Nov. 21, 2009
2009-10 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 3
#5/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Iona Gaels (2-1 / 0-0 MAAC)
DATE: November 22, 2009
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 2-0
1ST MTG: ND 69-65 (12/19/80)
LAST MTG: ND 74-55 (11/29/05)
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
- Notre Dame continues to play well in November, owning a 57-11 (.838) record in the month (and an active 10-game winning streak) since joining the BIG EAST in ’95-96.
- Irish head coach Muffet McGraw is two victories shy of becoming the fourth coach (in any sport) in school history to register 500 wins while coaching at Notre Dame.
#5/6 Irish Back Home For Sunday Matinee Against Iona
Following a gritty one-point road win at 21st-ranked Michigan State earlier this week, No. 5/6 Notre Dame returns to the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion on Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee against Iona. The game, which is approaching sellout status, will be webcast live on UND.com.
The Irish passed their first road test of the season on Thursday with a 68-67 victory at MSU, as senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow hit the tiebreaking free throw with 10 seconds left and the Notre Dame defense held fast on the final Spartan possession for the win.
Barlow finished with a team-high 18 points and seven rebounds, while fellow senior guard and tri-captain Lindsay Schrader chipped in with a record-setting 12th career double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds).
- Notre Dame is fifth in the Associated Press poll and sixth in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
- Iona is not ranked.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
The faces may be the same, but the focus, drive and determination have never been greater for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program as the Irish head into the 2009-10 season. With all 12 players returning from a year ago, along with an incoming freshman class ranked as high as ninth in the land, expectations are high as Notre Dame looks to not only reach a new level of success, but also wash away the bitter taste left by a first-round loss in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Setting the tone for the Irish will be a trio of senior captains, including returning all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow, both of whom also were tabbed for this year’s preseason all-conference team. Schrader was a first-team all-BIG EAST pick last season after piling up career bests of 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. In addition, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a new single-season school record for guards, and now has 12 career double-doubles, tying the mark for guards set by current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey from 1996-2001.
Meanwhile, Barlow led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per game, and also logged 70 steals (2.4 spg.), making her only the fourth player in school history to record 60+ steals in three consecutive seasons. The Indianapolis native also made an early statement about her intentions this season, notching a team-high 13.0 ppg. with a .727 three-point percentage (8-11) and .577 field goal percentage during Notre Dame’s three-game, 11-day European tour in May 2009.
Completing this leadership triumverate is point guard Melissa Lechlitner. As a first-year starter in 2008-09, Lechlitner averaged personal bests of 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, driving the Irish offense with a steady hand.
Another first-year starter who made huge strides last season was junior forward Becca Bruszewski. The Valparaiso product doubled her averages in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.), while honing a reliable three-point shot to the tune of a team-high .375 percentage from beyond the arc.
Not to be overlooked are a pair of returning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks in rapidly-maturing sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (6.9 ppg., 45 steals in 2008-09) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (6.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.2 bpg.), as well as their classmates in forward Kellie Watson (3.8 ppg., 28 3FGM) and Fraderica Miller (0.7 ppg., 0.7 spg.).
In addition, Notre Dame could get a significant boost this year from incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins, a three-time high school All-American from South Bend’s Washington High School, who averaged 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during her prep career. The other Irish rookie guard, Kaila Turner of Joliet, Ill., has incredible upside as well, having twice earned all-state honors at Marian Catholic High School.
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 316 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past nine seasons. Last year, the program finished ninth in the country for the second year in a row with an average of 7,168 fans for its 13 home games (the second-highest single-season attendance average in school history). The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 125 of their last 127 home games, including six Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
- The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past nine seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the ’09 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame’s eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the ’06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate), with all five members of this year’s senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Erica Williamson will complete work on her undergraduate degree one semester early in December 2009).
A Quick Look At Iona
After winning two of its first three games this season at home, Iona hits the road for the first time this year as it prepares to take on Notre Dame this weekend.
