Junior forward Natalie Achonwa earned her way on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll for the second time this season after averaging 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in two Fighting Irish wins last week.

#2/3 Irish Continue Homestand Tuesday Against Georgetown

Jan. 14, 2013

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2012-13 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 16

#2/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-1 / 3-0 BIG EAST) vs. Georgetown Hoyas (10-6 / 1-2 BIG EAST)

DATE: January 15, 2013
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 25-3
1ST MTG: ND 78-68 (1/6/83)
LAST MTG: ND 80-60 (1/10/12)
TV: CBS Sports Network (live) (James Bates, p-b-p / Tammy Blackburn, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets


  • Notre Dame is 4-0 this season when playing on one day’s rest (or fewer), and 32-9 (.780) in such games during the past five years.
  • The Fighting Irish are ranked among the top 20 in the nation in nine NCAA statistical categories, leading the nation in free throw percentage (.811).

No. 2/3 Fighting Irish Continue Homestand Tuesday Against Georgetown
The challenges of the BIG EAST Conference season lurk around every corner and the latest test for No. 2/3 Notre Dame comes at 7 p.m. (ET) Tuesday when the Fighting Irish come back on short rest to face Georgetown and the nation’s leading scorer, Sugar Rodgers, before an ESPNU national cable audience at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame (14-1, 3-0) stretched its winning streak to nine games and remained unbeaten in conference play with a wire-to-wire 71-46 victory over Rutgers on Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 37-17 halftime lead and never looked back, shooting .509 from the field in the win.

Senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins paced five Notre Dame players in double figures with 15 points, while guard Jewell Loyd secured her third BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honor this season with 14 points (on 6-of-8 field goals, including 2-of-2 from three-point range) and five rebounds.


  • Notre Dame is No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press poll and was No. 3 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll (new poll will be released Tuesday afternoon).
  • Georgetown is not ranked.

Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame is off to a 14-1 start for the fourth time in five seasons and fifth time in school history (all beginning in 2000-01).
  • The Fighting Irish are 5-1 against ranked opponents this year, defeating No. 19/21 Ohio State (57-51), No. 19/22 UCLA (76-64), No. 22 Texas A&M (83-74), No. 11 Purdue (74-47) and No. 1 Connecticut (73-72), while dropping a 73-61 decision to No. 3 Baylor (a game Notre Dame led 50-49 with less than eight minutes remaining).
  • The Fighting Irish have won a school-record 10 consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular-season games, dating back to Feb. 28, 2011 (a 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
  • In nine games (all wins) since its only loss of the season (Dec. 5 vs. third-ranked Baylor), Notre Dame is averaging 88.9 points per game (winning by 29.9 ppg.), posting a rebound margin of +13.8 per game, and has forced opponents into an average of 23.0 turnovers per night (12.6 of those coming on Fighting Irish steals).
  • According to Monday’s NCAA statistical report, the Fighting Irish are ranked in the top 20 in nine categories — free throw percentage (1st – .811), scoring offense (2nd – 83.5 ppg.), assists (3rd – 19.9 apg.), scoring margin (4th – +25.6 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (7th – 1.26), rebounding margin (9th – +11.1 rpg.), turnover margin (12th – +7.0), field goal percentage (13th – .460) and steals (20th – 12.6 spg.).
  • Notre Dame has shown remarkably balanced offensive production this season, with 10 of the 11 players on the roster having scored in double figures at least once, including five different players who have scored 20 points in a game.
  • The Fighting Irish have set a school record with three 100-point games this season. The highlight came on Dec. 31 at home against Saint Francis (Pa.) in a 128-55 victory, marking the highest offensive output by any NCAA Division I team this season (and matching the highest by any D-I program since 2002 – Notre Dame also scored 128 points last year at Mercer).
  • With its No. 2 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media poll for 107 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with the vast majority of that time (57 of 68 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • Senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner have helped Notre Dame win 109 games to date, the most victories by a Fighting Irish class through 128 games, two more than the one-player 2001-02 senior class of Ericka Haney, who was a part of 107 wins in the same number of career games, which came late in her senior year (a run that was highlighted the 2001 NCAA national championship).
  • With 605 victories in her 26 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).
  • McGraw also is seven wins away from becoming the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to amass 700 victories (and should she do so within the next 49 games, she would be the 11th to compile 700 victories in less than 1,000 games coached). What’s more, when McGraw reaches the 700-win milestone, she will be the third BIG EAST Conference skipper to hit that landmark, along with C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 17 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fourth with 423 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 three years), and is well on its way again this year, ranking third in the nation at 8,920 fans per game. Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation (8,571), setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 183 of their last 185 home games (including an active streak of 26 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 30 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 24 in the past four seasons (a school-record eight in 2011-12). Notre Dame already has five sellouts in seven home games this season, most recently for Sunday’s win over Rutgers.
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as nine Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 12 seasons. Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with both going in the first round (Peters third overall to Minnesota; Novosel eighth overall to Washington) of the 2012 WNBA Draft. Last year’s draft marked the first time Notre Dame has had two first-round picks in the same year, while Peters was the highest-drafted player (and first lottery selection) in program history. Ruth Riley (Chicago) was active in the league during the ’12 season, helping the Sky contend for a playoff berth into the final weeks of the season. Three of Notre Dame’s 10 all-time 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 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit. Peters nearly joined that list in 2012, helping Minnesota return to the WNBA Finals, but the Lynx could not defend their title, falling to Indiana in four games.
  • For the sixth 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, Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous five years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it twice, pulling off that feat in 2011 and 2012).

