Nov. 14, 2009
2009-10 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 1
#4/7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lady Lions (0-1 / 0-0 SWAC)
DATE: November 15, 2009
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: First meeting
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356; UND.com/tickets
- Notre Dame is 24-8 (.750) in season openers, including a 19-3 (.864) record in the Muffet McGraw era.
- The Irish are 39-5 (.886) against first-time opponents and have won 14 in a row against new foes since they joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.
#4/7 Irish Tip Off Season Sunday Night Against Arkansas-Pine Bluff
With one of its deepest teams in years, and one of the more productive off-seasons in recent memory, No. 4/7 Notre Dame opens the 2009-10 campaign on Sunday with a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the first regular season women’s basketball game at the newly-remodeled Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish played only one exhibition this year, defeating rising Division II power Indianapolis, 97-53 on Nov. 3 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame needed 10 minutes to shake loose the rust from its eight-month hiatus, but closed the first half on a 22-6 run to put the game on ice. The Irish also held the Greyhounds without a field goal for more than 10 minutes crossing over halftime.
- Notre Dame is ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll and seventh in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff is not ranked.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
The faces may be the same, but the focus, drive and determination have never been greater for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program as the Irish head into the 2009-10 season. With all 12 players returning from a year ago, along with an incoming freshman class ranked as high as ninth in the land, expectations are high as Notre Dame looks to not only reach a new level of success, but also wash away the bitter taste left by a first-round loss in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Setting the tone for the Irish will be a trio of senior captains, including returning all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow, both of whom also were tabbed for this year’s preseason all-conference team. Schrader was a first-team all-BIG EAST pick last season after piling up career bests of 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. In addition, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a new single-season school record for guards, and now has 11 career double-doubles, one off the mark for guards set by current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey from 1996-2001.
Meanwhile, Barlow led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per game, and also logged 70 steals (2.4 spg.), making her only the fourth player in school history to record 60+ steals in three consecutive seasons. The Indianapolis native also made an early statement about her intentions this season, notching a team-high 13.0 ppg. with a .727 three-point percentage (8-11) and .577 field goal percentage during Notre Dame’s three-game, 11-day European tour in May 2009.
Completing this leadership triumverate is point guard Melissa Lechlitner. As a first-year starter in 2008-09, Lechlitner averaged personal bests of 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, driving the Irish offense with a steady hand.
Another first-year starter who made huge strides last season was junior forward Becca Bruszewski. The Valparaiso product doubled her averages in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.), while honing a reliable three-point shot to the tune of a team-high .375 percentage from beyond the arc.
Not to be overlooked are a pair of returning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks in rapidly-maturing sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (6.9 ppg., 45 steals in 2008-09) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (6.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.2 bpg.), as well as their classmates in forward Kellie Watson (3.8 ppg., 28 3FGM) and Fraderica Miller (0.7 ppg., 0.7 spg.).
In addition, Notre Dame could get a significant boost this year from incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins, a three-time high school All-American from South Bend’s Washington High School, who averaged 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during her prep career. The other Irish rookie guard, Kaila Turner of Joliet, Ill., has incredible upside as well, having twice earned all-state honors at Marian Catholic High School.
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 13 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 314 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 124 of their last 126 home games, including six Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
- 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 third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. 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 57-for-57 success rate), with all five members of this year’s senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Lindsay Schrader and Erica Williamson will complete work on their degrees in December 2009).
A Quick Look At Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Arkansas-Pine Bluff returns five letterwinners, including three starters from last year’s 12-19 club that tied for fourth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference race with a 10-8 record. The Lady Lions also advanced to the semifinals of the SWAC Tournament before bowing to eventual league champion, Prairie View A&M, 71-60.
Sunday night’s contest at Notre Dame is the back half of a demanding opening weekend road trip for UAPB, which tipped off its season Friday with a 106-48 loss at Mississippi State. Junior guard LaQuisha Slaton was the lone Lady Lion to score in double figures, coming off the bench to finish with 10 points, while junior guard/forward Rekevia Brown added seven points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Collectively, Pine Bluff shot 25.4 percent from the floor (15-of-59), including 3-of-19 (.158) from three-point range, turned the ball over 27 times and found itself on the short end of a 71-43 rebounding margin.
Slaton and senior center Shay Holmes both were preseason second-team all-SWAC selection, with Slaton averaging a team-best 11.8 points and 2.5 assists per game last year. Meanwhile, Holmes logged 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds a night, even though she came off the bench in 24 of 26 games.
