March 18, 2015
2014-15 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 34
NCAA Championship — Oklahoma City Region/First Round
#2/2 [#1 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (31-2 / 15-1 ACC) vs. [#16 seed] Montana Lady Griz (24-8 / 14-4 Big Sky)
DATE: March 20, 2015
TIME: 7:30 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (8,887)
SERIES: UM leads 1-0
LAST MTG: UM 50-48 (12/31/86)
TV: ESPN2/ESPN3-WatchESPN(live) (Beth Mowins, p-b-p / Stephanie White, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356; UND.com/buytickets
- Notre Dame is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Championship for the fourth consecutive season and the fifth time in program history.
- The Fighting Irish have won their NCAA Championship first-round game in 17 of the past 19 seasons.
No. 2 Fighting Irish Tip Off NCAA Tournament Friday Against Montana
After completing its second consecutive sweep of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles, No. 2 Notre Dame turns its attention to an even larger goal, as the top-seeded Fighting Irish take on Big Sky Conference champion Montana in the first round of the NCAA Championship at 7:30 p.m. (ET) Friday at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 and through ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Notre Dame (31-2) has not seen action since March 8, when the Fighting Irish secured their second ACC postseason title in as many years with a 71-58 victory over No. 7/6 Florida State in Greensboro, North Carolina. Notre Dame shot 51.7 percent from the floor and outrebounded FSU, 39-27 to successfully defend its crown.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd was named the ACC Championship Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season after scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the title game. Taya Reimer added 16 points and a game-high eight rebounds for Notre Dame.
- Notre Dame is No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll and is No. 2 in the latest WBCA/USA Today poll.
- Montana is not ranked.
- Notre Dame swept the ACC regular-season and tournament titles for the second consecutive season, becoming the third conference school ever to pull off that feat and the first since Duke in 2003 and 2004.
- The Fighting Irish earned their fourth consecutive outright conference regular-season championship (including their final two years in the BIG EAST), the longest string of consecutive conference crowns in program history (previous was three from 1989-91 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League).
- Notre Dame claimed its third consecutive conference tournament title, beginning with the 2013 BIG EAST championship and continuing the past two years in the ACC. The last time the Fighting Irish won three consecutive league tournament crowns was 1989-92, when they won four in a row in the MCC/Horizon League.
- Notre Dame was ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll, its 85th consecutive week in the AP Top 10 and 79th of the past 85 weeks in the AP Top 5.
- Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 155 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What’s more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a top-10 Notre Dame squad during her career, never ranking lower than seventh in that time (2011-12 to present).
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in the latest Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today poll, after previously spending two weeks (Nov. 25 and Dec. 2) as the nation’s No. 1 team. It was the first time the Fighting Irish had been the top-ranked team in either major national poll since April 1, 2001, when they were No. 1 in the coaches’ poll following a 68-66 win over Purdue that secured the program’s first NCAA national championship.
- Notre Dame ranks among the top 25 in nine NCAA statistical categories (as of March 16), including five top-10 rankings — field-goal percentage (2nd – .498), scoring offense (4th – 81.2 ppg.), scoring margin (4th – +21.7 ppg.), assists (7th – 18.2 apg.) and three-point percentage (7th – .378). The Fighting Irish also rank 14th in assist/turnover ratio (1.21), 16th in both rebounding margin (+8.7 rpg.) and personal fouls (14.5 per game), and 25th in free-throw percentage (.746), as well as third in the non-statistical measure of win-loss percentage (.939).
- Notre Dame aims to continue its remarkable success at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 417-91 (.821) all-time record in 38 seasons at the facility, including a 94-6 (.940) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
- Including regular season and postseason play, the Fighting Irish have won 75 of their last 79 games against conference opponents (and 26 in a row at home), dating back to their membership in the BIG EAST.
- Since joining the ACC prior to last season, Notre Dame is 38-1 against conference foes (31-1 regular season, 7-0 postseason). The last ACC school to lose only once in regular-season conference play during a two-year span was Duke in 2003 and 2004.
- Senior guards Madison Cable and Whitney Holloway, and senior forward Markisha Wright have helped Notre Dame to a 138-9 (.939) record in their careers, tying last year’s senior class of Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride, who also helped Notre Dame to 138 wins during their four seasons (138-15, .902).
- Since arriving at Notre Dame in 2011-12, Cable, Holloway and Wright have paced Notre Dame to two NCAA national championship games and three NCAA Women’s Final Fours (plus four conference regular-season titles and three league tournament crowns), as well as a 51-7 record against ranked teams (22-7 against AP Top 10).
- Of the nine losses suffered by the current Fighting Irish senior class, four were decided by 13 points or less.
- With 694 victories in her 28 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men’s/women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
- With 782 career wins, McGraw ranks 10th in NCAA Division I coaching history. She also is one of two active ACC coaches in the top 10 along with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell (second with 959 as of Tuesday).
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), ranking second with 198 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past five years). The Fighting Irish rank sixth in the nation (as of Tuesday), averaging 8,835 fans per game at home this season, and have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 225 of their last 227 home games (with an active streak of 68 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 45 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 39 since the start of the 2009-10 campaign and four this season.
- The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as 12 Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 14 seasons. Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with McBride going to the San Antonio Stars in the first round (third overall selection) and Achonwa six picks later (No. 9 overall) to the Indiana Fever in the 2014 WNBA Draft. It marked the third consecutive year Notre Dame had a player selected No. 3 overall (Devereaux Peters went third to Minnesota in 2012 and Skylar Diggins was chosen in that same spot by Tulsa in 2013), making the Fighting Irish the second program with lottery choices in three consecutive seasons.
