March 7, 2010
2009-10 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 32
BIG EAST Conference Championship — Semifinal
#6/7 [#5 seed] Notre Dame Fighting Irish (27-4 / 12-4 BIG EAST) vs. #1/1 [#1 seed] Connecticut Huskies (31-0 / 16-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 8, 2010
TIME: 6 p.m. ET
AT: Hartford, Conn. – XL Center (16,294)
SERIES: UCONN leads 24-4
1ST MTG: UCONN 87-64 (1/18/96)
LAST MTG: UCONN 76-51 (3/1/10)
TV: ESPNU (live) (Dave O’Brien, p-b-p / Doris Burke, color / Rebecca Lobo, sideline)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) / UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com / bigeast.org
- Notre Dame is making its first BIG EAST Championship semifinal appearance since 2005, and is playing for its first berth in the conference tournament title game since 2001.
- The Irish are shooting .554 from the field in their first two games at this year’s BIG EAST Championship.
#6/7 Irish Square Off With #1 Connecticut Monday In BIG EAST Semifinals
For the second time in a week, and the third time this season, No. 6/7 Notre Dame embraces the unique opportunity to face the nation’s top-ranked team, as the Irish tangle with Connecticut in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Conference Championship Monday at 6 p.m. (ET) from the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. Monday’s conference semifinal will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU.
Notre Dame (27-4) punched its ticket for the BIG EAST “final four” with a hard-fought 75-67 quarterfinal win over 16th-ranked St. John’s on Sunday afternoon in Hartford. The Irish led by as many as seven points early, then trailed by seven in the second half before riding a 12-0 run in the final five minutes to secure the victory. Notre Dame also made the most of its offensive opportunities, shooting 54 percent (27-of-50) from the field on the afternoon.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins paced the Irish with a team-high 21 points (her sixth 20-point game of the season), while junior forward Devereaux Peters came off the bench to add 13 points and fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader chipped in 10 points.
- Notre Dame was ranked sixth in last week’s Associated Press poll and seventh in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.
- Connecticut was ranked first in last week’s editions of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
The Notre Dame-Connecticut Series
Notre Dame and Connecticut will be playing for the 29th time in a series that didn’t begin until the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference 15 seasons ago (1995-96). The Huskies lead the all-time series, 24-4, including a 5-0 record at the XL Center (two of those wins coming in the BIG EAST Championship). Connecticut also has won the past eight games in the series, with Notre Dame’s last victory coming on Jan. 30, 2005 (a 65-59 win at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., snapping the Huskies’ 112-game regular season BIG EAST home winning streak).
Monday’s game is the eighth between Notre Dame and Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship, with the Huskies going 7-0 against the Irish in the conference tournament to date. Five of those victories came in the title game (1996-99, 2001), while the two most recent BIG EAST Championship matchups in the series came in the semifinals (2005 – UConn 67-54) and quarterfinals (2006 – Uconn 71-60), respectively.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met
Tina Charles had 18 points and eight rebounds to become top-ranked Connecticut’s career leader in both categories in a 76-51 win over No. 6 Notre Dame on March 1 at Purcell Pavilion, leaving the Huskies one shy of tying their NCAA women’s record for consecutive victories.
Charles passed Nykesha Sales (1995-98) as the school’s all-time leading scorer 2,184 points and Rebecca Lobo (1992-95) as its leading rebounder with 1,272.
Connecticut (30-0, 16-0 BIG EAST), which reached 30 wins for the fifth straight season, and it is the eighth time the Huskies have gone unbeaten in a BIG EAST regular season. Every win in the streak has been by double figures.
The loss dropped the Fighting Irish (25-4, 12-4) into a fourth-place tie with No. 16 St. John’s, but the Irish are the fifth seed in the tournament because of a loss to the Red Storm.
Maya Moore had 17 points and nine rebounds as all five Connecticut starters finished in double figures. Tiffany Hayes added 13 points, Kalana Greene 12 and Caroline Doty 11. The Huskies got just five points from their bench.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met At The XL Center
Maya Moore scored 18 points to help Connecticut remain unbeaten with a 76-66 victory over No. 24 Notre Dame on Feb. 22, 2009, at the XL Center in Hartford — the smallest margin of victory for the Huskies last season.
