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

#4 Irish Look To Get Back On Track Tuesday Against Providence

Feb. 13, 2012

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2011-12 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 27

#4/2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-2 / 11-1 BIG EAST) vs. Providence Friars (13-12 / 5-7 BIG EAST)

DATE: February 14, 2012
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 19-0
1ST MTG: ND 90-80 (1/14/96)
LAST MTG: ND 79-43 (12/8/10)
WEBCAST: (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356 /


  • Notre Dame is playing on Valentine’s Day for the eighth time, owning a 6-1 record on Feb. 14, including a 5-0 record in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (a mark that includes an 81-51 win over Providence in 2004).
  • Tuesday is the fifth event in the “Heart of the Irish” community outreach program, with this game designated “Splish Splash” and fans asked to bring small bathroom items such as towels, washcloths, shampoo or other sundries for donation to the YWCA of North Central Indiana.

No. 4 Fighting Irish Look To Get Back On Track Tuesday Against Providence
Faced with an unfamiliar feeling after just its second loss of the season, No. 4 Notre Dame will look to bounce back Tuesday when it plays host to Providence at 7 p.m. (ET) in a BIG EAST matchup at Purcell Pavilion.

The Fighting Irish (24-2, 11-1) saw their 21-game winning streak snapped Sunday with a last-second 65-63 loss at home to West Virginia. Notre Dame led by 11 points with less than 14 minutes left, but WVU rallied and won the game on two foul shots with 4.6 seconds remaining.

Junior guard Skylar Diggins did all she could to aid the Fighting Irish cause with a career-high 32 points, while senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel added 16 points and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters tied two career highs with 17 rebounds and six blocked shots.


  • Notre Dame is No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press poll and was No. 2 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.
  • Providence is not ranked.

Quick Hitters

  • Notre Dame appears in the top 20 of 10 different NCAA statistical categories, including eight top-10 appearances. The Fighting Irish lead the nation in scoring offense (82.5 ppg.) and rank second in scoring margin (+31.3 ppg.), while placing third in field goal percentage (.484) and assists (19.3 apg.), fourth in steals (13.9 spg.), fifth in turnover margin (+7.5), eighth in scoring defense (51.2 ppg.), ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.17), 10th in rebounding margin (+10.2 rpg.) and 13th in field goal percentage defense (.342).
  • Notre Dame’s 21-game winning streak that ended Sunday was the second-longest in school history and longest since a school-record 23-game run to open 2000-01.
  • Notre Dame has reached the 20-win mark for the 18th time in 19 seasons and 22nd time in the 25-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw. What’s more, the Fighting Irish reached that total quicker than any team in school history, doing so eight days faster than the 2000-01 squad.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Of the 24 Fighting Irish wins, 19 have come by 20+ points, and 11 by at least 30 points. In 21 victories this year, Notre Dame has held its opponent to 61 points or fewer, with a school-record 15 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. 2 in last week’s Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, marking the 14th 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 this 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 580 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 398 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 8,806 fans per home game (good for fourth 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 172 of their last 174 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 Providence
With a deep veteran-laden roster that includes 11 returning letterwinners (and three starters), Providence (13-12, 5-7 BIG EAST) has shown flashes of promise this season and currently is in contention for a first-round bye in the upcoming BIG EAST Championship.

In their last outing this past Saturday, the Friars broke a three-game losing streak with a 62-47 win at home over Seton Hall. Senior guard/forward Rachel Barnes scored a team-high 14 points to lead three PC players in double figures, while redshirt senior forward Teya Wright narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and a game-best 11 rebounds.

Wright currently leads Providence in scoring (13.1 ppg.), rebounding (9.2 rpg.), field goal percentage (.446) and steals (1.8 spg.), while Barnes is second in scoring (10.8 ppg.) and sophomore guard Alicia Cropper adds 8.6 points and a team-high 2.3 assists per game (plus a team-best .369 three-point percentage).

Head coach Phil Seymore is in his seventh season at PC with an 87-115 (.433) record, including an 0-6 mark against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Providence Series
Tuesday night will usher in the 20th meeting between Notre Dame and Providence, with the Fighting Irish having won each of the prior 19 games in the series, which began when Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96. The Fighting Irish also are 9-0 all-time against the Friars at Purcell Pavilion.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Providence Met
Despite not feeling well, Natalie Achonwa provided a big lift for Notre Dame.