- Diggins was a 2014 All-WNBA First Team selection and the league’s Most Improved Player, in addition to earning the starting nod for the West at the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game. Meanwhile, McBride was chosen for the 2014 WNBA All-Rookie Team, the second Fighting Irish alumna in as many years to be selected for the squad (Diggins was picked for 2013 all-rookie honors).
- Peters earned her first WNBA Championship in 2013 with the Lynx (and fifth by a Notre Dame alumna), who defeated the Atlanta Dream (and former Fighting Irish All-American Ruth Riley) in the WNBA Finals. Riley previously had won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), while Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets and Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the eighth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100 Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score, according to figures released by the NCAA in October. Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous seven years to record a perfect GSR score and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it more than once, pulling off that feat in 2011, 2012 and 2014).
The Notre Dame-Montana Series
Notre Dame and Montana will be playing for just the second time on Friday night. The Lady Griz edged the Fighting Irish, 50-48 in the teams’ only prior matchup on Dec. 31, 1986, in the consolation game of the Seattle Times Classic in Seattle, Washington.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Montana Met
Lisa McLeod had 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds as Montana jumped out to a nine-point halftime lead and held on for a 50-48 win over Notre Dame in the consolation game of the Seattle Times Classic on Dec. 31, 1986, at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, Washington.
McLeod was the lone player to score in double figures for the Lady Griz, who made up for a .315 field-goal percentage (including just 23.1 percent in the second half) with some timely free-throw shooting, connecting on 16 of 29 attempts from the foul line (compared to six of 11 for the Fighting Irish).
Heidi Bunek also posted a double-double with a game-high 16 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame. Mary Gavin added 10 points and a game-best seven assists, while Sandy Botham chipped in six points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in the second half.
The Fighting Irish ended up with the better field-goal percentage (.396), but were undone by 22 turnovers, 12 coming on UM steals.
Other Notre Dame-Montana Series Tidbits
- It’s been more than 28 years since Notre Dame and Montana last met midway through the 1986-87 campaign (the season before current Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw arrived in South Bend). In addition, no player on either team had even been born when Notre Dame and Montana last tangled on the hardwood.
- One person who was in the building that day and will be again on Friday is Montana head coach Robin Selvig. The 37-year skipper ranks eighth in NCAA Division I history (and fifth among active Division I coaches) with 845 career wins, two spots ahead of McGraw (782 wins), with McGraw’s mentor, Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster (841 wins) separating the two head coaches squaring off in Friday’s NCAA opener.
- For the fourth time this season, McGraw will lead her Notre Dame charges against a team with a fellow coach in the top 10 of the NCAA Division I career wins list. The Fighting Irish previously defeated North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell (second) and Foster (ninth) and lost to Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (fifth).
- Notre Dame has had one player in the program’s 38-year history hail from the state of Montana. In 1979-80, Jane Jergesen, a forward from Havre, Montana, played in 12 games for the Fighting Irish, averaging 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.
- Notre Dame and Montana previously met once before in men’s basketball, with the Grizzlies edging the Fighting Irish, 70-69 on Dec. 28, 1966, at the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.
- The Fighting Irish volleyball team has faced Montana three times in its history, posting a 2-1 record against the Lady Griz. Notre Dame won the last meeting between the schools on the volleyball court, 3-0 on Sept. 19, 1992, at the Purdue High-IQ Tournament in West Lafayette, Indiana.
- Notre Dame has played only one other current Big Sky Conference team in its history. The Fighting Irish dropped a 67-65 overtime decision to Idaho on March 21, 1986, in the semifinals of the National Women’s Invitation Tournament in Amarillo, Texas.
Irish In The NCAA Championship
Notre Dame is beginning its 22nd appearance in the NCAA Championship (and 20th in a row) this weekend. The Fighting Irish have a .697 winning percentage (46-20) in NCAA Championship play, ranking seventh all-time in that category (minimum of 20 games played).
In addition, Notre Dame’s current streak of 20 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances ranks fifth in the record books (and seventh-longest at any time in tournament history).
Here are some other facts about the Fighting Irish in the “Big Dance” (see pp. 158-163 in this year’s regular-season media guide for NCAA Championship results and records):
- Notre Dame is one of five schools in tournament history to make at least four appearances in the NCAA national championship game (along with Tennessee-13, Connecticut-9, Louisiana Tech-6 and Stanford-4). The Fighting Irish are 1-3 all-time in the NCAA final, defeating Purdue (68-66) in 2001 in St. Louis, before falling to Texas A&M (76-70) in 2011 in Indianapolis, Baylor (80-61) in 2012 in Denver and Connecticut (79-58) in 2014 in Nashville.
- Notre Dame is one of five schools ever to make three trips to the NCAA title game in a four-year span, joining Southern California (1983, 1984, 1986), Auburn (1988-90), Tennessee (1995-98) and Connecticut (2002-04) in that elite company.
- Notre Dame is one of five schools to advance to the NCAA Women’s Final Four six times.
- Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw is the fifth Division I coach to lead her team to six NCAA Women’s Final Four berths and four national championship game appearances.
- Notre Dame is the sixth school to reach the NCAA Women’s Final Four in four consecutive seasons (2011-14), joining Connecticut, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Stanford and Tennessee in that company. Of this group, three have made five consecutive appearances in the Final Four — Connecticut (2000-04 and 2008-present), LSU (2004-08) and Stanford (2008-12).
- Notre Dame is one of five schools to make six trips to the NCAA Women’s Final Four and come away with at least one national championship, going to the semifinals in 1997 and 2013, the title game in 2011, 2012 and 2014, and winning it all in 2001.
- The Fighting Irish have a 5-4 (.556) record at the NCAA Women’s Final Four, owning the seventh-best winning percentage (minimum of three games played).
