Nov. 18, 2009
2009-10 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 2
#5/6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. #21/21 Michigan State Spartans (1-1 / 0-0 Big Ten)
DATE: November 19, 2009
TIME: 6:00 p.m. ET
AT: East Lansing, Mich. – Breslin Center (14,759)
SERIES: MSU leads 8-5
1ST MTG: MSU 76-45 (2/26/81)
LAST MTG: ND 78-72 (11/29/08)
TV: Big Ten Network (live) (Brent Stover, p-b-p / Mary Murphy, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TICKETS: (800) 467-8283
- Notre Dame has posted a 20-9 (.690) record in true road games during the past two seasons.
- Michigan State is one of eight teams on this year’s Irish schedule that are currently ranked in one or both major national polls (while another seven are receiving votes).
#5/6 Irish Open Road Slate Thursday Night At #21 Michigan State
The first of many expected challenges during the 2009-10 season will come for No. 5/6 Notre Dame on Thursday night as the Irish travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a 6 p.m. (ET) game against 21st-ranked Michigan State at the Breslin Center — the contest will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
The Irish opened the season on a high note Sunday night, defeating Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 102-57 before a raucous crowd of 9,080 fans at the newly-remodeled Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame shot 53.2 percent from the field and had a school-record eight players score in double figures on the way to its first 100-point game at home in seven seasons.
- Notre Dame is fifth in the Associated Press poll and sixth in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
- Michigan State is 21st in both the Associated Press poll and ESPN/USA Today poll.
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 11 career double-doubles, one off 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 315 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 Michigan State
Fresh off a berth in last year’s NCAA Championship Sweet 16, Michigan State returns 12 of its 13 letterwinners, including all five starters from a club that posted a 22-11 record and tied for second in the Big Ten Conference with a 13-5 mark.
The Spartans currently are ranked 21st in both major polls, following a split of their opening weekend’s games at Dayton (L, 77-74) and Detroit (W, 71-62). Against Dayton, sophomore forward Courtney Schiffauer came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points and grab nine rebounds, canning 4-of-5 three-point shots along the way. Senior center Allyssa DeHaan added 10 points, six rebounds and six blocks for MSU.
Most recently on Sunday at Detroit, the Spartans got 16 points from redshirt senior forward Aisha Jefferson, 13 off the bench from redshirt senior center Lauren Aitch, and 12 from Schiffauer to rally from a one-point halftime deficit and defeat the Titans.
Through two games, Schiffauer leads Michigan State in scoring (16.5 ppg.) and rebounding (7.5 rpg.), while Aitch is second in both categories (11.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg.) and has made 9-of-12 shots this season.
Head coach Suzy Merchant is in her third season at MSU with a 46-26 (.639) record at the school. Including her successful tenures at both Saginaw Valley State (1995-98) and Eastern Michigan (1998-2007), she has a 247-146 (.628) career record, with an 0-1 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Michigan State Series
Thursday night’s game will be the 14th in the series between Notre Dame and Michigan State, with the Spartans owning an 8-5 edge on the Irish. The series has been built entirely on home-and-home series, with the schools playing in consecutive seasons six times previously, most recently in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons (this year’s game is the back end of a home-and-home agreement).
MSU also has a 4-2 series record against Notre Dame in East Lansing, including a 92-63 win the last time the teams met at the Breslin Center (Nov. 26, 2003). The last Irish win at the facility came on Dec. 21, 1998, a 75-64 decision that was fueled by 16 points and a game-high five assists from then-junior point guard (and current Irish assistant coach) Niele Ivey.
Overall, the series margin is much slimmer during the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with Michigan State leading by only a 5-4 count.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Michigan State Met
Notre Dame couldn’t do much against Michigan State’s Aisha Jefferson defensively, so freshman forward Kellie Watson got the No. 14/10 Fighting Irish going offensively.
Watson made five consecutive three-pointers in the first half and finished with six from long range, igniting a sluggish Notre Dame offense in a 78-72 victory on Nov. 29, 2008, at the Joyce Center. The freshman attempted six three-pointers in the Irish’s first four games of the season.
Watson, who had 18 points, helped the Irish overcome a 34-point effort by Jefferson, who scored 22 in the first half. That surpassed her previous career best of 20 points set three years ago against Iowa. She also had 11 boards as the 24th-ranked Spartans outrebounded the Irish 48-32.
The last two of Watson’s consecutive three-pointers were part of a 13-6 run that gave the Irish a 39-34 halftime lead. The Irish then opened the second half with a 7-0 run, highlighted by a three-point play by junior guard/co-captain Ashley Barlow, who finished with 14 points and six assists. They went ahead 46-34 on a 15-foot jumper by senior guard/co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half.
The Irish stretched the lead to 55-40 when Barlow hit three of four free throws after MSU head coach Suzy Merchant and forward Kalisha Keane were called for technical fouls seven seconds apart with 13 minutes left. The Spartans played better after the technicals and closed to 75-72 on a layup by Keane with 27 seconds left but couldn’t get any closer.
