Jan. 13, 2012
2011-12 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 18
#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-1 / 4-0 BIG EAST) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (9-7 / 0-3 BIG EAST)
DATE: January 14, 2012
TIME: 3:00 p.m. ET
AT: Cincinnati, Ohio – Fifth Third Arena (13,176)
SERIES: ND leads 7-0
1ST MTG: ND 67-58 (2/13/82)
LAST MTG: ND 66-48 (2/26/11)
WEBCAST: gobearcats.com (PPV-live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TICKETS: (877) 228-7849
- Notre Dame is off to a 4-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the first time in 11 seasons (and the fifth time since joining the league in 1995-96).
- The Fighting Irish have won 18 consecutive games against teams from the state of Ohio, dating back to March 1993.
No. 2 Fighting Irish Continue Road Swing Saturday At Cincinnati
For the fourth time in five games, No. 2 Notre Dame heads out on the road, as the Fighting Irish travel to Cincinnati on Saturday for a 3 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST Conference contest with the Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena. The game will be webcast on a pay-per-view basis through the Cincinnati athletics web site (gobearcats.com).
Notre Dame (16-1, 4-0) extended its current winning streak to 13 games with a near wire-to-wire 80-60 victory at No. 18/17 Georgetown on Tuesday evening. The Fighting Irish used a strong first-half defensive effort, holding the Hoyas to 16 points on 7-of-38 (.184) shooting, while posting an efficient outing at the offensive end of the court (.569, 25-of-44) to secure their fifth win over a ranked opponent this year.
Junior guard Skylar Diggins scored a game-high 22 points, while senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel added 21 points, seven rebounds and a game-high five assists, and sophomore guard Kayla McBride chipped in 16 points for the victorious Fighting Irish.
- Notre Dame is No. 2 in both the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
- Cincinnati is not ranked.
- Notre Dame currently appears in the top 20 of nine different NCAA statistical categories. The Fighting Irish lead the nation in scoring offense (84.2 ppg.) and rank second in scoring margin (+33.5 ppg.) while placing third in steals (15.0 spg.) and turnover margin (+8.76), fourth in assists (19.1 apg.), fifth in field goal percentage (.482), ninth in scoring defense (50.7 ppg.), 11th in assist/turnover ratio (1.13) and 17th in rebounding margin (+9.0 rpg.).
- Notre Dame’s current 13-game winning streak is the fifth-longest in school history and is its longest since a 15-game run to open the 2009-10 season.
- Notre Dame is off to a 16-1 start (or better) for the third time in school history (and the second in the past three seasons).
- The Fighting Irish have opened BIG EAST play with a 4-0 record for the first time in 11 seasons (2000-01), and the fifth time since joining the conference in 1995-96.
- Notre Dame has five wins in six games against Top 25 opponents this season (three away from home), including three victories in four outings against teams in the top 10.
- This was the first time in school history the Fighting Irish defeated three opponents ranked 12th or higher in the Associated Press poll before Christmas.
- This marks the third time in school history Notre Dame has posted four top-12 wins (AP poll) in one season, having also occurred in 2000-01 (7) and 2004-05 (4).
- Of the 16 Fighting Irish wins, 13 have come by 20+ points, and eight by at least 30 points. In 14 victories this year, Notre Dame has held its opponent to 61 points or fewer, with 10 when the opponent had 50 points or fewer (a school-record six of 40 or fewer).
- The Fighting Irish have scored at least 90 points seven times this year (including a school-record four in a row from Dec. 18-30) and topped the 80-point mark 11 times.
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press poll and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the 10th consecutive week the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls. It’s also the second time in three seasons that Notre Dame has spent at least 10 weeks in a row as a consensus top-five team (the Fighting Irish were in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 5 for 11 consecutive weeks from Dec. 7, 2009-Feb. 22, 2010).
- With this week’s No. 2 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 87 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 more than half that time (49 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
- With 572 victories in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw is third 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) and men’s tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87).
- McGraw also is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women’s sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men’s/women’s track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame — Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men’s swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men’s tennis).
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fifth with 390 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,677 fans per home game after the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans a night. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 167 of their last 169 home games, logging 20 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 14 in the past three seasons alone, and three this year (most recently on Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut).
- The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 11 seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the ’11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame’s eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor’s degree (a 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.
