Senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins made her first nine shots from the field and finished with a game-high 21 points in Notre Dame's 89-44 win over Providence on Jan. 26 at Purcell Pavilion.

#2 Irish Off To Providence For Saturday Matinee

March 1, 2013

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2012-13 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 28

#2/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-1 / 14-0 BIG EAST) vs. Providence Friars (7-20 / 2-12 BIG EAST)

DATE: March 2, 2013
TIME: 4:00 p.m. ET
AT: Providence, R.I. – Alumni Hall (2,620)
SERIES: ND leads 21-0
1ST MTG: ND 90-80 (1/14/96)
LAST MTG: ND 89-44 (1/26/13)
TV: BIG EAST Network/ESPN3/ (live) (Bob Picozzi, p-b-p / LaChina Robinson, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid


  • With a victory on Saturday, Notre Dame would clinch at least a share of its third BIG EAST regular season title, and second in a row (the first time the Fighting Irish would earn consecutive conference titles since 1993-94 and 1994-95 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League).
  • Notre Dame has won 18 consecutive BIG EAST games and 15 consecutive conference road games, with both marks tying school records (the latter coming from 1989-91 in the MCC/Horizon League).

No. 2 Fighting Irish Off To Providence For Saturday Matinee
Following one of the more remarkable comeback wins in program history on Tuesday night, No. 2 Notre Dame will look to put one hand on the BIG EAST regular season championship trophy at 4 p.m. (ET) Saturday when they visit Providence in a game that will air live on the BIG EAST Network, as well as on-line at ESPN3 and

Notre Dame (26-1, 14-0) stretched its winning streak to 21 games on Tuesday with a 79-68 victory over No. 22/20 Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish trailed by 15 points early in the first half, but came charging back and led by as many as 16 points in the second half on the way to the Senior Night win.

Junior guard Kayla McBride scored a career-high 25 points for Notre Dame, while senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins added 24 points, eight assists and six steals.


  • Notre Dame is No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press poll and No. 2 in this week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Providence is not ranked.

Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame has matched the best 27-game record in school history (26-1), duplicating the mark posted by the 2000-01 Fighting Irish national championship team.
  • The Fighting Irish are 8-1 against ranked opponents this year, defeating No. 19/21 Ohio State (57-51), No. 19/22 UCLA (76-64), No. 22 Texas A&M (83-74), No. 11 Purdue (74-47), No. 1 Connecticut (73-72), No. 9 Tennessee (77-67), No. 10/11 Louisville (93-64) and No. 22/20 Syracuse (79-68), while falling to No. 3 Baylor, 73-61 (a game Notre Dame led 50-49 with less than eight minutes left).
  • The Fighting Irish made history with their Jan. 28 win at Tennessee, becoming the first program ever to defeat both Connecticut and UT in three consecutive seasons, as well as the first in the NCAA era (since 1981-82) to defeat both the Huskies and Lady Vols on the road in the same season.
  • Notre Dame is in the midst of a 21-game winning streak, matching the second-longest success string in school history (set by last year’s Fighting Irish squad).
  • In those 21 games since its only loss of the season (Dec. 5 vs. third-ranked Baylor), Notre Dame has averaged 82.2 points per game (winning by 25.9 ppg.), shot .469 from the field (.359 from three-point range), posted a rebound margin of +12.7 per game, and forced opponents into an average of 20.3 turnovers per night.
  • The Fighting Irish have won a school-record 21 consecutive regular season road games, including 15 in a row in BIG EAST play, and 26 of their last 31 overall (Notre Dame’s last regular season road loss came on Nov. 20, 2011 – 94-81 at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game).
  • Notre Dame has tied a school record by winning 18 consecutive BIG EAST regular season games, dating back to Feb. 12, 2012 (a 65-63 loss to West Virginia). The Fighting Irish also pieced together an 18-game BIG EAST run from Feb. 17, 1999-Feb. 22, 2000.
  • According to Friday’s NCAA statistical report, the Fighting Irish are ranked sixth or better in seven categories — free throw percentage (2nd – .793), scoring offense (3rd – 80.7 ppg.), scoring margin (3rd – +24.4 ppg.), assists (3rd – 19.9 apg.), rebounding margin (5th – +11.4 rpg.), field goal percentage (6th – .463) and assist/turnover ratio (6th – 1.26).
  • Notre Dame has shown remarkably balanced offensive production this season, with 10 of the 11 players on the roster having scored in double figures at least once, including five different players who have scored 20 points in a game.
  • The Fighting Irish have set a school record with three 100-point games this season. The highlight came on Dec. 31 at home against Saint Francis (Pa.) in a 128-55 victory, marking the highest offensive output by any NCAA Division I team this season (and matching the highest by any D-I program since 2002 – Notre Dame also scored 128 points last year at Mercer).
  • With its No. 2 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media poll for 113 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with the vast majority of that time (63 of 74 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • With 617 victories in her 26 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men’s/women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
  • McGraw became the 13th coach in NCAA Division I history to amass 700 victories (and the eighth-fastest to reach the mark, doing so in 957 career games), registering the milestone win on Feb. 5 at Villanova. McGraw also is the third BIG EAST Conference head coach to hit that landmark, along with C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers) and Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 17 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fourth with 435 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past three years), and is well on its way again this year, ranking sixth in the nation at 8,965 fans per game. Last season, the Fighting Irish ranked fifth in the nation (8,571), setting a school record for average attendance for the third consecutive season. The Fighting Irish also have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 189 of their last 191 home games (including an active streak of 32 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 35 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 29 in the past four seasons. Notre Dame already has a school-record 10 sellouts this year, including eight of its last nine contests at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as nine Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 12 seasons. Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with both going in the first round (Peters third overall to Minnesota; Novosel eighth overall to Washington) of the 2012 WNBA Draft. Last year’s draft marked the first time Notre Dame has had two first-round picks in the same year, while Peters was the highest-drafted player (and first lottery selection) in program history. Ruth Riley (Chicago) was active in the league during the ’12 season, helping the Sky contend for a playoff berth into the final weeks of the season. Three of Notre Dame’s 10 all-time WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit. Peters nearly joined that list in 2012, helping Minnesota return to the WNBA Finals, but the Lynx could not defend their title, falling to Indiana in four games.
  • For the sixth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What’s more, Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous five years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it twice, pulling off that feat in 2011 and 2012).

Scouting Providence
After a promising finish to non-conference play with three consecutive wins in late December, the BIG EAST season hasn’t been kind to Providence (7-20, 2-12), which has lost five in a row entering Saturday’s game. The Friars’ two conference victories this season both came in overtime (65-60 at home against Villanova on Jan. 23; 85-83 in double overtime at Pittsburgh on Feb. 6).

Providence is coming off an 81-70 loss to Marquette on Tuesday night at Alumni Hall. The Friars ran into a hot-shooting Golden Eagles team in the first half and couldn’t quite keep up the frenetic pace, despite a career-high 25 points from sophomore guard Tori Rule.

Senior guard Symone Roberts leads the Friars in scoring (14.3 ppg.), assists (4.5 apg.) and steals (3.4 spg.), while Rule is second in scoring (14.1 ppg.) with a team-high 39 three-pointers.

Head coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl is winding down her first season at Providence, and her sixth as a collegiate skipper with an 81-103 (.440) career record, including an 0-2 mark against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Providence Series
Notre Dame and Providence will meet for the 22nd time on Saturday, and the second time this season. The Fighting Irish are 21-0 all-time against the Friars, including a 10-0 record at Alumni Hall.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Providence Met
Skylar Diggins scored 21 points, all in the first half when she was 9-of-9 shooting, to lead No. 2 Notre Dame to an 89-44 victory over Providence on Jan. 26, 2013, becoming the fourth Fighting Irish player to ever score 2,000 career points.

It didn’t take Diggins long, as she took a pass from Kayla McBride on the opening tip-off to score an easy layup four seconds in, reaching the milestone and earning a standing ovation from the sellout crowd at Purcell Pavilion.

Diggins then got started on moving to her next landmark, hitting from inside, mid-range and behind the three-point line as Providence could do nothing to slow her. The only mistake Diggins made in the first half was to miss a free throw as the Irish jumped to a 46-15 lead.

