March 1, 2009
2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 28
#23/22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (20-7 / 9-6 BIG EAST) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (16-12 / 5-10 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 2, 2009
TIME: 3:30 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: ND leads 15-2
1ST MTG: ND 73-55 (2/26/96)
LAST MTG: WVU 56-50 (1/13/08)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (video) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
- Notre Dame is 25-6 (.806) all-time on Senior Day, including an 18-3 (.857) record in the Muffet McGraw era.
- The Irish are in the unique position of celebrating Senior Day without a single departing senior player on their roster for the first time in the 22-year McGraw era.
No. 23/22 Irish Close Out Regular Season Monday Against West Virginia
Normally, a matchup between Notre Dame and West Virginia wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, but Monday’s matchup will have an unusual flavor to it as the No. 23/22 Irish and Mountaineers close out the regular season at the Joyce Center. Not only will the game tip off at the unorthodox time of 3:30 p.m (ET), but it also will feature a pre-game Senior Day ceremony without a single Irish senior player being honored (all 12 players on the roster are set to return next year, although two graduating senior managers will be recognized on Monday).
The Irish (20-7, 9-6) clinched their 15th 20-win season in 16 years with a 65-56 victory at Providence this past Saturday. Senior guard Lindsay Schrader tallied a game-high 18 points and added a team-best eight rebounds, while sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added 16 points for Notre Dame. Junior guard Ashley Barlow chipped in 10 points, including eight in a game-changing 10-0 second-half run.
- Notre Dame was ranked 23rd in last week’s Associated Press poll and was 22nd in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
- West Virginia was not ranked last week.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Having earned its 15th 20-win season in the past 16 years and a winning BIG EAST record for the 13th time in its 14-year conference membership, Notre Dame (20-7, 9-6) was ranked 23rd in last week’s Associated Press poll and 22nd in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll. The Irish remain in a three-way tie for fifth place (with DePaul and Rutgers) in the BIG EAST standings and are locked into a seed from No. 5-7 for the upcoming BIG EAST Championship.
Despite losing two key players (sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory) to season-ending knee injuries earlier in the year, Notre Dame consistently has ranked among the top 40 teams in the nation in scoring offense (currently 22nd at 72.7 ppg.) and field goal percentage (33rd at .440).
The Irish also feature a balanced offense that sees four players presently scoring in double figures. In addition, nine different players have led the team in scoring at least once during the year, while 10 of the 12 players have scored in double figures at least once to date.
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader has posted career-high averages almost across the board this season, leading the squad in scoring (12.9 ppg.) and rebounding (7.3 rpg.). She also has recorded a team-high five double-doubles this year, and is averaging 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in her last four games.
Junior guard Ashley Barlow is second on the team in both scoring (12.7 ppg.) and rebounding (4.9 rpg.). She also is among the BIG EAST leaders in steals (2.56 spg.) and has knocked down a team-high 34 three-pointers (including a career-high four treys at top-ranked Connecticut).
The Irish also are paced by two of the BIG EAST’s most improved players in sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski and junior point guard Melissa Lechlitner. In her first year as a starter, Bruszewski has doubled her scoring (10.9 ppg.) and rebounding (4.9 rpg.) averages, along with a team-high .500 field goal percentage that is 11th-best in the BIG EAST. What’s more, she is in the midst of the most successful run of her young career, averaging 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in her last seven games, including a career-high 20 points twice in the past four games (USF, Syracuse).
Also a first-year starter, Lechlitner is fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg.) while setting the pace with 3.48 assists per game and a 1.42 assist/turnover ratio (all well above her previous career highs).
Potent Notables About The Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 312 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past eight seasons. This year, the program has averaged 7,356 fans for its 12 home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 122 of their last 124 home games, including six Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
- The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past eight seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Allen, Megan Duffy (New York) and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) all were active in the league during the ’08 season, with all three teams making the playoffs (San Antonio made the WNBA Finals, while New York was the Eastern Conference runner-up). Three of Notre Dame’s eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the ’06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. Notre Dame also was one of only four teams with a perfect ’07 GSR to advance to the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 (joining Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate).
