Feb. 28, 2015
2014-15 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 30
#4/4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (27-2 / 14-1 ACC) vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (16-12 / 7-8 ACC)
DATE: March 1, 2015
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Raleigh, N.C. – Reynolds Coliseum (8,560)
SERIES: ND leads 3-0
1ST MTG: ND 64-53 (11/20/96)
LAST MTG: ND 83-48 (3/8/14)
TV: ESPN3/WatchESPN (live) (James Alverson, p-b-p / Chasity Melvin, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
- Notre Dame is 25-2 (.926) all-time against North Carolina schools, including an 8-1 record in true road games.
- With a victory, the Fighting Irish would clinch the outright Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title for the second consecutive season and earn their fourth consecutive outright league regular-season crown.
No. 4 Fighting Irish Close Out Regular Season Sunday At North Carolina State
Nearly one year to the day after wrapping up its inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference season No. 4 Notre Dame will close out year two in the exact same location, as the Fighting Irish travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, on Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) conference matinee against North Carolina State at historic Reynolds Coliseum. The game will be televised live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Notre Dame (27-2, 14-1) locked up a share of the ACC regular-season title and the No. 1 seed for next week’s ACC Tournament with a wire-to-wire 87-59 win over Pittsburgh Thursday on Senior Night at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish shot a season-best .627 from the field, including .704 in the second half, to post the victory.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd led five Notre Dame player in double figures with 16 points, while freshman forward Brianna Turner added 15 points and nine rebounds and senior forward Markisha Wright had a season-high 14 points.
- Notre Dame is No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press poll and is No. 4 in this week’s WBCA/USA Today poll.
- North Carolina State is receiving votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press poll, its 82nd consecutive week in the AP Top 10 and 76th of the past 82 weeks in the AP Top 5.
- Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 152 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What’s more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a top-10 Notre Dame squad during her career, never ranking lower than seventh in that time (2011-12 to present).
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 4 in this week’s Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today poll, after previously spending two weeks (Nov. 25 and Dec. 2) as the nation’s No. 1 team. It was the first time the Fighting Irish had been the top-ranked team in either major national poll since April 1, 2001, when they were No. 1 in the coaches’ poll following a 68-66 win over Purdue that secured the program’s first NCAA national championship.
- Notre Dame ranks among the top 20 in nine NCAA statistical categories (as of Saturday), including five top-10 rankings — field-goal percentage (2nd – .499), scoring offense (4th – 83.1 ppg.), scoring margin (4th – +23.2 ppg.), assists (6th – 18.7 apg.) and three-point percentage (8th – .381). The Fighting Irish also rank 14th in assist/turnover ratio (1.25), 18th in rebounding margin (+8.6 rpg.), 19th in free-throw percentage (.750) and 20th in personal fouls (14.7 per game), as well as fourth in the non-statistical measure of win-loss percentage (.931).
- Notre Dame aims to continue its remarkable success at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 417-91 (.821) all-time record in 38 seasons at the facility, including a 94-6 (.940) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
- Including regular season and postseason play, the Fighting Irish have won 60 of their last 63 games against conference opponents (and 26 in a row at home), dating back to their membership in the BIG EAST. Since joining the ACC prior to last season, Notre Dame is 34-1 against conference foes (30-1 regular season, 4-0 postseason).
- Senior guards Madison Cable and Whitney Holloway, and senior forward Markisha Wright have helped Notre Dame to a 134-9 (.937) record in their careers, putting them on pace to challenge last year’s senior class of Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride, who helped Notre Dame to 138 wins during their four seasons.
- Since arriving at Notre Dame in 2011-12, Cable, Holloway and Wright have paced Notre Dame to two NCAA national championship games and three NCAA Women’s Final Fours (plus four conference regular-season titles and two league tournament crowns), as well as a 49-7 record against ranked teams (21-7 against AP Top 10).
- Of the nine losses suffered by the current Fighting Irish senior class, four were decided by 13 points or less.
- With 690 victories in her 28 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men’s/women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
- With 778 career wins, McGraw ranks 10th in NCAA Division I coaching history. She also is one of two active ACC coaches in the top 10 along with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell (second with 958 as of Saturday).
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), ranking second with 194 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past five years). The Fighting Irish rank fifth in the nation (as of Saturday), averaging 8,835 fans per game at home this season, and have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 225 of their last 227 home games (with an active streak of 68 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 45 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 39 since the start of the 2009-10 campaign and four this season.
- The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as 12 Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 14 seasons. Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with McBride going to the San Antonio Stars in the first round (third overall selection) and Achonwa six picks later (No. 9 overall) to the Indiana Fever in the 2014 WNBA Draft. It marked the third consecutive year Notre Dame had a player selected No. 3 overall (Devereaux Peters went third to Minnesota in 2012 and Skylar Diggins was chosen in that same spot by Tulsa in 2013), making the Fighting Irish the second program with lottery choices in three consecutive seasons.