Head coach Cary Shelton is in his first season at UAPB (and as a head coach), following four seasons as an assistant on both the Lion men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The ND-Arkansas-Pine Bluff Series
Notre Dame and Arkansas-Pine Bluff will be meeting on the hardwood for the first time on Sunday night.
Other ND-Arkansas-Pine Bluff Series Tidbits
- UAPB is the lone first-time opponent on Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule this year.
- The Lady Lions will be the 179th different opponent in the 33-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball.
- Notre Dame is 39-5 (.886) against first-time opponents since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, including a 19-1 (.950) mark vs. new teams since the start of the 2000-01 season with a current 14-game overall winning streak. The last first-time opponent to defeat Notre Dame was Colorado State, which earned a 72-66 victory on Nov. 21, 2001, in Fort Collins, Colo. — and the Irish responded by knocking off the Rams in each of the following three seasons.
- Last season, Notre Dame played a pair of first-time opponents, defeating both Georgia Southern (85-36 at home) and Charlotte (68-61 on the road).
- The Irish have won 17 consecutive home games against new opposition, dating back to Jan. 18, 1996, when Connecticut posted an 87-64 win at the Joyce Center.
- Not only will this be the first time Notre Dame and Arkansas-Pine Bluff have played in the sport of women’s basketball, it’s slated to be the first head-to-head matchup in any team sport for the Irish and Lions.
- Notre Dame was victorious in its only prior matchup against a school from the state of Arkansas, downing Arkansas State, 77-54, on Dec. 17, 2005 in a Gray Division first-round game at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas. Current Irish fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader started and played 26 minutes in that contest, logging six points, a team-high eight rebounds and four assists.
ND vs. Southwestern Athletic Conference
Notre Dame has played two Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) opponents in its history, defeating both by an average of 44.0 points per game.
On March 17, 2001, the Irish tipped off their run to the national championship with a 98-49 win over SWAC champion Alcorn State at the Joyce Center behind 16 points from consensus national player of the year Ruth Riley.
More recently on Dec. 28, 2006, Notre Dame toppled Prairie View A&M, 94-55, at the Joyce Center, getting a (then) career-high 21 points and nine rebounds from then-freshman (and current senior) guard Ashley Barlow, who also tied school and arena records by going a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line.
Other active Irish players who appeared in that PVAMU game included: center Erica Williamson (15 points on 7-8 FG, eight rebounds, four blocks) and point guard Melissa Lechlitner (four points, six assists, four steals), while current fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader was sidelined that season with a torn ACL in her right knee (allowing her to return for her final season in 2009-10).
Blowing The Lid Off
Notre Dame is 24-8 (.750) all-time in season openers and carries a 14-game winning streak into Sunday’s game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Irish also are 19-3 (.864) in season openers during the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88), with their last season-opening loss coming on Nov. 26, 1994 (65-60 in overtime at No. 25 Seton Hall). Last year, Notre Dame opened with a 62-53 win at No. 24/22 LSU in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic.
The Irish also are 24-8 (.750) all-time in home openers, with an 18-4 (.818) mark under McGraw, following a 96-61 win over Evansville in their Purcell Pavilion lidlifter last season.
Notre Dame Picked Second In 2009-10 BIG EAST Coaches’ Preseason Poll
Notre Dame was selected to finish second in the BIG EAST Conference in 2009-10, according to a preseason vote of the league’s 16 head coaches released Oct. 22 during the annual BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Media Day at the ESPN Zone in New York City.
The Fighting Irish picked up 210 points and one first-place vote in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points. DePaul and reigning NCAA runner-up Louisville shared the third spot in the BIG EAST preseason poll with 171 points, while Pittsburgh rounded out the top five with 167 points.
Trio Of Irish Earn 2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
Along with picking Notre Dame to finish second in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches voted fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader and senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow to the 12-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team.
Schrader, a two-time all-conference selection, garnered first-team recognition last year after averaging career highs of 12.6 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game with a .463 field goal percentage. What’s more, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a single-season school record for guards, and giving her 11 career double-doubles, one behind current assistant coach Niele Ivey for the Notre Dame all-time record for guards in that category.
Meanwhile, Barlow is another returning two-time all-BIG EAST honoree, having copped second-team laurels a season ago with a team-high 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, as well as a career-high .364 three-point percentage. Barlow is one of only four players in school history to record at least 60 steals in three consecutive seasons (she had a career-high 70 thefts last year) and she and Schrader both are members of Notre Dame’s 1,000-Point Club — Barlow is 20th in program history with 1,107 points, while Schrader is 23rd all-time with 1,057 points.