A Quick Look At Cincinnati
With seven returning letterwinners (including three starters), Cincinnati continues to make significant progress this season, opening with six consecutive wins, while even the Bearcats’ losses have been close, all decided by 11 points or fewer.
Cincinnati (9-7, 0-3 BIG EAST) has been off all this week following a 58-47 loss at then-No. 10 Rutgers. The Bearcats played the Scarlet Knights virtually even over the final 35 minutes, but an early 11-2 RU run was enough for the hosts to secure the victory. Senior guard Bjonee Reaves came off the bench for the first time this year and responded with a team-high 15 points for UC.
Redshirt sophomore guard Dayeesha Hollins leads the Bearcats in scoring (14.6 ppg.), assists (3.9 apg.) and steals (2.4 spg.), while ranking second in field goal percentage (.468). Reaves is second in scoring (13.2 ppg.) and assists (3.4 apg.), while sophomore forward Tiffany Turner adds a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game.
Head coach Jamelle Elliott (a former longtime player and assistant coach at Connecticut) is in her third season at Cincinnati with a 30-45 (.400) record, including an 0-2 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series
Notre Dame and Cincinnati will be playing for the eighth time on Saturday, with the Fighting Irish holding a 7-0 advantage in the series, including a 3-0 edge at Fifth Third Arena.
The vast majority of the games between the Fighting Irish and Bearcats have taken place since Cincinnati joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06 (three on each campus). The first two series games under the BIG EAST banner were decided by 11 points or fewer (one in overtime), but the past four contests have featured an average margin of 20.5 points in favor of Notre Dame.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Cincinnati Met
Becca Bruszewski made sure it was a sweet Senior Day in South Bend.
Bruszewski scored 12 points in her final home game, and No. 8 Notre Dame cruised past Cincinnati 66-48 on Feb. 26, 2011, before a sellout crowd at Purcell Pavilion.
Devereaux Peters posted her seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Skylar Diggins scored 12 points for Notre Dame, which jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes, pushed it to 15-6 with 8:24 remaining in the first half and then started the second half with a 21-0 run that put the game away.
Kayla Cook had 18 points for Bearcats, while Shareese Ulis added 14 points.
Cincinnati trailed only 28-20 at halftime before the Fighting Irish went on their big run. The Bearcats’ bench was hit with a technical foul with 17:19 remaining, and Kaila Turner hit back-to-back three-pointers that made it 61-30 with about nine minutes left as the rout was on.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Cincinnati Met At Fifth Third Arena
The crowd was small, the mood was subdued, the snow was falling outside. Fourth-ranked Notre Dame didn’t feel a whole lot of energy at the opening tip.
Lindsay Schrader and the Fighting Irish defense eventually provided it.
Schrader scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half, and Notre Dame intensified its full-court pressure, building a 20-point lead and holding on for a 66-50 win over Cincinnati on Feb. 9, 2010, at Fifth Third Arena.
Schrader led the way against Cincinnati, shaking off a 1-for-7 shooting performance in a first half that lacked energy. Only 472 fans showed up for a game played as the city was digging out from another major snowstorm.
The fifth-year senior guard got the Fighting Irish revved by making three consecutive baskets early in the second half, pushing the lead to 20. When Cincinnati got the lead down to nine, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw called a timeout and called a play designed to get the ball inside to Schrader.
She caught the pass, made a layup, was fouled and completed a three-point play that ended Cincinnati’s comeback.
Becca Bruszewski added 14 points and eight rebounds, helping the Fighting Irish get through a night when they started very slowly.
Kahla Roudebush had 17 points to lead Cincinnati, which couldn’t take advantage of Notre Dame’s ragged first half. The Fighting Irish led only 19-16 with 7:35 left in the half. That’s when Notre Dame’s pressure and dominance inside let the Fighting Irish take control.
The Bearcats went 1 of 8 with four turnovers the rest of the half, allowing Notre Dame to pull ahead 32-18. The Fighting Irish had 12 offensive rebounds in the half, setting up 14 points.
Brittany Mallory had a career-high eight rebounds in the first half alone. In one sequence during the late first-half run, the Fighting Irish got four offensive rebounds on one possession and finally scored on Devereaux Peters’ putback.
Notre Dame opened the second half with an 8-2 run that featured three straight baskets by Schrader and pushed the lead to 40-20.
The Fighting Irish got the Bearcats’ offense out of sync and forced sloppy moments that left coach Jamelle Elliott pointing at her head. Cincinnati had an over-and-back violation, a shot clock violation, and threw the ball out of bounds on consecutive possessions.
