Junior guard Natalie Novosel scored a game-high 21 points in just 18 minutes as No. 12 Notre Dame flew past Michigan Tech, 102-30 in the exhibition opener for both teams on Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.

#4/3 Irish Face Road Test Tuesday At #22/24 St. John's

Feb. 15, 2010

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2009-10 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 25

#4/3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-1 / 10-1 BIG EAST) vs. #22/24 St. John’s Red Storm (20-5 / 8-4 BIG EAST)

DATE: February 16, 2010
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Jamaica, N.Y. – Carnesecca Arena (5,602)
SERIES: ND leads 18-2
1ST MTG: ND 74-48 (1/4/96)
LAST MTG: ND 62-45 (3/7/09)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
TICKETS: (888) 467-8676

Storylines

  • Notre Dame will play its seventh ranked opponent this season, having gone 5-1 against Top 25 foes thus far, including three victories away from home.
  • The Irish are seeking their first win at St. John’s since a 69-56 victory on Feb. 17, 2004.

#4/3 Irish Face Road Test Tuesday At #22/24 St. John’s
In what has become a regular occurrence on the Notre Dame schedule this season, the No. 4/3 Irish face another quick turnaround as they head back out on the road Tuesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST matchup with No. 22/24 St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, N.Y.

The Irish (23-1, 10-1) earned their eighth consecutive win on Sunday with a 90-66 victory over DePaul before a sellout crowd at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame ended the first half on a 12-2 run, which served as a springboard for a strong second stanza when the Irish led by double digits virtually throughout.

Junior forward Becca Bruszewski carried the scoring load for the Irish with a career-high 25 points (19 in the second half), while freshman guard Skylar Diggins added 18 points.

Rankings

  • Notre Dame is No. 4 in the latest Associated Press poll and was No. 3 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • St. John’s is No. 22 in the latest Associated Press poll and was No. 24 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.

Quick Hitters

  • The Irish have appeared in the top five of the AP poll all 15 weeks this season (through Feb. 15), marking the second-longest string of consecutive AP Top 5 rankings in program history behind only the final 17 weeks in 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame’s 15-game winning streak earlier this season tied for the third-longest in school history, and longest since a school-record 23-game run from Nov. 17, 2000-Feb. 14, 2001.
  • At 15-0, the Irish posted the second-best start in program history, topped only by a 23-0 debut in 2000-01 (the season in which Notre Dame won its first NCAA title).
  • Notre Dame has defeated five ranked opponents (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, West Virginia) in six tries this season, including three wins away from home.
  • The Irish won the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division title (their first regular-season tourney crown since the 2005 Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas), with freshman guard Skylar Diggins capturing MVP honors and senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner making the all-tournament team.
  • At least seven different players have led the Irish in scoring, rebounding and assists this season. In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once this year.
  • In Monday’s NCAA statistical rankings, Notre Dame appears among the top 20 in eight categories, including top-10 rankings in seven areas — won-loss percentage (3rd at .958), steals (3rd at 13.5 spg.), turnover margin (5th at +7.46), assists (5th at 18.5 apg.), scoring offense (5th at 79.5 ppg.), scoring margin (8th at +18.7 ppg.) and assist/turnover ratio (10th at 1.10).
  • Conversely, Notre Dame has no player ranked higher than 80th in any NCAA statistical category — freshman guard Skylar Diggins and senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow are tied for 80th in the land in steals at 2.4 per game.
  • Notre Dame is forcing 24.2 turnovers per game this season, including 26.1 at home. The Irish also have caused at least 20 takeaways in 20 of 24 games to date, with no fewer than 25 opponent turnovers in eight home games this year.
  • Notre Dame is averaging 8,604 fans per game this year, unofficially ranking fifth in the nation and showing a 20-percent increase from last year (7,168). The Irish also are the only school from the top 25 of the final 2008-09 NCAA attendance rankings to see an increase in attendance this year.

Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 337 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past nine seasons. Last year, the program finished ninth in the country for the second year in a row with an average of 7,168 fans for its 13 home games (the second-highest single-season attendance average in school history). The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 137 of their last 139 home games, including 10 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Feb. 14, 2010 vs. DePaul).
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past nine seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent 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 ’09 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the third 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 ’06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the fourth year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2009. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 58-for-58 success rate), with all five members of this year’s senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Erica Williamson earned her undergraduate degree one semester early in January 2010).

