Feb. 28, 2010
2009-10 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 29
#7/8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-3 / 12-3 BIG EAST) vs. #1/1 Connecticut Huskies (29-0 / 15-0 BIG EAST)
DATE: March 1, 2010
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: UCONN leads 23-4
1ST MTG: UCONN 87-64 (1/18/96)
LAST MTG: UCONN 70-46 (1/16/10)
RADIO: ESPN2 (live) (Bob Wischusen, p-b-p / Carolyn Peck, color / Rebecca Lobo, sideline)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
- For only the third time in school history (and first since 2000-01), Notre Dame will play a top-ranked team twice in the same season.
- The Irish need a victory or a loss by St. John’s (at Pittsburgh) in order to clinch a top-four seed (and second-round bye) for the upcoming BIG EAST Championship.
#7/8 Irish Close Out Regular Season Monday Night Against #1 Connecticut
As the calendar flips over to March and brings with it the familiar thrills of “March Madness,” No. 7/8 Notre Dame will aim to start the excitement a little early, as it plays host to No. 1 Connecticut Monday at 7 p.m. (ET) in the regular-season finale for both clubs. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPN2 as part of its “Big Monday” package (with the Irish making their third Big Monday appearance this season).
Notre Dame (25-3, 12-3) last took the floor on Saturday, going wire-to-wire for a 72-47 win at Seton Hall. The Irish used a 12-0 first-half run and 13-0 second-half spree to blow the game open and sink the Pirates.
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader led a balanced effort with 12 points, while Notre Dame shot .556 from the field in the victory.
- Notre Dame was No. 7 in last week’s Associated Press poll and was No. 8 in last week’s ESPN/USA Today poll.
- Connecticut was No. 1 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls last week.
- Notre Dame is in the midst of a 54-week run in the Associated Press poll (as of Feb. 22), the second-longest streak in school history (56 from 1998-2002).
- The Irish appeared in the top five of the AP poll for the first 15 weeks this season, marking the second-longest string of consecutive AP Top 5 rankings in program history behind only the final 17 weeks in 2000-01.
- Notre Dame’s 15-game winning streak earlier this season tied for the third-longest in school history, and longest since a school-record 23-game run from Nov. 17, 2000-Feb. 14, 2001.
- At 15-0, the Irish posted the second-best start in program history, topped only by a 23-0 debut in 2000-01 (the season in which Notre Dame won its first NCAA title).
- The Irish have secured their 16th 20-win season in the past 17 years, as well as the 20th in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present) and the 24th in the program’s 33-year history.
- Notre Dame has defeated five ranked opponents (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, West Virginia) in eight tries this season, including three wins away from home.
- The Irish won the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division title (their first regular-season tourney crown since the 2005 Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas), with freshman guard Skylar Diggins capturing MVP honors and senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner making the all-tournament team.
- At least seven different players have led the Irish in scoring, rebounding and assists this season. In addition, 11 of the 13 players on the Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once this year.
- In Friday’s NCAA statistical rankings, Notre Dame appears among the top 25 in eight categories, including top-10 rankings in five areas — steals (4th at 13.1 spg.), assists (6th at 18.2 apg.), scoring offense (7th at 78.8 ppg.), won-loss percentage (8th at .889) and turnover margin (10th at +6.44).
- Conversely, Notre Dame has no player ranked higher than 60th in any NCAA statistical category — senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow is 60th in the land in steals at 2.5 per game.
- Notre Dame is forcing 23.2 turnovers per game this season, including 25.9 at home. The Irish also have caused at least 20 takeaways in 21 games, with no fewer than 25 opponent turnovers in 10 games (and six 30-takeaway nights) this year.
- Notre Dame is averaging 8,643 fans per game this year (with five sellouts), unofficially ranking fifth in the nation and showing a 20.6-percent increase from last year (7,168). The Irish also are the only school from the top 25 of the final 2008-09 NCAA attendance rankings to see an increase in attendance this year.
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 339 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 138 of their last 140 home games, including 11 Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Feb. 23, 2010 vs. Marquette).
- 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 fourth year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2009. 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 58-for-58 success rate), with all five members of this year’s senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Erica Williamson earned her undergraduate degree one semester early in January 2010).