- Last year, Notre Dame became the first ACC school to reach the NCAA national championship game since the 2006 “all-ACC” final, when Maryland defeated Duke, 78-75 in overtime in Boston. It also was the fifth time the ACC was represented in the NCAA title contest, along with 1991 (Virginia lost to Tennessee, 70-67 in overtime in New Orleans), 1994 (North Carolina defeated Louisiana Tech, 60-59 in Richmond, Va.) and 1999 (Duke lost to Purdue, 62-45 in San Jose).
- Notre Dame is one of two schools in the country (along with Connecticut) to reach the NCAA Elite Eight the past four seasons.
- Notre Dame is one of five schools in the land to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 12 times in the past 18 years (1997-2014), as well as each of the past five years.
- The Fighting Irish have won their NCAA tournament opener in 17 of the past 19 seasons (1996-2014).
- Each of Notre Dame’s 22 NCAA tournament appearances have come during McGraw’s 28-year tenure (1987-88 to present).
- Notre Dame is 12-2 (.857) all-time in NCAA Championship play at Purcell Pavilion, with 12 games coming in the first and second rounds of the tournament before last year’s regional games were played in South Bend. Following first-round losses to Minnesota in 1994 and 2009, the Fighting Irish won six consecutive NCAA tourney games at home each time, and they reached the Sweet 16 five times (2000, 2001, 2004, 2010, 2012) and advanced to the Final Four once (2014) from Purcell Pavilion.
Sowing The Seeds
For the fourth consecutive season (and fifth time in program history), Notre Dame has earned a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Championship.
The Fighting Irish are 20-3 (.870) all-time as a top seed in the tournament, winning six in a row to claim the 2001 national championship, then going 5-1 in 2012 on the way to an NCAA national runner-up finish before posting a 4-1 record en route to the Final Four last year, and piling up a 5-1 record and finishing as the NCAA national runner-up last season.
Notre Dame has been awarded a top-eight seed for the 16th time in its 22 NCAA Championship visits (and a top-four seed for the ninth time). The Fighting Irish are 32-5 (.865) all-time as the higher seed in NCAA tournament play.
It Hinges On Defense
Notre Dame’s success in the NCAA Championship can be directly traced to its performance at the defensive end of the floor. In its previous 21 NCAA tournament trips (66 games), the Fighting Irish are 23-2 (.920) when holding their opponent to 60 points or fewer, including a current nine-game winning streak since the 2010 tournament.
Notre Dame’s two losses to teams scoring 60 points or fewer both came at the hands of top-seeded clubs — Penn State (55-49) in the 2004 East Regional semifinals, and North Carolina (60-51) in the second round of the 2007 Dallas Region.
Stoking The Offensive Fires
Notre Dame has reached the 80-point mark 21 times in NCAA Championship play, going 21-0 in those games. What’s more, the Fighting Irish have scored at least 70 points in 25 of their last 30 NCAA tournament games, going 22-3 (.880) in those contests.
Last year marked the first time Notre Dame scored at least 80 points five times in a single NCAA Championship — the Fighting Irish had three 80-point games in 1997, 2001 and 2013.
What’s more, last year’s 93-42 first-round win over Robert Morris in Toledo, Ohio, represented the largest margin of victory by a Notre Dame squad in the NCAA Championship, surpassing a 98-49 victory over Alcorn State at Purcell Pavilion in a 2001 first-round contest.
Notre Dame is 3-1 all-time when going to overtime in the NCAA tournament, most recently going to OT to win its 2012 Women’s Final Four national semifinal over Connecticut (83-75 in Denver). The Fighting Irish had previously split two OT games with Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament (79-75 in a 2008 second-round game at West Lafayette, Ind.; 77-72 loss in 2010 regional semifinal in Kansas City), and also defeated Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State), 69-65, in extra time in their 2004 NCAA opener.
Notre Dame is 21-17 (.553) all-time when going to overtime, including a 9-4 record in its last 13 contests. The Fighting Irish last went to OT on Dec. 10, 2014, earning a 94-93 victory at No. 25 DePaul.
Don’t Mess With Tradition
The Notre Dame women’s basketball program has developed some traditions that should be quite evident during this weekend’s NCAA first- and second-round games at Purcell Pavilion.
- Green nails — each of the Fighting Irish players and female coaches wear green nail polish throughout the NCAA Championship. This tradition started during the 1997 tourney, when the Fighting Irish (whose roster at the time included current associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham and assistant coach Niele Ivey) added the green polish to their fingers prior to their second-round St. Patrick’s Day game at Texas, which Notre Dame won 86-83. The Fighting Irish ended up going to their first NCAA Women’s Final Four that season and the green nail polish was here to stay. As a show of solidarity, the male members of the travel party usually paint one of their pinkies green as well.
- Green uniforms — though not limited exclusively to NCAA tournament play, Notre Dame’s distinctive kelly green road uniforms have become a staple of the postseason in keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, which often falls during the early rounds of the tournament. The Fighting Irish most recently wore the alternate green road threads in the NCAA Championship for their 2012 national championship game against Baylor (an 80-61 loss in Denver) — Notre Dame is 8-9 (.471) all-time in the NCAA tournament when featuring the “wearing o’ the green.” The Fighting Irish also have broken out their alternate home whites with green trim (either lime or kelly green or both) in recent seasons, posting a 17-2 (.895) record in those uniforms (the first time they have been worn in NCAA tournament play).
- Irish jig — this unique pre-game ritual has become one of the widely-recognized traditions of Notre Dame women’s basketball. Just prior to the introduction of the starting lineups, the Fighting Irish players will circle up in the lane with a basketball at their feet. As the Notre Dame pep band plays “Rakes of Mallow”, the team will perform the Irish Jig (a popular step with Notre Dame fans, especially the student body) with the ball bouncing around in the midst of their dance. This tradition is believed to have started during the 1999-2000 season, but picked up steam during Notre Dame’s 2000-01 national championship run and has been part of the Fighting Irish pre-game ritual ever since.
