Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel scored a game-high 22 points in Notre Dame's 72-60 win at West Virginia last season.

#2 Irish Host West Virginia Sunday In Annual Pink Zone Game

Feb. 11, 2012

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2011-12 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 26

#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-1 / 11-0 BIG EAST) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (17-6 / 7-3 BIG EAST)

DATE: February 12, 2012
TIME: 3:30 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 18-2
1ST MTG: ND 73-55 (2/26/96)
LAST MTG: ND 72-60 (2/22/11)
TV: ESPNU (live) (Anne Marie Anderson, p-b-p / Kayte Christensen, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid


  • Notre Dame will hold its fourth annual Pink Zone (Play4Kay) game on Sunday, as the Fighting Irish take part in the national women’s basketball initiative to raise funds for breast cancer research.
  • Beginning Sunday, Notre Dame plays three of its next four at home, with the Fighting Irish having won 20 consecutive games at Purcell Pavilion (the fifth-longest active streak in the country entering the weekend).

No. 2 Fighting Irish Host West Virginia Sunday In Annual Pink Zone Game
With a little more than two weeks to go in the regular season, the BIG EAST Conference race continues to heat up, as No. 2 Notre Dame welcomes West Virginia to Purcell Pavilion at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday for a nationally-televised league matchup on ESPNU.

The Fighting Irish (24-1, 11-0) maintained their spot atop the BIG EAST standings on Tuesday with a wire-to-wire 74-55 victory at Syracuse. Notre Dame used a 24-8 run midway through the first half to grab control and never led the homestanding Orange get closer than 10 points the remainder of the night.

Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters continued her remarkable late-season surge, chalking up her fourth double-double in five games with a season-high 21 points and 16 rebounds, while sophomore guard Kayla McBride added a season-best 19 points.


  • Notre Dame is No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • West Virginia is receiving votes in this week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.

Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame appears in the top 20 of 11 different NCAA statistical categories, including nine top-10 appearances. The Fighting Irish lead the nation in scoring offense (83.2 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.487), rank second in assists (19.7 apg.) and scoring margin (+32.6 ppg.), while placing fourth in steals (14.0 spg.), fifth in turnover margin (+7.64), sixth in scoring defense (50.6 ppg.), seventh in rebounding margin (+10.9 rpg.), ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.20), 14th in field goal percentage defense (.340) and 16th in free throw percentage (.764).
  • Notre Dame’s current 21-game winning streak is the second-longest in school history and is its longest since a school-record 23-game run to open the 2000-01 season.
  • The Fighting Irish have matched the best record after 25 games in school history (24-1), also set in 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame has reached the 20-win mark for the 18th time in 19 seasons and 22nd time in the 25-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw. What’s more, the Fighting Irish reached that total quicker than any team in school history, doing so eight days faster than the 2000-01 squad.
  • The Fighting Irish have opened BIG EAST play with an 11-0 record for the first time in 11 seasons (2000-01), and the fourth time since joining the conference in 1995-96.
  • Notre Dame is 8-1 against Top 25 opponents this season (4-1 away from home), including four victories in five outings against teams in the top 10.
  • This marks the third time in school history Notre Dame has posted four top-10 wins (AP poll) in the regular season, having also done so in 2000-01 and 2004-05.
  • Notre Dame is just the second school ever to defeat both Connecticut and Tennessee in consecutive seasons, matching the feat first pulled off by North Carolina in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
  • Five of the eight Fighting Irish victories against Top 25 opponents this season have been by 20 points or more, including a 30-point win at No. 13/14 Rutgers on Jan. 31 (Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory ever on the road at a ranked opponent) and a 28-point win over No. 7/9 Tennessee on Jan. 23 (the largest margin of victory ever and fewest points ever allowed by Notre Dame against a top-10 team).
  • Of the 24 Fighting Irish wins, 19 have come by 20+ points, and 11 by at least 30 points. In 21 victories this year, Notre Dame has held its opponent to 61 points or fewer, with a school-record 15 when the opponent had 50 points or fewer (and a school-record six of 40 or fewer).
  • The Fighting Irish have scored at least 100 points twice this year, while going over 90 points a school-record nine times (including a school-record four in a row from Dec. 18-30) and topping the 80-point mark 13 times.
  • Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the 14th consecutive week the Fighting Irish appeared in the top five of both major national polls. That’s the second-longest uninterrupted streak of consensus top-five poll appearances in school history behind only the final 18 weeks of the 2000-01 season (Notre Dame was ranked sixth in the preseason AP poll that year).
  • With this week’s No. 2 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 91 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 (53 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • With 580 victories in 25 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 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 fourth with 398 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 8,780 fans per home game (good for fourth in the nation) 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 171 of their last 173 home games, logging 23 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 17 in the past three seasons alone, and a school record-tying six this year (most recently on Feb. 5 vs. DePaul).
  • 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 West Virginia
After an early adjustment period brought on by the loss of four starters from last year’s 24-win club that reached the second round of the NCAA Championship, West Virginia has begun to find its footing at exactly the right time, winning seven of its last nine games, including the past three in a row.

