Dec. 27, 2011
2011-12 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 13
#3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-1 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. Longwood Lancers (2-11 / 0-0 Independent)
DATE: December 28, 2011
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: First meeting
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 / UND.com/tickets
- Notre Dame is playing a first-time opponent for the fourth time this year, having won its first three games against new foes in its opening three contests of the season.
- The Fighting Irish have won their first game after Christmas in each of the past eight seasons.
- Former Notre Dame All-America guard Lindsay Schrader (’10) returns to campus as a member of the Longwood coaching staff.
No. 3 Fighting Irish Return From Christmas Break Wednesday Against Longwood
With all of the presents unwrapped and the holiday feasts devoured, No. 3 Notre Dame returns to the hardwood at 2 p.m. (ET) Wednesday when it plays host to Longwood at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics web site, www.UND.com.
Notre Dame (11-1) went into the Christmas break on a high note, earning its eighth consecutive victory with a 90-38 conquest of UCF on Dec. 20 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 39-7 lead midway through the first half and rolled to the comprehensive win.
Junior guard Skylar Diggins led six Notre Dame players in double figures with 14 points in just 16 minutes of action. Classmate Kaila Turner sparked the Fighting Irish reserve unit with a career-high 13 points, while sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa added 12 points and a season-high eight rebounds.
- Notre Dame is No. 3 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today poll this week.
- Longwood is not ranked.
- Notre Dame is off to a 11-1 start (or better) for the sixth time in school history (and the fourth in the past five seasons).
- Notre Dame has three wins in four games against Top 25 opponents this season, defeating No. 7/6 Duke at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas (56-54), going on the road to win at No. 12/14 Purdue (66-38), and downing No. 8/7 Kentucky at home (92-83), while falling in a hard-fought battle at No. 1 Baylor (94-81).
- This is the first time in school history the Fighting Irish have defeated three opponents ranked 12th or higher in the Associated Press poll before Christmas.
- Nine Fighting Irish wins have come by 20+ points, and five by at least 30 points. In 10 of 11 victories this year, Notre Dame has held its opponent to 61 points or fewer, with seven games when the opposition scored 50 points or fewer.
- The Fighting Irish have scored at least 90 points five times this season (including three of the past four games) and have topped the 80-point mark eight times.
- Notre Dame is appearing in the top 15 of seven different NCAA statistical categories, as of Dec. 19. In that final pre-Christmas report, the Fighting Irish were third in the nation in turnover margin (now +9.75), seventh in steals (15.3 spg.), eighth in both scoring margin (+29.3 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.475), 10th in scoring offense (81.9 ppg.), 11th in assists (18.7 apg.) and 15th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.11).
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in this week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the eighth 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 eight 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 85 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 (47 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
- With 567 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 385 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 8,542 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 165 of their last 167 home games, logging 18 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Sunday afternoon vs. Kentucky).
- 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 Longwood
In its fifth year since completing the transition to the NCAA Division I level as an independent, Longwood is 2-11 this season, with 10 of those 11 losses coming away from home. The Lancers are winding down a seven-game road trip that included five games in a seven-day span right before Christmas, four of which came in the state of Ohio.
Longwood last played on Dec. 22, dropping a 70-54 decision at Notre Dame’s fellow BIG EAST Conference member, Cincinnati. The Lancers (who also put up a tough fight at BIG EAST foe and nationally-ranked Georgetown in their season opener before falling, 56-45) battled through a rough shooting first half at Cincinnati and played the Bearcats almost evenly in the second stanza, but the margin was already too great to overcome.
Guard Crystal Smith led a trio of Lancer juniors in double figures against Cincinnati, coming off the bench to score 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Forward Chelsea Coward netted 12 points (on 5-of-10 shooting) and a team-high six rebounds, while guard Erin Neal added 10 points and two steals.
Senior forward Brittanni Billups is Longwood’s top scorer and rebounder this season, averaging 9.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Neal is chipping in 8.9 points and 2.2 steals a night, while Coward offers up 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest.
Head coach Bill Reinson is in his second season at Longwood, having taken over the Lancer program on an interim basis early last year before earning the permanent top spot during this past offseason. Reinson is 8-29 (.216) at Longwood, and he will be coaching against Notre Dame for the first time in his career.
The Notre Dame-Longwood Series
Notre Dame and Longwood will be playing for the first time on Wednesday afternoon.
Other Notre Dame-Longwood Series Tidbits
- Longwood is the fourth of five first-time opponents on this year’s Notre Dame schedule. The Fighting Irish opened the season with win over new foes Akron (81-61), Indiana State (99-34) and Hartford (98-43) in the first three rounds of the Preseason WNIT.