Achonwa scored a (then) career-high 13 points off the bench and the No. 18 Fighting Irish routed Providence, 79-43 on Dec. 8, 2010, in the BIG EAST opener for both teams at Alumni Hall.

“She didn’t even come to practice and couldn’t keep any food down,” coach Muffet McGraw said. “She had a rough night. But she said `I’ll play if you need me and I’m a little weak.’

“She played great. I was really pleased, but I don’t think she could have gone too many more minutes.”

Achonwa only played nine minutes but was 5 for 6 from the floor and 3 of 4 from the free throw line.

Mi-Khida Hankins scored 16 points for the Friars, who were held to 16 points in the second half.

Notre Dame broke the game open when it went on a 16-0 run in the second half, during which the Fighting Irish held Providence without a point for 9:11.

The Fighting Irish forced the Friars into seven of their 28 turnovers during that run.

“I thought our press was good,” McGraw said. “I thought we came out and put a little pressure on them.

“I also thought Devereaux Peters missing most of the first half (because of foul trouble) was a problem for us. But Erica Solomon (11 points, 10 rebounds) had a great game off the bench. She gave us great energy. She gave us rebounding.”

Notre Dame also made a defensive adjustment in the half court that made a difference.

“We switched up defensively,” McGraw said. “We didn’t front as much. I thought they were getting inside a little bit more so we played behind in the post.

“I thought that stopped them a little bit.”

Notre Dame led 35-27 at halftime and after the Friars cut their deficit to seven points (40-33), Natalie Novosel ignited the Fighting Irish’s 16-0 run.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Providence Met At Purcell Pavilion
Although No. 3 Notre Dame didn’t solve its problem of starting slow, it looked a lot better in the first half against Providence than in its previous three games.

The Fighting Irish, who had fallen behind by double digits in those three prior games, trailed for just 13 seconds after Providence scored the first basket and broke the game open with a 13-2 run midway through the first half en route to an 84-59 victory on Jan. 27, 2010, at Purcell Pavilion.

Lindsay Schrader scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half, Natalie Novosel had 12 and Becca Bruszewski, Skylar Diggins and Ashley Barlow had 10 points each.

Notre Dame’s backups outscored Providence’s 31-13.

The Fighting Irish had 23 assists on 32 baskets while the Friars had nine assists on 22 baskets with 26 turnovers.

When Providence tied the game at 12 on a basket inside by Trinity Hull, Novosel answered with a three-pointer to spark a 13-2 run by the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame led 35-22 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 5-0 burst to take an 18-point lead.

Chelsea Marandola, Providence’s leading scorer at 18.3 points a game, was held to three shots and two points in the first half. She scored five of her 18 points during a 7-0 run by the Friars that cut the lead to 50-38.

Emily Cournoyer added 12 points for Providence and Mi-Khida Hankins had 10. The Friars, who had been leading the BIG EAST in three-point field goal percentage in league games at 37.1 percent, were 0-for-9 in the first half and 3-for-16 for the game.

