05 p.m. ET) Monday when it travels west down the Indiana Toll Road for its annual matchup with in-state foe Valparaiso at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

The Fighting Irish (8-3, 1-0 BIG EAST) are coming off a nine-day break for final exams following a 91-54 victory over Creighton on Dec. 11 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame shot a blistering 63.3 percent (38-of-60) from the field, its best shooting performance in two seasons, and used an 18-5 run at the end of the first half to pull clear from the Bluejays.

Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins led four Fighting Irish players in double figures with a game-high 18 points, while senior forward Becca Bruszewski added a season-high 17 points and a team-best six rebounds. Freshman forward Natalie Achonwa chipped in a career-high 14 points and junior guard Natalie Novosel tossed in 11 points for Notre Dame.


  • Notre Dame is No. 17 in the latest Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the current ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Valparaiso is not ranked.

Quick Hitters

  • With its No. 17 ranking in the Dec. 13 Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has appeared in the AP poll for a school-record 64 consecutive weeks, extending the program standard that began with the 2007-08 preseason poll.
  • The Fighting Irish have posted a school-record five 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 six 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 five games this season, just two 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 (15.6 spg.), while placing sixth in field goal percentage (.494), scoring margin (+28.1 ppg.), assists (20.0 apg.) and turnover margin (+9.27). The Fighting Irish also are 10th in the country in scoring offense (84.4 ppg.), 13th in three-point percentage defense (.232) and 16th in assist/turnover ratio (1.14).
  • Notre Dame is closing in on the 700th win in school history, currently sporting a 697-305 (.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 also has 697 victories, with the Blue Raiders set to play in a tournament at Texas-San Antonio Monday and Tuesday.
  • 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 15.2), senior forward Devereaux Peters (6.7 to 9.5) and junior forward Erica Solomon (3.4 to 7.0) 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 8.8 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game, and ranks third in the BIG EAST with a team-high .645 field goal percentage. McBride (who started four games around Thanksgiving when senior guard Brittany Mallory was slowed with an ankle injury) is averaging 8.3 points per game and ranks 12th in the BIG EAST with a .549 field goal percentage. Between them, they have scored in double figures nine 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 351 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 Valparaiso
Valparaiso returns eight letterwinners and three starters from last year’s squad, but the Crusaders already have been beset by injuries to their veterans, most notably to senior forward (and South Bend native) Ashley Varner, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Consequently, Valparaiso (2-8) has struggled to find its footing with a largely new lineup, and comes into Monday’s game having lost three in a row. The Crusaders last played on Saturday afternoon, dropping a 72-67 decision at home to Chicago State despite a double-double (17 points, game-high 10 rebounds) from freshman forward Tabitha Gerardot and 16 points (including 4-of-8 three-pointers) from junior sharpshooting guard Betsy Adams.

Adams is Valparaiso’s leading scorer (13.9 ppg.) and is second in three-point percentage (.417) and free throw percentage (.815). Gerardot is second in scoring (11.2 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (7.6 rpg.), while junior college transfer guard Ashley Timmerman provides punch off the bench with 8.0 points per game, thanks primarily to a team-high .425 three-point percentage (40 of her 55 field goal tries this season have come from beyond the arc).

Head coach Keith Freeman is in his 17th season at Valparaiso with a 271-210 (.563) record. He also has a 23-year career coaching ledger of 400-257 (.609), having earned his milestone 400th win on Dec. 4 (a 59-52 overtime win over Coastal Carolina at the Aces Classic in Evansville, Ind.

The Notre Dame-Valparaiso Series
It would be impossible to find a series in Notre Dame women’s basketball history that goes back further than the one between the Fighting Irish and Valparaiso. That’s because the Crusaders were Notre Dame’s first opponent in the program’s debut season (1977-78) and have been a nearly annual foe since the Fighting Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference 16 years ago.

Monday’s game will be the 24th all-time meeting between Notre Dame and Valparaiso, with the Fighting Irish having won each of the first 23 matchups, including all 10 prior contests at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Valparaiso Met
Notre Dame got off to a fast start. Brittany Mallory made sure the third-ranked Fighting Irish didn’t let up.

Notre Dame was ahead 13-2 when Mallory came off the bench five minutes into the game. She made her first five baskets, scoring 13 points in just over four minutes to help the Fighting Irish extend the lead to 31-10 with a three-pointer midway through the first half. She finished with a career-high 22 points in 20 minutes of play to lead the Irish to an 88-47 win over Valparaiso on Dec. 12, 2009, at Purcell Pavilion.

