Senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa turned in a well-balanced effort Thursday at Pittsburgh with 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks in just 21 minutes of a 109-66 Fighting Irish victory.

#4 Irish Return From Exam Break To Host Central Michigan

Dec. 20, 2013

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2013-14 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 10

#4/4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-0 / 0-0 ACC) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (4-5 / 0-0 MAC)

DATE: Dec. 22, 2013
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 3-1
1ST MTG: CMU 72-69 (12/21/83)
LAST MTG: ND 72-63 (11/29/12)
TV: WatchND (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TWITTER: @ndwbbsid
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356;


  • Notre Dame has won its last 25 games when coming off its final exam break, a run that dates back to 1985.
  • Sunday will mark Notre Dame’s ninth annual Teddy Bear Toss, with fans invited to bring a stuffed animal to the game for donation to local children’s charities (the toys will be tossed onto the court at Purcell Pavilion and collected by area volunteers following the public address announcer’s cue at halftime).

No. 4 Fighting Irish Return From Exam Break To Host Central Michigan
Now that final exams are over and the Christmas break is on the horizon, No. 4 Notre Dame will look to give its fans some holiday entertainment as it plays host to defending Mid-American Conference champion Central Michigan at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be streamed live and free of charge through the official Fighting Irish multimedia platform, WatchND.

Notre Dame (9-0) has been on hiatus for the past week for its final exam period following an 86-64 victory at Michigan on Dec. 14. The Fighting Irish took control with a sharpshooting first half, making 22 of 32 shots (.688) in the period and never looking back en route to the win.

Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd paced a balanced Notre Dame attack with 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa just missed a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds.


  • Notre Dame is No. 4 in the latest Associated Press poll and is No. 4 in the latest WBCA/USA Today poll.
  • Central Michigan is not ranked.

Quick Hitters

  • At 9-0, the Fighting Irish are off to the third-best start to a season in program history, as well as the program’s best start since 2009-10, when they started 15-0.
  • Notre Dame has won 32 consecutive regular season games and 16 consecutive home games, both dating back to Dec. 5, 2012 (a 73-61 loss to No. 3 Baylor).
  • The Fighting Irish have won a school-record 25 consecutive regular season road games (and 32 of their last 37 overall) since a 94-81 loss at top-ranked Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
  • Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Notre Dame is 30-5 (.857) against ranked opponents, including a 10-1 record at home.
  • The Fighting Irish are closing in on becoming the 27th NCAA Division I women’s basketball program to record 800 all-time wins (they currently are 799-316, .717, in 37 seasons of varsity competition).
  • Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 123 consecutive weeks (including the past 53 weeks in the AP Top 10), extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What’s more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a ranked Notre Dame squad during her career, with the vast majority of that time (73 of 84 weeks) spent in the AP Top 10.
  • Senior forwards Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker, and senior guard Kayla McBride have helped Notre Dame to a 110-14 (.887) record in their careers, putting them on pace to challenge last year’s senior class of Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who helped Notre Dame to 130 wins in their careers.
  • Of the 14 losses suffered by the current Fighting Irish senior class, eight were decided by single digits (and three others by 10-13 points).
  • Notre Dame aims to continue its remarkable success at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 389-90 (.812) all-time record in 37 seasons at the facility, including a 66-5 (.930) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
  • With 635 victories in her 27 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men’s/women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
  • With 723 career wins, McGraw needs 16 victories to move into the top 10 on the NCAA Division I career list. She currently stands 12th behind two former ACC coaches — Virginia’s Debbie Ryan (739) and the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow (737).

The Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series
Sunday will mark the fifth meeting between Notre Dame and Central Michigan, with the Fighting Irish holding a 3-1 series edge against the Chippewas. This will be the third time the teams have met at Purcell Pavilion, with each side winning once before (Notre Dame won the last time it played host to CMU in South Bend back in the 2006-07 season opener).

The Last Time Notre Dame and Central Michigan Met
Skylar Diggins scored 17 of her 25 points in the first half, and No. 5 Notre Dame pulled away for a 72-63 victory over Central Michigan on Nov. 29, 2012, at McGuirk Arena in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Diggins also added six steals and played a huge role in a defensive turnaround in the second half. Four of those takeaways came in the final seven minutes to help thwart a Central Michigan comeback.

Ariel Braker added 10 points and eight rebounds to help the Fighting Irish close the month of November undefeated for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

Jessica Green scored 19 points and Niki DiGuilio had 12 points for Central Michigan.

Green scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes, and Crystal Bradford grabbed seven of the team’s 21 first-half rebounds to help keep the Chippewas within reach of the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame opened the second half on a 7-0 run but Central Michigan pulled within one with under 12 minutes to play. The Fighting Irish led the entire second half but didn’t truly pull away until Diggins hit a free throw for a 70-60 lead with 45 seconds to play.

