March 1, 2006
2006 BIG EAST Championship – First Round Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-10 / 8-8 BIG EAST) vs. South Florida Bulls (19-10 / 9-7 BIG EAST)
|DATE:||March 4, 2006|
|TIME:||6:00 p.m. ET|
|Hartford Civic Center (16,294)|
|SERIES:||Notre Dame leads 2-1|
|LAST MTG:||1/28/06 (USF 68-64 – ot)|
|BE CHAMP:||First meeting|
|RADIO:||ESPN Radio 1580 AM|
|Sean Stires, p-b-p|
- Notre Dame makes its 11th consecutive trip to the BIG EAST Championship this weekend. The Irish have reached the tournament semifinals in seven of their previous 10 visits, including four title game appearances (most recently in 2001).
- Notre Dame gets the opportunity to redeem one of its two overtime losses this season when it takes on South Florida in the opening round of this year’s BIG EAST Championship. The Bulls handed the Irish a 68-64 OT setback on Jan. 28 in South Bend.
Riding its first three-game winning
streak since the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame makes its way to Hartford this weekend for the 24th annual BIG EAST Championship, presented by Aeropostale. The Irish are the 10th seed in this year’s tourney and draw No. 7 seed South Florida in first-round action Saturday at 6 p.m. (ET) inside the Hartford Civic Center.
Notre Dame (17-10, 8-8 BIG EAST) capped off the regular season Tuesday night with its third consecutive victory, a 72-65 comeback win over Pittsburgh at the Joyce Center. The Irish trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half before rallying for the win.
Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader scored a game-high 20 points and added a team-best nine rebounds for the Irish. Sophomore guard Charel Allen chipped in with a season-high-tying 16 points, including 10 in the second half.
- Notre Dame is not ranked.
- South Florida is not ranked.
- Notre Dame: http://www.und.com
- South Florida: http://www.GoUSFBulls.com
- BIG EAST: http://www.bigeast.org
Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 19th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the country’s leading women’s basketball powers. The Irish have appeared in 12 NCAA Tournaments (including the past 10 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine years. Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four twice, winning college basketball’s ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.
In its history, Notre Dame has developed eight All-Americans, eight WNBA players (including five draft picks in the past five years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 29th season in 2005-06, the Irish own an all-time record of 592-264 (.692).
Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
- Saint Joseph’s ’77
- 19th season at Notre Dame
- 428-165 (.722) at Notre Dame.
- 516-206 (.715) in 24 years as head coach.
- 2001 consensus National Coach of the Year
- Four-time Naismith Coach of the Year finalist
- Four-time conference Coach of the Year
- BIG EAST Conference (2001)
- Midwestern Collegiate Conference (1991)
- North Star Conference (1988)
- East Coast Conference (@ Lehigh) (1983)
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
One of the more famous movie quotes of the past 20 years came from a simple Alabama man named Forrest Gump, who recalled his mother’s advice that “life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”
In some ways, that philosophy would be appropriate when it comes to describing the 2005-06 season for Notre Dame. On the one hand, there is the Irish squad that bolted to a 9-1 record, has defeated three Top 25 teams this season (USC, Utah and DePaul), was ranked in every AP and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll for the first two months of the season (peaking at No. 10), and won the Gray Division championship at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas.
At the same time, there’s the darker side to Notre Dame’s season, the face that appeared early in the BIG EAST Conference campaign and led to eight losses in 13 games, including the program’s first two three-game losing streak in eight years.
However, it now appears the Irish are returning to their earlier form, having ended the regular season with their first three-game winning streak since late December. Notre Dame also has discovered a rejuvenated offensive attack of late, averaging 72.3 ppg. with a .471 field goal percentage (.462 from three-point range) in its last three outings.
One of the critical elements for the Irish to be successful this season has been offensive balance. On 21 occasions (including each of the past nine games), Notre Dame has had at least three players scoring in double figures (going 15-6), and eight separate players have cracked double digits at least three times this year. Additionally, six different players have led the team in scoring at some point.
The Irish also have the benefit of strong leadership in senior All-America point guard and two-year team captain Megan Duffy. The 5-foot-7 Dayton, Ohio, native spent last summer as a co-captain and starter on the United States World University Games Team that rolled to the gold medal with a 7-0 record. Duffy directed an American offense that averaged 97.4 points per game and set a USA World University Games record with a scoring margin of +43.1 ppg.
