Dec. 2, 2014
2014-15 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 8
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
#2/1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0 / 0-0 ACC) vs. #15/10 Maryland Terrapins (6-1 / 0-0 Big Ten)
DATE: Dec. 3, 2014
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Fort Wayne, Ind. – Allen County War Memorial Coliseum (13,000)
SERIES: Tied 4-4
1ST MTG: UM 84-62 (1/8/83)
LAST MTG: ND 87-61 (4/6/14)
TV: ESPN3/WatchESPN (live) (Jim Barbar, p-b-p / Steffi Sorensen, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
- Notre Dame is taking part in its second ACC/Big Ten Challenge, following last year’s 77-67 win at No. 10/11 Penn State.
- The Fighting Irish are playing the first off-site home game in the program’s 38-year history and making their first visit to Fort Wayne since 1979.
No. 2/1 Fighting Irish Face No. 15/10 Maryland Wednesday In ACC/Big Ten Challenge
As the calendar turns to December and the cold winter months, the Notre Dame schedule only heats up, as the No. 2/1 Fighting Irish begin a stretch of three consecutive games against ranked opponents on Wednesday when they take on No. 15/10 Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Notre Dame continued its early success with an 89-47 win over Kansas on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Challenge finale at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The Fighting Irish closed the first half on a 20-4 run and shot 55.4 percent from the field to earn 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.
- Maryland is No. 15 in this week’s Associated Press poll and is No. 10 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 405-90 (.818) all-time record in 38 seasons at the facility, including an 82-5 (.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 33 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 will be 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 114-7 (.942) 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 42-6 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 670 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 758 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 941 as of Tuesday).
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), ranking third with 174 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 8,597 fans through four games this season, have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 212 of their last 214 home games (including an active streak of 55 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-Maryland Series
Notre Dame and Maryland will play for the ninth time on Wednesday night, with the series tied 4-4. The Fighting Irish have won the past three games with the Terrapins, the longest winning streak by either side in the series.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Maryland Met
In one of the most impressive games of her career, Kayla McBride scored 28 points to lead Notre Dame to an 87-61 win over Maryland on April 6, 2014, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Notre Dame played without senior Natalie Achonwa, who suffered a torn ACL in the regional final victory over Baylor. The entire team wore shirts in warmups with Achonwa’s No. 11 and the 6-foot-3 forward’s nickname “Ace” on the back. She helped her team warm up, passing the ball and offering words of encouragement.
Muffet McGraw, who was named the Associated Press National Coach of the Year earlier in the week, was concerned coming into the game about her team’s ability to rebound against the bigger Terrapins without Achonwa.
It proved to be no problem for the Fighting Irish, who dominated Maryland on the boards, 50-21, including a 19-4 advantage on the offensive end. It was the widest rebounding margin ever in a Final Four game shattering the previous mark of 19 set by Louisiana Tech in 1989. Maryland broke the national semifinals record for fewest rebounds in a game, previously 25 by Minnesota in 2004.
Notre Dame also befuddled Maryland on defense, forcing them into turnovers and poor shots with ever-changing defenses. Terps’ star Alyssa Thomas was constantly double-teamed and rarely got a good look at the basket. She finished with 14 points.
Thomas ended her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. She had waited four years to make the Final Four and her only trip was a short one. Coach Brenda Frese took her out with 1:33 left and the game well out of reach. Frese gave her star a long hug.
This was Maryland’s first trip to the Final Four since winning the championship in 2006. The Terps were intent on crashing the party and ruining Notre Dame’s perfect season.
For the first 12 minutes they were able to keep the game close with some hot shooting. They only trailed 23-21 before McBride and Notre Dame took control with a 10-0 run. McBride had the first five points hitting a layup and converting a nifty three-point play.
Taya Reimer, who replaced Achonwa in the starting lineup, scored her first points of the game on a layup to cap the burst and make it 33-21. The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes, and the Fighting Irish led 37-27 before closing the half by scoring 11 of the final 15 points, including a beautiful pass from Reimer to a cutting McBride for a layup — a play often run between Achonwa and McBride.
The first half was similar to the first meeting in the regular season when the Fighting Irish jumped all over the Terrapins, taking a 22-point advantage before Maryland rallied, eventually losing by four in Notre Dame’s closest game of the season.
There was no comeback this time.
Loyd finished with 16 points and McBride scored five straight points, including a three-pointer and a pullup jumper that made it 59-37 with 15:46 left. The Terrapins never challenged the rest of the way.
Other Notre Dame-Maryland Series Tidbits
- Not only in the series record between Notre Dame and Maryland even at 4-4, but the all-time aggregate score in those eight games in extremely close — the Terrapins have tallied 536 points (67.0 ppg.), while the Fighting Irish have score 529 points (66.1 ppg.).