Diggins had a 10-0 run on her own, starting with a free throw to give the Fighting Irish an 11-4 lead. She then scored on a pair of layups 12 seconds apart and added another layup and a three-pointer as Notre Dame took a 20-4 lead.

Tori Rule led the Friars with 12 points, all in the second half. Symone Roberts, Providence’s leading scorer at 15.3 points a game, made her first shot, but finished with just those two points on 1-of-8 shooting.

Even with Notre Dame reserves playing much of the second half the Fighting Irish continued to pull away. Natalie Achonwa had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Fighting Irish and Jewell Loyd added 10.

Notre Dame outshot the Friars 51 percent to 31 percent, scoring 56 points in the paint. The Fighting Irish also had a 51-26 rebounding advantage.

Meanwhile, Diggins didn’t miss a shot until five minutes into the second half, when the Fighting Irish led 54-19. The Friars didn’t have more points than Diggins until Lexi Sells hit a three-pointer with 12:00 left to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 62-24, and by then Diggins was watching from the bench.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Providence Met At Alumni Hall
Despite not feeling well, Natalie Achonwa provided a big lift for Notre Dame.

Achonwa scored a (then) career-high 13 points off the bench and the No. 18 Fighting Irish routed Providence, 79-43 on Dec. 8, 2010, in the BIG EAST opener for both teams at Alumni Hall.

Achonwa only played nine minutes but was 5 for 6 from the floor and 3 of 4 at the foul line.

Mi-Khida Hankins scored 16 points for the Friars, who had just 16 points in the second half.

Notre Dame broke the game open when it went on a 16-0 run in the second half, during which the Fighting Irish held Providence without a point for 9:11.

The Fighting Irish forced the Friars into seven of their 28 turnovers during that run.

Notre Dame led 35-27 at halftime and after the Friars cut their deficit to seven points (40-33), Natalie Novosel ignited the Fighting Irish’s 16-0 run.

Other Notre Dame-Providence Series Tidbits

  • Providence is one of two BIG EAST opponents against whom Notre Dame has lost (minimum of five games played), with Cincinnati (9-0) being the other.
  • Notre Dame’s 21-game winning streak vs. Providence is its longest active string against a BIG EAST opponent.
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points more than half (11) of its 21 series games against Providence, while the Friars have reached that mark just once (a 90-80 Fighting Irish win in the teams’ first-ever meeting on Jan. 14, 1996, in Providence.
  • The Fighting Irish have averaged 81.1 points in their 10 prior visits to Providence, topping the 90-point mark in their first four games at Alumni Hall and winning all 10 by an average of 21.5 points per game.
  • Providence has scored more than 60 points three times in the past 18 games vs. the Fighting Irish.
  • Notre Dame has won 18 of the 21 series games against Providence by double digits, the exceptions coming on Jan. 5, 2002 (72-66 in South Bend), Feb. 16, 2003 (67-61 at PC) and Feb. 28, 2009 (65-56 at PC).
  • Providence head coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl was an assistant coach at Penn State on two occasions (1993-98 and 2004-07); in that first tenure at PSU, one of her proteges was current Notre Dame associate director of operations & technology Angie Potthoff, who earned All-America honors her final three seasons (1995-97), shared the 1997 Big Ten Conference scoring title and garnered MVP honors at the `97 Big Ten Tournament, all under Fruchtl’s tutelage.
  • Fruchtl and Potthoff reunited in 2002, when Potthoff served as an assistant coach on Fruchtl’s staff at Beaver (Pa.) Area High School, before Potthoff moved into the head coaching role in 2004-05 when Fruchtl returned to Penn State.
  • Between the two teams, there are four former winners of the Gatorade High School Player of the Year award in their respective states — Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins (Indiana – 2009; also Gatorade National Player of the Year and Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year for all sports), junior guard Kayla McBride (2010 – Pennsylvania) and sophomore guard Madison Cable (2011 – Pennsylvania), and Providence senior guard Symone Roberts (Connecticut – 2009).