The Mountaineers (17-6, 7-3) should be well-rested coming in town, having not played since Feb. 4, when they rolled past No. 14/12 Louisville, 66-50 in Morgantown, W.Va. Junior center Asya Bussie led WVU with a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds), while a pair of guards also played major roles, with freshman Linda Stepney scoring 14 points and redshirt sophomore Christal Caldwell adding 12 points and eight rebounds.

Sophomore guard Taylor Palmer leads West Virginia in scoring (12.6 ppg.), while Bussie is second in scoring (11.7 ppg.), tops in both field goal percentage (.566) and blocks (2.5 bpg.) and third in rebounding (6.7 rpg.). Caldwell chips in with 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while redshirt junior center Ayana Dunning grabs a team-best 8.1 rebounds per game.

Head coach Mike Carey is in his 11th season at WVU with a 221-123 (.641) record. He also has a 24-year career mark of 509-225 (.693), that includes a 2-10 record against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-West Virginia Series
Notre Dame and West Virginia will square off for the 21st time on Sunday, with the Fighting Irish holding an 18-2 edge in the all-time series with the Mountaineers, including a 10-0 advantage at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame also has won the past three games in the series, all by 12 points or fewer.

The Last Time Notre Dame And West Virginia Met
Natalie Novosel scored 22 points and the No. 8/7 Fighting Irish overcame 30 turnovers to beat the No. 19/18 Mountaineers 72-60 on Feb. 22, 2011, at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.

The Fighting Irish hit 58 percent of their field goals to make those turnovers seem less painful.

Twenty-two of Notre Dame’s 30 baskets came on layups and one of the nation’s top 10 offenses more than handled one of the country’s top scoring defenses.

Devereaux Peters added 16 points, and Skylar Diggins and Becca Bruszewski each scored 10 for the Fighting Irish.

Sarah Miles scored 16 points and Madina Ali added 12 for West Virginia, which trailed by double digits for most of the second half.

The Fighting Irish didn’t need any help from their bench. The starters scored all but five points and Notre Dame outrebounded West Virginia, 40-31.

WVU had 16 steals but committed 23 turnovers, shot just 35 percent (24 of 68) from the floor and made only 10 of 18 free throws.

Notre Dame kept its attack-the-basket mantra going after building a 13-point halftime lead.

Ali played just four minutes in the first half, but answered after the break with a three-pointer and a layup 27 seconds apart to bring West Virginia within 53-44 with 11 minutes left.

Peters then made a layup, Brittany Mallory followed with a three-pointer and Notre Dame kept its double-digit lead the rest of the game.

Peters scored the final six points of a 13-1 run that put the Fighting Irish ahead 28-14 with 5:54 left in the half. West Virginia went six minutes between field goals before Miles hit the Mountaineers’ final three baskets and they trailed 38-25 at halftime.

Notre Dame shot 65 percent (15 of 23) from the floor in the first half and beat West Virginia for the 18th time in 20 all-time meetings.

