Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Big East Season Reaches Halfway Point As No. 24 Irish Face West Wirginia

Jan. 31, 2003

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(#24 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-7, 3-4) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (11-6, 0-6)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, at 5 p.m. EST.

The Site: Joyce Center (11,418) in Notre Dame, Ind.

The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires (play-by-play) and Shanele Stires (analysis). These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics website at

Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics are available for the West Virginia game via the Notre Dame ( athletics website.

Websites: Notre Dame (, West Virginia (

The race for postseason position heats up on Saturday as No. 24 Notre Dame opens the critical month of February with a 5 p.m. (EST) contest against West Virginia at the Joyce Center. It will mark the midway point of the 2003 BIG EAST Conference season for the Irish, who have found the league road to be a bumpy one through the first four weeks of competition.

Notre Dame was dealt another setback on Wednesday evening, as No. 25 Boston College rallied from a five-point second-half deficit to register a 76-48 win at Conte Forum. The Irish actually led by as many as nine points in the first half and after falling behind early in the second stanza, they clawed back to within 51-43 with nine minutes remaining. However, the Eagles scored 25 of the final 30 points in the contest and wound up shooting 58 percent in the final 20 minutes to record the victory.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast registered her sixth double-double of the season at BC, carding 17 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for the Irish. Senior guard Alicia Ratay added a season-high nine rebounds for the second straight game.

West Virginia (11-6, 0-6) lost for the sixth time in its last seven games on Wednesday, falling 54-50 at home to Seton Hall. Junior guard Kate Bulger led three Mountaineers in double figures with 14 points, and junior forward Michelle Carter piled up her second double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Bulger leads WVU in scoring (15.5 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.478), tops in the BIG EAST in the latter category. Carter logs a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game for the Mountaineers, good for 10th in the league.

Mike Carey is in his second year as the head coach at WVU with a 25-20 (.556) record. He is 0-2 in his coaching career against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame’s latest ascension to college basketball’s summit already is underway, thanks in large part to the nine returning monogram winners and three starters back from last season’s 20-10 club. Of the nine veterans back in the fold, only two are seniors, providing head coach Muffet McGraw with a rich blend of stability and experience upon which to build her next title contender.

McGraw now is in her 16th season at Notre Dame with a 353-134 (.725) record (441-175, .716 in 21 years overall) that includes 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament bids, four trips to the Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 national championship. Along the way, she has groomed seven All-Americans, 17 all-conference selections (including 10 first-team picks), seven players who have gone on to play professional basketball in the United States, and three USA Basketball National Team players (who have won a total of six medals). In addition, 15 of her former players and/or assistants currently are coaching at the high school or college level, including five collegiate head coaches. She also has been a master recruiter, attracting seven consecutive top 20 classes, including this year’s freshman class, which was ranked eighth in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. McGraw coached the 600th game of her career on Nov. 29, a 69-57 win at USC, and she earned her 350th victory at Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve at Marquette, joining Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to win 350 games at Notre Dame.

Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters received numerous preseason accolades. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (10.1 ppg., 4.1 rpg., .435 3FG%, .894 FT%) is a two-time Associated Press All-American and she is a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection this year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has seen her name sprinkled liberally througout the Notre Dame record book, including marks for scoring (6th, 1,556 points), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .475) and free throw percentage (1st, .872). In the latter two categories, Ratay’s shooting numbers would be good enough to place her among the top 10 in NCAA history, and her three-point ratio would be the best in NCAA annals. She has led the Irish in scoring four times this season, including a game-high 20-point effort (6-8 FG, season-high 5-6 3FG) vs. IPFW. Ratay also tallied the 1,500th point of her career Jan. 8 at West Virginia, becoming the sixth player in school history to reach that milestone. She also carded a season-high nine rebounds at Villanova and gave the Irish the lead for good on a jumper with 48 seconds to play.

In addition, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (team-high 15.3 ppg., team-high 8.0 rpg., 2.2 apg., 1.4 bpg., 2.0 spg, six double-doubles) on the list of 30 candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding player. Batteast is the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year after turning in one of the finest rookie seasons in school history. Like Ratay, she also was a preseason first-team all-conference choice this year. Batteast has scored in double figures in 16 games this season, including three 20-point efforts. She also nearly posted a triple-double in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Cleveland State, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. She did notch her first double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds at USC. Batteast also contributed a season-best 24 points (10-15 FG) at Arizona State and added her second double-double (18 points, game-high 10 rebounds) vs. Colorado State. She tacked on her third double-double at Marquette, posting a game-high 23 points (career-best 11-17 FG) and 11 rebounds, and notched her fourth double-dip vs. Miami (12 points, 11 rebounds). Batteast tallied her fifth double-double at St. John’s, matching her season high with 24 points and 11 rebounds. She then compiled her sixth double-double at Boston College with 17 points and a season-best 13 rebounds.

Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (9.1 ppg., 3.7 rpg., team-high 3.7 apg., 2.0 spg., .485 FG%), who quickly has developed into one of the top point guards in the BIG EAST. Last season, the speedy Severe capably filled the large shoes left by the graduation of All-American Niele Ivey, setting career highs in virtually every statistical category. Severe has evolved into a scoring threat for the Irish this year, scoring in double figures in nine games after cracking double digits only seven times in her first two years at Notre Dame. She canned all three of her three-point attempts vs. Cleveland State and scored 15 points at Valparaiso, knocking down a career-best 11-14 FT. Severe chalked up 20 points (5-5 FG, 10-11 FT) and a season-high six assists at Marquette, before adding 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists vs. Purdue. However, her best all-around performance may have come at West Virginia, when she tallied a career-high 21 points (6-9 FG, 8-9 FT) along with six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Severe’s status is questionable for the West Virginia game after she suffered an injured left shoulder at Boston College.

Severe is backstopped by freshman Megan Duffy (2.3 ppg., 2.5 apg.), a crafty lefthander with a commanding floor presence and a smooth outside jumper. Duffy dished out a game-high seven assists at Arizona State, the most by an Irish rookie since Ratay’s seven handouts against Butler on Dec. 1, 1999. She also scored a season-high six points at Marquette, hitting the first two three-pointers of her career. Duffy added a game-high six assists at St. John’s and had a team-high five assists vs. Connecticut. She made her first career start at Villanova, dishing out three assists, and she also started at Boston College, playing a season-high 37 minutes.