Renee Montgomery led UConn with 20 points, eight assists and five steals and Tina Charles had 19 points and eight rebounds as the Huskies (27-0, 13-0 BIG EAST) posted their 37th consecutive home win.
Despite the loss, Notre Dame (18-7, 7-6) played one of its better games.
The Irish led for much of the first half, and were ahead 43-41 almost four minutes into the second — the first time the Huskies trailed after intermission all season.
A pair of baskets by Moore and two three-pointers by Montgomery started a 22-1 run over the next seven minutes that put the game away. During the span, Moore had 12 points and Montgomery added two assists and two steals.
The Huskies had trailed for just over 27 minutes all season. But UConn missed its first five shots and the Irish took a 6-0 lead, the biggest deficit the Huskies faced all year.
Connecticut didn’t get its first basket until Charles hit a layup three minutes into the game. Montgomery gave UConn its first lead with a three-pointer that made it 11-10.
The Irish led 33-28 before an 8-0 Huskies’ run gave Connecticut a 36-33 halftime lead. Notre Dame shot 43 percent in the first half and made 4-for-7 three-point shots, including three by Barlow.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met At The BIG EAST Championship
Barbara Turner scored 19 points and Ketia Swanier added a career-high 11 to lead No. 7 Connecticut to a 71-60 win over Notre Dame on March 5, 2006, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at the XL Center in Hartford.
Notre Dame’s Megan Duffy had 14 of her game-high 20 points in the final 10 minutes of the game as the Fighting Irish tried to rally from 21 down.
Willnett Crockett had a team-high 11 boards for UConn, which finished with a 36-23 advantage on the glass and outscored the 10th-seeded Irish 34-20 in the paint. The Huskies’ 27 defensive rebounds afforded the Irish few second chances and helped UConn get out in transition quickly. Guards Renee Mongtomery and Swanier directed UConn’s uptempo attack with a combined 10 assists as the Huskies shot 58 percent from the floor.
UConn, the defending tournament champ, was looking for its 13th conference tournament title. It was Turner’s ninth tournament game and the senior forward’s 19 points were a tournament high for her. Ann Strother added 10 for UConn.
Courtney LaVere finished with 15 points and two blocked shots for the Irish.
The Huskies relied on their post game early to take control. Fifteen of their 19 first-half boards were on the defensive end resulted in several breakaway layups.
Turner and Charde Houston muscled their way inside for two layups in a 9-0 UConn run. Turner capped the spurt with an up-and-under around 6-foot-5 Melissa D’Amico with 10:38 left in the period for an 18-11 lead.
The Huskies led by as many as 18 in the period and led 38-24 at the break. UConn stretched the lead to 21 in the first five minutes of the second half. The Irish would get no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Other Notre Dame-Connecticut Series Tidbits
- All four of Notre Dame’s wins in the series have come since the start of the 2000-01 season (a 17-game span).
- Notre Dame’s 65-59 win at Gampel Pavilion on Jan. 30, 2005, snapped Connecticut’s 112-game BIG EAST regular-season home winning streak.
- Connecticut is one of 11 other former or current NCAA champions Notre Dame has faced in its history. The Irish are 27-77 (.260) all-time against schools that have hoisted the hardware (either before or after they won the title), with records of .500 or better against USC (7-2), North Carolina (2-1) and Texas (1-1). The only NCAA winner the Irish have never played is 2005 champion Baylor.
- Monday’s game will mark the 18th time in the 29-game series that both teams will be ranked at tipoff. At least one team has been ranked in every series matchup.
- For the fifth consecutive series game, Connecticut faces Notre Dame as the top-ranked team in the nation — the Irish are 2-15 (.118) all-time against No. 1 teams, with both victories coming over the Huskies in 2001 (92-76 on Jan. 15 at Purcell Pavilion; 90-75 on March 30 in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
- Connecticut is one of three BIG EAST Conference opponents to hold a series edge over Notre Dame, leading the Irish, 24-4. The only other league foes with winning records vs. Notre Dame are Rutgers (16-10) and DePaul (18-15; ND leads 6-4 since Blue Demons joined BIG EAST in 2005-06).
- Since the start of the 1998-99 season, Connecticut has lost by 15-plus points seven times, with nearly half (three) of those losses coming to Notre Dame (twice in 2000-01, once in 2003-04).