Other Notre Dame-Providence Series Tidbits

  • Providence is one of two BIG EAST opponents against whom Notre Dame has lost (minimum of five games played), with Cincinnati (7-0) being the other.
  • Notre Dame’s 19-game winning streak vs. Providence is its longest active string against a BIG EAST opponent.
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in in more than half (10) of the series games against PC, including three of the past five meetings.
  • The Fighting Irish have averaged 81.2 points in their nine prior matchups at Purcell Pavilion, topping the 80-point mark five times and winning all nine series games in South Bend by an average of 24.2 points per game.
  • Providence has reached the 70-point level three times against Notre Dame (all coming in the first three series games), and the Friars have scored more than 60 points three times in the past 16 games vs. the Fighting Irish.
  • Notre Dame has won 16 of the 19 series games against Providence by double-digit margins, with the exceptions coming on Jan. 5, 2002 (72-66 in South Bend), Feb. 16, 2003 (67-61 at PC) and Feb. 28, 2009 (65-56 at PC).
  • Between the two teams, there are four former winners of the Gatorade High School Player of the Year award in their respective states — Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins (Indiana – 2009; also Gatorade National Player of the Year and Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year for all sports), sophomore guard Kayla McBride (2010 – Pennsylvania) and freshman guard Madison Cable (2011 – Pennsylvania), and Providence junior guard Symone Roberts (Connecticut – 2009).
  • Providence senior guard Lola Wells is the second member of her family to face Notre Dame this year. Her sister, Chloe, started for No. 7/6 Duke against the Fighting Irish on Nov. 26 in the Junkanoo Jam (Freeport Division) final at Freeport, Bahamas — a game won by Notre Dame, 56-54.
  • Several members of the Notre Dame athletics department have ties to Providence, including hockey associate head coach Paul Pooley (PC head coach from 1994-2005), assistant athletics director/Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter (’98 PC grad and graduate assistant in PC athletics marketing office from 1998-2000), assistant athletics director/media relations director Bernadette Cafarelli (PC assistant director of athletics marketing, promotions and media relations from 1987-94), associate media relations director Tim Connor (member of PC athletics marketing, promotions and media relations staff from 1987-2000, spending the final six years as PC’s director of athletic media relations), Monogram Club communications associate Mark LaFrance (member of PC’s athletic media relations staff from 2008-10 as graduate assistant while earning his MBA degree from the school) and ticket office assistant manager Kelsey Edwards (PC’s ticket manager/director of men’s basketball ticketing from 2008-10 after serving as assistant in that office/men’s ice hockey ticketing director from 2004-08; also earned MBA from PC in 2004).

48 Hours
Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Notre Dame has played 30 times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games, including two games in three days on the opening weekend of this season (Nov. 11 & 13 in first two rounds of the Preseason WNIT vs. Akron and Indiana State) and games on consecutive days at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas (Nov. 25-26 vs. USC and No. 7/6 Duke).

When faced with such a tight turnaround, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion in recent seasons, going 23-7 (.767) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes, including a 7-0 record this year (wins over Indiana State, No. 7/6 Duke, Creighton, UCF, Mercer, No. 7/9 Tennessee and Syracuse).

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 95-28 (.772) in February games, including a 54-6 (.900) mark at home.

In the 25-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), the Fighting Irish are 143-43 (.769) in the month of February, including a 76-12 (.864) 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 24-2 record through 26 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.

The only other time Notre Dame had a 24-2 record at this stage in the season was 1999-2000, when the Fighting Irish reeled off a 20-game winning streak that had been the second-longest in school history prior to this year’s 21-game run.

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).

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 (1,127-607), with an average halftime score of 43-23.

Born To Run
In the latest NCAA statistics report, Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring offense, averaging 82.5 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 +31.3 ppg.), field goal percentage (third at .484), assists (third at 19.3 apg.), assist/turnover ratio (ninth at 1.17) and free throw percentage (22nd at .759).

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 (fourth at 13.9 spg.), turnover margin (fifth at +7.5), scoring defense (eighth at 51.2 ppg.), rebound margin (10th at +10.2 rpg.) and field goal percentage defense (13th at .342).

The Fighting Irish have held 21 opponents to 61 points or fewer, with a school-record 15 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 41 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 25 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 18 games thus far, with Fighting Irish foes averaging 24.0 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +7.5 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 14 home games this season, forcing 27.3 turnovers per game and collecting at least 19 in each Purcell Pavilion contest thus far.

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame comes into Tuesday’s game ranked fourth in the nation in steals with 13.9 thefts per game. The Fighting Irish also have recorded double-digit steals in 20 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 (65 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 tied for second in the BIG EAST at 2.5 steals per game, and fifth-year senior guard Brittany Mallory, who is sixth at 2.3 spg.

Helping Hands
Continuing a trend from last season, Notre Dame has shared the basketball very well during its 26 games of the year.

In the latest NCAA statistics report, the Fighting Irish are third in the nation (and second in the BIG EAST) at 19.3 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 5.7 apg.) and 14th in the country with a 2.22 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 (502 of 778), 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 325 games in their careers (Diggins-94, Novosel-69, Peters-68, Mallory-66, McBride-28).