A Little Networking
Notre Dame makes its annual appearance on the syndicated BIG EAST Network television package with Saturday’s visit to Providence. The game will air live on several regional cable affiliates, including the network’s flagship, SportsNet New York (SNY), as well as on-line through ESPN3 and the BIG EAST’s multimedia web site ( The game also may be seen on a delayed basis through several other outlets (see accompanying chart in PDF version of this notes package for the latest information).

Finding A Way
Facing its largest deficit of the season (22-7) less than eight minutes into Tuesday’s Senior Night game against No. 22/20 Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame reminded observers there are numerous ways to play this game — and win.

In this case, the Fighting Irish flipped the script with a 40-10 surge that covered 14:55 during the middle of the game, starting with 3:56 left in the first half when Notre Dame trailed 39-25, and ending when the Fighting Irish held a 65-49 lead at the 9:01 mark of the second half.

The 15-point comeback win tied Notre Dame’s largest rally at home in its BIG EAST era (72-65 win over Pittsburgh on Feb. 28, 2006 – coincidentally, also a Senior Night game), and it was the largest for the Fighting Irish in any contest since Nov. 26, 2011, when Notre Dame tied a school record with an 18-point comeback win (56-54) over No. 7/6 Duke in the title game of the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas.

What’s more, the 31-point swing in momentum was the largest in a Fighting Irish game since March 30, 2001, against Connecticut in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals at the Savvis Center (now Scottrade Center) in St. Louis. On that night, Notre Dame trailed the Huskies, 47-31, with 2:02 left in the first half, but stormed back to win, 90-75 en route to the program’s first national championship.

Start Me Up
For the second time in school history, Notre Dame has matched its best 27-game record with a 26-1 record.

The 2000-01 Fighting Irish national championship squad opened with 23 consecutive wins before losing in game No. 24 (54-53 at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001). They would then win their next five in a row before their second (and final) loss of that title-winning season (78-76 at No. 2 Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship final on March 6, 2001).

Making The Turn For Home
Notre Dame is off to a 14-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the second time since it joined the league 18 seasons ago.

The school record for the best start to a BIG EAST season is 15-0, set back in 1999-2000.

Aside from their two BIG EAST debuts, the only other times the Fighting Irish began any conference season with a 14-0 record or better were when they were part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League) in 1989-90 (finished 16-0) and 1990-91 (started 14-0, finished 15-1).

Streak Stats, Part I
Notre Dame’s current 21-game winning streak is tied for the second-longest success string in program history, matching last year’s 21-game run from Nov. 25, 2011 through Feb. 7, 2012. It’s also two games shy of the school record for consecutive victories set by the 2000-01 club that opened the season with 23 consecutive wins.

Notre Dame has strung together 13 double-digit winning streaks in the program’s 36-year history, with 11 of those coming during the tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-88 to present).

Streak Stats, Part II
Notre Dame has tied a program record by winning 18 consecutive BIG EAST regular-season games. The Fighting Irish last dropped a BIG EAST game on Feb. 12, 2012, falling 65-63 to West Virginia at Purcell Pavilion (on two free throws by WVU’s Brooke Hampton with 4.6 seconds left).

Notre Dame’s current streak duplicates the school-record 18-game run from Feb. 17, 1999-Feb. 22, 2000 — that streak included wins in the final three conference games of the 1998-99 season, plus 15 in a row to start the 1999-2000 league slate.

Road Warriors
Notre Dame has won a school-record 21 consecutive regular season road games and 26 of its last 31 overall, including all 10 contests this season. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.

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

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

The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 15 consecutive BIG EAST Conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).

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

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

Pieces of Silver
With its 84-56 win at DePaul on Feb. 24, Notre Dame registered its 25th victory of the season, marking the fourth consecutive year (and fifth time in six years) the Fighting Irish have reached that level.

Notre Dame has recorded 10 25-win seasons in its 36 varsity campaigns, but never before had the Fighting Irish done so in four consecutive years. From 1998-99 through 2000-01, Notre Dame topped that mark each season (26-5, 27-5 and 34-2), including a (then) school-record 34 wins in the final year of that run, which culminated with the program’s first national championship.

A Class By Themselves
Led by its two-player senior class of guards/co-captains Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, Notre Dame has earned the most victories (121) in a four-year span in school history, topping the total (117) compiled by last year’s seniors.

