Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters had 19 points, nine rebounds and a career high-tying six blocked shots in Notre Dame's 63-53 victory over Louisville at the 2011 BIG EAST Championship in Hartford, Conn.

#4 Irish Head To #19/16 Louisville For Monday Matinee

Feb. 18, 2012

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2011-12 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 28

#4/4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-2 / 12-1 BIG EAST) vs. #19/16 Louisville Cardinals (19-7 / 8-5 BIG EAST)

DATE: February 20, 2012
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Louisville, Ky. – KFC Yum! Center (22,000)
SERIES: ND leads 7-4
1ST MTG: LOU 80-75 (3/22/91)
LAST MTG: ND 63-53 (3/6/11)
TV: ESPN (live) (Brenda VanLengen, p-b-p / LaChina Robinson, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid


  • Notre Dame faces its 10th ranked opponent of the season, having gone 8-1 against Top 25 teams this year (4-1 away from home).
  • The Fighting Irish are making the second of three appearances on ESPN’s “Big Monday” package this year.

No. 4 Fighting Irish Head To No. 19/16 Louisville For Monday Matinee
As the horse race that is the 2011-12 BIG EAST Conference regular season comes down the stretch, it seems fitting that No. 4 Notre Dame heads to the most famous locale in thoroughbred racing, as the Fighting Irish visit No. 19/16 Louisville on Monday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matchup at the KFC Yum! Center. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN as the opener to its “Big Monday” tripleheader that will feature six ranked teams.

Notre Dame (25-2, 12-1) returned to winning form and maintained its perch atop the BIG EAST standings last Tuesday with a 66-47 victory over Providence at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first half and used a 16-2 run midway through the period to take command.

Junior guard Skylar Diggins and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters each scored a game-high 19 points for Notre Dame, with Peters adding 11 rebounds and Diggins dishing out seven assists.


  • Notre Dame was No. 4 in last week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
  • Louisville was No. 19 in last week’s Associated Press poll and No. 16 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.

Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame appears in the top 20 of 10 different NCAA statistical categories, including nine top-10 appearances. The Fighting Irish lead the nation in scoring offense (81.9 ppg.) and rank second in scoring margin (+30.9 ppg.) and field goal percentage (.484), while placing third in assists (19.2 apg.) and steals (13.9 spg.), fifth in turnover margin (+7.26), eighth in scoring defense (51.0 ppg.) and rebounding margin (+10.4 rpg.), ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.16), and 16th in field goal percentage defense (.344).
  • Notre Dame is 8-1 against Top 25 opponents this season (4-1 away from home), including four victories in five outings against teams in the top 10.
  • This marks the third time in school history Notre Dame has posted four top-10 wins (AP poll) in the regular season, having also done so in 2000-01 and 2004-05.
  • Notre Dame is just the second school ever to defeat both Connecticut and Tennessee in consecutive seasons, matching the feat first pulled off by North Carolina in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
  • Five of the eight Fighting Irish victories against Top 25 opponents this season have been by 20 points or more, including a 30-point win at No. 13/14 Rutgers on Jan. 31 (Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory ever on the road at a ranked opponent) and a 28-point win over No. 7/9 Tennessee on Jan. 23 (the largest margin of victory ever and fewest points ever allowed by Notre Dame against a top-10 team).
  • Notre Dame’s 21-game winning streak that ended Feb. 12 was the second-longest in school history and longest since a school-record 23-game run to open 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame has posted at least 25 wins for the third consecutive season, and the fourth time in five years. The only other time the Fighting Irish have had three consecutive 25-win seasons was 1998-99 (26-5), 1999-2000 (27-5) and 2000-01 (34-2).
  • The Fighting Irish opened BIG EAST play with an 11-0 record for the first time in 11 seasons (2000-01), and the fourth time since joining the conference in 1995-96.
  • Of the 25 Fighting Irish wins, 19 have come by 20+ points, and 11 by at least 30 points. In 22 victories this year, Notre Dame has held its opponent to 61 points or fewer, with a school-record 16 when the opponent had 50 points or fewer (and a school-record six of 40 or fewer).
  • The Fighting Irish have scored at least 100 points twice this year, while going over 90 points a school-record nine times (including a school-record four in a row from Dec. 18-30) and topping the 80-point mark 13 times.
  • Notre Dame was ranked No. 4 in last week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the 15th consecutive week the Fighting Irish appeared in the top five of both major national polls. That’s the second-longest uninterrupted streak of consensus top-five poll appearances in school history behind only the final 18 weeks of the 2000-01 season (Notre Dame was ranked sixth in the preseason AP poll that year).
  • With last week’s No. 4 ranking in the AP poll, Notre Dame has appeared in the media rankings for 92 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll. In fact, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad throughout her career, with more than half that time (54 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • With 581 victories in 25 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).
  • McGraw is just the ninth Fighting Irish coach in the 125-year history of Notre Dame athletics to lead her team for 25 seasons, and the first to solely coach a women’s sport (Joe Piane is in his 37th year as men’s/women’s track & field coach, while Michael DeCicco guided both Fighting Irish fencing teams during his 34-year career). Four of the nine members of this Silver Anniversary coaching club currently are active at Notre Dame — Piane (37 years), Tim Welsh (28th year with men’s swimming & diving), McGraw and Bob Bayliss (25th year with men’s tennis).

