Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Fighting Irish Travel To Face Colorado State

Dec. 28, 2003

Complete Release in PDF Format
dot.gifspacer.gifDownload Free Acrobat Reader


The Date and Time: Monday, Dec. 29, 2003, at 7 p.m. MT (9 p.m. ET in South Bend).
The Site: Moby Arena (8,745) in Fort Collins, Colo.
The Tickets: Still available by calling the Colorado State Ticket Office (1-800-491-7267).
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 Shawn Lewallen (analysis). Lewallen will call the action for Monday night’s Irish-CSU game in Fort Collins. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at
Web Site: Notre Dame (, Colorado State (

Following a three-week stretch that saw Notre Dame play just twice, the Irish will kick their season into high gear beginning Monday night when they visit Colorado State for a 7 p.m. (MT)/9 p.m. (ET) tipoff at Moby Arena. Starting with the CSU game, Notre Dame will play an average of once every four days for the remainder of the regular season with three of its next four contests slated for the road.

The Irish (5-4) are coming off back-to-back wins for the first time this season, having downed USC, 73-62, in their most recent outing on Dec. 22 at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame went on a 21-6 lead early in the first half to take the lead for good and never allowed the Women of Troy to cut the margin inside single digits in the second half. The Irish also held their second consecutive opponent to less than 20 points in the opening period, as USC managed just 18 points in the first half.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast turned in perhaps her strongest all-around performance of the year vs. USC, collecting her third double-double with a game-high 20 points and a season-best 13 rebounds. She also logged four assists and three steals without a turnover in a season-high 37 minutes of action. The Irish backcourt also looked solid against the Women of Troy, as senior Le’Tania Severe and sophomore Megan Duffy each chipped in with 12 points. In addition, Duffy capably ran the point for Notre Dame, dishing out a game-high seven assists, marking the fifth time this season she has had five-or-more assists in a game.

Colorado State (6-3) is on a three-game winning streak after a 72-54 victory over Saint Mary’s (Calif.) on Dec. 21 in Fort Collins. Senior forward Joy Jenkins notched career highs of 28 points and 11 rebounds as the Rams tipped off their seven-game homestand in strong fashion.

Notre Dame and Colorado State have split their previous two meetings, with both sides winning on their home floor.

Coming into this season, one of the bigger question marks surrounding Notre Dame was its perimeter play. The Irish figured to count on their post offense in the early part of the year while their outside shooting developed to fill in the void left by the graduation of Alicia Ratay. Yet, through the first six weeks of the season, it has been the Notre Dame backcourt that has sparkled while the posts have had difficulty getting on track.

Sophomore Megan Duffy (12.6 ppg., team-high 4.9 apg., .559 3FG%) is in her first season as the everyday point guard for the Irish and she already is showing signs of being a key cog in the Notre Dame offensive arsenal. After averaging only three points and 2.3 assists per game last year, the Dayton, Ohio, native has more than quadrupled her scoring output and she owns a team-best 1.52 assist/turnover ratio. In addition, she is showing offensive diversity, knocking down 19 of 34 three-pointers this season to rank 11th in the nation in three-point percentage. She also posted a career-high 25 points on Dec. 4 vs. Wisconsin. Her ball handling skills have not diminished, as she has registered five games with five-or-more assists, including a career-high nine assists on Dec. 7 at Washington.

Senior captain Le’Tania Severe (8.7 ppg., 3.0 apg., .491 FG%) has slid over to the shooting guard position in place of Ratay and has filled in admirably thus far. While not putting up the three-point numbers Ratay had in her remarkable career, Severe is getting her points as a slasher, driving to the basket and creating havoc for opposing defenses. She also is third on the Irish with 1.4 steals per game and has been a vital piece of Notre Dame’s transition game. She collected a season-high 14 points in the loss to Colorado, earning a spot on the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team, before adding 13 points (on six of 10 shooting) at third-ranked Tennessee and 12 points vs. USC. She has honed her shooting eye lately, hitting at a .571 clip (16-28) in her last five games. Senior guard Jeneka Joyce (4.3 ppg., team-high .588 3FG%) also has been a pleasant surprise this season. After missing more than 20 months with recurring leg injuries, Joyce returned to action Nov. 21 vs. Valparaiso and promptly drained all three of her three-point attempts. She then knocked down three more treys to begin the Michigan State game and now ranks fourth on the school’s career charts in three-point percentage (.395).

Junior forward and preseason All-American Jacqueline Batteast (16.0 ppg., 7.8 rpg., 1.56 bpg., three double-doubles) has lived up to her accolades this season, ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. She was named to the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team on Nov. 15 after a superb weekend that included a career-high 27 points against 22nd-ranked Auburn. She then piled up back-to-back double-doubles vs. No. 20 Colorado (13p, 10r) and Valparaiso (15p, 10r) before logging team bests of 16 points and seven caroms at No. 3 Tennessee, 19 points at Washington and a game-high 13 points with six assists vs. Dayton. She then chalked up her third double-double vs. USC (20p, 13r) and now has 54 career double-figure scoring games and 22 career double-doubles. In addition, she needs only 53 points to become the 20th Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points.

