Feb. 18, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
The No. 7/6 Notre Dame women’s basketball team is back in the driver’s seat for an outright regular season ACC championship but will have a tough challenge in its attempt to stay there as it travels to face No. 21 Syracuse on Sunday at the Carrier Dome. The Orange was last year’s NCAA and ACC runner-up and boasts one of the country’s top offenses in addition to an 18-game winning streak at home.
In addition to staying atop the league, the Irish can help their chances for success in the upcoming ACC Tournament too as a win over Syracuse would clinch a coveted double-bye, pushing the Irish straight to the quarterfinal round of the five-day, 15-team event.
“Every game is so critical for us,” Irish Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw said. “We’re the masters of our own destiny and it’s a good place to be.”
Here is some more information about the game:
About the Orange
Syracuse is 18-8 overall and 9-4 in ACC play this year, including four ranked wins. The offense is led by the dynamic Alexis Peterson at 23.6 points per game. Britney Sykes has added 19.4 points per game for the potent Orange while Briana Day has scored 13.3 points per game, grabbed 9.1 rebounds per contest and blocked 32 shots. Head coach Quentin Hillsman is 237-134 in his 11 years at Syracuse. “They have the highest scoring backcourt in the country,”McGraw said of Syracuse. “They’re so talented. They have great athletic ability and tremendous defense. They’re going to press the whole game. We’ve got to have Lindsay (Allen) for 40 minutes. (Brianna Turner) has got to be in there for 40 minutes as well.”
The Irish hold a 30-2 edge in the all-time series against Syracuse, including wins in each of the last 15 contests. Notre Dame is a perfect 15-0 at home against Syracuse while claiming a 13-1 record at Syracuse that can be broken down to an 8-1 mark at Manley Field House and a 5-0 count at the Carrier Dome.
The sides have thrice met in the postseason, including a 68-57 win by Notre Dame in last year’s ACC championship game. Syracuse beat the Irish in the 2002 BIG EAST Tournament while Notre Dame downed the then-Orangewomen in the 1996 BIG EAST Tournament.
Notre Dame’s 30 wins over Syracuse are exceeded only by the 32 wins the Irish hold against Marquette. The active 15-game winning streak against Syracuse is exceeded in length only by Valparaiso (27), Providence (22) and Detroit Mercy (16) among all Irish foes.
In last year’s ACC Championship, Brianna Turner had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Tournament MVP Madison Cable also tallied 18 in a 68-57 Notre Dame win. Syracuse’s Alexis Peterson led all scorers with 19 points.
During last year’s regular season, Michaela Mabrey netted 20 and Turner poured in 19 more, plus five blocks, during a 91-62 Irish win at Purcell Pavilion on Jan. 21. The Irish shot 55.5% in that contest while holding the Orange to 28.0% shooting.
Allen Named Senior CLASS Award Finalist
Senior Lindsay Allen is one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, announced on Wednesday. The honor recognizes seniors who excel both on and off of the basketball court.
Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner, and fans are encouraged to submit votes online at the Senior CLASS Award website through March 20. Fan votes will be combined with those of the media and Division I head coaches to determine the winners.
Fans can vote for Allen online at seniorCLASSaward.com.
Irish In Drivers Seat For Historic ACC Repeat
The Irish dodged an upset at Clemson on Thursday night while Florida State fell at Virginia, a combination of results which put the Irish back into sole possession of first place in the ACC standings and in position to extend a couple of historic championship streaks.
The Irish are vying for their fourth consecutive outright ACC regular season and tournament championships, a feat only previously accomplished by Duke from 2001-04. Including the final days of BIG EAST membership, Notre Dame is looking for six straight outright regular season conference championships overall and five consecutive conference tournament championships.
Looking at the handful of others to accomplish these feats:
4x OUTRIGHT ACC REGULAR SEASON & TOURNAMENT CHAMPS
FOUR STRAIGHT OUTRIGHT ACC REGULAR SEASON CHAMPS
FOUR STRAIGHT ACC TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIPS
North Carolina (2005-08)
2012-16 OUTRIGHT REGULAR SEASON CONFERENCE CHAMPS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun) Green Bay (Horizon)
2013-16 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
Notre Dame (BIG EAST and ACC)
Albany (America East)
Baylor (Big 12)
McGraw Named Hall of Fame Finalist
Already enshrined in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Muffet McGraw took the penultimate step towards the sport’s ultimate lifetime honor as she was included on the list of 14 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017, announced on Feb. 18.
Also a finalist for enshrinement in 2016, McGraw will learn if is she is one of the latest enshrines on April 3 at the men’s basketball Final Four in Glendale, Arizona. Joining McGraw as women’s committee finalists are Rebecca Lobo, Kim Mulkey and the pioneering teams from Wayland Baptist University as a collective unit.
McGraw, who guided the Irish to the 2001 national championship and seven Final Four appearances, is the winningest single-sport coach in Irish lore with 756 wins. Over her 30-year coaching career, McGraw is 844-267 (.760), making her the sixth-winningest active coach nationally and the 10th-winningest all-time at the Division I level.
She is the 2017 recipient of the Wooden Awards’ Legends of Coaching Award, becoming just the third female to receive this honor, joining Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer. She is the fourth women’s coach to be recognized with this honor, joining Summitt, VanDerveer and UConn’s Geno Auriemma.
Among her many accomplishments, McGraw is one of five coaches (men’s or women’s) in Division I history with 800 wins, seven Final Fours and five NCAA title game appearances, joining the elite company of Summitt, Auriemma, Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski and the late North Carolina men’s coach Dean Smith, all of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
She is also the only coach to be named the consensus national coach of the year three times, sweeping the Associated Press, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Naismith Award and United States Basketball Writers Association honors in 2001, 2013 and 2014.
How to Watch/Listen
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2 with Pam Ward and Gail Goestenkors handling the call. It will also be streamed online at WatchESPN.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Sunday’s game is available here.
Bob Nagle is in his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.