Following a split of their opening-weekend Iona Tipoff Tournament, the Gaels most recently dispatched visiting Pacific, 76-54 on Friday afternoon. Redshirt senior center Anna McLean owned the paint with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while senior guard Thazina Cook highlighted a potent perimeter attack with 15 points, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Iona knocked down 10-of-20 three-pointers in the win, using a 24-6 game-ending run to put away the Tigers.
McLean leads the Gaels in scoring (16.7 ppg.), rebounding (13.0 rpg.) and field goal pecentage (.553) this season, while Cook is second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and rebounding (8.0 rpg.), and tops in three-point percentage (.412). Junior point guard Suzi Fregosi also is one to watch, with 6.3 assists per game and a sharp 6.3 assist/turnover ratio.
Head coach Anthony Bozzella is in his eighth season at Iona with a 92-123 (.428) record. Including prior stops at Southhampton College and Long Island University, Bozzella sports a 246-254 (.492) record in 17-plus seasons on the sidelines. He is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Iona Series
Sunday’s matinee will mark the third all-time meeting between Notre Dame and Iona, with the Irish leading the series, 2-0.
The teams first played on Dec. 19, 1980, in the first round of the Penn Holiday Tournament in Philadelphia, with Notre Dame edging the Gaels, 69-65. Janice Crowe paced the Irish with a double-double, tallying 20 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
Nearly a quarter century later, the series resumed, with Notre Dame pulling away in the second half for a 74-55 win over Iona on Nov. 29, 2005 at the former Joyce Center.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Iona Met
Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw missed her milestone 700th career game as coach on Nov. 29, 2005 because of illness. Luckily for her, though, senior guard Megan Duffy was feeling just fine.
Duffy scored 13 of her 21 points during a decisive 16-4 run early in the second half, pacing 11th-ranked Notre Dame to a 74-55 victory over Iona, giving the absent McGraw her career 504th victory.
Duffy, who was just 2-of-10 shooting in the first half, hit a three-pointer early in the second half to get the Irish (5-0) and herself going. She hit her next four shots as well, including a pair of three-pointers, to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 52-36.
“I just had to keep being aggressive,” Duffy said. “I missed a few shots in the first half, good shots, wide open, and (my coaches) told me to stay aggressive.”
The Irish (5-0) led by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Gaels (2-1) scored the first two baskets of the second half to cut the lead to 36-32. That’s when Duffy got the Irish going.
“Our goal was obviously to have Notre Dame shoot the ball from the outside,” Iona coach Anthony Bozzella said. “That was our plan and certainly at that point Duffy said, `I’ll shoot it’ and made a few which opened it up. It forced us out of a couple of things we wanted to do defensively.”
Toni Horvath led the Gaels with 14 points and Martina Weber had 11 points and nine rebounds, although she had just two points and two rebounds in the second half.
“Part of it was fatigue. Part of it was good defense,” Bozzella said.
Other Notre Dame-Iona Series Tidbits
- Notre Dame and Iona went nearly 25 years between series games, but will be playing for the second time in five seasons on Sunday afternoon.
- Irish fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader started and played 22 minutes in Notre Dame’s 2005 win over Iona, scoring 14 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) before fouling out, one of only three times Schrader has reached the foul limit in her career.
- Iona assistant coach Toni Horvath started and scored a team-high 14 points (5-8 FG, 4-6 3FG) for the Gaels in that 2005 visit to Notre Dame.
- Redshirt senior center Anna McLean also appeared in the contest for Iona, coming off the bench to tally five points and five rebounds in 12 minutes.
- Sunday’s game is the first of four “day-night” doubleheader at Purcell Pavilion for the Notre Dame basketball teams, with the Irish men slated to entertain Liberty in the first round of the Chicago Invitational Challenge at 7 p.m. (ET). The other twinbills will take place on Dec. 12 (women vs. Valparaiso, men vs. Loyola Marymount), Jan. 9 (women vs. Villanova, men vs. West Virginia) and Feb. 14 (women vs. DePaul, men vs. St. John’s) — with the women playing in the afternoon and the men at night in all four cases.