And Don’t Forget The Lime Green Shirts
The ever-present lime green t-shirts you might see many Notre Dame fans wearing around town this week are given out annually to Fighting Irish women’s basketball season ticket holders, a group affectionately known as the “Spirit Patrol”. Created by former coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio (now the assistant AD/senior woman administrator at Army) the shirts are based on one of head coach Muffet McGraw’s favorite colors, which she sported on the sidelines during the 2001 national championship game win over Purdue.
With its 55-49 win over No. 16 Duke in the ACC Championship semifinals on March 7 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Notre Dame picked up its 30th victory of the season, marking the fifth consecutive season and seventh time in program history the Fighting Irish have reached the 30-win mark. Notre Dame also logged that milestone in 1996-97 (31-7), 2000-01 (34-2), 2010-11 (31-8), 2011-12 (35-4), 2012-13 (35-2) and 2013-14 (37-1).
Not only does this represent the first time the Fighting Irish have posted five consecutive 30-win seasons, but it also is the fourth year in a row they registered their 30th win prior to the start of the NCAA Championship. This season’s 31 victories are the second-most for Notre Dame heading into NCAA postseason play, topped only by last year’s 32 wins and matching the 31 victories prior to the 2013 tournament.
Notre Dame is 10-1 against ranked opponents (6-1 against top-10 teams), with seven of those 10 victories coming by double figures, including all six wins over top-10 opponents.
In the past four seasons (2011-12 to present), the Fighting Irish are 51-7 (.879) against ranked opponents, with nearly 75 percent of those Top 25 wins (38 of 51) by double digits.
Digging deeper into Notre Dame’s success against ranked opponents, we find:
- This year’s 10 wins over Top 25 opponents are the fourth-most by the Fighting Irish prior to the NCAA Championship (12 in 2011-12; 11 in 2012-13 and 2013-14).
- Six top-10 victories tied the school record prior to the NCAA Championship (also in 2013-14, plus five in 2011-12 and 2012-13).
- Junior All-America guard Jewell Loyd is averaging 24.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 11 contests against ranked opponents this season. Loyd has scored at least 20 points in nine games against Top 25 teams this year, including 30-point outings against No. 3 Connecticut (31 points), No. 5/6 Tennessee (34 points) and No. 25 DePaul (school record-tying 41 points).
- In eight full games against ranked opponents (not including injury-shortened four-minute stretch against No. 15/10 Maryland), freshman forward Brianna Turner is averaging 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game with two double-doubles and a .653 field-goal percentage.
With its 67-60 victory at North Carolina State on March 1, Notre Dame secured its fourth consecutive outright conference regular-season title, and second in as many years as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Notre Dame has won four consecutive outright conference regular season championships for the first time in its 38-year history, after winning three in a row just once before.
In their first three seasons (1988-89 through 1990-91) in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League), the Fighting Irish won the regular season title each time, although they shared the MCC crown in their inaugural season in that league with Loyola-Chicago.
Some other notables about Notre Dame’s second consecutive ACC title:
- Notre Dame is the first ACC school to win back-to-back regular-season championships since Duke won four in a row from 2009-10 through 2012-13 (the first two of those four were shared with Florida State and Miami, respectively).
- Notre Dame is the first ACC school from outside the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) to earn consecutive regular-season titles since Florida State shared crowns with Maryland (2008-09) and Duke (2009-10).
- The Fighting Irish are only the second ACC program from outside the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) to earn consecutive outright regular-season titles and the first since Virginia won six in a row from 1990-91 through 1995-96.
- Notre Dame has a combined 31-1 record in regular-season ACC play during the past two seasons. Only two other ACC schools has ever had just one conference loss in a two-year span (Virginia went 14-0 in 1990-91 and 15-1 in 1991-92; more recently Duke went 16-0 in both 2001-02 and 2002-03 and 15-1 in 2003-04).
A Clean (ACC) Sweep
For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame completed a sweep of the ACC crowns by winning the ACC Championship on March 8 with a 71-58 victory over No. 7/6 Florida State in the title game in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row, while freshman forward Brianna Turner joined Loyd on the All-ACC Tournament First Team. Senior guard Madison Cable and sophomore forward Taya Reimer earned spots on the All-ACC Tournament Second Team, the first conference all-tournament accolades of their careers.
A few added tidbits on Notre Dame’s second ACC postseason crown in as many years:
- The Fighting Irish won their third consecutive conference tournament title and eighth overall, adding the last two ACC crowns with the 2013 BIG EAST championship and five prior titles in the MCC/Horizon League (1989-92, 1994).
- The 1989-92 MCC run was the last time Notre Dame won back-to-back conference postseason tournaments.
- Notre Dame is the third ACC school to sweep the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles in consecutive seasons and the first since Duke in 2002-03 and 2003-04 (the other was Virginia in 1991-92 and 1992-93).
- Loyd is the seventh player to be a two-time ACC Championship MVP, and the first since Duke’s Jasmine Thomas in 2010 and 2011.
- Loyd became just the second Notre Dame player to be named a two-time conference tournament MVP, and the first since Krissi Davis took home top honors at the MCC Championship in 1989 and 1991.
- Coupled with the Fighting Irish men’s basketball team winning the ACC Tournament title on March 14, it marked the 13th time one ACC school swept the men’s and women’s tournament crowns, and the first by a school not located on Tobacco Road (or the Triangle). Duke was the last school to sweep the ACC postseason titles (in 2011), while North Carolina and N.C. State also have pulled off that feat in the past.
When factoring in regular-season and postseason tournament results (league and NCAA), Notre Dame has won 75 of its last 79 games against conference opponents (and 26 in a row at home).