Junior Katy Flecky (7.3 ppg., 2.8 rpg.) and sophomore Courtney LaVere (9.6 ppg., 6.2 rpg.) also have made important contributions at times this season. Flecky scored 17 points in the season-opening win over No. 22 Auburn, burying a trio of three-pointers in the win. However, she suffered a sprained right ankle in practice on Dec. 6 and has missed the last three games. Meanwhile, LaVere, a freshman All-American last year, has had an up-and-down second season. She tied Batteast for team-high scoring honors with 12 points at Michigan State before rising up and carding season highs of 22 points and nine rebounds vs. Wisconsin. She then added nine points and nine rebounds at Washington and is averaging 7.4 rebounds in her last five games.

Colorado State has been one of the nation’s more consistent, yet overlooked programs during the past eight seasons. The Rams have won at least 20 games every year since the 1995-96 campaign and have made seven postseason tournament appearances in that time, including five trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Sweet Sixteen berth in 1999. Last season, CSU advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT for the second time in the past four years before falling at Baylor.

This season’s Ram roster bears little resemblance to the one that took the floor in Waco, Texas, last March. Gone are four of the five starters and six letterwinners from that WNIT semifinalist squad, replaced by six freshmen who comprised the nation’s 24th-ranked recruiting class. In fact, CSU is an exceptionally young club this year, with 10 of its 13 players in either their first or second season of college action.

In spite of their youth and supposed inexperience, the Rams have thrived this year, posting a 6-3 record, including a 3-1 mark away from home. Colorado State opened with three consecutive wins, followed by three straight losses to nationally-ranked foes (Boston College, Colorado and Oregon). However, CSU has recovered nicely, coming into Monday’s matchup with Notre Dame on a three-game winning streak.

The Rams should be well-rested as they face the Irish, having not played since Dec. 21, when they defeated Saint Mary’s (Calif.), 72-54, at Moby Arena. Senior forward Joy Jenkins turned in a career performance with 28 points and 11 rebounds, connecting on 12 of 18 shots as CSU opened its season-long seven-game homestand on a high note.

Sophomore forward Melissa Dennett leads a quartet of Colorado State players who own double-figure scoring averages this season. Dennett is carding 13.7 points per game, followed closely by Jenkins at 13.1 points per game. Sophomore guard Vanessa Espinoza is third at 12.2 ppg., and sophomore center Lindsay Thomas rounds out the high-scoring foursome at 11.6 ppg., while also logging team-best marks of 6.8 rebounds per game and a .566 field goal percentage. Dennett is second on the team at 6.6 rpg., and Jenkins’ 6.2 rpg. average is not far off the pace.

CSU head coach Chris Denker is in his second season walking the sidelines for the Rams, posting a 27-16 (.628) record in Fort Collins. He previously spent two years on the bench at Santa Clara and has a career coaching mark of 68-34 (.667). Denker lost his only previous meeting with Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has faced Colorado State just twice before with each team winning close decisions on its home floor. The Irish and Rams first met in the 2001-02 season, as CSU registered a 72-66 victory at Moby Arena in Fort Collins. Ram forward Angie Gorton scored 13 of her 14 points in the second half and Elizabeth English knocked down four three-pointers to help the hosts pick up the win. Alicia Ratay had 16 points, Le’Tania Severe added 15 points and Jacqueline Batteast chipped in with her first career double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) for Notre Dame. The Irish trailed by as many as nine points in the second half, but cut the lead to 69-66 when Severe made a layup and was fouled with 36 seconds to go. However, Severe could not convert on the old-fashioned three-point play and CSU hit three free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

Notre Dame returned the favor last season at the Joyce Center, pulling out a 46-45 win. Ratay canned two free throws with 9.3 seconds remaining, capping a wild final two minutes that saw the Irish take a six-point lead, only to have the Rams rally and go ahead, 45-44 on Ashley Augspurger’s two free throws with 26 seconds left. Notre Dame held the ball for the final shot, but Batteast was intentionally fouled by CSU’s Shannon Strecker on a drive to the basket with 10 seconds to go. Batteast missed both of her free throws, but the Irish got the ball back and a second life when Ratay was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass. Still, Notre Dame had to survive a furious last-second rush by English, whose three-point try clanged off the rim at the buzzer.

Batteast wound up with a double-double, collecting 18 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Irish. Augspurger led all scorers with 19 points and added eight rebounds for Colorado State. Notre Dame shot just .298 from the floor, but held CSU to 12 first-half points and a .310 field goal percentage while forcing the Rams into 20 turnovers.

Batteast has had more success against Colorado State than any other current Irish player, averaging 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds with a .464 field goal percentage in two games against the Rams. The junior forward also has collected double-doubles in each of her previous encounters with CSU.