At the other guard position, sophomore Kelsey Wicks (2.8 ppg., 2.6 rpg.) offers a unique mix of outside shooting ability and toughness in the paint. The 6-2 native of Gillette, Wyo., connected at a 33-percent clip from the three-point line as a freshman, and she showed no fear in playing some of the nation’s elite teams, scoring in double figures on the road at Connecticut and Tennessee. She scored a season-high 12 points against Temple, her third career double-digit game and best-ever outing at home. Wicks also was strong on the glass at St. John’s, collecting a season-high eight rebounds. However, she sat out the Villanova and Boston College games with a foot injury and is questionable for the West Virginia matchup.

Senior walk-on Karen Swanson (1.0 ppg., 0.2 spg.), junior Jeneka Joyce and sophomore Jill Krause (0.4 ppg., 0.3 rpg.) also will be counted on for support at the guard positions. Swanson tied her career high with five points vs. Cleveland State, while Krause has seen action in 11 games, grabbing a career-high three rebounds vs. IPFW and canning her first career three-pointer vs. Tennessee. Meanwhile, Joyce is out indefinitely while recovering from a myriad of leg injuries suffered during her career.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton (7.8 ppg., 4.7 rpg., team-high .606 FG%) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (7.6 ppg., 4.3 rpg., .454 FG%) have teamed up with Batteast to produce a formidable front line for Notre Dame this season. The 6-3 Borton turned in a solid performance in Notre Dame’s season opener, hitting her first six shots and finishing with 18 points. She also set new career highs with 11 rebounds and four assists vs. IPFW, and later added 14 points and a career-best four blocked shots against Tennessee. She also piled up a team-high 13 points vs. Miami and tossed in a season-best 19 points (8-11 FG) at St. John’s. Borton has been solid thus far in BIG EAST games, posting a sparkling .667 field goal percentage (24-36). At the same time, Flecky is widely considered to be the most improved player on the Notre Dame roster, after logging 10 points per game during her team’s tour of Europe last May. She displayed her improvement in the season opener, tallying a career-high 22 points and game-best eight rebounds vs. Cleveland State. Her five double-figure games this season already have topped her total (three) from all of last year. Flecky has seen limited action over the last six weeks due to a lingering back injury that forced her to miss the Marquette and St. John’s games.

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (13.1 ppg., 6.9 rpg., .509 FG%, five double-doubles) also is seeing significant playing time on the blocks for the Irish this season. LaVere was a consensus prep All-American as a senior at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, all while shooting 57 percent from the field. The potential the 6-3 LaVere brings to the table was noticed by one national media outlet prior to the season, as the website Women’s College named the Irish rookie one of its “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact.” LaVere wasted little time in living up to that billing, coming off the bench to card 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists vs. Cleveland State. It was the highest scoring output by a Notre Dame freshman in her debut since Ratay’s 18-point night vs. Toledo in 1999. She also rang up game highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds against No. 5 Tennessee.

LaVere has been playing extremely well of late, averaging 15.5 ppg. and 8.6 rpg. over the last 10 contests. In that time, she has amassed four double-doubles against Marquette (16 points, game-high 12 rebounds), Purdue (game highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds), St. John’s (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Villanova (20 points, season-high 12 rebounds). She also scored in double figures eight times with three 20-point outings. She also tied her career best with 23 points and added nine rebounds (both game highs) vs. Rutgers.

Notre Dame and West Virginia had never met prior to the 1995-96 season, when both schools joined the BIG EAST Conference. Since then, the Irish have won all 10 meetings with the Mountaineers, including five previous engagements at the Joyce Center.

Saturday’s game is the second of two matchups between Notre Dame and West Virginia this season. Back on Jan. 8, the Irish defeated the Mountaineers, 66-59, at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. Junior guard Le’Tania Severe tossed in a career-high 21 points, including four clutch free throws in the final half-minute as Notre Dame rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to win the BIG EAST opener for both teams. Severe also chalked up six rebounds and five assists in the victory. Senior guard Alicia Ratay chipped in with 14 points and became the sixth player in school history to score 1,500 points with her three-point field goal midway through the second half. Kate Bulger scored a game-high 22 points and nailed six of 10 three-point attempts for West Virginia.

The last time the two teams met at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame registered a 72-63 victory on Feb. 19, 2002. Despite missing the services of BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Jacqueline Batteast (knee injury), the 22nd-ranked Irish got solid play out of two holdovers from the 2001 national championship team. Ratay pumped in a season-high 31 points (including 11-of-13 free throws) and forward Ericka Haney added 15 points for Notre Dame, which led by eight (34-26) at the half. The Mountaineers closed the gap to three points twice in the second half, the last coming at 59-56 with 4:42 to play. However, Ratay drilled a three-pointer on the next possession, added an old-fashioned three-point play moments later, and the Irish made 8-of-9 free throws down the stretch to hold off a pesky WVU club. Bulger led four Mountaineers in double figures with 17 points.

The rebirth of the West Virginia women’s basketball program was taken to a new level this season, as the Mountaineers jumped out to a school-record 10-0 start. However, WVU has fallen on hard times since the start of BIG EAST Conference play, going 0-6 against league foes with only a non-conference win vs. Marshall on its 2003 ledger. Nevertheless, this year’s 11-6 record comes less than two years after West Virginia finished with a 5-22 mark and missed out on the BIG EAST Conference Tournament all together.

The Mountaineers lost for the sixth time in seven games Wednesday night, falling at home to Seton Hall, 54-50. WVU trailed by seven at halftime, but rallied to take a three-point lead twice in the secon d half. However, poor shooting doomed the Mountaineers, who went scoreless for nearly four minutes while allowing Seton Hall to take the lead for good. West Virginia got as close as 51-50 in the final minute, and had a chance to tie the game after a Pirate free throw, but sophomore Yolanda Paige saw her driving layup fall off the rim with 15 seconds to play.