A Quick Look At St. John’s
Fueled by a youthful, energetic lineup, St. John’s has charged back into the national Top 25 and has all but secured its second NCAA Championship berth in five seasons.

In their last outing on Saturday, the Red Storm (20-5, 8-4) showed that, while they may be young, they have the toughness and fortitude of a veteran squad, battling top-ranked Connecticut all the way before dropping a 66-52 decision in Storrs, Conn. Rookie guard Nadirah McKenith locked up the latest BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award with a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds), while senior forward Joy McCorvey added 10 points.

Reigning BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Da’Shena Stevens leads St. John’s in scoring (13.6 ppg.) and is second in rebounding (7.4 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.473). Freshman guard Shenneika Smith is second in scoring (11.9), while McCorvey is third in scoring (7.6 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (7.7 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.543).

Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is in her eighth season at St. John’s, sporting a 125-111 (.530) record at the school. She has a 13-year career coaching record of 219-183 (.545) that includes a 2-7 mark against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-St. John’s Series
Notre Dame and St. John’s will square off for the 21st time on Tuesday night, with the Irish holding an 18-2 series lead on the Red Storm. However, since Notre Dame won the first 15 series games, the past five have been much tighter, with the Irish winning three and St. John’s earning its first two series victories (both in Queens).

The Last Time Notre Dame and St. John’s Met
Lindsay Schrader had 16 points and Natalie Novosel added 15 as No. 20/17 Notre Dame defeated St. John’s 62-45, on March 7, 2009, in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

St. John’s Da’Shena Stevens, chosen the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year two days earlier, had 12 points for the Red Storm.

The teams traded the lead five times in the second half and St. John’s led 35-33 before the Irish went on a 16-2 run. Novosel scored seven points and Melissa Lechlitner had five during that stretch.

A three-pointer by Ashley Barlow at the shot-clock buzzer gave the Irish a 58-45 lead with 3:53 left, and Notre Dame cruised from there.

“It’s like the dagger to the defense,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “You play great defense for 29 seconds and then somebody hits a three and it really deflated them.”

Notre Dame opened the game on a 9-2 run, despite hitting just two of its first 10 shots. St. John’s also was 2-of-10 from the field early and had just six points midway through the first half.

But the Red Storm kept chipping away, and Sky Lindsay’s driving layup with a minute left gave them a 22-20 lead at intermission.

“I felt like we ran out of gas a little bit, missed some chippies, allowed them to score some easy baskets,” said St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico.

The Last Time Notre Dame and St. John’s Met At Carnesecca Arena
St. John’s guard Kia Wright scored 14 points and feisty, undersized Red Storm stunned No. 9/14 Notre Dame, 61-51 on March 3, 2008, at Carnesecca Arena in New York.

The only other time in 18 meetings that the Red Storm had beaten Notre Dame was on Jan. 4, 2006, when they upset the 12th-ranked Irish 66-63 at their 67-year-old gym. That win touched off a run to the Red Storm’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years.

Ashley Barlow had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish, who had won eight of nine after a rough midseason stretch. Leading scorer Charel Allen was held to 11 points on 3-of-18 shooting, getting double- and triple-teamed every time she touched the ball.

Giving up several inches at most positions, St. John’s simply outscrapped and outhustled the Irish (23-7, 11-5). Kelly McManmon had 10 points in a balanced St. John’s offense on a night when all nine players who saw time scored and grabbed a rebound.

After trailing by as many as 14 points with six minutes left, Notre Dame cut its deficit to 54-48 on a pair of Allen free throws with 1:28 left, but the Irish missed their next six field goal attempts and St. John’s was just good enough from the foul line (7-of-12) in the closing minutes to put it away.

The Red Storm were 11-of-22 from the field in the second half and made more foul shots (17-of-28) than Notre Dame attempted (13-of-16) in maintaining a double-figure lead almost the entire final 20 minutes.

Notre Dame finished 18-of-71 from the field (25.4 percent), including 2-of-13 on three-point attempts and committed 17 turnovers against just seven assists, in a sloppy performance reminiscent of a loss at West Virginia earlier in the season.

