Dec. 12, 2008
2008-09 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 9
#8/8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Valparaiso Crusaders (4-2 / 0-0 Horizon)
DATE: December 13, 2008
TIME: 1:35 p.m. CT
AT: Valparaiso, Ind. – Athletics-Recreation Ctr. (5,000)
SERIES: ND leads 21-0
1ST MTG: ND 48-41 (12/3/77)
LAST MTG: ND 94-56 (12/12/07)
TV: ESPN360/ESPN Full Court (Dick Harlan, p-b-p / Joe Arredondo, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
- Notre Dame and Valparaiso will be meeting for the 10th consecutive season.
- Five of the past seven games in the series have been decided by 10 points or fewer, including each of the past three at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
No. 8 Irish Look To Rebound Saturday At Valparaiso
Lessons can be learned through every twist and turn of the college basketball season, and No. 8 Notre Dame hopes to gain some valuable knowledge from its first loss of the season as it looks to rebound Saturday with a 1:35 p.m. (CT) game at Valparaiso. The game will be televised live on a regional basis by Lakeshore Public Television and the Horizon League Network, with ESPN360.com and ESPN Full Court picking up the game nationally.
The Irish (7-1) are still smarting from a 63-59 overtime loss at Michigan on Wednesday night. Notre Dame led by four points in the final minute of regulation, only to see the Wolverines send the game to an extra period, where the Irish had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final 17 seconds of overtime, but couldn’t convert.
Junior guard Ashley Barlow returned to action after a two-game injury hiatus and came off the bench to lead Notre Dame with 14 points, five rebounds and four steals. Collectively, the Irish shot .456 from the field, but were plagued by a season-high 23 turnovers.
- Notre Dame is ranked eighth in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls.
- Valparaiso is not ranked.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Following two seasons of impressive growth and development, Notre Dame has constructed a firm foundation upon which to build its next championship contender. The Irish enter the 2008-09 season on the heels of a seventh trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a highly-competitive effort in that regional semifinal that has players, coaches and followers optimistic that even greater success may be on the horizon.
Notre Dame has three starters and seven monogram winners returning this season from a squad that ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense (8th – 76.2 ppg) and scoring margin (10th – +14.6 ppg) a year ago. The Irish also have many of the pieces back from the ’07-08 club that led the BIG EAST in steals for the second consecutive year (school-record 397, 11.68 per game) and forced an opponent-record 737 turnovers.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Notre Dame’s present upward mobility has coincided with the arrival of its current junior class, including guards and co-captains Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner. Barlow earned honorable mention all-BIG EAST status last year and is the team’s top returning scorer (12.1 ppg), while also setting the defensive tone with a team-high 68 steals last season. Meanwhile, Lechlitner (5.5 ppg, 2.6 apg) assumes the mantle of leadership from the point guard position after two consistent years as a reliable understudy to Tulyah Gaines.
The Irish also should benefit from the veteran experience and guidance of senior guard and co-captain Lindsay Schrader, who joined Barlow on last year’s BIG EAST honorable mention squad after logging 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. She earned similar status this fall in preseason voting by the conference coaches and gives Notre Dame a unique blend of toughness and determination that has become the common thread running through the team’s recent resurgence.
The Irish sophomore class proved to be an exceptional complement to their predecessors last season, led by forward Devereaux Peters (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg), who was a BIG EAST All-Freshman Team choice despite missing the final 11 games of the year with a knee injury. Guard Brittany Mallory (6.3 ppg, 34 3FG) joined Peters on the conference’s all-rookie squad, while forward Becca Bruszewski (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg) may be the team’s most improved player heading into this season after a scintillating three-game NCAA Tournament performance that included a season-high 16 points against both SMU and Tennessee.
Potent Notables About The Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 12 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 299 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past eight seasons. This year, the program has averaged 7,504 fans for its first four home games. The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 114 of their last 116 home games, including six Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
- The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past eight 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. Allen, Megan Duffy (New York) and Ruth Riley (San Antonio) all were active in the league during the ’08 season, with all three teams making the playoffs (San Antonio made the WNBA Finals, while New York was the Eastern Conference runner-up). Three of Notre Dame’s eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the ’06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the third year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2008. Notre Dame also was one of only four teams with a perfect ’07 GSR to advance to the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 (joining Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate).
