Dec. 6, 2011
2011-12 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 9
#3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (5-4 / 0-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: December 7, 2011
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 30-6
1ST MTG: MU 66-41 (2/3/78)
LAST MTG: ND 73-55 (1/5/11)
WEBCAST: UND.com (free-live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets
- The Fighting Irish are 12-4 (.750) in conference openers since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96. Notre Dame also has won 10 of its last 12 league lidlifters.
- Wednesday’s game also will feature the outreach event called “Food For Friends”, with fans encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to Purcell Pavilion, where they will be collected at Gates 8-10, and later distributed through the Food Drive for the St. Joseph County chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
No. 3 Fighting Irish Open BIG EAST Play Wednesday At Home Against Marquette
On the strength of a season-best four-game winning streak, No. 3 Notre Dame tips off its 17th season of BIG EAST Conference action at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday when it plays host to Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.
The Fighting Irish (7-1) posted their second consecutive wire-to-wire victory on Sunday afternoon, jumping out to leads of 12-0, 17-1 and 41-11 on the way to a 76-48 win at Creighton. Notre Dame shot a sizzling 60.7 percent (17-of-28) from the floor in the first half and forced the Bluejays into 25 turnovers.
Sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa led three Fighting Irish double-digit scorers with a career-high 20 points, while senior guard Natalie Novosel added 17 points and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters had a near double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
- Notre Dame is No. 3 in both the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
- Marquette is not ranked.
- Notre Dame is off to a 7-1 start for the fourth time in the past five seasons, with six wins coming by 20+ points, and three by at least 30 points. In all seven victories this year, the Fighting Irish have held their opponent to 61 points or fewer, including four games when the opposition scored 48 points or fewer.
- Notre Dame won the 2011 Junkanoo Jam (Freeport Division) on Nov. 25-26 with wins over USC (80-58) and No. 7/6 Duke (56-54) in Freeport, Bahamas. It was the ninth regular-season tournament title in the past 11 tries for the Fighting Irish, who are 31-4 in regular-season tournament games since the start of the 1996-97 season.
- Notre Dame trailed 38-20 with 19:15 to play against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 before rallying for the 56-54 victory. That tied the largest comeback win in school history, while senior guard Natalie Novosel’s buzzer-beating shot was the first Fighting Irish game-winner at the horn since 2006.
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in this week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the fifth consecutive week the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls. It’s also the second time in three seasons that Notre Dame has spent at least five weeks in a row as a consensus top-five team (the Fighting Irish were in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 5 for 11 consecutive weeks from Dec. 7, 2009-Feb. 22, 2010).
- With this week’s No. 3 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 82 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with more than half that time (44 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
- With 563 victories in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw is third 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) and men’s tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 from 1957-87).
- McGraw also is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women’s sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men’s/women’s track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame — Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men’s swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men’s tennis).
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking fifth with 381 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,357 fans per home game after the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans a night. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 162 of their last 164 home games, logging 17 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Feb. 26, 2011, vs. Cincinnati).
- The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 11 seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the ’11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. 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 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor’s degree (a 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.
A Quick Look At Marquette
There are several new faces in the Marquette camp this season, as the Golden Eagles feature six freshmen on their 11-player roster. MU does have two starters back in the fold this season from last year’s 24-9 squad that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship and gave Tennessee all it could handle on its home floor before bowing out, 79-70.
Marquette (5-4) is coming off an 84-36 win at home over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in its last outing on Sunday afternoon. The Golden Eagles rattled the Lions into 28 turnovers, parlaying them into 34 points. MU also shot 51.1 percent from the floor and had four players score in double figures, led by freshman guard Arlesia Morse (19 points), sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe (14 points/eight rebounds) and junior forward Sarina Simmons (10 points/10 rebounds).
