Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins was named the second recipient of the Woody Miller Player of the Year award (voted on by the media), as part of Tuesday's season-ending Notre Dame women's basketball banquet.

Bruszewski, Diggins Named MVPs At Women's Basketball Awards Banquet

April 12, 2011

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind./Wheeler) was selected as the recipient of the Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player Award, it was announced during the 2010-11 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Banquet on Tuesday evening at Purcell Pavilion. In addition, sophomore guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) was chosen by members of the media to receive the Woody Miller Player of the Year award, while four other Fighting Irish players received individual honors as part of the year-end celebration.

An overflow crowd of approximately 700 people was in attendance (the second-largest gathering in banquet history), as Notre Dame capped off a memorable ’10-11 season that culminated with a 31-8 record (matching the second-highest win total in program history) and a second trip to the NCAA national championship game, not to mention the school’s third NCAA Women’s Final Four appearance. The Fighting Irish also were ranked in the top 10 in both major national polls at season’s end, finishing No. 9 in the final Associated Press poll (taken before the NCAA Championship) and No. 2 in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll (taken after the completion of this year’s Women’s Final Four), registering the program’s highest finish in those surveys since its 2000-01 national championship season, when it was No. 2 in the AP poll and No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

In addition, the Fighting Irish recorded their ninth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, third 30-win campaign and eighth 25-win season, all in the past 15 years, and their 17th 20-win season in the past 18 years, not to mention their 19th consecutive winning season, 23rd in the 24-year Muffet McGraw era and 30th in the 34-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball. The Fighting Irish also ranked among the top 11 teams in the nation in seven NCAA statistical categories — field goal percentage (4th – .480), scoring margin (7th – +20.8 ppg.), steals (7th – 12.7 spg.), assists (9th – 17.2 apg.), three-point field goal percentage defense (10th – .269), rebounding margin (10th – +8.2 rpg.) and scoring offense (11th – 77.0 ppg.).

What’s more, the Fighting Irish set no fewer than 10 single-season school records — games played (39), total points (3,004), total rebounds (1,582), free throws made (667), free throws attempted (930), steals (495), opponent turnovers (864), 90-point games (8), 35-point victories (9) and 30-point wins (12). Those marks don’t even include yet another single-season attendance record, as Notre Dame finished fifth in the country in attendance this season with an average of 8,553 fans per game (surpassing the freshly-minted record of 8,377 set just last season). That represents Notre Dame’s 11th consecutive NCAA top-20 attendance ranking, and the Fighting Irish had five more sellout crowds this year (plus five others within approximately 500 fans of a sellout), giving Notre Dame 11 capacity crowds in the past two seasons alone, after having attracted a total of six sellouts in its first 32 seasons of competition.

As if that weren’t enough, the Fighting Irish stretched their active streak of consecutive appearances in the Associated Press poll to a school-record 77 weeks, and defeated eight ranked opponents, including No. 1 Connecticut (72-63 in the NCAA national semifinals on April 3 in Indianapolis), the third win over a top-ranked opponent in program history, and No. 4 Tennessee (73-59 in the NCAA Dayton Regional final on March 28 in Dayton, Ohio), becoming the first school ever to defeat those two programs in consecutive games, as well as the first to do so in the same NCAA Championship.

Other honorees at Tuesday night’s banquet (as chosen by a vote of their teammates) included: senior guard/co-captain Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh School), who garnered the team’s Defensive Player of the Year honor; junior guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic), who was tapped as the team’s Most Improved Player for the second consecutive year; and senior forward Mary Forr (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle), who took home the Spirit Award. In addition, junior guard Veronica Badway (Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel Area) was honored by the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley with this year’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award.

Each departing member of the senior class, including student managers Stephen Lauria and Brian Monson, also delivered moving speeches about their careers at Notre Dame, while a senior video tribute and the always-popular season highlight and behind-the-scenes videos capped off the evening’s festivities.

Notre Dame is expected to have four starters and 10 total players returning next season, along with a three-player freshman class that was ranked as high as seventh in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. It’s the 15th consecutive year that the Fighting Irish have attracted a top-20 recruiting class, with Notre Dame being one of only three schools in the country that holds that distinction.