A Quick Look At West Virginia
With 11 letterwinners and four starters gone from last year’s 25-8 club that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, West Virginia has reinvented itself with an almost entirely new roster and a spate of injuries which have significantly whittled down the team’s depth.
The Mountaineers (16-12, 5-10) have won two of their last three entering Monday’s regular-season finale at Notre Dame. WVU last played on Saturday, closing out its home schedule with a thrilling 69-68 victory over Syracuse on Takisha Granberry’s jumper with 21 seconds remaining. The senior guard and Virginia transfer finished with a team-high 17 points, while senior guard Ashley Powell (16 points, 10 assists) and freshman center Natalie Burton (10 points, 10 rebounds) both tallied their first career double-doubles.
Sophomore guard Liz Repella has emerged as one of the conference’s most improved players, averaging team highs of 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Granberry is second in both categories (15.9 ppg., 6.9 rpg.), along with a team-best .374 three-point percentage, while sophomore guard Sarah Miles, is third in scoring (12.1 ppg.) and tops in steals (2.18 spg.). Powell adds a BIG EAST-leading 5.32 assists per game for the Mountaineers.
Head coach Mike Carey is in his eighth season at West Virginia with a 148-98 (.602) record. He also sports a 21-year coaching mark of 436-200 (.686), and he is 2-7 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-West Virginia Series
Notre Dame and West Virginia will meet for the 18th time on Monday afternoon, with the Irish holding a 15-2 series lead over the Mountaineers. This will be the ninth time the teams have squared off at the Joyce Center, with Notre Dame having won each of the first eight contests in South Bend.
The Last Time ND And West Virginia Met
Meg Bulger scored 17 points and Olayinka Sanni added 15 as No. 16 West Virginia held off No. 14 Notre Dame, 56-50, on Jan. 13, 2008, at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.
The Mountaineers led 31-11 at the half, holding the Irish to a school-record low in first-half scoring. It was West Virginia’s second win over Notre Dame in 17 games.
WVU also snapped Notre Dame’s six-game road winning streak, its longest since its national championship season in 2001.
West Virginia led by 12 with four minutes left when Notre Dame made its run. Mallory made two three-pointers and Allen added another, and the Irish made two free throws to trail 46-45 with 1:22 remaining.
But in the final 80 seconds, Bulger started a scoring spree with two free throws. The Irish never got any closer than two points.
West Virginia’s defense helped force 18 turnovers, 11 in the first eight minutes, for an early 17-4 lead.
The Irish missed 23 of the first 29 shots, often attempting off-balance and fadeaway shots as the clock ran down. That changed in the second half, when they began to drive to the basket.
Notre Dame finished 13 of 53 from the field (24.5 percent), its worst shooting performance of the season.
The Last Time ND And West Virginia Met At The Joyce Center
Despite near sub-zero temperatures in the South Bend area and an unorthodox start time necessitated by television that put the game almost directly up against the Super Bowl, Notre Dame led from the opening tip to the final horn in a 77-67 BIG EAST Conference victory over West Virginia on Feb. 4, 2007, at the Joyce Center.
Charel Allen nearly registered her third double-double of the 2006-07 season, finishing with game highs of 26 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame. Ashley Barlow came off the bench to chalk up 17 points and eight rebounds, part of a solid performance by an Irish second unit that outscored its WVU counterpart, 29-10.
Chakhia Cole and Olayinka Sanni scored 16 points apiece for West Virginia, which saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end. LaQuita Owens added 13 points and Sparkle Davis chipped in with 10 points for the Mountaineers.
The Irish used a 15-3 run midway through the first half to roll out to a double-digit lead, a spread they would enjoy until the waning moments of the game. Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner combined for 10 points in the spurt, which saw WVU miss nine of 10 shots in a six-minute span.
Notre Dame kept its lead between 20 and 24 points for the first 13 minutes of the second half, getting to the game-high 24-point gap on four occasions, the last at 62-38 on two Barlow free throws with 9:18 remaining Owens scored eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, during a 21-4 WVU charge bown the stretch, and Davis’ trey with 1:11 to go pulled West Virginia within 68-63. However, Notre Dame sank nine consecutive foul shots down the stretch to preserve the win.
