Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy has accepted an invitation to play in the 2006 WBCA All-Star Challenge April 1 at Matthews Arena in Boston. She will be the third Irish departing senior to play in the game and second in as many years.

#21/22 Notre Dame Battles #10/9 Rutgers Tuesday

Jan. 23, 2006

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* Notre Dame will take on its sixth ranked opponent this season, having gone 3-2 vs. Top 25 opponents thus far in 2005-06.
* The Irish are seeking their first victory over Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center since Feb. 16, 2002 (a 57-52 win).

After squaring its BIG EAST Conference record and picking up its third win in four games, the road doesn’t get any easier for the No. 21/22 Notre Dame women’s basketball team as the Irish visit No. 10/9 Rutgers Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. (ET) contest. The game will be broadcast to a nationwide cable audience by College Sports Television (CSTV) as part of the BIG EAST Game of the Week package.

Notre Dame (12-5, 3-3 BIG EAST) earned back-to-back wins for the first time since Dec. 17-18 when it held on for a 54-52 victory at Georgetown on Saturday. The Irish led by as many as 17 points three times in the second half, but let things get interesting down the stretch, as the Hoyas mounted a 19-4 run and had a look at a game-winning three-pointer in the final seconds. Senior guard Megan Duffy led Notre Dame with 16 points and five assists, while sophomore center Melissa D’Amico matched her career high with 10 rebounds.

* Notre Dame is ranked 21st in this week’s Associated Press poll and was 22nd in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. * Rutgers is ranked 10th in this week’s Associated Press poll and was 9th in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.

Web Sites
* Notre Dame:
* Rutgers:

Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 19th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the country’s leading women’s basketball powers. The Irish have appeared in 12 NCAA Tournaments (including the past 10 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine years. Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four twice, winning college basketball’s ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.

In its history, Notre Dame has developed eight All-Americans, eight WNBA players (including five draft picks in the past five years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 29th season in 2005-06, the Irish own an all-time record of 587-259 (.694).

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
Saint Joseph’s ’77
* 19th season at Notre Dame
* 423-160 (.726) at Notre Dame.
* 511-201 (.718) in 24 years as head coach.

* 2001 consensus National Coach of the Year
* Four-time Naismith Coach of the Year finalist
* Four-time conference Coach of the Year
* BIG EAST Conference (2001)
* Midwestern Collegiate Conference (1991)
* North Star Conference (1988)
* East Coast Conference (@ Lehigh) (1983)

A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
The 2005-06 season was expected to be a unique one for Notre Dame and it has lived up to that assessment thus far. Despite losing two of their top three scorers and their two primary rebounders from a year ago, the Irish bolted to a 9-1 record, highlighted by two wins over Top 25 teams (USC and Utah) as well as the championship at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas.

However, Notre Dame then saw its fortunes reversed, as the Irish dropped four of their next five, including their first three-game losing streak in eight years. Then, as quickly as the misfortune arrived, it disappeared, with Notre Dame wining three of its last four games, including its third win over a ranked opponent this season (78-75 over No. 10 DePaul on Jan. 17).

One of the keys for the Irish this season has been their offensive balance. On 12 occasions, Notre Dame has had at least three players scoring in double figures, and eight separate players have cracked double digits at least twice this year. Additionally, five different players have led the team in scoring at some point.

The Irish also have the benefit of strong leadership in senior All-America point guard and two-year team captain Megan Duffy. The 5-foot-7 Dayton, Ohio, native spent last summer as a co-captain and starter on the United States World University Games Team that rolled to the gold medal with a 7-0 record. Duffy herself directed an American offense that averaged 97.4 points per game and set a USA World University Games record with a scoring margin of +43.1 ppg.

Back stateside, Duffy continues to make improvements in her game each night out and has been a strong all-around contributor and leader for Notre Dame once again this year. The veteran floor general is averaging a team-best 15.9 points, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game, with a 1.70 assist/turnover ratio, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in all four categories. In addition, she leads the league and is 13th in the nation in foul shooting (.923). She also has led the team in scoring 10 times and in assists 12 times this year. Duffy was named BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week on Monday, following a superb week that saw her average 19.5 points, 7.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds with a .550 field goal percentage in wins over 10th-ranked DePaul and Georgetown. Duffy also has been tapped for the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll three times this season, and she earned a spot on the Duel in the Desert All-Tournament Team after averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 assists in piloting the Irish to the tourney title.

Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader has shown tremendous promise in her first season with the Irish. The former McDonald’s All-American already has been named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week once (Nov. 21) after turning in an impressive 10-point, 14-rebound effort in her debut outing against Michigan, becoming just the second player in school history (first since 1979) to record a double-double in her first game. She also averaged 13.5 points per game and shot 80 percent from the field (12-of-15) in wins over Iona and Wisconsin, going 6-of-6 in the latter contest. Those marks earned Schrader a spot on the Dec. 5 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll, the first freshman to appear on that list this season. She also tacked on her second double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds in Notre Dame’s win over No. 22/21 Utah at the Duel in the Desert, before leading all players with 13 points and seven rebounds against Valparaiso. Schrader is second on the team in scoring (8.5 ppg.) and leads in rebounding (6.0 rpg.).

Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico has proven to be a solid complement in the post to the perimeter presence of Duffy and Schrader. D’Amico is third on the team in scoring (8.4 ppg.) and rebounding (5.5 rpg.), while setting the pace in both blocked shots (1.35 bpg., tied-fifth in the BIG EAST) and field goal percentage (.500). Those figures are a far cry from her rookie season, when she logged 1.9 ppg. and 1.4 rpg. with a .438 field goal percentage in 26 games. The pre-Christmas Duel in the Desert was D’Amico’s best showing to date, as she averaged 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with an .824 field goal percentage (14-of-17) en route to tournament Most Valuable Player and BIG EAST Player of the Week honors.

Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish

  • Notre Dame’s No. 21 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll represents the 30th consecutive appearance for the Irish in that survey, dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. All told, Notre Dame has appeared in 139 Associated Press polls since the balloting debuted 30 years ago, with their first AP ranking (No. 25) coming on Dec. 31, 1990.
  • With its No. 10 AP ranking on Dec. 5, the Irish have appeared in the top 10 of the media balloting at some point in seven of the past 10 years (including three of the past four seasons). Notre Dame has spent a total of 73 weeks in the AP top 10 during the program’s 29-year history and owns a 110-21 (.840) record when it’s ranked in the top 10.
  • The Irish have won 57 of their last 61 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Three of the losses in that span have come against Big Ten Conference opponents (Wisconsin in 1996, Purdue in 2003, Michigan State in 2004), with the other coming back on Dec. 31 vs. No. 1 Tennessee.
  • The Irish defense continues to be its calling card. In each of the past six seasons, Notre Dame has held its opponents to an average of less than 62 points per game, including a 56.8 ppg. mark last year, which ranked as the third-lowest opponent scoring average in school history and second-best of the Muffet McGraw era (55.8 ppg. in 2000-01). Thus far in 2005-06, the Irish are allowing opponents to score 61.3 ppg.
  • The Irish are 3-2 against ranked teams this season and have posted 40 wins over Top 25 opponents in the past eight seasons (1998-99 to present), most recently knocking off No. 10/10 DePaul, 78-75 on Jan. 17 at the Joyce Center. In each of the past two years, Notre Dame has set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents. Furthermore, since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Irish are 12-3 (.800) at home against Top 25 competition (2-1 this year).
  • Drawing 5,311 fans to its Jan. 17 game vs. DePaul, the Irish now have welcomed crowds of 5,000 or more fans to 73 of their last 75 home games. The only two blemishes on that mark came in the semifinals and finals of last year’s Preseason WNIT, because tickets for those games could not be included in the Notre Dame season ticket package and had to be purchased separately.
  • The capacity crowd of 11,418 for the Dec. 31 home game vs. top-ranked Tennessee was the third sellout in program history and the 19-day advance sellout was the quickest in the 29-year history of Irish women’s basketball. As of Jan. 23, it also was the 23rd-largest crowd in the nation. For the season, Notre Dame ranks ninth in the country in average home attendance with 6,566 fans per game.
  • Senior guard Megan Duffy was named a preseason All-American by three sources, has been cited on the preseason watch lists for both the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Women’s Award, and was tabbed as one of the top five point guards in the nation by Duffy also was a preseason all-BIG EAST Conference selection, following up her first-team all-league citation last year.
  • With a 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to reach the 500-win mark. She also is the 10th Division I coach to earn her 500th victory prior to age 50. McGraw reached another milestone on Nov. 29 vs. Iona with her 700th career game as a head coach.

