Jan. 14, 2015
2014-15 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 18
#7/7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-2 / 3-1 ACC) vs. #12/10 North Carolina Tar Heels (15-2 / 2-1 ACC)
DATE: Jan. 15, 2015
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
AT: Chapel Hill, N.C. – Carmichael Arena (6,822)
SERIES: ND leads 3-1
1ST MTG: ND 99-86 (12/4/99)
LAST MTG: ND 100-75 (2/27/14)
TV: ACC-Regional Sports Networks/ESPN3-WatchESPN (live) (Mike Hogewood, p-b-p / Debbie Antonelli, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: goheels.com
- Notre Dame will face its sixth ranked opponent of the season, having posted a 4-1 record against Top 25 teams to date, including a 3-0 record on the road.
- The Fighting Irish are making the second of four appearances this season on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks package, which is available in South Bend on Comcast cable systems (digital channel 101).
No. 7 Fighting Irish Face Road Test Thursday At No. 12/10 North Carolina
For the fourth time this season, No. 7 Notre Dame goes on the road to face a ranked opponent as the Fighting Irish make their first-ever visit to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Thursday night, taking on No. 12/10 North Carolina at 7 p.m. (ET) at Carmichael Arena. The game will be broadcast live on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks package, as well as via ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Notre Dame (15-2, 3-1) rebounded from its second loss of the season Sunday with a 104-58 win over Boston College at Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish shot .578 for the game, including eight of 14 from the three-point line.
Freshman forward Brianna Turner paced a balanced Notre Dame attack with a game-high 21 points, part of a 49-point day from the three-player Fighting Irish rookie class.
- Notre Dame is No. 7 in this week’s Associated Press poll and is No. 7 in this week’s WBCA/USA Today poll.
- North Carolina is No. 12 in this week’s Associated Press poll and is No. 10 in this week’s WBCA/USA Today poll.
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 7 in this week’s Associated Press poll, its 76th consecutive week in the AP Top 10.
- Notre Dame has appeared in the AP poll for 146 consecutive weeks, extending a program record that dates back to the 2007-08 preseason poll, and ranking sixth in the nation among active AP poll appearances. What’s more, every current Fighting Irish player has competed for a top-10 Notre Dame squad during her career, never ranking lower than seventh in that time (2011-12 to present).
- Notre Dame is ranked No. 7 in the latest Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today poll, after previously spending two weeks (Nov. 25 and Dec. 2) as the nation’s No. 1 team. It was the first time the Fighting Irish had been the top-ranked team in either major national poll since April 1, 2001, when they were No. 1 in the coaches’ poll following a 68-66 win over Purdue that secured the program’s first NCAA national championship.
- Notre Dame ranks among the top 25 in eight NCAA statistical categories (as of Tuesday), including five top-10 rankings — field-goal percentage (2nd – .495), scoring offense (4th – 85.4 ppg.), scoring margin (5th – +25.2 ppg.), three-point percentage (6th – .393) and assists (18.5 apg.). The Fighting Irish also rank 18th in the country in both free-throw percentage (.762) and assist/turnover ratio (1.23), and 21st in rebounding margin (+9.0 rpg.), as well as 11th in the non-statistical measure of win-loss percentage (.882).
- Notre Dame aims to continue its remarkable success at Purcell Pavilion, with the Fighting Irish owning a 410-91 (.818) all-time record in 38 seasons at the facility, including a 87-6 (.935) record since the arena was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season.
- The Fighting Irish tied the NCAA Division I record for the longest road winning streak (30 games) before the run ended Jan. 8 with a 78-63 loss at Miami.
- Senior guards Madison Cable and Whitney Holloway, and senior forward Markisha Wright have helped Notre Dame to a 122-9 (.931) record in their careers, putting them on pace to challenge last year’s senior class of Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride, who helped Notre Dame to 138 wins during their four seasons.
- Since arriving at Notre Dame in 2011-12, Cable, Holloway and Wright have paced Notre Dame to two NCAA national championship games and three NCAA Women’s Final Fours (plus three conference regular-season titles and two league tournament crowns), as well as a 45-7 record against ranked teams (18-7 against AP Top 10).
- Of the nine losses suffered by the current Fighting Irish senior class, four were decided by 13 points or less.