The Crusaders (3-5), who lost their fifth straight, went on a 10-2 run to close to 33-20 on a three-point play by Raegan Moore with 6:12 left before intermission. But Valparaiso missed its last nine shots of the half and trailed 45-22 at halftime.

The Fighting Irish pulled away throughout the second half. Betsy Adams, Valparaiso’s leading scorer at 17.1 points a game, was held scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting.

Valparaiso shot 29 percent and had 29 turnovers and just six assists.

Moore led the Crusaders with 16 points and Lauren Kenney had 12 points. Becca Bruszewski had 11 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes of play for the Fighting Irish, Ashley Barlow had 11 points and Natalie Novosel added 12 points off the bench.

Other Notre Dame-Valparaiso Series Tidbits

  • Notre Dame’s 23-0 record against Valparaiso represents the most victories against one opponent without a loss in school history.
  • The 23 series wins also are tied for the second-most against one opponent in program history (trailing only the 29 victories against Marquette and matching the 23 wins against Georgetown and Syracuse).
  • The Fighting Irish have held the Crusaders to 60 points or fewer in 21 of 23 series matchups. Conversely, Notre Dame has scored at least 60 points in 16 of 23 meetings, including 14 of the past 16 games.
  • The series has tightened considerably in recent years, with six of the past nine games decided by 10 points or fewer. The majority of those nailbiters came at Valparaiso’s Athletics-Recreation Center, where Notre Dame is 10-0 all-time, but has won its last four games by 10 points or fewer (average of 6.3 points per game).
  • Notre Dame’s 23 wins over Valparaiso are the most victories for the Fighting Irish against an Indiana opponent. Another Horizon League member, Butler, is second on that list, with Notre Dame going 20-6 all-time against the Bulldogs, following an 85-54 win back on Nov. 28 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Valparaiso holds a special place in Notre Dame women’s basketball history as the first-ever opponent for the Fighting Irish as a varsity-level program on Dec. 3, 1977 (a 48-41 Notre Dame win at the Joyce Center). It was the start of three seasons the Fighting Irish spent as an AIAW Division III entity before elevating to Division I in 1980-81.
  • Notre Dame senior forward Becca Bruszewski is a native of Valparaiso and graduated from nearby Wheeler High School in 2007. At the time of her graduation, she was Porter County’s all-time leading scorer (1,808 points) and held 11 school/county records, while earning Indiana All-Star status in 2007 and winding up as second runner-up for Indiana Miss Basketball honors. Bruszewski is averaging 8.0 points and 5.0 rebounds with a .611 field goal percentage (11-for-18) in three games against her hometown school.
  • Fighting Irish sophomore guard Skylar Diggins and Valparaiso senior forward Ashley Varner are graduates of South Bend’s Washington High School and were teammates on the school’s 2007 Class 4A state championship team. Varner is sidelined this year following a preseason knee injury.

Notre Dame vs. The Horizon League
Notre Dame is 106-14 (.883) all-time against the current Horizon League membership, including a 44-9 (.830) record on the road.

The Fighting Irish also have won 35 consecutive games against the present Horizon League alignment, a streak that began following a 65-62 loss at home to Butler on Jan. 22, 1994.

Monday’s matchup at Valparaiso is the second for the Fighting Irish against a Horizon League opponent this season. Back on Nov. 28, Notre Dame defeated Butler, 85-54 at Purcell Pavilion to win the WBCA Classic, getting a game-high 20 points from tournament Most Valuable Player Natalie Novosel.

As a member of the Horizon League from 1988-95 (back when it was known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference), the Fighting Irish have extensive experience against several of that circuit’s institutions, with more than 20 series games (and at least 20 series victories) against current Horizon League schools Butler, Detroit, Loyola-Chicago and Valparaiso.

In addition, Notre Dame and Valparaiso were regular opponents long before the Crusaders moved to the Horizon League from the Mid-Continent Conference (now known as the Summit League) in 2007-08.

Border Patrol
Valparaiso is the last of four in-state opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule this season, following wins at home over IUPUI (95-29 on Nov. 26), Butler (85-54 on Nov. 28) and Purdue (72-51 on Dec. 5), all at Purcell Pavilion.

The Fighting Irish are 120-32 (.789) all-time against other Indiana schools, with a 60-21 (.741) record outside of South Bend.

Notre Dame also has won 15 consecutive games against in-state foes since a 54-51 loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006, at Purcell Pavilion.

Going Out On A High Note
Notre Dame has made a habit of heading into the Christmas holiday with a victory, having won 14 consecutive pre-Yuletide games and going 24-9 (.727) all-time in such contests. The last time the Fighting Irish lost their final game before Christmas was Dec. 21, 1995 (their first season in the BIG EAST Conference), when Michigan State pulled out an 87-83 overtime win in East Lansing, Mich.

