Nov. 24, 2015
by Chris Masters
2015-16 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 5
Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division – First Round
#3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0 / 0-0 ACC) vs. Denver Pioneers (1-2 / 0-0 Summit League)
DATE: Nov. 27, 2015
TIME: 3:15 p.m. ET
AT: Freeport, Bahamas – St. Georges High School (1,200)
SERIES: First meeting
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p / Ruth Riley, color)
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TWITTER: @NDsidMasters / @ndwbb
- Notre Dame makes its second appearance in five years at the Junkanoo Jam, having won the Freeport Division title in 2012.
- Since 1996-97, the Fighting Irish are 38-4 (.905) in multi-game regular season tournaments, winning five titles along the way.
No. 3 Fighting Irish Ball In Bahamas Over Thanksgiving
Days after the first snowfall of the season arrived in northern Indiana, No. 3 Notre Dame will escape for the sunny skies of the Caribbean, as the Fighting Irish spend Thanksgiving weekend at the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas, beginning Friday with a first-round matchup at 3:15 p.m. (ET) against first-time opponent Denver. The game will air on radio through South Bend’s Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND (watchnd.tv).
Notre Dame (4-0) is coming off perhaps its most complete offensive performance of the young season, a 110-54 rout of in-state foe Valparaiso on Monday night. The Fighting Irish shot 61.4 percent from the field, including nearly 71 percent in the second half to cruise to the win.
In her fourth career game, Marina Mabrey etched her name in the record books with the fifth triple-double in school history (and the second-fastest triple-double to begin a career in NCAA Division I history), piling up 18 points, 10 assists and a school-record 12 steals.
- Notre Dame is No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll and is No. 3 in the latest WBCA/USA Today poll.
- Denver is not ranked.
- Including this week’s No. 3 ranking, Notre Dame has appeared in the Associated Press poll for 158 consecutive weeks (including the past 88 weeks in the AP Top 10), extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What’s more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a top-10 Notre Dame squad during her career, with the vast majority of that time (56 of 62 weeks) spent in the AP Top 5.
- Notre Dame also is ranked No. 3 in this week’s Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today poll. It’s the eighth consecutive season and 14 of the past 19 years the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top 10 of the coaches’ poll.
- For the sixth time in seven years, Notre Dame opened the season ranked in the top 10 in both national polls, including prior top-five berths in the AP poll in 2009-10 (fourth), 2011-12 (second) and 2014-15 (third).
- Notre Dame ranks among the top 25 in nine NCAA statistical categories (as of Tuesday), including three top-10 rankings — field-goal percentage (5th – .522), blocked shots (5th – 7.5 bpg.) and turnover margin (6th – +9.75). The Fighting Irish also rank 13th in scoring margin (+33.2 ppg.), 16th in assists (19.8 apg.), 17th in scoring offense (86.2 ppg.), 20th in assist/turnover ratio (1.46) and 22nd in steals (13.5 spg.), as well as tied for first in the non-statistical measure of win-loss percentage (1.000).
- Notre Dame has a remarkable tradition of success at home inside Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 421-91 (.822) all-time record in 39 seasons at the facility, including a 98-6 (.942) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
- Including regular season and postseason play, the Fighting Irish have won 75 of their last 79 games against conference opponents (and 26 in a row at home), dating back to their membership in the BIG EAST.
- Since joining the ACC prior to the 2013-14 season, Notre Dame is 38-1 against conference foes (31-1 regular season, 7-0 postseason). The last ACC school to lose only once in regular-season conference play during a two-year span was Duke in 2003 and 2004.
- Guards Madison Cable, Hannah Huffman and Michaela Mabrey have helped Notre Dame to a 112-6 (.949) record in their careers, putting them on pace to challenging last year’s senior class of Whitney Holloway and Markisha Wright as the most successful in Fighting Irish history. Holloway and Wright helped Notre Dame to a 143-10 (.935) record in their four-year careers.
- Since they first suited up at Notre Dame in 2012-13, Cable, Huffman and Mabrey have paced Notre Dame to two NCAA national championship games and three NCAA Women’s Final Fours (plus three conference regular season titles and three league tournament crowns), as well as a 39-5 (.886) record against ranked teams (22-5 against top-10 opponents).