Other Notre Dame-St. John’s Series Tidbits

  • St. John’s had not scored more than 60 points in its first 14 series games against Notre Dame, but has topped that mark in five of the past six matchups, including a series-high 67 points in last year’s regular season contest (a 70-67 Irish victory at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Conversely, the Irish have scored fewer than 66 points only three times in 20 series games against St. John’s. Two of those three came in their last two visits to Queens (including a series-low 51 points in 2008), along with last year’s BIG EAST Championship second-round game (won by Notre Dame, 62-45).
  • The first 14 games in the series were decided by 13 points or more, all going in Notre Dame’s favor. However, four of the past six contests have seen spreads of 10 points or fewer, with each team winning two of those close affairs.
  • Notre Dame has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in almost half (nine) of the 20 series games with St. John’s, including a series-best .571 percentage (36-of-63) on Feb. 12, 2000, at Purcell Pavilion (a 94-51 Irish win, the largest by either side in the series). Ironically, Notre Dame posted one of its lowest field goal percentages on its last visit to St. John’s in 2008, connecting on 25.4 percent of its shots in a 61-51 Red Storm win.
  • The 66-31 Irish victory over St. John’s in 2002 at the Joyce Center marked the fourth-lowest opponent scoring total in school history, the second-lowest by a Division I opponent, and the lowest ever by a conference opponent in any of Notre Dame’s three league affiliations (North Star, Midwestern Collegiate, BIG EAST).
  • Although Notre Dame technically doesn’t have a New York resident on this year’s roster, senior center Erica Williamson spent many of her formative years growing up in Rochester, where she attended Honeoye Falls-Lima High School for three years and led them to a state title as a junior in 2004-05.
  • If one of the assistant coaches on the St. John’s bench looks familiar, she ought to. First-year Red Storm aide Megan Duffy was an All-America (and Academic All-America) point guard at Notre Dame from 2002-06, helping the Irish to NCAA Sweet 16 berths in 2003 and 2004 while becoming one of only three Notre Dame players ever to amass 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals in her career (along with Karen Robinson and current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey).

Empire (State) Records
Notre Dame is 47-4 (.922) all-time against New York-based teams, including an 18-3 (.857) record when playing on the road. The Irish are facing the last of three New York schools this season, having defeated Iona, 80-45 on Nov. 22 at Purcell Pavilion, and edging Syracuse, 74-73, on Jan. 30 at the Carrier Dome.

Coincidentally, Syracuse and St. John’s account for all four New York wins over Notre Dame (two for each school – three road, one neutral site).

48 Hours
Since the start of last season, Notre Dame has played nine times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games, including three games in three days over this year’s Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, when faced with such a tight turnaround, the Irish have risen to the occasion, going 8-1 (.889) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes, with the only loss coming in last year’s BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals (58-47 vs. Villanova in Hartford, Conn.).

This season, Notre Dame is 4-0 in these 48-hour challenges, winning twice at the Paradise Jam (South Carolina and No. 20/17 Oklahoma), and then at home on New Year’s Eve vs. No. 18/16 Vanderbilt (returning from a road trip to Central Florida less than two days earlier). Most recently, the Irish earned a 75-63 win at Rutgers on Feb. 1, two days after a a narrow 74-73 win at Syracuse.

Notre Dame will have at least two more tight turnarounds this season, beginning Tuesday night with the back half of their DePaul/St. John’s home/away split, and then have a similar task at Seton Hall (Feb. 27) and vs. Connecticut (March 1).

Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the third annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.

Last year, the Irish raised more than $48,000 through the Pink Zone program, earning the first WBCA Pink Zone Challenge award for the most money raised among the nation’s top 25 attendance leaders. This season, Notre Dame elevated its Pink Zone fund-raising goal to $55,000 and has far exceeded that total, generating more than $70,000 to date ($40,000 in advance of the Feb. 14 Pink Zone game vs. DePaul, and another $30,000 on game day).

Throughout the 2009-10 season, the Irish have taken part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:

  • Open Practice/Tip-Off Luncheon – On Oct. 19, the Irish open the doors to one of their preseason practice sessions and allowed approximately 600 season ticket holders to watch the team prepare for the upcoming season. A luncheon with the team followed and a total of $3,500 was raised.
  • Three-Point Pledge – Fans can pledge an amount to donate for every three-pointer the Irish make this season (Notre Dame enters Tuesday’s game with 123 treys). Pledge cards are available at the Purcell Pavilion marketing tables (Gates 8-10) prior to each home game.
  • Aprons/Player Buttons/Chocolate – The Irish are selling special-edition Notre Dame women’s basketball aprons ($20), player buttons ($1) and Fannie May chocolate bars ($1) during the season.
  • T-Shirt Sales – Specially-commissioned pink t-shirts are on sale in the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus, as well as the Irish women’s basketball office and on game days at Purcell Pavilion. Proceeds from the sales of the t-shirt go to breast cancer awareness and research.
  • Game Day (Feb. 14 vs. DePaul) – The Irish selected their Valentine Day’s game against DePaul as their annual Pink Zone contest, presented by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. The Irish took the court in white, pink and navy uniforms and pink shoes, specially-designed by the school’s official athletics apparel provider, adidas. The first 1,000 fans in attendance received special Notre Dame women’s basketball Pink Zone trading cards, compliments of the Notre Dame College of Science. In addition, hundreds of breast cancer survivors were recognized on the court during a special halftime ceremony, along with a unique dance tribute featuring Ade Obayomi and Melissa Sandvig from the hit Fox TV show “So You Think You Can Dance”.
  • Silent Auction – More than 100 specialty items and entertainment packages were donated for a gameday silent auction that was held in the Monogram Room at Purcell Pavilion (upper concourse). Some of the unique items on the auction block included: the pink shoes worn by Irish players in the Pink Zone win over DePaul (autographed), commemorative Notre Dame women’s basketball pink jerseys (autographed) and private dinners with the Irish coaches and players.

Proceeds from all of Notre Dame’s Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities associated with the Foundation of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center — Women’s Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA’s Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA’s official web site at www.wbca.org.

Peaking When It Counts
When the regular season enters its stretch run in the month of February, Notre Dame historically seems to raise its level of play. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Irish are 85-23 (.787) in February games, including a 48-5 (.906) mark at home.

In the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Irish are 133-38 (.778) in the month of February, including a 70-11 (.864) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February, and only once did the Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw’s second season in South Bend).

Twenty Questions
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 16th time in the past 17 seasons with its 75-63 victory at Rutgers on Feb. 1. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 20 times in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era and 24 times in the program’s 33-year history.

Notre Dame also hit the 20-win plateau in its 21st game this season, reaching that milestone faster than all but one Irish team — the 2000-01 squad that opened 23-0 and earned its 20th victory at Providence on Jan. 31, 2001 (one calendar day earlier than this year’s club).

Tough Enough
Notre Dame already has faced a rigorous schedule through 24 games of the 2009-10 season, taking on six ranked opponents. The Irish also have risen to that challenge quite well, winning five of those six contests (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and West Virginia), including three victories away from home (MSU, SDSU and OU).

Four of Notre Dame’s five wins over ranked opponents came during the non-conference portion of the schedule, marking the second consecutive year in which the Irish defeated four Top 25 non-conference foes.

Comeback Kids
Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to win three times this season. The Irish erased a 10-point first-half margin at Purdue on Jan. 4, followed by a 12-point first-half spread at Louisville on Jan. 19, and most recently, they wiped out a 13-point second-half gap at home against West Virginia on Jan. 24.

The three double-digit comeback victories are the most for Notre Dame in a single season since 2002-03, when it came back to win at West Virginia (trailed by 14), at Providence (trailed by 10) and home vs. Seton Hall (trailed twice by 12).

Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen at least seven different players led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists this season.

In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Irish roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including sophomore guard Fraderica Miller, and freshman guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who each topped the 10-point mark for the first time in their careers.

What’s more, four different players have scored at least 20 points in a game this year. Diggins has four 20-point games (San Diego State, Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh), while junior forward Becca Bruszewski (DePaul), senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner (Purdue) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso) have one apiece.

Stat Sheet Stuffers
Another sign of Notre Dame’s versatility is seen in the number of “5-5-5” games (5 or more in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals) posted by its players this year.

Freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB, Charlotte, Syracuse and Pittsburgh) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and DePaul) each have a team-high four 5-5-5 games. Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Iona, South Florida and DePaul) has three 5-5-5 outings, and junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Louisville) and sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) each have one.

Taking What We Can Get
Fueled by a renewed attention to defense this offseason, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 20 of 24 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 24.2 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +7.46 turnover margin that is fifth-best in the nation (as of Monday).

In a two-game stretch bookending the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame harassed its opponents into a combined 79 turnovers (43 by Charlotte on Dec. 20 and 36 at UCF on Dec. 29).

Charlotte’s 43 turnovers tied for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary’s (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program’s second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.