Plouffe leads the Golden Eagles in scoring (14.0 ppg.) and steals (2.2 spg.), while ranking second in rebounding (7.8 rpg.), field goal percentage (.584) and assists (3.2 apg.). Morse is second in scoring (11.6 ppg.) and Simmons is third (10.8 ppg.), while also leading the team in rebounding (8.6 rpg.) and placing second in three-point percentage (.345).
Head coach Terri Mitchell is in her 16th season at Marquette with a 301-175 (.632) record. She is 2-10 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Marquette Series
In the 35-year history of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, no series has been played with greater regularity than the one with Marquette, as the two schools get set to meet for the 37th time on Wednesday night. The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series, 30-6, including an 18-1 edge at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the their first-ever meeting with the Golden Eagles (a 66-41 MU win on Feb. 3, 1978 in Milwaukee).
The Last Time Notre Dame And Marquette Met
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw was thrilled with the play of Devereaux Peters.
Peters scored 18 points to lead No. 13/12 Notre Dame to a 73-55 victory over Marquette on Jan. 5, 2011, at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee.
“Devereaux was just outstanding,” McGraw said. “She was a human highlight film, I thought, on offense. She did just a fantastic job. She was always in the right spot and took advantage of the mismatch that she had.”
The 6-2 forward came in averaging 9.8 points, but had 12 in the first half for Notre Dame. She made 9 of 12 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, made four steals and blocked two shots as the Fighting Irish won their season-high eighth straight game.
Peters made four layups and a tip-in in the first half as Notre Dame scored 24 points in the paint to Marquette’s eight.
Natalie Novosel added 14 points, including 10 during a decisive second half run for Notre Dame.
Tatiyiana McMorris scored 15 points to lead Marquette, which shot 33.9 percent and had 24 turnovers.
Angel Robinson scored 14 points and her jumper to open the second half pulled Marquette to 40-33, but then Notre Dame’s defense took over. After Robinson’s shot, the Golden Eagles went 1 for 15 with seven turnovers and let the game slip away.
Novosel’s 10 points sparked a 19-3 run capped by Skylar Diggins’ two free throws that pushed the lead to 59-36 with 10:44 left to play.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Marquette Met At Purcell Pavilion
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw sat down at her post-game news conference and let out a sigh of relief.
“Welcome back Lindsay Schrader,” she said.
The Fighting Irish, who had lost two straight road games against ranked opponents with Schrader sitting out with a sprained left ankle, beat visiting Marquette 82-67 on Feb. 23, 2010, as Schrader had 17 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play and Melissa Lechlitner had a career-high 23 points. McGraw said Schrader was only allowed to play 20 minutes by the team trainers.
“We squeezed every second we could get out of her,” McGraw said. “She had a fantastic game.”
McGraw was concerned when Marquette hit 3 of 4 shots to open the game and the Fighting Irish defense looked like it did in the losses at St. John’s and Georgetown the prior week.
“I thought, `Well, gosh, we look like we’ve looked the last couple of games where our feet were in mud defensively,'” she said.
Lechlitner, though, helped Notre Dame get going. After turning the ball over on their initial possession and then missing their first three shots, the Fighting Irish made eight straight during an 18-2 run that gave it an 18-6 lead.
Lechlitner made back-to-back baskets during the run, hitting a three, then a jumper to give the Fighting Irish a 12-6 lead. She later drove inside for another score during the run. The Golden Eagles narrowed the lead to 24-19 when Courtney Weibel made a three-pointer. But a three-point play by Lechlitner and another three-pointer by her helped spark a 15-3 spurt, giving the Fighting Irish a 41-24 lead at halftime.
An 11-2 run by the Golden Eagles early in the second half cut the lead to 48-37, but the Fighting Irish quickly answered with a 10-2 spurt that included another three-pointer by Lechlitner.
“She shot the ball extremely well,” McGraw said. “She just did some really good things to get us going.”
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said the Golden Eagles lost track of Lechlitner at times.
“She made us pay for it,” she said.