- Notre Dame is 6-4 all-time against teams from the state of Maryland. In addition to their series against the Terrapins, the Fighting Irish are 2-0 against Loyola, defeating the Greyhounds in 1991 (84-49 at the Purcell Pavilion) and 1992 (55-48 in Baltimore).
- Notre Dame sophomore guard Lindsay Allen is a native of Mitchellville, Md. (located approximately 10 miles southeast of the Maryland campus) and matriculated from St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. (located 10 miles southwest of Maryland’s home arena, the Xfinity Center).
- Allen is the fifth Maryland native to suit up for the Fighting Irish and the second in recent seasons, following in the footsteps of sharpshooting guard and Baltimore native Brittany Mallory (2007-12), who helped lead Notre Dame to Final Four appearances in 2011 and 2012 and ranks sixth in school history with 153 three-point field goals.
- Allen and fellow Notre Dame sophomore forward Taya Reimer were teammates with Maryland second-year guard Lexie Brown on the East Team at the 2013 McDonald’s High School All-America Game in Chicago.
- Notre Dame junior guard Michaela Mabrey was a teammate with Maryland junior forward Malina Howard on the East Team at the 2012 McDonald’s High School All-America Game in Chicago, defeating a West Team that included current Fighting Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd.
- Mabrey and Brown were teammates on the 2012 USA Basketball Under-18 National Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. It was at that tournament that Mabrey and Brown formed a close friendship that continues to this day.
- Notre Dame athletic trainer Anne Marquez served as the USA U18 National Team athletic trainer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, working with Mabrey and Brown, among others.
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten Conference
Notre Dame is 67-69 (.493) all-time against the current Big Ten Conference alignment, with a 33-24 (.579) record at home. The Fighting Irish also are 59-48 (.551) current Big Ten teams in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Of note, Notre Dame has won 22 of its last 28 games vs. Big Ten schools (not counting matchups with Maryland, Nebraska or Rutgers before they joined the Big Ten in recent seasons), including a current string of 11 in a row since Minnesota ended the 2008-09 Fighting Irish season with a 79-71 win in the first round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion.
Maryland is the second of three Big Ten opponents on Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule, following a 71-63 victory at No. 15/17 Michigan State on Nov. 19. The Fighting Irish also will play host to Michigan on Dec. 13 back at Purcell Pavilion.
Although Wednesday will mark just the second appearance for Notre Dame in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (following last year’s 77-67 win at No. 10/11 Penn State), the Fighting Irish do have some past experience against the Big Ten in a challenge format. In 2003-04 and 2004-05, Notre Dame participated in the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge, playing Purdue both seasons and splitting those two matchups (losing 76-63 on Jan. 4, 2004, in West Lafayette, Ind.; winning 86-69 on Jan. 16, 2005, at Purcell Pavilion).
Wednesday’s game also presents another unique storyline — Notre Dame and Maryland are the only two schools who have never lost in ACC/Big Ten Challenge play since the conference rivalry began in 2007 (the Terrapins went 7-0 in the Challenge as part of the ACC, while fellow Big Ten newcomer Rutgers make its Challenge debut Thursday night at North Carolina).
In its seven-year history, the ACC is 6-0-1 all-time against the Big Ten in the Challenge following last year’s 7-5 victory. The ACC also holds a 48-32 edge in Challenge games played through 2013 and has won at least six Challenge contests each year the rivalry has been played.
Home Away From Home
With the Notre Dame men’s basketball team playing host to Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion, the Fighting Irish women will be playing the first off-site home game in the program’s 38-year history on Wednesday when they welcome Maryland to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
This will be the third time the Notre Dame women’s basketball team has visited Fort Wayne, but the first since Jan. 24, 1979, when the Fighting Irish defeated IPFW, 49-41 during Notre Dame’s second season of varsity competition and while playing as an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Division III member (the Fighting Irish also won at Indiana Tech, 68-51 on Feb. 15, 1978).
Notre Dame athletics is no stranger to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, having served as the host school for a pair of postseason events that took place at the 13,000-seat facility, which currently is the home of the NBA D-League champion Fort Wayne Mad Ants and the East Coast Hockey League’s Fort Wayne Komets.
In 2004, Notre Dame played a men’s basketball NIT second-round game against Saint Louis at the Coliseum, posting a 77-66 win behind a career-high 39 points from All-America guard Chris Thomas. Then in 2010, Notre Dame played host to the NCAA Midwest Regional hockey championship in Fort Wayne, with Miami (Ohio) winning twice on the Summit City sheet to earn a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
The Comforts Of Home
Notre Dame has won 33 consecutive home games since a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion.
