Notre Dame rookie forward Natalie Achonwa was selected as the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Monday after averaging 13.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game with an .857 field goal percentage in two Fighting Irish wins last week.

#18 Irish Open BIG EAST Slate Wednesday At Providence

Dec. 7, 2010

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2010-11 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 10

#18/18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-3 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Providence Friars (5-5 / 0-0 BIG EAST)

DATE: December 8, 2010
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Providence, R.I. – Alumni Hall (2,620)
SERIES: ND leads 18-0
1ST MTG: ND 90-80 (1/14/96)
LAST MTG: ND 84-59 (1/27/10)
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  • Notre Dame plays its earliest BIG EAST Conference opener since Dec. 6, 2000, when the Fighting Irish defeated Villanova, 64-33 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame is 11-4 all-time in BIG EAST openers, including wins in nine of its last 11 conference lidlifters.

No. 18 Irish Open BIG EAST Slate Wednesday At Providence
After showing signs of positive growth and development during the first one-third of the regular season, No. 18 Notre Dame will look to apply those lessons to conference play, as the Fighting Irish open their BIG EAST slate at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday against Providence at Alumni Hall in Providence, R.I.

Notre Dame (6-3) returned to the win column on Sunday with a convincing near wire-to-wire 72-51 win over in-state rival Purdue at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish used an early 10-0 run to take the lead for good and held a double-digit advantage for the final 24 minutes of the contest, while shooting 50 percent from the field and forcing 24 Boilermaker turnovers.

Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins scored all 14 of her points in the first half and added a game-high six assists, while junior guard Natalie Novosel tossed in a game-high 16 points (12 in the second half) and freshman forward Natalie Achonwa came off the bench to add a season-high 12 points and seven rebounds for the Fighting Irish.


  • Notre Dame is No. 18 in both the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Providence is not ranked.

Quick Hitters

  • With its No. 18 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has appeared in the AP poll for a school-record 63 consecutive weeks, extending the program standard that began with the 2007-08 preseason poll.
  • The Fighting Irish have made the AP preseason poll in 11 of the past 12 seasons (since 1999-2000), something just seven other schools in the country can match.
  • Notre Dame has a rugged 2010-11 schedule lined up, with games against at least one team from each of the top six RPI conferences (BIG EAST, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC), and five matchups against four other teams that advanced to last year’s NCAA Sweet 16 (Connecticut twice, Baylor, Gonzaga and Kentucky).
  • The Fighting Irish will play a school-record 17 regular-season home games this year, including their first regular-season tournament (outside of the Preseason WNIT) since the 1983 Notre Dame Thanksgiving Classic. Notre Dame won the three-day, round-robin WBCA Classic (also featuring IUPUI, Wake Forest and Butler) at Purcell Pavilion from Nov. 26-28.
  • There are lots of new faces on the Fighting Irish schedule this season, with Notre Dame playing seven first-time opponents as part of its 14-game non-conference slate. Those new opponents include: New Hampshire (Nov. 12 – W, 99-48), Morehead State (Nov. 15 – W, 91-28), Kentucky (L, 81-76), Wake Forest (W 92-69), Baylor (L, 76-65), Gonzaga (Dec. 29) and Southeast Missouri State (Jan. 2).
  • Notre Dame recently celebrated a program milestone with its 1,000th all-time game on Dec. 5 against Purdue (fittingly, a 72-51 win over the Boilermakers). The Fighting Irish have a 695-305 (.695) record in 34 seasons of intercollegiate competition.
  • The Fighting Irish have only one true senior on this year’s roster — forward Becca Bruszewski. Guard Brittany Mallory and forward Devereaux Peters both are listed as seniors on the roster based on their academic standing, but each player has the option to petition for a fifth year of eligibility after both suffered season-ending knee injuries (torn ACL) within the first seven games of the 2008-09 campaign.
  • Notre Dame welcomes a three-player freshman class that includes the program’s first-ever international player (Canadian National Team forward Natalie Achonwa), a 2010 McDonald’s All-American (Erie, Pa., native Kayla McBride) and a two-time Michigan Player of the Year (Ariel Braker from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.). Collectively, this group has been ranked as high as eighth in the country by ESPN Hoopgurlz.
  • The Fighting Irish made a shift on their coaching staff during the offseason, as former longtime assistant and post coach guru Carol Owens (who previously served as Notre Dame from 1995-2005) returns to the program as associate coach following a successful five-year run as the head coach at her alma mater, Northern Illinois. In addition, Angie Potthoff has moved into the newly-created role of associate director of operations & technology, a position that has seen her help direct Notre Dame’s emergence as one of the nation’s leaders in social media development among women’s college basketball programs.