A Quick Look At Rutgers
Building upon last season’s trip to the NCAA Elite Eight, Rutgers is 13-3 this season and is one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the BIG EAST Conference to this point with a 5-0 record in league play.

The Scarlet Knights are coming off an 80-55 victory over Louisville at home on Saturday. RU used a 27-1 first-half run to seize control of the contest and never let the Cardinals get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

Senior guard Cappie Pondexter connected on 11-of-17 shots and finished with a game-high 27 points for Rutgers. Freshman center Kia Vaughn was solid off the bench with 13 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks, while sophomore guard Matee Ajavon also produced in a reserve role with 14 points and seven assists.

Pondexter leads the Scarlet Knights and ranks second in the BIG EAST in scoring (22.0 ppg.), while also placing among the league leaders in field goal percentage (.528), three-point percentage (.481) and assists (3.94 apg.). Ajavon is second on the team in scoring (11.0 ppg.) and tops in steals (2.31 spg.), while senior forward Michelle Campbell, last year’s BIG EAST Most Improved Player, is logging 9.3 ppg. with a team-best .582 field goal percentage.

C. Vivian Stringer is in her 11th season as the head coach at Rutgers, owning a 216-114 (.655) record with the Scarlet Knights. Stringer is in the 34th season of her legendary coaching career, having made prior stops at Cheyney and Iowa, and piling up a 736-249 (.747) record. She is 9-9 all-time vs. Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Rutgers Series
Since Notre Dame and Rutgers joined the BIG EAST Conference in time for the 1995-96 season, their annual matchups have exemplified the rugged and exciting nature of BIG EAST women’s basketball. The Scarlet Knights hold a 12-9 edge in the series, including a 7-3 lead in Piscataway, dating back to the formative stages of the rivalry more than two decades ago.

Notre Dame and Rutgers first played early in the 1982-83 season at the Orange Crush Classic in Chicago, with RU coming away with an 81-74 victory. The Scarlet Knights went on to claim the first three series matchups, all of which came prior to the teams entering the BIG EAST.

Following a nine-year layoff, the Irish faced Rutgers in the first-ever BIG EAST game for both schools, and Notre Dame earned a 66-54 win at the Joyce Center. That touched off a stretch that would see the Irish win eight of 13 series games between 1996 and 2002, capped by a 57-52 Notre Dame win at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Feb. 16, 2002 – the last time the Irish won a road game in the series.

Since then, Rutgers has had the upper hand against the Irish, winning four of the past five meetings. The two sides split a pair of games last season, with each successfully defending their home court. Notre Dame won 63-47 on Jan. 23, 2005, behind a 23-0 second-half run, before Rutgers logged a 59-48 win on Feb. 19, 2005, to help RU win the BIG EAST regular-season title.