Cincinnati finished with 23 turnovers, setting up 21 Fighting Irish points.
Other Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series Tidbits
- The first three series games were decided by 11 points or fewer, but the past three have featured margins of at least 16 points per game, including the last three that have virtually the exact same final score (66-50 in 2009 and 2010, 66-48 in 2011).
- Among current BIG EAST members, Cincinnati (7-0) and Providence (19-0) are the only conference opponents Notre Dame has never lost to. The Fighting Irish will play host to the Friars on Feb. 14 at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame is 74-16 (.822) all-time against Ohio schools, with a 31-7 (.816) record against the Buckeye State on the road. The Fighting Irish also have an active 18-game home winning streak against the state of Ohio since a 78-74 home loss to Dayton on March 8, 1993, in the quarterfinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) tournament.
- Cincinnati is the second of two Ohio schools on the 2011-12 Fighting Irish regular season schedule, Notre Dame defeated Akron, 81-61 in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame is 16-2 (.889) all-time when playing in the city of Cincinnati, with the majority of those games coming against Xavier (10-1) when both schools were members of the MCC in the early 1990s.
- The city of Cincinnati remains home to one of the landmark moments in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, as the Fighting Irish played in their first NCAA Women’s Final Four on March 29, 1997, at Riverfront Coliseum, falling to eventual national champion, Tennessee, 80-66 (the last time Notre Dame lost in the Queen City).
- Ten Ohio natives have suited up for Notre Dame in its 35-year history, the most recent being Perry resident Amanda Tsipis, who was a four-year monogram winner from 2004-08 and co-captain on Notre Dame’s 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 team.
- Notre Dame senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel grew up less than 90 miles south of Cincinnati in Lexington, Ky., and graduated from Lexington Catholic High School in 2008 after finishing as runner-up for Kentucky Miss Basketball honors.
- Cincinnati junior forward Elese Daniel is a South Bend native and a 2009 graduate of Clay High School. Daniel was sidelined all of last year after suffering a preseason knee injury, and then went down with another knee injury after four games this year.
- Fifth-year Fighting Irish assistant Niele Ivey got her start in the coaching ranks as an administrative assistant at Xavier from 2005-07, working on the staff of Kevin McGuff, an assistant coach at Notre Dame from 1995-2002 and Xavier’s head coach from 2002-11 before he took the reins at Washington this past summer.
Diggins Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
For the second time this season, and the third time in her career, junior guard Skylar Diggins has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week, it was announced Monday afternoon by the conference office. Diggins previously was named Player of the Week back on Nov. 21, in addition to her first honor on Feb. 14, 2011.
This marks the 73rd time a Fighting Irish women’s basketball player has earned a BIG EAST weekly award (42 Players of the Week, 31 Freshmen of the Week), the second-most selections in conference history despite the fact Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96, a full 14 seasons after the league began sponsoring women’s basketball (1982-83).
The BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year and a consensus preseason All-America selection, as well as a candidate for the State Farm Wade Trophy, John R. Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy (each of which go to the nation’s top women’s college basketball player), Diggins averaged 18.0 points and 2.5 steals per game last week while helping Notre Dame extend its winning streak to 12 games with BIG EAST wins at Seton Hall and at home against then-No. 2 Connecticut (the latter breaking the Huskies’ 57-game regular season conference winning streak).
On Jan. 4, Diggins scored a team-high 14 points and added a game-high three assists as the Fighting Irish rolled to a 74-36 victory at Seton Hall, posting one of their largest wins ever at SHU’s Walsh Gymnasium.
Three days later in a nationally-televised game at Purcell Pavilion, Diggins scored 16 of her team-high 22 points after halftime, and fueled a key 12-2 second-half run (eight points, two steals, one rebound in a span of 3:03) as Notre Dame rallied from an eight-point second-half deficit to defeat Connecticut in overtime, 74-67. Diggins also chalked up a game-high four steals as the Fighting Irish defense harassed the Huskies into a season-high 27 turnovers, more than double their season average entering the game and the third-highest total in UConn women’s basketball history (most in more than four seasons).
Start Me Up
For the second time in three years, and the third time in school history, Notre Dame has opened with a 16-1 record or better.