The Last Time Notre Dame and Central Michigan Met At Purcell Pavilion
Notre Dame tipped off its 2006-07 season with a victory, defeating Central Michigan, 88-66 on Nov. 10, 2006, at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish never trailed in the contest and led by double digits for all but the first 3:59 in their first meeting with the Chippewas in more than 22 years.

Four Notre Dame players scored in double figures on the afternoon, led by Melissa D’Amico, who tossed in 16 points despite playing only 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Charel Allen tallied 15 points, including 11 in the first half, while Breona Gray chipped in with 13 points.

The Fighting Irish shot the ball well on Opening Day, connecting at a 48.3 percent clip (29-of-60) from the field and a sharp 83.9 percent (26-of-31) at the free throw line. Notre Dame also enjoyed a +10 edge on the glass, with Erica Williamson collecting a game-high eight rebounds, not to mention a game-best five blocked shots.

Central Michigan’s Candace Wilson led all scorers in the game with 17 points, with 12 of those coming in the second half on 4-of-4 three-pointers. Sharonda Hurd added 15 points and a team-best seven rebounds for the Chippewas, who bounced back from a .280 first-half field goal percentage with a .517 mark after the break.

Other Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series Tidbits

  • Senior forward Ariel Braker (Grosse Pointe Woods) is the lone Michigan native on this year’s Notre Dame roster. However, the Great Lakes State has produced 17 Fighting Irish players through the years, second only to Indiana (20) in the program’s 37-year history.
  • Second-year CMU assistant coach Andrew Wodrich is a 2007 graduate of Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind., and played two seasons for the Pilots.
  • The last time Central Michigan head coach Sue Guevara brought a team to Purcell Pavilion, she was at the helm for Michigan on March 19, 2001, when the Wolverines met Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish posted an 88-54 victory that afternoon on the way to their first national championship.
  • Central Michigan also has a tie-in to Notre Dame’s current success on the football field. Fourth-year Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly cut his teeth at the NCAA Division I level with the Chippewas from 2004-06, leading CMU to a 19-16 (.543) record and the 2006 Motor City Bowl before moving on to Cincinnati, and eventually to Notre Dame, where he has led the Fighting Irish to a 36-15 (.706) record, including an 8-4 mark this year and a berth in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers on Dec. 28 at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

Notre Dame vs. The Mid-American Conference
Notre Dame is 37-14 (.725) all-time against the current Mid-American Conference alignment, with a 22-4 (.846) record at home. The Fighting Irish also sport a 22-5 (.815) record against MAC schools in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) with a 13-1 (.929) mark at Purcell Pavilion.

What’s more, Notre Dame has won its last 20 games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss to Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995, in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) Tournament.

The Fighting Irish last faced a MAC opponent a little more than one year ago, when they defeated Central Michigan, 72-63, on Nov. 29, 2012, at McGuirk Arena in Mount Pleasant. Mich.

Notre Dame will be playing host to a MAC team for the first time since Nov. 11, 2011, when the Fighting Irish defeated Akron, 81-61 in a Preseason WNIT first-round game at Purcell Pavilion.

North Of The Border
Sunday’s game is the last of three this year for Notre Dame against a team from the state of Michigan, with the Fighting Irish already defeating No. 19/18 Michigan State (81-62 on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion) and Michigan (86-64 on Dec. 14 in Ann Arbor).

Notre Dame is 57-20 (.740) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 37-8 (.822) mark against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).

The Fighting Irish also have won 14 of their last 15 games against Michigan schools (dating back to the 2005-06 season), with their only loss in that span being a 63-59 overtime setback at Michigan on Dec. 10, 2008.

Caution — Falling Bears!
Sunday’s game has been designated for the ninth annual Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Teddy Bear Toss, in which fans bring teddy bears and other stuffed animals to donate to several South Bend-area children’s charities.

At halftime, on the public address announcer’s cue, fans will be invited to toss their teddy bears onto the court at Purcell Pavilion, creating the memorable sight of stuffed animals raining down on the floor (and occasionally pelting an unsuspecting media member or game official sitting courtside).

Last year, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program collected approximately 2,000 stuffed animals through its Teddy Bear Toss, with those donations later presented to, among others, several young patients at Riley Children’s Hospital in South Bend.

No More Teachers, No More Books
Notre Dame has won 25 consecutive games coming off the final exam break (in 1994 and 1997, no games were played between the end of exams and Christmas). However, because of the extended layoff due to finals and associated sluggishness, the results of these post-exam break games have varied wildly, from exceptionally close to blowouts.