Other Notre Dame-Rutgers Series Tidbits

  • Tuesday night’s game will mark the 22nd series meeting between Notre Dame and Rutgers, tying Georgetown for the most series games against a BIG EAST opponent in school history. The Irish also have played 21 times vs. Connecticut, as well as 20 times against Syracuse and Villanova. Notre Dame has faced new BIG EAST foes Marquette (31) and DePaul (24) more often than Rutgers and Georgetown, due in part to their regional proximity and former ties in the North Star Conference and/or Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
  • The series is evenly split at 9-9 since Notre Dame and Rutgers joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.
  • The Irish will be playing in Piscataway for the fifth time in the past six seasons, with the only time they didn’t play at RU coming in 2002-03. However, Notre Dame still visited the Louis Brown Athletic Center for the BIG EAST Conference Championship, splitting two games.
  • In three of the past five series meetings, the winning team has had to overcome a double-digit deficit; most recently, it was the Irish who pulled off the feat, erasing a 13-point deficit to win, 63-47 on Jan. 23, 2005 at the Joyce Center.
  • Both teams are known for their defense, so it should come as no surprise that neither side has cracked 70 points in a regulation game since a 77-57 Rutgers win on Feb. 13, 1999 in Piscataway.
  • Nearly half (10) of the 21 series matchups between Notre Dame and Rutgers have been decided by single-digit margins, including two overtime contests (both in 2000).
  • Notre Dame senior guard Megan Duffy and Rutgers senior guard Cappie Pondexter served as co-captains and starting backcourt mates on the 2005 USA World University Games Team that went 7-0 and won the gold medal this past August in Izmir, Turkey.
  • Duffy was the BIG EAST Most Improved Player in 2003-04 before handing that award off to Rutgers forward Michelle Campbell last season.
  • Notre Dame freshman guard Lindsay Schrader is the reigning Illinois Miss Basketball, an award that Pondexter won in each of her final two seasons (2000 and 2001) at John Marshall High School in Chicago. The award winner between Pondexter and Schrader? Tennessee’s Candace Parker, who won the honor three times.
  • Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw and Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer both are members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Board of Directors. They were appointed to their posts (McGraw as NCAA Division I Legislative Chair; Stringer as a Division I at-large representative) in June 2005 by new WBCA president (and DePaul head coach) Doug Bruno.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Rutgers Met
Chelsea Newton had 14 points and eight assists and No. 10 Rutgers posted its fifth win over a top 10 team this season with a 59-48 victory over No. 5 Notre Dame on Feb. 19, 2005, in Piscataway, N.J., snapping a season-high 10-game Irish winning streak.

Cappie Pondexter added 13 points as the Scarlet Knights (20-5, 11-2 BIG EAST) stayed unbeaten at home (12-0) and moved into first place in the league.

Jacqueline Batteast and Megan Duffy had 14 points apiece to lead Notre Dame, which was held to a season-low point total by Rutgers’ tenacious and physical defense. The previous low was 50 in a loss to Connecticut and a win over Marquette.

Rutgers forced 23 turnovers, including 10 by Duffy, Notre Dame’s usually reliable point guard. The Irish didn’t find enough open room to attempt a three-pointer until Duffy launched an NBA-length trey with 4:17 to play.

Still, Notre Dame had a chance. Trailing 32-19 at the half after hitting only five field goals and shooting 25 percent, the Irish opened the second half with an 11-1 spurt. A layup by Courtney LaVere got the Irish to 33-31 with 15:05 to play, and it seemed they would get a chance to tie the game when Rutgers fumbled the ball in the final seconds of the next possession.

However, Matee Ajavon managed to pick up the loose ball and threw in an off-balance floater. The basket started a 12-2 run that featured a steal and layup by Ajavon and a basket and three-pointer by Newton, who had 12 points in the second half.

Pondexter was the difference in the first half, hitting all five of her field goals, including two three-pointers, in helping Rutgers jump to an early lead it never lost.

Batteast, the BIG EAST’s second-leading scorer, was 3-of-14 from the field. She also was cut above the right eye in the game.

Beasts Of The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 140-34 (.805) in regular-season competition against the rest of BIG EAST Conference, owning the best conference winning percentage of any current member of the BIG EAST since joining the circuit for the 1995-96 campaign. The Irish also have won 96 of their last 120 regular-season conference games, have finished among the top three in the BIG EAST nine times in their 10-year membership, and claimed a share of their first-ever regular-season conference championship in 2001.

When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 154-44 (.778) vs. league opponents – factoring in 23 postseason tilts, the Irish are 78-9 (.897) at home, 62-28 (.689) on the road and 14-7 (.667) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

Duffy Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne HS) has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week, the league office announced Monday. It’s the first time this season, and the second time in her career, that Duffy has been tapped for the conference’s top weekly individual honor, although she has earned a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll three times in 2005-06. She previously received the BIG EAST Player of the Week designation on Dec. 8, 2003.

Last week, Duffy averaged 19.5 points, 7.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game with a .550 field goal percentage (11-of-20) and a perfect 1.000 free throw percentage (13-of-13) as Notre Dame picked up victories over No. 10 DePaul and Georgetown. Against DePaul, Duffy nearly registered the second triple-double in school history (and first in 16 years), finishing with 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Irish earned their third win over a ranked opponent in five tries this season. Then, at Georgetown, she came back with team highs of 16 points and five assists, along with five rebounds, as Notre Dame carded its third victory in the past four games.