- Diggins was a 2014 All-WNBA First Team selection and the league’s Most Improved Player, in addition to earning the starting nod for the West at the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game. Meanwhile, McBride was chosen for the 2014 WNBA All-Rookie Team, the second Fighting Irish alumna in as many years to be selected for the squad (Diggins was picked for 2013 all-rookie honors).
- Peters earned her first WNBA Championship in 2013 with the Lynx (and fifth by a Notre Dame alumna), who defeated the Atlanta Dream (and former Fighting Irish All-American Ruth Riley) in the WNBA Finals. Riley previously had won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), while Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets and Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the eighth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100 Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score, according to figures released by the NCAA in October. Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous seven years to record a perfect GSR score and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it more than once, pulling off that feat in 2011, 2012 and 2014).
The Notre Dame-North Carolina State Series
Notre Dame and North Carolina State will play for just the fourth time in their series history, with the Fighting Irish having won all three prior contests against the Wolfpack, including last year’s first-ever meeting in Raleigh.
The Last Time Notre Dame and North Carolina State Met
North Carolina State’s offense had run through Markeisha Gatling inside all season. It’s no surprise then that the No. 14/17 Wolfpack would struggle without her.
The 6-foot-5 senior didn’t play in her team’s 83-48 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinals on March 8, 2014, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Gatling suffered a knee injury a day earlier in a quarterfinal win against Syracuse and without her, N.C. State lacked its most efficient offensive player who was a reliable scorer and rebounder in the post.
Gatling was averaging 18 points and seven rebounds while shooting a national-best 67.6 percent. She had started all 31 games this season, so it was the first time N.C. State had to go without her.
With Gatling leading the way, the Wolfpack had ranked near the top of the league by shooting almost 46 percent. Without her against Notre Dame, N.C. State shot 31 percent and managed just 18 points in the paint.
The top-seeded Fighting Irish had no trouble putting away the injury-depleted Wolfpack. Notre Dame scored the first 12 points, led by 28 at halftime and by 37 from there to continue their dominating run in their new league.
The Fighting Irish, who shot 60 percent in a 26-point win against Florida State in the tournament quarterfinals, shot 52 percent in the first half on the way to their second lopsided win against the fourth-seeded Wolfpack in a week.
Miah Spencer scored 11 points to lead the Wolfpack, whose second-leading scorer Kody Burke managed just four points on one of eight shooting. N.C. State shot 31 percent for the game, including four for 20 from three-point range.
As for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish got a jumper from Lindsay Allen to cap its 12-0 run in the opening five-plus minutes, then ran off an 11-0 burst midway through the opening half to blow the game open and take a 42-15 lead on Taya Reimer’s layup at the 1:50 mark on the way to a 46-18 halftime lead.
N.C. State, which lost to Notre Dame by 24 at home the previous weekend, got no closer than 27 points in the second half.
The Last Time Notre Dame and North Carolina State Met In Raleigh
Notre Dame’s first run through the Atlantic Coast Conference couldn’t have gone any better.
The second-ranked Fighting Irish polished off a perfect debut season in the ACC by beating No. 13/17 North Carolina State 84-60 on March 2, 2014, at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Natalie Achonwa scored 19 points and Jewell Loyd added 18 points for the Fighting Irish, who shot 56 percent and led by 30 after an overwhelming second-half run helped them cap the first undefeated regular season for an ACC school since the 2006-07 Duke team.
In the second half, Notre Dame scored 48 points and shot 64.5 percent.
Miah Spencer had a season-high 18 points for the Wolfpack, who missed 10 consecutive shots shortly after halftime and went scoreless for 7 1/2 minutes as the Fighting Irish turned a tight game into another blowout.
Kayla McBride and Ariel Braker added 12 points for Notre Dame, which in an 11-day span beat each of the four of the North Carolina-based ACC schools by double figures — and three were in the top 15 at the time.
They finally gave themselves some separation against N.C. State late in the first half, then really broke it open early in the second by reeling off 17 straight points during the transition-fueled 23-4 run that effectively ended it.
Kody Burke finished with 15 points and Markeisha Gatling added 12 and 11 rebounds for the Wolfpack.
Other Notre Dame-North Carolina State Series Tidbits
- Notre Dame is 25-2 (.926) all-time against North Carolina schools (including an active 15-game winning streak), with an 8-1 record in true road games (the lone loss being an 80-62 setback at Duke on Nov. 22, 1997).
- In addition to its nine true road games against North Carolina opponents, Notre Dame has played two neutral-site games in the Old North State, defeating St. Bonaventure and Maryland in the 2012 NCAA Raleigh Regional played at RBC Arena (home of the N.C. State men’s basketball team, as well as the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes).
- In an ACC scheduling wrinkle brought about by the addition of Louisville and departure of Maryland to the conference prior to this season, Notre Dame is making its second consecutive visit to North Carolina State. The Wolfpack are the only current ACC team that has yet to visit South Bend.
- The Fighting Irish close out the regular season against N.C. State for the second year in a row, following a similar unique scheduling twist in their final two BIG EAST campaigns (2011-12 and 2012-13), when they ended the regular season against UConn (winning 72-59 and 96-87 in triple overtime).