Junior guard Kate Bulger led three Mountaineers with 14 points, but she shot an uncharacteristic 5-of-13 from the field. Junior forward Michelle Carter added her second double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, and sophomore forward Latitia Williams contributed 10 points for WVU, which has lost five of its six BIG EAST games by 10 points or less.

The Mountaineers have displayed a balanced offensive attack this season with three players scoring in double figures. Bulger leads the way at 15.5 points per game, good for 11th in the BIG EAST. She also is a superb perimeter shooter, leading the conference with a .478 three-point percentage (44-92).

Junior guard Sherell Sowho is second on the WVU roster in scoring at 12.5 ppg., and she is shooting 49.7 percent from the floor. Carter is third at 11.2 ppg., along with a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game (10th in the BIG EAST). In addition, the Mountaineers have been piloted by one of the top point guards in the conference in Paige, who is dishing out 7.59 assists per game, tops in the BIG EAST and among the top five in the nation.

The architect of the resurrection in Morgantown is second-year head coach Mike Carey, who owns a 25-20 (.556) record at WVU. Prior to taking over as the Mountaineers’ skipper, Carey spent 13 seasons as the head men’s basketball coach at Salem International University in Salem, W.Va., amassing a 288-102 (.738) record with the Division II Tigers. He has faced Notre Dame twice in his coaching career, losing a 72-63 decision last season at the Joyce Center in addition to this year’s earlier defeat.


  • West Virginia is one of five BIG EAST Conference opponents against whom Notre Dame has never lost, going 10-0 all-time against the Mountaineers. The others are Pittsburgh (11-0), Providence (10-0), St. John’s (12-0) and Virginia Tech (4-0).
  • WVU is one of eight conference foes who has never won at the Joyce Center, going winless in five previous trips to South Bend. The others are Boston College (0-5), Georgetown (0-7), Pittsburgh (0-5), Providence (0-5), St. John’s (0-5), Syracuse (0-7) and Virginia Tech (0-2).
  • Notre Dame have scored at least 70 points against West Virginia in nine of the 10 games in the series, only missing the mark in the first meeting this season (a 66-59 win). Conversely, the Mountaineers have reached the 70-point plateau just twice against Notre Dame.
  • The Irish have scored 100 points in a game twice against WVU, making the Mountaineers the only BIG EAST opponent to see Notre Dame crack triple digits more than once.
  • Three games in the series have been decided by less than 10 points, including the last two (ND 86-78 on Jan. 14, 1998, ND 72-63 on Feb. 19, 2002, and ND 66-59 on Jan. 8, 2003) with the Irish winning all 10 series games by an average margin of 20 points.
  • From 1999-2001, West Virginia director of basketball operations Aukse Harris was an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth, where she served under former Notre Dame assistant coach and seventh-year VCU head coach David Glass.

Notre Dame and West Virginia have faced just two common opponents this season < boston=”” college=”” and=”” villanova=””>< with=”” the=”” irish=”” holding=”” a=”” 1-1=”” record=”” and=”” the=”” mountaineers=”” an=”” 0-2=”” mark=”” against=”” this=”” duo.=””>


  • The Irish will snap a four-game losing streak at the Joyce Center, the longest in school history.
  • Notre Dame will extend its series winning streak against WVU to 11 games, making the Mountaineers one of six opponents on this year’s schedule against whom the Irish currently have a double-digit winning streak (others are Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John’s and Seton Hall).
  • The Irish will raise their all-time regular-season BIG EAST Conference record to 106-22 (.828), the best mark in league history.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 354-134 (.725) in 16 seasons, and her overall ledger will jump to 442-175 (.716) in 21 years.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 518-233 (.690) in 26 seasons of varsity competition.

Junior G Jeneka Joyce leg injuries, out indefinitely
Junior G Le’Tania Severe sprained shoulder vs. Boston College, questionable
Sophomore G Kelsey Wicks soft tissue injury – foot, questionable (DNP last two games)

Notre Dame played the 750th game in the program’s history Wednesday night at Boston College. The Irish have an all-time record of 517-233 (.689) in 26 seasons of varsity competition. Included in that record are 17 20-win seasons (13 under current head coach Muffet McGraw), nine NCAA Tournament appearances, four trips to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 NCAA championship. However, what may be most impressive about Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program is the fact that the Irish have had exactly two losing seasons (1980-81 and 1991-92) in their first 25 years of existence!

Notre Dame is winding down a difficult six-week stretch in its schedule. Beginning Dec. 23 vs. Colorado State and ending Feb. 5 vs. Georgetown, the Irish are playing 11 of 13 games against teams that have been ranked or receiving votes in one or both of the major national polls. That run is highlighted by five games against Top 25 opposition, including a recently-concluded stretch of three consecutive contests against nationally-ranked opponents (Connecticut, Villanova and Boston College).

The West Virginia game is the 12th contest in this rugged mid-season docket, with Notre Dame holding a 5-6 record in this stretch to date.

The free throw line has been a very friendly place for Notre Dame this season. The Irish rank second in the BIG EAST Conference with a .743 free throw percentage, a far cry from their .673 mark last season which was the lowest ratio in 15 years. Notre Dame has shot 75 percent or better at the charity stripe nine times this season, highlighted by its 95-percent efficiency rate (19-20) Jan. 14 at St. John’s. That was the highest free throw percentage by an Irish squad since Dec. 1, 1993, when Notre Dame connected at a school-record .960 clip (24-25) in a win over Marquette.

Leading the Irish assault from the line has been senior guard Alicia Ratay, who leads the BIG EAST and ranks 12th in the nation with an .894 free throw percentage. That should come as no surprise, because Ratay ranks sixth in NCAA history with an .872 career free throw ratio (320-367). However, Ratay is one of four Notre Dame players who are shooting 75 percent or better at the stripe this year < junior=”” guard=””>Le’Tania Severe is second at .831 (3rd in the BIG EAST), followed by sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (.776, 10th in the BIG EAST) and sophomore guard Kelsey Wicks (.765). Severe’s free throw percentage has been perhaps the most pleasant development for the Irish < coming=”” into=”” this=”” season,=”” she=”” owned=”” a=”” .651=”” career=”” free=”” throw=”” percentage.=””>

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere added to Notre Dame’s free throw resurgence on Jan. 25 with her 12-for-16 performance from the charity stripe at Villanova. Her 12 made free throws were an Irish freshman record and tied for the fifth-highest total in school history. In addition, her 16 free throw attempts matched the fourth-highest single-game mark in the Notre Dame record book.