Scouting Georgetown
Despite seeing half its roster turn over and the change in the head coaching chair, Georgetown (10-6, 1-2) has remained among the upper division of the BIG EAST.

The Hoyas, who have neither won nor lost more than three in a row this season, have dropped their last two contests, including an 86-56 setback at Syracuse on Jan. 12. Senior guard Sugar Rodgers, the nation’s leading scorer, led GU with 17 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Jasmine Jackson added 11 points off the bench.

Rodgers leads the Hoyas and ranks among the BIG EAST (if not NCAA) leaders in nearly all categories, including scoring (25.3 ppg.), rebounding (7.9 rpg.), steals (3.6 spg.) and three-point percentage (.345). Junior forward Andrea White is the only other GU player scoring in double figures thus far, averaging 10.7 points per game.

Keith Brown is in his first season as Georgetown’s head coach, replacing his former boss, Terri Williams-Flournoy, who is now the skipper at Auburn.

The Notre Dame-Georgetown Series
Notre Dame and Georgetown will be playing for the 29th time when they square off Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish are 25-3 all-time against the Hoyas, including a 13-0 record at home, and they have won eight of the past nine games in the series.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Georgetown Met
What a strange first five minutes it was. The game was essentially played on one end of the court. Notre Dame never seemed to have the ball. Georgetown kept grabbing offensive rebound after offensive rebound.

And only had two points to show for it.

It’s a bit dicey to let the No. 2 team in the country off the hook like that, and the Hoyas paid the price. Once the Fighting Irish got going, they rolled to a 21-point halftime lead and beat No. 18 Georgetown 80-60 on Jan. 10, 2012, at McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C.

Skylar Diggins finished with 22 points, Natalie Novosel added 21, and Kayla McBride had 16 for Notre Dame, while Brittany Mallory’s defense held Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers, the conference’s leading scorer, to 13 points on 3-for-18 shooting.

The Fighting Irish also went 28-for-32 from the free throw line as they avoided a post-UConn letdown — Notre Dame ended Connecticut’s 57-game BIG EAST regular season winning streak three days earlier.

Rodgers came into the game averaging 20.1 points, but she had two fouls before the game was eight minutes old and didn’t score in the first half. Rodgers ended up going 2-for-11 from three-point range and committed five turnovers for the Hoyas.

Notre Dame won despite committing 18 turnovers and taking 28 fewer shots than Georgetown, a statistical fluke created by the Hoyas’ persistence on the offensive boards — and their inability to capitalize on it. They had seven rebounds in those infamous first five minutes alone, but they were trailing 4-2 because they were 1-for-11 from the field.

Georgetown had 15 offensive rebounds at halftime — and only four second-chance points. The Hoyas had also forced eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes — but didn’t convert them into a single point.

The Fighting Irish led 37-16 at the break and held on despite foul trouble. Diggins picked up her fourth with 11:11 to play, and Mallory got her fourth with 10 minutes remaining.

Rodgers’ first three-pointer capped a 7-0 run that cut Notre Dame’s lead to 48-37 with 11 minutes left, and she connected again to make the score 58-48 with 7:01 to go.

But the Fighting Irish responded each time, closing with a 18-8 run, and kept the Hoyas at bay at the free throw line, making 16-of-18 attempts in the second half (including 12-of-14 in the final five minutes).