- The last time Notre Dame ended the regular season on the road against the same opponent in consecutive years was 1985-86, 1986-87 and 1987-88 (the latter being head coach Muffet McGraw’s first season in South Bend), when the Fighting Irish visited Dayton all three years and defeated the Flyers, 66-62, 59-48 and 77-64, respectively.
- Sunday is the second of Notre Dame’s three trips to North Carolina this season. The Fighting Irish posted an 89-79 win at No. 12/10 North Carolina on Jan. 15 and returns to the Old North State March 6-8, heading to Greensboro for the ACC Tournament.
- In its 38-year history, Notre Dame has had just two North Carolina natives on its all-time roster — Raleigh product Mary Joan Forbes (1980-81) and Charlotte resident Erica Williamson (2006-10).
- North Carolina State senior associate athletics director for sports administration & student services Sherard Clinkscales served as pitching coach on the Notre Dame baseball team from 2006-09.
Nearly In A Class By Themselves
For the fourth consecutive season, a Notre Dame senior class is threatening to set the bar in terms of career wins by one group. The current class of tri-captains Whitney Holloway and Markisha Wright, plus Madison Cable, is second all-time with 134 wins (134-9, .937), trailing only the 2014 seniors.
Last year, Notre Dame’s three-player senior class of Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride posted the best four-year record (138-15, .902) in school history, topping the win total (130) compiled by the previous year’s seniors (Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner).
The year before Diggins and Turner departed, Notre Dame’s Class of 2012 (Brittany Mallory, Fraderica Miller, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters) rang up 117 wins to set the early benchmark in this current era of Fighting Irish women’s basketball success.
Prior to the 2011-12 season, the highest four-year win total by a senior class was 109, set by the Class of 2001 that capped their careers with the program’s first NCAA national championship and included (among others) consensus national player of the year and 13-year WNBA veteran Ruth Riley, as well as current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey.
Department of Defense
In the past nine games, Notre Dame has shown marked improvement in its defense, allowing opponents to score just 53.4 points per game while forcing 18.0 turnovers per night, posting a rebounding margin of +9.0 per game and blocking 5.0 shots per contest.
The Fighting Irish have been particularly stingy at the three-point line, holding opponents to a .229 three-point percentage (25 of 109) in the past month, a stretch that has included matchups with two top-10 opponents (Duke and Louisville) as well as the ACC’s top three-point shooting team in conference play, Virginia.
Collectively, those three teams made five of 30 three-point attempts (.167) against Notre Dame, highlighted by a zero for 12 whitewash of No. 10/11 Duke on Feb. 16 at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame is 8-1 against ranked opponents (5-1 against top-10 teams), with six of those eight victories coming by double figures, including all five wins over top-10 opponents.
In the past four seasons (2011-12 to present), the Fighting Irish are 49-7 (.875) against ranked opponents, with more than 75 percent of those Top 25 wins (37 of 49) by double digits.
Notre Dame continues to make impressive strides this season, considering the Fighting Irish came in looking to replace three senior starters who accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team’s scoring, rebounding and assists last season.
This year, Notre Dame hasn’t featured a senior in its most common starting lineup, and four of the team’s top five scorers and three of its top four rebounders are freshmen or sophomores, the lone exception in both cases being the ACC’s leading scorer, junior guard Jewell Loyd.
Leading the Fighting Irish youth movement is freshman forward Brianna Turner. A six-time ACC Freshman of the Week and two-time United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Week, Turner ranks among the top 12 in the ACC in points, rebounds, blocks and field-goal percentage (leading the nation in the latter category), the only conference rookie to rank in the top 12 in the league in those four categories — no other ACC freshman ranks in the top 12 in more than two of those areas and no other ACC player ranks in the top 12 in more than three.
A pair of Notre Dame sophomore starters are making their mark as well, with both guard Lindsay Allen (10.3 ppg., 5.2 apg.) and forward Taya Reimer (9.9 ppg., 6.1 rpg.) logging career-high averages in virtually all statistical categories.
Allen ranks among the top five in the ACC in assists (first), assist/turnover ratio (second) and field-goal percentage (sixth). The latter placement is particularly notable, considering Allen is one of only two guards (along with Miami’s Adrienne Motley) to rank among the top 15 in the ACC in field-goal percentage.
Meanwhile, Reimer continues to diversify her game, averaging 13.0 points and shooting .857 from the field (12 of 14) in her last two games. On Feb. 23 against No. 8/7 Louisville, she scored 16 points on a perfect eight of eight shooting. It was not only the fourth-best single-game field-goal percentage in school history and third-best in Purcell Pavilion annals, but also the best by an ACC player in any game this year.
Another Notre Dame rookie, forward Kathryn Westbeld likewise continues to blossom. The Kettering, Ohio, native leads all Fighting Irish reserves in scoring (7.3 ppg.) and rebounding (4.2 rpg.), and during ACC play, she ranks third in the conference in field-goal percentage (.558), while averaging 7.9 ppg. in her inaugural ACC campaign.