- With 678 victories in her 28 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw ranks second on the Fighting Irish athletics all-time coaching wins list (across all sports), trailing only men’s/women’s fencing coach Michael DeCicco (774-80 from 1962-95).
- With 766 career wins, McGraw ranks 10th in NCAA Division I coaching history. She is one of two active ACC coaches in the top 10 along with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell (second with 950 as of Thursday).
Other Notre Dame Notables
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), tied for second with 182 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in average attendance annually since 2000-01 (including top-five rankings the past five years). The Fighting Irish rank fourth in the nation (as of Tuesday), averaging 8,832 fans per game at home this season, and have drawn at least 5,000 fans to 218 of their last 220 home games (with an active streak of 61 consecutive contests with 8,000 fans), logging 44 Purcell Pavilion sellouts, including 38 since the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
- The Fighting Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as 12 Notre Dame players have been selected in the past 14 seasons. Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa were the most recent Fighting Irish players to be chosen, with McBride going to the San Antonio Stars in the first round (third overall selection) and Achonwa six picks later (No. 9 overall) to the Indiana Fever in the 2014 WNBA Draft. It marked the third consecutive year Notre Dame had a player selected No. 3 overall (Devereaux Peters went third to Minnesota in 2012 and Skylar Diggins was chosen in that same spot by Tulsa in 2013), making the Fighting Irish the second program with lottery choices in three consecutive seasons.
- Diggins was a 2014 All-WNBA First Team selection and the league’s Most Improved Player, in addition to earning the starting nod for the West at the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game. Meanwhile, McBride was chosen for the 2014 WNBA All-Rookie Team, the second Fighting Irish alumna in as many years to be selected for the squad (Diggins was picked for 2013 all-rookie honors).
- Peters earned her first WNBA Championship in 2013 with the Lynx (and fifth by a Notre Dame alumna), who defeated the Atlanta Dream (and former Fighting Irish All-American Ruth Riley) in the WNBA Finals. Riley previously had won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), while Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets and Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the 2006 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the eighth year in a row, the Fighting Irish posted a perfect 100 Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score, according to figures released by the NCAA in October. Notre Dame was one of only four schools in the previous seven years to record a perfect GSR score and play for a national championship in the same season (and the only program to do it more than once, pulling off that feat in 2011, 2012 and 2014).
The Notre Dame-North Carolina Series
Notre Dame and North Carolina will be meeting for just the fourth time (and the first time in Chapel Hill) when they square off Thursday night. The Fighting Irish hold a 3-1 series lead over the Tar Heels, with last year’s matchup between the two programs at Purcell Pavilion being the first in the series that was held on either school’s campus (following three neutral-site encounters).
The second-ranked Fighting Irish continually beat the No. 14/11 Tar Heels with back-door plays, shooting 61 percent in the first half and 51 percent for the game en route to a 100-75 victory on Feb. 27, 2014, to finish the 2013-14 regular season unbeaten at home.
McBride finished with 28 points, just three shy of the career-high scoring total she set against No. 7 Duke days earlier (also at Purcell Pavilion), and Achonwa added 24 points and eight rebounds.
Just like the win over Duke, when Notre Dame opened with a 20-2 run, the Fighting Irish took control from the start. Notre Dame forced four turnovers in two minutes to quickly take a 10-2 lead. Achonwa later scored nine points during an 11-0 run that gave Notre Dame a 31-15 lead. The Fighting Irish extended the lead to 22 when Michaela Mabrey hit a three-pointer late and led 55-38 at intermission.
The Tar Heels rallied in the second half with a 10-4 run, highlighted by a three-point play from Xylina McDaniel (who had a team-high 18 points), to cut the lead to 61-51.
However, McBride hit a jumper to spark a 6-0 spurt as the Fighting Irish regained control and eventually led by as many as 28 points down the stretch.
Other Notre Dame-North Carolina Series Tidbits
- Notre Dame is 22-2 (.917) all-time against North Carolina schools (including an active 12-game winning streak), with a 7-1 record in true road games (the lone loss being an 80-62 setback at Duke on Nov. 22, 1997).
- In its 38-year history, Notre Dame has had just two North Carolina natives on its all-time roster — Raleigh product Mary Joan Forbes (1980-81) and Charlotte resident Erica Williamson (2006-10).