Back stateside, Duffy continues to make improvements in her game each night out and has been a strong all-around contributor and leader for Notre Dame once again this year. The veteran floor general is averaging a team-best 15.5 points, 4.26 assists and 2.04 steals per game, with a 1.77 assist/turnover ratio, ranking among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in all four categories. In addition, she leads the league and ranks 11th in the nation in foul shooting (.891). She also has led the team in scoring 14 times and in assists 18 times this year.
Among her many honors this year, Duffy is a first-team Academic All-American (second in the program’s history and eighth in BIG EAST annals), one of 11 nominees for the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard in the nation), a mid-season candidate for the Naismith Trophy, a two-time BIG EAST Player of the Week selection (Jan. 23, Feb. 27), a three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll choice, and was named to the Duel in the Desert (Gray Division) All-Tournament Team. She has scored in double figures in her last 12 games, the longest such streak by a Notre Dame player in four seasons.
Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader has shown tremendous promise in her first season with the Irish. The former McDonald’s All-American already has been named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week once (Nov. 21) after turning in an impressive 10-point, 14-rebound effort in her debut outing against Michigan, becoming just the second player in school history (first since 1979) to record a double-double in her first game. She also earned a spot on the Dec. 5 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll, the first freshman to appear on that list this season. Schrader is second on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (5.6 rpg.), and has scored in double figures six times in the past nine games (12.4 ppg. in that time). She also has notched her first two career 20-point games down the stretch this year, tallying a season-high 24 points at Syracuse on Jan. 31, and adding a game-high 20 points against Pittsburgh on Feb. 28.
Sophomore guard Charel Allen and senior forward Courtney LaVere also have shown signs of being dependable options for the Irish. LaVere ranks third on the team in scoring (8.8 ppg.), with Allen fourth (8.7 ppg.), while Allen is third in rebounding (4.4 rpg.) and LaVere is fourth (4.3 rpg.). In addition, LaVere is tops in both field goal percentage (.510) and blocks (1.59 bpg.), placing fifth in the BIG EAST in the latter category. LaVere was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Feb. 6, and both players have come alive in recent games. Allen is on a run of seven double-figure scoring games in her last nine outings, averaging 10.9 ppg. in that stretch, highlighted by a 16-point effort in the regular-season finale vs. Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, LaVere is averaging 10.4 ppg., 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per night with a .557 field goal percentage returning to the starting lineup 10 games ago (Jan. 24 at Rutgers).
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
- Notre Dame’s departure from the Jan. 30 Associated Press poll snapped a string of 30 consecutive appearances for the Irish in that survey, dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. All told, Notre Dame has appeared in 139 Associated Press polls since the balloting debuted 30 years ago, with their first AP ranking (No. 25) coming on Dec. 31, 1990.
- With its No. 10 AP ranking on Dec. 5, the Irish have appeared in the top 10 of the media balloting at some point in seven of the past 10 years (including three of the past four seasons). Notre Dame has spent a total of 73 weeks in the AP top 10 during the program’s 29-year history and owns a 110-21 (.840) record when it’s ranked in the top 10.
- The Irish have won 57 of their last 61 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Three of the losses in that span have come against Big Ten Conference opponents (Wisconsin in 1996, Purdue in 2003, Michigan State in 2004), with the other coming back on Dec. 31 vs. No. 1 Tennessee.
- The Irish defense continues to be its calling card. In each of the past six seasons, Notre Dame has held its opponents to an average of less than 62 points per game, including a 56.8 ppg. mark last year, which ranked as the third-lowest opponent scoring average in school history and second-best of the Muffet McGraw era (55.8 ppg. in 2000-01). Thus far in 2005-06, the Irish are a bit over their six-year average, allowing opponents to score 62.9 ppg.
- The Irish are 3-5 against ranked teams this season and have posted 40 wins over Top 25 opponents in the past eight seasons (1998-99 to present), most recently knocking off No. 10/10 DePaul, 78-75 on Jan. 17 at the Joyce Center. In each of the past two years, Notre Dame has set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents. Furthermore, since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Irish are 12-4 (.750) at home against Top 25 competition (2-2 this year).