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 349 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 148 of their last 150 home games, logging 13 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently this past Sunday 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 Providence
Following an impressive run to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) quarterfinals last season, Providence is hoping to build on that momentum this season, with seven letterwinners and two starters back in the fold to help fuel that growth.

The Friars (5-5) are coming off a 73-56 loss to Florida on Saturday at the Brown Bear Basketball Classic in Providence. Junior guard Miranda Tate scored a team-high 11 points for PC, while senior guard/forward Mi-Khida Hankins added a team-best eight rebounds and three blocks.

Sophomore guard Symone Roberts leads the Friars in scoring (15.4 ppg.), assists (4.1 apg.), steals (2.8 spg.), field goal percentage (.444) and three-point percentage (.435) this season. Tate is second in scoring (9.9 ppg.), while Hankins adds 9.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Head coach Phil Seymore is in his sixth season at Providence, sporting a 67-92 (.421) record, with an 0-5 ledger against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Providence Series
Wednesday will mark the 19th meeting between Notre Dame and Providence on the hardwood, with the Fighting Irish having won each of the previous 18 games in the series (nine each at Purcell Pavilion and Alumni Hall).

The teams did not face one another prior to Notre Dame joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, but since then, they have played at least once per season, including dual matchups in 1995-96, 1998-99 and 2001-02.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Providence Met
Although No. 3 Notre Dame didn’t solve its problem of starting slow, it looked a lot better in the first half against Providence than in its past three games.

The Fighting Irish (18-1, 5-1 BIG EAST), who had fallen behind by double digits in their previous three games, trailed for just 13 seconds after Providence scored the first basket and broke the game open with a 13-2 run midway through the first half en route to an 84-59 victory on Jan. 27, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

Lindsay Schrader scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half, Natalie Novosel had 12 and Becca Bruszewski, Skylar Diggins and Ashley Barlow had 10 points each.

Notre Dame’s backups outscored Providence’s 31-13.

The Fighting Irish had 23 assists on 32 baskets while the Friars had nine assists on 22 baskets with 26 turnovers.

When Providence (12-8, 3-4) tied the game at 12 on a basket inside by Trinity Hull, Novosel answered with a three-pointer to spark a 13-2 run by the Fighting Irish. The Irish led 35-22 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 5-0 burst to take an 18-point lead.

Chelsea Marandola, Providence’s leading scorer at 18.3 points a game, was held to three shots and two points in the first half. She scored five of her 18 points during a 7-0 run by the Friars that cut the lead to 50-38.

Emily Cournoyer added 12 points for Providence and Mi-Khida Hankins had 10. The Friars, who had been leading the BIG EAST in three-point field goal percentage in league games at 37.1 percent, were 0-for-9 in the first half and 3-for-16 for the game.