Other Notre Dame Notables

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 16 seasons (1996-97 to present), tying for fourth with 399 victories.
  • Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past 11 seasons. The Fighting Irish currently are averaging 8,789 fans per home game (good for fifth in the nation) after the program finished fifth in the NCAA attendance rankings with a school-record 8,553 fans a night. The Fighting Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 173 of their last 175 home games, logging 24 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 18 in the past three seasons alone, and a school-record seven this year (most recently on Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia).
  • The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 11 seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Fighting Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the ’11 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame’s eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
  • For the fifth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player who has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has earned her bachelor’s degree (a 64-for-64 success rate). The Fighting Irish also are one of only four schools in the past four years to record a 100-percent GSR and play for a national championship in the same season.

A Quick Look At Louisville
After starting the season with four starters and nine letterwinners back from last year’s NCAA Sweet 16 club, Louisville has found itself adjusting on the fly due to injuries and other setbacks. Still, the Cardinals (19-7, 8-5) have not wavered, remaining a fixture in the national Top 20 throughout the season.

Louisville comes into Monday’s matinee on a two-game winning streak, most recently taking a 71-66 overtime win at Pittsburgh on Feb. 14. The Cardinals rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final six minutes of regulation and dominated the extra period to earn a key road win.

Sophomore guard Shoni Schimmel led four Louisville players in double figures with 16 points (along with six assists, five steals and five rebounds), while senior sharpshooting guard Becky Burke added 15 points, going 4-for-8 from the three-point line, and redshirt freshman forward Shawnta’ Dyer came off the bench to record a double-double (12 points, game-high 13 rebounds).

Schimmel is the team leader in scoring (14.3 ppg.), assists (4.2 apg.) and steals (2.0 spg.), while Burke chips in 11.5 points per game with a team-high .391 three-point percentage (team-best 66 treys). In the absence of injured all-BIG EAST forward Monique Reid, Dyer has emerged as the Cardinals’ top rebounder (4.8 rpg.).

Head coach Jeff Walz is in his fifth season at Louisville with a 115-53 (.685) record, including a 1-5 mark against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Louisville Series
Notre Dame and Louisville will meet for the 12th time on Monday afternoon, with the Fighting Irish holding a 7-4 edge in the series, including wins in the past four matchups. Notre Dame also is 3-1 all-time at Louisville, and 6-2 against the Cardinals since they joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Louisville Met
Devereaux Peters had 19 points, nine rebounds, and tied her career high with six blocks to help No. 7 Notre Dame top Louisville 63-53 on March 6, 2011, in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

With her team leading 26-24 and two minutes left in the first half, Peters keyed a 22-5 spurt over the next eight minutes to help the Fighting Irish take control. Louisville could only get within six the rest of the game.

Shoni Schimmel scored a team-high 12 points to lead the Cardinals.

Peters was all over the court for the Fighting Irish. She scored 13 points during the game-changing run, including eight straight at one point. With Notre Dame leading 40-29, she had a block on one end of the floor and then a three-point play on the other side.

Skylar Diggins followed with a three-pointer and Peters another layup to give the Fighting Irish a 19-point advantage.

Louisville wasn’t done, rallying over the next six minutes with Peters on the bench. Schimmel’s pull-up in the lane started a 16-4 spurt. Charmaine Tay followed with a three-point play and Schimmel’s three-pointer with 8:12 left made it 52-45.

Diggins then hit a three to make it a 10-point game and had a key steal late in the game that she converted into a basket.

Louisville cut it to six with 2:32 left on Monique Reid’s lay-in, but the Fighting Irish scored the next five points to seal the win.

Reid, who led the Cardinals in scoring during the season, was held to just six points.

Louisville hung around for the first 20 minutes despite shooting 38 percent and committing 13 turnovers. The Cardinals finished the game at the same shooting clip, but made just two of their 18 three-pointers and were outshot 25-7 at the free throw line.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Louisville Met In Louisville
Skylar Diggins scored 20 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures as the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish pulled away over the final 20 minutes to give Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw her 600th career victory with a 78-60 win over Louisville on Jan. 19, 2010, at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.

Ashley Barlow added 18 points, Lindsay Schrader had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Melissa Lechlitner chipped in 14 for the Fighting Irish, who forced Louisville into 20 turnovers and held the Cardinals without a field goal for more than eight minutes in the second half.

Monique Reid led Louisville with 23 points and nine rebounds, but the Cardinals shot just 37 percent in the second half and had trouble holding onto the ball.

The Cardinals entered the game averaging 23 turnovers a game, worst in the BIG EAST. Things appeared to be getting better early against the Fighting Irish. With walk-on point guard Shelby Harper running things, Louisville played arguably its best 15 minutes of the season to open a 33-21 lead.

Yet the Fighting Irish steadied themselves with a 16-4 run to end the half to tie the game at 37 at the break as Louisville’s offense broke down when Harper went out with three fouls.

The Cardinals briefly led by five in the second half before running out of gas while the Fighting Irish came to life behind Diggins, who scored 15 points in the second half.

While the Fighting Irish surged, the Cardinals stalled. Gwen Rucker hit a layup to give Louisville a 46-43 lead with 16:50 to go, but the Cardinals wouldn’t score again until Reid converted a three-point play with 8:14 remaining.

By then Notre Dame had reeled off 13 consecutive points and the Cardinals couldn’t keep pace. Reid, who was brilliant in the first half, made 2 of 8 shots in the second half.

The Fighting Irish had no such problems. Executing crisply in the halfcourt, Notre Dame found easy baskets for Schrader, Diggins and Lechlitner. The lead ballooned to 20 in the final minutes, allowing McGraw to celebrate her milestone win.