Lechlitner was 8 of 13 shooting, including 4 of 7 from three-point range. She credited Skylar Diggins, who had a (then) career-high nine assists, with getting her open looks.
She said she wasn’t surprised the Fighting Irish struggled without Schrader even though they are a veteran team.
“Lindsay’s been our go-to player all year,” McGraw said. “I was disappointed, honestly that other people haven’t stepped up in her absence.”
Ashley Barlow added 11 for the Fighting Irish. Weibel and Jessica Pachko had 15 points each for Marquette and Angel Robinson had 11.
McGraw wasn’t totally happy with her team’s play, especially about being outrebounded again and with Notre Dame’s defense.
“We were up 20 and they got back in the game,” she said. “We just needed to settle down a little bit. I think it was a good win for us.”
Other Notre Dame-Marquette Series Tidbits
- From 1982-2006, Notre Dame won 26 of 27 games in the series after Marquette won three of the first four meetings (twice in Milwaukee, once in South Bend). However, the series has been much tighter of late, with the Fighting Irish winning three of five.
- Six of the past nine games in the series have been particularly close (10 points or fewer), with a winning margin of just 6.5 points per game. Yet, only once in the 35-game series has a contest gone to overtime — a 67-65 Notre Dame victory in 2006 (won on a Megan Duffy layup at the horn).
- The 30 victories and 36 series games both are school records. Syracuse and Valparaiso are second on the series wins list (24), while Notre Dame has played DePaul 35 times for second on that list.
- With Marquette’s arrival in the BIG EAST for the 2005-06 season, the Fighting Irish and Golden Eagles have been members of the same conference three times. Previously, the teams shared affiliations for two-year periods in the North Star (1986-88) and Midwestern Collegiate (1989-91) conferences. The NSC now is defunct, while the MCC was renamed the Horizon League. Notre Dame is 12-2 against Marquette in conference play, going 4-0 in both the NSC and MCC, and 4-2 in the BIG EAST.
- Marquette has topped the 70-point mark five times against Notre Dame. Conversely, the Fighting Irish have scored at least 70 points against the Golden Eagles 24 times, all in the past 30 meetings.
- After the teams split the first two games they played at Purcell Pavilion (ND 60-57 on Feb. 3, 1979; MU 67-46 on Feb. 2, 1980), the Fighting Irish have won the past 17 series games against Marquette in South Bend.
- The MU record books include two additional Golden Eagle victories over the Fighting Irish, both of which came in 1976 (52-47 on Feb. 4 in Milwaukee; 45-41 on Feb. 28 in South Bend), and both of which were played prior to Notre Dame’s program elevating to varsity status (as an AIAW Division III entity) in 1977-78.
- Notre Dame sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa and Marquette sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe are two of the top young talents in the Canadian national team program. Achonwa currently plays for Canada’s Senior National Team (most recently in the 2010 FIBA World Championships when her country placed 12th), while Plouffe presently is a member of the Canada Junior National Team. What’s more, Achonwa and Plouffe’s twin sister, Michelle (a sophomore at Utah, which Notre Dame defeated 67-54 in the first round of last year’s NCAA Championship), were teammates on the 2009 Canada Junior National Team that finished fourth at the FIBA U19 World Championships for Women in Thailand — a tournament won by the United States, which was led by current Notre Dame associate coach Carol Owens and current Fighting Irish junior guard Skylar Diggins.
- From 2008-10, Marquette sophomore forward Courtney Thomas and Notre Dame freshman guard Whitney Holloway were teammates at Montini Catholic High School in suburban Chicago. In 2009-10, Holloway and Thomas helped MCHS win its first state championship. Thomas has not played this year after being injured in the preseason.
- Marquette sophomore guard Gabi Minix hails from Grovertown, Ind., only 30 miles south of the Notre Dame campus. Minix enjoyed a successful prep career at tiny Oregon-Davis High School (enrollment 334) in nearby Hamlet, Ind., playing for her father Terry and alongside her sisters Aubrey and Kelsey, and helping the Bobcats to the 2007 Class A title (the same year Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins led South Bend Washington High School to the Class 4A state championship).