Other Notre Dame-Providence Series Tidbits

  • Providence is one of two BIG EAST opponents against whom Notre Dame has lost (minimum of five games played), with Cincinnati (6-0) being the other.
  • Notre Dame’s 18-game winning streak vs. Providence is its longest active string against a BIG EAST opponent.
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in in more than half (10) of the series games against PC, including three of the past four meetings.
  • The Irish have averaged 81.3 points in their nine prior visits to Providence, topping the 90-point mark in their first four games at Alumni Hall and winning all nine by an average of 19.9 points per game.
  • Providence has reached the 70-point level three times against Notre Dame (all coming in the first three series games), and the Friars have scored more than 60 points three times in the past 15 games vs. the Fighting Irish.
  • Notre Dame has won 15 of the 18 series games against Providence by double-digit margins, with the exceptions coming on Jan. 5, 2002 (72-66 in South Bend), Feb. 16, 2003 (67-61 at PC) and Feb. 28, 2009 (65-56 at PC).
  • Between the two teams, there are three former winners of the Gatorade High School Player of the Year award in their respective states — Notre Dame sophomore guard Skylar Diggins (Indiana – 2009; also Gatorade National Player of the Year and Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year for all sports) and freshman guard Kayla McBride (2010 – Pennsylvania), and Providence sophomore guard Symone Roberts (Connecticut – 2009).
  • Notre Dame senior guard Brittany Mallory and Providence senior guard/forward Mi-Khida Hankins dueled regularly during their prep days in Baltimore — Mallory at McDonogh School and Hankins at St. Frances Academy. The schools were in the same conference and played a minimum of twice per year, including the 2008 IAAM A Conference title clash, won by St. Frances, 68-63. Both players also were first-team All-Metro selections by the Baltimore Sun in 2006 and 2007.
  • Notre Dame senior forward Devereaux Peters, Fighting Irish sophomore guard Kaila Turner and Providence junior guard Miranda Tate faced off regularly during their high school days in Chicago, with Peters playing for Fenwick High School, Turner matriculating from Marian Catholic High School and Tate coming out of Bolingbrook High School.
  • Several members of the Notre Dame athletics department have ties to Providence, including hockey associate head coach Paul Pooley (PC head coach from 1994-2005), assistant athletics director/Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter (’98 PC grad and graduate assistant in PC athletics marketing office from 1998-2000), assistant athletics director/media relations director Bernadette Cafarelli (PC assistant director of athletics marketing, promotions and media relations from 1987-94), associate media relations director Tim Connor (member of PC athletics marketing, promotions and media relations staff from 1987-2000, spending the final six years as PC’s director of athletic media relations) and Monogram Club communications associate Mark LaFrance (member of PC’s athletic media relations staff from 2008-10 as graduate assistant while earning his MBA degree from the school).
  • Providence also has a Notre Dame tie on its athletic media relations staff, as graduate assistant Michael Scholl (a 2009 Notre Dame graduate) is in his first year in Friartown following six years in the Fighting Irish media relations office (2004-10). He also is the son of longtime Notre Dame deputy athletics director Bill Scholl.

Blowing The Lid Off The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 11-4 (.733) in BIG EAST Conference opens since it joined the league for the 1995-96 season. The Fighting Irish also have won nine of their last 11 BIG EAST lidlifters, including an 81-46 win over Villanova last season at Purcell Pavilion.

Opening conference play before Christmas is a bit of rarity for Notre Dame, with this being the first pre-Yuletide league game for the Fighting Irish since Dec. 6, 2000, when they defeated Villanova, 64-33 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame also played pre-Christmas conference contests during its first four seasons in the loop (1995-96 through 1998-99), including a similar December matchup with Providence in 1996-97 (a 91-75 Fighting Irish win on Dec. 7, 1996, at Purcell Pavilion).

The visit to Providence also will mark the eighth time in 10 seasons Notre Dame will open BIG EAST play on the road, with the Fighting Irish owning a 5-3 (.625) mark when beginning conference action away from Purcell Pavilion. The last time Notre Dame tipped off BIG EAST play on the road was in 2008-09, when the Fighting Irish posted a 66-60 win at Seton Hall.

A Grand Occasion
Last Sunday’s 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 695-305 (.695) in 34 seasons of varsity competition, including a 345-87 (.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.

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Wednesday’s game leading the nation in steals with 16.1 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in six of nine 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 sophomore guard Skylar Diggins, who has registered 21 thefts (2.3 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 remaining.

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

Diggins Named To BIG EAST Honor Roll
For the second consecutive week, a Notre Dame women’s basketball player earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Honor Roll, as sophomore guard Skylar Diggins was tapped for this week’s squad, the league office announced Monday. Following in the footsteps of junior guard Natalie Novosel, Diggins was one of five players chosen for this week’s honor, which recognizes outstanding weekly achievements by conference players who are not chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Week.

Diggins averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game with a .484 field goal percentage (15-of-31) last week, as Notre Dame dropped a 76-65 decision at No. 2/3 Baylor last Wednesday before bouncing back with a near wire-to-wire 72-51 win over in-state rival Purdue last Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

At Baylor, Diggins scored a game-high 21 points (including a career-high-tying 4-of-7 from three-point range) and dished out a game-best five assists, and played a major role in a second-half comeback that saw the Fighting Irish rally from a 22-point deficit to get within six points with five minutes remaining before the host Lady Bears held on for the win. Diggins scored eight of her 21 points during a lightning-fast 12-0 spurt in 79 seconds that helped get Notre Dame right back in the contest.