The Last Time Notre Dame And West Virginia Met At Purcell Pavilion
Lindsay Schrader went 6 for 8 from the floor in the second half and scored eight of her 16 points during a decisive run as the No. 4/5 Fighting Irish rallied for a 74-66 victory on Jan. 24, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame trailed 44-31 after Madina Ali scored the opening basket of the second half, and trailed 49-39 when Vanessa House hit a 3 for the Mountaineers. But the Fighting Irish responded with a 16-3 run led by Schrader, who repeatedly scored baskets inside. Natalie Novosel capped it with a baseline runner that gave Notre Dame a 55-52 lead.

The Fighting Irish then put the game away with a 10-1 burst late to take a 74-63 lead.

Liz Repella led the Mountaineers with a game-high 24 points.

Skylar Diggins added 15 points for the Fighting Irish, Melissa Lechlitner had 12 and Ashley Barlow had 10 points and a career-high seven assists. Korinne Campbell had 12 points and nine rebounds for West Virginia.

After being outscored 16-10 in the paint in the first half and outrebounded 18-17, Notre Dame had a 20-16 rebounding advantage in the second half and outscored the Mountaineers 20-14 in the paint.

The Fighting Irish also turned the ball over only three times in the second half after having 14 turnovers in the first half.

Other Notre Dame-West Virginia Series Tidbits

  • The Fighting Irish are 13-1 in the series with West Virginia when entering the game as a ranked team, including a 7-0 record when appearing in the AP Top 10.
  • After Notre Dame won the first eight games in the series, seven by at least 13 points, 11 of the past 12 games between the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers have been decided by 13 points or fewer (the lone exception being an 82-57 Notre Dame win on Feb. 26, 2005, at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 70 points against West Virginia 16 times in the 20-game series. On the other hand, the Mountaineers have reached the 70-point plateau twice against the Fighting Irish and have been limited to fewer than 60 points nine times.
  • In 18 of its 20 games against Notre Dame, WVU has scored exactly in a 13-point window (54-67 points), including three 64-point nights.
  • The Fighting Irish have scored 100 points in a game twice against West Virginia, making the Mountaineers the only BIG EAST opponent to see Notre Dame crack triple digits more than once.
  • The greater Baltimore area will be well-represented on Sunday with four residents suiting for the game. Notre Dame fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory is a 2007 graduate of the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Md., while West Virginia junior center Asya Bussie attended Seton Keough High School on Baltimore’s southwest side (she actually hails from Randallstown) and WVU sophomore forward Jessica Harlee (a Bel Air, Md., native) matriculated from Fallston High School, about 45 minutes northeast of Baltimore. The Mountaineers added a third native of “Charm City” to their roster this season when freshman guard Akilah Bethel (a 2011 graduate of Academy of Holy Cross) arrived on campus.
  • Mallory and Bussie played against one another several times in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, with the McDonogh-Seton Keough rivalry among the best in the city (and state) at that time.

Peaking When It Counts
When the regular season enters its stretch run in the month of February, Notre Dame historically seems to raise its level of play. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Fighting Irish are 95-27 (.779) in February games, including a 54-5 (.915) mark at home.

In the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Fighting Irish are 143-42 (.773) in the month of February, including a 76-11 (.874) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February (including this year’s 6-1 record), and only once did the Fighting Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw’s second season in South Bend).

In The (Pink) Zone
Notre Dame will play host to its fourth annual Pink Zone game (now known nationally as Play4Kay), with the driving focus being to raise funds for breast cancer research. The Fighting Irish players will wear special white uniforms with pink and navy blue trim, as well as pink sneakers, while the Notre Dame coaching staff also will be outfitted in various pink items.

The Fighting Irish have won their first three Pink Zone games and raised nearly $275,000 in donations during those three seasons, including a school-record $130,633 last year (among the most in the nation by a Division I program).

This season, Notre Dame has set a fundraising goal of $201,200, having already generated more than $150,000 in advanced donations prior to Sunday’s game. Some of these pregame events included a 48-hour Spin-A-Thon (riding stationary bikes for a 24-hour period at two locales in South Bend area), monetary pledges for each three-pointer made by the Fighting Irish this year, sales of commemorative t-shirts and blankets, and the purchase of $1 memory cards to remember those affected by cancer.