No More Teachers, No More Books
Notre Dame has won 22 consecutive games coming off the final exam break (in 1994 and 1997, no games were played between the end of exams and Christmas). However, because of the extended layoff due to finals and associated sluggishness, many of these post-exam break games have been exceptionally close.

Recent examples of this came in 1999 (a 68-62 win at Florida International, closing the game on an 11-5 run in the final 2:43) and 2004 (a 50-47 win at Marquette on Jacqueline Batteast’s three-pointer at the horn).

The last time Notre Dame lost a game when coming out of its final exam break was Dec. 21, 1985, when Mary DiStanislao’s Fighting Irish squad dropped a 73-67 decision to UCLA at Purcell Pavilion.

Achonwa Named BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
Freshman forward Natalie Achonwa was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week on Dec. 13, it was announced by the conference office.

Achonwa was the third Fighting Irish player in as many weeks to earn recognition from the league, following junior guard Natalie Novosel and sophomore guard Skylar Diggins, who were named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Nov. 30 and Dec. 6, respectively. Achonwa also is the first Notre Dame player to be named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week since the final of Diggins’ four selections last season (Feb. 8, 2010).

During her award-winning week, Achonwa averaged 13.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, scoring better than a point per minute (27 points in 26 minutes), and registering an astronomical .857 field goal percentage (12-of-14) as Notre Dame recorded a pair of 35-point wins, in both its BIG EAST opener at Providence on Dec. 8 (79-43) and in a non-conference matchup at home against Creighton three days later (91-54).

The Fighting Irish rookie posted career scoring highs in both games last week, beginning with a team-best 13 points (on 5-of-6 shooting) in only nine minutes at Providence. She then tallied a personal-best 14 points (on 7-of-8 shooting), the highest production by a Notre Dame reserve this season, and added five rebounds in the victory over Creighton.

For the season, Achonwa is averaging 8.8 points per game and leads the Fighting Irish in rebounding (5.5 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.645 – also third in the BIG EAST). She also has scored in double figures five times, including each of the past three games.

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Monday’s game leading the nation in steals with 15.6 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in eight of 11 games this season, including three 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 23 steals in a Nov. 26 home victory against IUPUI.

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 eight different players with double-digit steals this season, led by junior guard Natalie Novosel, who has registered 23 thefts (2.1 per game).

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

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.

Game #11 Recap: Creighton
Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins scored 18 points to lead No. 18 Notre Dame to an easy 91-54 win over Creighton on Dec. 11 at Purcell Pavilion.

Diggins hit a 3-pointer with 8:13 left to put Notre Dame (8-3) up by 30, and Creighton (4-4) never got the lead below that margin for the remainder of the game.

Senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski had 17 points and six rebounds, and junior guard Natalie Novosel, the Fighting Irish’s leading scorer, had 11 points.

Freshman forward Natalie Achonwa scored 12 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting and finished with a career-high 14 for Notre Dame.

Sam Schuett had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Kelsey Woodward and Ally Jensen each scored 11 points for the Bluejays.

Noting The Creighton Game

  • Notre Dame posts its school-record fifth win of the season by 35-plus points, topping the previous standard of four set in 2008-09.
  • The Fighting Irish also have six 30-point victories, more than halfway to the program record of 10 set in 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame eclipsed the 90-point mark for the fifth time this year, closing in on the school record of seven 90-point games set three times before (1996-97, 1998-99 and 2007-08).
  • The Fighting Irish shot a season-high 63.3 percent (38-of-60) from the floor, their best field goal percentage in a game since Nov. 23, 2008, when they connected at a .646 clip (42-of-65) in a 102-54 win at Boston College.
  • Notre Dame’s .655 second-half field goal percentage (19-of-29) was its best in a single half since Jan. 10, 2009, when it shot .667 (18-of-27) from the floor in the second half of an 84-63 win over Georgetown at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The Fighting Irish shot better than 60 percent from the field in both halves of a game for the first time since Feb. 13, 2008 (62.1 and 66.7) in a 99-76 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.
  • For the second consecutive game, Notre Dame was charged with just 10 turnovers.
  • The Fighting Irish were facing Creighton for the first time in 28 years, 11 months and two days (Jan. 9, 1982 – 69-48 Notre Dame win at St. Paul, Minn.), the longest hiatus between series games in the 34-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball.
  • The Fighting Irish earn their eighth consecutive win against the current Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) alignment and improve to 26-2 (.929) all-time against the Valley, including a 13-1 (.929) record at home, where they also have now won 12 in a row against that league.
  • Notre Dame rises to 17-1 (.944) against the MVC during the 24-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), including a spotless 10-0 record at Purcell Pavilion.
  • For the third consecutive game, freshman forward Natalie Achonwa posted a season/career-high scoring total, finishing with 14 points (7-8 FG) which also matched the most points scored by a Notre Dame reserve this season (freshman guard Kayla McBride hit that mark on Nov. 15 vs. Morehead State and junior forward Erica Solomon matched it on Nov. 27 against Wake Forest – both games were at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Senior forward Becca Bruszewski dropped in a season-high 17 points.
  • Senior guard Brittany Mallory tied her career high with seven assists (also vs. Charlotte on Dec. 20, 2009 at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Senior forward Devereaux Peters dished out a career-high six assists, after having four assists in a game on four separate occasions (most recently on Dec. 8 at Providence).
  • Sophomore guard Kaila Turner tied her career best with five assists, having hit that mark in two prior outings (most recently on Nov. 26 against IUPUI at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Several hundred stuffed animals were collected at halftime during Notre Dame’s annual “Teddy Bear Toss,” with all collections going to area charities including Riley Children’s Hospital.