Recent examples of the nailbiters came in 1999 (a 68-62 win at Florida International, closing the game on an 11-5 run in the final 2:43), 2004 (a 50-47 win at Marquette on Jacqueline Batteast’s three-pointer at the horn that lifted Muffet McGraw past Digger Phelps as the winningest coach in Notre Dame basketball history) and 2011 (a 92-83 home win over No. 8/7 Kentucky, taking the lead for good on an 11-0 run after UK led 75-74 with less than five minutes to play).

However, with the exception of that 2011 thriller against Kentucky, the Fighting Irish have looked remarkably fresh in their recent post-exam games, winning the other four contests by an average of 53.8 points per game in victories over Loyola-Chicago (89-45), Charlotte (90-31), Valparaiso (94-43) and most recently, Alabama A&M (100-39).

The last time Notre Dame lost a game when coming out of its final exam break was Dec. 21, 1985, when Mary DiStanislao’s Fighting Irish squad dropped a 73-67 decision to UCLA at Purcell Pavilion.

Going Out On A High Note
Notre Dame has made a habit of heading into the Christmas holiday with a victory, having won 17 consecutive pre-Yuletide games and going 27-9 (.750) all-time in such contests, including an 83-74 victory over No. 22 Texas A&M last year in the championship game of the World Vision Classic out in Las Vegas.

The last time the Fighting Irish lost their final game before Christmas was Dec. 21, 1995 (their first season in the BIG EAST Conference), when Michigan State pulled out an 87-83 overtime win in East Lansing, Mich.

Irish Closing In On 800 Wins
Notre Dame is on the doorstep of becoming the 27th program in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history (and fourth Atlantic Coast Conference school) to record 800 victories, currently standing three wins short of the milestone. The Fighting Irish have posted a 799-316 (.717) record in their 37 seasons of varsity competition, dating back to the 1977-78 campaign.

The last school to reach the 800-win mark was LSU (which did so on Nov. 25, 2012, at Florida International), with Notre Dame’s fellow ACC members, Duke and North Carolina State, also nearing 800 all-time victories (the Blue Devils currently have 795 wins, while the Wolfpack have recorded 786 wins). Currently, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland are the three ACC members in the 800-victory club.

Getting The Jump
At 9-0, Notre Dame is off to the third-best start in the program’s 37-year history. The only times the Fighting Irish opened with a better record than this season were in 2000-01 (when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program’s first national championship) and 2009-10 (when they started 15-0 on the way to a 29-6 record and spot in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen).

A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish entered the week ranked second in the nation in assists at 23.1 per game. Notre Dame has dished out at least 21 helpers in eight games thus far (including a season-high 31 dimes against UCLA on Dec. 7), with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 66.9 percent of their made field goals this year (208 of 311).

Glass Cleaners
Notre Dame came into this week’s action ranking third in nation in rebounding margin (+16.6 per game). The Fighting Irish have posted double-digit rebounding margins in six games this season, including four games when Notre Dame had a +20 rebounding margin or better.

The Fighting Irish also have collected at least 50 rebounds in three games, including their first two outings, nabbing 54 rebounds against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9, followed by 52 caroms against No. 19/18 Michigan State two nights later.

This marked the first time the Fighting Irish have had consecutive 50-rebound games since Dec. 12 & 22, 2001, when they did so in home wins over Western Michigan (56 rebounds) and Marquette (54 rebounds).

Notre Dame nearly made it three for three on the boards to open the season, finishing with 49 caroms on Nov. 16 against Valparaiso. The last time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 50-rebound contests was Jan. 15-29, 1992, in wins over Louisville (56) and at Butler (50), followed by a home loss to Detroit (54).

Dialing Long Distance
Although not usually a primary part of the Notre Dame arsenal, the Fighting Irish have found the three-point shot much to their liking this season. Notre Dame currently ranks fifth in the nation (and tops in the ACC) with a .433 three-point percentage, with three different players connecting at better than 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Junior guard Madison Cable leads the way with an ACC-best .600 three-point percentage, thanks in part to her 5-for-6 effort from long range in the Dec. 7 win over UCLA. Cable’s five triples were the most for a Notre Dame player in a game since Jan. 23, 2012, when Skylar Diggins made five in a home win over Tennessee.

The Fighting Irish also connected on 10-of-17 three-pointers in that victory over UCLA, their highest production from the arc in nearly four years, dating back to a similar 10-triple performance on Jan. 30, 2010, at Syracuse.

Road Warriors
Notre Dame has won a school-record 25 consecutive regular season road games and 32 of its last 37 overall, including the Dec. 14 victory at Michigan. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.

The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.

