Dec. 5, 2014
2014-15 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 9
13th annual Jimmy V Women’s Classic
#2/1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-0 / 0-0 ACC) vs. #3/3 Connecticut Huskies (5-1 / 0-0 AAC)
DATE: Dec. 6, 2014
TIME: 3:15 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: UCONN leads 31-11
1ST MTG: UCONN 87-64 (1/18/96)
LAST MTG: UCONN 79-58 (4/8/14)
TV: ESPN/ESPNHD/WatchESPN (live) (Dave O’Brien, p-b-p / Doris Burke, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
- Notre Dame is playing in the Jimmy V Classic for the first time in the event’s 13-year history.
- The Fighting Irish and Huskies will be meeting for the 43rd time on Saturday, making it the most frequent rivalry in Notre Dame women’s basketball history.
No. 2/1 Fighting Irish Host No. 3 UConn Saturday In Jimmy V Classic
There will be no shortage of storylines or national interest as the country’s top rivalry is renewed once more, when No. 2/1 Notre Dame plays host to No. 3 Connecticut at 3:15 p.m. (ET) Saturday at Purcell Pavilion in the 13th annual Jimmy V Classic. The game will be televised live on ESPN and also available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Notre Dame is coming off its second win over a ranked opponent this season, leading all the way in a 92-72 win over No. 15/10 Maryland on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Fighting Irish shot 58 percent from the field (their third consecutive game over 55 percent) and led by as many as 33 points in the second half en route to the win.
- Notre Dame is No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press poll and is No. 1 in this week’s WBCA/USA Today poll.
- Connecticut is No. 3 in this week’s Associated Press poll and is No. 3 in this week’s WBCA/USA Today poll.
- For the second consecutive week, Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today poll, earning 19 first-place votes. It’s the first time the Fighting Irish have been the top-ranked team in either major national poll since April 1, 2001, when they were No. 1in the coaches’ poll following a 68-66 win over Purdue that secured the program’s first NCAA national championship.
- Notre Dame is the first ACC team to be No. 1 in either major national poll since March 12, 2007, when Duke was atop both polls prior to the start of the NCAA Championship.
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press poll, earning 13 first-place votes. It’s the most first-place ballots cast for the Fighting Irish in the AP poll since March 4, 2001, when they captured 33 (of 40) first-place votes prior to the BIG EAST Conference Championship.
- Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 140 consecutive weeks (including the past 70 weeks in the AP Top 10), extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What’s more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a top-10 Notre Dame squad during her career, with the vast majority of that time (59 of 63 weeks) spent in the AP Top 5.
- Notre Dame aims to continue its remarkable success at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 406-90 (.819) all-time record in 38 seasons at the facility, including an 83-5 (.943) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
- Notre Dame currently holds the nation’s longest active home court winning streak at 34 games, taking the top spot from Chattanooga, which saw its 40-game run end on Nov. 16 with a loss to South Florida. Wednesday’s game against Maryland in Fort Wayne was considered a home game, according to the NCAA statistics bureau.
- The Fighting Irish also own the nation’s longest active road winning streak at 27 games, tied with Stanford (2011-12 to 2013-14) for the third-longest run in NCAA Division I history.
- Senior guards Madison Cable and Whitney Holloway, and senior forward Markisha Wright have helped Notre Dame to a 115-7 (.943) record in their careers, putting them on pace to challenge last year’s senior class of Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride, who helped Notre Dame to 138 wins during their four seasons.
- Since arriving at Notre Dame in 2011-12, Cable, Holloway and Wright have paced Notre Dame to two NCAA national championship games and three NCAA Women’s Final Fours (plus three conference regular-season titles and two league tournament crowns), as well as a 43-6 record against ranked teams (18-6 against AP Top 10).
- Of the seven losses suffered by the current Fighting Irish senior class, four were decided by 13 points or less.
- With 671 victories in her 28 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men’s/women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
- With 759 career wins, McGraw ranks 10th in NCAA Division I coaching history. She is one of two active ACC coaches in the top 10 along with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell (second with 942 as of Friday).