Duffy is the second Irish women’s basketball player to be named BIG EAST Player of the Week this year, following the selection of sophomore center Melissa D’Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd HS) on Dec. 19. In addition, freshman guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) garnered the first BIG EAST Freshman of the Week citation of the season back on Nov. 21.

Finding A Way
Notre Dame is 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less, following Saturday’s 54-52 victory at Georgetown. The only time this year that the Irish didn’t win a close game was Jan. 4 at St. John’s, when the Red Storm edged Notre Dame, 66-63 in Jamaica, N.Y.

It’s Clear As Glass
The Irish are 9-1 this season in games where they win the rebounding battle. The only time Notre Dame has not come away with a win when it outrebounded the opposition was Jan. 4 at St. John’s, when the Irish held a 41-21 board edge over the Red Storm, but dropped a 66-63 decision in Jamaica, N.Y.

When The Game Is On The Line…
The Irish have posted a .679 free throw percentage (57-of-84) in the final two minutes and overtime of games this season. Leading the way is senior guard Megan Duffy, who has made 28 of her 30 foul shots (.933) in crunch time.

History On The Horizon
Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy is two steals away from becoming only the fifth player in school history to record 1,000 points and 200 steals in her career. Duffy has 1,092 points and 198 steals since arriving in South Bend in 2002.

With those two thefts, Duffy would join Karen Robinson (1987-91), Krissi Davis (1987-91), Katryna Gaither (1993-97) and Niele Ivey (1996-2001) in that elite club.

What’s more, Duffy has 449 career assists, putting her just 51 handouts short of pairing with Robinson and Ivey as the only Notre Dame players ever to amass 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals in their careers.

Second-Half Sizzle
In eight of their 12 victories this season, Notre Dame has used a significant second-half run to either take control or battle their way back into the contest. Six times, the Irish trailed at some point in the final 11 minutes, but on the strength of their second-half run, rallied to take the win.

Game #17 Recap: Georgetown
Senior guard Megan Duffy scored 16 points and No. 24/22 Notre Dame defeated Georgetown, 54-52 on Saturday in Washington, D.C., giving the Irish their first BIG EAST Conference road win of the season.

Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico had 10 rebounds for the Irish (12-5, 3-3 BIG EAST), who scored only one field goal in the last 10 minutes as late-charging Georgetown put together a 19-4 run.

Bethany LeSueur scored 19 points and Kieraah Marlow added 12 for the Hoyas (8-9, 1-5). Kate Carlin’s off-balance three-pointer from the right wing fell short at the buzzer, sending Georgetown to its third straight defeat.

Junior guard Breona Gray, who had missed only one foul shot all season, had the chance to seal the game, but she couldn’t convert on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 14.9 seconds to play. She got to the line after stealing Nikki Bozeman’s pass on the previous possession.

The Irish led 32-18 at halftime. They extended the lead to 17 three times, the last coming on sophomore guard Charel Allen’s layup with 10:07 left.

Notre Dame led 19-6 early as the Hoyas shot 1-of-11 from the floor in the opening six-plus minutes.

Noting The Georgetown Win

  • Notre Dame has won three of its last four games since suffering its first three-game losing streak in eight years.
  • Notre Dame is 20-2 all-time against Georgetown, including an 8-1 mark in Washington, D.C.
  • The Hoyas are the sixth opponent in Irish women’s basketball history against whom Notre Dame has registered 20-or-more wins (others are: Marquette – 27, Dayton & Detroit – 22, Loyola (Ill.) & Xavier – 20).
  • The Irish have held Georgetown to less than 70 points in 16 of 17 BIG EAST Conference meetings, going 16-0 vs. the Hoyas when they register such a defensive effort.
  • Georgetown’s 52 points were the fewest it has scored vs. the Irish at McDonough Arena since Jan. 6, 1998 (a 69-44 ND win).
  • The 52 points also were the fewest allowed by Notre Dame to a BIG EAST opponent this year (previous: 61 by Louisville on Jan. 14) and the third-fewest by any foe this year (season-best: 45 by Michigan on Nov. 18).
  • GU’s 18 first-half points tied an Irish opponent season low, originally set by Valparaiso on Dec. 28.
  • After shooting a combined .582 (39-67) from the foul line during its three-game losing streak, the Irish have connected at a .697 clip (53-76) in their last four outings.
  • Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico tied her career high with 10 rebounds, matching the total she had on Nov. 27 vs. No. 24/21 USC.
  • Senior forward Courtney LaVere grabbed her 500th career rebound in the Georgetown win (she now has 503 all-time caroms).