- With 703 victories in her 29 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men’s/women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
- With 791 career wins, McGraw ranks 10th in NCAA Division I coaching history (seventh among active coaches). She also is one of two ACC coaches in the top 10 all-time, along with current North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell (second all-time/first among active with 965 as of Tuesday).
The Notre Dame-Denver Series
Friday will mark the first time Notre Dame and Denver have played in the sport of women’s basketball.
Other Notre Dame-Denver Series Tidbits
- Denver will be the 211th different opponent in the 39-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball.
- Denver is the second of two new opponents on this year’s Notre Dame schedule. The Fighting Irish defeated Bucknell in their season opener, 85-54 on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame has won its last 25 games against first-time opponents, including the 85-54 home win over Bucknell on Nov. 15.
- During their current 25-game winning streak against new opposition, the Fighting Irish have won by an average score of 94-48.
- Notre Dame is 69-7 (.908) against first-time opponents since 1995-96, including a 49-3 (.942) mark vs. new teams this century (since the start of the 2000-01 season).
- Notre Dame last played a first-time opponent away from home on March 22, 2014, defeating Robert Morris, 93-42 in the first round of the NCAA Championship in Toledo, Ohio.
- While Notre Dame and Denver have never met, their heacoaching staffs will have some familiarity. DU head coach Kerry Cremeans was an assistant at Purdue in 2000-01 when Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish defeated the Boilermakers, 68-66, at the Saavis (now Scottrade) Center in St. Louis to win Notre Dame’s first national championship.
- Cremeans and her Denver associate head coach Seth Kushkin were assistants on the Purdue staff from 1997-99, a span that included a split of two games against McGraw’s Notre Dame squad (during the era in which the Fighting Irish starting point guard was current Notre Dame associate coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey, and McGraw’s top aide was current Fighting Irish associate head coach Carol Owens).
- Notre Dame’s most recent brush with the city of Denver came in 2012, when the Fighting Irish played in the NCAA Final Four at the Pepsi Center (home of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche). Notre Dame defeated Connectiut, 83-75 in overtime in the national semifinals that year before falling to Baylor in the national championship game, 80-61.
- The Fighting Irish have played Denver on the hardwood before, meeting three times in men’s basketball. Notre Dame is 2-1 all-time against the Pioneers, including a 99-59 victory in the teams’ last matchup on Dec. 20, 1973, at Purcell Pavilion, one month before Notre Dame’s historic 71-70 victory, also at Purcell Pavilion, over legendary coach John Wooden, All-America forward Bill Walton and top-ranked UCLA, ending the Bruins’ NCAA-record 88-game winning streak.
- Notre Dame has faced Denver in several other sports through the years, most notably ice hockey and men’s lacrosse. The Fighting Irish icers are 10-35-3 all-time against the Pioneers, with the teams slated to meet in a two-game series Jan. 1-2 at Magness Arena in Denver.
- Meanwhile, the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team is 14-6 all-time against DU, although the Pioneers won both series games last year by identical 11-10 overtime scores (the latter in the NCAA national semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia).
Notre Dame vs. The Summit League
Notre Dame is 9-2 (.818) all-time against the Summit League’s current membership, including a 3-1 (.750) record away from home. Friday will mark the first time the Fighting Irish have played a Summit League school on a neutral court.
All but four of Notre Dame’s games have come against that conference’s Indiana members (IPFW and IUPUI), with the Fighting Irish a combined 7-0 against those squads (the two losses both came at the hands of South Dakota in 1980, well before the Coyotes joined the Summit League).
Friday’s game is the second of two this season for Notre Dame against Summit League opponents, with both games coming less than a week apart. Back on Nov. 21, the Fighting Irish defeated South Dakota State, 75-64 at Frost Arena in Brookings, South Dakota.
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 20 seasons. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Fighting Irish have won 38 of their last 42 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), including runs to the title in five tournaments since 2009-10 — 2009 Paradise Jam (Island Division), 2010 WBCA Classic, 2010 State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic, 2011 Junkanoo Jam (Freeport Division) and 2012 World Vision Classic.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were three defeats to teams ranked in the top three nationally during the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. No. 3/2 Tennessee at Ruston, Louisiana, in 1996; 75-59 at No. 3 Maryland in 2007) or championship (94-81 at No. 1 Baylor in 2011), and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003, in the finals of the WBCA Classic — a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra period.