A Quick Look At Valparaiso
With all five starters and 11 letterwinners returning this season, it’s no wonder Valparaiso (4-2) has emerged as a genuine giant killer on the college basketball landscape. The Crusaders already have taken down Florida State and No. 23/21 Purdue, the latter victory marking the first over a ranked opponent in school history.
In Wednesday’s 71-60 win over the Boilermakers, senior guard Agnieszka Kulaga chalked up team highs of 17 points and eight rebounds, while senior forward Aimee Litka added 13 points and seven rebounds. Valparaiso did major damage at the foul line as well, going 30-of-39 from the stripe, including 12-of-13 in the final two and a half minutes.
Kulaga is the Crusaders’ top scorer (20.5 ppg.) and shooter (.547 FG%), while Litka is second in scoring (14.7 ppg.) and rebounding (6.0 rpg.), while leading the Horizon League with a .475 three-point percentage.
Head coach Keith Freeman is in his 15th season at Valparaiso with a 247-170 (.592) record. He’s in his 21st season overall with a 376-217 (.634) mark. Freeman is 0-11 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Valparaiso Series
Notre Dame and Valparaiso will meet for the 22nd time in a series that dates back to the true genesis of the Irish women’s basketball program on Dec. 3, 1977. Notre Dame has won each of the previoous 21 matchups, including all nine at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The two schools will be facing each other for the 10th consecutive season, matching Purdue for the longest active continuous non-conference series on the Irish schedule.
The Last Time ND and Valparaiso Met
Ashley Barlow scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half and No. 17 Notre Dame forced 27 turnovers en route to its seventh straight victory, 94-56 over Valparaiso on Dec. 12, 2007, at the Joyce Center.
A year earlier, the Irish needed a last-second free throw to beat Valparaiso. This time, though, the game was over early as the Crusaders couldn’t handle Notre Dame’s pressing defense. Notre Dame forced 16 turnovers in the first half, leading to 19 Irish points.
Back-to-back plays summed up the kind of night it was for the two teams. Agnieszka Kulaga, Valparaiso’s leading scorer, took a 10-foot jumper that rolled twice around the rim and appeared as though it would fall in, but spun out instead. The Irish took the ball down the other end and Melissa Lechlitner took a 14-foot baseline jumper that bounced hard off the back of the rim, off the front of the rim and fell in. The basket was part of a 14-2 run that gave the Irish a 23-8 lead.
The Irish followed that moments later with a 15-2 run to move ahead 40-15. Notre Dame shot 58 percent in the first half and led 47-22 at intermission.
Other ND-Valparaiso Series Tidbits
- Notre Dame’s 21-0 record against Valparaiso represents the most victories against one opponent without a loss in school history.
- The Irish have held the Crusaders to 60 points or fewer in 19 of 21 series matchups. Conversely, Notre Dame has scored at least 60 points in 14 of 21 meetings, including 12 of the past 14 games.
- The series has tightened considerably in recent years, with five of the past seven games decided by 10 points or fewer. In addition, the past three games at Valparaiso’s Athletics-Recreation Center (ARC) have seen margins of 10 points or fewer, with the most recent visit on Dec. 19, 2006, going Notre Dame’s way by a slim 60-59 score (on a free throw by Breona Gray with 1.2 seconds remaining).
- Last year’s 94-56 Irish win in South Bend was an anomaly in the series, with the 38-point margin being the largest for Notre Dame over Valparaiso since Dec. 17, 1995 (90-44 at the Joyce Center).
- Notre Dame’s 21 wins over Valparaiso are the most victories for the Irish against an Indiana opponent. Another Horizon League member, Butler, is second on that list, as Notre Dame is 19-6 all-time against the Bulldogs (but have not faced BU since 1999).
- Valparaiso holds a special place in Notre Dame women’s basketball history as the first-ever opponent for the Irish as a varsity-level program on Dec. 3, 1977 (a 48-41 Notre Dame win at the Joyce Center). It was the start of three seasons the Irish spent as an AIAW Division III entity before elevating to Division I in 1980-81.
- Notre Dame sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski is a native of Valparaiso and graduated from nearby Wheeler High School in 2007. She is Porter County’s all-time leading scorer (1,808 points) and holds 11 school/county records, while earning Indiana All-Star status in 2007 and winding up as second runner-up for Indiana Miss Basketball honors.