- Drawing 5,632 fans to their Feb. 28 Senior Night game vs. Pittsburgh, the Irish now have welcomed crowds of 5,000 or more fans to 78 of their last 80 home games. The only two blemishes on that mark came in the semifinals and finals of last year’s Preseason WNIT, because tickets for those games could not be included in the Notre Dame season ticket package and had to be purchased separately.
- The capacity crowd of 11,418 for the Dec. 31 home game vs. top-ranked Tennessee was the third sellout in program history and the 19-day advance sellout was the quickest in the 29-year history of Irish women’s basketball. As of Feb. 27, Notre Dame ranks 11th in the country in average home attendance with 6,601 fans per game.
- Senior guard Megan Duffy was named a preseason All-American by three sources, was cited on the preseason watch lists for both the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Women’s Award, and was tabbed as one of the top five point guards in the nation by ESPN.com. Duffy also was a preseason all-BIG EAST Conference selection, following up her first-team all-league citation last year.
- With a 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to reach the 500-win mark. She also is the 10th Division I coach to earn her 500th victory prior to age 50. McGraw reached another milestone on Nov. 29 vs. Iona with her 700th career game as a head coach.
A Quick Look At South Florida
One of the five newcomers to the BIG EAST Conference this season, South Florida would likely consider its inaugural campaign in the league to be a success. Coming off a WNIT appearance in 2004-05, the Bulls (19-10, 9-7) are on the cusp of their second consecutive 20-win season and have played a rigorous schedule that has included eight games against Top 25 opponents (2-6 record, with both wins in overtime vs. DePaul and Notre Dame).
Since starting the bulk of BIG EAST Conference play in January with three consecutive losses, USF has not won or lost more than two games in a row. However, the Bulls have won eight of their last 12 games heading into the BIG EAST Championship, including their final two regular-season contests.
South Florida closed out conference play Tuesday night with a 71-57 victory at Georgetown. Junior forward Jessica Dickson locked up the BIG EAST scoring crown with a 22-point performance, while freshman guard Jessica Jackson looked sharp on the perimeter with 21 points, including 6-of-11 three-pointers.
Currently averaging 22.3 ppg., Dickson led the BIG EAST in scoring all season long, and was the national leader in that category for much of the campaign before barely slipping to second place behind LSU’s Seimone Augustus. Junior center Nalini Miller is second on the USF roster in scoring (9.8 ppg.), but has been most effective at the defensive end of the floor, collecting 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game (second in the BIG EAST in the latter department). Senior forward Ezria Parsons also lends a hand with a team-best 8.4 rebounds per game, good for sixth in the conference.
Head coach Jose Fernandez is winding down his sixth season at USF, owning a 79-93 (.459) record with the Bulls. He is 1-0 all-time against Notre Dame, with that victory coming earlier this season.
The Notre Dame-South Florida Series
There’s not a whole lot of history to go on when it comes to the series between Notre Dame and South Florida. The teams have met only three times before, with the Irish holding a 2-1 series lead over the Bulls.
Notre Dame and USF first met in a home-and-home series in 1997 and 1998, with the Irish winning on both occasions (73-50 at the Joyce Center and 83-63 at the Sun Dome in Tampa). Those were their only meetings prior to this season, when South Florida made its debut in the BIG EAST Conference and visited the Joyce Center on Jan. 28, capturing a 68-64 overtime victory.
Other Notre Dame-South Florida Series Tidbits
- Notre Dame and South Florida will be meeting in postseason play for the first time in any sport.
- Notre Dame and USF don’t have much of an athletic history to go on, having played one another a grand total of 15 times in all sports prior to the 2005-06 academic year. Nine of those contests came on the softball diamond, where the Bulls lead 5-4.
- Notre Dame freshman guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) and USF freshman guard Shantia Grace (Sarasota, Fla./Riverview HS) were named the 2005 Gatorade High School Player of the Year in their respective states.
- Notre Dame freshman forward Chandrica Smith and USF senior guard Tristen Webb both are natives of Stone Mountain, Ga. Smith spent two years at Stephenson High School before completing her prep career at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. Meanwhile, Webb graduated from Lakeside High School in 2001. Webb is out for the season after suffering a knee injury during the preseason.
- Notre Dame has had seven Florida natives suit up in the program’s 29-year history. The most recent Sunshine State product to don the Irish uniform was Pembroke Pines resident Le’Tania Severe, who played for Notre Dame from 2000-04, helping the Irish to three NCAA Sweet 16 berths and the 2001 NCAA title.