- Notre Dame is one of four teams in the nation to defeat Connecticut at least three times in the past 15 seasons (1995-96 to present). During that stretch, the only programs with more wins over the Huskies than the Irish are Tennessee (nine) and Rutgers (six), while North Carolina also has defeated Connecticut three times.
- Notre Dame senior guard Ashley Barlow and Connecticut senior forward Kaili McLaren were teammates on the White squad at the 2006 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Game in Boston. Barlow had four points and four rebounds, while McLaren tallied eight points and two rebounds, but their White Team fell to the Red Team (led by UConn senior center Tina Charles), 68-61.
- Notre Dame freshman guard Skylar Diggins and Connecticut freshman guard Kelly Faris finished 1-2 in the 2009 Indiana Miss Basketball voting and were teammates on the 2009 Indiana All-Star Team that swept a two-game series from its Kentucky counterpart.
- Diggins also was a teammate of Connecticut sophomore guards Caroline Doty and Tiffany Hayes on the White Team at the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. The trio helped the White squad to a 5-0 record and the gold medal that weekend.
- The two head coaches — Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma — have more than a few connections. Both are from the Philadephia metro area (McGraw from West Chester, Auriemma from Norristown), both cut their coaching teeth at Saint Joseph’s (separate stints as assistants under current Ohio State head coach Jim Foster), and both currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) — Auriemma as president and McGraw as NCAA Division I Legislative Chair.
Notre Dame has had a penchant for ending impressive winning streaks in a number of different sports, contributing to the University’s storied 123-year athletics tradition. Connecticut will enter Monday night’s game with a 70-game winning streak, matching its own NCAA Division I record that was originally set from 2001-03.
Here is a rundown of the various notable “streak-busting” victories Notre Dame teams have posted through the years:
- Nov. 16, 1957 (football ends Oklahoma’s NCAA-record 47-game winning streak) — Dick Lynch sweeps around right end for the lone score in a 7-0 Irish win before a stunned crowd at Owen Field in Norman, Okla.
- Jan. 19, 1974 (men’s basketball stops UCLA’s NCAA-record 88-game winning streak) — Led by head coach Digger Phelps, the Irish score the final 12 points of the game, capped by Dwight Clay’s jumper from the corner with 29 seconds to play, to topple the mighty Bruins, 71-70 and send the Joyce Center crowd into delirium.
- Oct. 2, 1994 (women’s soccer ends North Carolina’s NCAA-record 92-game winning streak) — All-America goalkeeper Jen Renola makes 11 saves as Notre Dame holds the high-powered Tar Heels (led by future U.S. National Team standout Tisha Venturini) to a 0-0 draw at the Americas Challenge Cup in St. Louis. The Irish would carry the momentum from that performance all the way to the NCAA College Cup, the first of four consecutive trips and 11 in the program’s renowned history.
- June 7, 2002 (baseball snaps Florida State’s 25-game winning streak) — Notre Dame breaks a 4-4 tie with six runs in the final three innings to surge past the top-ranked Seminoles, 10-4 in the first game of a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional in Tallahassee. The Irish would defeat FSU in the deciding third game two days later to secure their first College World Series berth in 45 years.
- Jan. 30, 2005 (women’s basketball ends Connecticut’s 112-game BIG EAST home winning streak/55-game Gampel Pavilion streak) — Courtney LaVere comes off the bench to score 14 points and the Irish jumped to a 10-point halftime lead, holding the Huskies at bay in the second half for a 65-59 win at Gampel Pavilion.
Monday’s game is the third this season between Notre Dame and Connecticut, the first time since the 2006-07 season that the Irish will play one opponent three times in the same year. In that ’06-07 season, Notre Dame split its regular season matchups with DePaul before the Blue Demons took the rubber match, 76-71 in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship.
This also represents the fifth season in which the Irish will play Connecticut three times. In three of the four previous cases (1995-96, 1996-97 and 2004-05), the teams met home-and-away in the regular season, and then again in the conference tournament. In 2000-01, Notre Dame won the lone regular season contest (92-76 on Jan. 15, 2001, at Purcell Pavilion), Connecticut claimed the rematch in the BIG EAST Championship final (78-76 on March 6, 2001, in Storrs, Conn.), and the Irish nabbed the third encounter in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals (90-75 on March 30, 2001, in St. Louis).