- The top two high school players in the state of Indiana in 2012-13 will be in the building on Thursday. Both Notre Dame sophomore forward Taya Reimer (Fishers/Hamilton Southeastern HS) and North Carolina sophomore forward Stephanie Mavunga (Indianapolis/Brownsburg HS) earned McDonald’s and WBCA High School All-America status, with Mavunga edging out Reimer for Indiana Miss Basketball honors by a mere five votes.
- Reimer and Mavunga, along with Fighting Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen, played on the East Team at the 2013 McDonald’s High School All-America Game inside Chicago’s United Center. The East lost to the West Team (whose roster included UNC sophomore guard Jessica Washington), 92-64.
- Allen and Reimer were teammates with Washington on the 2012 USA Basketball U17 Women’s National Team that claimed the gold medal at the FIBA U17 World Championships in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Allen and Reimer comprised two-fifths of that team’s starting lineup, while Washington and Notre Dame freshman forward Brianna Turner, were key reserves as the squad went 8-0 and won by 35 points per game.
- Reimer and Mavunga were teammates on the 2011 USA Basketball U16 Women’s National Team that struck gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Merida, Mexico, winning all five games by 43.2 ppg.
- Notre Dame junior guard Jewell Loyd and North Carolina junior forward Xylina McDaniel were teammates on the West Team at the 2012 McDonald’s High School All-America Game in Chicago, but they dropped a slim 79-78 decision to the East Team (whose roster included Fighting Irish junior guard Michaela Mabrey).
- North Carolina women’s basketball athletic trainer Nicole Alexander spent five years (2008-13) as assistant athletic trainer at Notre Dame, working with the Fighting Irish softball and fencing programs.
- North Carolina director of athletics Bubba Cunningham is a “Double Domer”, having earned his bachelor’s degree from the University in 1984 and his master’s degree in 1988, while also playing on the Fighting Irish golf team from 1982-83. Cunningham later served in Notre Dame’s athletics administration from 1988-2002, notably working with the University’s athletics facilities and helping oversee the mid-1990s expansion of Notre Dame Stadium, as well as the construction of the award-winning Warren Golf Course that opened in 2000 on the north side of campus.
- North Carolina executive associate athletics director Larry Gallo was the head baseball coach at Notre Dame from 1980-87, and also served as the chair of the University’s Department of Physical Education from 1984-87.
- UNC men’s tennis head coach Brian Kalbas is a 1989 graduate of Notre Dame, where he was a four-year monogram recipient on the Fighting Irish men’s tennis team. He then served as an assistant coach with the program from 1989-92, helping Notre Dame advance to the NCAA national championship match in 1992.
- UNC associate director of compliance Tom Timmermans is a 2004 graduate of Notre Dame and was a four-year monogram recipient with the Fighting Irish men’s basketball team from 2000-04, helping Notre Dame reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2003.
- North Carolina directors of athletic ticketing Kelsey Edwards and Laura Woodward joined the UNC staff in the past year after previously serving as assistant directors in the athletics ticket office at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame’s 78-63 loss at Miami on Jan. 8 ended a school-record 38 consecutive regular season conference games, dating back to the end of its BIG EAST Conference membership and through the first two seasons of its affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Prior to the Miami loss, the Fighting Irish last dropped a conference regular season game on Feb. 12, 2012, falling 65-63 to then-BIG EAST foe West Virginia at Purcell Pavilion (on two free throws by WVU’s Brooke Hampton with 4.6 seconds left).
Notre Dame’s recent streak erased the prior school-record 33-game run from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 — that streak took place during the program’s dominant seven-year tenure as part of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now known as the Horizon League).
Despite the loss at Miami, and when factoring in postseason tournament results (league and NCAA), the Fighting Irish have won 49 of their last 52 games against conference opponents. Notre Dame’s other two losses to a league foe in the past three seasons both came at the hands of Connecticut in the 2012 BIG EAST Championship title game (63-54 in Hartford, Connecticut) and the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals (83-65 in New Orleans, Louisiana).