Here’s a closer look at the 2010-11 Fighting Irish women’s basketball award winners:

Becca Bruszewski (Sr., F, Valparaiso, Ind./Wheeler) — Notre Dame Monogram Club MVP
As one of the captains and the true guiding light of this year’s Notre Dame squad, it was no surprise that Bruszewski was chosen as this year’s Monogram Club Most Valuable Player. A tough, physical post player who set a school record by appearing in 136 career games (of a possible 139), Bruszewski ranked fourth on the team in scoring (8.9 ppg.) and tied for second in rebounding (5.3 rpg.), while also ranking fourth in field goal percentage (.518) and winding up as one of six Fighting Irish players to nab 40 steals this season (she had a career-high 41 thefts). Bruszewski also started all 39 games this year (tying Novosel and senior forward Devereaux Peters for the most starts in one season in school history), scoring in double figures a career-high 18 times and posting a pair of double-doubles.

However, it was Bruszewski’s grit and toughness that was the hallmark of the 2010-11 Notre Dame women’s basketball season. After going to the locker room with a rib injury late in the BIG EAST semifinal win over No. 9/13 DePaul, the veteran came back to the bench for the closing moments and sent word she was available to return to action. Still ailing the next night in the conference title game at Connecticut, Bruszewski not only started, but took a charge less than three minutes into the game in the ultimate unselfish act.

This scenario would almost repeat itself three weeks later in the NCAA Dayton Regional, when Bruszewski was sidelined in the semifinal against No. 21/20 Oklahoma with a first-half knee injury. Still, she came back to the bench and tried to play through the pain by starting the second half before hobbling off after Notre Dame had the victory well in hand. A mere 48 hours later, Bruszewski took the court in the regional final against Tennessee, wearing a brace on her injured left knee, and she nearly rang up a double-double with 13 points and eight rebounds in a game-high 37 minutes as the Fighting Irish booked their third trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Thanks to that effort, Bruszewski was named to the NCAA Dayton Regional All-Tournament Team, joining Diggins and Novosel on the squad. She closed out her career with 1,148 points, ranking 22nd in school history, and she heads up a Notre Dame senior class that earned 107 career victories, second only to the 109 wins amassed by the 2000-01 seniors.

Skylar Diggins (So., G, South Bend, Ind./Washington) — Woody Miller Player of the Year (voted by media)
Diggins is the second recipient of this media-selected award (following Lindsay Schrader’s selection last year) after putting together one of the finest sophomore seasons in school history. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position this year, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring (15.0 ppg.), assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), posting career highs in all three areas. What’s more, her 585 total points and 186 total assists are the second-most ever accrued by a Notre Dame sophomore — Katryna Gaither scored 590 points in 1994-95, while Mary Gavin dished out 205 assists in 1985-86 — and her 75 steals are fourth on the Fighting Irish sophomore charts (just eight off the school record), while her 1,226 total minutes were just one shy of Beth Morgan’s school record set in 1996-97.

A State Farm Coaches’ All-America and third-team Associated Press All-America selection this year, Diggins also ranked second on the team with 32 double-digit scoring games, leading the squad in scoring 14 times and rolling up 10 20-point outings, including the last three NCAA Championship games against Tennessee (24), Connecticut (season-high 28) and Texas A&M (23). She added at least five assists in 22 different games (after having seven five-assist games her entire freshman season), capped by a career-high 12 assists against Oklahoma in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinal, the most helpers ever for a Fighting Irish player in the NCAA tournament, and most in any game since 2000.

A unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection and the NCAA Dayton Regional Most Outstanding Player, as well as being a finalist for the three major national player-of-the-year awards (State Farm Wade Trophy, John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy) and the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard), Diggins also made history in that regional final win over Tennessee, becoming just the second Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points in less than two seasons with the Fighting Irish (Morgan had exactly 1,000 points at the end of her sophomore season of 1994-95), and doing so in 72 games, tying for the fourth-fastest run to the scoring millennium in program history. Diggins currently ranks 24th on Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list with 1,069 points.

Brittany Mallory (Sr., G, Baltimore, Md./McDonogh School) — Defensive Player of the Year Award
One of the true unsung heroes during Notre Dame’s run to the 2011 NCAA national championship game, Mallory was a bulldog on defense for the Fighting Irish this season, leading the team and ranking among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in steals (2.1 spg., career-high 77 overall), despite usually drawing the assignment of the guarding the opposition’s top backcourt threat.