Notre Dame Is Hoop City, USA
Virtually no other campus in America is enjoying the kind of success on the basketball court that Notre Dame has seen in 2014-15. The Fighting Irish men’s and women’s basketball programs are a combined 51-7 (.879) on the hardwood this season, tying Gonzaga for the most total wins and the best combined winning percentage among both basketball programs on a national level.
Notre Dame also was the first school this season to have both basketball teams top the 20-win mark, with each Fighting Irish squad now approaching 25 victories in the same season for the fourth time in eight years (also 2007-08, 2010-11 and 2012-13) after never having previously reached that win total in the same season.
This year’s Fighting Irish squads also are challenging the school records for combined men’s/women’s basketball victories and winning percentage in a single season, with Notre Dame amassing a combined 60-12 (.833) record in 2012-13 (women 35-2; men 25-10).
Despite its 78-63 loss at Miami on Jan. 8, and when factoring in postseason tournament results (league and NCAA), Notre Dame has won 59 of its last 62 games against conference opponents (and 25 in a row at home). Notre Dame’s other two losses to a league foe in the past three seasons both came at the hands of Connecticut in the 2012 BIG EAST Championship title game (63-54 in Hartford, Connecticut) and the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals (83-65 in New Orleans, Louisiana).
The Fighting Irish loss at Miami on Jan. 8 ended a school-record 38 consecutive regular season conference games, dating back to the end of its BIG EAST Conference membership and through the first two seasons of its affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Prior to the Miami loss, the Fighting Irish last dropped a conference regular season game on Feb. 12, 2012, falling 65-63 to then-BIG EAST foe West Virginia at Purcell Pavilion (on two free throws by WVU’s Brooke Hampton with 4.6 seconds left).
Notre Dame’s recent streak erased the prior school-record 33-game run from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 — that streak took place during the program’s dominant seven-year tenure as part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).
Even with its 78-63 loss at Miami on Jan. 8, Notre Dame has won 44 of its last 45 (and 51 of its last 57) regular season road games.
With their loss at Miami, the Fighting Irish saw their NCAA Division I record-tying 30-game road winning streak snapped. It was an amazing string of success in hostile territory, a streak that lasted exactly three years (Jan. 4, 2012-Jan. 4, 2015) and left Notre Dame tied with Connecticut for the NCAA Division I all-time mark in that category.
Prior to the setback at Miami, the Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road on March 6, 2012, falling at No. 4 Connecticut, 63-54 in the BIG EAST Conference Championship final at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
In addition, the Miami loss was the first for the Fighting Irish in a regular season road game since Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 defeat at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
Notre Dame also had its streak of a school-record 25 consecutive conference road wins snapped at Miami, with the last Fighting Irish road loss in league play coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The highlight of Notre Dame’s remarkable recent road run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Connecticut, earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
More Streak Stats
Dating back to the start of the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame has posted a 99-5 (.952) record. In that three-year span, four of the five Fighting Irish losses have come against top-three teams — No. 3 Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion), No. 3 Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana), No. 1 Connecticut (79-58 on April 8, 2014, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national championship game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee) and No. 3 Connecticut (76-58 on Dec. 6, 2014, in the Jimmy V Classic at Purcell Pavilion).
The other loss came Jan. 8 with a 78-63 setback at Miami. That defeat ended Notre Dame’s 61-game winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), the second-longest active run in the nation. The Fighting Irish last fell to an unranked team on Feb. 12, 2012, suffering a last-second 65-63 home loss to West Virginia (research for this note provided by STATS via the AP).
Poise Under Pressure
Notre Dame hasn’t had to deal with many close games in recent seasons, but when faced with such a challenge, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion.
Notre Dame has won its last 15 games decided by single digits and/or in overtime, including all three close games this season. The Fighting Irish last dropped a single-digit decision on March 6, 2012, falling 63-54 at No. 4 Connecticut in the BIG EAST Conference Tournament championship game at Hartford, Connecticut.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
Twice in less than two weeks earlier this season, Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to earn a victory.
On Jan. 2, the Fighting Irish trailed Florida State, 20-8 with 7:41 left in the first half before charging back to win, 74-68 at Purcell Pavilion.
On Jan. 15, Notre Dame fell behind at No. 12/10 North Carolina, 34-23 with 5:28 to go in the first half, but the Fighting Irish rallied to register an 89-79 victory in Chapel Hill.
Even in its second loss of the season on Jan. 8 at Miami, Notre Dame showed remarkable character, erasing nearly all of a 22-point second-half deficit (45-23 with 17:00 to play) and getting within 55-49 with eight minutes left before UM held on for the win.
Visiting Century City
Notre Dame has scored at least 100 points four times this season (and posted 97 points in another), challenging last year’s school-record mark of five triple-digit outings, erasing the 2012-13 standard of three such contests.
The Fighting Irish have piled up 12 100-point games since the start of the 2011-12 season (and nine other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program’s existence–and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run.
This season marked the first time the Fighting Irish opened with three 100-point games in their first six contests. In fact, prior to 2012-13, Notre Dame had never had more than two triple-digit outings in an entire season, something it has now done for a third consecutive campaign.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd leads the ACC and ranks 19th in the nation in scoring (as of Saturday), thanks in part to one of the most explosive individual scoring seasons in Notre Dame women’s basketball history.