Other ND-West Virginia Series Tidbits
- After Notre Dame won the first eight games in the series, seven by at least 13 points, eight of the past nine games between the Irish and Mountaineers have been decided by 13 points or fewer (the lone exception being an 82-57 Irish win on Feb. 26, 2005, at the Joyce Center).
- Notre Dame has scored at least 70 points against West Virginia 13 times in the 17-games series. On the other hand, the Mountaineers have reached the 70-point plateau twice against the Irish and have been limited to fewer than 60 points nine times.
- In 10 of its last 12 games against Notre Dame, WVU has scored exactly in a 10-point window (54-64 points), including two 54-point games and three 64-point nights.
- The Irish have scored 100 points in a game twice against West Virginia, making the Mountaineers the only BIG EAST opponent to see Notre Dame crack triple digits more than once.
Going Out On Top
Monday will mark the final regular-season home game for Notre Dame and it will be a unique one, as the Irish will celebrate Senior Day without having a single departing senior on the roster for the first time in the 22-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). Notre Dame will honor its two senior managers — Caitlin Madden and Brad LeNoir — in a pre-game ceremony.
Notre Dame is 25-6 (.806) all-time on Senior Day, including an 18-3 (.857) record in the McGraw era. In fact, the Irish lost their first Senior Day game under McGraw (69-68 vs. DePaul in 1988), but have proceeded to win on 18 of the past 20 Senior Days since then. The only setbacks during this current stretch came in 2002, when Villanova edged the Irish, 48-45, to break Notre Dame’s school-record 51-game home winning streak, and in 2007, when Rutgers pulled away late for a 76-60 win.
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 15th time in the past 16 seasons with a 65-56 victory at Providence on Feb. 28. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 19 times in the 22-year Muffet McGraw era and 23 times in the program’s 32-year history.
Notre Dame is 5-3 against Associated Press Top 25 opponents this season, with four of those victories coming against non-conference opponents. That marks the first time in school history the Irish have registered four non-conference Top 25 victories in the regular season. The four ranked wins also currently represent nearly half of the BIG EAST’s nine Top 25 wins during the 2008-09 non-conference schedule (no other league school has more than two Top 25 non-conference victories this season).
Two of Notre Dame’s three losses to ranked opponents have come against AP top-10 foes by an average of 7.5 points. The Irish dropped a 71-66 decision at home to No. 10/12 Louisville on Feb. 11, and bowed at top-ranked Connecticut, 76-66, on Feb. 22 (the closest any team has come to taking down the Huskies this season).
Closer Than You Think
Notre Dame’s seven losses this season have come by an average of 8.3 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), and in six of them, the Irish either led in the second half, or had a chance to take the lead down the stretch.
On Dec. 10 at Michigan, Notre Dame led by two with 13 seconds left in regulation, but a turnover allowed the Wolverines to send the game to OT. In the extra session, the Irish had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final 20 seconds, but came up short, falling 63-59.
On Jan. 13 at Marquette, Notre Dame led by as many as eight points in the second half, and trailed by only two with 4:30 to play before the Golden Eagles pulled away for a 75-65 win.
On Jan. 24 at Villanova, the Irish never led, but also rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit to get within one point three times in the second half. Notre Dame had four second-half possessions with a chance to tie or take the lead, but could never quite manage to break through, as the Wildcats gamely hung on for a 55-48 win.
On Feb. 3 at No. 22/24 Pittsburgh, Notre Dame nearly erased a 13-point first-half deficit, trimming the margin to one point twice, and even had a chance to tie, but missed one of two free throws 4:45 into the second half before the Panthers finally drew clear down the stretch.
On Feb. 11 vs. No. 10/12 Louisville, the Irish used a 12-2 second-half run to virtually wipe out a 14-point Cardinal lead, getting within 63-61 with 1:49 left before Louisville earned a three-shot foul with one second on the shot clock on the ensuing possession (and hit all three free throws). Notre Dame got back within three twice more in the final minute, but the Cardinals made a basket and three free throws to keep the Irish at bay.
On Feb. 22 at No. 1 Connecticut, Notre Dame took a 43-41 lead with 16:11 to play, becoming the first team to own a second-half lead on the Huskies this season. However, Connecticut responded with a 22-1 run during the next 6:39 to wrest control away from the Irish, who rallied back within eight points twice in the final 1:13.