In a surprising reversal of fortune this season, Notre Dame has had more success on the road than at home. The Irish are 7-3 this year on hostile ground (7-2 road, 0-1 neutral), compared to a 4-4 record at the Joyce Center. That’s a far cry from last season’s road woes when Notre Dame lost its first five games outside the Joyce Center and finished with a 7-9 record in road/neutral site games. Conversely, the Irish went 13-1 at home last year, winning their first 13 games at the Joyce Center before a season-ending three-point loss to Villanova.

The Irish have won 13 of their last 18 regular-season games outside the Joyce Center, including 11 of their last 14. Of those last 14 games in hostile territory, the only blemishes on that record came earlier this season with losses to three teams that either are ranked or receiving votes in one or both of the current major national polls < depaul,=”” no.=”” 4/4=”” tennessee=”” (neutral=”” site)=”” and=”” no.=”” rv/25=”” boston=”” college.=””>

Notre Dame is 105-22 (.827) in regular-season competition against the rest of BIG EAST Conference, owning the best conference winning percentage of any current member of the BIG EAST since joining the circuit for the 1995-96 campaign. The Irish also have won 61 of their last 73 regular-season conference games, and claimed a share of their first-ever BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2001. When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 117-29 (.801) against league opponents < when=”” factoring=”” in=”” these=”” 19=”” postseason=”” tilts,=”” the=”” irish=”” are=”” 56-7=”” (.889)=”” at=”” home,=”” 49-18=”” (.731)=”” on=”” the=”” road=”” and=”” 12-7=”” (.632)=”” at=”” neutral=”” sites=”” all-time=”” against=”” big=”” east=”” foes.=””>

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the 500th point of her career on Dec. 31 at Marquette. She now has 634 points in only 44 career games (14.4 ppg.), making her the fourth-fastest player to reach the 500-point mark in school history. A total of 13 players have scored their 500th point in less than two seasons at Notre Dame, although only five have done so in less than 40 career games (including Batteast and senior guard Alicia Ratay, who did it in 35 games).

The Irish posted their largest comeback in more than a year when they rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to knock off previously unbeaten West Virginia, 66-59, on Jan. 8 in Morgantown. Notre Dame trailed 33-22 at the half and fell into a deeper hole when Mountaineer guard Kate Bulger nailed a three-point field goal on her team’s first possession of the second half. However, the Irish answered with a 16-2 run over the next 3:43 to tie the game and eventually take the victory.

The WVU win was the biggest comeback for Notre Dame since it set a NCAA Final Four record by erasing a 16-point deficit in a 90-75 win over Connecticut on March 30, 2001 in St. Louis. The victory over the Mountaineers also marked the fourth time in the last three years the Irish have won after trailing by double digits. In addition to the UConn game, Notre Dame rallied from 12 points down to defeat Purdue in the 2001 NCAA championship game, and the Irish also came back from a pair of 10-point deficits to win at Seton Hall on Feb. 2, 2002.

With a 75-68 Irish win at Marquette on New Year’s Eve, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw joined Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to collect 350 victories at the school. McGraw is 353-134 (.725) in 16 seasons at Notre Dame, while Phelps posted a 393-197 (.666) mark in 20 years at the helm of the Irish men’s basketball program.

In addition, McGraw has the third-highest winning percentage of any basketball coach at Notre Dame (men’s or women’s) with at least five years of service, and her .725 ratio is the best by any coach in the last 60 years. Only men’s coaches Bertram G. Maris (.794 from 1907-12) and George Keogan (.771 from 1923-43) have had more success at Notre Dame over an extended period than McGraw.

Three times this season, Notre Dame has been involved in some hair-raising finishes. The Irish pulled out narrow victories over Colorado State (46-45) and Villanova (58-56), but came up just short against Rutgers (64-61). However, a close game shouldn’t come as any surprise to Notre Dame fans. Over the last three seasons, the Irish have played 14 games that were decided by five points or less, evenly splitting those contests. The Colorado State nail-biter was the first one-point win for Notre Dame since a 63-62 squeaker over Villanova on Dec. 12, 1998 at the Joyce Center.

During the 16-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw, the Irish have posted a 33-39 (.458) record in games decided by five points or less, including a 15-13 (.536) mark since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.

Notre Dame has benefited this season from a well-balanced offense, one which has seen at least three players score in double figures in 14 of 18 games (and 10 of 11 wins). In addition, the Irish have had four players reach double digits in six games this season (Cleveland State, USC, Valparaiso, Arizona State, Temple, Miami) and had five double-figure scorers on four occasions (Cleveland State, USC, Temple, Miami). The last time Notre Dame had five double-figure scorers four times in the same year was 2000-01, when the Irish turned the trick vs. Fordham, Connecticut (twice) and Alcorn State.

As you might expect, Notre Dame has three players averaging in double figures for the season. Sophomore forward and Naismith Award candidate Jacqueline Batteast has been the pacesetter at 15.3 ppg., followed by freshman forward Courtney LaVere, who has surged over the six weeks to average 13.1 points per game. Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Alicia Ratay is third at 10.1 ppg. this season. Junior guard Le’Tania Severe is nearly scoring in double figures as well, currently averaging 9.1 ppg.

Junior guard Le’Tania Severe has evolved into a major contributor at both ends of the floor for Notre Dame this season. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., product leads the Irish and ranks among the leaders in the BIG EAST Conference in assists (13th, 3.67 apg.) and steals (12th, 2.0 spg.). However, she also has displayed a nose for the basket, ranking fourth on the team with 9.1 points per game, nearly doubling her career scoring average of 4.6 ppg. entering this season. In addition, Severe has scored in double figures nine times this year (including a career-high 21 points at West Virginia), after reaching double digits seven times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

Despite having to adjust to the faster college game, not to mention the unfamiliar winter weather of South Bend, freshman forward Courtney LaVere has made a significant impact in her first season at Notre Dame. The Ventura, Calif., native ranks second on the team and in the top 20 in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (20th, 13.1 ppg.), rebounding (12th, 6.9 rpg.) and blocked shots (10th, 1.11 bpg.). In addition, she has five double-doubles to her credit, with three of her double-dips coming against top-10 opponents (No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Purdue and No. 20 Villanova).