Four days later against Purdue, Diggins scored all 14 of her points in the first half, including six in the first three minutes, as the Fighting Irish rolled to their largest win in the 24-game series with the Boilermakers. Diggins also handed out a game-high six assists, expertly piloting a Notre Dame offense that shot 50 percent from the field and led by double figures for the final 24 minutes of the afternoon.

Diggins currently ranks second on the team (and 15th in the BIG EAST) in scoring at 13.9 points per game, having scored in double figures seven times this season. She also is fifth in the conference in assists (team-high 5.0 apg.) and tied for eighth in the loop in steals (2.3 spg.).

Game #9 Recap: Purdue
Junior guard Natalie Novosel scored 16 points and No. 16 Notre Dame celebrated the 1,000th game in school history with a 72-51 victory over Purdue on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

The Fighting Irish (6-3) forced 24 turnovers and converted them into 29 points, and dominated in the paint, scoring 46 points while holding Purdue to only 29 inside.

Brittany Rayburn had 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds for Purdue (6-2), which struggled from the field, shooting just 36.5 percent for the game. Courtney Moses scored 11.

Noting The Purdue Game

  • This was the 1,000th game in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, with the Fighting Irish owning a 695-305 (.695) record in 34 seasons of intercollegiate competition.
  • Notre Dame extends its series-long win streak over Purdue to five games, one shy of the longest success string by either side in the 24-game series that dates back to 1984.
  • The Fighting Irish post their largest win ever against the Boilermakers, surpassing a 17-point victory (86-69) on Jan. 16, 2005, at Purcell Pavilion.
  • In four of the past five series meetings, Notre Dame has held Purdue to fewer than 60 points after not managing that feat once in the first 19 games of the series.
  • The Fighting Irish improve to 41-48 (.461) all-time against Big Ten Conference opponents, with a 24-17 (.585) record at Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame also is 34-34 all-time against the Big Ten (19-12 at home) in the 24-year Muffet McGraw era, and has won 14 of its last 20 games against Big Ten schools.
  • The Fighting Irish jump to 120-32 (.789) all-time against other in-state opponents, with a 60-11 (.845) record at home; Notre Dame also has won 15 consecutive games against other Indiana schools, including all three this season (IUPUI, Butler, Purdue).
  • The Fighting Irish have shot 50 percent or better from the floor in all six of their wins this season.
  • Notre Dame has outrebounded its opponents in seven of nine games this season, with the two exceptions (UCLA and Baylor) featuring rebound margins of five caroms of fewer.
  • McGraw celebrated her birthday on Sunday, with Notre Dame rising to 5-1 all-time when playing on the head coach’s birthday.
  • Freshman forward Natalie Achonwa scored a season-high 12 points.
  • Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins chalked up at least five assists for the sixth time in nine games this season, including her third consecutive outing and fourth in five games.
  • For the first time this season, Notre Dame wore its alternate home uniform (white with green trim).

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked 18th in this week’s Associated Press poll. That marks the 63rd 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 202 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 t2hat category.

In addition, the Fighting Irish are ranked 18th in this week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll. Notre Dame now has been ranked in the coaches’ survey for 63 of the past 64 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 194 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).

More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 28 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 202 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 28 people on this list, 15 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 15 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).

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 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 194-17 (.919) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 122 of their last 133 such contests, and 31 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 six games this year, including last Sunday’s win over Purdue when they led 36-26 at halftime.

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 213-15 (.934) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including victories in five contests this season (New Hampshire, Morehead State, IUPUI, Butler, Purdue).

…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 145-5 (.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 six games this year (5-1 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 four times this season).

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 195 of their last 221 games (.882) 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 91 of their last 99 non-BIG EAST contests (.919) 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 345-87 (.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 8,396 fans for its first seven 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 last Sunday’s Purdue contest (which aired on ESPN2), Notre Dame has played in 175 televised games, including 121 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.

Next Game: Creighton
Notre Dame picks up with the second half of its non-conference slate and plays its final game before the exam break when it welcomes Creighton to town Saturday for a 2 p.m. (ET) contest at Purcell Pavilion. It will be the front half of a day-night doubleheader with the Fighting Irish men’s team, which will play host to Gonzaga at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

Creighton (4-2), which tied for second in the Missouri Valley Conference last season, has won three in a row, most recently dispatching South Dakota on the road, 79-70 on Dec. 2. The Bluejays play host to in-state foe Nebraska Wednesday night before making their first-ever trip to South Bend this weekend.

— ND —