The Fighting Irish 78-63 loss at Miami on Jan. 8 ended a school-record 38 consecutive regular season conference games, dating back to the end of its BIG EAST Conference membership and through the first two seasons of its affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Prior to the Miami loss, the Fighting Irish last dropped a conference regular-season game on Feb. 12, 2012, falling 65-63 to then-BIG EAST foe West Virginia at Purcell Pavilion (on two free throws by WVU’s Brooke Hampton with 4.6 seconds left).
Notre Dame’s other two losses to a league foe in the past four seasons both came at the hands of Connecticut in the 2012 BIG EAST Championship title game (63-54 in Hartford, Connecticut) and the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals (83-65 in New Orleans, Louisiana).
Notre Dame’s recent streak erased the prior school-record 33-game run from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 — that streak took place during the program’s dominant seven-year tenure in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League).
Notre Dame Is Hoop City, USA
No other campus in America is enjoying the kind of success on the basketball court that Notre Dame has seen in 2014-15.
- The Fighting Irish men’s and women’s basketball programs are a combined 60-7 (.896) on the hardwood this season, edging out Maryland and Wichita State for the best combined winning percentage among both basketball programs on a national level.
- Both Notre Dame squads have topped 25 victories in the same season for the fourth time in eight years (also 2007-08, 2010-11 and 2012-13) after never having previously reached that win total in the same season.
- This year’s Fighting Irish teams also have tied the school record for combined men’s/women’s basketball victories and are challenging the combined winning percentage mark in a single season, with Notre Dame amassing a 60-12 (.833) basketball record in 2012-13 (women 35-2; men 25-10).
- Notre Dame is one of seven schools appearing in both the men’s and women’s Associated Press polls this week — and the combined Fighting Irish rank of 10 (No. 2 for the women, No. 8 for the men) is the best in the nation.
- Notre Dame was one of 21 schools to have both basketball programs earn berths to the NCAA Division I Championships.
- In terms of NCAA tournament seeding, the Fighting Irish earned a No. 1 seed, while the men were seeded third. It’s the best combined seeding at Notre Dame since 2011, when both teams garnered No. 2 seeds.
Nearly In A Class By Themselves
For the fourth consecutive season, a Notre Dame senior class is threatening to set the bar in terms of career wins by one group. The current class of tri-captains Whitney Holloway and Markisha Wright, plus Madison Cable, is tied for first all-time with 138 wins (138-9, .939), matching the 2014 seniors.
Last year, Notre Dame’s three-player senior class of Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride posted (at the time) the best four-year record (138-15, .902) in school history, topping the win total (130) compiled by the previous year’s seniors (Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner).
The year before Diggins and Turner departed, Notre Dame’s Class of 2012 (Brittany Mallory, Fraderica Miller, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters) rang up 117 wins to set the early benchmark in this current era of Fighting Irish women’s basketball success.
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 capped their careers with the program’s first NCAA national championship and included (among others) consensus national player of the year and 13-year WNBA veteran Ruth Riley, as well as current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey.
Department of Defense
Notre Dame has cranked up its defensive intensity down the stretch.
- The Fighting Irish have held their last 13 opponents to 63 points or fewer, including nine to fewer than 60 points.
- In that span (which began Jan. 24 at Clemson), the Fighting Irish have held their opponents to 54.5 points per game while forcing 16.3 turnovers per game and owning a +9.3 rebounding margin.
- Notre Dame has been particularly stingy at the three-point line, holding opponents to a .241 three-point percentage (42 of 174) in the past 13 games, a stretch that includes three matchups with nationally-ranked opponents (two with Duke, one with Louisville), as well as the ACC’s top three-point shooting team in conference play, Virginia.
- Collectively in those four games, those three teams (Duke, Louisville, Virginia) posted a .186 three-point percentage (eight of 43) against Notre Dame, including a zero for 12 whitewash of No. 10/11 Duke on Feb. 16 at Purcell Pavilion.
Dating back to the start of the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame has posted a 103-5 (.954) record. In that three-year span, four of the five Fighting Irish losses have come against top-three teams — No. 3 Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion), No. 3 Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana), No. 1 Connecticut (79-58 on April 8, 2014, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national championship game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee) and No. 3 Connecticut (76-58 on Dec. 6, 2014, in the Jimmy V Classic at Purcell Pavilion).
The other loss came Jan. 8 with a 78-63 setback at Miami. That defeat ended Notre Dame’s 61-game winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), the second-longest active run in the nation. The Fighting Irish last fell to an unranked team on Feb. 12, 2012, suffering a last-second 65-63 home loss to West Virginia (research for this note provided by STATS via the AP).
Poise Under Pressure
Notre Dame hasn’t had to deal with many close games in recent seasons, but when faced with such a challenge, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion.
Notre Dame has won its last 17 games decided by single digits and/or in overtime, including all five close games this season. The Fighting Irish last dropped a single-digit decision on March 6, 2012, falling 63-54 at No. 4 Connecticut in the BIG EAST Conference Tournament championship game at Hartford, Connecticut.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
Twice in less than two weeks earlier this season, Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to earn a victory.
- On Jan. 2, the Fighting Irish trailed Florida State, 20-8 with 7:41 left in the first half before charging back to win, 74-68 at Purcell Pavilion.
- On Jan. 15, Notre Dame fell behind at No. 12/10 North Carolina, 34-23 with 5:28 to go in the first half, but the Fighting Irish rallied to register an 89-79 victory in Chapel Hill.
- Even in its second loss of the season on Jan. 8 at Miami, Notre Dame showed remarkable character, erasing nearly all of a 22-point second-half deficit (45-23 with 17:00 to play) and getting within 55-49 with eight minutes left before UM held on for the win.
Visiting Century City
Notre Dame has scored at least 100 points four times this season (and posted 97 points in another), challenging last year’s school-record mark of five triple-digit outings, erasing the 2012-13 standard of three such contests.