The Irish held Michigan State’s 6-foot-9 center Allyssa DeHaan to 2-of-10 shooting. The only other player in double figures for the Spartans was Keane with 10.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Michigan State Met In East Lansing
No. 17 Notre Dame simply ran into a hot-shooting club, as Michigan State scorched the nets at a 56.7 percent clip en route to a 92-63 win over the Irish on Nov. 26, 2003, in East Lansing, Mich. For its part, Notre Dame didn’t shoot poorly from the field, hitting 48 percent of its shots, but it was not enough to overcome a determined Spartan squad.
Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and sophomore forward Courtney LaVere shared team-high scoring honors for Notre Dame with 12 points each. Batteast also added a team-best five rebounds and LaVere posted a season-high .667 field goal percentage (6-9) for the Irish. Michigan State was led by the two-headed monster of Lindsay Bowen (26 points, 9-12 FG, 5-7 3FG) and Kristin Haynie (23 points, 7-9 FG, 8-9 FT), who combined to keep Notre Dame off balance all night long.
After an early 5-5 tie, MSU took the lead for good with an 8-0 run four minutes into the contest. From there, the Irish were forced to play catch up, although they stayed within striking distance for much of the period. A jumper by LaVere at the 7:29 mark capped a 7-2 Irish surge and got the visitors within four points at 31-27. Then, Notre Dame went cold from the field, managing just two free throws for the rest of the half as the Spartans went on a 14-2 run to seize control of the game.
The Irish tried to rally twice in the second half, getting within 11 points at one stage and trailing 59-47 after a fast-break layup by senior guard Le’Tania Severe at the 12:05 junction. That’s when Michigan State countered with a 13-2 charge and Notre Dame got no closer than 21 points the rest of the way.
Other ND-Michigan State Series Tidbits
- The cumulative scoring margin in the series has been fairly tight, with Michigan State having scored 921 points in 13 games (70.8 ppg.), and Notre Dame piling up 881 points (67.8 ppg.).
- More than half (7) of the 13 series games have been decided by single digits, including two contests that went to overtime (MSU won both –87-83 in 1995 and 82-73 in 2004).
- Sophomore forward Kellie Watson hails from Ionia, Mich., located less than an hour northwest of the MSU campus (halfway between Lansing and Grand Rapids).
- Sophomore forward Erica Solomon likely has good memories of Michigan State’s Breslin Center, having helped lead Detroit Country Day School to the 2008 Michigan Class B state title on that floor.
- Notre Dame has 16 Michigan natives on its all-time roster, second only to Indiana (19).
- The Irish women’s basketball team won’t be the only South Bend visitors to East Lansing on Thursday. The 14th-ranked Notre Dame hockey team will take on No. 6 MSU Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET) at Munn Ice Arena, located just a stone’s throw from the Breslin Center.
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten Conference
Notre Dame is 38-48 (.442) all-time against the Big Ten Conference, with a 13-26 (.333) record at the Joyce Center. The Irish also are 31-34 (.477) against the Big Ten in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), with an 11-17 (.393) road slate.
What’s more, Notre Dame has won 11 of its last 17 games vs. Big Ten schools, following a split of four games with that conference last year. The Irish defeated both Michigan State (78-72) and Purdue (62-51), while falling at Michigan (63-59 OT) and at home to Minnesota (79-71) in the first round of the NCAA Championship.
North Of The Border
Thursday’s game is the first of two this season for Notre Dame against teams from the state of Michigan. The Irish also will play host to Eastern Michigan on Dec. 2 at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish are 52-20 (.722) all-time against Michigan schools, with a 32-8 (.800) mark against the Great Lakes State in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Notre Dame has won nine of its last 10 games against Michigan schools, but dropped its most recent matchup against that state — a 63-59 overtime verdict at Michigan on Dec. 10, 2008.
Blowing The Lid Off
Notre Dame is 17-15 (.531) all-time in road openers, including a 14-8 (.636) record in the Muffet McGraw era. Last year, the Irish opened with a 62-53 win over No. 24/22 LSU at the State Farm Tip-Off Classic in Baton Rouge, La.
Notre Dame is 20-9 (.690) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season. 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 also has 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 #1 Recap: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Coach Muffet McGraw was not as excited as the 9,080 fans about fourth-ranked Notre Dame breaking the 100-point barrier at home for the first time in seven years in a 102-57 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday night.
“I don’t care how many points we score,” she said. “I’m looking at the other one, and 57 is just too many. That’s where we’re trying to emphasize. We can score. We’ve got a lot of depth. We’ve got a lot of people who can score. Defensively, that’s what I’m looking for, who our five best defenders are.”
Becca Bruszewski led eight Irish players in double figures as Notre Dame (1-0) dominated inside against the smaller Lady Lions (0-2), who surrendered 100 for a second straight game. Bruszewski consistently cut through Pine Bluff’s 2-3 zone defense for baskets inside.
“I wasn’t really hitting well from outside, so cleaning up inside and just staying in the paint,” she said.
The Irish opened the game up with their pressing defense, forcing 33 turnovers.