In addition to the preseason accolades for the two Fighting Irish veterans, rookie guard Skylar Diggins was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year, according to the league’s head coaches. Diggins was the consensus 2008-09 national high school player of the year, and also was named the `08-09 Gatorade National High School Female Athlete of the Year (for all sports) during a ceremony held just prior to the ESPY Awards this past summer in Los Angeles.
Diggins averaged 29.0 points and 6.3 assists per game as a senior last season, leading Washington High School to the cusp of the Indiana Class 4A title and the mythical prep national championship before a last-second loss in the final. She went on to earn MVP honors at both the McDonald’s and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Games (joining former Tennessee guard Alexis Hornbuckle as the only players ever to pull off that double) and she was a co-captain on the 2009 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, back in August.
Notre Dame is ranked fourth in the 2009-10 preseason Associated Press poll, released on Oct. 30. Not only is it the 39th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, but it’s also the highest preseason AP ranking ever for Notre Dame, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current 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) with their No. 4 ranking being the highest for the program since the week of Jan. 4, 2005, when the Irish also rose to fourth following a 12-1 start and the 2004 Preseason WNIT title.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 179 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 12th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish are ranked seventh in the preseason ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll — this year’s No. 7 preseason ranking is the second-highest in program annals trailing only a No. 5 debut in 2000-01. It’s also the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches’ poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches’ survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their ’09-10 preseason return, the Irish now have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 171 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 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 179 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 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches.
Exhibition Game Recap: Indianapolis
Sophomore forward Erica Solomon and freshman guard Skylar Diggins each came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points, leading six Notre Dame players in double figures as the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish rolled past the University of Indianapolis, 97-53, in an exhibition game on Nov. 3 before a record-setting crowd of 7,508 fans (the largest ever to witness a Notre Dame preseason contest) in the first women’s basketball game at the newly-refurbished Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Solomon also shared game-high honors with six rebounds and snared a game-best four steals, all in just 16 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Diggins connected on 6-of-10 shots from the floor (including her lone three-point attempt), grabbed four rebounds, all on the offensive glass, and added three steals for good measure. Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel made the most of her first starting assignment, getting the Fighting Irish off on the right foot in the first half before finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow tossed in 12 points, as did junior guard Brittany Mallory, the latter tacking on a game-high four assists while playing a team-high 23 minutes in her first action since missing all but seven games last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader rounded out Notre Dame double-digit scoring parade with 10 points and six rebounds.
Katie Dewey led Indianapolis with 16 points, and Samantha Meissel added 12 points for the Greyhounds, who were ranked fourth in the preseason Division II polls and were coming off a 67-56 exhibition win at Division I member Valparaiso two nights earlier.
Notre Dame’s renewed sense of urgency on the defensive end of the floor this season showed in its preseason tilt, as the Fighting Irish forced 36 turnovers, coming up with 22 steals. They also easily won the rebounding battle by a 44-30 margin (allowing just five offensive boards) and held Indianapolis to a .389 field goal percentage (14-of-36). In fact, the Greyhounds did as much of their offensive damage at the foul line, trying almost as many free throws as field goals (20-of-31 at the stripe).
On offense, the Fighting Irish shot .444 from the floor (32-of-72), including a sharp 8-of-16 from the three-point line. Notre Dame also worked its way to the free throw line, making 25-of-33 charities (.758) on the night.
After taking the first few minutes to shake loose the rust from the off-season, Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run, fueled by five steals and a pair of transition layups, to take a 15-4 lead and force Indianapolis to burn a timeout with 14:23 left in the first half. The Greyhounds then answered back with their best offensive push of the evening, mounting a 10-2 charge that was capped by Dewey’s three-pointer with 9:47 remaining. Although neither side knew it at the time, UIndy wouldn’t make another shot from the field for the rest of the first half.
Leading 20-16, the Fighting Irish blew the game wide open by closing the period on a 22-6 run. Novosel knocked down a pair of three-pointers during the spurt, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski scored all five of her points in that stretch. Notre Dame forced five turnovers along the way, and the only saving grace for Indianapolis seemed to be the respite it enjoyed at the foul line, going 6-of-11 from the charity stripe over the final eight minutes, but still trailing by a 42-22 count.
However, the feisty Greyhounds weren’t about to go quietly, as they ended a field goal drought of 10:18 with Jessica Canary’s three-pointer 31 seconds into the second half. Meissel followed with a jumper in the lane to trim the lead to 15 points and Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw quickly used a timeout to settle her troops. Out of the break, the Fighting Irish briskly scored seven points (five from Barlow) and Indianapolis never got closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
As it turned out, the primary drama down the stretch was whether Notre Dame would send the Purcell Pavilion faithful home with full bellies, thanks to its popular Big Mac giveaway when the team scores 88 points in a game. Solomon did the honors, hitting a pair of free throws with 4:05 to play.