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), tying for second with 175 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past five years), most recently placing fourth in the nation last season with 8,694 fans per game. The Fighting Irish, who are averaging 8,695 fans through four games this season, have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 213 of their last 215 home games (including an active streak of 56 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 41 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 35 since the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
- The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as 12 Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 14 seasons. Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with McBride going to the San Antonio Stars in the first round (third overall selection) and Achonwa six picks later (No. 9 overall) to the Indiana Fever in the 2014 WNBA Draft. It marked the third consecutive year Notre Dame had a player selected No. 3 overall (Devereaux Peters went third to Minnesota in 2012 and Skylar Diggins was chosen in that same spot by Tulsa in 2013), making the Fighting Irish the second program with lottery choices in three consecutive seasons.
- Diggins was a 2014 All-WNBA First Team selection and the league’s Most Improved Player, in addition to earning the starting nod for the West at the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game. Meanwhile, McBride was chosen for the 2014 WNBA All-Rookie Team, the second Fighting Irish alumna in as many years to be selected for the squad (Diggins was picked for 2013 all-rookie honors).
- Peters earned her first WNBA Championship in 2013 with the Lynx (and fifth by a Notre Dame alumna), who defeated the Atlanta Dream (and former Fighting Irish All-American Ruth Riley) in the WNBA Finals. Riley previously had won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), while Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets and Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the eighth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100 Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score, according to figures released by the NCAA in October. Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous seven years to record a perfect GSR score and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it more than once, pulling off that feat in 2011, 2012 and 2014).
The Notre Dame-Connecticut Series
Notre Dame and Connecticut will be meeting for the 43rd time on Saturday, with the Huskies leading 31-11 in the all-time series, including a 9-4 edge at Purcell Pavilion. UConn also has won the past two games in the series, although the Fighting Irish hold a 7-3 advantage over the Huskies dating back to the 2011 NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals in Indianapolis.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met
Notre Dame, the nation’s best shooting team, struggled to put the ball in the basket and couldn’t keep up with Connecticut in the first NCAA championship game matchup of undefeated teams, falling to the rival Huskies, 79-58, on April 8, 2014, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
It was the lowest scoring game all year for Notre Dame, which had its season ended by UConn for a second straight year after losing to the Huskies in the 2013 national semifinals.
Notre Dame didn’t run its offense effectively as it usually did, and the bigger Huskies dominated inside with a 54-31 rebounding edge.
Not being able to keep the Huskies off the boards also cost the Fighting Irish in the 2013 national semifinal loss against UConn.
Notre Dame led only once at 8-6. Then a team that shot 51 percent during the season and was the second-best scoring squad in the country – averaging 86.8 points a game – just went cold.
McBride hit six of nine from the floor in the first half. But Loyd, Notre Dame’s leading scorer averaging 18.7 points a game, was three of nine in the first half. Loyd did hit the fifth three-pointer of the half pulling Notre Dame within 43-38 with 27.8 seconds left in the first half.
The Fighting Irish never got closer, making only one of 11 three-pointers in the second half, and that came from McBride when it was just too late to do any good with 2:47 left.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met At Purcell Pavilion
Skylar Diggins found another way to beat Connecticut — maybe the toughest way yet.
The second-ranked Fighting Irish trailed by six in the first overtime, then five in the second overtime before beating the third-ranked Huskies 96-87 in three overtimes on March 4, 2013, at Purcell Pavilion to win BIG EAST regular-season title outright for the second straight year.
Diggins finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds and Kayla McBride added 26 points before fouling out in the second overtime.
The Fighting Irish took their first lead in overtime when Kaila Turner hit a free throw 18 seconds into the third overtime. After Kelly Faris answered with a bank shot for the Huskies to regain the lead, Notre Dame took over. Ariel Braker started it with a free throw, then Jewell Loyd muscled in a basket inside and nearly a minute later added a pair of free throws to give the Irish an 87-83 lead. Diggins then stole the ball from Breanna Stewart and scored on a fastbreak layup, and Braker, Diggins and Natalie Achonwa each made two free throws to put the game away.
The Fighting Irish managed to win despite going one of 12 from three-point range and being outshot 46 percent to 39 percent, but Notre Dame forced 35 turnovers. Achonwa added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Fighting Irish.
The Huskies missed three free throws in the first overtime, including one by Morgan Tuck that would have given the Huskies a four-point lead with 13 seconds left.
McBride then hit Notre Dame’s only three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left to tie the score at 71 and force the second overtime.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led UConn with 26 points, Faris added 21, Stefanie Dolson had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Bria Hartley finished with 10 points.