Duffy Joins Irish 1,000-Point Club…
Senior co-captain and All-America guard Megan Duffy became the 21st member of Notre Dame’s 1,000-Point Club with her 13-point night at St. John’s on Jan. 4. Duffy eclipsed the milestone on an old-fashioned three-point play with 14:01 left in the game.

Duffy now has 1,092 career points, 14 shy of Danielle Green (1995-2000) for 17th on the Irish career scoring chart.

…And LaVere Follows Suit 10 Days Later
Senior co-captain and forward Courtney LaVere joined Duffy as a 1,000-point scorer at Notre Dame on Jan. 14 at Louisville, hitting a hook shot in the lane 2:27 into the contest. LaVere now has 1,019 career points, putting her 15 markers behind Mollie Peirick (1994-98) for 20th on the Irish all-time scoring list.

The Duffy-LaVere 1,000-point tandem marks just the fifth time in school history have teammates reached the 1,000-point plateau in the same season, with Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon the last to do so in 2000-01.

Duffy and LaVere also have recorded the shortest span between hitting the mark (three games). The previous school record was eight games, the term between Mary Beth Schueth and Carrie Bates scoring their 1,000th points in the 1984-85 season.

Give Her Five (Hundred)
With Notre Dame’s 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th women’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 500-win mark. McGraw now has a career record of 511-201 (.718) in 24 years of coaching, including 19 seasons at Notre Dame (423-160, .726).

Here’s a closer look at how that milestone victory breaks down for McGraw:

  • She is the 10th NCAA Division I women’s basketball coach to register her 500th victory before turning 50 (her birthday was Dec. 5).
  • McGraw is the fourth active coach in the BIG EAST Conference to reach the career 500-win mark, joining Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Villanova’s Harry Perretta.
  • She is the third BIG EAST coach in as many seasons to celebrate her 500th win. Auriemma hit the milestone late in the 2002-03 campaign, while Perretta joined the club with his landmark victory midway through last season.

Join The Club
The Irish women’s basketball team is one of eight Notre Dame squads this year to be ranked in the top 10 in its respective sport at some point during the season – the cagers joined the party when they earned the No. 10 spot in the Dec. 5 AP poll. The other top-10 Irish teams include (highest rank listed): women’s fencin (1st), men’s fencing (2nd), women’s cross country (3rd), football (5th AP), men’s cross country (5th), women’s soccer (5th) and volleyball (7th).

In addition, all six of Notre Dame’s fall sports teams advanced at least as far as the round of 16 (or its equivalent) in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish cross country teams both finished among the top 10 at the NCAA Championships (men – 3rd; women – 7th), while the women’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals (lost at eventual champion Portland), and the men’s soccer squad made its first-ever trip to the Sweet 16 before bowing by a 1-0 count at College Cup participant Clemson.

The Irish volleyball team reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1997, falling to Wisconsin in five games down in College Station, Texas.

Meanwhile, the Notre Dame football team advanced to its first Bowl Championship Series game since 2000, dropping a 34-20 decision to No. 4 Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

On the strength of their success to date, the Irish were first in the final fall standings for the NACDA/USSA Directors’ Cup (released Jan. 10) with 412 points, outpacing Penn State (308.5) and Stanford (282).

This marks the second consecutive year that Notre Dame has ranked atop the final fall standings, and its 412 points are its highest-ever fall total.

Half And Half
During the past six seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 107-10 (.915) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 35 of their last 39 such contests. Notre Dame has won 10 games this season when it led at the break (the Irish were tied at halftime of their win over No. 24/21 USC).

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 11 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 Irish have an amazing 156-9 (.945) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame is 6-0 in such games 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 decade (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 91-3 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998.

Sweet Success
Notre Dame is one of only nine schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine seasons (1997-2005). The others are Connecticut and Tennessee (nine times), Duke (eight times), Louisiana Tech (seven times), and Georgia, LSU, North Carolina and Texas Tech (six times).