- Notre Dame junior guard Melissa Lechlitner and Valparaiso senior forward Aimee Litka were teammates at South Bend’s St. Joseph’s High School from 2002-05, helping the Indians to the ’05 Class 3A state title and a runner-up finish in ’03.
- Bruszewski, Lechlitner and Litka all developed through the Indiana Elite AAU program, which is based at Midwest Sports Academy in Mishawaka, Ind.
- Litka and Valparaiso junior forward Whitney Farris are no strangers to the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, having worked as counselors at the Irish summer basketball camps in recent years along with several of the current Notre Dame players.
- Valparaiso sophomore forward Ashley Varner is a 2007 graduate of South Bend’s Washington High School, where she was a teammate of Skylar Diggins, who recently signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning next year.
Notre Dame vs. The Horizon League
Notre Dame is 101-14 (.878) all-time against the Horizon League, including a 43-9 (.827) record on the road.
As a former member of the Horizon League (back when it was known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference from 1988-95), the Irish have extensive experience against several of its members. In addition, Notre Dame and Valparaiso were regular opponents long before the Crusaders joined the league from the Mid-Continent Conference last year.
Valparaiso is the first of a pair of Horizon League opponents for the Irish, with those games bookending the Notre Dame exam break. After a week off for finals, the Irish will play host to Loyola-Chicago Dec. 20 at the Joyce Center.
Piping Hot Turnovers
After forcing an opponent-record 737 turnovers (21.7 per game) last season, Notre Dame is at it again early this year, causing 182 turnovers (22.8 per game) in its first eight outings.
The majority of those turnovers have come via Irish steals, with Notre Dame registering 93 thefts (11.6 per game) after leading the BIG EAST Conference in that category each of the past two seasons.
Notre Dame has found its shooting eye from the three-point line this season, connecting at a .436 clip from distance (41-of-94) and hitting at least five triples in five of the past seven games. The Irish currenty rank second in the BIG EAST and sixth in the country (as of Monday) in three-point efficiency.
Notre Dame was particularly prolific from the arc in a four-game stretch from Nov. 19-29, making a combined 29 treys in that span (seven each in wins over Evansville and Boston College, six against Georgia Southern and nine vs. Michigan State).
One also has to go back seven years to find the last time Notre Dame made more than 29 combined three-pointers in a four-game span. From Nov. 21-Dec. 2, 2001, Notre Dame was lights-out from the arc at Colorado State (7), at Arizona (7), home vs. Army (10) and at a neutral site vs. Michigan (8).
The nine three-pointers and 25 attempts against MSU also were the most for Notre Dame in a single game since March 3, 2002, when the Irish went 10-for-26 from beyond the arc in an 84-79 loss to Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.
Last year, the Irish tied a school record with 10 wins by 30-or-more points. It would seem Notre Dame is intent on challenging that mark this season, having won three games this season by at least 35 points — a first in school history.
Late in November, the Irish posted two of the larger winning margins in the program’s record books, rolling to a 48-point victory at Boston College (102-54), followed by a 49-point win at home over Georgia Southern (85-36).
In fact, the only time Notre Dame logged a larger combined margin of victory in consecutive games than this past week’s 97-point spread was Nov. 24-25, 1989, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Fla., when the Irish downed Liberty (113-35) and host Central Florida (81-61) by a combined 98 points.
Spreading The Wealth
Notre Dame has seen six different players lead the team in scoring in the past six games, after junior guard Ashley Barlow was the team-high scorer in the first two outings and then again on Wednesday at Michigan. What’s more, in the past six games, five of the Irish leading scorers has registered a career-scoring high — Becca Bruszewski at Boston College (18), Brittany Mallory vs. Georgia Southern (19), Kellie Watson vs. Michigan State (18), Natalie Novosel at Eastern Michigan (18) and Melissa Lechlitner vs. Purdue (19).
For the season, 10 of the 11 players on Notre Dame roster have scored in double figures at least once, with freshman guard Fraderica Miller aiming to join that club.