A Quick Look At Connecticut
The streak rolls on for Connecticut, as the top-ranked Huskies enter Monday’s game with a run of 68 consecutive wins stretching back to the 2008 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
UConn (29-0, 15-0) comes to town on the heels of an 84-62 win over Georgetown on Saturday afternoon in Hartford. After a sluggish start that saw them trail by as many as six points early on, the Huskies found their footing and rode a hot shooting performance (.569) to the victory. Senior center Tina Charles had game highs of 33 points (14-16 FG) and 15 rebounds for Connecticut.
Junior forward Maya Moore leads the Huskies (and the BIG EAST) in scoring (18.6 ppg.), along with team-high marks for assists (3.9 apg.) and steals (2.0 spg.), and she ranks second on the team in rebounding (8.1 rpg.). Charles is second in scoring (18.2 ppg.), and tops in rebounding (9.3 rpg.), blocked shots (2.1 bpg.) and field goal percentage (.638), leading the BIG EAST in the latter two categories.
Head coach Geno Auriemma has a 725-122 (.856) record in his 25 seasons at Connecticut, including a 23-4 record against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Connecticut Series
One of the more common matchups in recent BIG EAST history, Notre Dame and Connecticut will tangle for the 28th time on Monday night, with the Huskies holding a 23-4 series lead. UConn also has won seven in a row in the series and is 7-2 all-time at Purcell Pavilion.
This marks the first time Notre Dame and Connecticut are playing more than once in the regular season since 2004-05.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met
Connecticut got off to a near-perfect start, showing there is a chasm between it and the rest of women’s basketball.
Tina Charles scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to help the top-ranked Huskies rout No. 3 Notre Dame 70-46 on Jan. 16, 2010, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., for its 56th straight victory.
UConn scored 24 of the game’s first 28 points to take control, delivering an early knockout.
“That first 15 minutes of basketball was pretty amazing,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. “That was as good a 15 minutes of basketball you could hope to play on a day like today against a team like that.”
Maya Moore added 20 points for the Huskies, who have the second-longest winning streak in women’s basketball history. They’re 14 short of their NCAA record, set from 2001-03.
UConn (17-0, 5-0 BIG EAST) has been at its best against top-10 teams during the streak, winning those 10 games by nearly 27 points a game.
“The gap is huge,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think that they are on a mission to prove that gap is wider and wider with every game. They’ve had their way with the top 10. Even Stanford. They are the best team in the country, no question about it.”
Connecticut has won every game during its streak by double digits.
Devereaux Peters scored 12 to lead the Irish (15-1, 2-1), who had been off to the second-best start in school history. Notre Dame started 23-0 en route to the 2001 national title.
The Irish wore their alternate green road jerseys for a little extra luck, but they needed a lot more to beat UConn. Before the sellout crowd could settle into its seats, the Huskies were up 17-2 as four different players scored.
“Once we threw the first couple of punches we sucked the life out of them and had control of the game,” said Kalana Greene, who had 13 points for Connecticut.
Ashley Barlow finally hit a jumper to end the five-minute scoreless drought for the Irish, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stop the onslaught.
By the time Notre Dame scored consecutive baskets for the first time with 2:53 left in the half, the Irish trailed 36-14. UConn led 42-19 at the break with Charles scoring 17 points.
Notre Dame, which came into the game averaging 82.4 points, got no closer than 20 in the second half. The Irish shot only 27 percent (18 for 67) from the field for the game, including going 3 for 19 from behind the arc.
“We actually shoot the ball fairly well,” McGraw said. “Certainly 3 for 19 isn’t where we should have been. Certainly their defense had everything to do with that.”
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met At Purcell Pavilion
Notre Dame stopped Maya Moore after she scored the first 15 points for Connecticut. The Fighting Irish never could come up with an answer for Tina Charles, though.
Charles scored 22 points, including nine during a decisive 22-4 first-half run, to lead the top-ranked Huskies to an 81-64 victory over No. 16 Notre Dame on Jan. 27, 2008, at a sold-out Purcell Pavilion.
With the score tied at 21 after Melissa D’Amico’s rebound basket with 11:13 left in the first half, UConn took control as the Irish went 10:52 without a field goal, going 0-for-12 from the field during the run.
UConn went through a bit of a drought as well, making just one basket during a four-minute span. But Brittany Hunter got the Huskies going with a pair of baskets inside. Then Charles, who had eight rebounds, scored nine points in 3:42, putting UConn ahead 41-27 with 1:04 left before intermission.