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader has played a key role in Notre Dame’s surge during the past two weeks, with the Irish winning three of four in that span (with only a 10-point loss at top-ranked Connecticut blotting the resume).
During that four-game span, the Bartlett, Ill., native is averaging 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game with a .543 field goal percentage (38-of-70) and two double-doubles.
Schrader’s run began Feb. 17 with a season-high 26 points and 11 rebounds at South Florida, the first 25-point, 10-rebound effort by an Irish player since Feb. 11, 2007 (Charel Allen vs. DePaul). She came back with 17 points and 11 rebounds at Connecticut, as the Irish battled the Huskies closer than any team this season.
Schrader has flirted with double-doubles in each of her last two games while turning in sharp shooting efforts in the process. Against Syracuse last Tuesday, she chalked up 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) and grabbed eight rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Four days later at Providence, she collected 18 points (on 9-of-14 shooting) and eight rebounds, earning team-high scoring honors for the third time in four games.
This season, Schrader leads the Irish in scoring (12.9 ppg.) and rebounding (7.3 rpg.), while also ranking among the top 30 in the BIG EAST in scoring (22nd), rebounding (10th) and field goal percentage (12th, .479). Each of those averages are career highs as are her five double-doubles, which put her one away from the single-season school record for double-doubles by a guard (set by Danielle Green in 1998-99).
One Killer B
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski is making the most of her first season as a starter for the Irish, ranking third on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg.), second in rebounding (4.9 rpg.) and first in field goal percentage (.500, 11th in the BIG EAST Conference). The Valparaiso, Ind., native has doubled last year’s scoring (5.0 ppg.) and rebounding (2.5 rpg.) averages, while adding a reliable three-point shot to her arsenal (.381, 16-of-42) after making 1-of-2 from beyond the arc last season.
Bruszewski has been especially sharp in the past eight games, averaging 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with a .505 field goal percentage (48-of-95). She has scored in double figures in seven of those eight games, with her first career double-double (14 points, career-high 12 rebounds) on Feb. 8 in a win over No. 25 DePaul. She also has either tied or set a new career scoring high in three of the past five games, including a pair of career-best 20-point outings a week apart at South Florida (Feb. 17) and at home vs. Syracuse (Feb. 24).
A Real Smart Al-Lech
Junior point guard and tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner had started only once in her first two seasons at Notre Dame, but the Mishawaka, Ind., native seems to be making up for lost time this year, while emerging as one of the most improved players in the BIG EAST Conference.
Lechlitner has nearly doubled her scoring average from last year to 10.6 points per game, with 14 double-figure scoring nights (after 16 in her first two seasons combined). She also tossed in a career-high 19 points on Dec. 7 in a victory over No. 17/20 Purdue at the Joyce Center.
In addition, Lechlitner ranks among the conference pacesetters in assists (13th, 3.48 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (10th, 1.42). Her numbers are even better since BIG EAST play began, ranking eighth in assists (4.0 apg.) and tied for ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.5). Across the board, these averages are career highs, in some cases even doubling her previous bests.
Off the court, Lechlitner was a prime candidate for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District status, having been nominated for the honor after compiling a 3.357 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) through the fall 2008 semester as she works towards her degree in psychology.
Make Mine A Grand(e)
With 16 points against No. 10/12 Louisville on Feb. 11, junior guard and tri-captain Ashley Barlow became the 24th player in Notre Dame women’s basketball history to score 1,000 career points. Barlow hit the milestone on the nose by making two free throws with 37 seconds left.
Now ranking 22nd on the Irish all-time scoring list (1,057), Barlow is the first Notre Dame player to score her 1,000th career point since Charel Allen reached the mark on Feb. 26, 2007, at DePaul.
On Feb. 28, Barlow was joined in the Irish 1,000-Point Club by senior guard and fellow captain Lindsay Schrader, who scored her milestone point at Providence and now ranks 24th all-time at Notre Dame with 1,012 career points.
The four-game span between Barlow and Schrader’s 1,000th career points is the second-shortest in school history. In 2005-06, Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere reached the millennium mark three games apart to set the new school standard.