The Last Time Notre Dame And South Florida Met South Florida’s Ezria Parsons hit a desperation three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to force overtime, then Jessica Jackson hit a key three in OT for the Bulls, who survived a late rally to beat No. 21 Notre Dame 68-64 on Jan. 28, 2006 at the Joyce Center.
USF, which led by as many as 15 points, needed Jackson’s three-pointer with 2:12 left in overtime for a 65-62 lead. Notre Dame cut the lead to a point on a fastbreak layup by sophomore guard Charel Allen. But USF’s Jessica Dickson, the nation’s leading scorer who scored 13 of her 18 points after halftime, hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left for a 67-64 lead.
Senior guard Megan Duffy, who led Notre Dame (12-7, 3-5 BIG EAST) with 25 points, had a chance to tie it, but her contested three-pointer didn’t find iron with three seconds left. The Irish lost for the sixth time in their last nine games.
Two South Florida starters, Rachel Sheats and Shantia Grace, fouled out midway through the second half of the physical game.
USF appeared to take control midway through the first half after Duffy hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 20-18 with 8:51 left. The Bulls’ defense then held Notre Dame without a field goal the rest of the half, outscoring the Irish, 14-3 to take a 34-21 halftime lead.
Notre Dame didn’t hit a field goal for the first four minutes of the second half either, but the Bulls missed their first 11 shots. The Irish came within one point twice before Duffy’s layup finally gave them a 47-46 lead.
Duffy’s free throws extended the Irish lead to 58-55 with 24 seconds left. But Parsons, who was just 2-of-11 from three-point range all season, hit a long trey from the right wing as she was falling down to force the overtime.
Jackson finished with 12 points and Nalini Miller had 10 points and seven rebounds for South Florida. The Bulls had a 48-42 edge in rebounds.
Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader had 12 points for Notre Dame and Allen added 10.
Sunshine State Success
Notre Dame is 18-4 (.818) all-time against Florida-based schools, including a 11-1 (.917) record against Sunshine State teams away from home.
Aside from the overtime setback to USF earlier this season, the other three Irish losses to Florida teams have come at the hands of Miami, which was a member of the BIG EAST Conference through the 2003-04 season. The Hurricanes defeated Notre Dame in 1987 (62-61 in South Bend), 1998 (77-76 in Coral Gables – the only road loss the Irish have suffered to a Florida school) and 2003 (80-70 in South Bend).
Irish In The BIG EAST Championship
Notre Dame begins play in its 11th BIG EAST Championship this weekend and has compiled a 13-10 (.565) record in its 10 previous appearances. The Irish have reached at least the semifinals in seven of the past 10 years and made the title game four times (1996, ’97, ’99 and 2001). In an interesting twist, three of Notre Dame’s four BIG EAST finals appearances came when the tournament was held in the state of Connecticut (1996, 1997 and 2001 – all on the UConn campus in Storrs).
Prior to joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament championship five times in its seven years in that league, with the last Irish conference tourney title coming in 1994.
The Not-So-Friendly Confines
The Irish will be playing inside the Hartford Civic Center for the seventh time, having compiled a 1-5 record in the building. In fact, Notre Dame had lost its first four contests at the arena prior to last year’s BIG EAST Championship, when the Irish broke through with a 70-59 victory over West Virgnia in the conference quarterfinals.
Aside from the WVU game, Notre Dame is 0-3 against Connecticut at the Hartford Civic Center (twice in the regular season, once in the BIG EAST Championship), 0-1 vs. Rutgers (2004 BIG EAST quarterfinals) and 0-1 vs. Penn State (2004 NCAA East Regional semifinals).
Duffy Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
For the second time this season and third in her career, senior All-America guard and co-captain Megan Duffy was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week, the league office announced Feb. 27. Duffy, who also has earned a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll three times this season, is the seventh player in school history to be a three-time BIG EAST Player of the Week in her career (all seven have gone on to receive All-America recognition), and first since Jacqueline Batteast took the honor five times from 2003-05.
Last week, Duffy averaged 19.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game with a .550 field goal percentage (11-of-20) and a .545 three-point percentage (6-of-11) as Notre Dame picked up BIG EAST road victories at West Virginia (70-58) and Cincinnati (75-66, OT). Against West Virginia, Duffy scored 17 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, making 5-of-7 shots (4-of-6 three-pointers) in the final 20 minutes alone. Three days later at UC, Duffy shared game-high scoring honors with 17 points, including 10 in overtime (highlighted by 8-of-8 free throws) as the Irish downed the Bearcats.