Irish junior center Teresa Borton is the cousin of former CSU forward Katie Borton. Both hail from Yakima, Wash., and spent their prep days at West Valley High School.

Notre Dame junior forward Katy Flecky is a native of Lone Tree, Colo., and played at three-time state champion Highlands Ranch High School. One of her teammates at Highlands Ranch was CSU redshirt sophomore guard Vanessa Espinoza, who attended HRHS for three years before transferring to Douglas County High School for her final prep season. Irish freshman guard Susie Powers (Centennial, Colo.) also played at Highlands Ranch High School, but was not a teammate of Espinoza.

Four California natives, two for each team, will suit up for Monday’s game. Notre Dame sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (Ventura/Buena HS) and freshman forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga/St. Paul HS) are from the Golden State, as are Colorado State freshmen guards Sara Brown (Rancho Santa Margarita/San Clemente HS) and Molly Nohr (Moraga/Miramonte HS). Former Notre Dame All-America center and 2003 WNBA Finals MVP Ruth Riley has signed a contract to play for the expansion Colorado Chill of the National Women’s Basketball League (NWBL), who are scheduled to begin play next month at the nearby Budweiser Events Center. Two of Riley’s teammates with the Chill will be former CSU standouts Becky Hammon (now with the WNBA’s New York Liberty) and Katie Cronin.

Notre Dame and Colorado State have played just one mutual opponent – Colorado. The Irish faced the Buffaloes on Nov. 15 in the championship game of the WBCA Classic in Boulder, dropping a 67-63 overtime decision. Notre Dame opened the game on a 12-0 run and led by five points with 25 seconds remaining, but CU rallied and hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer in regulation, then hit another trey with 12 seconds to go in the extra session, snatching the win and tournament crown from the Irish.

Colorado State faced a similar fate against Colorado on Dec. 3 in Fort Collins, taking a one-point lead at halftime and shooting a blistering .593 in the first half. However, CU came back and shot at a .567 clip in the second period to take an 81-74 victory at Moby Arena.

Notre Dame doesn’t have a whole lot of experience to call on when it comes to facing the Mountain West Conference. The Irish have played just six games against the current MWC alignment, going 4-2 (.667) overall (1-0 home, 0-1 road, 3-1 neutral). Notre Dame has faced five of the eight Mountain West members at some point with Colorado State being the only MWC team the Irish have seen more than once (1-1 entering Monday’s game).

Besides CSU, Notre Dame has won its only meetings with BYU, New Mexico and Utah, while falling to San Diego State in their lone matchup.

The Irish have played on Dec. 29 six times in their history, going 2-4 overall, including a 1-2 mark on the road. Notre Dame lost its first four games on this date before breaking through in 1990 with a 72-53 win at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) in the championship game of the Texaco-Hawk Classic. The win propelled the Irish into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in school history.

The last time Notre Dame played on Dec. 29 was in the 1999-2000 season, as the Irish cruised past Valparaiso, 88-65 at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame will pick up its first true road win of the season and stretch its current winning streak to three games. The Irish will improve to 5-2 (.714) all-time against Mountain West Conference teams, squaring their record at 2-2 vs. the MWC on the road. Notre Dame will earn its second win in three games in the state of Colorado this year (defeated No. 22 Auburn at the WBCA Classic on Nov. 14 in Boulder), evening its all-time mark at 2-2 in the Centennial State.

Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 369-142 (.722) in 17 seasons under the Golden Dome. She also will watch her career ledger improve to 457-183 (.714) in 22 years at the college level. The Irish will raise their all-time record to 533-241 (.689) in 27 seasons of varsity competition.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast collected her third double-double of the year with 20 points and a season-high 13 rebounds, leading Notre Dame to a 73-62 win over USC on Dec. 22 at the Joyce Center. The Irish backcourt of senior Le’Tania Severe and sophomore Megan Duffy also turned in a solid combined performance – both scored 12 points and Duffy added a game-high seven assists.

Notre Dame (5-4) led virtually all the way in beating the Women of Troy for the fifth time in six career meetings. After USC opened the scoring with a three-pointer, the Irish went on a 21-6 run over the next nine minutes to move ahead for good and bump their lead into double digits in the process. The Women of Troy closed to within 21-16 at the 7:31 mark, but Notre Dame closed the half on a 15-2 run, holding the visitors without a field goal over that time to take a 36-18 edge at the intermission.

The second half saw the Irish continually widen their lead and fight off every USC comeback attempt at the same time. Notre Dame opened up a 20-point advantage three times in the period and the Women of Troy never were able to get closer than the final margin of 11 points.

Notre Dame has quickly learned how it rates against the rest of the nation’s elite programs. The Irish fought through a brutal season-opening stretch that included playing five of their first seven games away from home, with all five road contests coming against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes in both major national polls. Notre Dame defeated No. 22 Auburn (77-64), lost a narrow overtime decision at No. 20 Colorado (67-63) after leading much of the way in that game, before falling at Michigan State (92-63), third-ranked Tennessee (83-59) and Washington (85-74). Both MSU and UW were receiving votes at tipoff, but now are ranked in the Top 25 – Michigan State is 24th in the latest Associated Press poll, while Washington is 24th in the current coaches’ poll.