The Fighting Irish have piled up 12 100-point games since the start of the 2011-12 season (and nine other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program’s existence–and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run.
This season marked the first time the Fighting Irish opened with three 100-point games in their first six contests. In fact, prior to 2012-13, Notre Dame had never had more than two triple-digit outings in an entire season, something it has now done for a third consecutive campaign.
Loyd Crowned espnW National Player of the Year
One of the nation’s most gifted all-around athletes, junior guard Jewell Loyd added another honor to her trophy case on March 13, when she was chosen as the 2014-15 espnW National Player of the Year.
- Loyd earns the first national player-of-the-year honor (not limited to a position or class year) for a Notre Dame player since 2001, when Ruth Riley earned the Associated Press National Player of the Year, Naismith Trophy and Sports Illustrated Player of the Year awards.
- Loyd is a finalist for the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award, as well as a midseason candidate (along with freshman forward Brianna Turner) for the WBCA Wade Trophy, with all three honors going to the national player of the year. It’s the second consecutive season Loyd has been a finalist for the Naismith and Wooden honors, and the second year in a row she is a prime contender for all three awards.
- Loyd is one of four finalists for the Dawn Staley Award which goes to the nation’s top guard (the inaugural honor in 2013 went to another Notre Dame player, Skylar Diggins).
Here’s a look at just some of the reasons why Loyd is a name high on everyone’s list for national recognition:
- Loyd leads the ACC and ranks 21st in the nation in scoring (as of March 16).
- Loyd has scored 676 points through 33 games this season (20.5 points per game). Already the fastest to each century single-season scoring interval in program history, Loyd now ranks fourth on Notre Dame’s single-season scoring list and is just 24 points from becoming the second 700-point scorer in school history (Katryna Gaither – 776 in 1996-97).
- Loyd is the fourth Fighting player to score 600 points in a season twice (she had 687 last year). Gaither and current associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham both topped the mark during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons, while Skylar Diggins was the most recent to post a pair of 600-point seasons (2011-12 and 2012-13).
- Loyd is on pace to challenge Gaither’s single-season record for scoring average at Notre Dame (20.4 ppg. as a senior in 1996-97). Cunningham is the only other Fighting Irish player to average 20 points per game in one season (20.2 ppg. as a junior in 1995-96).
- Loyd is the first Notre Dame player to register eight 20-point games in her first 10 outings of a season, surpassing Gaither (who had seven 20-point games in first 10 contests of 1996-97).
- Loyd currently leads the ACC with 18 20-point games this season, tying her with Gaither’s 1995-96 total for second in school history (Gaither also had 20 in 1996-97), and Loyd has 33 career 20-point games, good for fifth in Fighting Irish annals.
- Loyd is the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to register back-to-back 30-point games and for good measure, she did it against a pair of ranked opponents in No. 3 UConn (31 points) and No. 25 DePaul (school record-tying 41 points). Cunningham had two 30-point games in three days on Dec. 1 and 3, 1995, in close losses to No. 12/13 Penn State (32) and No. RV/22 Texas A&M (34) at the Kona Women’s Basketball Classic in Kona, Hawaii, although there was a game between those two (Cunningham scored 23 points in a win over Washington).
- Loyd has set a program record with four 30-point games in this season, most recently dropping in 31 points at Georgia Tech on Feb. 19.
- Loyd’s seven career 30-point games also set a school record topping the previous mark of six 30-point games established by Gaither from 1993-97.
- Loyd is seventh in school history with 1,813 career points, needing 63 points to move into the top five on Notre Dame’s career scoring list (a spot currently held by Loyd’s former All-America teammate, Kayla McBride).
- Loyd scored her 1,500th career point in her 90th career game on Jan. 11, 2015, vs. Boston College at Purcell Pavilion. Loyd is the second-quickest player to score to 1,500 points in program history, trailing only Cunningham, who scored her 1,500th point at Notre Dame in her 80th career game on Feb. 21, 1996, at home against Miami.
- In less than three years at Notre Dame, Loyd has scored in double figures in 93 of her 106 career games, including 60 in a row from March 12, 2013 to Jan. 11, 2015 (the second-longest run in school history). Also, in 11 of Loyd’s 13 career single-digit games, she was within one basket of double figures.
Turner Throwing A Block Party
Freshman forward Brianna Turner has recorded 66 blocked shots in her last 22 games (3.0 bpg.), all since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined her for the better part of the four previous games.
- Following her return on Dec. 21 against Saint Joseph’s (Pa.), the Pearland, Texas, native has logged five blocks in seven games, including a career-high seven rejections three times, all against ranked opponents — at No. 21/22 Syracuse on Jan. 4, at No. 12/10 North Carolina on Jan. 15 and at home against No. 8/7 Louisville on Feb. 23.
- Turner’s 22 blocks from Dec. 21-Jan. 4 were the most by a Notre Dame player in a four-game span since Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 1998, when Ruth Riley had 22 blocks vs. No. 6/4 Duke, No. 25/23 Illinois, San Francisco and Toledo.
- As of March 16, Turner ranks fourth in the ACC (and 26th in the nation) at 2.6 blocks per game, while her 77 total blocks are seventh on the Notre Dame single-season list and second all-time among Fighting Irish freshmen (most by a Fighting Irish rookie in one season since Shari Matvey’s record-setting 94 rejections in 1979-80).
- Turner is on pace for the second-best blocked shot average by a freshman in program history, and best since 1979-80, when Matvey averaged 3.1 blocks per game.
Loyd, Turner Named ACC Player And Freshman Of The Year
Notre Dame junior guard Jewell Loyd was named the 2015 ACC Player of the Year and freshman forward Brianna Turner was chosen as the 2015 ACC Freshman of the Year, the conference announced in separate balloting by the ACC’s Blue Ribbon Panel (media) and its 15 coaches earlier this month.