Using Her Charge Card
Junior center Erica Williamson has developed an uncanny knack for drawing charges despite her 6-foot-4 frame. The Charlotte, N.C., product has taken a team-high 12 charges this season, nearly half of Notre Dame’s team total of 26 to date.
This is the first season the Irish have tracked charges taken (which are an unofficial statistic and not recognized by the NCAA), although it is believed Williamson drew at least a dozen offensive fouls last year.
Taking Rock To Block
Freshman forward Erica Solomon (nicknamed “Rock”) has registered a team-high 36 blocked shots this season and leads all BIG EAST freshmen with 1.33 blocks per game (good for sixth in the conference).
Solomon has turned away at least two shots on 11 occasions this year, including a season-high four blocks on Dec. 2 in her homecoming game at Eastern Michigan. The Oak Park, Mich., native also is tied for fifth on the Irish single-season blocks list for freshmen, sharing that post with Jacqueline Batteast (2001-02).
Solomon also is on pace to become the third freshman in as many seasons to lead Notre Dame in blocks — Erica Williamson did the honors in 2006-07 (39), before Devereaux Peters led the way last year (45).
The Five-Finger Discount
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is on a similar pace again this year, causing 533 turnovers (19.7 per game) through 27 games.
More than half of those opponent turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 277 thefts (10.3 per game, third in the BIG EAST) after leading the conference in that category each of the past two seasons — the first time the Irish won their league’s steal title since 1990-91, when they took top honors in the old Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League) with a school-record 397 steals (12.4 spg.), while their 237 steals (14.8 spg.) in conference play remain a Horizon League standard to this day.
Individually, Notre Dame has five players with at least 30 steals this season, led by junior guard Ashley Barlow’s 64 thefts. It’s the third consecutive year Barlow has recorded at least 60 steals, a feat only three other Irish players can match — Mary Gavin (1985-86 to 1987-88), Coquese Washington (1989-90 to 1992-93) and current assistant coach Niele Ivey (1997-98 to 2000-01).
Born To Run
Notre Dame has used some impressive scoring streaks to take command in several games this season. In fact, the Irish have fashioned 10 game-changing runs during which they have outscored their opponent by at least 12 points.
Furthermore, Notre Dame has manufactured three streaks of at least 16 consecutive points this season, including a 27-0 blitz in the second half of its win over Georgia Southern on Nov. 25. That was the second-longest run of unanswered points in school history, topped only by a 31-0 run in the first half of a win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 1997, at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame is 20-9 (.690) in true road games during the past two seasons. In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks this season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
The Feb. 28 win at Providence was the 10th road victory of the season for Notre Dame, marking the second consecutive season the Irish have posted a double-digit road win total. The only other time Notre Dame logged back-to-back 10-win seasons on the road was nearly two decades ago (1989-90 and 1990-91).
From Dec. 28-Jan. 6, the Irish embarked on a four-game road swing, their longest regular-season trip since early in the 2002-03 season, sweeping games at Charlotte (68-61), No. 20/19 Vanderbilt (59-57), Seton Hall (66-60) and DePaul (86-62).
It was the first time Notre Dame won four consecutive games, all on the road (opponent’s home floor) since Jan. 7-19, 1991, when the Irish won at Butler (80-64), DePaul (81-66), Loyola-Chicago (66-55) and Marquette (91-73) in succession during Notre Dame’s first full week as a ranked team in program history.
New Kids On The Block
It may not be exactly the way Irish head coach Muffet McGraw envisioned it prior to the season, but Notre Dame’s freshman class has been getting some valuable on-the-job training this year.
With season-ending knee injuries to sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, the Irish bench now basically consists of the four-player freshman class — forward Erica Solomon and Kellie Watson and guards Natalie Novosel and Fraderica Miller.
Yet, despite their relative lack of experience at the college level, all four players have made solid contributions to Notre Dame’s 20-7 record. Three of the four have scored in double figures at least three times (Novosel-8, Solomon-7, Watson-3), with both Watson and Novosel also twice being named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week (Watson – Dec. 1 & 8; Novosel – Dec. 29 & Jan. 12).