Notre Dame is playing its only regular season tournament of the 2015-16 campaign, and its first since posting four consecutive victories in the 2014 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge, which was played in a “classic” format, with pre-determined matchups and no champion crowned. In that four-game run, the Fighting Irish defeated Holy Cross (104-29), Harvard (97-43) and Quinnipiac (112-52) at Purcell Pavilion, then ousted Kansas (89-47) during the tournament’s showcase day on a neutral floor at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Back In The Islands
Notre Dame is making its second appearance in the Junkanoo Jam, having also played in the tournament’s Freeport Division in 2012. That year, the Fighting Irish defeated USC in their opening game, 80-58, then rallied from a school record-tying 18-point second-half deficit to edge No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 on Natalie Novosel’s foul-line jumper at the buzzer.
Outside The Lower 48
Notre Dame will be playing its seventh regular season game outside the continental United States since the start of the 2009-10 season when the Fighting Irish take on Denver Friday.
Notre Dame is 6-0 in such games, going 3-0 at the 2009 Paradise Jam (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands), 2-0 at the 2012 Junkaoo Jam (Freeport, Bahamas), and 1-0 in a neutral-site game against Duquesne on Dec. 1, 2013, at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, Ontario (played as a homecoming for former All-America forward Natalie Achonwa).
In addition, the Fighting Irish went 3-0 during their summer 2013 European tour, winning games in London, Barcelona and Madrid.
Notre Dame is 25-13 (.658) all-time in its first game after the Thanksgiving holiday, including a 21-7 (.750) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). The Fighting Irish also have won their last eight post-Thanksgiving games (and 10 of their last 11), including a 89-47 win over Kansas last year (Nov. 30, 2014) in the showcase game of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
November To Remember
Notre Dame’s success during the past 21 seasons has been aided by its ability to get off to a good start. The Fighting Irish are 92-14 (.868) in November games since 1995-96 (when they joined the BIG EAST Conference).
Notre Dame has won 29 of its last 30 games in the month of November, the lone exception being a 94-81 loss at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
Department of Defense
- While Notre Dame’s offensive prowess has been well-noted for several years, the Fighting Irish defense has showed its teeth in the first three games this season, allowing just 52.8 points while holding the opposition to a .318 field-goal percentage (including a .280 mark from the three-point line).
- Notre Dame has allowed just 211 points in those opening four contests, the sixth-best defensive scoring total through four games in program history. In fact, with this year’s effort to date, four of the top seven best defensive starts to a season have come in the past four years.
Dealing With Rejection
- An added element to Notre Dame’s early-season success on defense has been its penchant for shot blocking. The Fighting Irish rank fifth in the nation (as of Tuesday) and second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaging 7.5 blocks per game this season.
- Leading the way is sophomore forward Brianna Turner, who leads the ACC and ranks ninth nationally at 3.8 blocks per game.
- Turner has 104 career swats (picking up her 100th block on Monday at Valparaiso), while junior forward Taya Reimer has 98 career rejections. Notre Dame has not had two active players with 100 blocks on the same roster since Nov. 20, 2004, when Teresa Borton recorded her 100th block in the Preseason WNIT championship game win over No. 10/9 Ohio State at Purcell Pavilion, joining Jacqueline Batteast in the triple-digit club.
Notre Dame has enjoyed remarkable success on the road in recent seasons, having won 47 of its last 48 (and 54 of its last 60) regular season road games.
The only blemish for the Fighting Irish in this current run (which dates back to the early portion of the 2011-12 campaign) came last season with a 78-63 loss at Miami on Jan. 8, as the Fighting Irish saw their NCAA Division I record-tying 30-game road winning streak snapped. It was an amazing string of results in hostile territory, a streak that lasted exactly three years (Jan. 4, 2012-Jan. 4, 2015) and left Notre Dame tied with Connecticut for the NCAA Division I all-time mark in that category.
One of the more notable highlights of Notre Dame’s sensational recent road run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Connecticut, earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
Visiting Century City
Notre Dame’s 110-51 victory at Valparaiso on Nov. 23 was its 13th 100-point game since the start of the 2011-12 season (and nine other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program’s existence — and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run.
— ND —
Chris Masters, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2001 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s basketball and women’s golf programs. A native of San Francisco, California, Masters is a 1996 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, earned his master’s degree from Kansas State University in 1998, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).