- It’s only the second time in program history (both in the past three seasons) the Fighting Irish have swept the conference’s top player and freshman awards in the same year — in 2013, Skylar Diggins garnered BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year accolades, while Loyd was tapped as the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year.
- This marked just the fifth time in ACC women’s basketball history that one school was swept the ACC Player and Freshman of the Year awards in the same season. Maryland was the last to do so in 2009 with Kristi Toliver (Player of the Year) and Lynetta Kizer (Freshman of the Year), while Duke was the last current ACC school to pull off that feat in 2001 with Georgia Schweitzer (Player) and Alana Beard (Freshman).
- Loyd was the seventh Notre Dame women’s basketball player to earn conference player of the year recognition — Kayla McBride was the most recent to do so in 2014, earning ACC Player of the Year status from the conference coaches. Prior to that, Diggins took top honors in the program’s final two seasons in the BIG EAST (2012, 2013), while Jacqueline Batteast was the BIG EAST Player of the Year in 2005 and Ruth Riley took the same honor in 2001.
- In addition, Karen Robinson was the two-time Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League) Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991, while Trena Keys was the first Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to garner her league’s top award as a two-time North Star Conference Player of the Year in 1985 and 1986.
- Turner was the fifth player in program history chosen as her conference’s freshman of the year, following in the footsteps of Loyd and her 2013 BIG EAST honor. Batteast also claimed the award in 2002, while Alicia Ratay did likewise in 2000. Current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham was the first to achieve the feat as the 1994 MCC Newcomer of the Year.
- Loyd and Turner also earned first-team all-ACC and All-ACC Defensive Team honors, while Turner made the All-ACC Freshman Team.
- Notre Dame and North Carolina were the only conference schools with two All-ACC selections this season, while Turner was the lone freshman named to the All-ACC First Team, the first Fighting Irish rookie to cop all-conference honors since Loyd was an honorable mention choice in 2013 (and the first to make one of the top two league teams since Diggins was a second-team all-BIG EAST pick in 2010).
- Turner also was the first Notre Dame player to garner all-freshman accolades since Loyd made the 2013 BIG EAST All-Freshman Team.
- This marked the eighth consecutive season Notre Dame had multiple players earn all-conference recognition. For Loyd, it was her second first-team selection in as many seasons, and the third all-conference honor of her career, following her 2013 honorable mention all-BIG EAST accolade. She became the 13th Fighting Irish player in program history to earn three all-conference awards and the 14th to collect multiple first-team all-league citations during their careers, stretching back to the program’s previous affiliations with the BIG EAST (1995-2013), Midwestern Collegiate (1988-95) and North Star (1983-88) conferences.
- With this season’s first-team selections for Loyd and Turner, it represented the 12th consecutive year, and 18th time in 20 seasons that the Fighting Irish have had at least one player garner first-team all-conference status.
- In head coach Muffet McGraw’s 28 seasons as head coach at Notre Dame, covering four conference affiliations (ACC, BIG EAST, Midwestern Collegiate and North Star), the Fighting Irish have had at least one first-team all-conference selection an astounding 25 times (all but 1993, 1998 and 2003).
Allen Throws Wrench Into Opposing Game Plans
Sophomore guard Lindsay Allen has emerged as one of the top point guards in the country, currently as one of five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award (presented annually to the nation’s top point guard and won twice before by Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins in 2012 and 2013).
- Allen ranks among the top five in the ACC in assists (first – 5.2 apg.), assist/turnover ratio (second – 2.07) and field-goal percentage (fifth – .545) — the only player in the conference to rank in the top five in those three categories.
- The latter ranking is particularly notable as Allen is one of only two guards (along with Miami’s Adrienne Motley) ranked among the top 15 in the ACC in field-goal percentage.
- In conference play, Allen led the ACC in assists (6.3 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (2.17), while ranking fifth in free-throw percentage (.821) and eighth in field-goal percentage (.504).
- Allen has logged at least five assists in 16 of her last 21 games (and 21 times this season), including 6.3 assists per game in seven outings against Top 25 teams during that span.
- Allen has developed into a potent scoring threat for the Fighting Irish, increasing her offensive output by nearly 60 percent to 9.9 points per game, and she has scored in double figures 14 times this season (after doing so eight times as a rookie in 2013-14).
- Allen is in her second season as the starting point guard for Notre Dame, having not missed a game since she set foot on campus last year. With Allen at the helm, the Fighting Irish have amassed a stellar 68-3 (.958) record — and when you factor in her final prep season at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., Allen’s teams are a combined 95-4 (.960) in the past three years when she’s been in the starting lineup.
Stealing Cable Is Legal Here
Senior guard Madison Cable has emerged as one of Notre Dame’s top reserves this season, with the Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, product currently tying for 15th in the ACC in steals (1.6 spg.) and sharing fifth in that category during conference play (1.9 spg.).
- Cable picked off a career-high six steals on Feb. 1 against Wake Forest, matching the most by any ACC player in a conference game this season. It also was the most thefts by a Fighting Irish player in a game since Dec. 19, 2012, when Kaila Turner logged seven steals against Alabama A&M.
- Cable is posting career-high averages in nearly all categories, including scoring (6.7 ppg.), rebounding (4.3 rpg.), steals and three-point percentage (.500).
- Cable currently leads the Fighting Irish with 52 steals this season. If that holds up, she would be just the second Notre Dame player to lead the team in steals while primarily coming off the bench. Walk-on freshman guard Molly Ryan was the only other player to pull off this rare feat, collecting a team-best 39 steals while starting only two of 28 games in 1980-81, the program’s first season at the Division I level.