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 20 games, the Fighting Irish are averaging 43.4 rebounds a night, with an average rebounding margin of +13.3 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 16 times in the past 20 games after not reaching that mark once in its first six contests.

According to the latest NCAA statistics report, Notre Dame ranks 10th in the country in rebounding margin (+10.2 rpg.) this year.

Irish Trio On USBWA Player Of The Year Midseason Watch List
For the fourth time this year, three Notre Dame women’s basketball players — junior guard Skylar Diggins, senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel and fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters — have received recognition on a national player of the year award watch list, as the trio are among a group of 20 players chosen for the 2011-12 Midseason Watch List for the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Women’s National Player of the Year, it was announced Feb. 8 by the USBWA.

Beginning with the 1987-88 season, the USBWA annually has named a Women’s National Player of the Year. This year’s watch list was compiled by the Association’s Board of Directors, which lists the leading contenders for the 2012 award (although all Division I players remain eligible for postseason honors from the USBWA). The 20 players on this year’s watch list represent 13 different schools and eight separate conferences.

In mid-March, the USBWA will announce its 2012 Women’s All-America Team, while also choosing the finalists for the Women’s National Player of the Year award. Once those finalists are named, the entire USBWA membership (consisting of more than 900 members worldwide) will vote for the recipient of this year’s award, which will be presented during the USBWA Women’s College Basketball Awards Breakfast on April 3 during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Denver.

This marks the first time the USBWA has released a Midseason Watch List for its Women’s National Player of the Year honor. The BIG EAST Conference had the most selections on the rundown with seven, followed by the Atlantic Coast Conference (4). No other league in the country had more than two players named to the list.

Earlier this season, Diggins, Novosel and Peters were named to three other watch lists for national player of the year awards — they were among a group of 25 players named to the “Wade Watch” list for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Wade Trophy, as well as part of the 30-player preseason roster for the John R. Wooden Award (Diggins and Novosel subsequently made that award’s midseason list), presented by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. In addition, they were among 51 players tapped for the preseason candidate list for the Naismith Trophy, given annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Fighting Irish trio (who helped the United States win the gold medal and post a 6-0 record at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China) also were tapped as 2011-12 preseason All-Americans in college basketball preview issues by a variety of publications, including The Sporting News (Diggins-first team; Novosel-second team; Peters-third team) and Athlon Sports (Diggins-first team). They went on to be recognized by the BIG EAST coaches during the league’s annual Media Day in New York back in October, with Diggins being voted the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, while Novosel and Peters joined her on the preseason all-conference team.

Windy City Warrior
Fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters is in the midst of one of the best stretches of her college career, averaging 14.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game with a .587 field goal percentage (61-of-104) and four double-doubles in her last 10 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 a six-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 84-16 (.840) 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 (who played in her 100th career game on Sunday against West Virginia) 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 this past weekend.

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 2.3 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).

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 ranks 16th in school history with 1,366 points, while Peters became the 30th member of the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club and presently stands 23rd with 1,172 points.

Together with junior guard Skylar Diggins (ninth with 1,514 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 138), 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 #26 Recap: West Virginia
The second-ranked Fighting Irish almost played well enough Sunday, but West Virginia ended their 21-game winning streak with a 65-63 victory.

Brooke Hampton made two free throws with 4.6 seconds left to give the Mountaineers (18-6, 8-3 BIG EAST) the lead and a potential game-tying 15-footer by Natalie Novosel bounced off the rim as time expired.

WVU center Asya Bussie had 22 points and eight rebounds, including a turnaround jumper with 39 seconds to go that tied the game at 63.

Skylar Diggins had a career-high 32 points for Notre Dame (24-2, 11-1), which came into the game leading the nation at 83.2 points per game.

Diggins missed a contested layup with the score tied at 63 and less than 10 seconds to play. She fouled Hampton at midcourt as she went for a steal with 4.6 seconds to go.

Hampton then made the free throws that gave her four points for the game — all from the line.

Ayana Dunning added 11 points for the Mountaineers, who finished with a 41-33 rebound advantage.