On Sunday, Notre Dame will hold a luncheon in Club Naimoli at Purcell Pavilion to recognize members of the College of Science who are on the front lines in the fight to find a cure for cancer (the keynote speaker is the first Fighting Irish women’s basketball coach, Sharon Petro, who herself is a cancer survivor), while there will be a gameday silent auction in the Monogram Room at Purcell Pavilion, featuring numerous Notre Dame women’s basketball items including a variety of memorabilia from the program’s 2011 NCAA Women’s Final Four appearance.

What’s more, each of the Notre Dame players and student managers will be donating their per diem for Sunday to the Pink Zone initiative.

Once again this year, all funds raised by Notre Dame during its 2011-12 Pink Zone campaign will be divided between a local recipient (the Foundation of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center) and a national charity (the Kay Yow Cancer Fund).

Start Me Up
For the second time in school history, Notre Dame has opened with a 23-1 record.

In their 2000-01 national championship season, the Fighting Irish opened with a school-record 23-game winning streak before losing in the 24th game (54-53 at Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001). Notre Dame then would win its next five in a row before losing at Connecticut, 78-76 in the BIG EAST Championship title game, the only other time the Fighting Irish would fall during their 34-2 run to the national championship.

Beyond The Midpoint
Notre Dame is off to a 11-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the first time in 11 seasons and the fourth time since the program joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96.

The last time the Fighting Irish opened the conference season with 11 consecutive wins (or had any sort of 11-game league winning streak) 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.

Streak Stats
Notre Dame’s current 21-game winning streak is the second-longest success string in program history, and it’s the longest since the Fighting Irish opened their 2000-01 national championship season on a school-record 23-game winning streak.

Conference Call
For the 16th time in its 17-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has posted double-digit league wins. With the exception of 2005-06 (when they went 8-8), the Fighting Irish have never posted fewer than 10 BIG EAST wins in a season, finishing among the top four in the conference 13 times in their first 16 seasons in the league.

Taking it a step further, Notre Dame now has registered double-digit conference wins in 22 of head coach Muffet McGraw’s 25 seasons under the Golden Dome, with the only other exceptions coming in 1987-88 (her first season when the Fighting Irish went 7-3 in the now-defunct North Star Conference) and 1991-92 (when Notre Dame went 8-4 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League, then won three in a row at the conference tournament to earn the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship berth, despite a losing overall record of 14-16, becoming the first school ever to pull off that feat).

Twenty Questions
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 18th time in the past 19 seasons with its 72-44 victory over No. 7/9 Tennessee on Jan. 23 at Purcell Pavilion. It was the earliest (in terms of the calendar) that the Fighting Irish have ever earned their 20th win, eight days faster than the 2000-01 club, which did so on Jan. 31 with a 64-44 victory over Providence, also at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame now has registered 20-or-more wins 22 times in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era and 26 times in the program’s 35-year history.

McGraw herself has coached 24 20-win seasons (adding in two during her five-year tenure at Lehigh from 1982-87), placing her ninth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches.

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 12 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 12 of those contests by an average of 50.9 points per game.

Overall, Notre Dame is outscoring its opponents in the first half this season by nearly a 2-to-1 margin (1,094-577), with an average halftime score of 44-23.

Born To Run
In the latest NCAA statistics report, Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring offense, averaging 83.2 points per game this season. That’s just one of six NCAA offensive categories in which the Fighting Irish rank among the top 20, along with field goal percentage (first at .487), scoring margin (second at +32.6 ppg.), assists (second at 19.7 apg.), assist/turnover ratio (ninth at 1.20) and free throw percentage (16th at .764).

Notre Dame also has topped the 100-point mark twice (first time since 1998-99, second time in school history), and has scored at least 90 points in a game eight times this year, tying the school record set last season.

What’s more, Notre Dame has done an excellent job of putting teams away, recording 19 20-point wins, and 11 victories by at least 30 points (second-most in school history behind the 12 30-point wins last year).

Century City
Twice this season, Notre Dame has gone “over the top”, scoring 100 points in a game during victories at Mercer (128-42 on Dec. 30) and at home against BIG EAST Conference rival Pittsburgh (120-44 on Jan. 17).