Prior to the past two-plus years, the school record for consecutive regular season road wins was held by Notre Dame’s 2000-01 national championship team that won its first 10 road outings before a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001.

The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 16 consecutive conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).

The previous school record for consecutive regular season conference road wins was seven, set numerous times, most recently crossing between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.

The previous Notre Dame record for consecutive regular season road victories in any conference was 15, which the Fighting Irish set from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 during their time in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League).

McGraw Headed To Indiana Basketball Hall Of Fame
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, a two-time consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 700 games in her illustrious career, was named to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, it was announced Dec. 17.

McGraw will receive the Hall’s Silver Medal, which is presented annually in recognition of contributions to Indiana high school basketball other than as an Indiana high school player or high school coach. With the Silver Medal comes induction to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame as part of its Class of 2014, marking the fifth time the Fighting Irish coach has been chosen for a prestigious hall of fame, and first since her induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.

The ’14 class officially will be enshrined in the Hall during its 13th annual Women’s Awards Banquet on April 26, 2014, at the Primo Banquet Hall in Indianapolis. Earlier in the day, a free reception will be held at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle, Ind., before the evening’s induction banquet takes place. Tickets for the banquet will go on sale early in 2014 — for more information, contact the Hall at (765) 529-1891 or go online to

McGraw will be the second Notre Dame selection, and first female, to receive the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s Silver Medal, following in the footsteps of former Fighting Irish All-America basketball player, and later Notre Dame coach and athletics director, Edward “Moose” Krause (’34), who received the Silver Medal in 1989. Other notables who have earned the Silver Medal include legendary men’s basketball coaches Bob Knight (1982) and Gene Keady (2001), as well as noted screenwriter and producer (and Indiana native) Angelo Pizzo, who received the honor last year and is best known for bringing two of history’s greatest sports movies to the silver screen, “Rudy” and “Hoosiers.”

McGraw also will be the 18th inductee with Notre Dame ties to earn a place in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and the third from the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program (all within the past six years). Former Notre Dame standout and Indianapolis native Mary Beth Schueth-Cain (’85) was inducted in 2008, followed a year later by former Fighting Irish great and 1982 Indiana Miss Basketball selection Trena Keys (’86).

Call Her Mabrey
Another Notre Dame sophomore guard who has sparkled early this year is Michaela Mabrey. The Belmar, N.J., resident has emerged as a key reserve for the Fighting Irish, averaging 10.4 points and 3.7 assists per game, while ranking second in the ACC with a 2.75 assist/turnover ratio, after logging 3.0 ppg. and 1.3 apg. with a 1.06 A/TO mark last year.

What’s more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures five times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.

Youthful Leader
Freshman Lindsay Allen got the call from head coach Muffet McGraw to start at point guard in Notre Dame’s season opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9 at Purcell Pavilion. Allen finished with 11 points in her debut game, including the team’s first five points of the season.

It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.

Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 assists per game (the latter ranking 13th in the ACC). She also is third in the ACC with a .617 field goal percentage, ranks sixth with a 1.94 assist/turnover ratio, and is tied for 14th in the conference with 1.9 steals per game.

Notre Dame’s 1,000-Point Scorers
Senior tri-captains Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa will spend their final season at Notre Dame steadily climbing the program’s all-time scoring list, after both entered the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club last year.

McBride currently ranks 17th in program history with 1,333 career points, having moved up one spot on Dec. 7 with her 12 points against UCLA to pass former teammate Devereaux Peters (1,319 from 2007-12).

Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 27th in Notre Dame history with 1,138 points, with the next player above her on the program’s career scoring ladder being a former teammate — Becca Bruszewski had 1,148 points from 2007-11.

Coming Up Aces
Senior forward/tri-captains Natalie Achonwa (nicknamed “Ace”) also is making her way up Notre Dame’s career charts in both rebounds and double-doubles. She currently ranks 10th in both categories with 764 rebounds and 22 double-doubles, taking over sole possession of the 10th position on both charts after tallying 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Dec. 4 win at No. 10/11 Penn State.

Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .544 career field goal percentage, presently ranking ninth in program annals.

Firing Out Of The Blocks
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd stormed out of the gates this season, piling up 63 points in Notre Dame’s first three games, wins over UNC Wilmington (19 points), No. 19/18 Michigan State (22 points) and Valparaiso (22 points).

Loyd’s point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the opening three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).

Next Game: Oregon State
Following a week-long break for the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame returns to action at 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT) Dec. 29 when it travels to Corvallis, Ore., for its first-ever meeting with Oregon State. The matchup between the Fighting Irish and Beavers will be televised live from Gill Coliseum on the Pac-12 Networks (Comcast Channel 419, DISH Network Channel 413).

— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director