Strong Out Of The Gate
At 7-0, Notre Dame got off to its best start since a similar 7-0 opening in 2004-05, a run that included winning the Preseason WNIT. It’s also matched the second-best start in school history, topped only by a 23-0 debut (and 34-2 overall record) during the program’s 2000-01 national championship season.
Three of Notre Dame’s wins this season have come against ranked opponents, marking just the second time in school history the Irish notched three Top 25 victories in their opening seven contests. In 1998-99, Notre Dame knocked off No. 6 UCLA (99-82), No. 6/4 Duke (84-57) and No. 25/23 Illinois (101-93) in its first four games on the way to a 26-5 record.
Watson Repeats As BIG EAST Freshman Of The Week
For the second consecutive week, freshman forward Kellie Watson has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Week, it was announced Monday by the conference office. Watson is the first Irish rookie to earn the award in back-to-back weeks since Katy Flecky took the honor on Feb. 18 & 25, 2002. Watson also becomes just the fifth player in program history to be chosen as BIG EAST Freshman of the Week more than once in a single season — the others are Flecky, Jacqueline Batteast (seven times in 2001-02), Alicia Ratay (six times in 1999-2000) and Ruth Riley (three times in 1997-98).
Last week, Watson averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with a .714 field goal percentage (5-of-7) and an .800 three-point percentage (4-of-5) as Notre Dame improved to 7-0 for the first time in four seasons with double-digit victories last week at Eastern Michigan and at home over No. 17/20 Purdue.
The highlight of Watson’s week came last Sunday against Notre Dame’s in-state rival Purdue, when she came off the bench to score 13 points (4-6 FG, 3-4 3FG) and snag six rebounds in a 62-51 Irish win. All three of Watson’s triples came in the final 4:17 of the first half, as she almost single-handedly flipped what had been a nine-point deficit into a one-point halftime lead. What’s more, her last trey with 38 seconds remaining in the first half put the Irish ahead for good.
Becca’s A Bruiser
Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski showed a hint of the promise to come late last season, chalking up a (then) career-high 16 points in two of her three NCAA Tournament games (first round vs. SMU, regional semifinal vs. Tennessee).
That improvement has carried over into this season, as the Valparaiso, Ind., native has earned her way into the Irish starting lineup and has not disappointed. On Nov. 19 against Evansville, she poured in a career-best 18 points, knocking down 7-of-9 shots from the field, including both of her three-point attempts. The latter statistic was particularly noteworthy, considering she was just 1-of-2 from beyond the arc during her entire freshman season.
Not to be outdone, Bruszewski matched her career high four days later on Nov. 23 at Boston College, connecting for a game-high 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
For the season, Bruszewski leads the team and ranks seventh in the BIG EAST with a .545 field goal percentage, is fourth on the team in scoring (9.3 ppg.) and steals (1.38 spg.).
The Dec. 7 home game against No. 17/20 Purdue was officially sold out, representing the sixth women’s basketball sellout (11,418 capacity) in school history and the third in the past two seasons. It also was the first time in the 22-game series between the Irish and Boilermakers that an on-campus game has sold out.
Last year, Notre Dame sold out its games against Tennessee and Connecticut, and nearly did the same for the Michigan contest, drawing 10,825 fans for that game.
A full rundown of the top crowds in Joyce Center history can be found in the sidebar on page 9 of the PDF notes package.
Notre Dame is ranked a season-high eighth in this week’s Associated Press poll, up three spots from last week’s ranking. It’s the 25th consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, who have risen into the Top 10 for the ninth time in the past 13 seasons (1996-97 through 2008-09). This week’s No. 8 position is the highest for Notre Dame since the week of Feb. 14, 2005, when the Irish were ranked fifth.
Notre Dame also has been ranked in the AP poll for 164 weeks during the program’s 32-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 stands 25th all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish earned their 25th consecutive ranking in Tuesday’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll, remaining eighth for the second consecutive week. It’s the highest ranking for Notre Dame in the coaches poll since the week of Feb. 15, 2005, when the Irish checked in at No. 7. The Irish now have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 156 weeks during its history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 people in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 164 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 13 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #8 Recap: Michigan
Stephany Skrba scored four of her 20 points in overtime to help Michigan hand No. 8 Notre Dame its first loss, 63-59 Wednesday night.