The Irish also are making even the most disciplined teams fall victim to their aggressive defensive style. Villanova came into its Jan. 9 game with Notre Dame ranked second in the nation with just 12.6 turnovers per game, but the Irish dogged the Wildcats into 34 turnovers (17 in each half).

Notre Dame has been especially hard on opponents in 13 home games this season, forcing 26.1 turnovers per game and collecting at least 25 in eight Purcell Pavilion contests thus far.

The Five-Finger Discount
According to Monday’s NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame ranks third in the nation in steals (13.5 spg.). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in 17 of their 24 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.

Individually, Notre Dame has five players with at least 30 steals this year, led by freshman guard Skylar Diggins and senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow, both of whom have 57 thefts. Diggins is the seventh Irish rookie to record at least 50 steals in her freshman season, and the first to do so since 2006-07, when (ironically enough) Barlow registered 63 steals.

Road Warriors
Notre Dame is 27-10 (.730) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 7-1 record this year.

In addition, seven of the past eight road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).

Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).

Glass Houses
Notre Dame and Connecticut are the only two BIG EAST teams with at least three current players having 500+ career rebounds. Irish fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader is seventh all-time at Notre Dame with 776 boards, while senior guard tri-captain Ashley Barlow has 598 caroms and senior center Erica Williamson has 505 career rebounds.

Getting The Jump
At 15-0, Notre Dame got off to the second-best start in the program’s 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that this season was in 2000-01, when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program’s first national championship.

Streak Stats
Notre Dame’s season-opening 15-game winning streak tied for the third-longest success string in program history (at any time), and it was the longest since the school-record 23-game run to begin the 2000-01 season.

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked fourth in this week’s Associated Press poll, appearing in the top five for the 15th consecutive week — it’s the second-longest run in the AP Top 5 in program history, and the longest for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.

In addition to their current poll appearance run of 53 consecutive weeks (the second-longest in school history behind a 56-week stretch from 1998-2002), the Irish have spent a total of seven weeks this year at a season-high No. 3 ranking. That is Notre Dame’s highest poll position since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.

What’s more, Notre Dame’s No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.

With this week’s poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).

Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 193 weeks during the program’s 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th 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, the Irish checked in at No. 3 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll. It was the seventh time in eight weeks Notre Dame reached its season high in the ESPN/USA Today poll, while also being the highest it has been ranked in the coaches’ survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year.

What’s more, it was the first time Notre Dame was in the top three in consecutive weeks since the final 14 weeks of the 2000-01 season (capped by a No. 1 ranking in the final poll after winning the national championship).

This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches’ survey for 38 consecutive weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their No. 3 ranking last week, the Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 184 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).

More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 27 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 193 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 rise to No. 3 in the nation.

Of the 27 people on this list, 15 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington (’92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her third season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the Jan. 25 AP poll at No. 23.

Game #24 Recap: DePaul
Becca Bruszewski wouldn’t let fourth-ranked Notre Dame miss a beat when Lindsay Schrader went down with a sprained left ankle.

Bruszewski scored 19 of her career-high 25 points as the Irish dominated the second half, beating DePaul 90-66 on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion. The Blue Demons shot 47 percent to keep the game close through much of the first half, but shot just 31 percent in the second half and finished with 25 turnovers.

“Their pressure got to us,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “That’s the challenge you have when you’re coaching a big lineup is you don’t have enough guard play to handle the pressure.”

The Irish usually depend on Schrader, a 6-foot guard, to get their inside game going. But with Schrader watching from the sidelines in the second half after injuring her ankle when she stepped on a teammate’s foot, the 6-1 Bruszewski took over. She was 7-of-9 shooting against DePaul’s zone in the second half.

“She’s just so crafty. She was able to get behind the zone, hide behind them a little bit,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “She pretty much scored from everywhere today. She had the drive, she had the short-corner jumper, she was really playing well.”

Skylar Diggins added 18 points and helped force DePaul’s Sam Quigley into 10 turnovers.

“She really just bothered her,” McGraw said. “I thought she made her really uncomfortable.”

With the game tied late in the first half, Diggins scored eight points during a 12-2 run, including a jumper at the buzzer to give the Irish (23-1, 10-1 BIG EAST) a 42-32 halftime lead.

“It was a huge shift,” McGraw said. “We were just a little out of sync, I though, missing some shots. Defensively, we really had trouble guarding them in the post … but Skylar was able to get going.”