Notre Dame vs. The MAAC
The Irish are 6-0 all-time against current Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) teams, with Sunday’s matinee against Iona marking the third time Notre Dame has played a MAAC school in the past five seasons.
In addition to the 74-55 Irish win at home over Iona in 2005-06 (recapped earlier in this notes package), Notre Dame downed Canisius, 93-47, on Nov. 27, 2007, also at the former Joyce Center.
The only other MAAC team to visit South Bend has been Loyola (Md.), which dropped an 84-49 decision to the Irish on Dec. 21, 1991. Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time against both the Greyhounds and Iona, as well as 1-0 against both Canisius and Fairfield.
Curiously, of the six previous Irish encounters with the MAAC, only the first Iona contest (Dec. 19, 1980 –a 69-65 Notre Dame win in Philadelphia at the Penn Holiday Tournament) took place prior to the arrival of Irish head coach Muffet McGraw in 1987.
Empire (State) Records
Notre Dame is 45-4 (.918) all-time against New York schools, including a 24-0 record at the Joyce Center. In those 24 victories, only three have been by single digits — a 71-66 win over Syracuse on Dec. 8, 1990, a 72-65 victory over St. John’s on Jan. 26, 2005, and a 70-67 win over St. John’s on Jan. 17, 2009.
Coincidentally, those two squads also account for all four New York wins over the Irish (two for each school).
November To Remember
Notre Dame’s success during the past 15 years has been aided by its ability to get off to a good start. To wit — the Irish are 57-11 (.838) in November games since they joined the BIG EAST Conference in time for the 1995-96 season.
Notre Dame also owns an active 10-game winning streak that started on Nov. 20, 2007 with a 94-41 victory at Central Michigan. That win came four days after a 75-59 loss at third-ranked Maryland in the Preseason WNIT semifinals.
Notre Dame is 21-9 (.700) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 68-67 win at No. 21 Michigan State to begin this year.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
Notre Dame is ranked fifth in this week’s Associated Press poll, appearing in the top five for the second consecutive week — it’s the first back-to-back top-five berths for the Irish in the AP balloting since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.
This week’s ranking also marks the 40th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with their No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 being the highest ever for Notre Dame, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10) with that No. 4 preseason ranking being the highest for the program since the week of Jan. 4, 2005, when the Irish also rose to fourth following a 12-1 start and the 2004 Preseason WNIT title.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 180 weeks during the program’s 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 12th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish rose one spot to sixth in the latest ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll. It’s the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches’ poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches’ survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their current ranking, the Irish now have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 172 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 people in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 180 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #2 Recap: Michigan State
Thanks to Ashley Barlow, Notre Dame withstood a tough test on the road.
Barlow scored 18 points and hit a tiebreaking free throw with 10 seconds left, lifting the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish to a 68-67 victory over No. 21 Michigan State on Thursday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
The Spartans had a chance to win after Barlow’s late foul shot, but Aisha Jefferson missed a jumper from the lane with four seconds to go.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw wasn’t happy with ill-timed turnovers, sketchy shot selection and occasional lapses on defense. But she liked her team’s character at crunch time.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping our poise down the stretch,” McGraw said.
Allyssa DeHaan led Michigan State (1-2) with 20 points.
Michigan State trailed 45-35 when DeHaan, a 6-foot-9 senior, limped off the court with an apparent ankle injury early in the second half. The Spartans, sparked by their defense and forcing turnovers, went on a 15-2 tear immediately afterward to grab a 50-47 lead with 11:52 remaining.
DeHaan returned and increased Michigan State’s lead to 56-51 with a basket with about 10 minutes to go.
“She showed a lot of heart to come back,” coach Suzy Merchant said.
But the Irish (2-0) regained the lead with an 8-0 run capped by Erica Williamson’s layup with 8:41 left.