The tough early-season Irish schedule has not gone unnoticed by the national media. The latest Sagarin/Collegiate Basketball News ratings have pegged the Notre Dame docket as the fifth-toughest in the nation (through Dec. 27), while has the Irish schedule ranked sixth-hardest in the land.

In actuality, all seven of Notre Dame’s non-conference road games are against teams that are presently ranked or receiving votes. The remaining out-of-conference road lineup includes trips to Colorado State (Monday – receiving votes) and Purdue (Jan. 4 – 6th in AP/8th in ESPN-USA Today).

Part of the reason for Notre Dame’s last two victories was its ability to jump out to an early lead and shut down its opponents in the first half. The Irish outscored Dayton and USC by a combined score of 83-29 in the opening period, limiting those two squads to a .174 field goal percentage (eight for 46) over that span. In addition, Notre Dame opened both games in impressive fashion, bolting to a school-record 26-0 lead over UD and piling up a 21-9 edge on USC to put both opponents in deep early-game holes.

Notre Dame’s fortunes this season have been as easy to discern as night and day – or more accurately, home and road. The Irish are 4-0 at the Joyce Center and 1-4 away from home, with their only success outside of South Bend coming at a neutral site (vs. #22 Auburn at the WBCA Classic in Boulder, Colo.).

Upon closer inspection, two statistical categories – turnovers and rebounding – have told the story in whether Notre Dame will thrive or struggle. In their five wins, the Irish have averaged 40.2 rebounds per game, forced 23.2 turnovers per game (including 12.4 steals) and posted a 1.11 assist/turnover ratio (98 assists, 88 turnovers). Conversely, in its four losses, Notre Dame is logging only 33.5 rebounds per game and forced just 15.5 turnovers per game with an 0.62 assist/turnover ratio (50 assists, 81 turnovers).

Not to be overlooked, the Irish have outscored their opponents by more than 19 points in their five wins (76.8 ppg.-57.6 ppg.), but have been outpointed by 17 points a night in their four losses (64.8 ppg.-81.8 ppg.).

Notre Dame put together one of the best defensive performances in school history on Dec. 13 vs. Dayton, rolling over the Flyers, 78-41 at the Joyce Center. In that game, the Irish held UD to just 11 first-half points, which matches the third-lowest mark in school history and equals the lowest opponent total ever at the Joyce Center (11 in the second half by Grace College on Jan. 31, 1978 – pre-NCAA era). The fewest points Notre Dame has ever allowed in one half is seven (first half) at Maryland on Jan. 9, 1985. The Irish also gave up just 10 first-half points to Georgetown on March 4, 2001, in a BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinal game at Storrs, Conn.

Notre Dame also limited Dayton to an opponent record-low .050 field goal percentage (one for 20) in the first half, breaking the old Irish opponent record of .115 (three for 26), which had been set twice – in the first half of the aforementioned Maryland game, and by DePaul in the first half on Dec. 31, 2001 at the Joyce Center.

The Irish have often opened games in strong fashion, but nothing like what they turned out on Dec. 13 vs. Dayton. Notre Dame began the game on a 26-0 run, the largest game-opening surge in 27 seasons of Irish basketball. The previous record for the best start to a game was 17-0 vs. Texas Tech in the 2000 NCAA Mideast Regional Semifinal in Memphis.

The 26 unanswered points also tied for the second-longest run of consecutive markers by Notre Dame. The school record is 31 straight points, which the Irish achieved on Jan. 18, 1997 vs. Pittsburgh – Notre Dame trailed 14-2, but went on a 31-0 run over the next 13:14 to seize control of the game. The Irish also had a 26-point spree on Jan. 31, 1998 against Seton Hall, turning a 56-29 score into an 82-29 margin over a 9:44 span in the second half.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast needs only 53 points to become the 20th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. Batteast already is one of only five Irish players to have scored 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame and at her current 16.0 ppg. pace, she should reach the millennium milestone sometime next month. For her career, the South Bend native ranks sixth in school history with a 14.1 ppg. scoring average (947 points in 67 games).

Based on her play early this season, sophomore point guard Megan Duffy is making a strong case to be named the BIG EAST Conference Most Improved Player. Last season, the Dayton native averaged 3.0 points and 2.3 assists per game while still shaking off the rust caused by off-season knee surgery. She also struggled to find her shooting touch, hitting at a .242 clip from the floor and making only seven of 35 three-point attempts (.200).