Blowing The Lid Off The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 12-4 (.750) in BIG EAST Conference opens since it joined the league for the 1995-96 season. The Fighting Irish also have won 10 of their last 12 BIG EAST lidlifters, including a 79-43 victory at Providence last season.
Opening conference play before Christmas is a bit of rarity for Notre Dame, with this being just the second pre-Yuletide league game for the Fighting Irish since the 2000-01 season. Notre Dame also played pre-Christmas conference contests during its first four seasons in the BIG EAST (1995-96 through 1998-99).
The home game against Marquette also will mark only the third time in 11 seasons that Notre Dame will open BIG EAST play at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish winning both previous times they began conference action in front of their loyal home fans. The other times Notre Dame started league play at Purcell Pavilion since 2000-01 came on Jan. 2, 2005 (a 54-33 win over Seton Hall), and Jan. 9, 2010 (an 81-46 win over Villanova).
Taking What We Can Get
Fueled by its aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in six of eight games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 26.6 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +11.75 turnover margin that is second-best in the nation (as of Monday).
The Fighting Irish wasted little time in setting the tone for their opponents this season, forcing a combined 112 turnovers in their first three games, an average of 37.3 per night. That run was highlighted by an opponent season-high 46 turnovers against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion, the third-most takeaways in school history, and second-most in the program’s Division I era (49 vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010).
Add in last Friday’s win over Penn, and Notre Dame has been especially hard on opponents in its four home games this season, forcing 33.8 turnovers per game and collecting at least 23 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Wednesday’s game leading the BIG EAST (and ranking sixth in the nation) in steals with 15.9 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in six of eight games this season, including two contests with 20-plus steals.
Highlighting this year’s takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a season-high 29-steal performance in the opening night victory against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up two days later with 25 thefts in a win over Indiana State.
Prior to last season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years (and 991 games) of the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program, and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991. What’s more, Notre Dame had not earned a conference steals title since 1989-90, when it led the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) with 10.9 spg.
Yet, in the past two years (47 games), the Fighting Irish have had seven 23-steal games, with four outings of at least 25 thefts, and they claimed last year’s BIG EAST steals crown with 11.8 steals per game during regular-season league play.
Individually Notre Dame has six different players with double-digit steals this season (and another with seven), led by junior guard Skylar Diggins, who has collected a team-high 3.3 steals per game (third in the BIG EAST).
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first eight games of the year.
The Fighting Irish are averaging 16.5 assists per game, with their 25 assists against Akron on Nov. 11 falling just three shy of the Preseason WNIT record for assists in a game. That was the first of four 20-assist contests for Notre Dame so far this year.
What’s more, Notre Dame has assisted on 58.4 percent of its field goals this season (132 of 226), compared to last year when the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least three players scoring in double figures seven of eight games, and at least four double-digit scorers in three games.
During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 37-4 (.902) when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 – 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 – 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 – 70-69 at DePaul).
The Fighting Irish also have had five different players lead them in scoring through the first eigth games, with three of those five registering at least one 20-point game to date.
A Rally To Remember
Notre Dame tied a school record by digging out of an 18-point second-half hole to defeat No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.
Nearly three years earlier on Dec. 30, 2008, the Fighting Irish trailed 46-28 at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt with 15:56 remaining and came back to win, 59-57 at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
This year’s comeback victory over Duke marked just the fourth time in program history Notre Dame has ralled from a deficit of 15 points or more to post a victory, with all four of these comebacks occurring in the past 11 seasons (see accompanying chart).
Beat The Clock
Senior guard Natalie Novosel hit a running bank shot at the foul line as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.