Michigan State tied the score at 67 on a free throw by Porsche Poole with 55 seconds left.
A foul by Michigan State after a missed free throw by the Irish put Notre Dame in the double bonus. Barlow missed her first free throw with 10 seconds left, but sank her second opportunity to put the Irish in front.
“I was confident I was going to make the first one, and it didn’t go in,” Barlow said. “But I didn’t hang my head.”
Lindsay Schrader had 12 points and 14 rebounds for Notre Dame.
Lykendra Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Michigan State.
Michigan State started the season ranked 10th in The Associated Press poll. The Spartans fell after losing their season opener at Dayton.
Michigan State bounced back to win at Detroit last Sunday. But on Tuesday, the Spartans lost sophomore forward Courtney Schiffauer for the season with a right knee injury sustained in practice.
Schiffauer started one of the first two games this season for the Spartans, leading the team in scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounds (7.5 per game).
Notre Dame opened its season last Sunday with a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Noting The Michigan State Game
- Notre Dame picks up its first win over a ranked opponent since Feb. 8, 2009, when the Fighting Irish defeated visiting No. 25 DePaul, 62-59 at the former Joyce Center.
- It’s also the first road win for Notre Dame at a ranked team since Dec. 30, 2008, when the Fighting Irish capped a school-record 18-point comeback for a 59-57 win at No. 20/19 Vanderbilt.
- Notre Dame earns its first win at Michigan State since Dec. 21, 1998, when the Fighting Irish defeated the Spartans, 75-64 at the Breslin Center.
- Notre Dame claims its second consecutive win over MSU and trims the Spartans’ all-time series lead to 8-6 (Michigan State’s record books add one more MSU win to the total in a game that was played before Notre Dame’s program achieved varsity status in 1977-78).
- Eight of the 14 series games between the Fighting Irish and Spartans have been decided by single digits, including a pair of overtime contests (both MSU wins).
- The Fighting Irish have won 12 of their last 18 games against Big Ten Conference opponents, and are 39-48 (.448) all-time against that league.
- Notre Dame moves to 53-20 (.726) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 33-8 (.805) record in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era.
- Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader logged her 12th career double-double, tying current assistant coach Niele Ivey’s school record for career double-doubles by a guard set from 1996-2001.
- Schrader’s 14 rebounds were one off her career of 15 boards, set on Jan. 31, 2009 in a win over Cincinnati at the former Joyce Center.
- Senior guard Ashley Barlow now is just 16 rebounds away from joining former teammate Charel Allen (2004-08) as the only Fighting Irish players with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in their careers.
- McGraw collects her 498th win as Notre Dame’s head coach (498-197, .717), putting her two victories away from becoming the fourth Fighting Irish coach (in any sport) to record 500 career wins while coaching at Notre Dame — the only current members of this group are former fencing coaches Mike DeCicco and Yves Auriol, and former baseball coach Jake Kline.
With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two calendar years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Notre Dame’s 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Two of Notre Dame’s senior guards and tri-captains — Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader — are already members of the program’s 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.
Barlow currently ranks 20th in school history with 1,140 career points, while Schrader is 22nd with 1,080 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 718 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time — and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest — Notre Dame’s 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.
McGraw Set To Join Elite ND Club
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw currently has a record of 498-197 (.717) in her 23rd season at Notre Dame. That puts her only two victories away from becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 wins while coaching under the Golden Dome.
Fencing’s Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball’s Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only current members of the “Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club,” with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
Notre Dame Picked Second In 2009-10 BIG EAST Coaches’ Preseason Poll
Notre Dame was selected to finish second in the BIG EAST Conference in 2009-10, according to a preseason vote of the league’s 16 head coaches released Oct. 22 during the annual BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Media Day at the ESPN Zone in New York City.
The Fighting Irish picked up 210 points and one first-place vote in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points. DePaul and reigning NCAA runner-up Louisville shared the third spot in the BIG EAST preseason poll with 171 points, while Pittsburgh rounded out the top five with 167 points.