Other Notre Dame-Louisville Series Tidbits

  • Notre Dame’s current four-game winning streak against Louisville is the longest by either side in the series.
  • Eight of the 11 games in the series have been decided by 15 points or fewer. When Louisville joined the BIG EAST in 2005-06, the first four series games were decided by 10 points or fewer, before the next three series matchups, all Notre Dame victories, exceeded that margin. However, last year’s final meeting returned to that spread with a 63-53 Fighting Irish win in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
  • Only six times in the 11-game series has either team scored at least 70 points, and ironically, both teams did it in the same game twice. The Cardinals won the first-ever matchup, 80-75, in the 1991 National Women’s Invitation Tournament consolation semifinals at Amarillo, Texas, while the Fighting Irish won in 2008 at Freedom Hall, 82-74. In three of its past four matchups with Louisville, Notre Dame has topped 70 points.
  • The home team has won only three of the eight on-campus games in the series to date, with the Cardinals winning at Freedom Hall in 2006 (61-51) and the Fighting Irish taking contests at Purcell Pavilion in 2007 (64-55) and 2011 (80-60).
  • Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel hails from Lexington, Ky., and is the first Kentucky native to suit up for Notre Dame in the 35-year history of the program.
  • Novosel, Louisville redshirt junior guard Tia Gibbs (a transfer from Vanderbilt) and Cardinals’ senior forward Monique Reid were arguably three of the best players to come out of the Kentucky high school ranks in 2008, with Gibbs (a graduate of Louisville’s Butler Traditional High School) nosing out runner-up Novosel (who matriculated from Lexington Catholic High School) and third-place Reid (from Louisville’s Fern Creek High School) for Miss Basketball honors.
  • Novosel should be familiar with at least one member of the Louisville coaching staff. The Cardinals’ new director of basketball operations, Mary Beth Whitaker, was an assistant coach at Lexington Catholic High School when Novosel played there from 2004-08.
  • Carole Banda, the Director of Olympic Sports Medicine at Louisville, spent 10 years on the sports medicine staff at Notre Dame from 1991-2000, the last four as the athletic trainer for the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team (including Notre Dame’s 1996-97 NCAA Final Four squad).

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 Fighting Irish are 96-28 (.774) in February games, including a 55-6 (.902) mark at home.

In the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Fighting Irish are 144-43 (.770) in the month of February, including a 77-12 (.865) home record. In that time, Notre Dame has not had a losing February (including this year’s 6-1 record), and only once did the Fighting Irish end the month at .500 (4-4 in 1988-89, McGraw’s second season in South Bend).

Start Me Up
For the second time in school history, Notre Dame has a 25-2 record or better through 27 games.

In their 2000-01 national championship season, the Fighting Irish opened with a school-record 23-game winning streak before losing in the 24th game (54-53 at Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001). Notre Dame then would win its next five in a row before losing at Connecticut, 78-76 in the BIG EAST Championship title game, the only other time the Fighting Irish would fall during their 34-2 run to the national championship.

Charging From The Gate
Notre Dame got off to a 11-0 start in BIG EAST Conference play for the first time in 11 seasons and the fourth time since the program joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96.

The last time the Fighting Irish opened the conference season with 11 consecutive wins (or had any sort of 11-game league winning streak) was 2000-01 when they began the BIG EAST slate with a 12-0 record on the way to earning a share of their first regular season conference title with a 15-1 record.

Streak Stats
Notre Dame’s 21-game winning streak from Nov. 25-Feb. 7 was the second-longest success string in program history, and the longest since the Fighting Irish opened their 2000-01 national championship season on a school-record 23-game winning streak.

Conference Call
For the 16th time in its 17-year membership in the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame has posted double-digit league wins. With the exception of 2005-06 (when they went 8-8), the Fighting Irish have never posted fewer than 10 BIG EAST wins in a season, finishing among the top four in the conference 13 times in their first 16 seasons in the league.

Taking it a step further, Notre Dame now has registered double-digit conference wins in 22 of head coach Muffet McGraw’s 25 seasons under the Golden Dome, with the only other exceptions coming in 1987-88 (her first season when the Fighting Irish went 7-3 in the now-defunct North Star Conference) and 1991-92 (when Notre Dame went 8-4 in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League, then won three in a row at the conference tournament to earn the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship berth, despite a losing overall record of 14-16, becoming the first school ever to pull off that feat).

Pieces of Silver
With its 66-47 win at home over Providence on Feb. 14, Notre Dame registered its 25th victory of the season, marking the third consecutive year (and fourth time in four years) the Fighting Irish have reached that level.

Notre Dame has recorded nine 25-win seasons in its 35 varsity campaigns, but only once before had the Fighting Irish done so in back-to-back-to-back years. From 1998-99 through 2000-01, Notre Dame topped that mark each season (26-5, 27-5 and 34-2), including a school-record 34 wins in the final year of that run, which culminated with the program’s first national championship.

Notre Dame’s current stretch of four 25-win seasons in five years (and 132 total wins in that time) bears similarities to the Fighting Irish stretch from 1996-97 through 2000-01, a span that started with a 31-7 record and NCAA Women’s Final Four berth in 1996-97. Notre Dame won a total of 140 games in that span, the most in a five-year period in school history.

One other note — current Fighting Irish fifth-year seniors/tri-captains Brittany Mallory and Devereaux Peters have been key contributors on all four of the latest 25-win campaigns for Notre Dame, missing only the majority of the 2008-09 season with knee injuries when the Fighting Irish went 22-9.