Prior to the 2011-12 season, the highest four-year win total by a senior class was 109, set by the Class of 2001 that included (among others) consensus national player of the year and 12-year WNBA veteran Ruth Riley and current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey.

The Rare Air Up There
With its 77-67 win at No. 9 Tennessee on Jan. 28, Notre Dame made NCAA Division I history in two ways. The Fighting Irish not only became the first school ever to defeat both Connecticut and Tennessee in three consecutive seasons, but they also were the first program in the NCAA era (since 1981-82) to defeat both the Huskies and Lady Vols on the road in the same season (the latter victory was Notre Dame’s first in nine games against UT in Knoxville).

Starting with its 2011 NCAA Elite Eight win over Tennessee in Dayton, Ohio, Notre Dame has gone a combined 8-1 against Connecticut and Tennessee, with no other senior class at any school having compiled that many wins against those two traditional powers since 1988-89 (when Connecticut made its first NCAA postseason appearance).

Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has had at least four players score in double figures in 17 games this year. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Fighting Irish are 69-4 (.945) when they have four or more players reach double digits in the scoring column, including an active 39-game winning streak that dates back to Feb. 28, 2011 (70-69 loss at DePaul).

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

Thus far in 2012-13, it would appear the Fighting Irish are making this mission truly a team effort. On the scoring side, 10 of the 11 players on the roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including junior forward Ariel Braker (eight times, after having two double-figure games in her first two seasons combined), sophomore guards Madison Cable (three times) and Whitney Holloway (once – the first double-digit games of Cable and Holloway’s careers) and freshman guards Jewell Loyd (17 times) and Michaela Mabrey (three times).

On the backboards, junior forward Natalie Achonwa is second in the BIG EAST at 9.3 rebounds per game and has piled up 15 of her 17 career double-digit rebounding games this year. The Guelph, Ontario, native, and 2012 Canadian Olympic Team member also has a BIG EAST-leading 15 double-doubles (seven against ranked opponents, eight in conference play) after logging one double-double in her career prior to this season.

The Best Things In Life Are Free
Throughout the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame has displayed a penchant for making opponents pay at the free throw line.

Through 27 games, the Fighting Irish rank fourth in the nation in free throw percentage, shooting a remarkable .793 (474-of-598) from the charity stripe, including a season-high .941 (16-of-17) on Jan. 23 in a victory at Pittsburgh.

On average, Notre Dame is getting to the line better than 22 times per game, converting nearly 18 free throws a night. At the same time, the Fighting Irish have made 32 percent more foul shots than their opponents have attempted (474 made, 359 opponent attempts).

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

Junior guard Kayla McBride has had the most success cashing in on this strategy during the past two seasons, shooting .872 from the stripe last year (a league-leading .919 in BIG EAST games) and making 65 of 71 free throws (.915) to lead the conference. She also would rank eighth in the nation, but she is three made free throws shy of the minimum needed for qualification (2.5 free throws made/game).

McBride is one of four Notre Dame players who appear among the top 10 in the current BIG EAST free throw rankings, with senior guard Skylar Diggins ranking fifth (.810), freshman guard Jewell Loyd standing sixth (.805) and junior forward Natalie Achonwa ranking seventh (.802).

For her career, McBride has logged an .887 free throw percentage, putting her ahead of Alicia Ratay’s school-record mark (.872) from 1999-2003.

McGraw’s Milestone Moment
With a 59-52 victory at Villanova on Feb. 5, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw became the 13th NCAA Division I coach to register 700 career victories. McGraw currently has a 31-year record of 705-257 (.733), including a 617-216 (.741) record in 26 seasons with the Fighting Irish.

McGraw also became the eighth-fastest Division I coach to reach the 700-win milestone, hitting the mark in 957 games and quicker than several other notable coaches such as North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell (966 games), Ohio State’s Jim Foster (973), former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan (998) and two now-deceased Hall of Fame coaches — Sue Gunter (1,004, most notably at LSU) and Kay Yow (1,021, primarily at North Carolina State).