- Loyd has scored 605 points through 29 games this season (20.9 points per game). Already the fastest to each century single-season scoring interval in program history, Loyd now ranks 10th on Notre Dame’s single-season scoring list, having passed Natalie Novosel (591 in 2011-12) with 16 points on Thursday night against Pittsburgh.
- Thursday’s output also made Loyd just the fourth Fighting player to score 600 points in a season twice (she had 687 last year). Current associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham and Katryna Gaither both topped the mark during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons, while Skylar Diggins was the most recent to post a pair of 600-point seasons (2011-12 and 2012-13).
- Loyd is on pace to challenge Gaither’s single-season record for scoring average at Notre Dame (20.4 ppg. as a senior in 1996-97). Cunningham is the only other Fighting Irish player to average 20 points per game in one season (20.2 ppg. as a junior in 1995-96).
- Loyd is the first Notre Dame player to register eight 20-point games in her first 10 outings of a season, surpassing Gaither (who had seven 20-point games in first 10 contests of 1996-97).
- Loyd currently leads the ACC with 17 20-point games this season, tying her with Cunningham for third in school history, and she has 32 career 20-point games, tying her with Jacqueline Batteast (2001-05) for fifth in Fighting Irish annals.
- Loyd is the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to register back-to-back 30-point games and for good measure, she did it against a pair of ranked opponents in No. 3 UConn (31 points) and No. 25 DePaul (school record-tying 41 points). Cunningham had two 30-point games in three days on Dec. 1 and 3, 1995, in close losses to No. 12/13 Penn State (32) and No. RV/22 Texas A&M (34) at the Kona Women’s Basketball Classic in Kona, Hawaii, although there was a game between those two (Cunningham scored 23 points in a win over Washington).
- Loyd has set a program record with four 30-point games in this season, most recently dropping in 31 points at Georgia Tech on Feb. 19.
- Loyd’s seven career 30-point games also set a school record topping the previous mark of six 30-point games established by Gaither from 1993-97.
- In nine games against ranked opponents this season, Loyd is averaging 26.1 points per game, with eight 20-point outings to her credit. The lone exception came on Jan. 15 at No. 12/10 North Carolina, when she scored eight points.
- Loyd is eighth in school history with 1,742 career points, needing 21 points to catch Alicia Ratay (1,763 points from 1999-2003) for the No. 7 spot on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring list.
- Loyd scored her 1,500th career point in her 90th career game on Jan. 11, 2015, vs. Boston College at Purcell Pavilion. Loyd is the second-quickest player to score to 1,500 points in program history, trailing only Cunningham, who scored her 1,500th point at Notre Dame in her 80th career game on Feb. 21, 1996, at home against Miami.
The Model Of Consistency
Junior guard Jewell Loyd scored eight points in Notre Dame’s 89-79 win at No. 12/10 North Carolina on Jan. 15, ending Loyd’s streak of scoring in double figures at 60 consecutive games. This remarkable run dated back to March 11, 2013, when she had eight points in Notre Dame’s 83-59 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 16/15 Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
Loyd’s 60-game double-digit scoring streak was the second-longest in school history, topped only by Katryna Gaither’s 76-game string from 1994-97.
In less than three seasons at Notre Dame, Loyd has scored in double figures in 89 of her 102 career games — and 11 of those 13 single-digit games saw her within one basket of double figures.
Turner Throwing A Block Party
Freshman forward Brianna Turner has recorded 61 blocked shots in her last 18 games (3.4 bpg.), all since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined her for the better part of the four previous games.
Following her return on Dec. 21 against Saint Joseph’s (Pa.), the Pearland, Texas, native has logged at least five blocks in seven games, including a career-high seven rejections three times, all against ranked opponents — at No. 21/22 Syracuse on Jan. 4, at No. 12/10 North Carolina on Jan. 15 and at home against No. 8/7 Louisville on Feb. 23.
Turner’s 22 blocks from Dec. 21-Jan. 4 were the most by a Notre Dame player in a four-game span since Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 1998, when Ruth Riley had 22 blocks against No. 6/4 Duke, No. 25/23 Illinois, San Francisco and Toledo.
As of Saturday, Turner ranks third in the ACC (and 21st in the nation) at 2.8 blocks per game, while her 72 total blocks are seventh on the Notre Dame single-season list and second all-time among Fighting Irish freshmen (most by a Fighting Irish rookie in one season since Shari Matvey’s record-setting 94 rejections in 1979-80).
In addition, Turner is on pace for the second-best blocked shot average by a freshman in program history, and best since 1979-80, when Matvey averaged 3.1 blocks per game.
Allen Throws Wrench Into Opposing Game Plans
Sophomore guard Lindsay Allen has emerged as one of the top point guards in not only the ACC, but the nation as well.
