Junior guard Tulyah Gaines is averaging 5.6 assists with a 4.0 assist/turnover ratio in Notre Dame's last five games.

Irish Battle Bulls Saturday

Jan. 27, 2006

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2005-06 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 19
#21/21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-6 / 3-4 BIG EAST) vs.
South Florida Bulls (13-7 / 3-4 BIG EAST)

DATE: January 28, 2006
AT: Notre Dame, Ind.
Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: Notre Dame leads 2-0
1ST MTG: 12/13/97 (ND 73-50)
LAST MTG: 12/19/98 (ND 83-63)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1580 AM
Sean Stires, p-b-p
TV: None
LIVE STATS: www.und.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356


  • Notre Dame plays the fourth of its six games against BIG EAST Conference newcomers Saturday vs. South Florida. The Irish are 2-1 against the league rookies, with matchups still to come at DePaul and Cincinnati.
  • The Irish are part of a six-way tie in the BIG EAST standings at 3-4 and amid a pack of nine teams separated by just one game.

The 2005-06 BIG EAST Conference season reaches the midpoint for the No. 21 Notre Dame women’s basketball team on Saturday when the Irish play host to South Florida at noon (ET) inside the Joyce Center. Notre Dame and USF are among a logjam of teams tied at 3-4 in the BIG EAST standings, with more than half of the league members separated by one game. Notre Dame (12-6, 3-4 BIG EAST) is back home following a 69-43 loss at No. 10/9 Rutgers on Tuesday night. The Irish suffered through their toughest offensive night of the season, while 22 turnovers led to 35 Scarlet Knight points. Senior guard Megan Duffy was the only Notre Dame player to score in double figures in the contest, winding up with 10 points and three assists. Freshman forward Chandrica Smith came off the bench to notch season highs of nine points and 10 rebounds, while junior guard Breona Gray and freshman guard Lindsay Schrader scored eight points apiece.


  • Notre Dame is ranked 21st in this week’s Associated Press poll and is 21st in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
  • South Florida is not ranked.

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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 587-260 (.693).

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
Saint Joseph’s ’77

  • 19th season at Notre Dame
  • 423-161 (.724) at Notre Dame.
  • 511-202 (.717) 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 resident 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. Despite losing two of their top three scorers and two primary rebounders from a year ago, the Irish bolted to a 9-1 record, highlighted by two wins over Top 25 teams (USC and Utah) as well as the championship at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas.

Since that time, Notre Dame has seen its fortunes dip somewhat, losing five of its last eight games, including the program’s first three-game losing streak in eight seasons. However, the Irish also did log an key third win over a ranked opponent (78-75 vs. #10 DePaul on Jan. 17) and have been ranked in every Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll this season.

One of the critical elements for the Irish to be successful this season has been offensive balance. On 12 occasions, Notre Dame has had at least three players scoring in double figures (going 10-2 in those games), and eight separate players have cracked double digits at least twice this year. Additionally, five 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 herself 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 15.6 points, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game, with a 1.69 assist/turnover ratio, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in all four categories. In addition, she leads the league and is seventh in the nation in foul shooting (.927). She also has led the team in scoring 11 times and in assists 13 times this year. Duffy was named BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week on Monday, following a superb week that saw her average 19.5 points, 7.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds with a .550 field goal percentage in wins over 10th-ranked DePaul and Georgetown. Duffy also has been tapped for the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll three times this season, and she earned a spot on the Duel in the Desert All-Tournament Team after averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 assists in piloting the Irish to the tourney title.

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 averaged 13.5 points per game and shot 80 percent from the field (12-of-15) in wins over Iona and Wisconsin, going 6-of-6 in the latter contest. Those marks earned Schrader a spot on the Dec. 5 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll, the first freshman to appear on that list this season. She also tacked on her second double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds in Notre Dame’s win over No. 22/21 Utah at the Duel in the Desert, before leading all players with 13 points and seven rebounds against Valparaiso. Schrader is second on the team in scoring (8.4 ppg.) and leads in rebounding (5.9 rpg.).

Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico has proven to be a solid complement in the post to the perimeter presence of Duffy and Schrader. D’Amico is third on the team in scoring (7.9 ppg.) and rebounding (5.2 rpg.), while setting the pace in both blocked shots (1.39 bpg., fifth in the BIG EAST) and field goal percentage (.487). Those figures are a far cry from her rookie season, when she logged 1.9 ppg. and 1.4 rpg. with a .438 field goal percentage in 26 games. The pre-Christmas Duel in the Desert was D’Amico’s best showing to date, as she averaged 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with an .824 field goal percentage (14-of-17) en route to tournament Most Valuable Player and BIG EAST Player of the Week honors.

Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish

  • Notre Dame’s No. 21 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll represents the 30th consecutive appearance 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 allowing opponents to score 61.7 ppg.
  • The Irish are 3-3 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 12-3 (.800) at home against Top 25 competition (2-1 this year).
  • Drawing 5,311 fans to its Jan. 17 game vs. DePaul, the Irish now have welcomed crowds of 5,000 or more fans to 73 of their last 75 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 Jan. 23, it also was the 23rd-largest crowd in the nation. For the season, Notre Dame ranks ninth in the country in average home attendance with 6,566 fans per game.
  • Senior guard Megan Duffy was named a preseason All-American by three sources, has been 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
More than any of the other BIG EAST Conference newcomers, South Florida was looked upon as a wild card coming into the 2005-06 season. The Bulls made a statement to the rest of the nation (not to mention their future conference sisters) early last season when they took three-time defending national champion Connecticut to overtime in Storrs before bowing 75-65.

This season, USF is 13-7 overall (3-4 in the BIG EAST) while playing a rugged schedule that already has featured six matchups with ranked opponents. The Bulls are coming off the most recent of those Top 25 contests, a 77-47 loss at No. 5/4 Connecticut on Tuesday night. Freshman guard Shantia Grace led USF with 12 points and five assists, while senior center Sharon Cambridge tossed in 10 points in a reserve role.

A great deal of South Florida’s success this year is due to the development of junior forward Jessica Dickson. A preseason all-BIG EAST pick, the Ocala, Fla., native has led the nation in scoring for much of the season, currently averaging 23.8 points per game. She’s also among the conference leaders in free throw percentage (2nd – .876, behind ND’s Megan Duffy) and three-point percentage (5th – .373).

Junior forward Nalini Miller has provided a complementary post presence for USF, averaging 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, along with a league-best 2.4 blocks per night. Grace is third on the squad in scoring (9.0 ppg.) and sets the pace with 5.35 assists per game (2nd in the conference).

USF head coach Jose Fernandez is in his sixth season walking the sidelines in Tampa, with a career record of 73-90 (.448). Saturday will mark his first-ever matchup with Notre Dame.

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 twice before, playing 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).

Other Notre Dame-South Florida Series Tidbits

  • Notre Dame and USF don’t have much of an athletic history in any sport, 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 Danielle Green scored six of her game-high 16 points in a key 14-4 second-half run and No. 6/7 Notre Dame used a stout defense during the final 20 minutes to defeat South Florida, 83-63 on Dec. 19, 1998 at the Sun Dome in Tampa.

The Irish displayed exceptional balance on offense, with five different players scoring in double figures. Sherisha Hills came off the bench to score 15 points in her homecoming, while Sheila McMillen added 13 points and future All-Americans Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey chipped in 12 points apiece. As a team, Notre Dame shot 48.4 percent from the floor (30-of-62), including 9-of-18 from the three-point line.

USF had four double-digit scorers, led by Sonya Swick’s 14 points. Avia Lee had 13 points in a reserve role, and the tandem of Charmain Leslie and Shannon Layne carded 11 points each for the Bulls, who shot 27.5 percent from the floor (19-of-69).

After USF took an early 3-2 lead, Notre Dame reeled off 11 consecutive points to take the lead for good. However, the Irish could never quite shake the Bulls, who remained close throughout the first half, getting within two points late in the period before a layup by Ericka Haney yielded a 36-32 halftime lead for Notre Dame.

The teams played virtually even for the first four minutes of the second half, with the Bulls staying within arm’s length at 48-39 on a jumper by Leslie at the 15:46 mark. Riley answered with a layup 13 seconds later and Hills canned a three-pointer moments later to ignite the game-changing run. Green then hit a pair of layups and capped the four-minute surge with two free throws for a 62-43 Notre Dame edge.

Sunshine State Success
Notre Dame is 18-3 (.857) all-time against Florida-based schools, including a 7-2 (.778) record against Sunshine State teams at the Joyce Center.

All 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) and 2003 (80-70 in South Bend).

Saturday’s opponent, South Florida, is the only other Florida school to play at the Joyce Center. The Bulls dropped a 73-50 decision to Notre Dame on Dec. 13, 1997.