Lindsay Schrader hit a 14-foot jumper with 21 seconds left to end the Irish drought. UConn, which was 9-of-18 from the field during the run, opened a 43-25 lead when Ketia Swanier made a pair of free throws and led 43-27 at halftime.
Notre Dame closed to 12 points twice in the second half, the final time when Tulyah Gaines hit a 14-foot jumper to cut the lead to 58-46. They had a chance to cut it to 10 points once, but Barlow missed a jumper. Renee Montgomery hit a three-pointer on the other end to ignite a 12-0 UConn run and put the game away.
Moore scored the first 15 points for UConn on 5-of-5 shooting, including 4-of-4 from three-point range, and didn’t score again. Hunter added 11 points for UConn.
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 16-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 27-76 (.262) 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 17th time in the 28-game series that both teams will be ranked at tipoff. At least one team has been ranked in every series matchup.
- For the fourth consecutive series game, Connecticut faces Notre Dame as the top-ranked team in the nation — the Irish are 2-14 (.125) all-time against No. 1 teams, with both victories coming over the Huskies in 2001 (92-76 on Jan. 15 at the Joyce Center; 90-75 on March 30 in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals at the Savvis (now 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, 23-4. 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 UConn 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 68-game winning streak, currently standing as the second-longest in NCAA Division I history.
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 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.
Since the start of last season, Notre Dame has played 10 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. However, when faced with such a tight turnaround, the Irish have risen to the occasion, going 8-2 (.800) on the back half of these two-game (or more) blitzes.
This season, Notre Dame is 4-1 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 Central Florida less than two days earlier). The Irish also earned a 75-63 win at Rutgers on Feb. 1, two days after a a narrow 74-73 win at Syracuse, but most recently, they dropped a 76-71 verdict at No. 22/23 St. John’s on Feb. 16, 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).
Monday’s game will mark the third time in the past month Notre Dame has tackled a tight turnaround, with all three coming in BIG EAST play.
Pieces of Silver
Notre Dame collected its 25th win of the season on Feb. 27 with a 72-47 victory at Seton Hall. It’s the seventh time in program history (all in the past 14 seasons) that the Irish have registered at least 25 wins in a campaign, and the first since posting a 25-9 record in 2007-08.
What’s more, the Irish have reached the 25-win level in the regular season for the fourth time in school history, and the first since the 2004-05 campaign. The other 25-win regular seasons came in 1996-97 and 2000-01.
Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark for the 16th time in the past 17 seasons with its 75-63 victory at Rutgers on Feb. 1. The Irish now have registered 20-or-more wins 20 times in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era and 24 times in the program’s 33-year history.
Notre Dame also hit the 20-win plateau in its 21st game this season, reaching that milestone faster than all but one Irish team — the 2000-01 squad that opened 23-0 and earned its 20th victory at Providence on Jan. 31, 2001 (one calendar day earlier than this year’s club).
Notre Dame already has faced a rigorous schedule through 28 games of the 2009-10 season, taking on eight ranked opponents. The Irish also have risen to that challenge quite well, winning five of those eight contests (Michigan State, San Diego State, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and West Virginia), including three victories away from home (MSU, SDSU and OU).
In addition, two of the three 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 five wins over ranked opponents this season came during the non-conference portion of the schedule, marking the second consecutive year in which the Irish defeated four Top 25 non-conference foes.
Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to win three times this season. The Irish erased a 10-point first-half margin at Purdue on Jan. 4, followed by a 12-point first-half spread at Louisville on Jan. 19, and most recently, they wiped out a 13-point second-half gap at home against West Virginia on Jan. 24.
The three double-digit comeback victories are the most for Notre Dame in a single season since 2002-03, when it came back to win at West Virginia (trailed by 14), at Providence (trailed by 10) and home vs. Seton Hall (trailed twice by 12).
Spread The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen at least seven different players led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists this season. That has been even more evident in the past six games, with five 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 five 20-point games (San Diego State, Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, St. John’s), 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.
Stat Sheet Stuffers
Another sign of Notre Dame’s versatility is seen in the number of “5-5-5” games (5 or more in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals) posted by its players this year. In fact, no fewer than six Irish players have pulled off this feat at least once during the current campaign.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins (UAPB, Charlotte, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Marquette) has a team-high five 5-5-5 games, while senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Iona, South Florida, DePaul, St. John’s) and junior guard Brittany Mallory (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, DePaul) both have four 5-5-5 games. Junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Louisville), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (Eastern Michigan) and junior forward Devereaux Peters (St. John’s) each have one.