In their 2000-01 national championship season, the Fighting Irish opened with a school-record 23-game winning streak, while in 2009-10, Notre Dame won its first 15 games, lost at Connecticut in its 16th outing, then won its next eight in a row.
At The Quarter Pole
Notre Dame is off to a 4-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the first time in 11 seasons and the fifth time since the program joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96.
The last time the Fighting Irish opened the conference season with four consecutive wins was 2000-01 when they began the BIG EAST slate with a 12-0 record on the way to earning a share of their first regular season conference title with a 15-1 record.
The school record for the best start to a BIG EAST season is 15-0, set back in 1999-2000.
Notre Dame’s current 13-game winning streak is the fifth-longest success string in program history (at any time), and it’s the longest since a 15-game run to begin the 2009-10 season.
Fighting Irish Scoring Early TKOs
Part of Notre Dame’s success this season can be traced to its penchant for jumping out to huge early leads and then keep its foot on the gas the rest of the way.
In 10 games this year, the Fighting Irish have charged to a 20-point lead inside the opening 13 minutes of the game, going on to win all 10 of those contests by an average of 50.2 points per game.
Overall, Notre Dame is outscoring its opponents in the first half this season by nearly a 2-to-1 margin (749-407), with an average halftime score of 44-24.
‘Tis The Season For Taking
Fueled by its aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 12 games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 25.7 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +8.77 turnover margin that is third-best in the nation.
The Fighting Irish wasted little time in setting the tone for their opponents this season, forcing a combined 112 turnovers in their first three games, an average of 37.3 per night, and converting those into 142 points (47.3 ppg.). That run was highlighted by an opponent season-high 46 turnovers against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion, the third-most takeaways in school history, and second-most in the program’s Division I era (49 vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010).
The Fighting Irish have been especially hard on opponents in their nine home games this season, forcing 30.7 turnovers per game and collecting at least 19 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Saturday game ranked third in nation in steals with 15.0 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 12 games this season, including three contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year’s takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a season-high 29-steal performance in the opening night victory against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up two days later with 25 thefts in a win over Indiana State, and nabbed 26 steals in a Dec. 28 win over Longwood.
Prior to last season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years (and 991 games) of the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program, and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991. What’s more, Notre Dame had not earned a conference steals title since 1989-90, when it led the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) with 10.9 spg.
Yet, in the past two years (56 games), the Fighting Irish have had eight 23-steal games, with five outings of at least 25 thefts, and they claimed last year’s BIG EAST steals crown with 11.8 steals per game during regular-season league play.
Individually, Notre Dame has eight different players with double-digit steals this season (including four with at least 30 thefts), led by fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who is tied for fourth in the conference at 2.7 steals per game, and junior guard Skylar Diggins who is sixth in the BIG EAST at 2.6 spg.
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first 17 games of the year.
The Fighting Irish are second in the BIG EAST (and fourth in the nation) at 19.1 assists per game, including a season-high 29 assists against Marquette on Dec. 7 (one of nine 20-assist contests this year).
Individually, junior guard Skylar Diggins is 25th in the nation in assists (BIG EAST-best 5.5 apg.) and 23rd in the country with a 2.11 assist/turnover ratio (third in the conference).
What’s more, Notre Dame has assisted on 64.1 percent of its field goals this season (325 of 507), compared to last year when the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.
Notre Dame has benefited from an experienced lineup this season, using the same starting five (guards Skylar Diggins, Brittany Mallory, Kayla McBride and Natalie Novosel, and forward Devereaux Peters) for all but two games this year (Dec. 30 at Mercer, when senior guard and Atlanta-area native Fraderica Miller earned the nod in her homecoming game; Jan. 7 vs. No. 2 Connecticut).
The foundation of this stable lineup has been the quartet of Diggins, Mallory, Novosel and Peters, who also started 34 of 39 games last year (Mallory missed two games with an ankle injury and came off the bench for two more, while Diggins relinquished her starting spot for Senior Day last year to allow walk-on forward Mary Forr to make the start). In the four games Mallory was not in the lineup last year, McBride earned the first starts of her college career.
Collectively, the current Notre Dame lineup has started 280 games in their careers (Diggins-85, Novosel-60, Peters-59, Mallory-57, McBride-19).
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least three players scoring in double figures in 15 games, and at least four double-digit scorers in nine games.
During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 43-4 (.915) when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 – 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 – 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 – 70-69 at DePaul).