With Notre Dame’s 78-63 loss at Miami on Jan. 8, the Fighting Irish saw their NCAA Division I record-tying 30-game road winning streak snapped. It was an amazing string of success in hostile territory, a streak that lasted exactly three years (Jan. 4, 2012-Jan. 4, 2015) and ended with the Fighting Irish tied with Connecticut for the NCAA Division I all-time mark in that category.
Prior to the setback at Miami, the Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road on March 6, 2012, falling at No. 4 Connecticut, 63-54 in the BIG EAST Conference Championship final at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
In addition, Thursday’s loss was the first for the Fighting Irish in a regular season road game since Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 defeat at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
Notre Dame also had its streak of a school-record 25 consecutive conference road wins snapped at Miami, with the last Fighting Irish road loss in league play coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The highlight of Notre Dame’s remarkable recent road run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Connecticut, earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
Even with the Jan. 8 loss at Miami, Notre Dame still has won 39 of its last 40 (and 46 of its last 52) regular season road games.
More Streak Stats
Dating back to the start of the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame has posted a 87-5 (.946) record. In that three-year span, four of the five Fighting Irish losses have come against top-three teams — No. 3 Baylor (73-61 on Dec. 5, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion), No. 3 Connecticut (83-65 on April 7, 2013, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana), No. 1 Connecticut (79-58 on April 8, 2014, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national championship game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee) and No. 3 Connecticut (76-58 on Dec. 6, 2014, in the Jimmy V Classic at Purcell Pavilion).
The other loss came Jan. 8 with a 78-63 setback at Miami. That defeat ended Notre Dame’s 61-game winning streak against unranked opponents (in the Associated Press poll), the second-longest active run in the nation. The Fighting Irish last fell to an unranked team on Feb. 12, 2012, suffering a last-second 65-63 home loss to West Virginia (research for this note provided by STATS via the AP).
Poise Under Pressure
Notre Dame hasn’t had to deal with many close games in recent seasons, but when faced with such a challenge, the Fighting Irish have risen to the occasion.
Notre Dame has won its last 15 games decided by single digits and/or in overtime, including all three close games this season. The Fighting Irish last dropped a single-digit decision on March 6, 2012, falling 63-54 at No. 4 Connecticut in the BIG EAST Conference Tournament championship game at Hartford, Connecticut.
Visiting Century City
Notre Dame has scored at least 100 points four times this season (and posted 97 points in another), already challenging last year’s school-record mark of five triple-digit outings, erasing the 2012-13 standard of three such contests.
The Fighting Irish have piled up 12 100-point games since the start of the 2011-12 season (and nine other games of 95-99 points), a remarkable offensive explosion considering Notre Dame had 13 triple-digit games in the first 34 years of the program’s existence–and just four in the 12 seasons prior to its current run.
This season marked the first time the Fighting Irish opened with three 100-point games in their first six contests. In fact, prior to 2012-13, Notre Dame had never had more than two triple-digit outings in an entire season, something it has now done for a third consecutive campaign.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd leads the ACC and ranks 13th in the nation in scoring (as of Tuesday), thanks in part to one of the most explosive individual scoring seasons in Notre Dame women’s basketball history.
- Loyd has scored 366 points in her first 17 games this season (21.5 points per game), matching the quickest run to a “triple century” in program annals (like Loyd, Katryna Gaither scored her 300th point in her 14th game during the 1996-97 season, a 74-67 loss at Ohio State).
- Loyd is the first Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to register eight 20-point games in her first 10 outings of a season, surpassing Gaither (who had seven 20-point games in first 10 contests of 1996-97). Loyd now has 11 20-point games this season.
- Loyd is the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to register back-to-back 30-point games and for good measure, she did it against a pair of ranked opponents in No. 3 UConn (31 points) and No. 25 DePaul (school record-tying 41 points). Current Fighting Irish associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham had two 30-point games in three days on Dec. 1 and 3, 1995, in close losses to No. 12/13 Penn State (32) and No. RV/22 Texas A&M (34) at the Kona Women’s Basketball Classic in Kona, Hawaii, although there was a game between those two (Cunningham scored 23 points in a win over Washington).
- Loyd is 13th in school history with 1,503 career points in 90 career games, making her the second-quickest to 1,500 points in program history (Cunningham scored her 1,500th point at Notre Dame in her 80th career game on Feb. 21, 1996, at home against Miami).