Bruno said that hurt the Blue Demons.

“Whenever a run like that happens it’s usually a collection of little things,” Bruno said. “We had a collection of little things go south for us, little things like taking a quick shot against their pressure that turned into a layup.”

DePaul (16-10, 5-7) cut its deficit to 43-36 early in the second half on a jumper by Quigley. But Bruszewski scored inside to spark a 9-2 spurt as Notre Dame went ahead 56-39 and the Irish continued to pull away.

Keisha Hampton led DePaul with a career-high 28 points and eight rebounds. Felicia Chester added 15 points and Quigley had 12.

Noting The DePaul Game

  • otre Dame earns its fourth consecutive win over DePaul, extending its series-long winning streak against the Blue Demons (the Fighting Irish had won three in a row vs. DePaul from 1985-86).
  • DePaul still leads the all-time series with Notre Dame, 18-15, although the Fighting Irish have a 9-6 edge at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame’s 90 points are the most they have scored against the Blue Demons in the 33-game series, topping the old mark of 87 points set on Jan. 16, 1995, in a 96-87 DePaul victory in Chicago.
  • In 12 of the past 14 series games, the winning team has scored at least 75 points.
  • Notre Dame matches the 2000-01 team for the best 24-game start in school history (that club opened at 23-0 before losing its 24th game, 54-53 at Rutgers).
  • Notre Dame harassed an opposing player (DePaul’s Sam Quigley) into double-digit turnovers for the first time since Feb. 22, 2004, when #21/19 Miami (Fla.) had two players with at least 10 giveaways — Chanivia Broussard (13) and Yalonda McCormick (10) — in a 93-58 Fighting Irish win at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Notre Dame now has held its last 70 opponents below 50 percent shooting, dating back to Jan. 22, 2008, when DePaul shot 60 percent (30-50) in an 81-80 Blue Demon win at Purcell Pavilion.
  • Junior forward Becca Bruszewski posted new career highs in scoring (25 points; previous was 20, set twice and most recently on Feb. 24, 2009 vs. Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion), field goals made (10; previous was nine at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008) and field goal attempts (17; previous was 15 vs. Tennessee on March 30, 2008, in the NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinals at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.).
  • Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow dished out a career-high eight assists, one more than her previous best, set on Jan. 24, 2010 against #16/11 West Virginia (a 74-66 win at Purcell Pavilion).
  • Barlow and Mallory both registered “5-5-5” games on Sunday with at least 5 tallies in three-or-more statistical categories; it’s the second time this season two Notre Dame players have had “5-5-5” outings in the same game, with Diggins and Mallory pulling off that feat in the season opener on Nov. 15 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion.
  • It was Barlow’s third “5-5-5” outing of the season (and the first “5-5-5-5” by a Notre Dame player this year), while Mallory ties Diggins for team-high honors with her fourth “5-5-5” performance (Mallory was one assist away from joining Barlow as a “5-5-5-5” player).
  • Barlow also moved up another rung on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list, rising to 12th place with 1,381 points, supplanting Shari Matvey (1,373 points from 1979-83).
  • Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader made her 115th career start, moving past current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (114 from 1996-2001) and tying with Beth Morgan (1993-97) for sixth in school history; what’s more, Schrader made her 73rd consecutive start, also putting her sixth in program annals (Le’Tania Severe is fifth with 74 consecutive starts from 2002-04).
  • Notre Dame attracted its school-record fourth sellout (9,149) of the season, as well as the 10th capacity crowd in program history.
  • For the sixth time this season, Notre Dame topped the 88-point mark at home, meaning the sellout crowd received coupons for free Big Macs from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants; Bruszewski hit the “Big Mac basket” on a free throw with 46 seconds left, the second time this season Bruszewski has fed the crowd (she also hit a foul shot to reach the mark on Nov. 15 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff).
  • Notre Dame played on Valentine’s Day for the seventh time, improving to 6-1 on Feb. 14 (first Valentine’s game since 2004, an 81-51 home win over Providence).

Schrader Added To State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List
Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader was one of seven players added to the 2009-10 State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List, it was announced Jan. 28 by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Schrader and her fellow mid-season additions earned their spots on this year’s Wade Watch List by virtue of their on-court performances to date during the ’09-10 campaign, and they expand the player pool for this season’s national player-of-the-year award to 32, as selected by the State Farm Wade Trophy Committee.