One other notable occurrence associated with Monday’s game — it will be the first time Notre Dame has ever played a top-ranked opponent three times in one season. The Irish had two games against No. 1-ranked teams in both 1996-97 and 2000-01 … and the opponent in question each time? Connecticut.
Since the start of last season, Notre Dame has played 12 times when it has had a short one-day break (or less) between games, including three games in three days over this year’s Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands (a similar three-day run to what it is facing this week at the BIG EAST Championship). However, when faced with such a tight turnaround, the Irish have risen to the occasion, going 9-3 (.750) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes.
This season, Notre Dame is 5-2 in these 48-hour challenges, winning twice at the Paradise Jam (South Carolina and No. 20/17 Oklahoma), and then at home on New Year’s Eve vs. No. 18/16 Vanderbilt (returning from a road trip to UCF less than two days earlier). The Irish also earned a 75-63 win at Rutgers on Feb. 1, two days after a narrow 74-73 win at Syracuse.
Notre Dame then lost on the back half of its last two regular season “quick changes”. On Feb. 16, the Irish dropped a 76-71 verdict at No. 22/23 St. John’s, two days after a 90-66 home victory over DePaul (the game in which fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader suffered a sprained left ankle and subsequently missed two games). Then, on March 1, Notre Dame fell at home to top-ranked Connecticut, 76-51, two days after a 72-47 win at Seton Hall.
Most recently, the Irish returned to the win column on a tight turnaround with Sunday’s 75-67 BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal triumph over No. 16 St. John’s, one day following an 89-52 second-round victory over Louisville.
Monday’s game against Connecticut will mark the fifth time in a little more than a month Notre Dame has tackled a tight turnaround.
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen at least eight different players led the team in scoring and rebounding this season. That has been even more evident in the past nine games, with seven different players leading the Irish in scoring during that time.
In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Irish roster have scored in double figures at least once this season, including sophomore guard Fraderica Miller, and freshman guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, who each topped the 10-point mark for the first time in their careers.
What’s more, five different players have scored at least 20 points in a game this year. Diggins has six 20-point games (San Diego State, Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, St. John’s (twice)), while senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner (Purdue, Marquette) has reached that mark twice. Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Georgetown), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (DePaul) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Valparaiso) have one 20-point game apiece.
Notre Dame has faced a rigorous schedule this season, taking on 10 ranked opponents. The Irish also have risen to that challenge quite well, winning six of those 10 contests (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and St. John’s), including four victories away from home (MSU, SDSU, OU and STJ).
In addition, two of the four losses to ranked opponents (at St. John’s and at Georgetown) came by 10 points or fewer and occurred while fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader was sidelined with a sprained left ankle (the first two games Schrader missed in her college career).
Four of Notre Dame’s six wins over ranked opponents this season came during the non-conference portion of the regular season schedule, marking the second consecutive year in which the Irish defeated four Top 25 non-conference foes.
Game #31 Recap: St. John’s
Notre Dame had already lost to St. John’s during the regular season. Devereaux Peters said they weren’t going to let it happen again.
Peters scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half and Skylar Diggins scored 21, two shy of her career high, as No. 6 Notre Dame defeated the No. 16 Red Storm 75-67 in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship.
The Irish, seeded fifth in the tournament because all four of its losses were to BIG EAST teams, fell to the Red Storm 76-71 in New York in February.
“It definitely burned,” Peters said of the earlier loss. “We definitely came in with a chip on our shoulder and wanted to come out hard and definitely prove that we can play better than we did when we were there.”
They played that earlier game without guard Lindsay Schrader, who sustained an ankle injury two days earlier against DePaul, and they failed to score for a seven-minute stretch in the second half.
Notre Dame had trouble with scoring droughts again Sunday, but they were nothing the Irish couldn’t overcome. St. John’s (24-6), down seven midway through the first half, went on an 11-0 run over four minutes and outscored the Irish, 21-8 to finish the half leading 36-32.
The Irish also had what coach Muffet McGraw called 13 “really uncharacteristically bad turnovers,” in the first half, including dribbling into traps and travel calls that resulted from rushed play.
“We just talked about moving the ball a little bit and trying to get it to the middle of the floor,” McGraw said. “That was an area we really wanted to get the ball to. We didn’t have a lot of success with that in the first half, and I thought we did a little better in the second half.”
Peters, who reached double figures in scoring for her third consecutive game and fifth of the season, was the primary beneficiary of Notre Dame’s offensive adjustments.