Fast forward to this season, where Duffy has been an impact player from the outset. She is second on the team in scoring at 12.6 ppg., which more than quadruples her production from last year. However, her biggest improvement has come in her shooting numbers, where she’s connecting at a .468 rate (37-79), including a sharp .559 percentage (19-34) from the three-point line, with the latter figure leading the BIG EAST and ranking 11th in the nation. She’s also nearly tripled the number of treys she made all of last year and after cracking double digits just twice in 2002-03 (career high was 12 points), she has five double-figure games this season, with all five matching or surpassing her previous career best (led by a 25-point outburst on Dec. 4 vs. Wisconsin, where she shattered her career standard from beyond the arc, going six for 10 from downtown).

But lest we forget her primary duties at the point, Duffy is leading the Irish and ranking fifth in the BIG EAST with 4.89 assists per game, more than doubling last year’s production. She also has just 29 turnovers, giving her a healthy 1.52 assist/turnover ratio (11th in the BIG EAST). She has dished out at least five assists five times this year, including a career-high nine dimes on Dec. 7 at Washington.

Notre Dame appears to have cured on its early-season problems – turnovers. In their last four games, the Irish have averaged only 14.8 turnovers, including a season-low 10 giveaways vs. Wisconsin on Dec. 4. It should be noted that bulk of Notre Dame’s 23 turnovers vs. Dayton on Dec. 13 came late in the second half with many of the Irish freshmen and reserves on the floor. At the same time, Notre Dame has been doing a better job of distributing the basketball lately, averaging 20.0 assists per game in that span. That works on to a crisp 1.36 assist/turnover ratio in the month of December (80 assists, 59 turnovers).

One of the supposed question marks surrounding this year’s Notre Dame squad was its perimeter shooting. Through the first six weeks of the season, the Irish have had an emphatic response to that question. Notre Dame is second in the BIG EAST and 19th nationally with a .410 three-point percentage, hitting 43 of 105 shots from beyond the arc. Senior guard Jeneka Joyce has been one of the primary perimeter producers, knocking down 10 of 17 treys for a team-best .588 three-point percentage (although she has not yet made enough field goals to qualify for statistical rankings). Sophomore guard Megan Duffy also has been a force on the outside, leading the BIG EAST and ranking 11th nationally with a .559 three-point percentage. Duffy also ranks 10th in the conference with 2.11 three-pointers made per game, part of Notre Dame’s team average of 4.78 treys per outing this season.

Despite not having seen any meaningful action since March 17, 2002 at Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, senior guard Jeneka Joyce has looked very comfortable in her first seven games this season. The Topeka, Kan., native missed Notre Dame’s two games at the WBCA Classic, but returned to action Nov. 21 vs. Valparaiso and promptly canned all three of her three-point attempts (including the last from nearly 25 feet out), finishing with nine points. Five nights later on Nov. 26 at Michigan State, Joyce nailed her first three three-point shots before missing her last two and again wound up with nine points. She is 10 of 17 from beyond the arc this season, good for a team-best .588 percentage, while averaging 4.3 points per game.

For her career, Joyce now ranks fourth in school history with a .395 three-point percentage and she also stands ninth with 58 career treys and 147 career three-point attempts.

Although they didn’t come away with the trophy they wanted at the WBCA Classic, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and senior guard Le’Tania Severe did receive individual honors as members of the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team. Batteast averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds in the two-game tournament, while shooting .529 from the field. Severe carded 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in the tournament and posted a stellar .857 free throw percentage (12 of 14). It was the first career all-tournament team selection for both players.

Notre Dame is receiving five votes in the latest Associated Press poll after spending the first three weeks of this season in the AP Top 25 poll. The Irish were ranked 15th in the preseason AP poll, marking the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the Irish were tapped in the initial AP survey of the year.

Notre Dame also is earning two votes in the most recent ESPN/USA Today coaches poll after appearing in the Top 25 for the first three weeks of 2003-04. The Irish were pegged No. 16 in the preseason coaches poll, also the seventh time in eight years that they had shown up in the first ESPN/USA Today poll of the year.

Notre Dame has faced or will face six teams that are currently ranked in both major polls (No. 1/1 Connecticut, No. 2/2 Tennessee, No. 6/8 Purdue, No. 13/13 Colorado, No. 16/15 Virginia Tech and No. 25/20 Boston College). Three other teams are ranked in one of the two polls – No. 20 Auburn and No. 24 Michigan State in the AP poll, and No. 24 Washington in the most recent ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. In addition, four Notre Dame opponents presently are receiving votes in one or both major polls this week – Colorado State, Miami (Fla.), Rutgers and Villanova.

Over the last four seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 67-5 (.931) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including a 5-1 mark this year. One of those rare losses occurred vs. Colorado in the WBCA Classic on Nov. 15. Notre Dame led 37-33 at the intermission before the Buffaloes rallied for a 67-63 overtime win.

Over the last nine 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 116-4 (.967) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added two more wins to that ledger this season by holding down Valparaiso (74-57) and Dayton (78-41).

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 nine seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 86-3 (.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 tacked on another win to this tally on Dec. 4 with its 82-64 win over Wisconsin.

