Sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa made the most of her nine minutes in last year's game at Providence, scoring a (then) career-high 13 points despite being weakened by the flu.

#3 Irish Travel To In-State Rival #12/14 Purdue Saturday

Dec. 9, 2011

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2011-12 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 10

#3/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1 / 1-0 BIG EAST) vs. #12/14 Purdue Boilermakers (7-1 / 0-0 Big Ten)

DATE: December 10, 2011
AT: West Lafayette, Ind. – Mackey Arena (14,240)
SERIES: PUR leads 14-10
1ST MTG: PUR 62-59 (11/26/84)
LAST MTG: ND 72-51 (12/5/10)
TV: Big Ten Network (live) (Tom Hart, p-b-p / Stephanie White, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid


  • Notre Dame will be facing the third of (likely) five ranked non-conference opponents, all of whom are ranked 12th or higher in the latest Associated Press poll.
  • Saturday’s game will be the ninth in which both Notre Dame and Purdue are ranked at tipoff, but the first since the 2008-09 season.

No. 3 Fighting Irish Travel To In-State Rival No. 12/14 Purdue Saturday
With all due respect to the now-dormant series between a couple of schools in Storrs and Knoxville, the nation’s best active non-conference rivalry resides right here in the state of Indiana, as No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 12/14 Purdue get set to meet for the 25th time at noon (ET) Saturday inside Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind., with the Big Ten Network scheduled to carry the game live.

The Fighting Irish (8-1) got an early jump on their BIG EAST Conference schedule Wednesday night with a 95-42 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame opened up a double-digit lead less than six minutes into the game and never looked back, forcing 37 Golden Eagle turnovers that led to 46 points.

Sophomore guard Kayla McBride had a game-high 19 points (on 8-of-9 shooting), while junior guard Skylar Diggins stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 17 points and game highs of seven assists and six steals in 25 minutes.


  • Notre Dame is No. 3 in both the current Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Purdue is No. 12 in the current Associated Press poll and No. 14 in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.

Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame is off to an 8-1 start for the fourth time in the past five seasons, with seven wins coming by 20+ points, and four by at least 30 points. In all eight victories this year, the Fighting Irish have held their opponent to 61 points or fewer, including five games when the opposition scored 48 points or fewer.
  • In its last seven halves of basketball (dating back to the second half vs. No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26), Notre Dame has held its opponent to 23 points or fewer six times. The lone exception was the second half at Creighton on Dec. 4, when the Bluejays scored 37 points.
  • Notre Dame will be facing its third ranked opponent of the season (all away from home), having previously split matchups at No. 1 Baylor (lost 94-81) and against No. 7/6 Duke at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas (won 56-54).
  • 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 564 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 382 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 8,376 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 163 of their last 165 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 Purdue
All the pieces would appear to be in place for No. 12/14 Purdue to make another run to the top of the Big Ten Conference this season. The Boilermakers have 11 letterwinners returning from a squad that went 21-12 last season and reached the second round of the NCAA Championship. Purdue also was expecting to have all five starters back on the floor, although injuries have reshaped its lineup early this season.

Nevertheless, the Boilermakers are off to a 7-1 start this year and are coming off an impressive 60-51 win over fourth-ranked Texas A&M last Sunday in West Lafayette. Purdue used a 19-3 second-half run to take command against the defending national champions and never looked back, holding the Aggies to a .274 field goal percentage in the victory.

Sophomore guard Courtney Moses scored a game-high 15 points against Texas A&M, while senior guard Brittany Rayburn added 14 points, and junior forward Sam Ostarello packed the stat sheet with seven points, and game highs of 12 rebounds and four steals.

Rayburn leads Purdue in scoring (15.3 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.429), while ranking second in rebounding (4.6 rpg.). Moses is second in scoring (10.3 ppg.) and assists (3.0 apg.), while redshirt sophomore KK Houser chips in 9.1 points and a team-high 3.6 assists per night. Ostarello adds 7.3 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game, helping to counter the loss of redshirt senior forward Drey Mingo, who has been lost with a knee injury.

Head coach Sharon Versyp is in her sixth season at Purdue with a 118-62 (.656) record. Having previously coached at Maine and Indiana, Versyp has a 12-year record of 235-127 (.649), with an 0-5 mark against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Purdue Series
Saturday’s matinee will mark the “silver anniversary” matchup in the series between Notre Dame and Purdue, with the Boilermakers holding a 14-10 edge over the Fighting Irish, including an 8-2 advantage at Mackey Arena.