The Last Time Notre Dame And Georgetown Met at Purcell Pavilion
Skylar Diggins scored 17 of her 22 points in the first half and added six assists to lead No. 11/10 Notre Dame to an 80-58 win over No. 16/17 Georgetown on Jan. 18, 2011, at Purcell Pavilion.

Natalie Novosel added 19 points, Brittany Mallory had 14, and Devereaux Peters pulled down 12 rebounds for the Fighting Irish.

Sugar Rodgers had 15 points and six rebounds, and Rubylee Wright added 13 points and six assists for the Hoyas.

Notre Dame finished the first half on an 11-2 run and went into the locker room with a 45-33 lead. Georgetown left six points on the board as the Hoyas missed the front end of the bonus on three straight trips to the line in last few minutes of the half.

Georgetown’s full-court press forced the Fighting Irish into three quick turnovers early in the second half before Novosel stole the ball for a layup that put the Fighting Irish up 59-42 with 14:44 to play.

Other Notre Dame-Georgetown Series Tidbits

  • Notre Dame’s 25 series wins over Georgetown are tied for the second-most against one opponent in school history; the Fighting Irish have 31 victories over Marquette and 25 wins against Syracuse. Notre Dame also has at least 20 series wins over Valparaiso (24), Dayton (22), Detroit (22), Loyola-Chicago (21), St. John’s (21), Pittsburgh (20), Providence (20), Seton Hall (20) and Xavier (20).
  • Notre Dame has held Georgetown to fewer than 70 points in 20 of its 23 BIG EAST Conference meetings, going 20-0 in such games. The lone exceptions at came at McDonough Arena in Washington — Jan. 7, 2004 (76-73 GU), Jan. 19, 2008 (104-86 ND) and Feb. 20, 2010 (76-66 GU).
  • Three of the past four series games at McDonough Arena have been very tight, with three decided by 10 points or fewer (two by one possession), and each side winning twice.
  • Last year’s 20-point Notre Dame win was the largest by either side since Feb. 21, 2007, when the Fighting Irish earned a 73-48 victory at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Georgetown is one of three current BIG EAST schools (along with Pittsburgh and Providence) against whom the Fighting Irish have scored at least 100 points in a single game, reaching the century mark on Jan. 19, 2008 (104-86 win at McDonough Arena). Notre Dame also scored 100 points twice against West Virginia when the Mountaineers were part of the BIG EAST from 1995-96 through 2011-12.
  • Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins and Georgetown senior guard Sugar Rodgers both were 2009 McDonald’s High School All-Americans and teammates on the East squad that dropped a narrow 69-68 decision to the West in Coral Gables, Fla. Diggins scored a game-high 18 points, while Rodgers joined her in double figures with 10 points.
  • Diggins and Rodgers also met in the finals of the Girls’ 3-Point Shootout at the 2009 Powerade Jam Fest (held in conjunction with the McDonald’s game); Diggins wound up edging Rodgers, 14-12, to win the title.
  • Less than a year ago (March 20, 2012), Notre Dame freshman guard Michaela Mabrey and Georgetown freshman forward Dominique Vitalis were center stage for their respective high school teams in the championship game of the New Jersey Tournament of Champions (a postseason event matching the state champions in the various classifications), played at the Izod Center (the former home of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and NHL’s New Jersey Devils) in East Rutherford, N.J. Mabrey scored 26 points to help lead Manasquan to a 67-55 victory over Gill St. Bernard’s, which got 14 points and 18 rebounds from Vitalis.

48 Hours
Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Notre Dame has played 41 times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games.

When faced with such a tight turnaround, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion in recent seasons, going 32-9 (.780) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes during the past five years.

Notre Dame is 4-0 on short rest this season, including wins over Kansas State and No. 22 Texas A&M as part of a successful three-game run to the World Vision Classic title in Las Vegas.

Climbing Another Rung On The Ladder
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw can take over sole possession of 13th place on the NCAA Division I career coaching wins list with a Fighting Irish victory over Georgetown on Tuesday night.

Should Notre Dame prevail, McGraw (693 wins from 1982-present; at Notre Dame since 1987-88) would move past her old college coach, Rene Portland (first name pronounced REE-nee; 693 wins from 1976-2007), who began her coaching career at McGraw’s alma mater, Saint Joseph’s (Pa.), during McGraw’s final two seasons of 1976-77 and 1977-78, before going on spend two years at Colorado (1978-80) and the majority of her career at Penn State (1980-2007).