Barlow took it to another level in the Feb. 14 DePaul win with her first “5-5-5-5” game, piling up nine points, a career-high eight assists, six rebounds and five steals. Mallory nearly duplicated that trick in that same game with six points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Taking What We Can Get
Fueled by a renewed attention to defense this offseason, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this year, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in 21 of 28 games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 23.2 giveaways per game, and Notre Dame chalking up a +6.42 turnover margin that is 10th-best in the nation (as of last Friday).
In a two-game stretch bookending the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame harassed its opponents into a combined 79 turnovers (43 by Charlotte on Dec. 20 and 36 at UCF on Dec. 29).
Charlotte’s 43 turnovers tied for the second-most opponent giveaways in a game in school history and the most since Dec. 8, 1981, when the Irish forced sister school Saint Mary’s (Ind.) into 43 turnovers during the program’s second season at the Division I level. The Notre Dame record for opponent turnovers in a game is 48 by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980, at DeKalb, Ill.
The Irish also are making even the most disciplined teams fall victim to their aggressive defensive style. Villanova came into its Jan. 9 game with Notre Dame ranked second in the nation with just 12.6 turnovers per game, but the Irish dogged the Wildcats into 34 turnovers (17 in each half).
Notre Dame has been especially hard on opponents in 14 home games this season, forcing 25.9 turnovers per game and collecting at least 25 in eight Purcell Pavilion contests thus far.
The Five-Finger Discount
According to last Friday’s NCAA statistical report, Notre Dame ranks fourth in the nation in steals (13.0 spg.). The Irish have posted double-digit steal totals in 20 of their 28 games this season, including five 20-steal efforts.
Individually, Notre Dame has five players with at least 35 steals this year, led by senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow with 70 steals (also good for 60th in the nation at 2.5 spg.). In fact, Barlow now has topped the 60-steal mark in each of her four seasons under the Golden Dome, making her just the third Irish player ever to accomplish that feat, along with Coquese Washington (1989-93) and current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (1997-2001).
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins is second on the squad with 63 thefts, making her the sixth Irish rookie to record at least 60 steals in her freshman season, and the first to do so since 2006-07, when (ironically enough) Barlow also registered 63 steals.
Notre Dame and Connecticut are the only two BIG EAST teams with at least three current players having 500+ career rebounds. Irish fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader is seventh all-time at Notre Dame with 784 boards, while senior guard tri-captain Ashley Barlow has 623 caroms and senior center Erica Williamson has 514 career rebounds.
Notre Dame was ranked seventh in last week’s Associated Press poll, ending a run of 15 consecutive weeks in the top five — it was the second-longest run in the AP Top 5 in program history, and the longest for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.
However, their current poll appearance run of 54 consecutive weeks is the second-longest in school history behind a 56-week stretch from 1998-2002). The Irish also spent a total of seven weeks this year at a season-high No. 3 ranking, which was Notre Dame’s highest poll position since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What’s more, Notre Dame’s No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With this week’s 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).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 194 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 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 22nd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish were ranked eighth in last week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll. Notre Dame reached its season high in the ESPN/USA Today poll with a No. 3 ranking in eight of the previous 10 weeks, whch also was the highest it has been ranked in the coaches’ survey since the 2004-05 season, when the Irish were third for two separate weeks (Nov. 30 and Jan. 5) during the year.
What’s more, it was the first time Notre Dame was in the top three in consecutive weeks since the final 14 weeks of the 2000-01 season (capped by a No. 1 ranking in the final poll after winning the national championship).
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches’ survey for 38 consecutive weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. With their No. 8 ranking last week, the Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 186 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 28 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 194 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 28 people on this list, 16 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), including former Irish point guard and assistant coach Coquese Washington (’92), who helped Notre Dame to its first-ever AP poll ranking in 1990-91, and is in her third season as head coach at Penn State, guiding the Lady Lions into the Jan. 25 AP poll at No. 23.
Notre Dame is 28-12 (.700) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 8-3 record this year.
