Jan. 16, 2006

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2005-06 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 16
#24/19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-5 / 1-3 BIG EAST) vs.
#10/10 DePaul Blue Demons (16-1 / 3-1 BIG EAST)

DATE: January 17, 2006
TIME: 7:30 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind.
Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: DePaul leads 14-9
1ST MTG: 1/30/79 (DPU 82-53)
LAST MTG: 12/11/02 (DPU 75-59)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1580 AM
Sean Stires, p-b-p
TV: CSTV (live)
Ann Schatz, p-b-p
Debbie Antonelli, color
LIVE STATS: www.und.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356

* Notre Dame faces a ranked opponent for the fifth time this season, having gone 2-2 against Top 25 opponents thus far. * The Irish have won 11 of their last 14 home games against ranked opponents, dating back to the start of the 2003-04 season.

The No. 24/19 Notre Dame women’s basketball team will play the first of six televised games in its final 12 regular-season outings Tuesday when it plays host No. 10/10 DePaul at 7:30 p.m. (ET) at the Joyce Center. The matchup will be broadcast live nationally by CSTV as part of that network’s Tuesday Game of the Week package. The Irish (10-5, 1-3 BIG EAST) saw their recent struggles continue with a 61-51 loss at Louisville last Saturday. Notre Dame’s shooting problems proved to be a key factor, as the Irish wound up connecting at a .317 clip for the contest and are shooting .335 from the field in their last three games. Sophomore guard Charel Allen scored in double figures for a career-best third consecutive game, finishing with 10 points. Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader added nine points and five rebounds for the Irish.

* Notre Dame is ranked 24th in this week’s Associated Press poll and was 19th in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. * DePaul is ranked 10th in this week’s Associated Press poll and was 10th in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.

Web Sites
* Notre Dame: http://www.und.com
* DePaul: http://www.depaulbluedemons.com
* BIG EAST: http://www.bigeast.org

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 585-259 (.693).

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
Saint Joseph’s ’77
* 19th season at Notre Dame
* 421-160 (.725) at Notre Dame.
* 509-201 (.717) 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 has seen its fortunes reversed of late, as the Irish have dropped four of their last five, including their first three-game losing streak in eight years. That 1997-98 season also marked the last (and only) time Notre Dame began BIG EAST Conference play with consecutive losses. Yet, the Irish have found themselves facing difficult challenges numerous times this year and with the regular-season schedule just past the midway point, there is plenty of time to recover from this current dry spell and continue the tradition of success that has been the hallmark of Notre Dame women’s basketball.

One of the keys for the Irish this season has been their offensive balance. In 11 games to date, 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 15.5 points, 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game, with a 1.55 assist/turnover ratio, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in all four categories. In addition, she leads the league and is 19th in the nation in foul shooting (.908). She also has led the team in scoring eight times and in assists 10 times this year. Duffy 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. In her last home outing on Jan. 10 vs. Marquette, Duffy almost single-handedly shot the Irish past the Golden Eagles, scoring a career-high 32 points, including the game-winning layup as time expired in overtime.

Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico has proven to be a solid complement in the post to Duffy’s perimeter presence. A prime candidate for the BIG EAST Most Improved Player award, D’Amico is second on the team in scoring (8.9 ppg.) and third in rebounding (5.5 rpg.), while setting the pace in both blocked shots (1.4 bpg., tied-fifth in the BIG EAST) and field goal percentage (.529). 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 performance 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.

Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader also 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 third on the team in scoring (8.6 ppg.), tied for first in rebounding (5.9 rpg.) and third in field goal percentage (.440).

Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
* Notre Dame’s No. 24 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll represents the 29th 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 138 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 61.0 ppg.

* The Irish are 2-2 against ranked teams this season and have posted 39 wins over Top 25 opponents in the past eight seasons (1998-99 to present), most recently knocking off No. 22/21 Utah, 68-55 on Dec. 18 in the championship game of the Duel in the Desert (Gray Division) out in Las Vegas. 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 11-3 (.786) at home against Top 25 competition (1-1 this year).

* Drawing 5,281 fans to its Jan. 10 game vs. Marquette, the Irish now have welcomed crowds of 5,000 or more fans to 72 of their last 74 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. 16, it also was the 21st-largest crowd in the nation. For the season, Notre Dame ranks ninth in the country in average home attendance with 6,746 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 ESPN.com. 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 DePaul
The old Exxon commercials used to encourage drivers to “put a tiger in their tank,” but if motorists got a look at DePaul’s offense this season, they might consider topping off with a Blue Demon or two.