Jewell Loyd Earns Third BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week Honor
For the third time this season, freshman guard Jewell Loyd has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday afternoon by the conference office. Loyd is the first three-time recipient of the honor during the 2012-13 season, and she becomes the fifth Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to earn three BIG EAST Freshman of the Week citations in her career (first since current senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins was a four-time rookie choice in 2009-10).

Loyd nearly averaged a double-double in two games last week, averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds with a .480 field goal percentage, .750 three-point percentage and .833 free throw percentage to help Notre Dame extend its winning streak to nine games with victories at South Florida and at home against Rutgers.

Loyd registered her first career double-double in Notre Dame’s 75-71 overtime win at USF on Jan. 8, logging 18 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, along with three assists and three steals. On Sunday’s 71-46 victory over Rutgers at Purcell Pavilion, Loyd knocked down 6-of-8 shots (including 2-of-2 from three-point range), finishing with 14 points and five rebounds as Notre Dame posted its fourth consecutive win over the Scarlet Knights (the longest Fighting Irish winning streak in the 29-game series with Rutgers).

Start Me Up
For the fourth time in five years, and the fifth time in school history (all starting with the 2000-01 season), Notre Dame has posted a 14-1 record or better through its first 15 games.

Twice in their history, the Fighting Irish opened with at least 15 consecutive wins, doing so in their 2000-01 national championship season (school-record 23-game winning streak) and again in 2009-10 (15-0).

Notre Dame also is off to a 3-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the second consecutive season and the eighth time since it joined the league in 1995-96.

Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 12 games this year. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 64-4 (.941) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including an active 34-game winning streak that dates back to Feb. 28, 2011 (70-69 loss at DePaul).

Everyone Pitches In
With the graduation of two-time honorable mention All-Americans (and 2012 WNBA first-round draft picks) Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame entered this season searching to find a way to make up for the talented duo’s 27.0 points and 13.4 rebounds per game.

Thus far in 2012-13, it would appear the Fighting Irish are making this mission truly a team effort. On the scoring side, 10 of the 11 players on the roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including junior forward Ariel Braker (six times, after having two double-figure games in her first two seasons combined), sophomore guards Madison Cable (twice) and Whitney Holloway (once – the first double-digit games of both Cable and Holloway’s careers) and freshman guards Jewell Loyd (10 times) and Michaela Mabrey (three times).

On the backboards, junior forward Natalie Achonwa is second in the BIG EAST at 9.1 rebounds per game and has piled up eight of her 10 career double-digit rebounding games this year. The Guelph, Ontario, native, and 2012 Canadian Olympic Team member also has a BIG EAST-leading eight double-doubles after logging one double-double in her career prior to this season.

The Best Things In Life Are Free
At the midpoint of the 2012-13 regular season, Notre Dame is displaying a penchant for making opponents pay at the free throw line.

Through their first 15 games, the Fighting Irish lead the nation in free throw percentage, shooting a remarkable .811 (284-of-350) from the charity stripe, including a season-high .933 (14-of-15) in Sunday’s win over Rutgers.

On average, Notre Dame is getting to the line more than 23 times per game, converting nearly 19 free throws a night. At the same time, the Fighting Irish have made more than 30 percent more foul shots than their opponents have attempted (284 made, 218 opponent attempts).

Last year, Notre Dame set a school record by connecting at a .763 clip from the foul line, leading the BIG EAST with a stellar .807 percentage during conference play.

Junior guard Kayla McBride has had the most success cashing in on this strategy during the past two seasons, shooting .872 from the stripe last year (a league-leading .919 in BIG EAST games) and making 27 of 28 free throws (.964) so far this season — in fact, she would be leading the conference in free throw percentage, but she has not yet reached the minimum required for ranking (2.0 FTM/game).

Still, three other Notre Dame players do qualify for the BIG EAST free throw rankings, and all appear among the top 12 in the league with senior guard Skylar Diggins standing atop the BIG EAST ladder (.878), junior forward Natalie Achonwa is eighth (.795) and freshman guard Jewell Loyd ranks 12th (.778).

For her career, McBride has logged an .888 free throw percentage, putting her ahead of Alicia Ratay’s school-record mark (.872) from 1999-2003.

Canadian Ace
According to the time-honored adage, “there’s no substitute for experience.” In the case of Notre Dame junior forward Natalie Achonwa, that experience was second to none and it’s paid off exceptionally well for the veteran Fighting Irish frontliner this season.

During the summer of 2012, Achonwa was a key contributor on Canada’s Senior National Team, helping leading her country to its first Olympic appearance in 12 years. Not content to merely qualify, Canada then earned two hard-fought wins in the group stage to reach the Olympic quarterfinals (medal round) for the first time since 1984.