Allen ranks among the top five in the ACC in assists (first – 5.2 apg.), assist/turnover ratio (second – 2.16) and field-goal percentage (sixth – .556), with the latter figure particularly notable as she is one of only two guards (along with Miami’s Adrienne Motley) ranked among the top 15 in the ACC in field-goal percentage.
In conference play, Allen leads the ACC in assists (6.3 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (2.29), while ranking fifth in free-throw percentage (.821) and sixth in field-goal percentage (.505).
Allen also has logged at least five assists in 14 of her last 16 games (and 19 times this season), including 7.0 assists per game in five outings against ranked opponents during that span.
In addition, Allen has developed into a potent scoring threat for the Fighting Irish, increasing her offensive output by more than 66 percent to 10.3 points per game, and she has scored in double figures 14 times this season (after doing so eight times as a rookie in 2013-14).
Allen is in her second season as the starting point guard for Notre Dame, having not missed a game since she set foot on campus last year. With Allen at the helm, the Fighting Irish have amassed a stellar 64-3 (.955) record — and when you factor in her final prep season at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., Allen’s teams are a combined 91-4 (.958) in the past three years when she’s been in the starting lineup.
Stealing Cable Is Legal Here
Senior guard Madison Cable has emerged as one of Notre Dame’s top defenders this season, with the Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, product currently ranking 10th in the ACC in steals (1.7 spg.) and tying for fifth in that category during conference play (2.0 spg.).
Cable picked off a career-high six steals on Feb. 1 against Wake Forest, matching the most by any ACC player in a conference game this season. It also was the most thefts by a Fighting Irish player in a game since Dec. 19, 2012, when Kaila Turner logged seven steals against Alabama A&M.
Cable is enjoying her finest season in a Notre Dame uniform, posting career-high averages in nearly all categories, including scoring (6.3 ppg.), rebounding (4.3 rpg.), steals and three-point percentage (.468). She also registered her first career double-double back on Dec. 10 in an overtime win at No. 25 DePaul, collecting 20 points and 11 rebounds despite missing parts of the second half and overtime with cramping in both of her calves.
In addition to her defensive prowess, Cable leads the ACC in three-point percentage and is tied for fourth in that category during conference play (.412).
Game #29 Recap: Pittsburgh
Fourth-ranked Notre Dame couldn’t miss a shot at the start of the second half against Pittsburgh.
The Fighting Irish already were up by 13 when Michaela Mabrey started Notre Dame’s field goal streak with a jumper 10 seconds into the half and added another half a minute later. Then, Jewell Loyd hit one. Then, Brianna Turner.
Notre Dame cruised to an 87-59 victory over the Panthers on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion to clinch at least a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season league title as six players hit shots and the Fighting Irish put the game away by making their first 11 shots of the second half.
Notre Dame made 70 percent of its shots in the second half and shot 63 percent for the game, while Pittsburgh made just 36 percent of its shots.
Loyd led five Fighting Irish players in double figures with 16 points, Turner had 15 points and nine rebounds, Lindsay Allen added 13 points and eight assists, Markisha Wright had a season-high 14 points and Taya Reimer added 10 points.
The one bright spot for the Panthers was the play of Kiesel, who led Pitt with 27 points, three points shy of her career high, on eight of 15 shooting. She also was 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.
Notre Dame, which brought usual starters Turner, Reimer and Mabrey off the bench so Wright and fellow seniors Madison Cable and Whitney Holloway could start their final regular-season home game, had a 36-10 advantage in bench scoring. The Fighting Irish also dominated inside, outrebounding Pittsburgh 41-21 and outscoring the Panthers in the paint 44-26.
Beyond The Box Score: Pittsburgh
- Notre Dame earned a share of the ACC regular-season title, its fourth consecutive league crown and second in as many seasons as an ACC member (following two in the BIG EAST) — it’s the first time in the program’s 38-year history the Fighting Irish have won four consecutive conference regular season titles, and it’s the 12th conference regular season championship in school annals.
- Notre Dame also clinched the No. 1 seed for the ACC Tournament.
- Notre Dame improves to 32-6 (.842) all-time on Senior Night, including wins in 25 of its last 27 Senior Night contests.
- Notre Dame’s senior class is the first in school history to win four conference regular-season titles.
- The Fighting Irish tied a school record with their 17th home win of the season, matching the mark first set in 2011-12 (17-1) and duplicated last year (17-0) — this year’s 18 home games also tie the school single-season mark set in 2011-12.
- The Fighting Irish shot a season-best .627 from the floor, their highest field-goal percentage since they connected on 62.9 percent of their shots (39 of 62) in a win over UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9, 2013, at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame shot 70.4 percent from the floor in the second half, its second-best single-half field-goal percentage of the season behind a .760 outing (19 of 25) in the first half against Chattanooga on Nov. 21 at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame wraps the month of February with a perfect 7-0 record, extending its winning streak in the month to 26 in a row and improving to 121-28 (.812) in February games since 1995-96, including a 68-6 (.919) mark at home in that time.
- Notre Dame held Pittsburgh to an opponent season-low 21 rebounds, the fewest since Maryland’s 21 boards on April 6, 2014, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
- The Fighting Irish are 23-3 all-time against Pittsburgh, including an 11-0 record at home.