- The Lancers will be the 191st different opponent in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball.
- Notre Dame and Longwood have met in only one other sport through the years. On March 4, 2011, the Lancers defeated the Fighting Irish in softball, 2-0, at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic in Kissimmee, Fla.
- Notre Dame is 49-7 (.875) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including a 29-3 (.906) mark vs. new teams since the start of the 2000-01 season.
- The Fighting Irish have won 26 consecutive home games against new opposition, dating back to Jan. 18, 1996, when Connecticut posted an 87-64 win at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame is 11-10 (.524) all-time against Virginia schools, with a 5-1 (.833) record at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish have played six other Virginia institutions in their history, but not since Jan. 2, 2008, when they posted an 84-59 win at Richmond. Current Notre Dame fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters came off the bench to score 12 points in that game, making 8-of-10 free throws to set career highs in both categories that still stand. Richmond also was the last Virginia school to play at Purcell Pavilion, with Notre Dame defeating the Spiders, 87-66, on Nov. 28, 2006.
- Longwood head coach Bill Reinson spent two seasons (2000-02) on the men’s basketball staff at UNC Greensboro, working under then-Spartan head coach Fran McCaffery (now the skipper at Iowa), and following a similar career track to Notre Dame associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis, who was director of men’s basketball operations at UNCG under McCaffery in 2002-03 before joining the Notre Dame women’s basketball staff in 2003-04.
- Prior to becoming the head coach at UNCG, McCaffery spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Notre Dame on the staffs of both Digger Phelps (1988-91) and John MacLeod (1991-99). McCaffery also is married to former Notre Dame women’s basketball standout Margaret Nowlin (1988-92), who ranks 15th in school history with 1,312 points and was the catalyst behind the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship appearance in 1992.
A Familiar Face Returns
Former Notre Dame All-America guard Lindsay Schrader (’10) will be back in the familiar confines of Purcell Pavilion, albeit from a different vantage point. Schrader will be sitting on the Longwood bench as an assistant coach in her first season on the Lancers’ staff after spending last year as an intern in the compliance department at the Big Ten Conference offices in Chicago.
A three-time all-BIG EAST selection (and first-team pick in both 2009 and 2010), Schrader is one of only four Fighting Irish players ever to pile up at least 1,400 points and 800 rebounds in her career, ranking 13th on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,429 points) and sixth on the school’s career rebounding chart (828 rebounds) during her tenure under the Golden Dome from 2005-10. What’s more, she holds Notre Dame’s all-time records for double-doubles by a guard in a single season (7 in 2008-09) and a career (17).
Schrader, a native of Bartlett, Ill., also is part of a growing list of 13 people who either played or coached for Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame and who are currently coaching at the college or high school levels. It’s a group that includes current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey (’00), and three of Schrader’s former teammates who also are on college staffs — Ashley Barlow (’10; now at IUPUI), Megan Duffy (’06; St. John’s) and Erica Williamson (’10; Loyola-Md.).
Notre Dame vs. Division I Independents
Notre Dame has not faced an NCAA Division I independent institution prior to Wednesday’s contest against Longwood.
There currently are four schools competing as independents in women’s basketball at the NCAA Division I level — Longwood, Cal State Bakersfield, Nebraska-Omaha and Seattle. That list will be cut in half next year when UNO joins the Summit League and Seattle enters the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Another Present Under The Tree
Notre Dame is 23-11 (.676) all-time in in its first game after the Christmas holiday, with a 12-6 (.667) record at Purcell Pavilion and a 17-7 (.708) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
The Fighting Irish also have won their last eight games coming off the Christmas break, including a 70-61 victory over Gonzaga last season (Dec. 29, 2010, at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle). Wednesday will mark the first time Notre Dame has played at home right after Christmas since the 2007-08 season, when the Fighting Irish came back from the holiday hiatus to defeat Saint Francis (Pa.), 82-39, on Dec. 29.
Start Me Up
For the fourth time in five years, and the sixth time in school history (all in the past 12 seasons), Notre Dame has opened with a 11-1 record or better.
Twice in their history, the Fighting Irish opened with at least 12 consecutive wins, doing so in their 2000-01 national championship season (school-record 23-game winning streak) and again in 2009-10 (15-0).
Fighting Irish Scoring Early TKOs
Part of Notre Dame’s success this season can be traced to its penchant for jumping out to huge early leads and then keep its foot on the gas the rest of the way.