Other Notre Dame-Connecticut Series Tidbits
- Connecticut is Notre Dame’s most common opponent, with all 42 prior matchups coming since the 1995-96 season when the Fighting Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference alongside the Huskies. The next most frequent opponent in Notre Dame women’s basketball history is DePaul, which the Fighting Irish will play for the 40th time on Dec. 10 in Chicago.
- In the 13 series games since the start of the 2010-11 season, nine of those contests have been decided by single digits, including the first three in series history to go to overtime (all won by the Fighting Irish, most recently in triple OT on March 4, 2013, at Purcell Pavilion). What’s more, in six of those nine close games, the eventual losing team had a possession in the final 30 seconds of regulation but could not come up with the tying/winning shot.
- The March 4, 2013, triple-overtime game is the longest in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, supplanting four double-OT contests (the last an 86-83 loss to UCLA on Nov. 18, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion).
- All 11 of Notre Dame’s wins in the series have come since the start of the 2000-01 season, including three in five meetings at the NCAA Women’s Final Four (all in national semifinals in 2001, 2011, 2012).
- With seven wins in their last 10 games against Connecticut, the Fighting Irish are the first team since 1981-89 (Villanova) to have that kind of success against the Huskies. During that stretch, Villanova won its first 14 series games against the Huskies before Connecticut broke through.
- This will mark the 20th time both teams have been ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll at tipoff, with Notre Dame holding a 10-9 edge in these games.
- Notre Dame is 8-6 all-time against Connecticut when both teams are ranked in the top five of the AP poll, with this marking the 10th consecutive series meeting that both the Fighting Irish and Huskies are ranked fifth or higher by the media at tipoff.
- Saturday’s game will be the 32nd time in the 43-game series that both teams will be ranked at tipoff. At least one team has been ranked in every game of the series.
- Since the start of the 1998-99 season, Connecticut has lost by 15-plus points seven times, with three coming to Notre Dame (twice in 2000-01, once in 2003-04).
- With 11 victories over the Huskies since 2000-01, Notre Dame has more than double the number of wins over Connecticut by any school in the nation during that 15-season span. Rutgers has five wins over the Huskies in that time, while Stanford (4), Tennessee (4) and North Carolina (3) are the only other schools with at least three victories against Connecticut since the start of the new century.
- Notre Dame junior guard/tri-captain Michaela Mabrey was a member of the 2012 USA Basketball U18 National Team, playing alongside three Connecticut juniors (guard Moriah Jefferson and forwards Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck) and helping the Americans to a 5-0 record and the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. When healthy, that quartet comprised the majority of the starting lineup in the tournament, with the United States winning all five contests by an average of 47.4 points per game. One other tie-in on that team — Fighting Irish athletic trainer Anne Marquez filled that same role for the USA U18s in 2012.
- Notre Dame senior forward/tri-captain Markisha Wright (Des Moines, Iowa/Des Moines East) and Connecticut junior center Kiah Stokes (Marion, Iowa/Linn-Mar) were unquestionably the top two players in the state of Iowa in 2010-11. Stokes was named the state’s Player of the Year, while Wright was the Most Valuable Player of the state tournament and led her Des Moines East side to a perfect 26-0 record and the Class 4A state title (the first by the school since 1979).
- Notre Dame freshman forward Brianna Turner and Connecticut freshman guard Gabby Williams were teammates at the 2014 McDonald’s High School All-America Game, leading the West Team to a 80-78 victory at the United Center in Chicago (Turner had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and was the game’s Most Valuable Player after scoring the winning basket in the final seconds; Williams did not play).
- In that same 2014 McDonald’s High School All-America Game, Notre Dame freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld (two points, two rebounds, one assist) played alongside Connecticut freshman guard Sadie Edwards (one assist, one steal) on the East Team.
- Two of Saturday’s assistant coaches have seen the Notre Dame-Connecticut rivalry from the perspective of both a coach and a player. Eighth-year Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey and seventh-year UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph saw their teams meet 14 times during their respective five-year careers from 1996-2001 (both sat out a season with knee injuries — Ivey in 1996-97, Ralph in 1997-98), with Connecticut winning 12 times before Ivey led Notre Dame to two victories in three tries during her final season (2000-01).