Trio Of Irish Earn 2009-10 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors
Along with picking Notre Dame to finish second in the conference this year in their preseason poll, the BIG EAST coaches voted fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader and senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow to the 12-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team.
Schrader, a two-time all-conference selection, garnered first-team recognition last year after averaging career highs of 12.6 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game with a .463 field goal percentage. What’s more, she registered seven double-doubles, setting a single-season school record for guards, and giving her 11 career double-doubles, one behind current assistant coach Niele Ivey for the Notre Dame all-time record for guards in that category.
Meanwhile, Barlow is another returning two-time all-BIG EAST honoree, having copped second-team laurels a season ago with a team-high 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, as well as a career-high .364 three-point percentage. Barlow is one of only four players in school history to record at least 60 steals in three consecutive seasons (she had a career-high 70 thefts last year) and she and Schrader both are members of Notre Dame’s 1,000-Point Club — Barlow is 20th in program history with 1,107 points, while Schrader is 23rd all-time with 1,057 points.
In addition to the preseason accolades for the two Fighting Irish veterans, rookie guard Skylar Diggins was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year, according to the league’s head coaches. Diggins was the consensus 2008-09 national high school player of the year, and also was named the `08-09 Gatorade National High School Female Athlete of the Year (for all sports) during a ceremony held just prior to the ESPY Awards this past summer in Los Angeles.
Diggins averaged 29.0 points and 6.3 assists per game as a senior last season, leading Washington High School to the cusp of the Indiana Class 4A title and the mythical prep national championship before a last-second loss in the final. She went on to earn MVP honors at both the McDonald’s and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Games (joining former Tennessee guard Alexis Hornbuckle as the only players ever to pull off that double) and she was a co-captain on the 2009 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, back in August.
Irish Enjoy Successful ’09 European Tour
In May, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program embarked on a memorable 11-day adventure to France, Monaco and Italy, visiting some of the world’s most historic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, picturesque Lake Como in the foothills of the Italian Alps, the famed El Duomo cathedral in Milan, the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, as well as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel located at The Vatican.
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 165-17 (.907) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 93 of their last 104 such contests.
Notre Dame has led at the break in both of its games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 15 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 196-14 (.933) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame added another tally on this ledger in its season opener with a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion.
…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 124-4 (.969) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame easily eclipsed the 80-point mark in its season-opening 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 174 of their last 198 games (.879) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 99-17 (.853) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 77 of their last 84 non-BIG EAST contests (.917) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 324-85 (.792) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
It’s Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
If the preseason is any indication, Notre Dame women’s basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women’s basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened.
While it’s likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there’s a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02.
The Irish have posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped Notre Dame win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women’s basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women’s basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women’s basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program’s first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 15 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site’s free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 139 televised games, including 87 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
Following an intensive five-month, $26.3 million interior renovation, the arena for the newly-christened Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center made its regular season women’s basketball debut on Nov. 15 when Notre Dame defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 102-57.
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University’s Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli (’59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It’s also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
“I’m very excited about the class that we’re signing this year,” McGraw said. “I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They’re going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We’re going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we’re adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we’ll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we’re going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we’ll have some depth in the post as well.”
“Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility,” said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Next Game: San Diego State
Notre Dame heads outside the continental United States for the first time in 14 years when it travels to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the 10th annual Paradise Jam, to be held Nov. 26-28 at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports & Fitness Center in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
The Irish will open up on Thanksgiving Day (a program first) at 3:15 p.m. ET (4:15 p.m. local) against reigning Mountain West Conference regular-season champion San Diego State. The Aztecs were 2-0 this season heading into their matchup with visiting Arizona on Saturday night, SDSU’s final contest before heading to the Paradise Jam.
Notre Dame also will play South Carolina (Friday) and No. 20/16 Oklahoma (Saturday) during its trip to the Caribbean.
— ND —