In addition, nine of the past 10 road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.2 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including two of three road setbacks this season (average margin of 7.5 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).
Game #28 Recap: Seton Hall
Lindsay Schrader scored 12 points and No. 7 Notre Dame dominated in the paint in a 72-47 victory at Seton Hall on Saturday.
Melissa Lechlitner added 10 points and the Irish (25-3, 12-3 BIG EAST) closed both halves with big runs in sending the Pirates (9-19, 1-14) to their sixth straight loss and 15th in 16 games.
Kandice Green had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Pirates. Ebonie Williams had 13 points and Terry Green added 11.
The Irish, who snapped two-game losing streak with win over Marquette on Tuesday, had a 12-point run at the end of the first half to build a 12-point lead and they scored 13 in a row late to blow open the game.
Most of the points in both runs came in the paint, where the Irish piled up 50 points and finished the game with 56-percent shooting from the field.
Schrader returned for the Marquette game after missing two games because of a sprained ankle. The Irish were upset by Georgetown and St. John’s in Schrader’s absence, but she was the catalyst in the first run with six points. Becca Bruszewski had six of her eight in the late run.
Ten of the 11 players who got on the court for Notre Dame scored, with Skylar Diggins and Ashley Barlow (eight rebounds) adding nine points apiece and Devereaux Peters adding eight points and eight rebounds.
Maybe using the motivation from its Senior Day, Seton Hall played Notre Dame surprisingly close for the opening 15 minutes, drawing within 24-22 with 5:08 to play on a layup by Kandice Green.
Notre Dame’s pressing defense suddenly started forcing turnovers and the Irish ran off 12 straight points with the final 10 coming from in close.
Lechlitner started the run with a foul-line jumper and Schrader scored inside for a 28-22 lead. The Irish then forced consecutive turnovers. Diggins scored on a fastbreak off a Lechlitner pass on the first and Peters followed a Lechlitner miss for a 32-22 lead.
Schrader closed out the run with layups off nice assists by Bruszewski.
Noting The Seton Hall Game
- Notre Dame earns its 12th BIG EAST victory of the season, hitting that mark for the 10th time in 15 seasons as a conference member (1995-96 to present), but the first time since going 13-3 in 2004-05.
- The Fighting Irish rise to 18-4 all-time against Seton Hall, including an 18-2 record against the Pirates in BIG EAST play (17-2 in the regular season).
- Notre Dame moves to 9-2 all-time at SHU’s Walsh Gymnasium, posting its largest margin of victory at that facility since Jan. 21, 2001 (ironically also a 72-47 win).
- The Fighting Irish now have limited Seton Hall to 61 points or fewer in 18 of the past 19 series games.
- Notre Dame wraps up the month of February with a 6-2 record, improving to 87-25 (.777) in the second month since joining the BIG EAST, with a 135-40 (.771) record in the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), during which time the Fighting Irish have never had a losing record in February.
- The Fighting Irish shot better than 50 percent from the field for the ninth time this season, with the .556 field goal percentage at Seton Hall being their best in BIG EAST play and second-highest of the season (.578 vs. IPFW on Dec. 8 at Purcell Pavilion).
- Notre Dame also notched its second-best defensive effort of the BIG EAST season by allowing only 47 points, one more than Villanova scored in an 81-46 Fighting Irish win on Jan. 9 at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame limited Seton Hall to an opponent season-low 26 rebounds, one fewer than IPFW’s total on Dec. 8.
- The Fighting Irish recorded double-digit steals for the 20th time this season.
- Notre Dame jumps to 24-2 all-time when senior point guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner tallies at least five assists in a game.
- Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow moved into 11th place on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,432 points, passing current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey (1,430 from 1996-2001) on that chart.
- Barlow also chalked up three more steals, giving her 70 thefts on the season and tying her career high from last year.
Getting The Jump
At 15-0, Notre Dame got off to the second-best start in the program’s 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that this season was in 2000-01, when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program’s first national championship.
Notre Dame’s season-opening 15-game winning streak tied for the third-longest success string in program history (at any time), and it was the longest since the school-record 23-game run to begin the 2000-01 season.
McGraw Earns 600th Career Win
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached her second important career milestone of the season on Jan. 19, as she became the 19th Division I coach to record 600 career wins when the Irish posted a 78-60 victory at Louisville.