The Gold Standard
The Irish are one of six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 12 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in this club are Tennessee (29), Texas Tech (16), Louisiana Tech (14), Old Dominion (14) and Connecticut (12).

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 Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 133 of their last 146 games (.911) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 78-9 (.897) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 57 of their last 61 non-BIG EAST contests (.934) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only three losses in that span all came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents – Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54) and Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT). The Purdue loss 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 Joyce Center, posting a 283-74 (.793) record at the venerable facility. In three of the previous six seasons (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.

Jammin’ The Joyce
Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past five years, including a No. 16 rating in 2004-05 (5,830 fans per game). Notre Dame has averaged 6,566 fans in its eight home games this season, and is ninth in the latest unofficial national attendance rankings, released each Monday by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office.

What’s more, each of the top 20 women’s basketball crowds in Joyce Center history have occurred during the 19-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present), with 19 of those 20 occurring in the past six seasons (2000-01 to present). Lastly, the Irish have attracted at least 5,000 fans to 73 of their last 75 home games, including 13 contests with at least 8,000 fans and the first three sellouts in the program’s history.

The most recent sellout in Notre Dame women’s basketball history took place on Dec 31, when 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center for the Irish matchup with No. 1 Tennessee, the 23rd-largest crowd in the nation this season (as of Jan. 23). The game sold out 19 days in advance, making its the fastest sellout in the 29-year history of the program.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Notre Dame’s two seniors – guard Megan Duffy and forward Courtney LaVere – are serving as team captains for the 2005-06 season. Duffy is in her second year as a captain (making her the 16th two-time captain in school history, and 12th in the Muffet McGraw era), while LaVere is a first-time captain. Both players received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

They’ve Got The Know-How
Notre Dame is one of only two schools in the country that have two or more WNBA veterans on their coaching staffs. Associate head coach Coquese Washington played six seasons (1998-2003) in the league with three different clubs, and also served as the first-ever president of the WNBA Players Association. Meanwhile, assistant coach Angie Potthoff spent the 2000 season as a starter with the Minnesota Lynx after two years in the now-defunct American Basketball League (ABL) with the two-time league champion Columbus Quest.

Besides Notre Dame, Virginia Commonwealth is the other school with multiple WNBA veterans on its staff. VCU assistant coach Wendy Palmer-Daniel currently plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars, while the Rams’ head coach is a familiar name to Irish women’s basketball fans – Beth (Morgan) Cunningham, who played for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics in 2000 after an All-America career at Notre Dame from 1993-97.

Special thanks to Virginia Commonwealth women’s basketball SID Chris Kowalczyk for compiling this information.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have nine of its regular-season games televised during the 2005-06 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket are six nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including three consecutive games on the ESPN family of networks during a 12-day span in mid-February.

This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 (and including games to date this year), Notre Dame has played in 64 televised games, including 39 that were broadcast nationally. Last year, the Irish had 17 games televised, with 10 being national broadcasts.

Notre Dame is 3-1 in televised games this season. The Irish defeated Western Michigan (71-68 on Nov. 20) and No. 24/21 USC (73-62 on Nov. 27) in contests broadcast live to a regional audience by Comcast Local (based in Detroit). Notre Dame’s last two TV games both were aired nationally by College Sports Television (CSTV), with the Irish falling to top-ranked Tennessee, 62-51 on Dec. 31, but defeating No. 10 DePaul, 78-75 on Jan. 17.

Four of the remaining five televised games on the ’05-06 Notre Dame schedule also are slated for national broadcasts. The last of three Irish appearances on CSTV will be part of the BIG EAST/CSTV Tuesday Game of the Week package, as Notre Dame visits Rutgers Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. (ET) tip. CSTV has aired 10 Notre Dame women’s basketball games during the past four seasons (2002-03 to present), with the first being that network’s inaugural broadcast of any sport (a Feb. 2003 game at Connecticut).