Schrader, a preseason all-BIG EAST Conference selection and three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll choice this year, becomes the fifth Notre Dame player named to the Wade Watch List in the past seven seasons, and the first since Charel Allen in 2007-08.

In addition, Schrader is the third Notre Dame player this season to earn a place on a national player-of-the-year award watch list. Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow was both a preseason Naismith Trophy candidate and a midseason John R. Wooden Award Top 20 choice, while freshman guard Skylar Diggins joined Barlow on this year’s preseason Naismith Trophy candidate slate.

McGraw Earns 600th Career Win
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached her second important career milestone of the season on Jan. 19, as she became the 19th Division I coach to record 600 career wins when the Irish posted a 78-60 victory at Louisville.

McGraw earned the milestone win in her 839th career game (she now has a 28-year mark of 607-239, .717), tying her with former Saint Peter’s coach Mike Granelli as the 10th-fastest to the 600-win plateau in Division I history.

In honor of the historic 600th victory, Notre Dame fans at Purcell Pavilion held up signs with the number “600” on them when McGraw and her staff took the floor prior to the Jan. 24 win over No. 16/11 West Virginia. The visibly-moved Irish coach later called the scene “one of the top five moments” of her Notre Dame career.

McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 519-198 (.724) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 607-239 (.717) record in 28 seasons overall — including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.

Fencing’s Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball’s Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the “Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club,” with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).

McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.

As it turned out, that EMU game also saw the school honor McGraw with an on-court post-game celebration for her 500th win, capped by a visit from her 19-year-old son, Murphy, who secretly drove four hours from his college campus at Indiana University in Bloomington to surprise his mother with a bouquet of flowers and the game ball from her milestone win.

Keeping It Close To Home
Although Notre Dame has traditionally had a national reputation in recruiting circles, in recent seasons, the Irish have found their strongest talent comes from right in their own backyard. In fact, of the 13 players on this year’s Notre Dame roster, four are from Indiana, while five others are from states that border Indiana (including sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who lived in Oak Park, Mich., and graduated from Detroit Country Day School in 2008 before her family moved back to her birthplace of Charleston, W.Va., this past summer).

What’s more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana — senior guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and the all-South Bend backcourt of senior guard Melissa Lechlitner and freshman guard Skylar Diggins — while the fifth starter (fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader) is from Bartlett, Ill., located right outside Chicago.

As if that weren’t enough, the quartet of Barlow, Lechlitner, Bruszewski and Schrader have been mainstays in the Irish lineup for the past two seasons and have a combined total of 312 career starts between them.

Schrader reached a personal milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career. Schrader now is tied for sixth in school history with 115 career starts, including a current streak of 73 in a row (putting her one away from moving into the Notre Dame top five in that category).

Experience Matters
For the first time in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).

Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001, while the current Irish senior quartet is closing in on 10th place (127) in that category (Lechlitner at 120, the other three at 119).

Upwardly Mobile
Two of Notre Dame’s senior guards and tri-captains — Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader — are already members of the program’s 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.

Barlow currently ranks 12th in school history with 1,381 career points, while Schrader is 14th with 1,329 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 899 points to date.

Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time — and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest — Notre Dame’s 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.

Tournament Tested
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic — a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.

High Value Freshman
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.

Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women’s Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.

Lechlitner Named Second-Team Academic All-District
Senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner has been named to the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V Second Team, it was announced Feb. 4 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

It’s the first time Lechlitner has earned the award, and she is the first Fighting Irish player to garner academic all-district status since 2006, when former Notre Dame point guard Megan Duffy received her second consecutive district award and parlayed that into first-team Academic All-America honors. What’s more, Lechlitner becomes the eighth Fighting Irish women’s basketball player in the past 12 seasons to be an academic all-district selection.

Lechlitner currently maintains a 3.377 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in the College of Arts and Letters, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She earned dean’s list honors in the spring of 2007 with a 3.75 semester GPA, and is coming off a stellar fall 2009 term that saw her post a 3.583 GPA. In addition, she is a three-time BIG EAST Conference All-Academic Team selection and is a prime candidate to make that squad once again this year.

Pomp And Circumstance
On Jan. 3, senior center Erica Williamson received her bachelor’s degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. Williamson, who also serves as the president of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), graduated a full semester early and has begun graduate studies this spring.