The Irish have played a school-record four overtime games this season, breaking the old mark of three held by the 1995-96 club. Notre Dame also has established a new BIG EAST record for OT games in regular-season conference play, surpassing the three overtime games played by three teams (most recently in 1990-91 by Boston College and St. John’s).
Prior to this season, the Irish had played only two BIG EAST regular-season OT games, winning both (88-79 vs. Seton Hall in 1996; 78-74 at Rutgers in 2000).
The Greenhouse Effect
Notre Dame has won its last two games on the road, both while sporting its seldom-used green alternate uniforms. Prior to their Feb. 22 game at West Virginia, the Irish had not worn their green duds since March 27, 2004, when they dropped a 55-49 decision to No. 5/7 Penn State in the NCAA East Regional semifinals (Sweet 16) at the Hartford Civic Center.
Notre Dame is 7-4 (.636) all-time when playing in the greens, including a 4-1 (.800) mark in regular-season play.
When The Game Is On The Line …
The Irish have posted a .680 free throw percentage (85-of-125) in the final two minutes and overtime of games this season, including a combined 17-of-21 (.810) effort in their last two wins (Cincinnati and Pittsburgh).
Leading the way are junior forward Crystal Erwin, who made her only two late-game free throws of the year with 41 seconds left in regulation Jan. 28 vs. USF, and senior guard Megan Duffy, who has made 40 of 42 foul shots (.952) in crunch time.
Everyone Gets Into The Act
The Irish have had at least three players score in double figures in each of their last nine games and have pulled off that feat 21 times in 27 games this season. Notre Dame is 15-6 when it gets that kind of offensive balance (6-2 when four or more players reach double digits, as they did in Tuesday’s win over Pittsburgh).
Former Oakland Raiders cornerback (and noted quote machine) Lester Hayes used to refer to close, exciting games as “spine-chiller supremes.” Lester probably would have used the same phrase to describe Notre Dame’s season to date.
The Irish have played eight games decided by five points or less, going 5-3 in those contests. Three games have gone into overtime (part of a school-record four OT games this year), and all three losses were in doubt heading into the final minute of regulation (two defeats occurring in OT).
Don’t Count Us Out
While Notre Dame has gotten into an unfortunate habit of falling behind by double-digit margins this season, the Irish have also found a way to claw back into the contest with dramatic second-half rallies.
In 14 games this season, Notre Dame has used a significant second-half run to either take control or battle back into contention. Included in that total are four games against Top 25 opponents (USC, Utah, Tennessee and DePaul), with three of those second-half charges leading to Irish wins (all but Tennessee).
What’s more, seven times the Irish have been tied or trailed at some point in the final 11 minutes, but on the strength of their second-half run, they rallied to take the win.
A History Lesson
With one steal vs. South Florida on Jan. 28, senior All-America guard Megan Duffy became only the fifth player in school history to record 1,000 points and 200 steals in her career. Duffy has 1,228 points and 213 steals since arriving in South Bend in 2002.
Duffy joins Karen Robinson (1987-91), Krissi Davis (1987-91), Katryna Gaither (1993-97) and Niele Ivey (1996-2001) as the only Irish players in that elite 1,000-point/200-steal club.
What’s more, Duffy has 491 career assists, putting her just nine handouts short of pairing with Robinson and Ivey as the only Notre Dame players ever to amass 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals in their careers.
Among The Best In The Business
Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy has been selected by a panel of national sportswriters as one of 11 nominees for the seventh annual Nancy Lieberman Award, which is presented annually by the Rotary Club of Detroit to the nation’s top point guard.
The award is named after Hall of Famer and two-time Wade Trophy winner Nancy Lieberman, who guided Old Dominion to the 1978 and 1980 AIAW national titles and now serves as a broadcaster for ESPN. The trophy goes to the player who possesses the floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Lieberman during her career.
Duffy also is one of 30 players who have been designated as mid-season candidates for the Naismith Trophy, it was announced Feb. 17 by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top women’s college basketball player, with the top 30 mid-season candidates chosen from a preseason group of 50 based upon player performance during the season.