Skrba scored on two straight possessions in the extra period and the Fighting Irish (7-1) missed a pair of layups in the final seconds. The Wolverines (6-4) held Notre Dame scoreless for the final 3:24.
Michigan’s Jessica Minnfield made a spinning layup with four seconds left in regulation to tie it and stole a lob pass seconds later to ensure overtime. She added a pair of free throws in the final seconds of overtime to ice the game.
Junior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow scored 14 points to lead the Irish, who had not trailed an opponent in the second half this season.
Noting The Michigan Game
- Notre Dame played its first overtime game since March 25, 2008, when the Irish downed No. 14/13 Oklahoma, 79-75 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at West Lafayette, Ind..
- The loss at Michigan is the first for the Irish in OT since Jan. 13, 2007, when they dropped an 87-78 decision at South Florida.
- Notre Dame sees its season-opening seven-game winning streak snapped after matching the second-best start in school history.
- The Irish fall to 9-7 all-time against Michigan and also had their three-game series win streak come to an end, with the Wolverines earning their first victory over Notre Dame since Dec. 2, 2001 (78-63 at the Women’s College Basketball Showcase in Grand Rapids, Mich.).
- UM has historically had the upper hand over the Irish in Ann Arbor, improving to 5-2 all-time against Notre Dame at Crisler Arena.
- The verdict bucked a series trend that had seen the Irish go 8-0 when holding the Wolverines to fewer than 65 points.
- It was the second overtime game in the series, along with a 66-60 UM win on Dec. 8, 1979, in South Bend.
- The loss also marked just the third time in the past 31 opportunities that Notre Dame has lost after leading at halftime.
- The Irish committed a season-high 23 turnovers.
- Notre Dame’s four free throws were its fewest from the foul line since Nov. 16, 2007, when the Irish also made four foul shots at Maryland.
- Notre Dame’s six free throw attempts were its fewest in its BIG EAST Conference era (1995-96 to present) — the last time the Irish visited the free throw line so infrequently was March 10, 1995, when they went 5-of-6 in an 87-64 loss at Northern Illinois in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament semifinals.
- Barlow returned to action and scored a team-high 14 points, extending her streak of double-figure scoring games to 11 in a row, going back to last season.
- Sophomore forward Becca Bruszewski posted her third double-digit scoring night of the year.
Peters, Mallory Out For Season
Sophomores Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 season after each player suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Peters’ injury occurred in the first half of Notre Dame’s win at Boston College on Nov. 23. Meanwhile, Mallory went down in the opening minute of overtime on Dec. 10 at Michigan. Both players are expected to undergo corrective surgery in the coming weeks before beginning their respective rehabilitation programs.
Peters had played in only three games at the time of her injury, while Mallory had seen action in seven games. Thus, both players appear to meet the guidelines for the NCAA’s hardship waiver (Rule 14.2.4; sometimes informally referred to as a “medical redshirt”) that stipulates a petitioning student-athlete may not have played in more than 30 percent of a team’s scheduled number of regular-season games (Notre Dame is slated to play 28 regular-season games in 2008-09).
Both players are expected to petition for the NCAA hardship waiver. If granted, both Peters and Mallory will maintain three years of athletic eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 season.
Half And Half
During the past nine seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 152-15 (.910) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 80 of their last 89 such contests.
This season, Notre Dame is 6-1 when up at the break, doing so in its last seven games (losing only in OT at Michigan on Wednesday).
Last year, the Irish went 22-2 when they led at the break, failing only to do so in their two postseason losses (BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Pittsburgh, NCAA Oklahoma City Regional semifinal vs. Tennessee), although the UT lead marked the first time Notre Dame was up on the Lady Vols at the half in 20 series games.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 14 seasons (1995-96 to present), 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 188-12 (.940) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added four more wins to that ledger this year with wins over LSU, Boston College, Georgia Southern and Purdue.
…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 14 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 118-4 (.967) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame has scored at least 80 points in four games this year, winning each time. Last season, the Irish won 14 of 15 games when reaching the 80-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 166 of their last 187 games (.888) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 93-15 (.861) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 75 of their last 81 non-BIG EAST contests (.926) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana in 2006 (54-51) — with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 316-82 (.794) 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.