Prior to this season, the Fighting Irish had never scored more than 113 points in a game (113-35 win over Liberty on Nov. 24, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla.), and had scored in triple digits just 13 times in the program’s first 34 seasons.

What’s more, this marks just the second time Notre Dame has ever posted multiple 100-point games in the same season — in 1998-99, the Fighting Irish defeated No. 25/23 Illinois, 101-93, on Nov. 24 at Purcell Pavilion, before defeating West Virginia, 111-90, on Jan. 7, also at home.

As one might expect, Notre Dame’s two offensive explosions rank as the top two single-game point totals in the nation in 2011-12. Oklahoma is third with a 117-point night against visiting Sacramento State on Nov. 13.

Lock It Up
Notre Dame ranks among the top 15 in the nation in five NCAA defensive statistical categories — steals (fourth at 14.0 spg.), turnover margin (fifth at +7.64), scoring defense (sixth at 50.6 ppg.), rebound margin (seventh at +10.9 rpg.) and field goal percentage defense (14th at .340).

The Fighting Irish have held 21 of their 25 opponents to 61 points or fewer, with a school-record 15 failing to score more than 50 points against Notre Dame — last year’s Fighting Irish squad had 14 games in which it allowed 50 points or fewer.

Notre Dame’s defensive effort has extended to smaller increments as well. In their last 39 halves of basketball (dating back to the second half against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26), the Fighting Irish have held their opponents to 25 points or fewer 25 times, including 16 halves when the opposition didn’t crack 20 points.

‘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 17 games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 24.1 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +7.64 turnover margin that is fifth-best in the nation.

The Fighting Irish wasted little time in setting the tone 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 13 home games this season, forcing 27.8 turnovers per game and collecting at least 19 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Sunday’s game ranked fourth in the nation in steals with 14.0 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 19 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 (64 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 10 different players with double-digit steals this season (including three with at least 50 thefts), led by junior guard Skylar Diggins and fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who are tied for fourth in the BIG EAST at 2.4 steals per game.

Helping Hands
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first 25 games of the year.

In the latest NCAA statistics report, the Fighting Irish are second in the nation (and second in the BIG EAST) at 19.7 assists per game, including a season-high 33 assists against Pittsburgh on Jan. 17 (one of 13 games with 20-or-more assists this year, including six with 25 assists).

Individually, junior guard Skylar Diggins is 14th in the nation in assists (BIG EAST-best 5.8 apg.) and 12th in the country with a 2.35 assist/turnover ratio (also tops in the conference).

What’s more, Notre Dame has assisted on 65.1 percent of its field goals this season (492 of 756), 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.

Experience Matters
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 320 games in their careers (Diggins-93, Novosel-68, Peters-67, Mallory-65, McBride-27).

Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least three players scoring in double figures in 22 games, and at least four double-digit scorers in 13 games, including a season-high (and school record-tying) eight with at least 10 points against Pittsburgh on Jan. 17.

During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 47-4 (.922) 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. Five of the six leading scorers this year also have registered at least one 20-point game to date, while 10 different Notre Dame players (of the 11 healthy Fighting Irish who have seen action to date) 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 19 games, the Fighting Irish are averaging 43.9 rebounds a night, with an average rebounding margin of +14.4 rpg., winning the rebounding battle all but once in that span (43-43 against Connecticut on Jan. 7). Furthermore, Notre Dame has grabbed at least 40 rebounds 16 times in the past 19 games after not reaching that mark once in its first six contests.

According to the latest NCAA statistics report, Notre Dame ranks seventh in the country in rebounding margin (+10.9 rpg.) this year.

Irish Trio On USBWA Player Of The Year Midseason Watch List
For the fourth time this year, three Notre Dame women’s basketball players — junior guard Skylar Diggins, senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters — have received recognition on a national player of the year award watch list, as the trio are among a group of 20 players chosen for the 2011-12 Midseason Watch List for the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Women’s National Player of the Year, it was announced Wednesday by the USBWA.

Beginning with the 1987-88 season, the USBWA annually has named a Women’s National Player of the Year. This year’s watch list was compiled by the Association’s Board of Directors, which lists the leading contenders for the 2012 award (although all Division I players remain eligible for postseason honors from the USBWA). The 20 players on this year’s watch list represent 13 different schools and eight separate conferences.