The Model Of Consistency
Junior guard Jewell Loyd has scored in double figures in 60 consecutive games, dating back to March 11, 2013, when she had eight points in Notre Dame’s 83-59 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win over No. 16/15 Louisville at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
Loyd’s 60-game double-digit scoring streak is the second-longest in school history, surpassing Natalie Novosel’s 27-game run from March 8, 2011-Jan. 21, 2012. In fact, Loyd has scored in double figures in 78 of her 90 career games (and 10 of those 12 single-digit games saw her within one basket of double figures).
Katryna Gaither has staked a seemingly ironclad claim to the school record with a remarkable 76-game double-figure scoring streak from 1994-97.
Turner Throwing A Block Party
Freshman forward Brianna Turner has recorded 26 blocked shots in her last six games (4.3 bpg.), all since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined her for the better part of the four previous games.
Since her return on Dec. 21 against Saint Joseph’s (Pa.), the Pearland, Texas, native has logged at least five blocks in four games, including a career-high seven rejections at No. 21/22 Syracuse on Jan. 4.
Turner’s 22 blocks from Dec. 21-Jan. 4 were the most by a Notre Dame player in a four-game span since Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 1998, when Ruth Riley had 22 blocks against No. 6/4 Duke, No. 25/23 Illinois, San Francisco and Toledo.
For the season, Turner ranks fourth in the ACC and 25th in the nation at 2.6 blocks per game.
Achonwa, Fighting Irish Lend A Hand To Help Ailing Staffer
Although it’s been nearly a year since Natalie Achonwa last put on the Notre Dame uniform, the 2014 graduate continues to selflessly give back to her alma mater.
Achonwa is in her first year as an operations specialist on the Fighting Irish coaching staff, having assumed that post last June. A first-round selection by the Indiana Fever in the 2014 WNBA Draft, Achonwa currently lives in South Bend and commutes regularly to Indianapolis while continuing rehabilitation of her left knee following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament last spring (the injury occurred in Notre Dame’s NCAA Elite Eight win over Baylor on March 31, 2014, at Purcell Pavilion).
In her current role, Achonwa oversees the program’s travel plans, social media outlets and other day-to-day office operations, helping to fill the void left by fellow operations specialist Katie Schwab, who has been hospitalized the past seven months following complications related to her Type I diabetes.
The Notre Dame women’s basketball program and several of Schwab’s supporters within and outside the University have banded together to hold several fundraisers to help defray some of Schwab’s medical expenses. The most notable of these fundraisers came in August, when the group (known informally as “Team Katie”) generated approximately $21,000 through a live and silent auction at the legendary Linebacker Lounge (across from the Notre Dame campus), as well as through online donations.
Notre Dame also held its first Diabetes Awareness Day on Nov. 23 prior to the Fighting Irish win over Holy Cross at Purcell Pavilion, and the team has been active with the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDRF), including participation in its annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes on Sept. 14, 2014, in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana.
Schwab’s family continues to provide regular updates on her condition through the CaringBridge web site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katieschwab.
Next trip down the floor, Turner took another high pass from Jewell Loyd for the alley-oop layup as the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish jumped to a quick 7-0 lead against Boston College. Turner scored two more baskets on lob passes from teammates in the opening six minutes and she finished with 21 points during a 104-58 rout of the Eagles on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
It wasn’t just Turner, though. Kathryn Westbeld, another freshman, matched her season-high with 15 points and four other Notre Dame players finished in double figures as the Fighting Irish outscored Boston College 52-12 in the paint and outshot the Eagles 58 percent to 33 percent.
Notre Dame (15-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hadn’t been dominant in recent games, needing to rally from nine points down to beat Florida State 74-68, trailed late in the first half against Syracuse and trailed by as many as 22 before losing to Miami 78-63.
Emilee Daley led Boston College with 12 points as the Eagles were held to a season-low in points. Ashley Kelsick added 11. Kelly Hughes, Boston College’s leading scorer at 15.7 points a game, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with nine points.
Beyond The Box Score: Boston College
- Notre Dame had six players score in double figures for the first time since Dec. 31, 2012, against Saint Francis (Pa.).