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

  • Diggins (2,172 points) needs 150 points to catch current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Diggins moved into second place on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list with her 23 points on Feb. 17 at Marquette, passing Katryna Gaither (2,126 points from 1993-97).
  • With three rebounds on Feb. 17 at Marquette, Diggins (516 rebounds) became the first women’s basketball player in school history with 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career. Only one Notre Dame men’s basketball player has ever compiled that impressive combination of statistics (Chris Thomas from 2001-05).
  • Diggins (347 steals) is one steal away from assistant coach Niele Ivey’s school record for career thefts. With one steal on Jan. 8 at South Florida, Diggins moved into second place on Notre Dame’s career steals list, passing Coquese Washington (307 from 1989-93).
  • Diggins (682 assists) has an outside shot at the Fighting Irish all-time record for assists held by Mary Gavin (1984-88), needing 96 helpers to reach the mark (Ivey is second, currently 45 ahead of Diggins). Diggins stands third in school history, having passed Mollie Peirick (651 from 1994-98) with her seven assists on Feb. 11 vs. No. 10/11 Louisville. Diggins’ charge this year has been led by her career-high 14 assists on Dec. 31 against Saint Francis (Pa.) that are the fourth-most assists by an NCAA Division I player in a game this season and most by a Notre Dame player in nearly 26 years.
  • Combining her points, rebounds, assists and steals, Diggins is one of just six NCAA Division I players since 1999-2000 to amass 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in her career (see accompanying chart in PDF version of this notes package, with research courtesy of STATS, LLC, which began tracking women’s basketball career statistics in 1999-2000).
  • With the opening tip of the Feb. 9 win at Seton Hall, Diggins became Notre Dame’s all-time leader in career starts (now 133), passing Alicia Ratay (129 from 1999-2003).

The Diggins Factor
Notre Dame has posted a 121-19 (.864) record in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), a mark that can be traced in no small part to the arrival of guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a spot in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA national championship games and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 27-12 record against AP Top 25 teams (13-10 vs. the AP Top 10) and an 86-1 record against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll), including a 63-game winning streak from the start of the 2009-10 season before falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012.

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

With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted three of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 78.9 ppg. last year, after logging 77.0 ppg. in 2010-11, and 77.2 ppg. in her freshman season of 2009-10. Notre Dame is on pace to mirror those figures this season, currently averaging 80.7 ppg. (which ranks third nationally as of Friday).

In addition, thanks to Diggins’ penchant for steals (she has a 2.48 spg. career mark that is fourth-best in school history), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top three single-season steal marks in program history with 502 thefts last year, 495 steals in 2010-11, and 450 thefts in 2009-10. Notre Dame isn’t far off those marks this season, currently averaging 11.3 spg. (which would put the Fighting Irish around 325 steals by the end of the regular season).

The past two years also have seen Notre Dame post two of the four best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing a school-record 52.9 ppg., last season (well ahead of the previous mark of 55.1 ppg., in 1981-82) and giving up just 56.2 ppg., in 2010-11. The Fighting Irish are in position to challenge those totals again this year, presently allowing 56.3 points per game.

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

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

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

Parlaying her Olympic experience, Achonwa has moved seamlessly into Notre Dame’s starting lineup this season after spending her first two years as an important reserve. The Guelph, Ontario, native was expected to take on a larger role this year with the graduation of two-time All-American Devereaux Peters, but Achonwa has taken that growth to a whole new level, nearly doubling her averages in scoring (7.6 to 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding (4.4 to 9.3 rpg.), while scoring in double figures 22 times and grabbing double-digit rebounds on 15 occasions (including a career-best 17 rebounds on Dec. 29 against No. 11 Purdue).

What’s more, Achonwa came into this season with one career double-double and a career scoring high of 20 points. This year, she leads the BIG EAST in double-doubles (15, including seven against ranked teams and eight against conference foes) and has five 20-point games to her credit (career-high 23 vs. Utah State on Dec. 8). Her 15 double-doubles also are one shy of the school record set by Katryna Gaither in 1996-97 (in a 38-game season).