McGraw earned the milestone win in her 839th career game (she now has a 28-year mark of 609-241, .716), tying her with former Saint Peter’s coach Mike Granelli as the 10th-fastest to the 600-win plateau in Division I history.
In honor of the historic 600th victory, Notre Dame fans at Purcell Pavilion held up signs with the number “600” on them when McGraw and her staff took the floor prior to the Jan. 24 win over No. 16/11 West Virginia. The visibly-moved Irish coach later called the scene “one of the top five moments” of her Notre Dame career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 521-200 (.723) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 609-241 (.716) record in 28 seasons overall — including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
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 other 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).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
As it turned out, that EMU game also saw the school honor McGraw with an on-court post-game celebration for her 500th win, capped by a visit from her 19-year-old son, Murphy, who secretly drove four hours from his college campus at Indiana University in Bloomington to surprise his mother with a bouquet of flowers and the game ball from her milestone win.
Keeping It Close To Home
Although Notre Dame has traditionally had a national reputation in recruiting circles, in recent seasons, the Irish have found their strongest talent comes from right in their own backyard. In fact, of the 13 players on this year’s Notre Dame roster, four are from Indiana, while five others are from states that border Indiana (including sophomore forward Erica Solomon, who lived in Oak Park, Mich., and graduated from Detroit Country Day School in 2008 before her family moved back to her birthplace of Charleston, W.Va., this past summer).
What’s more, of the five current Notre Dame starters, four are from the state of Indiana — senior guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis), junior forward Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso) and the all-South Bend backcourt of senior guard Melissa Lechlitner and freshman guard Skylar Diggins — while the fifth starter (fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader) is from Bartlett, Ill., located right outside Chicago.
As if that weren’t enough, the quartet of Barlow, Lechlitner, Bruszewski and Schrader have been mainstays in the Irish lineup for the past two seasons and have a combined total of 325 career starts between them.
Schrader reached a personal milestone on Dec. 12 against Valparaiso, becoming the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career. Schrader now is fifth in school history with 117 career starts, and had a streak of 73 in a row from Jan. 16, 2008-Feb. 14, 2010 (sixth-best in school history) before missing the Feb. 16 game at St. John’s with an ankle injury.
For the first time in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001, while the current Irish senior quartet is closing in on 10th place (127) in that category (Lechlitner at 124, Barlow and Williamson at 123, Schrader at 121).
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 11th in school history with 1,432 career points, while Schrader is 14th with 1,358 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 945 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.
Lechlitner Named Second-Team Academic All-District
Senior guard/tri-captain Melissa Lechlitner has been named to the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V Second Team, it was announced Feb. 4 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
It’s the first time Lechlitner has earned the award, and she is the first Fighting Irish player to garner academic all-district status since 2006, when former Notre Dame point guard Megan Duffy received her second consecutive district award and parlayed that into first-team Academic All-America honors. What’s more, Lechlitner becomes the eighth Fighting Irish women’s basketball player in the past 12 seasons to be an academic all-district selection.
Lechlitner currently maintains a 3.377 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in the College of Arts and Letters, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She earned dean’s list honors in the spring of 2007 with a 3.75 semester GPA, and is coming off a stellar fall 2009 term that saw her post a 3.583 GPA. In addition, she is a three-time BIG EAST Conference All-Academic Team selection and is a prime candidate to make that squad once again this year.
Pomp And Circumstance
On Jan. 3, senior center Erica Williamson received her bachelor’s degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. Williamson, who also serves as the president of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), graduated a full semester early and has begun graduate studies this spring.
With Williamson collecting her diploma, all 58 Notre Dame women’s basketball student-athletes who have completed their athletic and academic eligibility under head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present) have earned their degrees.
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic — a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women’s Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
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 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.
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.
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 (14 pts/11 asst).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 185-17 (.916) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 113 of their last 124 such contests.
Notre Dame has led at the break in 22 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 206-14 (.936) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including an 11-0 record this season.
…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 137-4 (.972) 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.
This season, Notre Dame is 14-0 when it scores at least 80 points, including four games when it topped the 90-point mark.