- In the past 20 seasons, Notre Dame is 65-14 (.823) when coming off a double-digit loss and has won its last 12 such games.
- Notre Dame tied a season high by forcing 26 turnovers, matching the total by Harvard on Nov. 24 at Purcell Pavilion.
- Boston College’s 13 three-pointers tied the Fighting Irish opponent record set twice before (Connecticut on Jan. 15, 2001, and more recently, DePaul on Jan. 17, 2006 — both games were played at Purcell Pavilion).
- Notre Dame improves to 15-5 all-time against Boston College and has won five in a row in the series, the most by either side in a rivalry that dates back to the 1983-84 season.
- During their current five-game series winning streak, the Fighting Irish have defeated the Eagles by an average of 37.4 points per game, including three wins by at least 40 points.
- Notre Dame has scored at least 82 points in its last five games against Boston College after reaching that mark once in the first 15 series games.
- The 104 points were the most ever scored by the Fighting Irish against the Eagles.
- The 46-point margin was the second-largest in the 20-game series, exceeded only by a 102-54 Notre Dame win on Nov. 23, 2008, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
- The Fighting Irish have held the Eagles to 61 points or fewer in eight of the past nine meetings, winning each time.
- The Fighting Irish are 10-0 all-time against BC at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame is 13-3 against Boston College in conference games (ACC and previously, BIG EAST) and has won its last six conference matchups between the schools.
- Notre Dame is 20-5 (.800) all-time against Massachusetts schools, including a 14-0 record at home.
- The Fighting Irish are 4-0 against Massachusetts teams this season (all at home), winning those four contests by an average of 57.3 points per game and scoring at least 100 points in three of the four outings (and 97 in the other).
- Notre Dame drew its third sellout crowd of the season (9,149), and second in as many home games, as well as the 44th women’s basketball sellout in school history.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 7 in this week’s Associated Press preseason poll, its 76th consecutive week in the top 10 of the media balloting (71 of those in the top five), dating back to the middle of the 2010-11 season and marking 146 consecutive weeks in the AP poll.
The Fighting Irish reached a milestone on Nov. 26, 2012, with their 100th consecutive AP poll appearance. It extended the program record that started with the AP preseason poll in 2007-08 (the old record was 59 consecutive weeks from 1998-2001), and it made the Fighting Irish are one of six teams in the nation with an active streak of 100 consecutive AP poll appearances.
What’s more, every current Notre Dame player has competed for a top-10 Fighting Irish squad throughout her career (69 consecutive weeks for the current senior class), spending the vast majority (64) of those appearances in the AP Top 5 (and never lower than seventh).
Notre Dame was No. 3 in the preseason AP poll, representing the 15th time in 16 years (starting with the 1999-2000 campaign) that Notre Dame has appeared in the preseason AP poll, something only five schools in the nation have done — Connecticut, Duke and Tennessee have shown up in all 16 during that span, while Stanford joins the Fighting Irish with 15 preseason AP poll berths.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 285 weeks during the program’s 38-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw is eighth among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and 16th all-time in that category.
The Fighting Irish also are No. 7 in the WBCA/USA Today coaches’ poll, after spending two weeks earlier this season as the nation’s No. 1 team (Nov. 25 and Dec. 2). It was the first time Notre Dame stood atop the rankings since April 1, 2001, following the program’s first NCAA national championship. The Fighting Irish were the first ACC team to be ranked No. 1 in either major national poll since March 12, 2007, when Duke was in that position prior to the NCAA Championship.
Notre Dame has been ranked in the coaches’ poll for 148 of the past 149 weeks (and 112 in a row), falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of the 2008-09 season. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for a total of 280 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
This marks the seventh consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the WBCA/USA Today poll, as well as 13 of the past 17 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 33 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 285 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 to No. 3 in the nation.
Of the 33 people on this list, 18 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart), with McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey the only active skippers to play for and coach a team in the AP poll, and coach that team to a national title (McGraw in 2001, Mulkey in 2005 and 2012).
Half And Half
During the past 15 seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Fighting Irish are 325-19 (.945) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 253 of their last 266 such contests (.951).