- Notre Dame and Connecticut will continue their regular season series next year when the Fighting Irish again face the Huskies in the Jimmy V Women’s Classic (the 14th edition to be played in Connecticut at a site and date to be determined and televised on ESPN or ESPN2).
The Brains Of The Operation
Saturday’s two head coaches — Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma — have more than a few connections. Both are from the Philadephia metro area (McGraw from West Chester, Auriemma from Norristown), both cut their coaching teeth at Saint Joseph’s under former Hawks’ head coach (and current Chattanooga skipper) Jim Foster (McGraw replaced Auriemma on Foster’s staff in 1980 when Auriemma left to take an assistant position at Virginia), and both are members of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, with McGraw having been enshrined in June 2011.
McGraw also is the only coach in the nation with 11 wins against Auriemma since the start of the 2000-01 season. What’s more, McGraw is one of just two coaches all-time to have 11 or more victories against Auriemma on his/her resume, joining Villanova’s Harry Perretta (14 wins) in that elite company.
The Comforts Of Home
Notre Dame has won 34 consecutive home games since a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion.
As of Friday, the Fighting Irish own the nation’s longest active home winning streak (once Chattanooga’s 40-game run ended Nov. 16 with a loss to South Florida), with Notre Dame’s current run also the second-longest in school history (longest since a school-record 51-game stretch from Dec. 12, 1998-Feb. 19, 2002).
In addition, Notre Dame has won its last 18 conference home games since a 65-63 loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012, when both the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers were members of the BIG EAST Conference.
Notre Dame has won a school-record 27 consecutive road games (36 in a row in the regular season, and 43 of its last 48 overall). The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road on March 6, 2012, falling at No. 4 Connecticut, 63-54 in the BIG EAST Conference Championship final at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
The last time the Fighting Irish lost a regular season road game was Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
Notre Dame’s current 27-game road winning streak is the longest active run in the nation, more than tripling the next-closest pursuer (eight by Indiana State, as of Friday), as well as tying the third-longest road winning streak in NCAA Division I history.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Connecticut, earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 24 consecutive conference road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
More Streak Stats
Dating back to the start of the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame is 80-3 (.964) and has won 60 consecutive regular season games. In that span, the only Fighting Irish losses have come against a pair of top-three teams — No. 3 Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion), No. 3 Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana) and No. 1 Connecticut (79-58 on April, 8, 2014, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national championship game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee).
As of Friday, Notre Dame owns the nation’s second-longest winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), having earned 57 consecutive victories since a last-second 65-63 home loss to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012 (research for this note provided by STATS via the AP).
Visiting Century City
Notre Dame has scored at least 100 points three times in its first six games this season (and posted 97 points in another), already challenging last year’s school-record mark of five triple-digit outings, erasing the 2012-13 standard of three such contests.
The Fighting Irish have piled up 11 100-point games since the start of the 2011-12 season (and nine other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program’s existence–and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run.
This season marked the first time the Fighting Irish opened with three 100-point games in their first six contests. In fact, prior to 2012-13, Notre Dame had never had more than two triple-digit outings in an entire season, something it has now done for a third consecutive campaign.
Don’t Hassle The Huff(man)
Perhaps no Notre Dame player has shown greater development early this season than junior guard Hannah Huffman. The Diablo, California, native is averaging 5.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game (the latter tying for eighth in the ACC) with a .563 field goal percentage, all far surpassing her career averages entering this season (1.4 ppg., 1.6 rpg., 0.4 spg., .435 FG%).
In fact, Huffman, who averaged 7.6 minutes in 57 career games during her first two seasons, is playing nearly 17 minutes per game this season and already has topped her total point production from last year (42 vs. 34 in 2013-14).
Huffman also has set career highs in virtually every single-game category, including her first career double-figure scoring game (12 points vs. Harvard on Nov. 24). She added a career-high seven rebounds against Holy Cross on Nov. 23, and had a personal-best four steals against Kansas on Nov. 30.
New Kids On The Block
Through eight games, all three members of the Notre Dame freshman class have made their presence felt, a clear indication that the future is indeed bright for the Fighting Irish.