“We knew what it was going to be like before we got here, but not to that magnitude,” Pine Bluff coach Cary Shelton said. “They just lure you into it. They just walk you right smack into it.”
The Irish got caught up in the Pine Bluff tempo at times and had 27 turnovers of their own.
“We were a little sloppy … a lot sloppy. We’ve got a lot of things to tighten up,” McGraw said.
The crowd at the refurbished Purcell Pavilion was the biggest ever for an opening game for Notre Dame and the 14th largest ever.
“The crowd was electric from the start of the game,” McGraw said. “It was almost deafening. I think it’s going to be a great home-court advantage.”
Noting The Arkansas-Pine Bluff Game
- Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures on Sunday night, eclipsing 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.
- Notre Dame improves to 25-8 (.758) all-time in season openers, including a 20-3 (.870) record in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) and an active 15-game winning streak that mirrors the program’s membership in the BIG EAST Conference (1995-96 to present).
- The Irish also raise their record in home openers to 25-8 (.759), with a 19-4 (.826) mark in the McGraw era.
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the 179th different opponent in the 33-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball, with the Irish moving to 40-5 (.889) against new opponents since joining the BIG EAST 15 seasons ago, and a 20-1 (.952) record since the start of the 2000-01 season and a current 15-game winning streak (only loss: 72-66 at Colorado State on Nov. 21, 2001).
- What’s more, Notre Dame now has won 18 consecutive home games against first-time opponents since an 87-64 loss to Connecticut on Jan. 18, 1996.
- The Irish 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 hits 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.
- Notre Dame scored a school-record 61 first-half points in that CSU win, only three more than the first-half output for the Irish on Sunday night vs. UAPB.
- Notre Dame’s 45-point margin of victory was its third-largest in a season opener, topped only by a 113-35 win over Liberty at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando on Nov. 24, 1989, and a 98-50 win over Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 9, 2007, in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT at the Joyce Center.
- The Irish are 3-0 all-time against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents, all at the Joyce Center/Purcell Pavilion and all by an average margin of 44.3 points per game (98-49 vs. Alcorn State on March 17, 2001; 94-55 vs. Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28, 2006).
- For the second time in as many seasons, Notre Dame narrowly missed reaching the seemingly-unreachable school record for field goals made in a game (44), which has been set three times, but not since Dec. 21, 1990, in a 109-56 home win over Marquette (44-of-73 that night); the Irish also connected on 42 field goals (65 attempts) last Nov. 23 in a 102-54 win at Boston College.
- Notre Dame’s 31 assists are 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.
- Junior forward Becca Bruszewski logged her second career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, finishing one point shy of her career high in that department (20, twice, most recently vs. Syracuse on Feb. 24, 2009); Bruszewski’s other double-double was a 14-point, career-high 12-rebound afternoon in a win over No. 25 DePaul on Feb. 8, 2009 at the Joyce Center.
- Sophomore guard Fraderica Miller posted new career highs with 11 points and seven rebounds, topping the old marks (seven points, five rebounds) she had set on Dec. 20, 2008, in a victory over Loyola-Chicago at the Joyce Center.
- Junior guard Brittany Mallory saw her first action since suffering a torn ACL in her left knee on Dec. 10, 2008 at Michigan — she finished with 10 points, six rebounds (one off her career high) and a career-best six steals (previous high was four against Valparaiso on Dec. 12, 2007).
- Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel earned her first career start and dished out a career-high six assists, two more than her previous high-water mark that she established three times last season (most recently on Feb. 11, 2009 against Louisville at the Joyce Center).
- Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader moved into 22nd place on Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list with 1,068 career points, passing Carrie Bates (1,060 from 1981-85) on that chart.
- Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year McGraw era, and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in the 2002 win over Cleveland State.
- Sunday night’s crowd of 9,080 for the regular-season debut women’s basketball game at the newly-renovated Purcell Pavilion was the 14th-highest attendance in arena history and the largest home crowd ever to see a Notre Dame women’s basketball season opener (previous high was 7,960 on Nov. 18, 2001, for a 42-35 win over Valparaiso on the day the Irish raised their 2001 NCAA national championship banner to the rafters).
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 164-17 (.906) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 92 of their last 103 such contests.
Notre Dame got off on the right foot in this department on Sunday, taking a 58-34 lead to the locker room against Arkansas-Pine Bluff en route to a 102-57 victory.
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 Sunday night 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 on Sunday night.
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 Sunday night’s 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 138 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 Sunday night when Notre Dame played host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Sunday’s tipoff 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: Iona
Notre Dame returns home Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee against Iona at Purcell Pavilion. It will be the second meeting in five seasons for the Irish and Gaels, who were picked to finish second in the preseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference poll.
Iona is 1-1 this season after splitting a pair of games at its own Tip-Off Tournament last weekend in New Rochelle, N.Y. The Gaels opened with a 75-70 overtime loss to Arizona, but bounced back with a 62-55 win over Bucknell the next day. Iona will play host to Pacific Friday at noon (ET) before making the journey to South Bend this weekend.
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