Twenty Questions
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 18th time in the past 19 seasons with its 72-44 victory over No. 7/9 Tennessee on Jan. 23 at Purcell Pavilion. It was the earliest (in terms of the calendar) that the Fighting Irish have ever earned their 20th win, eight days faster than the 2000-01 club, which did so on Jan. 31 with a 64-44 victory over Providence, also at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame now has registered 20-or-more wins 22 times in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era and 26 times in the program’s 35-year history.

McGraw herself has coached 24 20-win seasons (adding in two during her five-year tenure at Lehigh from 1982-87), placing her ninth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches.

Fighting Irish Scoring Early TKOs
Part of Notre Dame’s success this season can be traced to its penchant for jumping out to huge early leads and then keep its foot on the gas the rest of the way.

In 12 games this year, the Fighting Irish have charged to a 20-point lead inside the opening 13 minutes of the game, going on to win all 12 of those contests by an average of 50.9 points per game.

Overall, Notre Dame is outscoring its opponents in the first half this season by nearly a 2-to-1 margin (1,164-634), with an average halftime score of 43-23.

Lessons Learned
Since its Nov. 20 loss at No. 1 Baylor, Notre Dame has won its last eight games against ranked opponents (including four against top-10 teams), earning five of those victories by at least 20 points (three by 25 points or more).

The major driving force in this turnaround has been the play of the Fighting Irish defense, which has held those last eight Top 25 opponents to just 57.1 points per night, including five games when the opposition scored 60 points or fewer.

Notre Dame also has held its ranked foes to a .343 field goal percentage (.253 from the three-point line), and posted a +7.1 rebounding margin after being outrebounded by 15 at Baylor.

Born To Run
In the latest NCAA statistics report, Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring offense, averaging 81.9 points per game this season. That’s just one of six NCAA offensive categories in which the Fighting Irish rank among the top 25, along with scoring margin (second at +30.9 ppg.), field goal percentage (second at .484), assists (third at 19.2 apg.), assist/turnover ratio (ninth at 1.16) and free throw percentage (23rd at .755).

Notre Dame also has topped the 100-point mark twice (first time since 1998-99, second time in school history), and has scored at least 90 points in a game eight times this year, tying the school record set last season.

What’s more, Notre Dame has done an excellent job of putting teams away, recording 19 20-point wins, and 11 victories by at least 30 points (second-most in school history behind the 12 30-point wins last year).

Century City
Twice this season, Notre Dame has gone “over the top”, scoring 100 points in a game during victories at Mercer (128-42 on Dec. 30) and at home against BIG EAST Conference rival Pittsburgh (120-44 on Jan. 17).

Prior to this season, the Fighting Irish had never scored more than 113 points in a game (113-35 win over Liberty on Nov. 24, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla.), and had scored in triple digits just 13 times in the program’s first 34 seasons.

What’s more, this marks just the second time Notre Dame has ever posted multiple 100-point games in the same season — in 1998-99, the Fighting Irish defeated No. 25/23 Illinois, 101-93, on Nov. 24 at Purcell Pavilion, before defeating West Virginia, 111-90, on Jan. 7, also at home.

As one might expect, Notre Dame’s two offensive explosions rank as the top two single-game point totals in the nation in 2011-12. Oklahoma is third with a 117-point night against visiting Sacramento State on Nov. 13.

Lock It Up
Notre Dame ranks among the top 15 in the nation in five NCAA defensive statistical categories — steals (third at 13.9 spg.), turnover margin (fifth at +7.26), scoring defense (eighth at 51.0 ppg.), rebound margin (eighth at +10.4 rpg.) and field goal percentage defense (16th at .344).

The Fighting Irish have held 22 opponents to 61 points or fewer, with a school-record 16 failing to score more than 50 points against Notre Dame — last year’s Fighting Irish squad had 14 games in which it allowed 50 points or fewer.

Notre Dame’s defensive effort has extended to smaller increments as well. In their last 43 halves of basketball (dating back to the second half against No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26), the Fighting Irish have held their opponents to 25 points or fewer 26 times, including 16 halves when the opposition didn’t crack 20 points.

Gimme Some Of That
Fueled by its aggressive defense, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 19 games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 23.9 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +7.26 turnover margin that is fifth-best in the nation.

The Fighting Irish wasted little time in setting the tone this season, forcing a combined 112 turnovers in their first three games, an average of 37.3 per night, and converting those into 142 points (47.3 ppg.). That run was highlighted by an opponent season-high 46 turnovers against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion, the third-most takeaways in school history, and second-most in the program’s Division I era (49 vs. New Hampshire on Nov. 12, 2010).

The Fighting Irish have been especially hard on opponents in their 15 home games this season, forcing 26.9 turnovers per game and collecting at least 19 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Monday’s game ranked third in the nation in steals with 13.9 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 21 games this season, including three contests with 20-plus steals.

Highlighting this year’s takeaway brigade for Notre Dame was a season-high 29-steal performance in the opening night victory against Akron on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish followed that up two days later with 25 thefts in a win over Indiana State, and nabbed 26 steals in a Dec. 28 win over Longwood.

Prior to last season, Notre Dame had posted 23 steals in a game just seven times in the first 33 years (and 991 games) of the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program, and only three games with 25-plus steals in that time, none since a then-record tying 29 steals at Saint Louis on Jan. 31, 1991. What’s more, Notre Dame had not earned a conference steals title since 1989-90, when it led the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) with 10.9 spg.