Seven times this year, the Fighting Irish have charged to a 20-point lead inside the opening 12:13 of the game, going on to win all seven of those contests by an average of 44.6 points per game.
‘Tis The Season For Taking
Fueled by its aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in nine games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 26.5 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +9.75 turnover margin that is third-best in the nation (as of Dec. 19).
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, and converting those into 142 points (47.3 ppg.). 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).
The Fighting Irish have been especially hard on opponents in their seven home games this season, forcing 30.9 turnovers per game and collecting at least 19 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Wednesday’s game leading the BIG EAST (and ranking seventh in the nation as of Dec. 19) in steals with 15.3 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in nine 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 (51 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 eight different players with double-digit steals this season (including four with at least 20 thefts), led by junior guard Skylar Diggins, who is third in the BIG EAST with 2.83 steals per game, and fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who is fifth in the conference at 2.75 steals per game.
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first 12 games of the year.
The Fighting Irish are second in the BIG EAST (and 11th in the nation as of Dec. 19) at 18.7 assists per game, including a season-high 29 assists against Marquette on Dec. 7 (one of seven 20-assist contests this year).
What’s more, Notre Dame has assisted on 62.9 percent of its field goals this season (224 of 356), 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 in 11 games, and at least four double-digit scorers in six games.
During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 40-4 (.909) 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 11 games (including five different top scorers in the past seven games). Three of the five leading scorers this season also have registered at least one 20-point game to date, while nine different Notre Dame players have scored in double figures at least once this year.
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 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.
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. Prior to Novosel, Ashley Barlow was the last 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.
The game-winning basket by senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 was the fourth time in the past two seasons the Lexington, Ky., native had a hand in a go-ahead basket in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime. What makes this run by Novosel even more remarkable is the fact that all four of her late-game performances came against top-15 opponents, with the past two coming away from home.
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 22nd at 1,175). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (17th with 1,266 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 984 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 823 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 #12 Recap: UCF
Coming off a high-intensity win against Kentucky in its last game, Notre Dame picked up right where it left off.
Skylar Diggins scored 14 points to lead a balanced offense as the third-ranked Fighting Irish cruised to a 90-38 victory over UCF on Dec. 20 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame had 18 steals while forcing 25 turnovers.
“I was really pleased with the way we came out, with the intensity,” Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “Coming off a big win over Kentucky (two days earlier), I worried about being a little complacent, and we came out and played hard. I was really, really happy, pretty much throughout the game.”
The Fighting Irish, who reached 90 points for the fifth time this season, shot 52 percent from the field and finished with a 46-28 rebounding advantage.
Aisha Patrick had 10 points to lead the Knights (5-6), who shot 28 percent from the field.
Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory, who added seven points and added three assists, said her team’s depth showed against UCF.
“Everybody’s learning from each other and growing and keeping the energy coming off the bench,” Mallory said. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
The Fighting Irish led 51-16 at the break, their biggest lead of the opening 20 minutes. It was the fourth time this season they scored at least 50 in the first half.
Notre Dame continued to stretch the lead, going ahead by 52 midway through the second half and again with 1:16 left.
The Fighting Irish’s defensive intensity was something UCF couldn’t really prepare for, according to Knights head coach Joi Williams.
“It’s very tough,” Williams said. “You can’t really simulate that. You have a team of practice players and this time of year everybody’s going home for Christmas so it’s tough to get that.”
Notre Dame’s advantage in rebounding was evident on the offensive end with 22 offensive rebounds. Achonwa led the Fighting Irish with eight rebounds and credited her time spent trying to learn from Peters on how to better position herself for rebounds.
“I’ve been trying to implement that in practice a little bit more and trying to get after the rebounds in practice so that it just comes in the game,” Achonwa said.
The Fighting Irish started pulling away from the start and led 31-5 after nine minutes. The Knights didn’t reach double digit points until they pulled to 41-11 with 5:49 remaining in the half.
The Knights committed 17 turnovers in the first half, 12 of which were steals by Notre Dame.
Williams called the Fighting Irish’s ability to rebound on the offensive end “unbelievable.”
“One thing that we talked about coming in was really giving them one opportunity and you can’t give a great team like that more than one because they’ll make you pay,” Williams said.
The Fighting Irish scored 21 points on second-chance attempts.
Beyond The Box Score — UCF
- Notre Dame tops the 90-point mark for the fifth time this season, and the third time in four games.
- The Fighting Irish hold their opponent to fewer than 40 points for the fourth time this year, and below 50 points for the seventh time.