Achonwa ranks among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (tied-15th – 13.8 ppg.), rebounding (2nd – 9.3 rpg.), field goal percentage (6th – .535; also 23rd nationally), free throw percentage (7th – .802) and blocked shots (15th – 1.0 bpg.).

Achonwa’s development has not gone entirely unnoticed, as she was named to the World Vision Classic All-Tournament Team, helping to lead the Fighting Irish to the title with 22 points and a (then) career-high 14 rebounds in the championship game win over No. 22 Texas A&M. Achonwa also is one of three Notre Dame players (along with senior guard Skylar Diggins and junior guard Kayla McBride) to make the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll at least three times this season, earning a spot on the Dec. 10, Jan. 14 and Feb. 11 rundowns.

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

McBride currently is tied for 10th in the BIG EAST in scoring (14.6 ppg.) and leads the conference in free throw percentage (.915). In both areas, she is posting career-high marks, including an improvement of better than 25 percent in her scoring average from last year (11.6 ppg.).

McBride also is among the team leaders this season with 22 double-figure scoring games, including at least 15 points in eight of Notre Dame’s nine games against ranked opponents to date (17.7 ppg.). Among her highlights against Top 25 teams are a career-high 25 points against No. 22/20 Syracuse on Feb. 26, and 21 points at No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 5.

In fact, in her last 24 games against Top 25 opponents, McBride is averaging 14.8 points per game, scoring in double figures 21 times and posting both of her career double-doubles (10 points, career-high 12 rebounds vs. No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 7, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion; 13 points, 10 rebounds at No. 13/14 Rutgers on Jan. 31, 2012).

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

The Lincolnwood, Ill., native has appeared in all 27 games for the Fighting Irish this season (starting 26 times), scoring in double figures 17 times, earning her first career double-double (18 points/13 rebounds at South Florida on Jan. 8) and posting three “5-5-5” games.

Loyd currently ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (26th – 11.9 ppg.) and free throw percentage (6th – .805), and would be fifth in the conference in three-point percentage (.393), but she is five made three-pointers shy of the minimum (1.0 3FGM/game).

She also leads all conference rookies this season as a four-time BIG EAST Freshman of the Week selection, most recently copping the honor on Monday after scoring a game-high 19 points in an 84-56 victory at DePaul on Feb. 24.

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

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

Game #27 Recap: Syracuse
Kayla McBride scored a career-high 25 points and Skylar Diggins finished with 24 points and eight assists as Notre Dame beat the Orange 79-68 on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion, the 21st straight victory for the Fighting Irish.

The game was one of starkly different halves. Syracuse (22-5, 10-4 BIG EAST) had 12 more rebounds than Notre Dame in the first half and had a 47-31 percent advantage in shooting. The Fighting Irish (26-1, 14-0) turned those numbers around in the second half. They had 13 more rebounds and outshot the Orange 44-32 percent.

Kayla Alexander led Syracuse with 24 points and 16 rebounds, making her first six shots of the game. But she made just one of her next eight shots and finished 10-of-18 from the floor.

Diggins scored nine points during a 13-2 run late in the first half to get the Irish back into the game, and they then took control by opening the second half with a 9-0 run.

Syracuse had one last gasp, using an 8-0 run to 65-59 with six minutes left on a pair of baskets by Carmen Tyson-Thomas, who finished with 18 points, but the Orange couldn’t get any closer than six the rest of the way.