As the second-youngest player in the London Olympic Basketball Tournament at the tender age of 19, Achonwa averaged 7.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, highlighted by a 14-point, eight-rebound effort against eventual Olympic silver medalist France during the preliminary round.

Parlaying her Olympic experience, Achonwa has moved seamlessly into Notre Dame’s starting lineup this season after spending her first two years as an important reserve. The Guelph, Ontario, native was expected to take on a larger role this year with the graduation of two-time All-American Devereaux Peters, but Achonwa has taken that growth to a whole new level, doubling her averages in scoring (7.6 to 14.3 ppg.) and rebounding (4.4 to 9.1 rpg.), while scoring in double figures 13 times and grabbing double-digit rebounds on eight occasions (including a career-best 17 rebounds on Dec. 29 against No. 11 Purdue).

What’s more, Achonwa came into this season with one career double-double and a career scoring high of 20 points. This year, she leads the BIG EAST in double-doubles (8, including five in six games against ranked teams) and has four 20-point games to her credit (career-high 23 vs. Utah State on Dec. 8). She also ranks among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in scoring (16th – 14.3 ppg.), rebounding (2nd – 9.1 rpg.), free throw percentage (8th – .795) and field goal percentage (10th – .549).

Achonwa’s development has not gone unnoticed, as she was named to the World Vision Classic All-Tournament Team, helping to lead the Fighting Irish to the title with 22 points and a (then) career-high 14 rebounds in the championship game win over No. 22 Texas A&M. Achonwa also is one of two Notre Dame players (along with junior guard Kayla McBride) to make the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll twice this season, earning a spot on the Dec. 10 and Jan. 14 rundowns.

The Erie Warrior
Along with her classmate Natalie Achonwa, junior guard (and Erie, Pa., native) Kayla McBride has been a major reason for Notre Dame’s success this season, capably stepping into a larger role within the Fighting Irish system following the graduation of two-time honorable mention All-America wing Natalie Novosel.

McBride currently is tied for 10th in the BIG EAST in scoring (team high-tying 15.1 ppg.) and would be leading the conference in free throw percentage (.964), but she is short of the minimum needed for qualification (2.0 FTM/game). In both areas, she is posting career-high marks, including a better than 30-percent improvement in her scoring average from last year (11.6 ppg.).

McBride also shares the team lead (with Achonwa) this season with 13 double-figure scoring games, including at least 16 points in all six of Notre Dame’s games against ranked opponents to date (18.3 ppg.) and a career-high 21 points at No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 5.

In fact, in her last 21 games against a Top 25 opponent, McBride is averaging 14.5 points per game, scoring in double figures 19 times and posting both of her career double-doubles (10 points, career-high 12 rebounds vs. No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 7, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion; 13 points, 10 rebounds at No. 13/14 Rutgers on Jan. 31, 2012).

Crown Jewell
Freshman guard Jewell Loyd is rapidly making her presence felt as one of the top rookies, not only in the BIG EAST Conference, but around the country.

The Lincolnwood, Ill., native has appeared in all 15 games for the Fighting Irish this season (starting 14 times), scoring in double figures 10 times, earning her first career double-double (18 points/13 rebounds at South Florida on Jan. 8) and posting two “5-5-5” games (at least “5” in three of the five main statistical categories – points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals).

Loyd currently ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in three-point percentage (3rd – .484), scoring (21st – 13.1 ppg.) and free throw percentage (12th – .778).

She also is a three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week selection, first earning that honor on Nov. 26 after averaging 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists with a .727 field goal percentage in wins over Mercer (19 points/six rebounds/five assists) and at No. 19/22 UCLA (19 points/seven rebounds/five assists).

Loyd then became the first repeat honoree of the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week award this season when she was tapped for the designation on Dec. 10 after averaging 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals with a .481 field goal percentage (.556 three-point percentage) against No. 3 Baylor and Utah State.

Loyd made it three rookie honors this year with her selection this week (see entry earlier in this notes package).

Loyd opened eyes on the national scene with a season- (and game-) high 24 points and team-best seven rebounds in the 73-61 loss to Baylor on Dec. 5 at Purcell Pavilion. The 5-foot-10 guard connected on her first four three-point attempts of the evening (finishing 4-of-5 from beyond the arc) on the way to notching the most points by a Fighting Irish rookie against a ranked opponent since Jan. 26, 2002, when Jacqueline Batteast scored 26 points in Notre Dame’s 64-57 win over No. 16/17 Virginia Tech at Purcell Pavilion.