The Irish then make three consecutive appearances on the ESPN family of networks, beginning with a Feb. 7 home game against Villanova that will be broadcast live on ESPNU. That game will tip off at 6 p.m. (ET), one hour earlier than previously listed on some schedules. The following Sunday (Feb. 12), Notre Dame will travel to DePaul for a 4:40 p.m. CT (5:40 p.m. ET) game that will air on ESPN2 as part of that network’s “February Frenzy” split-national coverage designed to preview a similar coverage pattern for the NCAA Tournament. The Irish are back on ESPN2 on Feb. 19, when they play host to Connecticut in a 7 p.m. (ET) prime-time BIG EAST showdown at the Joyce Center. During the past five seasons, Notre Dame has appeared on the ESPN family of networks 24 times, averaging nearly five telecasts per year on “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”.

Notre Dame will make its final regular-season television appearance on Feb. 25, when it travels to new conference member Cincinnati for a 2 p.m. (ET) game that will air as part of the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) package. Among the outlets scheduled to televise the game live are WHME-TV (Channel 46 in South Bend), Comcast Chicago, Comcast Local, Comcast Philadelphia and Madison Square Garden Network.

Notre Dame On The Airwaves
Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on the flagship stations of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network – WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1580) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his sixth season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site ( by subscribing to Fighting Irish All-Access, which gives listeners full multimedia access to a variety of Irish athletics events for only $6.95 per month.

Check Out The New Digs
The Notre Dame women’s basketball program recently relocated its first-floor offices at the Joyce Center to the west wing of the facility, adjacent to Gate 1. The renovated suites include plasma televisions in each coach’s individual office (as well as one in the main conference room), a stand-alone video editing facility and tape library (complete with the latest in video editing technology and software), and spacious meeting facilities. The centerpiece of the offices is the main reception area, which features a hardwood floor comprised entirely of the exact court upon which the Irish won the 2001 NCAA Championship at the Saavis Center in St. Louis.

The new women’s basketball offices are part of a series of relocations and renovations of office space within the Joyce Center. The Irish men’s basketball program – which previously filled the space where the women now reside – has moved to the opposite corner of the first-floor west wing offices, taking over the Gate 2 area formerly occupied by the Notre Dame football program (which now operates out of the 95,840-square foot Guglielmino Athletics Complex that opened last summer and is located northeast of the Joyce Center).

Riley Named One Of’s Top 25 Players Of The Past 25 Years
Former Notre Dame All-America center and 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley has been selected as one of the top 25 women’s college basketball players of the past 25 years, according to The list of all-time greats was released Jan. 10 in conjunction with the silver anniversary celebration of the inaugural NCAA women’s basketball season in 1981-82.

A native of Macy, Ind., Riley was tapped as one of the legends of the sport in part because of her contributions in the NCAA Tournament, where she led Notre Dame to three NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and the 2001 national championship. In the ’01 NCAA title game vs. Purdue, Riley tallied 28 points (on 9-of-13 shooting), 13 rebounds and seven blocks, not to mention the two game-winning free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining which snapped a 66-66 tie. It was an effort that termed as “the third-best all-time championship game performance in NCAA history.” That outing capped a six-game NCAA tourney stretch in which the 6-foot-5 post averaged 23.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game while shooting at a .632 clip (48-of-76).

Riley was a two-time first-team Associated Press All-America selection and two-time CoSIDA Academic All-America choice, earning Academic All-America Team Member of the Year honors in 2001. In addition, she was a three-time first team all-BIG EAST selection, earning the league’s Player of the Year award in 2001 and the conference Defensive Player of the Year hardware three consecutive years. The only player in school history to amass 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career (2,072 points/1,007 rebounds), Riley also is the Irish all-time leader in seven statistical categories, including blocked shots (370 – fifth in NCAA history) and field goal percentage (.632 – 11th in NCAA history).

Next Game: South Florida
Notre Dame tips off a stretch of three home games in its next four outings when it plays host to BIG EAST Conference newcomer South Florida Saturday at noon (ET) at the Joyce Center. The Irish and Bulls will be playing one another for just the third time ever, with Notre Dame winning the prior two meetings in 1997 and 1998.

USF (13-6, 3-3) has made a seamless transition to the BIG EAST, thanks in part to the play of junior guard Jessica Dickson, who leads the nation in scoring at 24.7 points per game. The Bulls have won their last two games, and will pay a visit to fifth-ranked Connecticut Tuesday night before traveling to South Bend for their weekend matinee with the Irish.