Beyond The Box Score: Syracuse

  • Notre Dame is 30-6 (.833) all-time on Senior Night, including a 23-3 (.885) record in the 26-year McGraw era.
  • The Fighting Irish continue to play well on short rest, improving to 8-0 this season (36-9 in the past five years) when playing for the second time in three days.
  • Notre Dame completes the critical month of February undefeated for just the second time in school history, and first since 1989-90, when it also went 7-0.
  • Notre Dame trailed at halftime for just the third time all season, and the first since Jan. 8 at South Florida.
  • The Fighting Irish rise to 26-2 all-time against Syracuse, including a 13-0 record at home.
  • Notre Dame’s 13-game winning streak against SU is the longest by either team in the series, which dates back to 1987-88.
  • The 26 series wins against Syracuse are tied for the second-most by Notre Dame against one opponent in program history.
  • The Fighting Irish have scored at least 70 points in 23 of their last 28 games against Syracuse.
  • For the seventh time in the past 10 series meetings, a Notre Dame player posted a new career scoring high against Syracuse.
  • Notre Dame is 55-5 (.917) all-time against New York schools, with wins in 13 of their last 14 games overall — the Fighting Irish also are 29-0 all-time when playing at home against a team from the state of New York.
  • With her jumper 29 seconds into the second half, McBride became the 31st member of the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club.
  • Notre Dame had two 20-point scorers in the same game for the third time this year (all vs. ranked opponents), and first since Feb. 11 vs. No. 10/11 Louisville.
  • Despite missing all but the first four minutes of the first half with foul trouble, junior forward Natalie Achonwa registered her BIG EAST-leading 15th double-double of the season (eighth in league play; seventh against Top 25 teams).

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked a season-best No. 2 for the eighth consecutive Associated Press poll this week, its 43rd consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting, dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season, and marking 113 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.

The Fighting Irish reached a milestone on Nov. 26 with their No. 5 ranking, which was their 100th consecutive AP poll appearance. It not only extended the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), but it made the Fighting Irish are one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of 100 consecutive AP poll appearances.

What’s more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (74 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (63) of those appearances in the AP Top 10 (and never lower than 18th).

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

Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 252 weeks during the program’s 36-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks ninth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.

In addition, the Fighting Irish held steady at a season-best No. 2 for the second consecutive week in the latest ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, after spending the previous six weeks in the No. 3 spot.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 113 of the past 114 weeks (and 77 in a row), falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for a total of 246 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).

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

More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 people in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Besides her 252 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 in PDF version of this notes package), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005 and 2012).

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

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

Half And Half
During the past 12 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 271-19 (.934) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 199 of their last 212 such contests (.939).

What’s more, in the past four seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 108-2 (.982) when leading at the half, with the only losses coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 18 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 274-15 (.948) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including 16 outings this season.

…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 18 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 179-6 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.

In the past four years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 56-2 (.966) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level 11 times this season.

Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 233 of their last 262 games (.889) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 25 and 20 games in that span (the latter ending on Feb. 12, 2012, vs. West Virginia).

Since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 60-5 (.923) — including wins in 36 of its last 38 home games — and three of the five Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).

Notre Dame also has a 127-20 (.864) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 108 of their last 117 non-BIG EAST contests (.923) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the nine losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT) and Baylor in 2012 (73-61). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 383-90 (.810) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, a mark that lasted only two seasons before the Fighting Irish posted a 17-1 record at Purcell Pavilion last year.

Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past three seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,571 fans per game in 2011-12) and most sellouts in a single season (eight in 2011-12). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

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

Notre Dame is setting records at the box office again this season with 10 sellouts in 12 home games (including eight of the past nine contests), topping last year’s record of eight sellouts. In addition, the Nov. 18 game against Massachusetts marked the first home-opening sellout in school history. All told, the Fighting Irish have welcomed 35 sellout crowds in the program’s 36-year tenure, including 29 in the past four years alone (2009-10 to present).

The Fighting Irish currently rank sixth in the nation in average attendance, drawing 8,965 fans per game, which is nearly 400 fans better than last year’s school record and 98 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s listed capacity of 9,149.

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

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

In its 18 seasons in the BIG EAST, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program has been the one of the conference’s best, winning two BIG EAST regular season titles (2001 and 2012) and compiling a 230-64 (.782) record in league play that remains the second-best regular season winning percentage in BIG EAST women’s basketball history.

Next Game: Connecticut
Notre Dame returns home to wrap up the regular season at 7 p.m. (ET) Monday when it takes on No. 3 Connecticut at Purcell Pavilion. The game, the second of two regular-season meetings between the BIG EAST rivals, will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN2 as part of its “Big Monday” package.

Connecticut (26-2, 13-1) has won 14 of its last 15 games, with the only other loss for the Huskies coming to top-ranked Baylor (76-70 on Feb. 18 in Hartford). Connecticut visits South Florida on Saturday before coming north to South Bend for Monday’s BIG EAST regular-season finale.

— ND —