Polling Station
Notre Dame was ranked 17th in the Dec. 13 Associated Press poll. That marked the 64th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08.

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 203 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 16th in the Dec. 14 ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll. Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches’ survey for 64 of the past 65 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 195 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 203 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.

Some other notable landmarks along the way have been:

  • Jan. 7, 1984 – Notre Dame plays its first-ever conference game, earning a 85-68 win at Xavier in its North Star Conference opener.
  • March 20, 1985 – The Fighting Irish defeat U.S. International, 86-61 in their first postseason tournament game at the old National Women’s Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas.
  • Nov. 28, 1987 – Muffet McGraw makes her debut as head coach at Notre Dame, leading the Fighting Irish to a 67-61 win at Loyola-Chicago.
  • Feb. 6, 1988 – The Fighting Irish post a 78-66 victory at No. 17 Duke, logging the program’s first-ever win over a ranked opponent.
  • March 11, 1989 – Notre Dame defeats Loyola-Chicago, 75-53, in Dayton, Ohio, to win the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament (predecessor to the Horizon League), its first conference tournament title.
  • Jan. 3, 1991 – The Fighting Irish play their first game as a Top 25 team, with No. 25 Notre Dame earning an 87-53 win over Detroit at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Nov. 28, 1995 – Notre Dame plays its first game in the BIG EAST Conference, downing fellow new league member Rutgers, 66-54 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • March 15, 1996 – The Fighting Irish record their first NCAA Championship win, defeating Purdue, 73-60 in a first-round game at Lubbock, Texas.
  • March 17, 1997 – Notre Dame earns its first Sweet 16 berth with an 86-83 win at Texas.
  • March 30, 1997 – The Fighting Irish play in their first NCAA Women’s Final Four, falling to Tennessee, 80-66 at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum.
  • Jan. 15, 2001 – Notre Dame defeats its first top-ranked opponent, ousting Connecticut, 92-76, before the first women’s basketball sellout crowd in Purcell Pavilion history.
  • April 1, 2001 – The Fighting Irish win their first national championship, toppling Purdue, 68-66, at the Savvis Center in St. Louis on Ruth Riley’s two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.

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 (McGraw was not able to attend due to NCAA regulations). 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 196-17 (.920) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 124 of their last 135 such contests, and 33 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 eight games this year, including their Dec. 11 win over Creighton when they led 42-26 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 215-15 (.935) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in seven contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue, Providence, Creighton).

…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 146-5 (.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 seven games this year (6-1 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 five times this season, two 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 21 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. 11 Creighton contest (a webcast), Notre Dame has played in 176 televised games, including 122 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: Gonzaga
Notre Dame will have another nine days off for the Christmas holiday before returning to action at 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 29 against West Coast Conference power and 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 participant Gonzaga on the first day of the State Farm Holiday Classic at Seattle’s KeyArena (home of the 2010 WNBA champion Seattle Storm).

Gonzaga (8-3) is the sixth of seven first-time opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule this season. The Bulldogs most recently defeated Idaho, 93-62 last Friday night in Spokane, and will play host to BYU (Tuesday) and Cal State Fullerton (Thursday) before the holiday break.

The Fighting Irish will be playing in Seattle for the fourth time and first since Dec. 7, 2003, when they dropped an 85-74 decision at Washington.

— ND —