Noting The Indianapolis Game
- Notre Dame improves to 30-1 (.968) in exhibition games in the past 17 seasons (1993-94 to present), while stretching its preseason winning streak to 25 games; the only loss for the Fighting Irish in that time was a 94-89 defeat at the hands of the Lithuanian National Team in 1996.
- Notre Dame’s 97 points were the fifth-most ever scored by the Fighting Irish in exhibition play, and the most they have scored in the preseason since Nov. 14, 2000, when they knocked off Tapiolan Honka, an all-star team from Finland, by a 98-53 score.
- Notre Dame is 9-0 against College Division opponents (Division II, Division III or NAIA) since NCAA rules allowed teams to play exhibitions against those schools earlier this decade — the Fighting Irish have won their last four exhibition games (dating back to 2007-08) against Division II schools by an average of 48.5 points per game.
- In their last two preseason games, the Fighting Irish have forced a combined total of 82 turnovers (46 last year vs. Gannon, 36 vs. Indianapolis).
- Notre Dame and Indianapolis also had played a preseason game on Nov. 5, 2005, when the Fighting Irish winning that night, 84-59.
- The crowd of 7,508 was the largest ever to see a Notre Dame women’s basketball exhibition game, topping the old record of 6,996 set on Nov. 13, 2001, for an 87-39 win over Christian Brothers University (from Memphis, Tenn.).
- Had it been a regular season game, Solomon’s 17 points and four steals would have been a career best, topping her 15 points at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008, and the three steals at Valparaiso on Dec. 13, 2008; interestingly, that BC game also saw Solomon post a “point-a-minute” performance with 15 points in 14 minutes.
- The 17 points from Solomon and Diggins were the most by a Notre Dame player in an exhibition game since Nov. 1, 2007, when current senior center Erica Williamson scored 18 points in a 90-38 win over Southern Indiana.
- Novosel’s off-season work on her three-point shot seemed to pay dividends, as she went 2-of-4 from distance after going 1-for-10 on three-pointers last year.
- All 11 Notre Dame players that dressed for the game not only played, but got in the scoring column, as freshman guard Kaila Turner capped the night with two free throws in the final minute.
Irish Enjoy Successful ’09 European Tour
In May, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program embarked on a memorable 11-day adventure to France, Monaco and Italy, visiting some of the world’s most historic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, picturesque Lake Como in the foothills of the Italian Alps, the famed El Duomo cathedral in Milan, the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, as well as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel located at The Vatican.
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 163-17 (.906) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 91 of their last 102 such contests.
Last season, Notre Dame went 17-3 when it was ahead at the break, losing 63-59 in overtime at Michigan, 75-65 at Marquette and 58-47 to Villanova in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford, Conn.
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 195-14 (.933) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame was 11-2 in such games last season, with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, DePaul (second game), Providence and St. John’s (second game).
As is often the case, both of last year’s losses in this category came against Villanova and its methodical style of play — 55-48 in the regular season (at VU) and 58-47 in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals (at Hartford, Conn.).
…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 123-4 (.969) 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 scored at least 80 points in nine games last year, winning each time.
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 173 of their last 197 games (.878) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 99-17 (.853) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the 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 76 of their last 83 non-BIG EAST contests (.916) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the 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 Joyce Center, posting a 323-85 (.792) 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 is 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.
In fact, 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 sell out every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish have posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped Notre Dame win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Only one Division I women’s basketball program has ever sold out all of its games for an entire season — Connecticut filled the stands for more than 100 consecutive home sellouts during the early part of this decade.
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 15 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. At least four Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage 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. At press time, those games scheduled for webcast on UND.com are: Iona (Nov. 22), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 2), IPFW (Dec. 8) and Valparaiso (Dec. 12).
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 138 televised games, including 87 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.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
Following an intensive five-month, $26.3 million interior renovation, the arena for the newly-christened Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center will make its regular season women’s basketball debut Sunday night when Notre Dame plays host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Sunday’s tipoff is part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University’s Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli (’59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Next Game: Michigan State
Notre Dame hits the road for the first time this season on Thursday with a challenging test at 10th-ranked Michigan State. Tipoff from the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich., is set for 6 p.m. (ET), with the game televised to a regional cable audience on the Big Ten Network.
Coming off a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 last year, MSU (0-1) got an early wake-up call this season with a 77-74 upset loss at Dayton on Friday night. The Spartans will look to break into the win column Sunday afternoon when they pay a visit to Detroit before getting set for their home opener against the Irish.
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