Embracing that challenge, Mallory held the following All-Americans or all-region players below their season scoring average — Maya Moore of Connecticut (12 pts on Feb. 19), Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown (15 pts on Jan. 18), Liz Repella of West Virginia (8 pts on Feb. 22), Shenneika Smith of St. John’s (7 pts on Jan. 23) and Angel Robinson of Marquette (14 pts on Jan. 5) and Courtney Vandersloot of Gonzaga (10 pts on Dec. 28). It should be noted Moore and Vandersloot were two of the top three picks in Monday’s WNBA Draft, while Robinson was a third-round selection.

Not to be overlooked, Mallory proved to be an efficient offensive threat, ranking second in the BIG EAST with a career-high .402 three-point percentage, while leading the conference with a .468 three-point percentage during regular-season conference play. She wound up averaging 7.1 points per game, and ranked second on the team in assists (career-high 2.7 apg.) along with a team-best (and career-high) 1.58 assist/turnover ratio. Mallory also scored in double figures nine times, including a season-high 20 points in the regional semifinal win over Oklahoma, and posted her first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists on Feb. 12 against Rutgers (the first Fighting Irish player with a points-assists double-double since 2005).

Highlighting Mallory’s 20 points against Oklahoma were a career-high six three-pointers, tying the school record for the most treys in a single NCAA tournament game. It also made Mallory one of five Notre Dame players to score at least 20 points in a game this season.

The Baltimore native, who still has the option of returning for a fifth year of eligibility in 2011-12, finished among the top 10 on the Fighting Irish single-season charts for three-point percentage by a senior (4th) and steals by a senior (9th). She also was one of three Notre Dame players with at least 75 steals this season (Diggins and Novosel both had exactly 75), the first time in program history the Fighting Irish had ever pulled off that feat.

Natalie Novosel (Jr., G, Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) — Most Improved Player Award
Easily one of the nation’s most improved players this season, Novosel was a State Farm Coaches’ honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST choice after more than tripling her scoring average from a year ago from 5.0 points to a team-high 15.1 points per game, while scoring in double figures a team-best 33 times, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Gaither had 37 double-digit games in 1996-97) and nearly doubling her combined total of 17 from her first two years. Novosel also had seven 20-point games (her career high entering the season was 19 points) and posted a team-best .413 three-point percentage, in addition to being second on the squad in steals (tied-1.9 spg.) and third in assists (1.9 apg.).

In 2010-11, Novosel set a new school record with 183 free throws made and 39 games started (tying with Bruszewski and Peters), while her 232 foul shots attempts were second-most in school history. What’s more, she placed among the top 10 on the program’s single-season charts for total points (7th – 588) and minutes played (9th – 1,102).

Mary Forr (Sr., F, Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) — Spirit Award
After joining the Notre Dame roster as a walk-on prior to this season, Forr found her niche with her upbeat personality, tirelessly working hard during practices and games, while constantly cheering her teammates on from the sidelines during games. The Altoona, Pa., native saw action in 20 games this season, earning a starting nod on Senior Day (Feb. 26) against Cincinnati. She averaged 1.5 points and 0.7 rebounds per game, while shooting .467 from the field and logging 4.8 minutes per game. Her best performance came in her debut outing in the season opener against New Hampshire on Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion, when she scored six points (on 3-of-4 shooting) and grabbed two rebounds in nine minutes of action.

Veronica Badway (Jr., G, Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel Area) — Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Like Forr, Badway joined the Fighting Irish prior to this season through walk-on tryouts and proved to be an invaluable asset to the program, both through her contributions in practices and games. The Pittsburgh resident played in 17 games this season, averaging 0.4 points and 0.2 rebounds per game, knocking down both of her three-point attempts during the year (Nov. 12 vs. New Hampshire and Jan. 2 vs. Southeast Missouri State, both at Purcell Pavilion).

In the classroom, Badway is an exceptional student, holding a 3.987 cumulative GPA as an accounting major in the Mendoza College of Business. She also is a five-time dean’s list honoree and is a recipient of Notre Dame’s Accountancy Excellence Scholarship, as well as earning membership into Notre Dame’s Beta Alpha Psi international honorary society (accounting/finance).

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