Forward Brianna Turner earned the first two ACC Freshman of the Week awards, leading the ACC and ranking fifth nationally with a .662 field goal percentage, as well as ranking 20th in the conference in scoring (13.4 ppg.). She also has scored in double figures five times, including a pair of 20-point games, highlighted by her 29 points in the season opener against UMass Lowell on Nov. 14 at Purcell Pavilion. It was not only the most points ever scored by a Notre Dame freshman in her debut game, but also the second-most by a Fighting Irish player in a season opener, topped only by Katryna Gaither’s 31 points at Indiana on Nov. 24, 1995.
Forward Kathryn Westbeld has chimed in with 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, the latter figure good for second on the team. Westbeld posted her first career double-double on Nov. 25 against Quinnipiac at Purcell Pavilion, collecting 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Westbeld also dropped in a career-best 15 points on Nov. 23 in a victory over Holy Cross also at Purcell Pavilion and has been Notre Dame’s leading rebounder in four games this season, averaging 8.0 rebounds in her last four outings.
Guard Mychal Johnson joins Westbeld as the top two Fighting Irish scorers off the bench, averaging 6.1 points and 2.1 assists per night. Johnson has shown diversity in her game thus far, providing solid scoring punch (career-high 17 points with five of six three-pointers on Nov. 21 against Chattanooga), playmaking ability (career-best seven assists and no turnovers against Quinnipiac) and defensive intensity (career-high four steals, also against Quinnipiac).
The Model Of Consistency
Junior guard Jewell Loyd has scored in double figures in 51 consecutive games, dating back to March 11, 2013, when she had eight points in Notre Dame’s 83-59 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 16/15 Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
Loyd’s 51-game double-digit scoring streak is the second-longest in school history, surpassing Natalie Novosel’s 27-game run from March 8, 2011-Jan. 21, 2012. In fact, Loyd has scored in double figures in 69 of her 81 career games (and 10 of those 12 single-digit games saw her within one basket of double figures).
Katryna Gaither has staked a seemingly ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.
Game #8 Recap: Maryland
Jewell Loyd scored eight points during a 10-0 run early to get No. 2/1 Notre Dame going Wednesday night against No. 15/10 Maryland. She then finished off the Terrapins in the second half as she banked in an acrobatic bank shot as she was fouled at the end of the fast break and hit the free throw for a three-point play to extend the lead to 30 points en route to a 92-72 Notre Dame victory in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Loyd had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Notre Dame quickly jumped to a 24-point lead in a rematch of an NCAA tournament semifinal from last season.
Just like in the semifinal game, which the Fighting Irish won by 26 points, Notre Dame (8-0) took control early and the Terrapins (6-2) never seriously threatened as they lost in their first appearance as a Big Ten member in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Maryland made just 29 percent of its shots in the first half, including missing 12 straight at one point.
Lexie Brown and Laurin Mincy had 20 points each for the Terrapins and Kristen Confroy added 14.
Taya Reimer added a career-high 21 points for the Fighting Irish. Michaela Mabrey had 11 and Lindsay Allen, who is from Mitchellville, Maryland, about 10 miles from the Maryland campus, had 10 points and six rebounds.
Beyond The Box Score: Maryland
- Notre Dame was playing its first off-site home game in the program’s 38-year history, and playing in the city of Fort Wayne for the first time since Jan. 24, 1979 (a 49-41 win at IPFW).
- Notre Dame took a 5-4 lead in the all-time series with Maryland, having won the past four games against the Terrapins (three by at least 20 points).
- For the second consecutive season, the Fighting Irish now have shot better than 55 percent from the field in three consecutive games, something they also did last year against UCLA, Michigan and Central Michigan (prior to last season, Notre Dame had not had three consecutive 55-percent shooting games since 1996-97).
- The Fighting Irish also shot better than 55 percent in both halves (.593 in the first, .565 in the second) for the first time since March 22, 2014, when they did so against Robert Morris (.568 in the first, .630 in the second) in the first round of the NCAA Championship in Toledo, Ohio.
- Loyd scored at least 20 points for the sixth time in eight games this season, and tied her career high with six assists, a mark she first set at Maryland on Jan. 27, 2014.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press preseason poll, its 70th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting (66 of those in the top five), dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season and marking 140 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.
The Fighting Irish also picked up 13 first-place votes in this week’s AP poll, the most ballots for the top spot since March 4, 2001, when Notre Dame garnered 33 (of a possible 40) first-place votes prior to the BIG EAST Championship.