Notre Dame is one of only eight schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen five times in the past seven seasons (1997-2003). The others are Connecticut (seven times), Tennessee (seven times), Duke (six times), Louisiana Tech (six times), North Carolina (five times), Old Dominion (five times) and Texas Tech (five times).

The Irish are one of just six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 10 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in these elite club are Tennessee (27), Texas Tech (14), Louisiana Tech (12), Old Dominion (12) and Connecticut (10).

For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Irish are wearing white uniforms at home this season, eschewing the golden togs they sported for the past four seasons. Notre Dame has worn white uniforms on numerous occasions on the past, dating as far back as the school’s first varsity women’s basketball squad, which took the floor in 1977-78. Blue will continue to be the primary color for the Irish road uniforms.

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 89 of their last 96 games (.927) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak from 1998-2002 (at the time, it was the 10th-longest string in NCAA history. Notre Dame also has a 61-7 (.897) 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.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 44 of their last 46 non-BIG EAST contests (.957) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only two losses in that span came to Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69) and Purdue in 2003 (71-54). The Purdue loss 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 252-70 (.783) 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 for the 1995-96 season, Notre Dame is 102-9 (.919) at the Joyce Center.

Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in attendance each of the past three years. The Irish are looking to extend that streak to a fourth straight season and have gotten off to a good start, averaging 6,131 fans for their four home games, including a season-high 6,571 fans in their last Joyce Center action on Dec. 22 vs. USC. According to the latest unofficial national attendance rankings compiled by the Wisconsin Sports Information Office (as of Dec. 22), Notre Dame ranks ninth in the country in attendance.

The Irish averaged 7,132 fans for their 13 home games last season, good for their second consecutive eighth-place finish in the final NCAA attendance rankings. Last year also saw Notre Dame register two of the top 10 crowds in school history, including a season-high gathering of 9,483 fans, the fifth-largest in school history for the nationally-televised matchup with Purdue on Jan. 4.

All of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 17-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.

Notre Dame has won 186 games over the last eight seasons, which stands as the ninth-most wins of any school in the country during that time. Here’s where the Irish rank in terms of their wins since the start of the 1996-97 campaign.

Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2003-04 is more evidence of that fact. The Irish will play no less than 17 teams that qualified for postseason play last year, including 12 NCAA Tournament squads and six that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen (highlighted by two-time defending national champion Connecticut and NCAA runner-up Tennessee). In addition, five opponents (Connecticut, Purdue, Tennessee, Valparaiso and Villanova) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conference. Furthermore, 19 of the 26 possible Irish opponents finished with records of .500 or better last season, including 12 squads that posted 20-win campaigns. All told, Notre Dame opponents had a combined winning percentage of .610 last season (490-313).

Based on its success in recent years, Notre Dame continues to be a favorable television draw and the 2003-04 season will be no exception. The Irish are slated to play on the small screen no less than eight times in the coming campaign, including four appearances on national television.

Notre Dame made its ’03-04 television debut on Dec. 7 at Washington in a matchup that was shown to a national cable audience on Fox Sports Net. The Irish are back on coast-to-coast television Jan. 4 when they visit Purdue for the inaugural BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge. That contest will be shown live on ESPN2.

In addition, Notre Dame has been selected to appear on the BIG EAST Conference television package four times this season, including three home games. The Irish will take on Virginia Tech (Jan. 10), Villanova (Jan. 24) and Boston College (Jan. 31) at home and travel to Rutgers (Feb. 28) for games in front of the BIG EAST TV cameras. Those games may be seen on a regional basis in several major East Coast markets, including New York, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as South Bend, where WHME-TV (Channel 46) will show the games on a delayed basis.

It also was recently announced that the BIG EAST matchup between Notre Dame and two-time defending national champion Connecticut will be televised jointly by WHME-TV and Connecticut Public Television (CPTV), with College Sports Television (CSTV) also picking up the broadcast and airing it nationally. That game will take place Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. (ET) from the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame will make a fourth national TV appearance on Feb. 25, when the BIG EAST game between the Irish and Miami at the Joyce Center is broadcast live by CSTV. That contest will tip off at 8 p.m. (ET) – some early schedules initially had this game listed one hour earlier.

In addition, the semifinals of this year’s BIG EAST Championship presented by State Farm will be broadcast on the BIG EAST television package Monday, March 8 at 6 and 8 p.m. (ET) from the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center. WHME-TV in South Bend will carry those games live. The championship game will air live on ESPN2 on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. (EST).

After a two-year absence, the Joyce Center once again will be home to NCAA Tournament competition as Notre Dame was selected to be one of 16 sites for first- and second-round games in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Action at the South Bend subregional will take place Sunday, March 21 and Tuesday, March 23, with exact tipoff times and potential television broadcasts to be determined by the NCAA during the week leading up to the competition.