The Fighting Irish also have had six different players lead them in scoring this season (including six different top scorers in the past 10 games). Four of the six leading scorers this year also have registered at least one 20-point game to date, while nine different Notre Dame players have scored in double figures at least once this year.
Improvement Continues On The Glass
After averaging 37.2 rebounds in its first six games (and holding the upper hand in that category only three times, with an aggregate minus-2 rebounding margin), Notre Dame has featured a marked improvement on the boards since its return from the Bahamas after the Thanksgiving weekend.
In their last 10 games, the Fighting Irish are averaging 44.3 rebounds a night, with an average rebounding margin of +14.0 rpg. Furthermore, Notre Dame has grabbed at least 40 rebounds 10 times in the past 11 games after not reaching that mark once in its first six contests.
For the season, Notre Dame ranks 17th in the country in rebounding margin at +9.0 rpg.
A Rally To Remember
Notre Dame tied a school record by digging out of an 18-point second-half hole to defeat No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.
Nearly three years earlier on Dec. 30, 2008, the Fighting Irish trailed 46-28 at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt with 15:56 remaining and came back to win, 59-57 at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
This year’s comeback victory over Duke marked the fourth time in program history Notre Dame has ralled from a deficit of 15 points or more to post a victory, with all four of these comebacks occurring in the past 11 seasons.
Beat The Clock
Senior guard Natalie Novosel hit a running bank shot at the foul line as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.
Novosel’s buzzer-beater was the first winning shot at the horn by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 10, 2006, when Megan Duffy scored the last of her career-high 32 points with an off-handed layup at the overtime siren to earn a 67-65 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has had several players nail winning shots in the final minute of games during recent seasons. Prior to Novosel, Ashley Barlow was the last Fighting Irish player to pull off such late-game heroics, canning a three-pointer with 34.2 seconds remaining to help Notre Dame take a 74-73 win at Syracuse on Jan. 30, 2010.
Another notable recent “beat-the-clock” moment for Notre Dame occurred on Dec. 5, 2007, when Charel Allen sank a foul-line jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Fighting Irish to an 86-84 win at Bowling Green.
The game-winning basket by senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 was the fourth time in the past two seasons the Lexington, Ky., native had a hand in a go-ahead basket in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime. What makes this run by Novosel even more remarkable is the fact that all four of her late-game performances came against top-15 opponents, with the past two coming away from home.
The Model Of Consistency
Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel has scored in double figures in 24 consecutive games, dating back to March 7, 2011, when she had eight points in Notre Dame’s 71-67 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 9/13 DePaul at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
Novosel’s 24-game double-digit scoring streak is tied for the second-longest in school history, and is the longest by a Fighting Irish player in 15 seasons.
Aside from Novosel, Beth Morgan had a 24-game run from 1994-95, while Katryna Gaither has staked an ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.
The Diggins Factor
Notre Dame has posted a 76-15 (.835) record in the past three seasons, 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 NCAA national championship game and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 11-9 record against AP Top 25 teams (6-7 vs. the AP Top 10) and an active 57-game winning streak against unranked opponents since the start of the 2009-10 season.
Upon closer examination, Notre Dame’s 15 losses in Diggins’ career primarily have been verdicts that could have gone either way, with nine decided by single digits (five that were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.
With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted two of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 77.0 ppg. last year after logging 77.1 ppg. in her freshman season (and Notre Dame is on pace to go well beyond those figures this year).
In addition, thanks to Diggins’ penchant for steals (she has a 2.3 spg. career mark), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top two single-season steal marks in program history with 495 thefts last year and 450 steals the season before. Last season also saw Notre Dame post the third-best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing just 56.2 ppg. (the best since the 2000-01 Fighting Irish yielded 55.8 ppg. en route to the national champoionship).
A Grand Trio
Notre Dame has had two players score their 1,000th career point this season — senior guard Natalie Novosel hit the milestone on a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Nov. 13 against Indiana State, while fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters reached the landmark on a layup 16:52 left on Dec. 28 vs. Longwood.
Novosel currently ranks 18th in school history with 1,253 points, while Peters became the 30th member of the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club and presently stands 27th with 1,036 points.
Together with junior guard Skylar Diggins (15th with 1,356 points), Notre Dame has three active players in that elite Fighting Irish club for the third time in school history. In both 2000-01 and 2009-10, Notre Dame also had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).