DePaul (16-1, 3-1 BIG EAST) has matched its best start ever this season and has risen to an all-time high of 10th in this week’s Associated Press poll. The Blue Demons lead the BIG EAST and rank among the national leaders in points per game (82.7), rebounding (44.7 rpg.) and rebounding margin (+11.4 rpg.). Couple that with a unique offensive system that calls 10 players to average double-digit minutes each night, and you have the makings of a truly powerful club.

DePaul stretched its current winning streak to nine games last Saturday with an 84-75 come-from-behind win over Villanova in Chicago. The Blue Demons trailed 64-63 late in the second half, before going on an 11-5 run to take control and eventual break free of the pesky Wildcats. Senior All-America forward Khara Smith posted her 12th double-double of the season with game highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds for DePaul, which shot 50.8 percent from the field and held a sizeable 45-21 rebounding edge.

Smith has lived up to her preseason billing as a national player-of-the-year candidate, ranking fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring (19.0 ppg.), tops in rebounding (10.8 rpg.) and second in field goal percentage (.633). However, she is certainly not alone in her offensive capability, as sophomore guard Allie Quigley is eighth in the conference in scoring (16.0 ppg.) and junior guard Jenna Rubino is 18th in the loop in scoring (13.2 ppg.).

DePaul head coach Doug Bruno is in his 20th season on the Blue Demon bench, owning a career coaching record of 364-211 (.633). He is 7-3 all-time against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-DePaul Series
Although the schools were conference mates for only five seasons in their respective histories, Notre Dame and DePaul have developed a fierce longstanding rivalry that dates back more than a quarter of a century. The Blue Demons lead the all-time series with the Irish 14-9, although the sides have split their previous 10 matchups at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame and DePaul first played one another on Jan. 30, 1979 in Chicago, with the Blue Demons coming out on top, 82-53. The teams then met in a home-and-home series in 1981-82 (at Notre Dame) and 1982-83 (at DePaul), with each winning on the other’s home court.

The following season (1983-84) marked the start of a five-year joint association in the North Star Conference. In that time, Notre Dame and DePaul played 10 times, and both sides earning five victories (3-2 at home). The Blue Demons took the final two games in the NSC era, the start of DePaul’s series-best five-game winning streak over Notre Dame.

Although they no longer were in the same conference, the Irish and Blue Demons played annually from 1988-89 through 1994-95, with a second matchup coming in the 1989 National Women’s Invitation Tournament (NWIT) – and won by DePaul, 77-69.

The series then went dormant for six seasons, while Notre Dame embarked on its new membership in the BIG EAST Conference and DePaul entered Conference USA. Most recently, the Irish and Blue Demons played a home-and-home series in 2001-02 (at Notre Dame) and 2002-03 (at DePaul), with the home team winning on both occasions.

Other Notre Dame-DePaul Series Tidbits
* The Notre Dame-DePaul series is one of only 11 in Irish women’s basketball history to span at least 20 games. The teams will play a second time this season on Feb. 12 in Chicago, a 4:40 p.m. (CT) game that will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

* Both head coaches have ties to the old Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL). Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw was a point guard for the California Dreams in 1979, while DePaul’s Doug Bruno was the head coach and director of player personnel for the Chicago Hustle from 1978-80.

* Bruno is the new president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and in June 2005, McGraw was one of his first appointments to the WBCA Board of Directors, assuming the title of that body’s NCAA Division I Legislative Chair from another BIG EAST coach, Marquette’s Terri Mitchell.

* Since joining the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995-96 season, Notre Dame is 13-2 (.867) when it plays an opponent for the first time in league play, including a 7-1 record when that initial BIG EAST matchup comes on the road. The only home loss was an 87-64 setback at the hands of third-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 18, 1996 at the Joyce Center.

* Notre Dame freshman guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) is the 10th Illinois native to play for the Irish, and the ninth to come from the Chicagoland area. Some of the other notable Notre Dame products from the Windy City include NCAA career three-point percentage leader Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich/Lake Zurich HS), as well as 1,000-point scorer and 2004 Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (Chicago/Roosevelt HS).

* Schrader is the reigning Illinois Miss Basketball, having claimed that honor last spring by the sixth-largest margin (374 points) since the award was created in 1986.

The Last Time Notre Dame And DePaul Met
Jenni Dant scored 23 points, Charlene Smith added 19, and both keyed important runs for DePaul as the Blue Demons upset No. 8 Notre Dame, 75-59 on Dec. 11, 2002 at the DePaul Athletic Center in Chicago.

Dant scored six straight points for DePaul (6-2) in the second half to give the Demons a 48-36 lead with 16:41 remaining. Notre Dame (4-1) responded with a 9-0 run, capped off by Alicia Ratay’s two free throws that drew the Irish within three with 12:53 left.

But DePaul outscored Notre Dame, 13-3 during a five-minute span in the second half to put the game away. Dant started the run with an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Blue Demons a 51-45 lead, and Smith made a layup for a 61-48 advantage with 5:57 remaining.