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 187 of their last 211 games (.886) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 106-17 (.862) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former 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 83 of their last 90 non-BIG EAST contests (.922) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the seven 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 former Joyce Center, posting a 337-85 (.799) 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 was 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. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
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 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through 14 home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,643 fans per game, putting the Irish more than 800 fans ahead of their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted 11 sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Feb. 22, when the Irish drew 9,149 fans to Purcell Pavilion for their win over Marquette — it also was the fifth women’s basketball sellout since the renovated arena opened this fall (the other capacity crowds coming on Dec. 31 vs. No. 18/16 Vanderbilt, Jan. 24 vs. No. 16/11 West Virginia, Feb. 6 vs. Pittsburgh and Feb. 14 vs. DePaul), setting a new school record for sellouts in one season (Notre Dame had two each in 2000-01 and 2007-08).
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 18 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. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
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 160 televised games, including 107 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.
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 2010 McDonald’s All-American 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.
Irish Signee Kayla McBride Named McDonald’s All-American
Notre Dame incoming freshman guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) is one of 24 student-athletes who have been named to the 2010 McDonald’s Girls’ High School All-America Team, it was announced Feb. 11. With the selection, McBride will compete for the East team in the McDonald’s High School All-America Game, which is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on March 31 and will be televised live to a national cable audience by ESPNU from Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
“This is an incredible honor and we are so proud of Kayla,” Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She put in so much time and effort during the off-season to improve her game, and it’s such a thrill to see that kind of hard work and dedication pay off. We’re looking forward to following Kayla throughout the rest of her high school career, and excited to have her joining us next season.”
The 5-foot-11 McBride is the sixth future Notre Dame women’s basketball player, and third in four seasons, to earn McDonald’s High School All-America recognition since the girls’ team was first created in 2002. Other incoming Fighting Irish cagers who played in the McDonald’s game have included Courtney LaVere (2002), Crystal Erwin (2003), and a trio of current Notre Dame players — Lindsay Schrader (2005), Devereaux Peters (2007) and Skylar Diggins (2009). Diggins shared Most Valuable Player honors at last year’s McDonald’s game in Coral Gables, Fla., after collecting a game-high 18 points, five rebounds and three steals for the East team in a 69-68 loss to the West squad.
McBride, who also earned a spot on the ESPN Hoopgurlz All-Star Team that likewise was released Feb. 11, has been ranked as one of the top 25 players in the nation in the Class of 2010 by both ESPN Hoopgurlz (20th) and All-Star Girls Report (22nd). She recently became the all-time scoring leader in Villa Maria Academy history and has helped VMA — the defending Pennsylvania Class AA state champion — to a No. 1 ranking in the state in Class AA. The Victors also have been ranked among the top 15 teams in the East Region by several national media outlets this year.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It’s year three of Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 18 times, including wins this year over Indianapolis, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IPFW, Valparaiso, Charlotte and DePaul.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac” baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger — junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “SID has too much time on his hands”), 10 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including nine current members of the Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 18 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, six on free throws, and three on three-pointers.
Notre Dame Lends A Hand For Haiti Earthquake Relief
Fundraising efforts held in conjunction with two University of Notre Dame home basketball games have resulted in more than $250,000 in donations that will go toward relief efforts in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit the island nation on Jan. 12.
Through the generosity of fans and alumni, as well as contributions from the University and the Notre Dame Monogram Club, the money was raised at the men’s and women’s basketball games that were played Jan. 23 and 24, respectively, at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame donated full gate receipts and net concession revenue from both games to the relief effort. In addition, a collection organized by the Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) — led by president and current Irish women’s basketball senior center Erica Williamson, as well as baseball player Ryan Connolly and rower Emily Crosby — raised more than $25,000 from fans and alumni who contributed during the games. The Monogram Club added a $10,000 matching gift to the student total.
Money raised will benefit short-term needs and long-term rebuilding efforts in Haiti and will be distributed to the Notre Dame Haiti Program, which works to eradicate the debilitating mosquito-borne disease lymphatic filariasis; the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has served in Haiti since 1944 and was heavily affected by the earthquake; and Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.
Next Game: TBA (BIG EAST Championship)
Notre Dame opens postseason play next weekend at the BIG EAST Conference Championship, to be held for the seventh consecutive year at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
The Irish have already locked up a first-round tournament bye and would earn a second-round bye (and a top-four seed) with a victory over Connecticut or a St. John’s loss at Pittsburgh on Monday night.
The final tournament seeds and pairings will be announced by the BIG EAST office late Monday evening and will be posted on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, as soon as possible following the announcement.
— ND —