In mid-March, the USBWA will announce its 2012 Women’s All-America Team, while also choosing the finalists for the Women’s National Player of the Year award. Once those finalists are named, the entire USBWA membership (consisting of more than 900 members worldwide) will vote for the recipient of this year’s award, which will be presented during the USBWA Women’s College Basketball Awards Breakfast on April 3 during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Denver.

This marks the first time the USBWA has released a Midseason Watch List for its Women’s National Player of the Year honor. The BIG EAST Conference had the most selections on the rundown with seven, followed by the Atlantic Coast Conference (4). No other league in the country had more than two players named to the list.

Earlier this season, Diggins, Novosel and Peters were named to three other watch lists for national player of the year awards — they were among a group of 25 players named to the “Wade Watch” list for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Wade Trophy, as well as part of the 30-player preseason roster for the John R. Wooden Award (Diggins and Novosel subsequently made that award’s midseason list), presented by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. In addition, they were among 51 players tapped for the preseason candidate list for the Naismith Trophy, given annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Fighting Irish trio (who helped the United States win the gold medal and post a 6-0 record at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China) also were tapped as 2011-12 preseason All-Americans in college basketball preview issues by a variety of publications, including The Sporting News (Diggins-first team; Novosel-second team; Peters-third team) and Athlon Sports (Diggins-first team). They went on to be recognized by the BIG EAST coaches during the league’s annual Media Day in New York back in October, with Diggins being voted the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, while Novosel and Peters joined her on the preseason all-conference team.

Windy City Warrior
Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters is in the midst of one of the best stretches of her college career, averaging 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game with a .625 field goal percentage (60-of-96) and four double-doubles in her last nine outings.

Here’s a look at some of the rare feats Peters (the Jan. 23 BIG EAST Player of the Week and a member of last week’s BIG EAST Honor Roll) has been accomplished in the past three weeks:

  • Peters chalked up consecutive double-doubles against No. 7/9 Tennessee (16 points, 16 rebounds), at St. John’s (18 points, 15 rebounds), and at No. 13/14 Rutgers (10 points, career-high 17 rebounds) while adding a career high-tying six assists vs. UT and a season-best five blocks at St. John’s.
  • Peters is the first Notre Dame player with three consecutive 15-rebound games since Feb. 16-24, 1979, when Jane Politiski had four consecutive games with at least 15 rebounds during the program’s AIAW Division III era (21 at Marion, 15 vs. Valparaiso, 18 vs. Saint Mary’s-Ind., 16 vs. St. Joseph’s-Ind.).
  • Peters then added a season-high 21 points and 16 rebounds on Feb. 7 in a win at Syracuse, giving her four 15-rebound games and four 15-point/15-rebound outings in a five-game span.
  • Peters is the fifth Fighting Irish player with four 15-rebound games in a single season, with Katryna Gaither the last to do so (four in 1996-97). The others in this elite club are Jane Politiski (school-record seven in 1977-78, four in 1978-79), Shari Matvey (five in 1979-80) and Letitia Bowen (four in 1993-94).
  • Peters became the first Notre Dame player in nearly 20 years to record back-to-back 15-point/15-rebound games. Letitia Bowen was the last to pull that off, doing so on Dec. 21, 1992, vs. No. 20 Georgia (16 points, 15 rebounds) and then again on Dec. 30, 1992, vs. Georgetown (16 points, 18 rebounds).
  • Peters is the first Fighting Irish player with three 15-point/15-rebound games in a single season since 1996-97, when Katryna Gaither had four such outings, tying the school record also held by Jane Politiski (1977-78) and Shari Matvey (1979-80). Letitia Bowen is the only other Notre Dame player with three 15/15 games in a single season, doing so during the 1992-93 campaign.
  • Peters became the first Fighting Irish player with three consecutive double-doubles since the 2004 NCAA Championship, when Jacqueline Batteast did so against Missouri State (17p/11r), Middle Tennessee (22p/12r) and No. 5/7 Penn State (22p/12r) from March 21-27, 2004.