Yet, in the past two years (66 games), the Fighting Irish have had eight 23-steal games, with five outings of at least 25 thefts, and they claimed last year’s BIG EAST steals crown with 11.8 steals per game during regular-season league play.

Individually, Notre Dame has 10 different players with double-digit steals this season (including three with at least 55 thefts), led by junior guard Skylar Diggins, who is second in the BIG EAST at 2.5 steals per game, and fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who is sixth at 2.4 spg.

Helping Hands
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well to date this year.

In Friday’s NCAA statistics report, the Fighting Irish were third in the nation (and second in the BIG EAST) at 19.2 assists per game, including a season-high 33 assists against Pittsburgh on Jan. 17 (one of 13 games with 20-or-more assists this year, including six with 25 assists).

Individually, junior guard Skylar Diggins is 16th in the nation in assists (BIG EAST-best 5.8 apg.) and 12th in the country with a 2.26 assist/turnover ratio (also tops in the conference).

What’s more, Notre Dame has assisted on 64.5 percent of its field goals this season (518 of 803), compared to last year when the Fighting Irish registered assists on 60.9 percent of their baskets (669 of 1,099), with 16 games of at least 20 assists.

Experience Matters
Notre Dame has benefited from an experienced lineup this season, using the same starting five (guards Skylar Diggins, Brittany Mallory, Kayla McBride and Natalie Novosel, and forward Devereaux Peters) for all but two games this year (Dec. 30 at Mercer, when senior guard and Atlanta-area native Fraderica Miller earned the nod in her homecoming game; Jan. 7 vs. No. 2 Connecticut).

The foundation of this stable lineup has been the quartet of Diggins, Mallory, Novosel and Peters, who also started 34 of 39 games last year (Mallory missed two games with an ankle injury and came off the bench for two more, while Diggins relinquished her starting spot for Senior Day last year to allow walk-on forward Mary Forr to make the start). In the four games Mallory was not in the lineup last year, McBride earned the first starts of her college career.

Collectively, the current Notre Dame lineup has started 330 games in their careers (Diggins-95, Novosel-70, Peters-69, Mallory-67, McBride-29).

Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has featured a balanced offense thus far, with at least three players scoring in double figures in 22 games, and at least four double-digit scorers in 13 games, including a season-high (and school record-tying) eight with at least 10 points against Pittsburgh on Jan. 17.

During the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 47-4 (.922) when it has at least four players score in double figures, with two of those losses coming in overtime (March 28, 2010 – 77-72 vs. Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16 at Kansas City; Nov. 18, 2010 – 86-83 in double overtime vs. UCLA at Purcell Pavilion) and a third by a single point (Feb. 28, 2011 – 70-69 at DePaul).

The Fighting Irish also have had six different players lead them in scoring this season. Five of the six leading scorers this year also have registered at least one 20-point game to date, while 10 different Notre Dame players (of the 11 healthy Fighting Irish who have seen action to date) have scored in double figures at least once this year.

Improvement Continues On The Glass
After averaging 37.2 rebounds in its first six games (and holding the upper hand in that category only three times, with an aggregate minus-2 rebounding margin), Notre Dame has featured a marked improvement on the boards since its return from the Bahamas after the Thanksgiving weekend.

In their last 21 games, the Fighting Irish are averaging 43.3 rebounds a night, with an average rebounding margin of +13.4 rpg., winning or finishing even in the rebounding battle all but once in that span (41-33 against West Virginia on Feb. 12). Furthermore, Notre Dame has grabbed at least 40 rebounds 17 times in the past 21 games after not reaching that mark once in its first six contests.

According to the latest NCAA statistics report, Notre Dame ranks eighth in the country in rebounding margin (+10.4 rpg.) this year.

Diggins Among Final Nominees For Nancy Lieberman Award
For the second consecutive season, junior guard Skylar Diggins has been selected as one of eight final nominees for the 13th annual Nancy Lieberman Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top point guard by the Rotary Club of Detroit.

The criteria for the award are the floor leadership, playmaking and ball-handling skills that personified the award’s namesake, Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, with this year’s final nominees selected by a panel of sportswriters from around the country.

This same media panel will choose the three finalists and the recipient for the 2012 award, with that announcement made during the weekend of the NCAA Women’s Final Four (April 1-3) in Denver. The recipient then will be presented with the honor during an awards luncheon at noon (ET) April 18 at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Diggins currently ranks among the top 16 in the nation (and leads the BIG EAST) in both assists (16th – 5.8 apg.) and assist/turnover ratio (12th – 2.26), making her one of only five players to appear in the top 16 of both NCAA statistical categories (as of Feb. 17).

The remaining final nominees for this year’s Lieberman Award are: Angel Goodrich (Kansas), Chelsea Gray (Duke), Bria Hartley (Connecticut), Lindsey Moore (Nebraska), Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State), Odyssey Sims (Baylor) and Haley Steed (BYU).

Windy City Warrior
Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters is in the midst of one of the best stretches of her college career, averaging 14.1 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game with a .562 field goal percentage (41-of-73) and five double-doubles in her last seven outings.