What’s more, those three aforementioned players each are averaging at least 14 minutes per night, while the speedy Miller has emerged as Notre Dame’s go-to defensive stopper, averaging nearly one steal per game in her 19 appearances this season.
Notre Dame’s knack for quick player development should come as no surprise — the Irish have developed five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections in the past two seasons alone (including Peters and Mallory last year), the most of any team in the conference.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen nine different players lead the team in scoring this season, with six of the Irish leading scorers also registering a career-scoring high at some point this year — Brittany Mallory vs. Georgia Southern (19), Kellie Watson vs. Michigan State (18), Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19), Erica Williamson vs. Georgetown (21), Natalie Novosel vs. Rutgers (19) and Becca Bruszewski at South Florida/vs. Syracuse (20). The other team-leading scorers this season have been junior guard Ashley Barlow, who has set the pace for the Irish eight times, senior guard Lindsay Schrader, who has posted seven team-high scoring games, and freshman forward Erica Solomon, who tossed in a team-high 14 points on Feb. 3 at No. 22/24 Pittsburgh.
The only three players on the Irish roster who have not taken a turn leading the team in scoring thus far are injured sophomore forward Devereaux Peters (out for season with torn ACL in her left knee), freshman guard Fraderica Miller and walk-on junior guard Alena Christiansen, who was added to the Irish roster on Dec. 19.
For the season, 10 of the 12 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with Miller and Christiansen aiming to join that club.
More On The Balance Beam
Notre Dame was ranked among the top 50 in eight NCAA team statistical categories (as of Feb. 27), led by a No. 22 ranking in scoring offense (currently 72.7 ppg.).
At the same time, only one Irish player is appearing in the top 50 of the 10 NCAA individual statistical rankings — junior guard Ashley Barlow is 43rd in the nation in steals (2.56 spg.).
A Start We Can Believe In
Notre Dame’s 14-1 start was the second-best 15-game debut in school history. The only time an Irish squad started better than this year’s club was 2000-01, when Notre Dame opened the season with a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to the program’s first No. 1 ranking and eventually, its first national championship.
Notre Dame was ranked 23rd in last week’s Associated Press poll, rising one spot from the previous week’s rank. It was the 36th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who moved into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09) with their No. 8 ranking on Dec. 8.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 176 weeks during the program’s 32-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is tied for 24th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 36th consecutive ranking in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, rising two spots to No. 22. Notre Dame’s season-high poll position of fourth on Jan. 6 and 13 was the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Jan. 5, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 3. Notre Dame has appeared in the coaches’ poll for 167 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 176 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 rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 13 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Nostradamus In High Heels
With the Irish trailing at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt, 36-24, at halftime on Dec. 30, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw calmly walked into the locker room and assured her team that they were about to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in school history. As it turned out, she was right on the money.
After the Commodores expanded their lead to 18 points on two occasions (the last at 46-28 with 15:56 to play), Notre Dame went to work, blitzing Vanderbilt with a 22-0 run over the next 8:40 to take the lead. VU tied the game at 50-50, but the Irish then went on top for good on a layup by sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski with 4:06 left, capping the improbable rally.
The previous school-record comeback had been 16 points, which took place on March 30, 2001, at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis, when Notre Dame erased a 47-31 deficit late in the first half and charged past Connecticut, 90-75 on the way to the program’s first national championship.
Game #27 Recap: Providence
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader scored 18 points, including the 1,000th of her career, and junior guard Ashley Barlow hit two key three-pointers in the second half to spark a Notre Dame rally and the No. 23/22 Irish beat Providence 65-56 on Saturday at Alumni Hall in Providence, R.I.
Notre Dame (20-7, 9-6 BIG EAST) and PC were tied at 41 when Barlow made consecutive three-pointers and then scored on a layup after her steal.
Freshman guard Natalie Novosel’s basket capped a 10-0 run as the Irish built a 51-41 lead and sealed the win. Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski added 16 for the Irish, who are 17-0 all-time against Providence.
Chelsea Marandola led Providence (10-18, 4-10) with 15.