Novosel’s buzzer-beater was the first winning shot at the horn by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 10, 2006, when Megan Duffy scored the last of her career-high 32 points with an off-handed layup at the overtime siren to earn a 67-65 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has had several players nail winning shots in the final minute of games during recent seasons. Ashley Barlow was the most recent Fighting Irish player to pull off such late-game heroics, canning a three-pointer with 34.2 seconds remaining to help Notre Dame take a 74-73 win at Syracuse on Jan. 30, 2010.
Another notable recent “beat-the-clock” moment for Notre Dame occurred on Dec. 5, 2007, when Charel Allen sank a foul-line jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Fighting Irish to an 86-84 win at Bowling Green.
Novosel Reaches Career Milestone
On a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Nov. 13 against Indiana State, senior guard Natalie Novosel became the 29th Notre Dame women’s basketball player to score 1,000 career points (currently 24th at 1,112). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (19th with 1,210 points) as the two active players in that elite Fighting Irish club, with Notre Dame’s two fifth-year seniors also having the chance to reach the scoring millennium later this season — forward Devereaux Peters has tallied 935 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 797 career points.
Should all four players hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time. Twice (in both 2000-01 and 2009-10), Notre Dame has had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).
What’s more, Novosel becomes the sixth player from Notre Dame’s 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (ninth at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (13th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (23rd at 1,148) — and that doesn’t even include Peters or Mallory, who also were part of that 13-player roster.
Game #8 Recap: Creighton
Natalie Achonwa scored a career-high 20 points to lead three Notre Dame players in double figures as the third-ranked Fighting Irish posted a 76-48 victory at Creighton on Sunday.
The Fighting Irish led by 30 points at halftime, allowing Novosel and star guard Skylar Diggins to spend most of the second half resting on the bench.
Ally Jensen made 3-of-4 three-pointers and finished with 12 points to lead Creighton (4-3).
Notre Dame got out to leads of 12-0, 30-3 and 41-11 at halftime. The Fighting Irish forced turnovers on seven of Creighton’s first nine possessions, and the Bluejays didn’t make a field goal until Sarah Nelson’s left-handed bank-in with 11:36 left in the half.
It was the kind of start Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw wanted to see after a rather lethargic performance in a 31-point win over Penn two nights earlier.
“We talked about energy. We had a lot of good positive energy,” McGraw said. “We were into the game more. I think we were really flat the other night and we needed to make up for it.”
Notre Dame outworked and outmuscled the Bluejays inside and shot 55 percent.
Achonwa had scored a total of 15 points in her first four games back and made just 7 of 19 shots. But she found her touch against the Bluejays, making 8 of 11 shots.
Achonwa’s return also takes pressure off Notre Dame’s three-point shooters. The Fighting Irish came in shooting 28.9 percent from long range and made only 1 of 7 against Creighton.
“It gives us a huge lift,” McGraw said. “We’ve struggled from the three-point line, so it was good to look inside and score some points without making any threes.”
Achonwa, who averaged 6.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in 39 games off the bench as a freshman, said she can build off her performance Sunday.
“I think I’m just trying to find my rhythm again,” she said.
Novosel said she and her teammates expected Achonwa to be a valuable player for the Fighting Irish this season.
“She’s come in full throttle,” Novosel said. “She’s very versatile, very hard to guard – a great attribute for us.”
Creighton shot just 15 percent (3 of 20) in the first half but improved after halftime and finished at 37.2 percent.
Beyond The Box Score — Creighton
- Notre Dame set or tied nine team and individual opponent records at Creighton’s D.J. Sokol Arena including: largest margin of victory, fewest points allowed in a half, lowest field goal percentage allowed in a half (CU shot .150 in the first 20 minutes), most turnovers forced, highest field goal percentage, most free throws made, assists, assists by individual and steals by individual.
- The 28-point margin was the largest winning spread for Notre Dame on the road since Jan. 15, 2011, when it posted an 82-50 victory at Pittsburgh.