Here’s a look at some of the rare feats Peters (the Jan. 23 BIG EAST Player of the Week and a member of the Jan. 30 BIG EAST Honor Roll) has been accomplished in the past three weeks:

  • Peters chalked up consecutive double-doubles against No. 7/9 Tennessee (16 points, 16 rebounds), at St. John’s (18 points, 15 rebounds), and at No. 13/14 Rutgers (10 points, career-high 17 rebounds) while adding a career high-tying six assists vs. UT and a season-best five blocks at St. John’s.
  • Peters is the first Notre Dame player with three consecutive 15-rebound games since Feb. 16-24, 1979, when Jane Politiski had four consecutive games with at least 15 rebounds during the program’s AIAW Division III era (21 at Marion, 15 vs. Valparaiso, 18 vs. Saint Mary’s-Ind., 16 vs. St. Joseph’s-Ind.).
  • Peters then added a season-high 21 points and 16 rebounds on Feb. 7 in a win at Syracuse, and a career high-tying 17 rebounds and six blocks on Feb. 12 against West Virginia, giving her five 15-rebound games and three 15-point/15-rebound outings in this current seven-game span.
  • Peters is the third Fighting Irish player with five 15-rebound games in a single season, and the first to do so in Notre Dame’s Division I era with Shari Matvey the last to pull off this feat (five in 1979-80). The only other player in this elite club is Jane Politiski, who had a school-record seven 15-rebound games during the program’s inaugural season of 1977-78. Both Politiski and Matvey played for the Fighting Irish when they were competing at the AIAW Division III level.
  • Peters is the first Fighting Irish player with three 15-point/15-rebound games in a single season since 1996-97, when Katryna Gaither had four such outings, tying the school record also held by Jane Politiski (1977-78) and Shari Matvey (1979-80). Letitia Bowen is the only other Notre Dame player with three 15/15 games in a single season, doing so during the 1992-93 campaign.
  • Peters became the first Fighting Irish player with three consecutive double-doubles since the 2004 NCAA Championship, when Jacqueline Batteast did so against Missouri State (17p/11r), Middle Tennessee (22p/12r) and No. 5/7 Penn State (22p/12r) from March 21-27, 2004.

The Diggins Factor
Notre Dame has posted an 85-16 (.842) record in the past three seasons, a mark that can be traced in no small part to the arrival of guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has helped lead the Fighting Irish to a spot in the 2011 NCAA national championship game and a berth in the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16, as well as a 13-9 record against AP Top 25 teams (7-7 vs. the AP Top 10) and a 63-game winning streak against unranked opponents (not appearing in the AP poll) from the start of the 2009-10 season before falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12.

Upon closer examination, Notre Dame’s 16 losses in Diggins’ career primarily have been verdicts that could have gone either way, with 10 decided by single digits (six that were in doubt inside the final minute), and two that went to overtime.

With Diggins in uniform, the Fighting Irish have posted two of the top 10 most prolific offensive seasons in school history, averaging 77.0 ppg. last year after logging 77.1 ppg. in her freshman season (and Notre Dame is on pace to go well beyond those figures this year).

In addition, thanks to Diggins’ penchant for steals (she has a 2.31 spg. career mark), the Fighting Irish have recorded the top two single-season steal marks in program history with 495 thefts last year and 450 steals the season before. Last season also saw Notre Dame post the third-best defensive scoring average in school history, allowing just 56.2 ppg. (the best since the 2000-01 Fighting Irish yielded 55.8 ppg. en route to the national championship).

The Rare Air Up There
With its 72-44 victory over Tennessee on Jan. 23 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame became just the second school ever to defeat both Connecticut and Tennessee in consecutive seasons (the Fighting Irish downed Connecticut, 74-67 in overtime on Jan. 7, also at Purcell Pavilion).

North Carolina was the first program to pull off this feat, doing so in 2005-06 (77-54 at UConn; 75-63 vs. UT in Cleveland) and 2006-07 (82-76 vs. UConn at home; 70-57 vs. UT at home).

A Rally To Remember
Notre Dame tied a school record by digging out of an 18-point second-half hole to defeat No. 7/6 Duke, 56-54 on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

Nearly three years earlier on Dec. 30, 2008, the Fighting Irish trailed 46-28 at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt with 15:56 left and came back to win, 59-57 at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.

This year’s comeback victory over Duke marked the fourth time in program history Notre Dame has ralled from a deficit of 15 points or more to post a victory, with all four of these comebacks occurring in the past 11 seasons.

Beat The Clock
Senior guard Natalie Novosel hit a running bank shot at the foul line as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 56-54 win over No. 7/6 Duke on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam Freeport Division championship game at St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas.

Novosel’s buzzer-beater was the first winning shot at the horn by a Notre Dame player since Jan. 10, 2006, when Megan Duffy scored the last of her career-high 32 points with an off-handed layup at the overtime siren to earn a 67-65 win over Marquette at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame also has had several players nail winning shots in the final minute of games during recent seasons. Prior to Novosel, Ashley Barlow was the last Fighting Irish player to pull off such late-game heroics, canning a three-pointer with 34.2 seconds remaining to help Notre Dame take a 74-73 win at Syracuse on Jan. 30, 2010.

Another notable recent “beat-the-clock” moment for Notre Dame occurred on Dec. 5, 2007, when Charel Allen sank a foul-line jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Fighting Irish to an 86-84 win at Bowling Green.

The Model Of Consistency
The Jan. 23 win over No. 7/9 Tennessee marked the end to a remarkable streak, as senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel was held to four points, her first single-digit point total since March 7, 2011, when she had eight points in Notre Dame’s 71-67 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 9/13 DePaul at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

Novosel’s 27-game double-digit scoring streak is the second-longest in school history, and was the longest by a Fighting Irish player in 15 seasons.

Katryna Gaither staked an ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.