LaVere began the season in fine fashion, coming off the bench to score 18 points in Notre Dame’s 107-65 rout of Cleveland State. That was the highest-scoring debut for an Irish freshman since current senior guard Alicia Ratay tallied 18 points at Toledo in 1999. As it turned out, that would be just the beginning for LaVere, who has scored in double figures seven times and earned game-high scoring honors three times this season.

Beginning with the first game after Christmas (vs. Tennessee), LaVere is averaging 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. That run includes eight double-figure scoring games, three 20-point affairs and four double-doubles. Among her top performances over that time have been a 16-point/12-rebound afternoon at Marquette (Dec. 31), a 23-point/10-rebound outing vs. Purdue (Jan. 4), a 19-point/10-rebound evening at St. John’s (Jan. 14), a 23-point/nine-rebound day vs. Rutgers (Jan. 18) and a 20-point/12-rebound effort at Villanova (Jan. 25).

Twice this season, senior guard Alicia Ratay has added chapters to her ever-growing legend at Notre Dame. On Dec. 23, she buried two free throws with 9.3 seconds left to defeat Colorado State, 46-45. It wasn’t the first time the Lake Zurich, Ill., product had stepped up in the clutch. Then, just over a month later on Jan. 25 at No. 20 Villanova, she canned a jumper in the lane with 48 seconds remaining to break a 53-53 tie and propel the Irish to the victory.

Late-game heroics have been nothing new for Ratay, who has been tough in the clutch ever since her freshman season. As a rookie playing at No. 8 Rutgers in 2000, Ratay set a BIG EAST Conference record by going 7-for-7 from three-point range, including two treys in the final 16 seconds of the contest with the Irish trailing by six. She went on to finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds as Notre Dame pulled out a 78-74 overtime win.

Last season, Ratay nearly topped herself in the BIG EAST Tournament quarterfinals vs. Syracuse. With the Irish trailing by 16 points and only 3:52 left, Ratay scored 17 of the next 19 Notre Dame points, including nine in a span of 18 seconds, to single-handedly spark a 19-5 run that pulled her team within 81-79 with 18 seconds remaining. However, Syracuse finally forced a Ratay miss and hit three free throws to save the victory.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay reached a milestone at Valparaiso, becoming the 10th player in school history to start 100 career games. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native now has started 115 of 116 games for Notre Dame (including the last 57 in a row), yielding her starting spot to Imani Dunbar for Senior Night in 2001 (vs. Georgetown). With her next start, Ratay will tie Karen Robinson (1987-91) for third place on Notre Dame’s career games started list. Ratay is presently nine starts away from the school record of 124, currently held by Ruth Riley. At her current pace, Ratay would break Riley’s mark by the time the BIG EAST Championship rolls around in early March.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay is on the threshold of several other career milestones in 2002-03. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native reached her first landmark at Valparaiso, becoming the fifth player in school history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in her career. She also is the second Irish player in three seasons to attain that feat, following Kelley Siemon, who completed the hat trick when she scored her 1,000th point in Notre Dame’s NCAA championship game win over Purdue in 2001. The others in this elite group are Beth Morgan (1993-97), current Irish assistant coach Letitia Bowen (1991-95) and Trena Keys (1982-86). Ratay currently has 1,556 points, 582 rebounds and 224 assists, becoming the sixth Irish player to score 1,500 points with 14 points at West Virginia Jan. 8.

Ratay also is 17 three-point field goals away from tying the Notre Dame career record of 249, currently held by Sheila McMillen (1995-99). With two treys at Boston College, Ratay moved past Morgan into second place on that list with 232 triples. Ratay averaged more than 70 three-pointers per season during her first three years at Notre Dame.

Two other milestones also are within Ratay’s reach. She ranks sixth on the Irish all-time scoring list with 1,556 points, but she needs only 33 counters to move into the top five on that chart, catching Keys (1,589 from 1982-86). Karen Robinson (1987-91) is fourth on that list at 1,590 points. In addition, Ratay has been one of the most durable players in school history, appearing in all 116 Irish games in her career and starting all but one (2001 Senior Night vs. Georgetown). She can break the Notre Dame career records for starts and games played with another 10 starts and 17 games played this season.

Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.872) and three-point field goal (.475) percentages, records which would rank among the top 10 in NCAA history. In fact, if her career ended today, Ratay’s three-point percentage would stand as the best in women’s college basketball history, and her free throw ratio would be sixth in NCAA annals. For a complete rundown of Ratay’s place in the Notre Dame and national record books, please see the charts in the page 9 sidebar.

Notre Dame earned 53 votes in the latest Associated Press poll, marking the 12th consecutive week that the Irish have been ranked or receiving votes in the AP Top 25 this season. Notre Dame was in the top 25 for the first 10 weeks of the season, and the Irish have spent 56 weeks in the top 10 in the 26-year history of the program (two weeks in 1996-97, 16 in 1998-99, 15 in 1999-2000, 18 in 2000-01 and five in 2002-03).

Notre Dame has been extremely successful at home when playing as a ranked team. The Irish are 72-7 (.911) all-time at the Joyce Center when they appear in the AP poll at tipoff, including 46 wins in their last 51 games and a 4-4 mark this season.

The Irish are ranked 24th in the most recent ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, marking their 12th consecutive week in that survey. Notre Dame spent two weeks in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today poll earlier this season, marking its first foray into the top 10 since finishing No. 1 after winning the 2001 NCAA championship. That top ranking also capped a string of 52 consecutive weeks in the coaches’ top 10 for the Irish, who were in the poll’s upper division continuously from Nov. 22, 1998-April 2, 2001.