Noting The Providence Game
- Notre Dame reaches the 20-win mark for the 15th time in 16 seasons and the 19th time in the 22-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
- The Irish also notch their 10th road victory of the year, marking the second consecutive season Notre Dame has posted double-digit road wins; the only other time the Irish registered double-digit road wins in back-to-back seasons was 1989-90 and 1990-91.
- Notre Dame finishes with a winning record in the month of February for the 21st time in the 22-year McGraw era (exception was a 4-4 mark in 1988-89, McGraw’s second season in South Bend).
- The Irish improve to 17-0 all-time against Providence (9-0 at Alumni Hall) and extend their longest active winning streak against a BIG EAST opponent.
- Saturday’s game was just the third in the 17-game series to be decided by single digits and the first since Feb. 16, 2003 (a 67-61 Irish win at Providence).
- The past five series games at Alumni Hall have been close for large stretches in spite of the final score — in 2007, ND led 39-36 at the half before pulling away for an 82-65 win; in 2005, the game was tied 46-46 with 12:22 left before the Irish wound up winning 75-57; in 2003, PC got as close as 63-57 with 32 seconds left before Alicia Ratay iced the 67-61 win at the foul line; and in 2002, the Irish led 42-34 with 13:21 remaining before moving clear for a 69-41 win.
- Notre Dame’s 65 points on Saturday were the fewest it has scored against Providence since Jan. 31, 2001, when the top-ranked Irish posted a 64-44 win over the Friars at the Joyce Center.
- Saturday’s game was the second this season in which Notre Dame was tied at halftime (the Irish were even at #24/22 LSU, 24-24 in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16 before earning a 62-53 win).
- The Irish had at least 15 steals for the fifth time this year and first since Jan. 31, when they had a season-high 21 thefts in a 66-50 win over Cincinnati at the Joyce Center.
- Schrader became the 25th Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points, reaching the milestone on a driving layup with 7:03 left in the first half; Schrader went on to pass Kelley Siemon for 24th place on the school’s career scoring list, now having scored 1,012 points since coming to Notre Dame in 2005-06 (Siemon had 1,006 points from 1997-2001).
- Schrader’s 1,000th career point came four games after junior guard Ashley Barlow reached that mark on Feb. 11 against Louisville, representing the second-shortest span between 1,000-point milestones in school history (Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere joined the Irish millennium club three games apart in 2005-06).
- Novosel chalked up a season-high five steals, after having had four on three other occasions (most recently in that Feb. 11 game vs. Louisville).
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
Sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 season after each player suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Peters’ injury occurred in the first half of Notre Dame’s win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Meanwhile, Mallory went down in the opening minute of overtime on Dec. 10 at Michigan. Mallory underwent successful corrective surgery on Jan. 6, while Peters did the same on Feb. 6, with both players now beginning their respective rehabilitation programs.
Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA’s hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a “medical redshirt”) that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team’s scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).
Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.
Christiansen Joins Irish Roster
With the injuries to Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory, Notre Dame added junior walk-on guard Alena Christiansen to its roster on Dec. 19. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has appeared in five games, averaging 0.6 points and 0.2 rebounds in 1.6 minutes per contest.
A supplemental biographical sketch on Christiansen can be found in the players’ section of the PDF version of these game notes.
Half And Half
During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 162-16 (.910) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 90 of their last 100 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 16-2 when it is ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan on Dec. 10, and 75-65 at Marquette on Jan. 13.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 194-13 (.937) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame is 10-1 in such games this season, with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, DePaul (second game) and Providence. The lone loss came Jan. 24 at Villanova (55-48).
…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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 123-4 (.969) 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, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in nine games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-point mark.
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 172 of their last 195 games (.882) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 98-17 (.852) 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 76 of their last 82 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) — with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 322-84 (.793) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
The Dec. 7 home game vs. No. 17/20 Purdue was sold out, representing the sixth women’s basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons. It also was the first time in the 22-game series between the Irish and Boilermakers that an on-campus game sold out.
On Jan. 27, Notre Dame drew 10,082 fans for its game against Rutgers, marking the largest weeknight crowd in school history and the eighth-largest overall audience in the program’s 32-year annals.
The Feb. 8 WBCA Pink Zone game vs. No. 25 DePaul attracted 10,011 fans, making it the ninth-largest crowd in school history and a record-tying third gathering of 10,000 fans or more this season (matching last year’s record).