Jacqueline Batteast led Notre Dame with 17 points. Ratay finished with 10 points for the Irish, while Sarah Kustok had 11 for DePaul.

The teams traded leads for most of the first half, but DePaul was able to go on an 8-0 run into the break. Kustok hit a three-pointer to open the spurt and another trey to close out the half, putting DePaul ahead, 42-33. Dant had 13 first-half points to pace the Blue Demons.

Following The North Star
DePaul is one of 10 former North Star Conference schools Notre Dame has played since it left the NSC to join the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League) in 1988. The Irish have a 111-23 (.828) record in the past 16 seasons against former North Star members, including a 1-0 mark this year with last week’s overtime win vs. Marquette.

Much of that post-NSC record was compiled when several North Star teams resurfaced alongside the Irish in the MCC. In fact, eight of Notre Dame’s 10 former North Star foes also squared off with the Irish in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

The Irish have won 23 of their last 24 games against former North Star members, a streak which pre-dates Notre Dame’s current membership in the BIG EAST Conference. The only NSC alum to defeat the Irish in that time is DePaul, which won by a 75-59 count on Dec. 11, 2002, in Chicago.

Notre Dame will see quite a bit more of DePaul and Marquette in the future, as both schools have joined the Irish in the BIG EAST Conference.

Bouncing Back
In recent years, the Irish have shown exceptional resiliency when it comes to responding to a double-digit loss. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference 11 seasons ago, Notre Dame is 39-6 (.867) in “bounce back” games, including a 24-1 (.960) record at home. During that span, the only time the Irish have lost at the Joyce Center immediately after a double-figure loss was Dec. 6, 1997, when they dropped a 78-59 decision to No. 3/2 Connecticut three days following an 80-67 defeat at Rutgers.

Overall, Notre Dame is 64-23 (.736) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) in the first game after a loss of 10-or-more points.

Beasts Of The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 138-34 (.802) 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 94 of their last 118 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 152-44 (.776) vs. league opponents – factoring in 23 postseason tilts, the Irish are 77-9 (.895) at home, 61-28 (.685) on the road and 14-7 (.667) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

Steel City Scorer
Sophomore guard Charel Allen has begun to show flashes of the form that made her a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selection last year. Allen has scored in double figures in each of Notre Dame’s last three contests (the first time in her career she has done that) and is averaging 11.7 points per game during that span.

For the season, Allen ranks fourth on the team in scoring (8.2 ppg.) and is second in steals (1.27 spg.) as the top Irish threat off the bench, a role she has held exclusively throughout her 48-game college career.

Duffy Joins Irish 1,000-Point Clubs
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 1,053 career points, six shy of Carrie Bates (1981-85) for 18th 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.

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.

When The Game Is On The Line
The Irish have posted a .676 free throw percentage (48-of-71) in the final two minutes and overtime of games this season. Leading the way is senior guard Megan Duffy, who has made 24 of her 26 foul shots (.923) in crunch time.

Bonus Baby
Notre Dame is 3-0 all-time when going to overtime in BIG EAST Conference regular-season play. The Irish remained unbeaten in BIG EAST OT games following their 67-65 victory over Marquette on Jan. 10. Notre Dame is one of only two schools in league history never to lose a conference overtime game – the other is BIG EAST newcomer South Florida, which handed DePaul its only loss this season, 79-77 in OT on Dec. 7 in Tampa.

Second-Half Sizzle
In seven of their 10 victories this season, Notre Dame has used a significant second-half run to either take control or battle their way back into the contest. Five 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.

Starting Strong
The Irish got off to a 6-0 start for the second time in as many seasons, marking the first time in the 29-year history of the program Notre Dame has put together back-to-back 6-0 starts (the Irish began last year with a 7-0 record).

All told, Notre Dame has won the first six games of the season only four times, all in the Muffet McGraw era (and all in the past eight seasons beginning in 1998-99). In the three previous 6-0 starts, the Irish went on to win at least 25 games and reach the NCAA Tournament every time.

Game #15 Recap: Louisville
Jazz Covington had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Louisville to a 61-51 upset of No. 20/19 Notre Dame on Saturday at Freedom Hall.

Angel McCoughtry added 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Cardinals (12-3 overall, 3-1 BIG EAST), who handed the Irish (10-5, 1-3) their fourth loss in five games.

Sophomore guard Charel Allen had 10 points for Notre Dame, which shot 32 percent from the field. Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy scored just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting, eight below her team-leading average.

Louisville took control with a 15-0 run midway through the first half, holding Notre Dame scoreless for almost 10 minutes.

UL held the Irish to just 21 percent shooting in the half while building a 30-15 lead.