Five of Notre Dame’s 2002-03 opponents are currently ranked in one or both major polls (No. 2/2 Connecticut, No. 4/4 Tennessee, No. 10/9 Purdue, No. 20/21 Villanova and No. rv/25 Boston College). In addition, five other Notre Dame opponents were receiving votes in one or both of the major polls last week < depaul,=”” georgetown,=”” miami,=”” rutgers=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech.=””>

Irish teams have turned in exceptional performances during the 2002 fall sports season. All six of Notre Dame’s fall sports (football, volleyball, men’s/women’s soccer, men’s/women’s cross country) qualified for postseason play, headlined by a third-place finish for the women’s cross country squad at the NCAA Championships, an NCAA quarterfinal finish for the women’s soccer team, and a Gator Bowl berth and No. 9 BCS ranking for the football team. In fact, Notre Dame was the only school in the nation to have all six of those fall sports qualify for the postseason.

Thanks to its successful finishes in the fall, Notre Dame moved into third place in the latest NACDA Directors’ Cup standings (see sidebar on page 11).

Senior guard Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) were named preseason candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award, which is presented annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Naismith Awards program, now in its 35th year, honors the outstanding male and female college basketball players in the United States. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.

For Ratay, this year’s selection to the Naismith Preseason Watch List was her third in as many seasons. The senior guard is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and ranks sixth on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,556 points. She also ranks among the top 10 in NCAA history in career three-point (.475) and free throw percentage (.872), and she is on the verge of breaking the school record for career three-point field goals made, needing just 17 treys to match Sheila McMillen’s total of 249 from 1995-99.

Last season, Ratay was a first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection after finishing third in the conference in scoring at 15.4 points per game. She also averaged a career-high 5.5 rebounds per game and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record 88.2 percent of her charities. Ratay started every game for the Irish last season and has played in every Notre Dame game in her career, starting 115 of a possible 116 contests to date.

Batteast was named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America pick after averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in her rookie season at Notre Dame. The sophomore forward ranked second in the BIG EAST in rebounding and double-doubles (11) and fifth in blocked shots (1.38 bpg.), earning second-team all-conference honors along the way. She also was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and was a six-time conference Rookie of the Week in 2001-02. Batteast was one of only four sophomores to be named to the 2002-03 Naismith Preseason Watch List.

Notre Dame was one of five schools to have more than one women’s basketball player named to the Naismith Award Watch List, joining Duke, Kansas State, LSU and Tennessee in that select group.

Notre Dame has won 171 games over the last seven seasons, which stands as the sixth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

Over the last three seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 56-3 (.949) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign (9-2 this season) when they go into the dressing room with the lead. In that span, the only times Notre Dame didn’t win with a halftime lead were Jan. 12, 2002 at Villanova (Irish took 31-25 advantage at intermission, only to see Wildcats claim last-second 60-59 victory), Jan. 18, 2003 vs. Rutgers (Notre Dame led 34-28 at half before Scarlet Knights rallied for 64-61 win), and Jan. 29, 2003 at Boston College (Irish led 25-23 at break, but BC shoots 58 percent in second half and pulls away for 76-48 triumph).

Over the last eight 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 109-2 (.982) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. The only times that notion didn’t come to pass were on Feb. 17, 2001 (Rutgers 54-53), and Feb. 26, 2002 (Villanova 48-45). Notre Dame has added seven wins to that count this season with victories over USC, Arizona State, IPFW, Colorado State, West Virginia, St. John’s and Villanova.

Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. Over the last eight seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 85-3 (.966) 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 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998. Notre Dame has added four wins to that total this year with its victories over Cleveland State, Arizona State, Temple and IPFW.

Notre Dame has two captains this season < senior=”” guard=””>Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and junior guard Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines, Fla.).They are the 34th and 35th different players to serve as captains for the Irish in the 26-year history of the program (not including the 1986-87 season, when captains were chosen on a game-by-game basis).

The 12 players on this year’s Notre Dame roster hail from nine different states, including two each from Illinois, Kansas and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Washington and Wyoming. The all-time Notre Dame roster features players from 34 different states, including 23 during the Muffet McGraw era. Ironically, the most common home state on the Irish all-time roster < michigan=”” (14)=””>< is=”” not=”” represented=”” for=”” the=”” second=”” year=”” in=”” a=”” row,=”” although=”” assistant=”” coaches=”” (and=”” former=”” notre=”” dame=”” players)=””>Coquese Washington and Letitia Bowen both are Michigan natives.

This season, Notre Dame fans are seeing a pair of jersey numbers on the floor that are a bit uncommon in Irish colors. Freshman guard Megan Duffy has chosen to wear No. 13, becoming only the second Notre Dame player since 1986 to wear those digits. Danielle Green was the last to sport No. 13, doing so during her freshman season (1995-96). Prior to Green, no Irish player had worn that number since Trena Keys (1982-86).

In addition, freshman forward Courtney LaVere is wearing No. 41 this season, a number which has been modeled just once before by an Irish player. Imani Dunbar had that jersey number throughout her Notre Dame career from 1997-2001.

For the first time in its eight-year affiliation with the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame was picked to finish first in the league’s preseason coaches poll that was released Oct. 24 at BIG EAST Media Day. The Irish shared top billing with defending national champion Connecticut, with each team earning seven first-place votes and 161 total points in the balloting. Boston College (143 points), Villanova (128 points) and Virginia Tech (110 points) round out the top five.

Individually, Notre Dame was the only school to place two players on the preseason all-BIG EAST first team. Senior guard Alicia Ratay earned Associated Press honorable mention All-America honors for the second time in her career last season, and was a first-team all-conference selection. She is the top returning scorer for the Irish, averaging 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in ’01-02. She also led the BIG EAST and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record .882 from the charity stripe. Ratay also was named one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award, her third selection in as many seasons. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast also was recognized by the conference coaches after being named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association National Freshman of the Year. The South Bend native averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, and was a unanimous selection as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. She also registered 11 double-doubles (second in the conference) and was a second-team all-league selection, the only freshman to make an all-BIG EAST squad in ’01-02. In addition, Batteast was a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America selection last year and like Ratay, she was chosen as one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay was selected as one of 30 candidates for the second annual Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s senior Player of the Year by the Senior CLASS Organizing Committee. Ratay is one of three BIG EAST Conference student-athletes on the list of Senior CLASS Award “Players to Watch,” joining Villanova’s Trish Juhline and Brianne Stepherson of Boston College. Connecticut guard Sue Bird received the inaugural award last year.