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF version of this notes package.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
On Aug. 27, 2008, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women’s basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA now originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame’s new women’s basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women’s basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame’s official athletics Web site (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women’s basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program’s first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 20 regular-season games televised during the 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including five games on the ESPN family of networks and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site’s free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
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 continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 134 televised games, including 84 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Shootaround With Beth & Debbie
For the second consecutive year, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) is featuring a weekly national women’s basketball podcast entitled “Shootaround With Beth & Debbie”. The 30-minute show, which is available for download each Wednesday during the basketball season through the WBCA web site (www.wbca.org), is hosted by national women’s basketball television broadcasters Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli. It features in-depth analysis of all the latest happenings in the world of women’s college basketball, as well as interviews with some of the game’s top coaches — in fact, Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw was a guest on one of the podcast’s first airings early last year.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
Notre Dame’s Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year’s NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.
All-session tickets for this year’s NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program’s sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Notre Dame Welcomes NCAA Pinnacle Of Fitness Challenge Program
The NCAA announced the details for the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge program which will energize middle school age children in nine cities across the United States and allow them to compete for a chance to win the national title in St. Louis during the week of the 2009 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
The Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame is one of the nine sites for the competition and will host its first Middle School Challenge at halftime of the first-round game of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship that will be played on March 22. An additional Middle School Challenge will take place on March 24 during halftime of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship second-round game at the Joyce Center. For tickets call (574) 631-7356 or go online to www.UND.com.
The Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is an NCAA Division I women’s basketball initiative of healthy living and education that will challenge and improve individuals and their communities. The 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge is expected to involve 100 middle schools in nine selected cities, with 74,000 middle school students participating.
The cornerstone of the program is the Middle School Challenge, which will educate and challenge students to improve their level of physical fitness through leading active lives, goal setting and developing life skills. The program will reward youth for improving their health and wellness and will be conducted at sites that will host a first- and second-round or regional round of competition during the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
The Middle School Challenge will begin with each of the competing middle schools conducting in-school physical fitness assessment and testing. The top-10 students from the competing middle schools will compete in progressive on-court competitions at the sites during the regular season and again during the championship.
Competing middle schools and individual students will be recognized through school rewards that include fitness support funding for equipment, special events and awards. The winning middle school from each region will be awarded the opportunity to compete in the NCAA National Pinnacle of Fitness challenge on center court at NCAA Hoop City Refreshed by Coca-ColaÂ® during the 2009 Women’s Final Four. There, one middle school will be named the 2009 Pinnacle of Fitness challenge champion.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its “Big Mac” promotion for 2008-09, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
It didn’t take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame has topped the 88-point mark four times — in its lone exhibition game (96-30 over Gannon on Nov. 5), as well as regular season games against Evansville (96-61 on Nov. 19), Loyola-Chicago (89-45 on Dec. 20) and Syracuse (90-79 on Feb. 24).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac” baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger — sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it’s been the Irish freshmen who have largely taken on the “Big Mac” mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition and Loyola-Chicago game, and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville. Junior guard Melissa Lechlitner had the most recent burger ball, hitting a runner in the lane late in the win over Syracuse on Feb. 24.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University’s Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame’s competing athletic programs.
For more information on the new Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, see the inside back cover of the 2008-09 Notre Dame women’s basketball media guide, or go on-line for a virtual tour at www.UND.com/purcell.
Next Game: BIG EAST Championship
Notre Dame will open postseason play on Saturday with a second-round game in the BIG EAST Conference Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. The Irish also know their game will be televised live as part of the BIG EAST Regional Sports Networks package (full list of clearances to be announced) and on-line through the BIG EAST multimedia web site (www.bigeast.tv).
The opponent and tipoff time for Notre Dame’s first game in the BIG EAST Championship still remain to be determined based upon Monday’s results, with the Irish still potentially in line for the No. 5 seed (would play Saturday at noon ET), No. 6 seed (8 p.m. ET) or No. 7 seed (6 p.m. ET).
The finalized tournament bracket will be released by the conference office late Monday evening and will be posted on the BIG EAST web site (www.bigeast.org).
— ND —