The Diggins Factor
Notre Dame has posted an 84-15 (.848) 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 13-9 record against AP Top 25 teams (7-7 vs. the AP Top 10) and an active 63-game winning streak against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll) 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 2.28 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 championship).

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 left 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 Model Of Consistency
The Jan. 23 win over No. 7/9 Tennessee marked the end to a remarkable streak, as senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel was held to four points, her first single-digit point total since 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 27-game double-digit scoring streak is the second-longest in school history, and was the longest by a Fighting Irish player in 15 seasons.

Katryna Gaither staked an ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.

A Grand Trio
Notre Dame has had two of its captains 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 16th in school history with 1,350 points, while Peters became the 30th member of the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club and presently stands 23rd with 1,168 points.

Together with junior guard Skylar Diggins (10th with 1,482 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 903 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 (14th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (25th at 1,148) — and that doesn’t even include Mallory, who also was part of that season’s 13-player roster.

More Than Tough Enough
Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory reached a somewhat-overlooked and key career milestone on Feb. 7 at Syracuse, as she set a school record with 137 career games played, topping the total of her former teammate and co-captain Becca Bruszewski, who played in 137 games from 2007-11.

Aside from the 2008-09 season that Mallory largely missed after injuring her knee in the seventh game at Michigan, she has missed only three other games in her career to date — one as a freshman in 2007-08 (at Richmond) due to an acute illness and two last season (at Kentucky, vs. IUPUI) following an ankle injury suffered against UCLA.

Not bad for a player who also was an All-America lacrosse standout coming from the McDonogh School in suburban Baltimore. In fact, head coach Muffet McGraw foreshadowed Mallory’s endurance at Notre Dame way back on Signing Day, when she said — “You know she’s going to be tough when she’s used to getting beat in the head with a lacrosse stick every day.”

Game #25 Recap: Syracuse
After the final horn sounded in the Carrier Dome and Notre Dame had its 21st straight victory, Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw grimaced when she looked at the stat sheet.

Sure, Devereaux Peters had 21 points and Kayla McBride added 19, season-highs for both players, in No. 2 Notre Dame’s 74-55 win over Syracuse on Tuesday night, but McGraw wasn’t happy with all the missed long-range shots and the three shot-clock violations.

Still, Notre Dame (24-1, 11-0 BIG EAST) improved its road record to 12-1 against Syracuse (15-10, 4-7), which lost at home by 41 points to No. 3 Connecticut two weeks earlier.

Skylar Diggins, the Fighting Irish’s leading scorer, finished with 11 points, all in the second half, and they were key. She scored five straight points to get the Fighting Irish going after the Orange had pulled within 49-39 on a 3-pointer by Rachel Coffey and two free throws by Shakeya Leary midway through the half.

Brittany Mallory had seven points in the 137th game of her Notre Dame career, a school record. Former star Becca Bruszewski played in 136 games from 2007-11.

Iasia Hemingway had 15 points to lead the Orange, but 11 came from the free throw line as she finished 2 of 13 from the field. Kayla Alexander added 11 points for Syracuse.

After a slow start — both teams combined to shoot 5 of 22 in the first five minutes — the Fighting Irish settled down and pulled away with a 16-4 run despite little help from Diggins. McBride more than made up for that with six points in the spurt, her jumper from the right wing giving Notre Dame a 20-8 lead midway through the period.

The lead ballooned to 30-12 with 4:39 left on consecutive layups by McBride and Peters. The Orange were held scoreless for nearly five minutes until Leary’s follow with 3:26 left and trailed 38-19 at halftime. Syracuse shot 18.8 percent (6 of 32) in the half, repeatedly misfiring from in close, and finished the game 18 of 61 (29.5 percent).

After Mallory hit a three-pointer to open the second half, the Orange ran off 11 consecutive points, two baskets coming on follows by Hemingway and Alexander as Syracuse began to assert itself on the glass. A pullup jumper in the lane by Phylesha Bullard and a three-point play by Alexander moved the Orange within 41-30 with 15:20 left.

Diggins’ layup, her first points of the game, stopped the surge and Mallory’s layup gave Notre Dame a 45-30 lead with 13:52 to go.