Duffy Making The Grade Off The Court
Senior guard Megan Duffy became the second Irish women’s basketball player ever to be named a first-team Academic All-American when she was tapped for the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-AmericaÂ® Women’s Basketball University Division First Team, it was announced Tuesday. Duffy joins Ruth Riley as the program’s two first-team selections – Riley was a two-time pick in 2000 and 2001, garnering Academic All-AmericaÂ® Team Member of the Year status the latter season. Three other Notre Dame female cagers have earned second-team Academic All-AmericaÂ® status – Maggie Lally (1980, 1981), Shari Matvey (1981) and Mary Beth Schueth (1983). In addition, Duffy is the eighth women’s basketball player in BIG EAST Conference history to be accorded first-team Academic All-AmericaÂ® distinction (first since Riley in 2001).
Also a two-time Academic All-District V choice (2004, 2005), Duffy currently holds a 3.555 cumulative grade-point average in the College of Arts and Letters, where she is pursuing a double major in psychology and computer applications. She has earned Dean’s List honors in each of the past four semesters, including a 3.917 GPA in the spring 2005 term and a 3.821 GPA in the fall 2005 semester.
One day after Duffy’s honor, men’s basketball senior guard Chris Quinn also garnered first-team Academic All-AmericaÂ® status, making Notre Dame the only school in the country to place both a men’s and women’s player on the elite first team.
Duffy and Quinn are two of six Notre Dame student-athletes to earn Academic All-AmericaÂ® honors in 2005-06. The others include: Erika Bohn (women’s soccer – first team), Annie Schefter (women’s soccer – first team), John Stephens (men’s soccer – second team) and Lauren Brewster (volleyball – second team). Since the program’s inception in 1952, a total of 164 Irish student-athletes have been named Academic All-Americans, the second-highest total in the nation.
Game #27 Recap: Pittsburgh
Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Charel Allen chipped in with 16 points, as Notre Dame rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to knock off Pittsburgh, 72-65 on Tuesday evening before a crowd of 5,632 fans at the Joyce Center. It was the largest comeback win of the season for the Irish and the second-largest in Notre Dame history, topped only by a 16-point rally to defeat Connecticut on March 30, 2001 at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.
Playing in their final home games for the Irish (17-10, 8-8 BIG EAST), senior co-captains Courtney LaVere and Megan Duffy certainly didn’t have their best outings of the year, but did contribute to the win. LaVere finished with 14 points, five rebounds and a career-high-tying five blocks, while Duffy added 11 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Maddy Brown came off the bench to lead Pittsburgh (18-9, 9-7) in scoring with 13 points, knocking down 4-of-7 three-pointers in the contest. Fellow reserve Danielle Taylor collected 10 points, while center Marcedes Walker tallied a double-double with 12 points and 18 rebounds, despite shooting 2-of-12 from the floor.
Notre Dame held the lead for the first six minutes of action, before Pittsburgh came alive with an 8-0 run to move ahead, a position it would maintain for the rest of the half. The Irish got back within 16-15 on a layup by sophomore center Melissa D’Amico, but the Panthers then countered with 13 of the next 15 points, moving out to a 12-point lead on a layup by Xenia Stewart at the 6:41 mark.
Following a timeout, Notre Dame scored six consecutive points, four coming on jumpers by Allen. However, that was quickly erased when Pittsburgh used its third large run of the first half, a 9-0 spurt, to take its largest lead of the night at 38-23 on Brown’s third three-pointer of the period with 2:26 to go. The Irish trimmed a bit off the margin with some late buckets, but still found themselves on the short end of a 41-31 score at the intermission.
Cheron Taylor’s layup and Brown’s free throw, offsetting a jumper by Schrader, boosted Pitt’s lead to 44-33 a minute into the second half. From there, Notre Dame put together a 13-1 run covering the next six minutes, taking their first lead since the opening moments of the first half on LaVere’s putback with 13:49 remaining. The Panthers, who had shot 55.2 percent in the first 20 minutes and had an assist for each of their 16 field goals, went without a basket for 7:28 before Stewart tied the game at 48-all with 11:57 left.