- Notre Dame has won its last six games against Pittsburgh by an average of 35.8 points per game.
- The Fighting Irish have won 18 consecutive games against teams from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (12 in a row at home) and are 61-26 (.701) all-time against Keystone State schools, including a 29-5 (.853) record at home.
- Wright’s 14 points were the most she has scored in a game since Dec. 31, 2012, when she tallied 20 points in a win over Saint Francis (Pa.) at Purcell Pavilion.
- Wright became the 10th different Notre Dame player to score in double figures at least once this season.
- Holloway made her first career start, the eighth different Fighting Irish player to start a game this season.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press preseason poll, its 82nd consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting (76 of those in the top five), dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season and marking 152 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.
The Fighting Irish continue to extend the program record for consecutive poll appearances that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), while Notre Dame is one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of at least 150 consecutive AP poll appearances.
What’s more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a top-10 Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (75 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (69) of those appearances in the AP Top 5 (and never lower than seventh).
Notre Dame was No. 3 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 15th time in 16 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only five schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 16 during that span, while Stanford joins the Fighting Irish with 15 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 291 weeks during the program’s 38-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw is eighth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 15th all-time in that category.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish are No. 4 in this week’s WBCA/USA Today coaches’ poll, after spending two weeks earlier this season as the nation’s No. 1 team (Nov. 25 and Dec. 2). It was the first time Notre Dame stood atop the rankings since April 1, 2001, following the program’s first NCAA national championship. The Fighting Irish were the first ACC team to be ranked No. 1 in either major national poll since March 12, 2007, when Duke was in that position prior to the NCAA Championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 154 of the past 155 weeks (and 118 in a row), falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for a total of 286 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
This marks the seventh consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the WBCA/USA Today poll, as well as 13 of the past 17 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 33 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 291 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 33 people on this list, 18 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005 and 2012).
Half And Half
During the past 15 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 336-19 (.946) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 264 of their last 277 such contests (.953).
What’s more, in the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 173-2 (.989) when leading at the half, with the only losses coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 20 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, the Fighting Irish have an amazing 308-15 (.954) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game (16-0 record this season).
…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 20 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 231-6 (.975) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.
In the past six years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 108-2 (.982) when topping the 80-point mark, including an active 75-game winning streak since a 94-81 loss at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT final.
Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 268 of their last 298 games (.899), all but one game/win at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 34, 25 and 20 games in that span.
Since Purcell Pavilion was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 94-6 (.940) — including wins in 70 of its last 73 games — and three of the six Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).
Notre Dame also has a 212-30 (.876) record in regular season conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to BIG EAST foe Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been especially strong when it comes to non-league home games, winning 126 of their last 136 out-of-conference home contests (.926), dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the 10 losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT), Baylor in 2012 (73-61) and Connecticut in 2014 (76-58).
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all but one of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 417-91 (.821) record at the venerable facility, including a school-record 17 home wins in three of the past four seasons (2011-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15).
One Of Nation’s Toughest Cities To Play In
According to a study released by the University of Utah Athletic Media Relations Office, Notre Dame and Purcell Pavilion are among the toughest places in the nation to play. In fact, Notre Dame is one of just 11 programs in the nation to own a winning percentage of .800 or better in its home city.
Fighting Irish Are Hottest Ticket In Town
The past five seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10 and 2013-14), highest average attendance (8,979 fans per game in 2012-13) and most sellouts in a single season (11 in 2012-13). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For the sixth year in a row, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish post four sellouts (Dec. 6 vs. UConn; Jan. 2 vs. Florida State; Jan. 11 vs. Boston College; Jan. 19 vs. Tennessee).
As of Saturday, Notre Dame ranks fifth in the nation in attendance, averaging 8,835 fans per game. That equates to 96.57 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s capacity, the highest such percentage of any team in the country (DePaul is second at 91.03 percent, while Gonzaga and Kentucky are the only other Division I schools currently filling their arenas to better than 70 percent capacity this season).
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Whitney Holloway, senior forward Markisha Wright and junior guard Michaela Mabrey are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2014-15 season. All three players received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
This is the seventh time in 11 seasons the Fighting Irish have had a trio of captains, as well as the second year in a row (Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride filled the captaincy trio last season).
Achonwa Named To 2015 ACC Women’s Basketball Legends Class
Natalie Achonwa (’14), one of the cornerstones of the most successful four-year run in Notre Dame women’s basketball history and a tri-captain on last year’s Fighting Irish squad that earned the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament championships with a combined 19-0 record, has been named to the 11th annual class of ACC Women’s Basketball Legends, the conference office announced Jan. 27.
Achonwa (pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh) and the rest of the 2015 ACC Legends Class (which includes 14 former student-athletes and one former head coach who represent five decades of women’s basketball) will be honored at the annual ACC Women’s Basketball Legends Brunch at 10 a.m. (ET) March 7 in Greensboro, North Carolina. The group then will be introduced to the crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum at halftime of the first ACC Tournament semifinal that afternoon.