The Fighting Irish could have a fourth player reach the scoring millennium later this season — fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory has 853 career points. Should Mallory hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time.
What’s more, Peters became the seventh player from Notre Dame’s 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Novosel, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (ninth at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (13th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (24th at 1,148) — and that doesn’t even include Mallory, who also was part of that season’s 13-player roster.
Game #17 Recap: Georgetown
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 Tuesday night at McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C.
“We were lucky,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We were just really lucky.”
To be fair, the Fighting Irish were also pretty good over the final 35 minutes. Skylar Diggins finished with 22 points, Natalie Novosel added 21, and Kayla McBride had 16 for Notre Dame (16-1, 4-0 BIG EAST), while Brittany Mallory’s defense made Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers a nonfactor, holding 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 last Saturday and is now 5-1 this year against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
The Fighting Irish have won 13 straight, their only loss coming at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20.
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.
“We tried to trap her a little bit, and I thought we were smart in that,” McGraw said. “We made her work hard for her shots.”
Rodgers went 2-for-11 from three-point range and committed five turnovers for the Hoyas (13-4, 2-2), who have been as hot-and-cold in big games as their 2-4 record vs. ranked teams suggests. Rodgers has struggled in back-to-back games, going 4-for-19 in a win at USF last Saturday.
“Sometimes when you live and die by the jump shot, that’s how it goes,” Georgetown coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “But she’s got to understand she’s a better player than that. She can put it on the floor, she can get to the basket, but when your game is the three-point shooter and that’s what she’s known for, you just have a tendency to going back to doing what you do.”
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).
“Teams in the BIG EAST are too good to get buried by 21 at the half,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It’s just too hard to come back.”
Beyond The Box Score — Georgetown
- Notre Dame improves to 5-1 this season against ranked opponents, including a 3-1 record away from home (2-1 in true road games).
- This was the second time this season the Fighting Irish had played Top 25 opponents in consecutive games, and both times Notre Dame won each end of this ranked doubleheader (at No. 12/14 Purdue and vs. No. 8/7 Kentucky on Dec. 10 & 18; vs. No. 2 Connecticut and at No. 18/17 Georgetown Jan. 7 & 10).
- Notre Dame’s 16-1 start ties the second-best record after 17 games in school history, trailing only a 17-0 debut in 2000-01 and matching the 16-1 start in 2009-10.
- The current 13-game Fighting Irish winning streak is fifth-longest in school history.
- Notre Dame posted its 13th win of the season by 20 points or more.
- The Fighting Irish had four or more double-figure scorers for the ninth time this year and improve to 43-4 (.915) with at least four players scoring 10 points dating back to the start of the 2009-10 season.
- Notre Dame collected at least 40 rebounds for the 10th time in the past 11 games.
- The Fighting Irish set season lows with 44 field goal attempts and four steals.
- Notre Dame shot better than 50 percent from the field for the ninth time this year, topping the 55-percent level for the fifth time.
- Notre Dame also scored at least 80 points for the 11th time this season.
- Georgetown produced a Fighting Irish opponent season-low with 12 turnovers, while the Hoyas’ 23 three-point attempts tied an opponent season high.
- Notre Dame held its opponent to 61 points or fewer for the 14th time this season.
- The Fighting Irish also kept their opponent to a sub-.300 field goal percentage for the eighth time this year, including the fifth time in the past six games.
- Notre Dame rises to 25-3 all-time against Georgetown, the second-most wins against one opponent in school history (Marquette-31).
- The Fighting Irish also are 10-2 all-time at McDonough Arena, returning to the win column in Washington, D.C., for the first time since Jan. 19, 2008 (a 104-86 victory over Georgetown).
- Notre Dame has held the Hoyas to fewer than 70 points in 20 of the 23 BIG EAST Conference matchups, going 20-0 in these games.
- Notre Dame held Georgetown to a season-low 16 points in the first half.
- Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel scored in double figures for the 24th consecutive game, tying Beth Morgan (Feb. 10, 1994-Jan. 19, 1995) for the second-longest streak in school history.
- Novosel also jumped one spot into 18th place on the Fighting Irish career scoring list with 1,253 points, passing Mary Beth Schueth (1,233 points from 1981-85).
- Fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters moved up to 27th place on the Notre Dame all-time scoring chart with 1,036 points, passing Mollie Peirick (1,034 points from 1994-98).