The lead changed hands seven times during the ensuing three-plus minutes before Schrader put her team in front to stay on an old-fashioned three-point play at the 8:47 mark. After a triple by Allen, Walker pulled Pittsburgh back to 60-59 with five minutes still to go, hitting a layup and two foul shots in the process. That’s when the Notre Dame defense rose up and slammed the door on the Panthers, holding the visitors to one field goal down the stretch and canning 7-of-10 free throws to preserve the third consecutive victory for the Irish.
Noting The Pittsburgh Win
- The Irish continue to experience uncanny success on Senior Night, improving to 24-5 (.828) all-time in their final regular-season home game, including a 17-2 (.895) mark in the Muffet McGraw era.
- Notre Dame’s 15-point comeback win vs. Pittsburgh was its largest since a similar 15-point rally on Feb. 15, 2005 at Boston College.
- The 10-point halftime deficit was the largest Notre Dame has erased this season and widest since they trailed by 11 in last year’s rally at Boston College.
- The Irish now are 16-0 all-time against Pittsburgh (7-0 at the Joyce Center), the best unblemished record against a BIG EAST opponent in program history (ND is 14-0 vs. Providence).
- Notre Dame has scored 65 or more points in each of its 16 meetings with Pitt, topping the 70-point mark in the past five outings; conversely, the Panthers have scored at least 65 points six times in 16 games against the Irish.
- Notre Dame has surpassed 70 points in each of its last three games after doing so just once in a 16-game stretch from Dec. 18-Feb. 19 (a 78-75 win over No. 10 DePaul on Jan. 17).
- The Irish were charged with less than 10 turnovers for the third time this season, and for the eighth time in nine games, they had less than 15 turnovers (two in the second half vs. Pitt).
- Notre Dame was credited with a season-high eight blocks, including a career-high-tying five rejections by senior forward Courtney LaVere, who also had five at Marquette on Dec. 31, 2002; LaVere has become a shot-blocking machine of late, averaging 3.0 blocks in her last five games.
- Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader collected her second 20-point game of the season and came within one rebound of her third double-double this year.
- Sophomore guard Tulyah Gaines had another stellar performance with nine points, six rebounds and a career-high eight assists without a single turnover in 31 minutes; Gaines is averaging 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists with a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio in the past three games (all wins).
- Sophomore guard Charel Allen matched her season high with 16 points, tying the mark she set in the season opener vs. Michigan on Nov. 18; Allen has scored in double figures seven times in the past nine games and is averaging 10.9 ppg. in that span.
- Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy extended her current streak of double-digit scoring games to 12 in a row, matching the 12-game run by Jacqueline Batteast from Nov. 21, 2001-Jan. 5, 2002.
Duffy, LaVere Join ND 1,000-Point Club
Senior co-captains Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere became the 21st and 22nd members of Notre Dame’s 1,000-Point Club earlier this season. Duffy did so at St. John’s on Jan. 4, with LaVere following suit 10 days (and three games) later on Jan. 14 at Louisville.
Duffy currently has 1,239 career points, good for 13th on the Irish career scoring chart. LaVere is 18th all-time with 1,123 points.
The Duffy-LaVere 1,000-point tandem marks just the fifth time in school history have teammates reached the 1,000-point plateau in the same season, with Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon the last to do so in 2000-01.
Duffy and LaVere also have recorded the shortest span between hitting the mark (three games). The previous school record was eight games, the term between Mary Beth Schueth and Carrie Bates scoring their 1,000th points in the 1984-85 season.
Give Her Five (Hundred)
With Notre Dame’s 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th women’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 500-win mark. McGraw now has a career record of 516-206 (.715) in 24 years of coaching, including 19 seasons at Notre Dame (428-165, .722).
Here’s a closer look at how that milestone victory breaks down for McGraw:
- She is the 10th NCAA Division I women’s basketball coach to register her 500th victory before turning 50 (her birthday was Dec. 5).
- McGraw is the fourth active coach in the BIG EAST Conference to reach the career 500-win mark, joining Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Villanova’s Harry Perretta.
- She is the third BIG EAST coach in as many seasons to celebrate her 500th win. Auriemma hit the milestone late in the 2002-03 campaign, while Perretta joined the club with his landmark victory midway through last season.
Half And Half
During the past six seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 109-10 (.916) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 37 of their last 41 such contests. Notre Dame has won 12 games this season when it led at the break (the Irish were tied at halftime of their win over No. 24/21 USC).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense …
During the past 11 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 159-9 (.946) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame is 9-0 in such games this season.