- Cable registered her first career double-double back on Dec. 10 in an overtime win at No. 25 DePaul, collecting 20 points and 11 rebounds despite missing parts of the second half and overtime with cramping in both of her calves.
- Cable leads the ACC in three-point percentage (.500) and finished second in that category during conference play (.465).
Notre Dame was ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll, its 85th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting (79 of those in the top five), dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season and marking 155 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.
The Fighting Irish continue to extend the program record for consecutive poll appearances that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), while Notre Dame is one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of at least 150 consecutive AP poll appearances.
What’s more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a top-10 Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (78 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (72) of those appearances in the AP Top 5 (and never lower than seventh).
Notre Dame was No. 3 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 15th time in 16 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only five schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 16 during that span, while Stanford joins the Fighting Irish with 15 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 294 weeks during the program’s 38-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw is seventh among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 15th all-time in that category.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish are No. 2 in the latest WBCA/USA Today coaches’ poll after spending two weeks earlier this season as the nation’s No. 1 team (Nov. 25 and Dec. 2). It was the first time Notre Dame stood atop the rankings since April 1, 2001, following the program’s first NCAA national championship. The Fighting Irish were the first ACC team to be ranked No. 1 in either major national poll since March 12, 2007, when Duke was in that position prior to the NCAA Championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 157 of the past 158 weeks (and 121 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 289 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
This marks the seventh consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the WBCA/USA Today poll, as well as 13 of the past 17 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 33 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 294 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 33 people on this list, 18 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005 and 2012).
Half And Half
During the past 15 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 340-19 (.947) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 268 of their last 281 such contests (.954).
What’s more, in the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 177-2 (.989) when leading at the half, with the only losses coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 20 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season, the Fighting Irish have an amazing 310-15 (.954) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game (18-0 record this season).
…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 20 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 231-6 (.975) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.
In the past six years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 108-2 (.982) when topping the 80-point mark, including an active 75-game winning streak since a 94-81 loss at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT final.
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 268 of their last 298 games (.899), all but one game/win at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 34, 25 and 20 games in that span.
- Since Purcell Pavilion was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 94-6 (.940) — including wins in 70 of its last 73 games — and three of the six Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).
- Notre Dame has a 212-30 (.876) record in regular season conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to BIG EAST foe Villanova in the 2002 home finale.
- The Fighting Irish have been especially strong when it comes to non-league home games, winning 126 of their last 136 out-of-conference home contests (.926), dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the 10 losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT), Baylor in 2012 (73-61) and Connecticut in 2014 (76-58).
- Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all but one of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 417-91 (.821) record at the venerable facility, including a school-record 17 home wins in three of the past four seasons (2011-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15).
One Of Nation’s Toughest Cities To Play In
According to a study released by the University of Utah Athletic Media Relations Office, Notre Dame and Purcell Pavilion are among the toughest places in the nation to play. In fact, Notre Dame is one of just 11 programs in the nation to own a winning percentage of .800 or better in its home city.
Fighting Irish Are Hottest Ticket In Town
The past five seasons saw an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10 and 2013-14), highest average attendance (8,979 fans per game in 2012-13) and most sellouts in a single season (11 in 2012-13). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For the sixth year in a row, 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 post four sellouts (Dec. 6 vs. UConn; Jan. 2 vs. Florida State; Jan. 11 vs. Boston College; Jan. 19 vs. Tennessee).
As of March 16, Notre Dame ranks sixth in the nation in attendance, averaging 8,835 fans per game. That equates to 96.57 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s capacity, the highest such percentage of any team in the country. DePaul is second at 92.53 percent, while Gonzaga (89.44 percent) and Kentucky (84.91 percent) are the only other Division I schools currently filling their arenas to better than 70 percent capacity this season.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Whitney Holloway, senior forward Markisha Wright and junior guard Michaela Mabrey are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2014-15 season. All three players received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
This is the seventh time in 11 seasons the Fighting Irish have had a trio of captains, as well as the second year in a row (Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride filled the captaincy trio last season).
Achonwa, Irish Helping A Friend In Need
Former Notre Dame All-America forward and 2014 WNBA first-round draft pick Natalie Achonwa is in her first year as an operations specialist on the Fighting Irish staff, having assumed that post last June.
In her current role, Achonwa oversees the program’s travel plans, supervising the team’s student managers, helping oversee the program’s popular summer camps and serving as a liaison for the team’s numerous community service projects, helping fill the void left by fellow operations specialist Katie Schwab, who has been hospitalized since June 9, 2014, following complications related to her Type I diabetes.
The Notre Dame women’s basketball program and several of Schwab’s supporters within and outside the University have banded together to hold several fundraisers to help defray some of Schwab’s medical expenses. The most notable of these fundraisers came in August, when the group (known informally as “Team Katie”) generated approximately $21,000 through a live and silent auction at the legendary Linebacker Lounge (across from the Notre Dame campus), as well as through online donations.
Notre Dame held its first Diabetes Awareness Day on Nov. 23 prior to the Fighting Irish home win over Holy Cross, and the team is active with the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDRF), including participation in its annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes on Sept. 14, 2014, in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana.
Schwab’s family continues to provide regular updates on her condition through the CaringBridge web site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katieschwab.
Next Game: NCAA Second Round
With a victory over Montana, Notre Dame would advance to the second round of the NCAA Championship, where it would meet either eighth-seeded Minnesota or No. 9 seed DePaul at 9 p.m. (ET) Sunday at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be televised on ESPN and through the WatchESPN app.
The Fighting Irish are 0-2 all-time against Minnesota, with both losses coming in NCAA first-round games at Purcell Pavilion (81-76 in 1994; 79-71 in 2009).
Notre Dame is 21-19 all-time against DePaul, following a 94-93 overtime win over the Blue Demons back on Dec. 10 in Chicago.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director