- Notre Dame earns its fourth 50-point win of the season, and seventh by at least 25 points.
- The Fighting Irish scored at least 50 points in the first half for the fourth time this season, and held its opponent to 23 points or fewer in a half for the 12th time this year after UCF failed to reach that total in either half.
- UCF shot an opponent season-low .083 from the three-point line and tied an opponent season-low with one made three-pointer, and that triple came courtesy of Ashia Kelly with 1:56 left in the game.
- Notre Dame matched its season high with six players in double figures, a feat they first pulled off against Indiana State on Nov. 13; the Fighting Irish are 40-4 (.909) in the past three seasons when they have at least four players score in double figures.
- Notre Dame forced at least 20 turnovers and logged double-digit steals for the ninth time this season.
- The Fighting Irish recorded their seventh game with at least 20 assists.
- Notre Dame grabbed a season-high 22 offensive rebounds and topped the 40-rebound mark for the fourth consecutive game, and fifth time in the past six outings.
- The Fighting Irish stretch their winning streak in the final game before Christmas to 16 consecutive games and move to 26-9 (.743) all-time in their last contest before the holiday break.
- Notre Dame is 4-0 this season when playing its second game in a 48-hour span, and 20-7 (.741) in such outings during the past four years.
- The Fighting Irish move to 3-0 all-time against UCF, notching the largest margin of victory, most points scored and fewest points allowed in the abbreviated series with the Knights.
- Notre Dame is 9-2 (.818) all-time against the current Conference USA membership, with a 4-0 record at Purcell Pavilion (UCF was the first C-USA school to visit South Bend since Dec. 31, 2000, when the Fighting Irish defeated Rice, 80-40).
- Notre Dame moves to 25-5 (.833) all-time against Florida schools, including a 12-3 (.800) record at Purcell Pavilion.
- Turner scored a career-high 13 points, besting her previous high of 11 points vs. Charlotte on Dec. 20, 2009 (it was Turner’s third career double-figure scoring game).
- Turner also tied her career high with three three-pointers, a mark she first set on Feb. 26, 2011, vs. Cincinnati.
- Turner added season highs of three steals and 27 minutes played.
- Achonwa collected a season-best eight rebounds and scored in double digits for the fourth time in five games.
- Sophomore forward Ariel Braker tied her career high with four steals, having first set that standard on Nov. 12, 2010, vs. New Hampshire.
- Braker also snared a season-best seven rebounds, one off her career high set on Jan. 2, 2011, vs. Southeast Missouri State.
- Novosel extended her streak of consecutive double-figure scoring games to 19 in a row, the longest such run by a Fighting Irish player since Ruth Riley had 22 consecutive double-digit games from Dec. 3, 2000-Feb. 27, 2001.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll, its eighth 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 85th 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 (47) 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 224 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 fifth consecutive week, the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 3 in last week’s 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 85 of the past 86 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 216 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 224 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 226-18 (.926) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 154 of their last 166 such contests.
What’s more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 63-1 (.984) 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 240-15 (.941) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including nine 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 160-6 (.964) 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 37-2 (.949) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in eight games this season and winning seven 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 211 of their last 238 games (.887) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span (and an active run of 14 in a row). Notre Dame also has a 114-19 (.857) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 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 99 of their last 107 non-BIG EAST contests (.925) 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 361-88 (.804) 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 three games (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee), and put several others (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 seven home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,542 fans per game, including its first sellout of the season (9,149) vs. Kentucky on Dec. 18. It was the 12th Fighting Irish women’s basketball sellout in the past three years and 18th in program history.
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 2011-12 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. 20 game against UCF (webcast live on UND.com), Notre Dame has played in 210 televised games, including 155 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, called Food For Friends, was held in conjunction with the Fighting Irish BIG EAST Conference opener against Marquette on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion. Fans were invited to bring to the game a variety of non-perishable food items that were collected and subsequently 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. 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 31 times, most recently in the Dec. 20 win over UCF.
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”), 18 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including seven current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 31 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 12 on free throws, and five on three-pointers.
Next Game: Mercer
It’s another quick turnaround for Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish head out on the road Friday for a 7 p.m. (ET) non-conference matchup against Mercer at the University Center in Macon, Ga. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Notre Dame senior guard Fraderica Miller, who hails from Atlanta.
The Bears (3-8) have steadied the ship a bit after a season-opening five-game losing streak, alternating wins and losses in their last six contests. Mercer will play host to Winthrop on Wednesday night before turning its attention to Notre Dame’s visit later this week.
— ND —