With Williamson collecting her diploma, all 58 Notre Dame women’s basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.

Century City
With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).

Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.

First Impressions
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.

Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.

Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Notre Dame’s 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.

Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.

Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 183-17 (.915) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 111 of their last 122 such contests.

Notre Dame has led at the break in 20 games this season and has gone on to earn victories each time.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 15 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 205-14 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.

Notre Dame has added 10 more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, South Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Charlotte, UCF, Villanova, Providence and Cincinnati.

…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 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 136-4 (.971) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.

Notre Dame already has added 13 more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Iona, No. 23/24 San Diego State, No. 20/17 Oklahoma, IPFW, Valparaiso, Charlotte, Villanova, South Florida, Providence, Pittsburgh and DePaul.

Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 186 of their last 210 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 105-17 (.861) 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 Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 83 of their last 90 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven 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 two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). 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 336-85 (.798) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.

It’s Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women’s basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women’s basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

While it’s likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there’s a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).

Through 13 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,604 fans per game, putting the Irish nearly 800 fans ahead of their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.

Notre Dame has posted 10 sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Feb. 14, when the Irish drew 9,149 fans to Purcell Pavilion for their win over DePaul — it also was the fourth women’s basketball sellout since the renovated arena opened this fall (the other capacity crowds coming on Dec. 31 vs. No. 18/16 Vanderbilt, Jan. 24 vs. No. 16/11 West Virginia and Feb. 6 vs. Pittsburgh), setting a new school record for sellouts in one season (Notre Dame had two each in 2000-01 and 2007-08).

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. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 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 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 All-Access multimedia 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), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 18 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).

In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site’s free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.

This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 159 televised games, including 106 that were broadcast nationally.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.

Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.

Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and 2010 McDonald’s All-American Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.

All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It’s also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.

“I’m very excited about the class that we’re signing this year,” McGraw said. “I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They’re going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We’re going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we’re adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we’ll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we’re going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we’ll have some depth in the post as well.”

“Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility,” said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.

The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.

Irish Signee Kayla McBride Named McDonald’s All-American
Notre Dame incoming freshman guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) is one of 24 student-athletes who have been named to the 2010 McDonald’s Girls’ High School All-America Team, it was announced late Thursday evening. With the selection, McBride will compete for the East team in the McDonald’s High School All-America Game, which is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on March 31 and will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU from Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

“This is an incredible honor and we are so proud of Kayla,” Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She put in so much time and effort during the off-season to improve her game, and it’s such a thrill to see that kind of hard work and dedication pay off. We’re looking forward to following Kayla throughout the rest of her high school career, and excited to have her joining us next season.”

The 5-foot-11 McBride is the sixth future Notre Dame women’s basketball player, and third in four seasons, to earn McDonald’s High School All-America recognition since the girls’ team was first created in 2002. Other incoming Fighting Irish cagers who played in the McDonald’s game have included Courtney LaVere (2002), Crystal Erwin (2003), and a trio of current Notre Dame players — Lindsay Schrader (2005), Devereaux Peters (2007) and Skylar Diggins (2009). Diggins shared Most Valuable Player honors at last year’s McDonald’s game in Coral Gables, Fla., after collecting a game-high 18 points, five rebounds and three steals for the East team in a 69-68 loss to the West squad.

McBride, who also earned a spot on the ESPN Hoopgurlz All-Star Team that likewise was released Thursday, has been ranked as one of the top 25 players in the nation in the Class of 2010 by both ESPN Hoopgurlz (20th) and All-Star Girls Report (22nd). She recently became the all-time scoring leader in Villa Maria Academy history and has helped VMA — the defending Pennsylvania Class AA state champion — to a No. 1 ranking in the state in Class AA. The Victors also have been ranked among the top 15 teams in the East Region by several national media outlets this year.

Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It’s year three 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 Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.

In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 18 times, including wins this year over Indianapolis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso, Charlotte and DePaul.

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 — junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.

And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “SID has too much time on his hands”), 10 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including nine current members of the Irish roster.

What’s more, of the 18 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, six on free throws, and three on three-pointers.

Next Game: Georgetown
The Irish will be on the road again Saturday, as they travel to Washington, D.C., for a 3 p.m. (ET) matchup with No. 14/13 Georgetown at McDonough Arena.

The Hoyas (20-4, 9-2) will play host to South Florida Wednesday night before welcoming Notre Dame to town this weekend.

— ND —