What’s more, in the past six seasons (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 162-2 (.988) when leading at the half, with the only losses coming on April 5, 2011, in the NCAA national championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (Notre Dame led Texas A&M, 35-33 at intermission before falling 76-70), and Feb. 12, 2012, against West Virginia (Fighting Irish led 33-30 at the break before the visiting Mountaineers rallied to win in the closing seconds, 65-63).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 20 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, the Fighting Irish have an amazing 301-15 (.953) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game, including a 9-0 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 20 seasons (since 1995-96), the Fighting Irish are 225-6 (.974) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are three overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and UCLA (86-83 in double OT) in 2010, as well as a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008, and a 94-81 setback at Baylor in 2011.
In the past six years (2009-10 to present), Notre Dame is 102-2 (.981) when topping the 80-point mark, including an active 69-game winning streak since a 94-81 loss at No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 20, 2011, in the Preseason WNIT title game.
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 Fighting Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 261 of their last 291 games (.897), all but one game/win at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51, 34, 25 and 20 games in that span.
Since Purcell Pavilion was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, Notre Dame is 87-6 (.935) — including wins in 63 of its last 66 games — and three of the six Fighting Irish losses in their refurbished facility have come by three points or fewer (two in overtime).
Notre Dame also has a 206-30 (.873) record in regular season conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a program-record 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to BIG EAST foe Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Fighting Irish have been especially strong when it comes to non-league home games, winning 125 of their last 135 out-of-conference home contests (.926), dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the 10 losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten 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 defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63), UCLA in 2010 (86-83 in 2OT), Baylor in 2012 (73-61) and Connecticut in 2014 (76-58). The Purdue loss snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak that began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all but one of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 410-91 (.818) record at the venerable facility, including a school-record 17 wins in both 2011-12 and 2013-14.
One Of Nation’s Toughest Cities To Play In
According to a study released by the University of Utah Athletic Media Relations Office, Notre Dame and Purcell Pavilion are among the toughest places in the nation to play. In fact, Notre Dame is one of just 11 programs in the nation to own a winning percentage of .800 or better in its home city.
Fighting Irish Are Hottest Ticket In Town
The past five seasons have seen an unprecedented surge in fan support for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as the Fighting Irish set new program records for the highest year-end NCAA attendance ranking (fourth in 2009-10 and 2013-14), highest average attendance (8,979 fans per game in 2012-13) and most sellouts in a single season (11 in 2012-13). And, as the old saying goes — “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For the sixth consecutive year, Notre Dame fans all but exhausted the program’s season ticket packages (approximately 7,500) and have snapped up single-game ducats at a rate that helped the Fighting Irish post two sellouts (Dec. 6 vs. Connecticut; Jan. 2 vs. Florida State), while several other home games are rapidly approaching sellout status.
As of Tuesday, Notre Dame ranks fourth in the nation in attendance, averaging 8,832 fans per game. That equates to 96.54 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s capacity, the highest such percentage of any team in the country (DePaul is second at 96.48 percent).
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Whitney Holloway, senior forward Markisha Wright and junior guard Michaela Mabrey are serving as Notre Dame’s team captains for the 2014-15 season. All three players received the captain’s honor for the first time in their respective careers following a preseason vote by their teammates.
This is the seventh time in 11 seasons the Fighting Irish have had a trio of captains, as well as the second year in a row (Natalie Achonwa, Ariel Braker and Kayla McBride filled the captaincy trio last season).
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
Now in its eighth season, Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion once again looks to send fans home with full bellies, offering a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in an regular season or exhibition game at Purcell Pavilion.
In the eight-year history of the promotion, Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark at home 59 times, most recently in the Jan. 11 win over Boston College.
Senior forward Markisha Wright leads all current Fighting Irish players with seven “Big Mac Baskets” apiece during her career.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “the media relations director has way too much time on his hands”), 27 different players have converted the “burger ball”, including nine current members of the Fighting Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 59 Big Mac games, 28 have been reached on two-point baskets, 18 on free throws, and 13 on three-pointers.
Next Game: Tennessee
The Fighting Irish step out of conference play one final time during the 2014-15 regular season when they welcome No. 6 Tennessee to Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m. (ET) Monday. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN2 as part of that network’s “Big Monday” package, the first of three times Notre Dame will appear on Big Monday this season.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director