She scored 10 of her points in a four-minute stretch midway through the second half, including a basket with 13:36 remaining that gave Notre Dame a 47-45 lead — its first since the nine-minute mark of the first half.
St. John’s, which starts two freshmen and a sophomore, showed its postseason inexperience down the stretch.
The Red Storm held a 63-59 advantage with six minutes to play before Notre Dame went on a 12-0 run.
“We wanted to just take over,” Diggins said. “We really came together and were like, `We don’t want to go home. We want to win.’ And we were very anxious to come out here and play this team. We didn’t get off to a good start, so we wanted to make sure we finished well.”
St. John’s committed 20 fouls, with 17 coming in the second half and eight in the last six minutes.
“I think today was the first time in some time that we showed our inexperience and youth at the end,” said St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico. “The kids got extremely frustrated by it and we tried to continue to stay positive, but I think it really affected us.”
Shenneika Smith scored 23 points for St. John’s, making her first five shots and nine of her first 10, and Da’Shena Stevens scored 14 despite missing three minutes early in the game with a right ankle injury.
Notre Dame shot 54 percent despite making just one of its six three-point attempts. The Irish also shot over 56 percent in a second-round victory over Louisville on Saturday.
Noting The St. John’s Game
- Notre Dame advances to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals for the ninth time in its 15 seasons as a conference member (1995-96 to present), but the first since 2005.
- The Fighting Irish win multiple games at the BIG EAST Championship for the first time since 2001, when they advanced to the title game before losing to Connecticut, 78-76.
- Sunday’s contest marked the 12th time in Notre Dame’s last 15 BIG EAST Championship games that the margin of victory was 11 points or fewer, with seven of those contests decided by single digits.
- Notre Dame was playing its 10th ranked opponent of the season, improving to 6-4 against Top 25 foes this season, including a 4-3 record away from home.
- Sunday’s win was the first for Notre Dame over a ranked opponent since a 74-66 conquest of #16/11 West Virginia on Jan. 24 at Purcell Pavilion.
- The six wins over ranked opponents are the most for the Fighting Irish in a single season since 2004-05, when they knocked off seven Top 25 opponents.
- Notre Dame earned its 27th win of the season, its highest win total in a single year since 2004-05, when the Fighting Irish finished 27-6 for the third-highest single-season victory mark in school history.
- The Fighting Irish rise to 19-3 all-time against St. John’s, including a 3-0 record on neutral courts (all at the BIG EAST Championship).
- Notre Dame now has scored at least 66 points in 19 of the 22 series games against St. John’s.
- Six of the past eight series games between the Fighting Irish and Red Storm have been decided by 10 points or fewer, with the two schools splitting those six close affairs.
- Notre Dame moves to 48-5 (.906) all-time against New York-based schools, including a 5-1 (.833) mark at neutral sites, and a 3-1 record this season (avenging a 76-71 loss at St. John’s back on Feb. 16).
- The Fighting Irish trailed by four points (36-32) at halftime, with Sunday’s win the third for Notre Dame this season when it was behind at the break (first since the Jan. 24 win over West Virginia, when the Mountaineers were up 42-31 at intermission).
- With its 10 steals vs. St. John’s, Notre Dame set a new single-season school record with 399 steals, eclipsing the old mark of 397 that was set twice before (1990-91 and 2007-08).
- The Fighting Irish also chalked up double-digit steals for the 23rd time this season.
- Notre Dame continues its recent hot shooting spell, connecting at a .540 clip against St. John’s; the Fighting Irish have shot 50 percent or better from the floor in four of the past five games, hitting at a .542 rate in those four wins, including a .554 field goal percentage in their first two BIG EAST Championship games this year (they have shot 50 percent or better in all four halves thus far).
- Notre Dame held St. John’s to an opponent season-low 24 rebounds (previous was 26 by Seton Hall on Feb. 27).
- Freshman guard Skylar Diggins collected her team-leading sixth 20-point game of the season, with two of those six coming against St. John’s.
- Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader moved into 13th place on Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list with 1,380 points, passing Shari Matvey (1,373 points from 1979-83).
- Junior forward Devereaux Peters posted her third consecutive double-digit scoring game and fifth of the season, with her 13 points vs. St. John’s only two shy of her season/career-high set on March 1 vs. Connecticut.
— ND —