As of Tuesday, 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 (seven by Indiana State, as of Tuesday), 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 79-3 (.963) and has won 59 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 Tuesday, 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 5.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game (the latter tying for eighth in the ACC) with a .548 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 more than 17 minutes per game this season and already has topped her total point production from last year (40 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 seven 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, ranking second in the ACC with a .662 field goal percentage, as well as 12th in the conference in scoring I15.3 ppg.) and 19th in rebounding (6.1 rpg.). 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 7.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, the latter figure good for third 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 9.0 rebounds in her last three outings.
Guard Mychal Johnson joins Westbeld as the top two Fighting Irish scorers off the bench, averaging 6.9 points and 2.3 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 50 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 50-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 68 of her 80 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 #7 Recap: Kansas
Jewell Loyd scored 23 points and Michaela Mabrey added 17 to help Notre Dame rout Kansas 89-47 on Sunday in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The Fighting Irish have won their first seven contests by an average of nearly 47 points a game.
Notre Dame (7-0) got off to a slow start against Kansas. The Fighting Irish only led 22-17 with 8:34 left in the first half before going on a 20-4 run to close it. Mabrey got the burst started with a three-pointer from the wing. Her second three-pointer during the burst made it 32-21. Lindsay Allen also hit a trey and had five points in the run.
The Fighting Irish led 42-21 at the half.
Things didn’t get much better for Kansas (5-2) in the second half as Notre Dame pulled away. McGraw started emptying the bench before the midway point of the second half with her team up 40.
Before leaving the game, Loyd caught a gorgeous alley-oop pass for a lay-up from Allen. She almost had another one off a half-court pass from Allen, but missed the shot.
Beyond The Box Score: Kansas
- Notre Dame is off to a 7-0 start for the second consecutive season and fourth time in the past seven years.
- The Fighting Irish have won 38 of their last 42 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including their last nine in a row.
- Notre Dame finished the month of November undefeated for the third consecutive season and have won 25 of their last 26 November games, as well as improving to 88-14 (.863) in the month since 1995-96.
- The Fighting Irish are 32-12 (.727) all-time against current Big 12 members including an 18-10 (.643) record away from home (road/neutral sites combined), and have won their last five games against Big 12 opponents (third in 11 games dating back to last season).
- Notre Dame extends its regular-season winning streak to 59 consecutive games and its winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll) to 57 in a row.
- The Fighting Irish shot better than 55 percent from the field in consecutive games for the first time since March 2, 2014, at No. 13/17 North Carolina State (.561) and March 7, 2014, against Florida State (.604) in the ACC Championship quarterfinals at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina.
- Notre Dame shot better than 90 percent from the free-throw line (minimum of 10 attempts) for the first time since March 31, 2014, when it went 30 of 33 (.909) against No. 5/6 Baylor in the NCAA Notre Dame Regional final at Purcell Pavilion.
- The Fighting Irish tied their season high with eight three-pointers, while their .615 three-point percentage was a season best and highest since Jan. 16, 2014, when they made nine of 12 three-pointers (.750) in a 109-66 win at Pittsburgh.
- Loyd posted her fifth 20-point game in seven outings this season and scored in double figures for the 50th consecutive game, the second-longest streak in school history.
- Freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld had a career-high four assists, while junior guard Hannah Huffman snared a career-high four steals.
- For the fourth consecutive game, all 12 Notre Dame players in uniform found the scoring column.
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 318-19 (.944) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 246 of their last 259 such contests (.950).
What’s more, in the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 155-2 (.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 220-6 (.973) 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 97-2 (.980) when topping the 80-point mark, including an active 64-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 256 of their last 285 games (.898) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 33, 25 and 20 games in that span (most recently the program’s current 33-game run).
Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 83-5 (.943) — including wins in 59 of its last 61 home 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 122 of their last 131 out-of-conference contests (.931) at Purcell Pavilion, 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 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 the Nov. 25 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: Connecticut (Jimmy V Women’s Classic)
Notre Dame will participate in the Jimmy V Women’s Classic for the first time in the event’s 13-year history when it plays host to No. 3 Connecticut at 3:15 p.m. (ET) Saturday at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be televised live on ESPN and also available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Saturday’s game will be the first regular-season contest between the schools since March 4, 2013, when the Fighting Irish defeated the Huskies, 96-87 in triple overtime at Purcell Pavilion.
The two storied rivals also have squared off in the past four NCAA Women’s Final Fours, meeting in the national semifinals from 2011-13 (Notre Dame won two of three), as well as last year’s NCAA championship game (won by Connecticut, 79-58 in Nashville, Tennessee).
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director