A Grand Trio
Notre Dame has had two of its captains score their 1,000th career point this season — senior guard Natalie Novosel hit the milestone on a free throw with 14:20 remaining on Nov. 13 against Indiana State, while fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters reached the landmark on a layup 16:52 left on Dec. 28 vs. Longwood.

Novosel currently is tied for 15th in school history with 1,373 points, while Peters became the 30th member of the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club and presently stands 23rd with 1,191 points.

Together with junior guard Skylar Diggins (ninth with 1,533 points), Notre Dame has three active players in that elite Fighting Irish club for the third time in school history. In both 2000-01 and 2009-10, Notre Dame also had three 1,000-point players on the roster, with the third reaching that total in her final career game (Kelley Siemon in 2001 NCAA national championship game vs. Purdue, Melissa Lechlitner in 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 game vs. Oklahoma).

The Fighting Irish could have a fourth player reach the scoring millennium later this season — fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory has 906 career points. Should Mallory hit the 1,000-point mark, it would be the first time in the 35-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball that a quartet of active 1,000-point scorers were on the roster at the same time.

What’s more, Peters became the seventh player from Notre Dame’s 2009-10 NCAA Sweet 16 team to reach the 1,000-point plateau during her career, along with Diggins, Novosel, Lechlitner, Ashley Barlow (10th at 1,492), Lindsay Schrader (14th at 1,429) and Becca Bruszewski (25th at 1,148) — and that doesn’t even include Mallory, who also was part of that season’s 13-player roster.

More Than Tough Enough
Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory reached a somewhat-overlooked and key career milestone on Feb. 7 at Syracuse, as she set a school record for career games played (currently at 139), topping the total of her former teammate and co-captain Becca Bruszewski, who played in 136 games from 2007-11.

Aside from the 2008-09 season that Mallory largely missed after injuring her knee in the seventh game at Michigan, she has missed only three other games in her career to date — one as a freshman in 2007-08 (at Richmond) due to an acute illness and two last season (at Kentucky, vs. IUPUI) following an ankle injury suffered against UCLA.

Not bad for a player who also was an All-America lacrosse standout coming from the McDonogh School in suburban Baltimore. In fact, head coach Muffet McGraw foreshadowed Mallory’s endurance at Notre Dame way back on Signing Day, when she said — “You know she’s going to be tough when she’s used to getting beat in the head with a lacrosse stick every day.”

Game #27 Recap: Providence
Devereaux Peters and No. 4 Notre Dame were frustrated heading into Tuesday night’s game against Providence. Their exasperation only grew when they got off to a slow start. Eventually, they shook it off in a big way.

Peters had 19 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Fighting Irish to a 66-47 victory over the Friars at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame (25-2, 12-1 BIG EAST) was coming off a 65-63 loss to West Virginia two days earlier, ending a 21-game winning streak. Peters had a career-high 17 rebounds and blocked six shots against the Mountaineers, but also went 1 for 8 from the field and finished with four points.

Skylar Diggins finished with 19 points and seven assists for the Fighting Irish, who shot 48 percent from the field and outrebounded the Friars 41-25. Peters’ eighth double-double of the season helped Notre Dame outscore Providence 40-26 in the paint.

Providence (13-13, 5-8) played much of the first half without leading scorer and rebounder Teya Wright, who sprained an ankle early in the game and was held to five points and three rebounds in 23 minutes of play.

Rachel Barnes scored 16 for Providence, and Symone Roberts added 12.

Wright, who averaged 13 points and 9.2 rebounds per game coming in, went down early but Providence was able to find holes in the Fighting Irish defense and was down only 9-8 at the 15:47 mark. Wright returned two minutes later and played with a slight limp off and on for 11 minutes the rest of the half.

Notre Dame put together a 16-2 run to take a 33-20 lead with 4:38 remaining.

The Fighting Irish shot 56 percent in the first half and led 37-27 at the break. Diggins had 15 points at intermission.

Providence opened the second half with five points but Notre Dame went on a 12-3 run to take a 55-38 lead with 10:53 to go, going ahead by as many as 22 points in the closing minutes.

Beyond The Box Score — Providence

  • Notre Dame picks up its 25th win of the season, reaching that mark for the third consecutive year and fourth time in five seasons.
  • The Fighting Irish earn their 12th conference victory of the season, marking the 12th time in their 17-year BIG EAST membership they have collected at least 12 league wins in a campaign.
  • The Fighting Irish are 8-0 this season when playing for the second time in a three-day span, and 24-7 (.774) when faced with such a tight turnaround during the past four seasons (2008-09 to present).
  • The Fighting Irish move to 20-0 all-time against Providence, including a 10-0 mark at Purcell Pavilion, and have won 17 of those 20 series games by double-digit margins.
  • Notre Dame held the Friars below 50 points for the second consecutive series meeting, with this marking the fewest points Providence has scored in South Bend since Jan. 31, 2001 (a 64-44 Fighting Irish win).
  • Peters chalked up double-digit rebounds for the sixth time in seven outings.
  • Peters also collected the 200th steal of her career (she now has 202).
  • Diggins delivered her 450th career assist (now at 454).
  • Diggins notched her 79th career double-digit scoring game, taking over sole possession of eighth place on that all-time Fighting Irish list, one more than three players (Trena Keys from 1982-86, Lindsay Schrader from 2005-10 and Ashley Barlow from 2006-10).
  • Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel is now tied with current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey for third on the school’s career games played list (132).
  • Notre Dame improves to 7-1 all-time when playing on Valentines Day, including a 6-0 record in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).