- The Fighting Irish held Creighton to an opponent season-low 11 first-half points, the fewest by a Notre Dame foe since Jan. 2, 2011, when Southeast Missouri State scored an opponent record-low six points in the first half of a 97-21 Fighting Irish win at Purcell Pavilion.
- Dating back to the start of the 2008-09 season, the Fighting Irish are 19-7 (.731) when playing for the second time in a 48-hour span.
- Notre Dame improves to 28-2 (.933) all-time against the current Missouri Valley Conference membership, with a 14-1 (.933) mark away from Purcell Pavilion (road/neutral sites combined).
- The Fighting Irish have won 10 consecutive games against MVC schools and are 19-1 (.950) against that conference in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present).
- Notre Dame is 3-0 all-time against Creighton, with this marking not only its first visit to Omaha, but its first-ever game in the state of Nebraska.
- Notre Dame shot a season-high .895 (17-of-19) from the free throw line, its best performance at the charity stripe (with a minimum of 10 attempts) since Nov. 19, 2008, when the Fighting Irish made 11 of 12 foul shots (.917) in a 96-61 win over Evansville at Purcell Pavilion.
- Achonwa easily topped her old career scoring high of 14 points that she set twice as a rookie last season, including the 91-54 Fighting Irish win over Creighton last Dec. 11 at Purcell Pavilion (more recently on Feb. 5, 2011, at South Florida).
- Achonwa (who also set a career high with eight field goals and tied another with 11 field goal attempts) became the fifth different Notre Dame player to lead the team in scoring at least once this season.
- Achonwa scored her 20 points in only 18 minutes, notching her first career “point-a-minute” game and the first by a Notre Dame player since Nov. 12, 2010, when Peters scored a career-high 23 points in 16 minutes against New Hampshire.
- Achonwa’s 20 points are the most by a Fighting Irish reserve since Dec. 30, 2010, when current sophomore guard Kayla McBride had a career-high 20 points in a 91-47 victory over Loyola Marymount.
- Diggins and junior guard Kaila Turner tied their season high for assists.
- Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory tied her career high with six steals.
- Novosel moved into 24th place on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list with 1,112 points, passing Danielle Green (1,106 from 1995-2000).
Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll, its fifth consecutive week in the top five of the media balloting. The Fighting Irish also earned a preseason No. 2 ranking that was their highest since the final 2000-01 poll (taken before the the NCAA Championship), and also was the highest Notre Dame has ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.
Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four the following week), the first time it received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.
This week’s No. 3 ranking marks the 82nd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (44) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.
This year’s No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 221 weeks during the program’s 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, for the third consecutive week, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 3 in the current ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll (one spot below their season-high No. 2 ranking the first two weeks of the year), and like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year’s preseason coaches’ survey (and two a week later), their first nods for the top spot since the final ’00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 83 of the past 84 weeks, falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for a total of 214 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 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 221 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).
Half And Half
During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 222-18 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 150 of their last 162 such contests.
What’s more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 59-1 (.983) when leading at the half, with the only loss coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 17 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 Fighting Irish have an amazing 237-15 (.940) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including six contests this year.
…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 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 157-6 (.963) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.
In the past three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 34-2 when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in five games this season and winning four times.
Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 208 of their last 235 games (.885) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 113-19 (.863) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former 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 Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 97 of their last 105 non-BIG EAST contests (.924) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 358-88 (.803) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past two seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out two games (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee), and put six others (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 20 vs. UCF, Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.
What’s more, through its first four home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,357 fans per game, including a season-high 8,516 vs. Akron for the Nov. 11 season opener.
In fact, while some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it’s entirely possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2010-11 regular season.
Fighting Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, 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 originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Fighting 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 (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish Digital Media 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), is now in the fourth season of his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women’s basketball contests, including the program’s fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity’s famed “Big Monday” telecast.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site’s free Fighting Irish Video Channel.