Irish Fourth In BIG EAST Preseason Poll
The Notre Dame women’s basketball team has been projected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference this season, according to a preseason vote of the league’s 16 head coaches that was announced during the 2008 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Media Day on Oct. 23 at the ESPN Zone in New York City.
The Irish collected 182 points, with Connecticut (14 first-place votes, 224 points), Rutgers (one first-place vote, 201 points) and Louisville (one first-place vote, 200 points) joining Notre Dame in the top four.
In addition, senior guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as a Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selection, one of 14 players to garner preseason all-conference status. Schrader averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game last season while scoring in double figures 21 times.
A 2008 honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection, Schrader is one of three starters and seven monogram winners back for the Irish from last year’s 25-9 club that finished fourth in the BIG EAST and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons.
Irish Have New Home On The Dial
On Aug. 27, 2008, 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 now originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Irish are heard on an FM station. 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 new 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 (UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
The new agreement includes extensive Notre Dame athletics promotion aired on a combination of the LeSEA stations.
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 as the play-by-play voice of the Irish this season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 20 regular-season games televised during the upcoming 2008-09 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are eight nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including five games on the ESPN family of networks (beginning with the Nov. 16 State Farm Tip-Off Classic win at LSU, which aired on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com) and three others on CBS College Sports.
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All 11 Irish regular-season home games that have not been selected for commercial TV coverage will air live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, via the site’s free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access.
This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 121 televised games, including 71 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Lindsay Schrader and junior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are team captains for the 2008-09 season. All three players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Irish In The Pink (Zone) All Season Long
Notre Dame is proud to be a participant in the second annual Pink Zone initiative, created by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in order to heighten breast cancer awareness and raise money for research towards finding a cure for the disease.
Throughout the 2008-09 season, the Irish will take part in several activities centered around the Pink Zone initiative, including:
- Open Practice/Tip-Off Luncheon – On Oct. 19, the Irish open the doors to one of their preseason practice sessions and allowed approximately 600 season ticket holders to watch the team prepare for the upcoming season. A luncheon with the team followed and a total of $3,311 was raised.
- Three-Point Pledge – Fans can pledge an amount to donate for every three-pointer the Irish make this season. Pledge cards are available at the Joyce Center Gate 10 marketing table prior to each home game.
- Beanie Bears/Calendars – The Irish are collecting a $5 donation for every special-edition Notre Dame women’s basketball beanie bear and team calendar sold during the season.
- T-Shirt Sales – Specially-commissioned “Irish Believe” pink t-shirts are on sale in the Hammes Bookstore and Varsity Shop on the Notre Dame campus. Proceeds from the sales of the t-shirt will go to breast cancer awareness and research.
- Brittany and Becca’s Class – Sophomores Brittany Mallory and Becca Bruszewski currently are taking a management class in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business under the guidance of Chuck Lennon, an Irish women’s basketball season ticket holder, as well as Associate Vice President for University Relations and Executive Director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association. This class has been focusing on ways to help promote and enhance the Pink Zone initiative on the Notre Dame campus and rolled out their ideas at the Dec. 7 Purdue game.
- Pink Zone Challenge – The Irish women’s basketball program has challenged some of the other top-drawing teams in the country to a friendly fund-raising competition to see which school can raise the most money for breast cancer awareness and research during the WBCA’s designated Pink Zone games (Feb. 13-22, 2009). A total of 15 schools from among the top 20 in last year’s final NCAA attendance rankings have committed for this inaugural challenge — Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, LSU, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. The school raising the most money during their specific Pink Zone game will earn the first-ever Pink Zone Challenge Trophy, to be commissioned by Notre Dame and awarded during the WBCA National Convention, to be held April 3-7, 2009, at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.
- Game Day (Feb. 8 vs. DePaul) – The Irish have selected their Feb. 8 home game against DePaul as Notre Dame’s Pink Zone game, presented by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. The Irish will take the court in white, pink and navy uniforms, specially-designed by the school’s official athletics apparel provider, adidas. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a free pink Irish t-shirt, compliments of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and pink pom-poms, balloons and posters will fill the crowd. In addition, breast cancer survivors will be recognized on the court during a special halftime ceremony. What’s more, should Notre Dame sell out this game, the Irish will donate an additional $10,000 to the Pink Zone initiative.