What’s more, Loyd also scored the most points by a Notre Dame freshman against an opponent ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since Feb. 19, 2000, when Alicia Ratay netted 26 points (including a school-record 7-for-7 three-pointers) in a 78-74 overtime win at No. 8/11 Rutgers.

Diggins Challenging School Records
Throughout the 2012-13 season, senior guard Skylar Diggins will continue to close the gap that separates her from the highest eschelon of Notre Dame women’s basketball players in a number of the program’s top career categories. Here’s a look at just a few of the notable milestones Diggins will have a shot to reach this season:

  • Diggins (473 rebounds) is 27 rebounds away to become the first women’s basketball player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. Only one Notre Dame men’s basketball player has ever compiled that impressive combination of statistics (Chris Thomas from 2001-05).
  • Diggins (1,953 points) is 47 points away from becoming the fourth 2,000-point scorer in school history, and she needs 369 points to catch current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham as the program’s all-time leading scorer. On Dec. 21 against No. 22 Texas A&M, Diggins moved into fourth place on the Notre Dame career scoring list, passing All-America forward (and another South Bend Washington High School graduate) Jacqueline Batteast (1,874 points from 2001-05).
  • In addition, Diggins (309 steals) is 39 steals away from assistant coach Niele Ivey’s school record for career thefts. With one steal on Jan. 8 at South Florida, Diggins moved into second place on Notre Dame’s career steals list, passing Coquese Washington (307 from 1989-93).
  • Diggins (605 assists) has an outside shot at the Fighting Irish all-time record for assists held by Gavin, needing 173 helpers to reach the mark (Ivey is second, currently 122 ahead of Diggins). Diggins also has moved into the top five in this category, and with her career-high 14 assists on Dec. 31 against Saint Francis (Pa.), she passed Karen Robinson for fourth place in school history (579 from 1987-91).

The Diggins Factor
Notre Dame has posted a 109-19 (.852) record in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), a mark that can be traced in no small part to the arrival of guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a spot in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA national championship games and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 24-12 record against AP Top 25 teams (11-10 vs. the AP Top 10) and a 77-1 record against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll), including a 63-game winning streak from the start of the 2009-10 season before falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012.

Upon closer examination, Notre Dame’s 19 losses in Diggins’ career primarily have been ones that could have gone either way, with 11 decided by single digits (six were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.

With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted three of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 78.9 ppg. last year, after logging 77.0 ppg. in 2010-11, and 77.2 ppg. in her freshman season of 2009-10. Notre Dame is on pace to mirror those figures this season, currently averaging 83.5 ppg. (which ranks second nationally).

In addition, thanks to Diggins’ penchant for steals (she has a 2.41 spg. career mark that is fourth-best in school history), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top three single-season steal marks in program history with 502 thefts last year, 495 steals in 2010-11, and 450 thefts in 2009-10. And again, Notre Dame is in position to challenge those totals this season, currently averaging 12.6 spg. (which would put the Fighting Irish close to 400 steals by the end of the regular season).

The past two years also have seen Notre Dame post two of the four best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing a school-record 52.9 ppg., last season (well ahead of the previous mark of 55.1 ppg., in 1981-82) and giving up just 56.2 ppg., in 2010-11. The Fighting Irish aren’t far off those marks so far this year, presently allowing 57.9 points per game.

Road Warriors
Notre Dame has won a school-record 15 consecutive regular-season road games and 20 of its last 25 overall, including all four contests this season. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.

The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.

Prior to the past two years, the school record for consecutive regular-season road wins was held by Notre Dame’s 2000-01 national championship team that won its first 10 road outings before a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001.

The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 10 consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular-season road games, with their last loss coming on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).

The previous school record for consecutive BIG EAST regular-season road wins was seven, set numerous times, most recently crossing between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.

The Notre Dame record for consecutive regular-season road victories in any conference is 15, which the Fighting Irish set from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 during their time in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).

Game #15 Recap: Rutgers
Call it a glimpse of the future: Notre Dame women’s basketball in the post-Skylar Diggins era.

While Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw surely will miss her All-American senior point guard next year, she can take solace in the promise shown Sunday by freshman guard Jewell Loyd in a 71-46 win over Rutgers.

Diggins scored 15 points to lead No. 2 Notre Dame, despite playing limited minutes. McGraw benched her with 8:55 left in the first half after Diggins was whistled with a technical foul after jumping up and down in protest of a foul called against her.