This year’s TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Dec. 2 game vs. Penn (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 206 televised games, including 151 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
Notre Dame Breaks New Ground With “Heart of the Irish” Service Initiative
For the third consecutive year, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team will be front and center in the South Bend and greater Michiana communities with its groundbreaking outreach program (renamed “Heart of the Irish”), which will involve numerous interactive events during the 2011-12 season. The goal of this year’s “Heart of the Irish” program is to highlight community leaders who are making a difference, as well as encourage fans to give back to their community and make an impact through a variety of special initiatives.
The first of five cornerstone events for the 2011-12 “Heart of the Irish” drive took place on Dec. 2, when Notre Dame played host to Penn at Purcell Pavilion. During that game, the Fighting Irish held their seventh annual Teddy Bear Toss, collecting new teddy bears and other stuffed animals for patients at Riley Children’s Hospital, which serves many Michiana children, as well as local youth patients. The highlight of the event came at halftime, when fans were invited to toss their stuffed animals onto the court, where they were then collected by volunteers.
Notre Dame’s second outreach event is called Food For Friends, to be held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday (Dec. 7) at Purcell Pavilion. Fans can bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that will be collected and delivered as part of the Food Drive for the St. Joseph County chapter of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
Notre Dame’s third special “Heart of the Irish” event is entitled Reading One on One and it’s scheduled for Jan. 17, when the Fighting Irish play host to Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion. The That evening, the team will collect children’s books for the South Bend Community School Corporation in support of the Public Education Foundation.
The Fighting Irish will hold their annual fund-raising game in support of breast cancer awareness and research on Feb. 12 (3:30 p.m. ET vs. West Virginia) at Purcell Pavilion. Known locally as the Pink Zone game (and nationally renamed as Play4Kay), it will feature numerous informational booths and donation opportunities for fans to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, with the highlight being the always-memorable halftime ceremony to honor those who have been touched by (and in many cases, conquered) the disease. Last year, Notre Dame raised more than $130,000 through its Pink Zone game for the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, lifting its three-year donation total to more than a quarter of a million dollars.
The last event in the “Heart of the Irish” series comes on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), when Notre Dame welcomes Providence to Purcell Pavilion for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. This will be the inaugural Splish Splash, in which fans can bring towels, wash cloths or toiletries such as small bottles of shampoo, soap or toothpaste for the YWCA of St. Joseph County.
Throughout the season, the Fighting Irish also will recognize community leaders who have made exceptional contributions.
In addition to this five-event series, Notre Dame women’s basketball will take part in a cooperative effort with the University’s Office of Sustainability as the Fighting Irish encourage all fans to recycle in their daily lives, particularly when they attend Notre Dame basketball games at Purcell Pavilion.
Originally called the “Spirit of Giving” program, Notre Dame’s community outreach efforts began in earnest during the summer of 2009. Since then, Fighting Irish players, coaches, staff and fans have taken part in hundreds of hours of service projects designed to give back to the South Bend and greater Michiana communities.
The Notre Dame women’s basketball team was honored for its community outreach efforts in 2008-09, receiving the Trophy Award (symbolic of the Fighting Irish program with the most service hours in one academic year) from the Notre Dame athletics department.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It’s year five of Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 28 times, most recently with the Nov. 17 win over Hartford.
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 — fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “the media relations director has way too much time on his hands”), 17 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including six current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 28 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 10 on free throws, and four on three-pointers.
Next Game: Purdue
Notre Dame renews its annual in-state rivalry with Purdue at noon (ET) Saturday when the Fighting Irish take on the No. 12/14 Boilermakers at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on the Big Ten Network.
Purdue (7-1) will be playing its third consecutive top-eight opponent, having just defeated then-No. 4 Texas A&M, 60-51 at Mackey Arena last Sunday afternoon after a 64-53 loss at No. 8 Duke three nights earlier. The Boilermakers are off this week in preparation for their matchup with Notre Dame on Saturday.
— ND —