The Cardinals outrebounded the Irish 55-29 and overcame 22 turnovers to win their first game over a Top 25 opponent in nearly two years. They hadn’t beaten a Top-25 team since knocking off then-No. 23 Houston on Jan. 25, 2004.

Noting The Louisville Game
* Notre Dame drops its fourth game in the last five outings, its first 1-4 stretch since early in the 2001-02 season, when the Irish won their opener, then lost four of five before rebounding for a 20-10 record and trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

* Notre Dame begins conference play 1-3 for the first time since 1986-87, when the Irish also lost three of four to start the North Star Conference season.

* Louisville’s 55 rebounds were the most by a Notre Dame opponent since Jan. 4, 1993, when Tennessee also had 55 boards in a 79-48 UT win at Knoxville.

* The Irish forced the Cardinals into an opponent season-high 22 turnovers.

* Since shooting a season-high .560 in its Jan. 4 loss at St. John’s, Notre Dame has posted a .335 field goal percentage (59-of-176) in the past three contests.

* Sophomore guard Charel Allen cracked double figures in scoring for the third consecutive game (the first time in her career she has done that) and she is averaging 11.7 ppg. during that stretch.

* Senior forward Courtney LaVere scored her 1,000th career point on her only field goal of the game vs. Louisville, a hook shot in the lane 2:27 into the contest; LaVere is the 22nd member of Notre Dame’s 1,000-point club.

* LaVere and senior guard Megan Duffy have become the fifth set of teammates in school history to reach the 1,000-point milestone in the same season; Duffy hit the mark Jan. 4 at St. John’s, making the three-game stretch between the milestone games the shortest in school history (Mary Beth Schueth and Carrie Bates scored their 1,000th career point eight games apart in 1984-85).

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 509-201 (.717) in 24 years of coaching, including 19 seasons at Notre Dame (421-160, .725).

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 became the sixth Notre Dame squad this year to be ranked in the top 10 in its respective sport at some point during the season when it earned the No. 10 spot in the Dec. 5 AP poll. The other top-10 Irish teams include (highest rank listed): 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 105-10 (.913) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 33 of their last 37 such contests. Notre Dame has won seven games this season when it led at the break (the Irish were tied at halftime of their win over 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 155-9 (.945) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame had added five more tallies to this ledger with wins over Michigan (55-45), Iona (74-55), Arkansas State (77-54), Utah (68-55) and Valparaiso (58-50).

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 132 of their last 145 games (.910) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 77-9 (.895) 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 282-74 (.792) 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 6,746 fans in its seven 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 72 of their last 74 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 17th-largest crowd in the nation this season (as of Jan. 9). 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.

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 63 televised games, including 38 that were broadcast nationally. Last year, the Irish had 17 games televised, with 10 being national broadcasts.

Notre Dame is 2-1 in televised games this season. The Irish defeated both 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). Most recently, Notre Dame fell to No. 1 Tennessee (62-51 on Dec. 31) in a game aired nationally by College Sports Television (CSTV).

Five of the remaining six televised games on the ’05-06 Notre Dame schedule also are slated for national broadcasts. The final two of three Irish appearances on CSTV will be part of the BIG EAST/CSTV Tuesday Game of the Week package. The Irish will welcome DePaul to the Joyce Center Tuesday, before visiting Rutgers on Jan. 24, and both games will tip off at 7:30 p.m. (ET). CSTV has aired nine 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 now 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 (www.und.com) 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. Renovations are being completed on the suites, which will 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 ESPN.com’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 ESPN.com. 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 ESPN.com 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).

Promotional Corner
Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356) or on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center. Please note – additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site (www.notredamepromotions.com) for the latest information: * Jan. 17 vs. DePaul – Renaissance Festival…special halftime exhibition bout by national champion Notre Dame women’s fencing team… inflatable flags to first 1,000 fans…post-game autographs with selected Irish players.

Next Game: Georgetown
Notre Dame opens a two-game BIG EAST Conference road trip Saturday with a 4 p.m. (ET) contest at Georgetown. The Irish will be returning to the nation’s capital for the first time since a stunning 76-73 loss to the Hoyas on Jan. 7, 2004, when GU went on an 11-2 run over the final 43 seconds to erase a six-point Notre Dame lead. Nevertheless, the Irish still lead the all-time series with Georgetown, 19-2, including a 7-1 mark at McDonough Arena.

The Hoyas (8-7, 1-3) are coming off a 65-54 loss at West Virginia last Saturday. GU went scoreless for a six-minute stretch in the second half while the Mountaineers scored eight in a row to take the lead for good. Junior guard Kate Carlin scored 15 points and freshman forward Katrina Wheeler added 11 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Hoyas.

Georgetown is slated to visit Louisville Wednesday night before returning home to face Notre Dame.