Ratay is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection last season. She ranks sixth in school history with 1,556 points and is among the top perimeter shooters in the country, connecting at a school-record .475 clip from behind the three-point line in her career. She also has made a school-record 87.2 percent of her free throws at Notre Dame, and both her free throw and three-point percentages would rank among the top 10 in NCAA history.

Ratay also is an exemplary student, owning a 3.483 cumulative grade-point average while pursuing a double major in psychology and education. She has been named to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team each of the last three years, and she has garnered Dean’s List honors three times.

The Senior CLASS Award < the=”” acronym=”” stands=”” for=”” celebrating=”” loyalty=”” and=”” achievement=”” for=”” staying=”” in=”” school=””>< is=”” based=”” on=”” a=”” number=”” of=”” factors,=”” the=”” most=”” important=”” being=”” that=”” the=”” recipient=”” must=”” have=”” exhausted=”” their=”” four=”” years=”” of=”” eligibility=”” and=”” have=”” fulfilled=”” their=”” commitment=”” to=”” their=”” respective=”” university.=”” in=”” addition,=”” the=”” recipient=”” must=”” be=”” working=”” toward=”” their=”” degree,=”” be=”” in=”” good=”” academic=”” standing=”” and=”” be=”” of=”” sound=”” moral=”” character.=”” the=”” award=”” was=”” developed=”” last=”” season=”” in=”” response=”” to=”” the=”” recent=”” trend=”” of=”” college=”” basketball=”” players=”” leaving=”” early=”” to=”” turn=”” professional.=””>

The performances of the 30 ?Players to Watch? will be tracked during the season, and from that pool of players, a group of 10 finalists will be selected by a national committee of sportscasters and sportswriters that cover Division I college basketball. The finalists then will appear on the official ballot which will be voted upon in March by the national media committee and Division I college basketball coaches. The winner will be announced during the Women’s Final Four April 6-8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Courtney LaVere was a consensus All-America selection and one of the top 25 prep players in the country following her senior season at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif. One media outlet believes LaVere will continue that success in her initial campaign at Notre Dame. Women’s College chose the 6-3 freshman forward as one its “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact” for the 2002-03 season.

LaVere joins the Irish after averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during her senior season. She finished her high school career with 1,897 points (second in school history), 1,029 rebounds (third in school history) and 303 blocks (first in school history). She also holds school single-game records for points (45) and blocks (9), as well as BHS single-season marks for points (741), scoring average (26.5) and blocks (99). LaVere was named the 1999 California Freshman of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, and she helped lead Buena to the top spot in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings for much of the 2000-01 season.

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 80 of their last 87 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak from 1998-2002. Notre Dame also has a 56-7 (.889) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

Notre Dame also owned a 33-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center (dating back more than six years) before it was snapped Jan. 4 with a loss to No. 7 Purdue. This streak included victories over a trio of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke in 1998-99 and Purdue in 2000-01), as well as No. 19 Illinois in ’98-99. Prior to the Purdue loss, Notre Dame’s last non-conference defeat at home came way back on Dec. 9, 1996, when 19th-ranked Wisconsin toppled the Irish, 81-69.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center. The Irish own a 243-70 (.776) record at the venerable facility. In both the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. Also, since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame is 93-9 (.912) at the Joyce Center.

For the third consecutive season, Notre Dame is ranked among the top 10 in the nation in attendance, according to the latest unofficial rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office. The Irish have averaged 7,311 fans for eight home games this season, placing them seventh in the country (through games of Jan. 26). Notre Dame also drew the fifth-largest crowd in school history on Jan. 4 for its nationally-televised game with Purdue, attracting 9,483 fans to the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame averaged a school-record 7,825 fans for their 14 home games last season, good for eighth in the final NCAA attendance rankings. The 2001-02 season also saw Notre Dame register 13 of the top 20 crowds in school history, including a gathering of 9,676 fans, the third-largest in school annals, for a 60-44 win over 16th-ranked Boston College.

Furthermore, all of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 16-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present). And, as more evidence of Notre Dame’s rapid elevation to “hot ticket” status in South Bend, 19 of the top 20 crowds in school history have been recorded in the last four seasons.

Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2002-03 is no exception. The Irish will play no less than 14 teams that qualified for postseason play last year, including nine NCAA Tournament teams (highlighted by defending national champion Connecticut and Final Four participant Tennessee). In addition, six opponents (Arizona State, Connecticut, Purdue, Temple, Tennessee and Valparaiso) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conference. Furthermore, 17 of the 24 Irish opponents finished with records of .500 or better last season, including 10 squads that posted 20-win campaigns.

Notre Dame is getting a good deal of face time in 2002-03, playing on television at least seven times, including nationally-televised contests against Arizona State (Dec. 7 on Fox Sports Net), Purdue (Jan. 4 on CBS) and Connecticut (Jan. 20 on ESPN2). In addition, Notre Dame appears three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Miami (Jan. 11, noon ET) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 25, noon ET) and Virginia Tech (Feb. 9, 2 p.m. ET). All three of those games may be telecast in South Bend on WHME-TV on a tape-delayed basis as part of the league’s TV deal. WHME-TV also broadcast the Irish game at DePaul (Dec. 11) live from Chicago.

Besides the regular-season conference television deal, the BIG EAST semifinals on March 10 also will be aired on BIG EAST TV, while the conference title game on March 11 will air live on ESPN2.

The Irish are 2-4 on TV this year, defeating Arizona State and Villanova, but falling to DePaul, Purdue, Miami and Connecticut.

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game will air on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and WDND sports director Sean Stires is now in his third season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics website ( by subscribing to Fighting Irish Pass, which gives listeners full access to a variety of Irish events on radio for only $6.95 per month.

Muffet McGraw’s half-hour, weekly television show is produced by LeSea Broadcasting and hosted by Bob Nagle. The show, now in its fifth season, is carried by WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and will air at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturdays through the completion of the 2002-03 season. The show also is available via satellite (Galaxy 6, Transponder 15) each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (EST), and may be seen on LeSea Broadcasting stations in Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Tulsa (check local listings).