Loyd, playing in only her third BIG EAST game, finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, and she was 2-of-2 from three-point range.

The Fighting Irish (14-1, 3-0) won their sixth conference home opener in the past seven seasons, and picked up their ninth consecutive win, coming off a 75-71 overtime victory at South Florida on Jan. 8.

Erica Wheeler scored 17 points (all in the final 12 minutes) to lead Rutgers (9-7, 0-3), which is off to its worst start in the BIG EAST since joining the conference in 1995.

The Fighting Irish built much of their lead with three big spurts, two of them in the first half. First came a 13-4 run over a four-minute span midway through the half, in which they stretched their lead to 21-10. The spurt included threes by Diggins and Loyd, and a three-point play by Diggins.

Notre Dame closed the final 3:34 of the first half on a 9-1 run, thanks to two jumpers and a layup by Loyd. That run stretched their lead to 20, giving them a 37-17 lead at the break. Notre Dame then opened the second half with an 11-3 run over the first 4:14.

The Fighting Irish dominated inside, outscoring Rutgers 40-10 in the paint. Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, and each pulled down six rebounds.

Rutgers was unable to take advantage of Diggins’ down time in the first half, hitting only one field goal over that time. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, did capitalize on frequent fouls committed by Rutgers.

Monique Oliver, Kahleah Copper and Chelsey Lee each picked up two fouls within the first six minutes of the game for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights committed 11 fouls in the first half, and the Fighting Irish hit all nine free throws in the half.

Beyond The Box Score: Rutgers

  • Notre Dame earned its eighth 25-point win of the season.
  • Rutgers’ 17 first-half points were the second-fewest allowed by Notre Dame this season, while the Fighting Irish rolled to a 20-point halftime lead for the sixth time this year.
  • Notre Dame picked up its fourth consecutive win over Rutgers, extending its longest winning streak in the series, which is now tied 13-13 since the two schools joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96.
  • The margin was the third-largest for Notre Dame in the series, topped only by last year’s 71-41 win in Piscataway and an 86-58 victory on March 2, 1997, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Storrs, Conn.
  • The Fighting Irish have held the Scarlet Knights to fewer than 50 points in the past three series meetings after doing so only twice in the first 26 series games.
  • The Fighting Irish connected at a season-best .933 (14-of-15) clip from the foul line.
  • Notre Dame shot better than 50 percent from the field for the seventh time this season.
  • McGraw coached 950th career game and collected her 300th win at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Diggins registered the 100th double-figure scoring game of her career, becoming the fifth player in program history to reach that milestone.
  • Achonwa grabbed her 500th career rebound.
  • Notre Dame welcomed its fifth sellout crowd in seven home games this season.

The Benefits Of Leadership
Notre Dame is in the unique position of essentially having three head coaches on its bench, with current Fighting Irish skipper Muffet McGraw enjoying the expertise of two former head coaches on her staff — associate head coach Carol Owens (who guided her alma mater Northern Illinois from 2005-10) and associate coach Beth Cunningham (who piloted VCU from 2003-12).

Collectively, the Notre Dame staff has 45 seasons of head coaching experience, which ranks fifth among Division I schools behind only Stanford (52), Villanova (50), Ohio State (48) and Rutgers (46).

Tournament Tested
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 17 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 34 of their last 38 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including three in a row to claim this year’s World Vision Classic, and similar runs to the title in four other tournaments since 2009-10 — 2009 Paradise Jam (Island Division), 2010 WBCA Classic, 2010 State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic and 2011 Junkanoo Jam (Freeport Division).

The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were three defeats to teams ranked in the top three nationally during the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. No. 3/2 Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at No. 3 Maryland in 2007) or championship (94-81 at No. 1 Baylor in 2011), and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003, in the finals of the WBCA Classic — a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.

Anchors Aweigh
Notre Dame made a bit of women’s basketball history on Nov. 9, joining with Ohio State to play the first women’s game ever on the deck of an aircraft carrier, as the teams squared off outdoors in the second annual Carrier Classic aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (on the shores of Charleston Harbor).

The game was played to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project, which aids returning veterans who have been injured while in the service of our country, and the Fighting Irish were exceptionally proud and honored to have former Notre Dame guard, U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (`00) join the team on the bench for their historic game against Ohio State. Green, who lost her left (shooting) hand in May 2004 during a rocket-propelled grenade attack while on patrol on the roof of a police station in Baghdad, Iraq, delivered an inspiring pre-game speech to the current Fighting Irish squad before they came out to face Ohio State.