Polling Station
Notre Dame was ranked No. 4 in last week’s Associated Press poll, its 15th consecutive week in the top five of the media balloting. The Fighting Irish also earned a preseason No. 2 ranking that was their highest since the final 2000-01 poll (taken before the the NCAA Championship), and also was the highest Notre Dame had ever been ranked in the AP preseason poll, topping its No. 4 debut in 2009-10.

Notre Dame received six first-place votes in the 2011-12 AP preseason poll (and four the following week), the first time it received consideration for the top spot since March 11, 2001, when the Fighting Irish earned five first-place votes (they were ranked No. 2 after falling at Connecticut, 79-76 in the BIG EAST tournament final). The previous week, Notre Dame had 33 first-place votes in its sixth week with the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll.

Last week’s No. 4 ranking marked the 92nd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Fighting Irish, extending the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001). In fact, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a ranked Fighting Irish squad throughout her career, spending more than half (54) of those appearances in the AP Top 10.

This year’s No. 2 preseason ranking also represents the 12th time in the past 13 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial AP poll, something only nine schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 13 during that span, while Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Stanford join the Fighting Irish with 12 preseason AP poll berths.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 231 weeks during the program’s 35-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 11th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 20th all-time in that category.

In addition, the Fighting Irish were No. 4 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, after being ranked second for five consecutive weeks (and seven this season). Like the AP poll, Notre Dame earned its best-ever preseason ranking (second) in the coaches’ poll, topping its No. 5 placement to begin the 2000-01 campaign. The Fighting Irish also collected five first-place votes in this year’s preseason coaches’ survey (and two a week later), their first nods for the top spot since the final ’00-01 balloting, when they received all 40 first-place votes after winning the national championship.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 92 of the past 93 weeks (not counting this week’s poll that will come out Tuesday afternoon), 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 224 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).

This marks the fourth consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as 10 of the past 14 campaigns (1998-99 to present).

More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 31 people in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Besides her 231 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks to No. 3 in the nation.

Of the 31 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey are the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005).

Half And Half
During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 239-19 (.926) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 167 of their last 180 such contests (.928).

What’s more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 76-2 (.974) 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 17 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Fighting Irish have an amazing 251-15 (.944) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including 21 contests this year.

…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 17 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 165-6 (.965) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.

In the past three years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 42-2 (.955) when topping the 80-point mark, having reached that level in 13 games this season and winning 12 times.

Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 218 of their last 246 games (.886) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 25 and 20 games in that span (the latter from 2011-12, ending Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia). Notre Dame also has a 119-20 (.856) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Fighting Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 101 of their last 109 non-BIG EAST contests (.927) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the eight losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), and to UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 368-89 (.805) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Fighting Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, which was the school record for home victories in a season prior to the 2009-10 campaign, when Notre Dame went 16-1, capped by an 84-66 triumph over Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship.

Irish Are The Hottest Ticket In Town
The past two seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10), highest average attendance (8,553 fans per game in 2010-11) and most sellouts in a single season (six in 2009-10). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame fans exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish already sell out a school-record seven games (Dec. 18 vs. Kentucky, Dec. 28 vs. Longwood, Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut, Jan. 21 vs. Villanova, Jan. 23 vs. Tennessee, Feb. 5 vs. DePaul, Feb. 12 vs. West Virginia), and put the remaining regular-season contest (Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.

What’s more, through its first 15 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,789 fans per game (good for fifth in the nation), including those aforementioned seven sellouts (9,149). The Fighting Irish now have posted 18 sellouts in the past three seasons and 24 in program history.

Fighting Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women’s basketball in the South Bend market.

LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 million listeners (more 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 All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.

Women’s basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame’s official athletics web site ( through the Fighting Irish Digital Media package.

Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women’s basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program’s first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), is now in the fourth season of his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 23 regular season games televised during the 2011-12 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are 11 nationally- or regionally-televised Fighting Irish women’s basketball contests, including the program’s fifth-ever appearance on network television, and second in as many years (Jan. 7 vs. Connecticut on CBS) and six showings on the ESPN family of networks, including three appearances on that entity’s famed “Big Monday” telecast.

In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. For the sixth consecutive season, all Fighting Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (as well as the Nov. 2 exhibition vs. Windsor) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site,, via the site’s free Fighting Irish Video Channel.

This year’s TV slate continues a trend that has seen the Fighting Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through the Feb. 14 game against Providence (webcast live on, Notre Dame has played in 221 televised games, including 165 that were broadcast nationally.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, senior guard Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2011-12 season. Mallory is in her second season as team captain, while Novosel and Peters received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.

Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It’s year five of Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.

In the five-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 34 times, most recently in the Feb. 5 win over 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 — fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.

And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “the media relations director has way too much time on his hands”), 19 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster.

What’s more, of the 34 Big Mac games, 16 have been reached on two-point baskets, 13 on free throws, and five on three-pointers.

Next Game: South Florida
Notre Dame will play its final home game of the 2011-12 regular season at 1 p.m. (ET) Saturday when it welcomes South Florida to Purcell Pavilion on Senior Day. Prior to the game, the Fighting Irish will honor their four departing senior players, as well as senior managers Lucy Eckard and Nick Sigmund.

USF (14-13, 6-7) entered the weekend having won its last two games, including a 61-48 decision at Marquette on Feb. 14. The Bulls played host to Pittsburgh Saturday night and then will enjoy a week off prior to visiting Notre Dame next weekend.

— ND —