- Junior guard Skylar Diggins scored at least 20 points for the eighth time this year (third in four games) and the 24th time in her career, rising to eighth place in school history and breaking a tie in that category with Shari Matvey (1979-83) and Heidi Bunek (1985-89).
- Diggins also jumped to seventh place in the Fighting Irish record books with 391 career assists, passing former teammate Melissa Lechlitner (388 from 2006-10).
- Peters grabbed the 700th rebound of her career on Tuesday (she has 704 caroms, closing in on the Fighting Irish all-time top 10 — Krissi Davis is 10th with 730 from 1987-91).
- Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory appeared in her 129th career game on Tuesday, tying former teammate Charel Allen (2004-08) and Ericka Haney (1998-2002) for ninth place on the Notre Dame career games played list.
- Several former Notre Dame women’s basketball players were on hand Tuesday night, including Kristin (Knapp) Cole (’94), now an assistant coach at George Washington, and Erica Williamson (’10), who currently serves as the director of basketball operations at Loyola (Md.)
Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll, its 10th consecutive week in the top five of the media balloting. The Fighting Irish also earned a preseason No. 2 ranking that was their highest since the final 2000-01 poll (taken before the the NCAA Championship), and also was the highest Notre Dame had ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.
Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four the following week), the first time it received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.
This week’s No. 2 ranking marks the 87th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (49) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.
This year’s No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 226 weeks during the program’s 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 21st all-time in that category (breaking out of a tie with her former coach at Saint Joseph’s-Pa. from 1974-76, Theresa Grentz, with this week’s poll position).
In addition, the Fighting Irish are No. 2 in this week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, returning to the spot they held for the first two weeks of the season after a seven-week stretch at No. 3. Like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking (second) in the coaches’ poll, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year’s preseason coaches’ survey (and two a week later), their first nods for the top spot since the final ’00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 88 of the past 89 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for a total of 219 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 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 226 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).
Half And Half
During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 230-18 (.927) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 158 of their last 170 such contests (.929).
What’s more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 67-1 (.985) when leading at the half, with the only loss 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).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 17 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 243-15 (.942) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including 12 contests this year.
…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 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 163-6 (.964) 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 three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 40-2 (.952) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in 11 games this season and winning 10 times.
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 213 of their last 240 games (.888) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span (and an active run of 16 in a row). Notre Dame also has a 115-19 (.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 100 of their last 108 non-BIG EAST contests (.926) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 363-88 (.805) 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, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past two 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 (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out three games (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 28 vs. Longwood, Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut), and put several others (Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.
What’s more, through its first nine home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,677 fans per game, including three sellouts (9,149) — vs. Kentucky (Dec. 18), Longwood (Dec. 28) and Connecticut (Jan. 7). The Fighting Irish now have posted 14 sellouts in the past three seasons and 20 in program history.
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 Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2011-12 regular season.
Fighting Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women’s basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Fighting Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women’s basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish Digital Media package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women’s basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program’s first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), is now in the fourth season of his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women’s basketball contests, including the program’s fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity’s famed “Big Monday” telecast.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site’s free Fighting Irish Video Channel.
This year’s TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Jan. 10 game at Georgetown (televised live on CBS Sports Network), Notre Dame has played in 213 televised games, including 158 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It’s year five of Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 32 times, most recently in the Dec. 28 win over Longwood.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac” baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger — fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.
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”), 18 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 32 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and five on three-pointers.
Next Game: Pittsburgh
After playing four out of five on the road, Notre Dame returns to the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion to open a three-game homestand at 7 p.m. (ET) Tuesday against BIG EAST Conference foe Pittsburgh.
That game will feature the third cornerstone event of Notre Dame’s “Heart of the Irish” community outreach series, with Tuesday’s event called “Reading One on One.” Fans are encouraged to bring children’s books (either new or gently-used) to the game and donate them to the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.
The Panthers (8-9, 0-4) are the nation’s youngest team, featuring a roster made up entirely of underclassmen, including six freshmen and a transfer. As one might expect, it’s been an up-and-down season for Pitt, which has two wins over Big Ten Conference opponents this year (Indiana and Michigan State), but also comes into this weekend on a three-game losing streak, following a 63-39 loss at home to No. 8/9 Rutgers on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh will open a two-game Midwest road swing on Saturday with an 8 p.m. (ET) matchup at No. 21/19 DePaul before heading down the Indiana Toll Road to face Notre Dame early next week.
— ND —