Notre Dame won this year’s Carrier Classic game, 57-51, behind the second career double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) from junior forward Natalie Achonwa and 16 points from junior guard Kayla McBride. After the game, head coach Muffet McGraw said the victory was dedicated to Green.

An added postscript — Green recently accepted a job with the South Bend Veterans Administration Clinic and will be relocating from her hometown of Chicago.

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked a season-best No. 2 for the second consecutive Associated Press poll, its 37th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting, dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season, and marking 107 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.

The Fighting Irish reached a milestone on Nov. 26 with their No. 5 ranking, which was their 100th consecutive AP poll appearance. It not only extended the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), but 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 ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (68 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (57) of those appearances in the AP Top 10 (and never lower than 18th).

Notre Dame started the year at No. 7 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 13th time in the past 14 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only seven schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 14 during that span, while Georgia, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 13 preseason AP poll berths.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 246 weeks during the program’s 36-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks ninth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.

In addition, the Fighting Irish rose to a season-best No. 3 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll (the new rankings will come out Tuesday afternoon), after spending the previous seven weeks in the No. 5 spot.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 106 of the past 107 weeks (and 70 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 239 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).

This marks the fifth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 11 of the past 15 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 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 246 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 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey are 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 12 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 260-19 (.932) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 188 of their last 201 such contests (.935).

What’s more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 97-2 (.980) 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 18 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 266-15 (.947) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including eight outings 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 18 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 175-6 (.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, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.

In the past four years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 52-2 (.963) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level seven 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 227 of their last 256 games (.887) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 25 and 20 games in that span (the latter from 2011-12, ending on Feb. 12, 2012, vs. West Virginia).

Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 54-5 (.915) — including wins in 30 of its last 32 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 121-20 (.858) record in BIG EAST 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 Villanova in the `02 home finale.

The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 108 of their last 117 non-BIG EAST contests (.923) 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 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), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT) and Baylor in 2012 (73-61). 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 377-90 (.807) 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 the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, a mark that lasted only two seasons before the Fighting Irish posted a 17-1 record at Purcell Pavilion last year.

Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past three 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), highest average attendance (8,571 fans per game in 2011-12) and most sellouts in a single season (eight in 2011-12). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

For the fourth consecutive preseason, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish produce two advanced sellouts (Dec. 5 vs. Baylor; March 4 vs. Connecticut).

Notre Dame has gotten its home slate off to a fine start at the box office with five sellouts in seven home games, and the Nov. 18 game against Massachusetts marking the first home-opening sellout in school history. All told, the Fighting Irish have welcomed 30 sellout crowds in the program’s 36-year tenure, including 24 in the past four years alone (2009-10 to present).

The Fighting Irish currently rank third in the nation in average attendance, drawing 8,920 fans per game (which factors to more than 97 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s listed capacity of 9,149).

Coming Soon: Irish in the ACC
On Sept. 12, 2012, the University of Notre Dame announced that it had accepted an offer of admission into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for all sports except football (the league does not offer championships in ice hockey or fencing).

The change in conference affiliation (for which a timetable has not yet been established) will be the first for Notre Dame since 1995, when the Fighting Irish moved from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) to the BIG EAST Conference.

In its 18 seasons in the BIG EAST, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program has been the one of the conference’s best, winning two BIG EAST regular-season titles (2001 and 2012) and compiling a 219-64 (.774) record in league play that remains the second-best regular-season winning percentage in BIG EAST women’s basketball history.

Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
Now in its sixth season, Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion will once again look 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 a home game.

In the six-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 39 times, most recently on Dec. 31 against Saint Francis (Pa.).

Junior forward Ariel Braker, senior guard Kaila Turner and sophomore forward Markisha Wright are the leaders among current Fighting Irish players, with all three players having registered three “Big Mac baskets” during their respective careers.

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”), 21 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

What’s more, of the 39 Big Mac games, 17 have been reached on two-point baskets, 14 on free throws, and eight on three-pointers.

Next Game: St. John’s
Notre Dame closes out its three-game homestand at noon (ET) Sunday when it plays host to St. John’s at Purcell Pavilion on ESPNU.

St. John’s (8-6, 2-) has won three of its last four, including its first two BIG EAST games. The Red Storm will welcome Pittsburgh to Queens on Wednesday night before making the trip to South Bend for this weekend’s matchup with Notre Dame.

— ND —