The ACC Women’s Basketball Legends program honors both players and coaches from each of the ACC’s 15 schools who have contributed to the conference’s rich tradition. The full list of this year’s ACC Women’s Basketball Legends can be found on the conference’s official web site, theacc.com.
Tickets to the ACC Women’s Basketball Legends Brunch are priced at $35 each and can be purchased by calling (336) 369-4673 — quantities are limited.
A two-time All-America forward, Achonwa helped lead Notre Dame to a 138-15 (.902) record from 2010-11 through 2013-14, along with four NCAA Women’s Final Four appearances and three trips to the NCAA title game, as well as three conference championships (two in the BIG EAST Conference before last year’s perfect run through the ACC) and two conference tournament crowns (2013 in the BIG EAST, 2014 in the ACC). She also ranks among the program’s all-time leaders in points (13th – 1,546 points), rebounds (fourth – 970), field goal percentage (sixth – .562) and double-doubles (tied-fifth – 28).
Later this year, Achonwa will continue her basketball career as a member of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, who selected her in the first round (No. 9 overall) of the 2014 WNBA Draft. Achonwa missed the 2014 season while recovering from knee surgery.
A native of Guelph, Ontario, Achonwa graduated from Notre Dame in May 2014, earning her bachelor’s degree in management-consulting from the top-ranked Mendoza College of Business. She currently serves as an operations specialist for the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program, coordinating team travel arrangements, supervising the team’s student managers, helping oversee the program’s popular summer camps, and serving as a liaison for the team’s numerous community service projects.
A Friend In Need
Although it’s been nearly a year since Natalie Achonwa last put on the Notre Dame uniform, the 2014 graduate continues to selflessly give back to her alma mater.
Achonwa is in her first year as an operations specialist on the Fighting Irish coaching staff, having assumed that post last June. A first-round selection by the Indiana Fever in the 2014 WNBA Draft, Achonwa currently lives in South Bend and commutes regularly to Indianapolis while continuing rehabilitation of her left knee following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament last spring (the injury occurred in Notre Dame’s NCAA Elite Eight win over Baylor on March 31, 2014, at Purcell Pavilion).
In her current role, Achonwa oversees the program’s travel plans, supervising the team’s student managers, helping oversee the program’s popular summer camps and serving as a liaison for the team’s numerous community service projects, helping to fill the void left by fellow operations specialist Katie Schwab, who has been hospitalized since June 9, 2014, following complications related to her Type I diabetes.
The Notre Dame women’s basketball program and several of Schwab’s supporters within and outside the University have banded together to hold several fundraisers to help defray some of Schwab’s medical expenses. The most notable of these fundraisers came in August, when the group (known informally as “Team Katie”) generated approximately $21,000 through a live and silent auction at the legendary Linebacker Lounge (across from the Notre Dame campus), as well as through online donations.
Notre Dame held its first Diabetes Awareness Day on Nov. 23 prior to the Fighting Irish home win over Holy Cross, and the team is active with the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDRF), including participation in its annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes on Sept. 14, 2014, in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana.
Schwab’s family continues to provide regular updates on her condition through the CaringBridge web site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katieschwab.
Riley Earns 2015 Moose Krause Award
The Notre Dame Monogram Club selected former women’s basketball star Ruth Riley (’01) as this year’s recipient of the Edward “Moose” Krause Distinguished Service Award.
Riley officially received the organization’s highest honor during Notre Dame’s game vs. Louisville on Feb. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.
A 13-year WNBA veteran, Riley retired from the sport in June 2014 and currently serves as an NBA/WNBA Cares Ambassador. Back in November, Riley traveled to Leipzig, Germany, where she was honored as a 2014 Junior Chamber International Ten Outstanding Young Persons of The World recipient in the category of humanitarian and/or voluntary leadership. She was the first American to receive the global award since 2008.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
Now in its eighth season, Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion once again looks to send fans home with full bellies, offering a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in an regular season or exhibition game at Purcell Pavilion.
In the eight-year history of the promotion, Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark at home 62 times, most recently in the Feb. 1 win over Wake Forest.
Senior forward Markisha Wright leads all current Fighting Irish players with seven “Big Mac Baskets” during her career.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “the media relations director has way too much time on his hands”), 28 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including 10 current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 62 Big Mac games, 30 have been reached on two-point baskets, 19 on free throws, and 13 on three-pointers.
Next Game: ACC Quarterfinals
Notre Dame will begin defense of its ACC Tournament title at 2 p.m. (ET) Friday when it plays a quarterfinal game at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The quarterfinal, which will pit the top-seeded Fighting Irish against the winner of Thursday’s second-round game between the No. 8 seed (currently Pittsburgh and Miami are tied for seventh place) and No. 9 seed (currently North Carolina State), will be televised live on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks (including Comcast Channel 101 in South Bend; check local listings or theacc.com for other presenting affiliates), as well as streamed online by ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
The full 2015 ACC Tournament bracket will be released by the conference office on Sunday evening once the final day of regular season ACC action is complete.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director