The Fighting Irish put the game out of reach with a 13-4 run keyed by Diggins, who scored five consecutive points, the last on a rebound of her missed free throw. Consecutive three-point plays by McBride and Peters gave Notre Dame a 62-43 lead with 7:30 left.

Beyond The Box Score — Syracuse

  • Notre Dame earns its ninth consecutive road win, its longest success string on opponents’ home courts since a 10-game road winning streak from Nov. 17, 2000-Feb. 14, 2001.
  • Notre Dame improves to 7-0 this season when playing the second of two games in three days (the Fighting Irish won 90-70 over No. RV/23 DePaul on Feb. 5 at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Notre Dame is 52-5 (.912) all-time against New York schools, including a 20-4 (.833) record on the road.
  • Notre Dame moves to 25-2 all-time against Syracuse (21-0 in BIG EAST regular-season play) and picks up its 12th consecutive win over the Orange, matching the longest winning streak in the series (also 1990-2002).
  • The Fighting Irish are 12-1 all-time against Syracuse on the road, having won the past 12 visits to central New York (including all four at the Carrier Dome).
  • Syracuse becomes the third opponent against which Notre Dame has at least 25 series wins, joining Marquette (31) and Georgetown (25).
  • Tuesday’s margin of victory was the largest for the Fighting Irish at Syracuse since Jan. 21, 2004, when Notre Dame defeated the Orange, 64-35 at old Manley Field House (this was the largest winning margin for the Fighting Irish in four visits to the Carrier Dome).
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 70 points in 22 of the 27 series games against Syracuse, including eight of the past nine.
  • Notre Dame has won its last nine games by at least 15 points with only opponent managing to score more than 60 points in that span (DePaul on Feb. 5).
  • The Fighting Irish finished with a +10 rebounding margin against the top rebounding squad in the BIG EAST and one of the top-10 board crews in the country (Syracuse entered with a league-leading 47.7 rpg. — second-best in the nation — and a +11.7 rebounding margin that was seventh-best in the nation according to Monday’s NCAA statistics report).
  • Syracuse’s 11-0 run in the second half was the longest string of consecutive points against Notre Dame this season, topping Kentucky’s 9-0 run on Dec. 18.
  • McBride tied her season high with 19 points, having first hit that mark on Dec. 7 against Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa tied her season best with eight rebounds, a figure she also posted on Dec. 20 against UCF at Purcell Pavilion.

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press poll, its 14th 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 91st 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 (53) 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 230 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 20th all-time in that category.

In addition, the Fighting Irish are No. 2 in this week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, holding that spot for the fifth consecutive week after they also held it for the first two weeks of the season. 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 92 of the past 93 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 223 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 230 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 238-18 (.930) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 166 of their last 178 such contests (.933).

What’s more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 75-1 (.987) 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 250-15 (.943) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including 20 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 165-6 (.965) 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 42-2 (.955) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in 13 games this season and winning 12 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 217 of their last 244 games (.889) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span (and an active run of 20 in a row). Notre Dame also has a 118-19 (.861) 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 101 of their last 109 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) 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 367-88 (.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, 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 a school record-tying six games (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 28 vs. Longwood, Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul), and put two others (Sunday vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.

What’s more, through its first 13 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,780 fans per game (good for fourth in the nation), including those aforementioned six sellouts (9,149). The Fighting Irish now have posted 17 sellouts in the past three seasons and 23 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 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 (more 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 All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.

Women’s basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame’s official athletics web site ( through the Fighting Irish 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,, 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 Feb. 5 game against DePaul (televised live on ESPNU), Notre Dame has played in 219 televised games, including 163 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 34 times, most recently in the Feb. 5 win over DePaul.

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

What’s more, of the 34 Big Mac games, 16 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and five on three-pointers.

Next Game: Providence
The Fighting Irish will celebrate the color pink for a different reason, as they host to Providence at 7 p.m. (ET) Tuesday in a Valentine’s Day matchup at Purcell Pavilion.

Providence (12-12, 4-7) had lost a season-high three in a row, as the Friars welcomed Seton Hall to town on Saturday before heading to South Bend early next week.

— ND —