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Jan. 7 the addition of 5-10 junior non-scholarship guard Anne Weese (first name pronounced Annie) to the 2002-03 Irish roster.

Weese spent the last two seasons at Seward County (Kan.) Community College, helping the Saints to a combined record of 71-1 and the 2002 NJCAA national championship. She averaged 4.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game during her two-year junior college career. Weese also was a starter on the Saints’ 38-0 national championship squad.

University of Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 14 that two of the nation’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2003. Crystal Erwin, a 6-2 forward from St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and Susie Powers, a 5-11 guard from Highlands Ranch High School in Denver, Colo., will join the Irish for the 2003-04 campaign.

Erwin has averaged 22.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game during her three-year prep career at St. Paul. She holds the school records for career points (2,084) and rebounds (1,324), as well as single-season points (869) with one year still to play for the Swordsmen. Ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report, Erwin was named to the 2002-03 USA Today Preseason Super 25 Team, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s All-America pick, earning third-team honors last season. She also has been named to all-star teams at the adidas Top Ten Camp each of the last two years and she was a member of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team this past summer. Erwin is the second California native in as many seasons to commit to the Irish, following current Notre Dame freshman Courtney LaVere.

Powers averaged 11.5 points and 6.8 assists per game last season for perennial national power Highlands Ranch High School, which won its third consecutive Colorado Class 5A title last season and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the campaign according to the USA Today Super 25 poll. Powers was ranked as high as 12th in the nation by the Greg Swaim Basketball Report, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-America selection. She also was Erwin’s teammate on the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team in the summer of 2002. In addition to Erwin, Powers will have some familiarity with another Irish player — she played with sophomore forward Katy Flecky at Highlands Ranch in 2000, helping lead the Falcons to the first of their three straight state championships.

With the addition of Erwin and Powers, Notre Dame has its seventh consecutive top 20 recruiting class, according to Blue Star Basketball, which rated the newest Irish signees 16th in the nation.

University of Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw was one of seven people inducted into the Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) University Athletics Hall of Fame Nov. 16 in Philadelphia. McGraw was a standout point guard for Saint Joseph’s during its first four years of varsity competition, serving as team captain during her final two seasons (1975-76 and 1976-77). She helped lead the Hawks to an 18-3 record as a junior and a third-place finish in the AIAW Eastern Regional Tournament. A year later, she guided SJU to a 23-5 record, a sixth-place finish at the AIAW National Tournament, and a No. 3 national ranking in the Associated Press poll, the highest year-end poll finish in school history. She also set the Saint Joseph’s single-season record for steals with 102 during the 1976-77 campaign.

McGraw graduated from SJU in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She played one season for the California Dreams in the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) before beginning her college coaching career as an assistant coach at her alma mater from 1980-82. Following five successful seasons at Lehigh (1983-87), McGraw was named the head coach at Notre Dame, a position she has held ever since.

Now in her 16th year with the Irish, McGraw has posted a stellar 353-134 (.725) record (441-175, .716 overall in 21 years), guiding Notre Dame to 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament berths, four Sweet Sixteen visits, two Final Fours and the 2001 NCAA title. The 2001 Naismith and AP National Coach of the Year, McGraw also is a member of the SJU Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame.

When she’s not diligently working with the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, assistant coach Coquese Washington spends the offseason playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). A six-year veteran point guard, Washington guided the Indiana Fever to their first-ever playoff berth this past summer, following her midseason trade from the Houston Comets.

During the course of the 2002-03 college basketball season, will feature regular interviews and chat sessions with Washington. Readers will get an inside look at how she successfully handles the challenges of being a collegiate assistant, while also remaining prepared for the next professional basketball season.

Last May, the Irish embarked on a 12-day tour of Italy and France, going 3-1 in a four-game series against Italian professional teams. Among the Notre Dame victories was an 82-76 conquest of 14-time Italian First Division champion Pool Comense 1872, which had won its latest league title only two weeks prior to playing the Irish.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast and sophomore guard Kelsey Wicks shared team-high scoring honors on the tour, averaging 14.8 points per game during the series. Batteast, the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year, also registered two double-doubles and carded 11.3 rebounds per game while in Europe.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton collected team-high rebounding laurels, averaging 12.3 boards per contest. She also posted double-figure rebounding totals in three of four games, finishing with nine caroms in her other outing. Like Batteast, she averaged a double-double, adding 10 points per night.

All told, five Irish players scored in double figures while in Europe < the=”” aforementioned=”” trio,=”” along=”” with=”” junior=”” guard=””>Le’Tania Severe (13.5 ppg.) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (10.0 ppg.). As a team, Notre Dame averaged 79.5 points and 51.3 rebounds per game during the trip.

Notre Dame will remain at home this week, playing host to Georgetown in a 7 p.m. (EST) game Wednesday at the Joyce Center. It will mark the only meeting between the Irish and Hoyas this season, with Notre Dame holding a sizeable 16-1 edge in the all-time series (7-0 at home).

Georgetown is 11-6 this season (2-4 in the BIG EAST Conference) entering its matchup at Seton Hall on Saturday. Like West Virginia, the Hoyas bolted from the gate, winning 11 of their first 13 games. However, they have found the waters a bit rougher in conference play, losing their last four contests, all by double-digit margins. Most recently, Georgetown suffered a 91-72 loss to Pittsburgh last Wednesday night in Washington. Sophomore sharpshooter Mary Lisicky pumped in six three-point field goals and wound up with a game-high 27 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Besides Lisicky, the second-rated three-point shooter in the conference, GU has been led by junior forward Rebekkah Brunson, the 2000-01 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. Brunson is third in the league in scoring (17.9 ppg.) and first in rebounding (11.5 rpg.), and her 10 double-doubles are second in the loop.

Georgetown’s visit to the Joyce Center also will mark the return of former Irish assistant coach Patrick Knapp, who is now in his 17th season piloting the Hoyas. Prior to beginning his 20-year head coaching career at New Mexico State, Knapp spent three seasons at Notre Dame (1980-83), working on the staff of former Irish skipper Mary DiStanislao.

Here’s where the Irish players and team stand in the most recent NCAA statistics report (through games of Jan. 27) and BIG EAST Conference statistics reports (through games of Jan. 30):