However, Notre Dame is in the midst of its longest run of success in the series (that dates back to the 1984-85 season). The Fighting Irish have won five in a row and six of the past seven against Purdue, including their last two visits to West Lafayette, where they had not won prior to a 61-48 victory over the Boilermakers in 2007.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Purdue Met
Natalie Novosel scored 16 points and No. 16 Notre Dame celebrated the 1,000th game in school history with a 72-51 victory over Purdue on Dec. 5, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

The Fighting Irish forced 24 turnovers and converted them into 29 points, and dominated in the paint, scoring 46 points while holding Purdue to only 29 inside.

Brittany Rayburn had 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds for Purdue, which struggled from the field, shooting just 36.5 percent for the game. Courtney Moses scored 11.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Purdue Met At Mackey Arena
One year after setting a career scoring high in a victory over Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner did it again. She scored a career-best 20 points, and No. 3 Notre Dame held off the Boilermakers, 79-75 on Jan. 4, 2010, at Mackey Arena.

Lechlitner made 7 of 15 shots, including four three-pointers. Skylar Diggins and Lindsay Schrader each scored 15 points, and Ashley Barlow added 13 points and eight rebounds for Notre Dame, which won its 13th consecutive game to open the 2009-10 season, adding to its best start since winning its first 23 games in 2000-01.

Jodi Howell scored 18 points and Chelsea Jones added a career-high 16 for Purdue.

Purdue could have tied the game in the closing seconds, but Devereaux Peters blocked Samantha Woods’ three-pointer from the right corner, and Notre Dame rebounded.

Notre Dame recovered from a rough first half to shoot 48 percent after the break.

The Fighting Irish had the ball with a 76-73 lead in the final minute. Diggins missed in close as the shot clock wound down, and Purdue gained possession.

Howell made a layup with 12.1 seconds left to make it a one-point game.

The Boilermakers fouled Diggins with 11.8 seconds to play. She made the first free throw and missed the second, but Schrader got the rebound. Schrader made the first free throw, but missed the second to give the Boilermakers a chance.

Other Notre Dame-Purdue Series Tidbits

  • The 70-point mark seems to be a magic figure in the series. One or both teams have scored 70 points in 16 of the 24 matchups, with the first team to reach that milepost winning each time. That trend continued last year when Notre Dame defeated Purdue, 72-51 at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame has held Purdue to its lowest series point totals in four of the past five matchups (67-58 in 2006-07 at Purcell Pavilion; 61-48 in 2007-08 at Mackey Arena; 62-51 in 2008-09 at Purcell Pavilion; 72-51 last year at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Prior to the 2007-08 season, Notre Dame had never won at Purdue’s Mackey Arena, losing each of its eight visits to West Lafayette. However, starting with a 61-48 victory over the Boilermakers on Dec. 8, 2007, the Fighting Irish have won their last four games in that arena, defeating Purdue twice (also in the 2009-10 season), and earning victories in the first two rounds of the 2008 NCAA Championship against SMU (75-62) and No. 14/13 Oklahoma (79-75 in overtime).
  • This will mark the ninth time both teams have been ranked at tipoff, with Notre Dame holding a 5-3 advantage in these games. The last time both the Fighting Irish and Boilermakers were ranked going into their matchup was Dec. 7, 2008, when No. 11/8 Notre Dame earned a 62-51 win over No. 17/20 Purdue at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame’s most frequent NCAA Championship opponent has been Purdue. The Fighting Irish and Boilermakers have played one another four times in NCAA postseason competition, with each team winning twice (ND in 1996 and 2001; Purdue in 1998 and 2003).
  • The Fighting Irish and Boilermakers also remain the only teams from the same state ever to play for the NCAA championship.
  • Sixth-year Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp grew up in Mishawaka (minutes from the Notre Dame campus) and was named Indiana Miss Basketball in 1984 while attending Mishawaka High School.
  • Fighting Irish fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters and Purdue redshirt senior forward Samantha Woods were teammates at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill., from 2003-04 through 2004-05 before Woods transferred to Bolingbrook High School for her final two prep seasons.
  • Notre Dame senior guard Fraderica Miller and Purdue redshirt senior forward Drey Mingo were teammates at The Marist School in Atlanta from 2004-05 through 2006-07, helping the War Eagles reach the Georgia Class AAAA title game in 2006 and 2007.
  • Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins and Purdue junior forward Sam Ostarello were teammates on the White Team at the 2009 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Game in St. Louis. Diggins scored 24 points, while Ostarello had six points, but the White squad lost to the Blue, 79-77.
  • Diggins and Purdue sophomore guard Dee Dee Williams played significant roles in what many consider one of the greatest Indiana girls’ high school basketball state championship games ever played. In the 2009 Class 4A title game (also a matchup of the nation’s top two ranked prep programs) before 13,300 fans at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, Diggins almost singlehandedly led her South Bend Washington High School team back from an 11-point deficit in the final three minutes, only to see Williams’ Indianapolis Ben Davis High School side pull out a last-second 71-69 victory. Diggins finished with a game-high 29 points, including eight in a 55-second span during the late rally.
  • Saturday’s game will feature a matchup of two of the last three Indiana Miss Basketball recipients, as Diggins (the 2009 selection) squares off with Purdue sophomore guard Courtney Moses (the 2010 honoree). Notre Dame will see the 2011 Indiana Miss Basketball (Bria Goss) when Kentucky comes to Purcell Pavilion on Dec. 18.
  • Notre Dame will be playing on the Big Ten Network for the fourth time since that network was launched on Aug. 30, 2007. The Fighting Irish are 2-1 all-time when playing on BTN, winning at Purdue (61-48 on Dec. 8, 2007) and No. 21 Michigan State (68-67 on Nov. 19, 2009), while losing at Michigan (63-59 in overtime on Dec. 10, 2008).