Novosel scored 16 points for Notre Dame and Devereaux Peters tied two career highs by grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking six shots.

Notre Dame shot 41 percent from the field for the game while West Virginia shot 39 percent.

A three-pointer by WVU’s Taylor Palmer tied the game at 35 with 17:26 to play. Diggins scored on consecutive possessions to start a 9-0 run. The Mountaineers rallied to tie it at 55 on two free throws by Bussie with 4:39 to play.

Beyond The Box Score — West Virginia

  • Notre Dame’s 21-game winning streak (the second-longest in school history) comes to an end.
  • The Fighting Irish also had their 20-game home winning streak ended with their first loss at Purcell Pavilion since Jan. 8, 2011 (79-76 vs. Connecticut).
  • The Fighting Irish saw their 63-game winning streak against unranked (AP poll) opponents stopped, with their first loss to a team outside the AP Top 25 since March 22, 2009 (79-71 vs. Minnesota in first round of NCAA Championship).
  • Notre Dame falls to 18-3 all-time against West Virginia, with the Mountaineers earning their first win in 11 visits to Purcell Pavilion.
  • All three Fighting Irish losses in the series have coincided with the team’s three lowest point totals.
  • This marked the 12th time in the past 13 series games that the margin was 13 points or fewer, with this being the closest margin in series history.
  • The Fighting Irish finished on the negative side of the rebounding margin (33-41) for the first time since Nov. 26 (Duke, 47-39).
  • Notre Dame had two players foul out of a game for the second time this season (also on Nov. 20 at Baylor).
  • Diggins scored a career-high 32 points (previous high was 31 vs. Vermont on March 23, 2010, in the second round of the NCAA Championship), tallying the most points by a Notre Dame player in one game since March 25, 2008, when Charel Allen scored 35 points in a 79-75 overtime win over No. 14/13 Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA Championship in West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Diggins’ 18 free throw attempts tied for the second-most in school history and most since Feb. 22, 2000 (Ruth Riley – 23 vs. Miami (Fla.)).
  • Peters had her fifth 15-rebound game of the season, becoming the third Fighting Irish player with five or more 15-rebound contests in one campaign, and the first in the program’s Division I era.
  • Peters also becomes the eighth player in school history to collect 800 career rebounds (she now had 807).
  • Notre Dame drew its school-record seventh sellout crowd of the season, as well as the 18th in the past three years and 24 in program history.
  • The Fighting Irish held their annual Pink Zone game (known nationally by its new label, Play4Kay), to raise money for breast cancer research, collecting a school-record $204,682 to date this season (additional donations to come).

Polling Station
Notre Dame is ranked No. 4 in this 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.

This week’s No. 4 ranking marks 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. 2 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, holding that spot for the fifth consecutive week after they also held it for the first two weeks of the 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 223 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 238-19 (.926) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 166 of their last 179 such contests (.927).

What’s more, in the past three seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 75-2 (.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 last Sunday 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 250-15 (.943) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including 20 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 217 of their last 245 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 118-20 (.855) 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 367-89 (.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 two (Tuesday vs. Providence and Feb. 25 vs. USF) within striking distance of a sellout.

What’s more, through its first 14 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,806 fans per game (good for fourth in the nation), including those aforementioned six sellouts (9,149). The Fighting Irish now have posted 18 sellouts in the past three seasons and 24 in program history.

While some additional tickets may be available on the day or week of the game for individual contests this season (depending on returned inventory by visiting teams and other constituencies), it’s possible that Notre Dame will flirt with a sell out for every one of its home games during the 2011-12 regular season.

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

LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 91 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.4 million listeners (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. 12 game against West Virginia (televised live on ESPNU), Notre Dame has played in 220 televised games, including 164 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: Louisville
Notre Dame is back on the road at 2 p.m. (ET) Monday when it travels to Louisville for an ESPN Big Monday-televised matchup with the No. 19/17 Cardinals at the new KFC Yum! Center.

Louisville snapped a three-game losing streak last Saturday with an 89-62 win at home over Syracuse, canning a school-record 18 three-pointers along the way. The Cardinals visit Pittsburgh Tuesday night before returning home to await Notre Dame next week.

— ND —