The Fighting Irish reached a milestone on Nov. 26, 2012, with their 100th consecutive AP poll appearance. It extended the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), and it made the Fighting Irish are one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of 100 consecutive AP poll appearances.
What’s more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a top-10 Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (63 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (59) of those appearances in the AP Top 5 (and never lower than seventh).
Notre Dame was No. 3 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 15th time in 16 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only five schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 16 during that span, while Stanford joins the Fighting Irish with 15 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 279 weeks during the program’s 38-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw is eighth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 16th all-time in that category.
For the second consecutive week, the Fighting Irish are No. 1 in the WBCA/USA Today coaches’ poll, collecting 19 first-place votes to stand atop the rankings for the first time since April 1, 2001, following the program’s first NCAA national championship. They also are the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to be ranked No. 1 in either major national poll since March 12, 2007, when Duke was in that position prior to the NCAA Championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 142 of the past 143 weeks (and 106 in a row), 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 274 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
This marks the seventh consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the WBCA/USA Today poll, as well as 13 of the past 17 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 32 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 279 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 to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 32 people on this list, 17 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005 and 2012).
Half And Half
During the past 15 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 319-19 (.944) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 247 of their last 260 such contests (.950).
What’s more, in the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 156-2 (.987) when leading at the half, with the only losses coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 20 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, the Fighting Irish have an amazing 298-15 (.952) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including a 6-0 record this season.
…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 20 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 221-6 (.974) 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, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.
In the past six years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 98-2 (.980) when topping the 80-point mark, including an active 65-game winning streak since a 94-81 loss at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT title game.
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 257 of their last 286 games (.899), all but one game/win at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 34, 25 and 20 games in that span (most recently the program’s current 34-game run).
Since Purcell Pavilion was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 83-5 (.943) — including wins in 59 of its last 61 games — and three of the five Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).
Notre Dame also has a 204-30 (.872) record in regular season conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to BIG EAST foe Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been especially strong when it comes to non-league home games, winning 123 of their last 132 out-of-conference home contests (.932), dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the nine losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten 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), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT) and Baylor in 2012 (73-61). The Purdue loss snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak that began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all but one of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 406-90 (.819) record at the venerable facility, including a school-record 17 wins in both 2011-12 and 2013-14.
Fighting Irish Are Hottest Ticket In Town
The past five seasons have seen 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 in 2009-10 and 2013-14), highest average attendance (8,979 fans per game in 2012-13) and most sellouts in a single season (11 in 2012-13). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For the sixth consecutive year, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out Saturday’s game with Connecticut (although some tickets could be returned in the days leading up to the game and those will be made available for purchase by the general public as soon as possible), while several other home games are rapidly approaching sellout status.
In fact, while some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it’s entirely possible that, for the fourth consecutive season, Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games.
One Of Nation’s Toughest Cities To Play In
According to a study released by the University of Utah Athletic Media Relations Office, Notre Dame and Purcell Pavilion are among the toughest places in the nation to play. In fact, Notre Dame is one of just 11 programs in the nation to own a winning percentage of .800 or better in its home city.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Whitney Holloway, senior forward Markisha Wright and junior guard Michaela Mabrey are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2014-15 season. All three players received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
This is the seventh time in 11 seasons the Fighting Irish have had a trio of captains, as well as the second year in a row (Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride filled the captaincy trio last season).
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
Now in its eighth season, Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion once again looks to send fans home with full bellies, offering a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in an regular season or exhibition home game.
In the eight-year history of the promotion, Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 58 times, most recently in Tuesday’s win over Quinnipiac.
Senior forward Markisha Wright leads all current Fighting Irish players with seven “Big Mac Baskets” apiece during her career.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “the media relations director has way too much time on his hands”), 27 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including nine current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 58 Big Mac games, 27 have been reached on two-point baskets, 18 on free throws, and 13 on three-pointers.
Next Game: DePaul
Notre Dame will face its third consecutive ranked opponent at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT Wednesday when it heads up to to Chicago to take on No. 25/24 DePaul at McGrath-Phillips Arena. The game will be televised live on Fox Sports 2, marking the first time the Fighting Irish have appeared on the fledgling network.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director