Notre Dame vs. the Big Ten Conference
Notre Dame is 42-49 (.462) all-time against the Big Ten Conference, with a 15-26 (.366) record on the road. The Fighting Irish also are 35-34 (.507) against the Big Ten in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with a 13-15 (.464) road slate.

Of note, Notre Dame has won 14 of its last 20 games vs. Big Ten schools, including its last three in a row since Minnesota ended the 2008-09 Fighting Irish season with a 79-71 upset win in the first round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion.

Border Patrol
Purdue is the second of two in-state opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule this season, with the Fighting Irish having defeated Indiana State, 99-34 back on Nov. 13 in the Preseason WNIT quarterfinals at Purcell Pavilion.

The Fighting Irish are 122-32 (.792) all-time against other Indiana schools, with a 61-21 (.744) record outside of South Bend.

Notre Dame also has won 17 consecutive games against in-state foes since a 54-51 loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006, at Purcell Pavilion.

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 seven games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 27.8 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +12.11 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, 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).

Notre Dame has had a similar run of takeaways in the past three games, forcing a combined 85 turnovers (28.3 per game) in wins over Penn, Creighton and Marquette, parlaying those turnovers into 112 points (37.3 ppg.).

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Saturday’s game leading the BIG EAST (and ranking sixth in the nation) in steals with 16.1 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in seven 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 (48 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 nine), led by junior guard Skylar Diggins, who has collected a BIG EAST-leading 3.6 steals per game, and fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who is sixth in the conference at 2.9 steals per game.

Helping Hands
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during the first nine games of the year.

The Fighting Irish are second in the BIG EAST at 17.9 assists per game, including a season-high 29 assists in their last outing against Marquette on Wednesday night. That was the fifth 20-assist contest for Notre Dame so far this year.

What’s more, Notre Dame has assisted on 61.2 percent of its field goals this season (161 of 263), 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 eight games, and at least four double-digit scorers in four games.

During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 38-4 (.905) 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 nine games (including four different top scorers in the past four games). Three of the five leading scorers this season also have registered 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 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.

Captain Clutch
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 24th at 1,123). She joins junior guard Skylar Diggins (18th with 1,227 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 944 points to date, while guard Brittany Mallory has 808 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 #9 Recap: Marquette
Notre Dame guards Skylar Diggins and Brittany Mallory are competing to see who can get the most steals in the season.

And while head coach Muffet McGraw didn’t want to reveal what the prize was, she could not have been happier with both players’ performance in Notre Dame’s 95-42 victory over Marquette on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion in the BIG EAST opener for both teams.

The No. 3-ranked Fighting Irish (8-1, 1-0) beat the Golden Eagles (5-5, 0-1) by forcing 37 turnovers, 18 of which were steals. Diggins had six of those steals and Mallory two. For the season, Diggins leads the competition 32-26.

Kayla McBride led Notre Dame with 19 points. Diggins added 17 points, and Natalie Novosel and Mallory each had 11. Devereaux Peters had 10 rebounds to go with nine points. Sarina Simmons led Marquette with 14.