… But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past decade (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 91-3 (.968) 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 is one of nine schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine seasons (1997-2005). The others are Connecticut and Tennessee (nine times), Duke (eight times), Louisiana Tech (seven times), and Georgia, LSU, North Carolina and Texas Tech (six times).
The Gold Standard
The Irish are one of six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 12 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in this club are Tennessee (29), Texas Tech (16), Louisiana Tech (14), Old Dominion (14) and Connecticut (12).
Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 135 of their last 151 games (.894) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 80-12 (.870) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 57 of their last 61 non-BIG EAST contests (.934) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only three losses in that span all came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents – Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54) and Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT). 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 285-77 (.787) record at the venerable facility. In three of the previous six seasons (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
Jammin’ The Joyce
Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past five years, including a No. 16 rating in 2004-05 (5,830 fans per game). Notre Dame averaged 6,601 fans in its 13 home games this season, and is 11th in the latest unofficial national attendance rankings, released each Monday by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office.
What’s more, each of the top 20 women’s basketball crowds in Joyce Center history have occurred during the 19-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present), with 19 of those 20 occurring in the past six seasons (2000-01 to present). Lastly, the Irish have attracted at least 5,000 fans to 78 of their last 80 home games, including 14 contests with at least 8,000 fans and the first three sellouts in the program’s history.
The most recent sellout in Notre Dame women’s basketball history took place on Dec 31, when 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center for the Irish matchup with No. 1 Tennessee. The game sold out 19 days in advance, the fastest sellout in the 29-year history of the program.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Notre Dame’s two seniors – guard Megan Duffy and forward Courtney LaVere – are serving as team captains for the 2005-06 season. Duffy is in her second year as a captain (making her the 16th two-time captain in school history, and 12th in the Muffet McGraw era), while LaVere is a first-time captain. Both players received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame had nine of its regular-season games televised during the 2005-06 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket were six nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including three consecutive games on the ESPN family of networks (which has shown 27 Notre Dame games in the past six seasons).
This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 (and including games to date this year), Notre Dame has played in 69 televised games, including 43 that were broadcast nationally. Last year, the Irish had 17 games televised, with 10 being national broadcasts.
Riley Named One Of ESPN.com’s Top 25 Players Of The Past 25 Years
Former Notre Dame All-America center and 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley has been selected as one of the top 25 women’s college basketball players of the past 25 years, according to ESPN.com. The list of all-time greats was released Jan. 10 in conjunction with the silver anniversary celebration of the inaugural NCAA women’s basketball season in 1981-82.
A native of Macy, Ind., Riley was tapped as one of the legends of the sport in part because of her contributions in the NCAA Tournament, where she led Notre Dame to three NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and the 2001 national championship. In the ’01 NCAA title game vs. Purdue, Riley tallied 28 points (on 9-of-13 shooting), 13 rebounds and seven blocks, not to mention the two game-winning free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining which snapped a 66-66 tie. It was an effort that ESPN.com termed as “the third-best all-time championship game performance in NCAA history.” That outing capped a six-game NCAA tourney stretch in which the 6-foot-5 post averaged 23.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game while shooting at a .632 clip (48-of-76).
Riley was a two-time first-team Associated Press All-America selection and two-time CoSIDA Academic All-America choice, earning Academic All-America Team Member of the Year honors in 2001. In addition, she was a three-time first team all-BIG EAST selection, earning the league’s Player of the Year award in 2001 and the conference Defensive Player of the Year hardware three consecutive years. The only player in school history to amass 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career (2,072 points/1,007 rebounds), Riley also is the Irish all-time leader in seven statistical categories, including blocked shots (370 – fifth in NCAA history) and field goal percentage (.632 – 11th in NCAA history).
Next Game: BIG EAST Quarterfinals
With a victory over South Florida on Saturday, Notre Dame would advance to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship, where it would face No. 2 seed Connecticut Sunday at 6 p.m. (ET) at the Hartford Civic Center. All four quarterfinal games at this year’s conference tournament will be broadcast live nationally by College Sports Television (CSTV/DirecTV 610).
The Irish and Huskies played just once this season, with UConn claiming a 79-64 win at the Joyce Center back on Feb. 19. In that game, Notre Dame led by a point twice in the the second half and trailed by only four with under nine minutes to go before a 16-2 Connecticut run decided matters.