Should Notre Dame qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in school history (and the ninth consecutive season), the Irish are guaranteed to play at home. Notre Dame has played five NCAA tourney games at the Joyce Center in its history, going 4-1 and and advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2000 and 2001 (the Irish went on to win the national championship in the latter season).

Single-session ticket books for NCAA Tournament games at the Joyce Center currently are available to the general public (one ticket for both Sunday games, one ticket for Tuesday’s only game). Single-game tickets will not be made available until after the field of 64 is announced on March 14. For more information on how to purchase tickets for the 2004 NCAA Notre Dame subregional, contact the Irish athletics ticket office at (574) 631-7356 or visit the ticket windows located on the second floor of the Joyce Center at Gate 1.

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on the flagship stations of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network – WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his fourth 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 athletics events on radio for only $6.95 per month.

THE Muffet McGraw SHOW
Muffet McGraw’s half-hour, weekly television show is produced by LeSea Broadcasting and hosted by Bob Nagle. The show, now in its seventh season, is carried by WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and airs at 6:30 p.m. (ET) Saturdays through the end of the 2003-04 season. The show also is available via satellite (Galaxy 6, Transponder 15) each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (ET), and may be seen on LeSea Broadcasting stations in Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Tulsa (check local listings).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) is one of 30 players who were named to the 2003-04 John R. Wooden Women’s Award Preseason All-America Team on Aug. 13. Based on a vote of the Wooden Women’s Award National Advisory Board, these 30 players are considered the top candidates for the inaugural Wooden Women’s Award, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-2nd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast is one of five BIG EAST players named to the Wooden Preseason All-America Team, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers, and the Connecticut duo of Ann Strother and Diana Taurasi.

In mid-January, the Wooden Women’s Award Committee will release its Midseason Top 20 List, followed in March by the official voting ballot which will consist of the top 10-15 players who have proven their success in the classroom (minimum 2.0 grade-point average) as well as on the court. More than 250 voters, comprised of sports media members and women’s college basketball experts around the country, will then cast their votes for the five-member Wooden All-America Team and the Wooden Award winner.

Although the 2003-04 season marks the debut of the Wooden Women’s Award, the honor initially was created in 1976 to recognize the top male collegiate basketball player in the nation. Past winners include Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84) and Tim Duncan (’97).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is one of 35 players who were selected to the 2003-04 State Farm Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List on Aug. 20 by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Based on a vote of committee members which include leading coaches, journalists and basketball administrators, these 35 players are considered the top candidates for the State Farm Wade Trophy, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-2nd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast was one of five BIG EAST players named to the ’03-04 Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Ieva Kublina of Virginia Tech, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers and last year’s Wade Trophy recipient, Diana Taurasi of Connecticut.

The State Farm Wade Trophy, now in its 27th year, is named after Margaret Wade, the late Delta State University coach who won three national championship in the mid-1970s. The Wade Trophy is considered the one of the most prestigious individual awards in women’s college basketball and is organized by the WBCA and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS).

Adding to her armload of preseason hardware, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) was named a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s in the magazine’s annual basketball preview issue. It’s the third preseason honor for the talented 6-2 wing, who is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection. She also was the 2001-02 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-American that season, as well as the unanimous choice for BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and freshman forward Crystal Erwin both received preseason recognition in a vote of the BIG EAST Conference coaches that was released at the league’s annual Media Day on Oct. 30 at the Newark (N.J.) Liberty Airport Hilton. Batteast was a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST selection, while Erwin was named the Preseason BIG EAST Co-Freshman of the Year, sharing the honor with Connecticut’s Liz Sherwood.

Batteast led the Irish in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.), blocked shots (1.56 bpg.) and double-doubles (8), ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in all four categories. She is a two-time second-team all-conference selection and is one of only five players in school history to score 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

As a senior last year at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Erwin earned All-America honors from Parade, Street & Smith’s and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and also was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-America Game in Atlanta. She averaged 22.3 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game during her storied prep career, averaging double-doubles during both her junior (24.9 ppg., 14.9 rpg.) and senior seasons (21.2 ppg., 10.2 rpg.). She holds career records at St. Paul for points (2,720), rebounds (1,630) and blocks (380), as well as the school single-season scoring mark (869 in 2001-02). She follows Batteast as the second Irish rookie in three years to be chosen the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is among 30 preseason candidates named to the watch list for 2003-04 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Awards which are presented annually by the Atanta Tip-Off Club. The Naismith Awards program, now in its 36th 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.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-2nd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

The Naismith Award is the latest in a series of preseason honors for the Batteast. She was named a preseason All-American by both the John R. Wooden Women’s Award and Street & Smith’s magazine, and she also was selected to the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List. In addition, she was a first-team all-BIG EAST choice, according to a vote of the league’s head coaches.

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 18 that three 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 2004. Charel Allen , a 5-10 guard from Monessen, Pa., Melissa D’Amico, a 6-5 forward/center from Manorville, N.Y., and Tulyah Gaines (pronounced too-LIE-uh) , a 5-8 guard from North Las Vegas, Nev., all committed to the Irish during the early signing period, which lasted from Nov. 12-19.