Notre Dame was efficient with their turnovers, scoring 46 points. They were also able to pass the ball inside at will, scoring 52 points in the paint.

Notre Dame forced four early turnovers and used a 9-0 run to jump out to an early 11-3 edge at the 17:15 mark. The defensive intensity continued to pay dividends in the next six minutes, as the Fighting Irish forced another five turnovers and converted most of them into easy layups for a 29-12 lead.

Notre Dame had 15 points off turnovers in the first nine minutes. Notre Dame set up in the Marquette paint for the rest of the half and went into the intermission with a 51-23 lead.

Novosel and Diggins each had 11 at halftime while the Golden Eagles’ Simmons also had 11.

At the half, Notre Dame had 15 assists on 21 field goals. The Fighting Irish had forced 17 turnovers, including nine steals. Notre Dame shot 58 percent while holding Marquette to 36 percent in the first half.

Notre Dame forced the Golden Eagles into eight consecutive turnovers early in the second half, building the lead to 65-25.

Beyond The Box Score — Marquette

  • Notre Dame is 13-4 (.765) in BIG EAST openers since joining the conference in 1995-96, including wins in 11 of its last 13 league lidlifters.
  • The 53-point margin of victory was the largest for the Fighting Irish in a BIG EAST regular-season game since Jan. 31, 1998, when Notre Dame defeated Seton Hall, 91-35 at Purcell Pavilion (the program record for largest winning margin in a BIG EAST regular-season game).
  • The last time Notre Dame knocked off a conference opponent by 53 points or more came on March 4, 2001, when the Fighting Irish downed Georgetown, 89-33, in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
  • This was the largest margin of victory for Notre Dame in any conference opener (regardless of affilation) since the Fighting Irish first joined a league for women’s basketball in 1983-84 with the now-defunct North Star Conference — the previous largest win in a conference opener was an 81-46 victory over Villanova on Jan. 9, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.
  • The margin also tied the largest spread in the 37-game series between Notre Dame and Marquette (109-56 ND win on Dec. 21, 1990, at Purcell Pavilion), a rivalry that dates back to the first season of Fighting Irish women’s basketball in 1977-78.
  • The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series with the Golden Eagles, 31-6, including a 19-1 record at home (and an active 18-game winning streak at Purcell Pavilion, starting with the 1981-82 season.
  • Notre Dame topped the 50-point mark in the first half for the third time this season.
  • The Fighting Irish notched their third 50-point win of the season.
  • Notre Dame’s 29 assists tied for eighth on the Fighting Irish single-game list, and were the most they had logged in a game since Nov. 15, 2009, when they had 31 handouts in a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame forced its opponent into at least 30 turnovers for the fourth time this year.
  • Diggins tied her season high with six steals (also vs. Indiana State on Nov. 13).
  • Freshman guard Whitney Holloway had season highs of four assists and four rebounds.
  • Junior guard Kaila Turner (eight points) and sophomore forward Ariel Braker (six points) registered season-best scoring totals.
  • For the second game in a row, Notre Dame had a player post a “point-a-minute” performance with Novosel chalking up 11 points in 11 minutes.
  • For the second time this season, Mallory went perfect from the three-point line with a minimum of three attempts.

Polling Station
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 223-18 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 151 of their last 163 such contests.

What’s more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 60-1 (.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 238-15 (.941) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including seven 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 158-6 (.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 35-2 (.946) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in six games this season and winning five 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 209 of their last 236 games (.886) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 114-19 (.857) 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 359-88 (.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 8,376 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 ( 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,, 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 Wednesday’s game vs. Marquette (webcast live on, Notre Dame has played in 207 televised games, including 152 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 will be 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 29 times, most recently in Wednesday’s win over Marquette.

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 29 Big Mac games to date, 14 have been reached on two-point baskets, 10 on free throws, and five on three-pointers.

Next Game: Kentucky
Notre Dame will going on an eight-day break for final exams before returning to the hardwood at 1 p.m. (ET) Dec. 18 to take on No. 10 Kentucky at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPNU, as the Wildcats make their first-ever visit to South Bend.

UK is 9-0 this season following back-to-back home wins over ranked opponents in No. 10/11 Louisville (74-54 on Dec. 4) and No. 6/5 Duke (72-65) on Thursday night. The Wildcats will play host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday afternoon before taking their own exam week break leading into next weekend’s matchup with the Fighting Irish.

— ND —