Proceeds from all of Notre Dame’s Pink Zone events this season will go to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, as well as three local charities — Women’s Task Force, Young Survivors Group and Secret Sisters Society. For more information on the WBCA’s Pink Zone initiative, log on to the WBCA’s official web site at www.wbca.org.
ND To Host NCAA Tourney Games in 2009
Notre Dame’s Joyce Center will serve as one of 16 host sites for first- and second-round games in this year’s NCAA Championship on March 22 & 24.
All-session tickets for this year’s NCAA Championship games at the Joyce Center are available by contacting the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
Notre Dame has played in the NCAA Championship on its home floor five times before, most recently defeating Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and Middle Tennessee in 2004 to make the program’s sixth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. All told, the Irish are 6-1 in NCAA tourney play at the Joyce Center, winning six in a row since an 81-76 first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
After a wildly-successful debut last season, Notre Dame is bringing back its “Big Mac” promotion for 2008-09, 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 game.
It hasn’t take long for the burger watch to fire back up again this year, as Notre Dame topped the 88-point mark in both its lone exhibition game (96-30 win over Gannon on Nov. 5) and its regular-season opener (96-61 win over Evansville on Nov. 19).
Last year, the Irish reached the magic number eight times, doing so in both exhibition wins, along with regular-season victories over Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Canisius, Valparaiso, Marquette and South Florida.
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 — sophomore guard Brittany Mallory, who was sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times.
This season, it’s been the Irish freshmen who have taken on the “Big Mac” mantle of responsibility, with guard Natalie Novosel doing the honors in the Gannon exhibition win and forward Erica Solomon putting Notre Dame over the top against Evansville.
Joyce Center Arena Renovation Underway
On Sept. 13, 2008, groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Purcell Pavilion, including the Joyce Center arena addition and renovation, were held to kick off the first phase of the two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing Joyce Center arena seating, including installation of chair-back seating throughout the arena, is expected to take place after the University’s Commencement Exercises in May 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010. The arena is expected to re-open by mid-October 2009, in time for the start of the basketball season and the end of the volleyball season.
The University announced in October 2007 that this $26.3 million project had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Exterior changes to the Joyce Center that began taking shape in September include a new, three-story addition on the south end of the current structure. The third floor area will include the stadium club/hospitality area. The first-floor addition will include almost 4,500 square feet for ticket offices (including four exterior and 10 interior tickets windows), 3,000 square feet for the varsity shop, as well as a completely new main entrance and lobby situated between Gates 8 and 10. The new entrance will feature graphics and theming that highlight Notre Dame’s competing athletic programs.
Changes to the interior of the Joyce Center arena include:
- New, blue chair-back seating from top to bottom of the arena, including all-new upper-arena sections. All seating will be replaced in the lower bowl (including platform seats), and the wooden bleachers in the upper bowl will be removed and replaced with treads and risers and permanent arena seats. The exchange of the bleacher sections for chair back seats will change the capacity from the current 11,418 to approximately 9,800.
- A stadium club/hospitality area (approximately 16,500 square feet) in the south end of the arena, with a separate, private entry and with premium club seating for nearly 800 fans (that figure is part of the projected 9,800 capacity). Included in this area will be food service and restroom facilities.
- New fixed concession areas, increased numbers of women’s restrooms and increased handicapped seating options.
- The interior seating changes provide an opportunity to consider new options for student seating. Students currently sit in both lower- and upper-arena sections behind the basket on the east end of the arena.
Next Game: Loyola-Chicago
Following a week off for final exams, Notre Dame will return to the hardwood Dec. 20 when it plays host to an old rival as Loyola-Chicago comes to the Joyce Center for a 2 p.m. (ET) contest. The Irish and Ramblers were members of the North Star and Midwestern Collegiate conferences in the 1980s and 1990s, but have not played since the 1994-95 season (Notre Dame’s last in the MCC before heading to the BIG EAST).
The Dec. 20 game also will be noteworthy in that it will be the 800th career game for Irish head coach Muffet McGraw (128 at Lehigh, 672 at Notre Dame).
Loyola is 4-3 this season following a narrow 68-64 home loss to DePaul on Dec. 7. The Ramblers are in the midst of their exam break and will get back to action Dec. 18 with a home game against Central Michigan.
— ND —