Allen will arrive at Notre Dame next fall as one of the top college prospects from western Pennsylvania. She is a three-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American who averaged 29.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 7.2 steals and 4.8 assists per game last season at Monessen High School. She also is a two-time Associated Press first-team all-state pick and was named the 2003 AP Class A Player of the Year. In addition, she is a two-time all-Pittsburgh metro area selection and a ’03 AAU 16-and-under All-American. As a freshman in 2001, she was a fifth-team AP all-state choice when she averaged 23.6 points per game. In her first three seasons at MHS, Allen has piled up 2,302 points (26.2 ppg.), 995 rebounds (11.3 rpg.), 600 steals (6.8 spg.), 426 assists (4.8 apg.) and 102 blocks (1.2 bpg.). She was ranked 27th in the nation by Blue Star Index and she will be the fourth Pennsylvania native to play for the Irish (the first in 13 seasons).

At 6-5, D’Amico will be the tallest player on the Irish roster when she sets foot on the Notre Dame campus in the fall of 2004. A versatile post player, she averaged 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game last season for William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, N.Y. (located on Long Island). She burst onto the national scene this past summer at the adidas Top Ten Camp in Suwanee, Ga., and is considered by most recruiting services to be one of the top players on the rise in this year’s class. She currently is ranked 47th in the country by All-Star Girls Report and 91st by Blue Star Index , and she follows in the footsteps of another talented New Yorker who came to Notre Dame – two-time honorable mention All-American and Mount Vernon, N.Y., product, Katryna Gaither (1993-97).

Gaines is a playmaking guard who will give the Irish solid depth in the backcourt. Last summer, she moved to North Las Vegas and is attending Cheyenne High School, where she will play for the Desert Shields this year. Gaines previously lived in Burbank, Calif., where she was a three-year starter at John Burroughs High School. She averaged 18.9 points and 5.1 assists per game last season and was a first-team all-CIF SS (Southern California) Division 2A First Team selection. In addition, she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American and won a bronze medal with the West Team at the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. Gaines averaged 6.0 points per game during the five-game tournament, which featured the top prep players from around the country. She is ranked 25th nationally by All-Game Sports, 52nd by Blue Star Index and 61st by All-Star Girls Report , and she is the second Las Vegas area resident in as many years to sign with Notre Dame – current Irish freshman guard Breona Gray graduated from Bishop Gorman High School last May.

With the addition of Allen, D’Amico and Gaines, Notre Dame has assembled the nation’s 13th-ranked recruiting class according to Blue Star Index. This marks the eighth consecutive year in which the Irish have attracted a Top 20 class, making Notre Dame one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have such a consistent run of recruiting success.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw tried her hand at writing during the past year and has co-authored a book with Bradley University professor Paul Gullifor entitled “Courting Success: Muffet McGraw’s Formula For Winning In Sports And In Life.” The book, which currently is in bookstores nationwide and may be purchased through on-line booksellers such as, touches on how, in the shadows of the nation’s most storied football program, McGraw has quietly built the women’s basketball program into a national power.

Women’s basketball has been one of the University’s most consistently successful varsity sport during the past 16 years, qualifying for the postseason 13 times, including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, five NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances and two Final Fours berths. The team’s rise to national prominence was then cemented with a national championship in 2001. In short, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program has been steadily built into a perennial national championship contender, and its architect for those 16 years has been McGraw. Entering the 2003-04 season, the Pottsville, Pa., native has won 363 games at Notre Dame, has a stellar .725 winning percentage and was the consensus 2001 national Coach of the Year.

Personal accolades aside, McGraw has always been more concerned with off-court success than the progress of her teams. Accordingly, this book is a motivational and inspirational book in which she shares her ingredients for success – on and off the court. It provides lessons for those aspiring toward success in basketball, and in life, while illustrating why Muffet McGraw is one of college basketball’s most accomplished coaches.

Notre Dame renews the most frequent rivalry in school history on New Year’s Day when it plays host to Marquette at 2 p.m. (ET) at the Joyce Center. The Irish and Golden Eagles have met 28 times with Notre Dame owning a 24-4 series edge, posting more wins against MU than any other opponent in 27 seasons of Irish basketball. Notre Dame also has won 23 of the last 24 matchups in the series and has a 14-1 all-time record against the Golden Eagles at the Joyce Center. Last season, the Irish claimed a 75-68 victory at U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee.

Marquette is off to a 7-2 start this season heading into its Monday night home game against Dayton. The Golden Eagles opened with four consecutive wins, including the Dead River Company Classic title in Orono, Maine, at the end of November. However, MU is just 3-2 in its last five games, falling at home to Iowa and on the road at St. Bonaventure.

Dayton will be the only common opponent for both Notre Dame and Marquette. The Irish routed the Flyers, 78-41 back on Dec. 13 at the Joyce Center.