Welcome To The Family
Since joining the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995-96 season, Notre Dame is 14-2 (.875) when it plays an opponent for the first time in league play, including a 7-1 record when that initial BIG EAST matchup comes at the Joyce Center. The only home loss was an 87-64 setback at the hands of third-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 18, 1996.

This season, the Irish are 2-1 in the first time around with the five new BIG EAST Conference members. On Jan. 10, Notre Dame outlasted Marquette, 67-65 in overtime at the Joyce Center behind a career-high 32 points and the game-winning layup at the OT horn by senior guard Megan Duffy. Four days later, Louisville claimed a 61-51 measure of the Irish at Freedom Hall. However, Notre Dame came back on Jan. 17 with a 78-75 victory over No. 10 DePaul at the Joyce Center.

Following Saturday’s meeting with South Florida, the Irish will face the remaining BIG EAST newcomer – Cincinnati – on Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. (ET) in the Queen City.

Bouncing Back
In recent years, the Irish have shown exceptional resiliency when it comes to responding to a double-digit loss. Since joining the BIG EAST Conference 11 seasons ago, Notre Dame is 40-6 (.870) in “bounce back” games, including a 25-1 (.962) record at home. During that span, the only time the Irish have lost at the Joyce Center immediately after a double-figure loss was Dec. 6, 1997, when they dropped a 78-59 decision to No. 3/2 Connecticut three days following an 80-67 defeat at Rutgers.

Overall, Notre Dame is 65-23 (.739) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) in the first game after a loss of 10-or-more points.

Beasts Of The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 140-35 (.800) in regular-season competition against the rest of BIG EAST Conference, owning the best conference winning percentage of any current member of the BIG EAST (minimum of one year membership) since joining the circuit for the 1995-96 campaign. The Irish also have won 96 of their last 121 regular-season conference games, have finished among the top three in the BIG EAST nine times in their 10-year membership, and claimed a share of their first-ever regular-season conference championship in 2001.

When including postseason competition
(BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 154-45 (.774) vs. league opponents – factoring in 23 postseason tilts, the Irish are 78-9 (.897) at home, 62-29 (.681) on the road and 14-7 (.667) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

Duffy Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne HS) has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week, the league office announced Monday. It’s the first time this season, and the second time in her career, that Duffy has been tapped for the conference’s top weekly individual honor, although she has earned a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll three times in 2005-06. She previously received the BIG EAST Player of the Week designation on Dec. 8, 2003.

Last week, Duffy averaged 19.5 points, 7.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game with a .550 field goal percentage (11-of-20) and a perfect 1.000 free throw percentage (13-of-13) as Notre Dame picked up victories over No. 10 DePaul and Georgetown. Against DePaul, Duffy nearly registered the second triple-double in school history (and first in 16 years), finishing with 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Irish earned their third win over a ranked opponent in five tries this season. Then, at Georgetown, she came back with team highs of 16 points and five assists, along with five rebounds, as Notre Dame carded its third victory in the past four games.

Duffy is the second Irish women’s basketball player to be named BIG EAST Player of the Week this year, following the selection of sophomore center Melissa D’Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd HS) on Dec. 19. In addition, freshman guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) garnered the first BIG EAST Freshman of the Week award of the year on Nov. 21.

Finding A Way
Notre Dame is 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less, following Saturday’s 54-52 victory at Georgetown. The only time this year that the Irish didn’t win a close game was Jan. 4 at St. John’s, when the Red Storm edged Notre Dame, 66-63 in Jamaica, N.Y.

History On The Horizon
Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy is one steal away from becoming only the fifth player in school history to record 1,000 points and 200 steals in her career. Duffy has 1,102 points and 199 steals since arriving in South Bend in 2002.

With those two thefts, Duffy would join Karen Robinson (1987-91), Krissi Davis (1987-91), Katryna Gaither (1993-97) and Niele Ivey (1996-2001) in that elite club.

What’s more, Duffy has 452 career assists, putting her just 48 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.

When The Game Is On The Line …
The Irish have posted a .663 free throw percentage (59-of-89) in the final two minutes and overtime of games this season. Leading the way is senior guard Megan Duffy, who has made 28 of her 30 foul shots (.933) in crunch time.

Second-Half Sizzle
In eight of their 12 victories this season, Notre Dame has used a significant second-half run to either take control or battle their way back into the contest. Six times, the Irish trailed at some point in the final 11 minutes, but on the strength of their second-half run, rallied to take the win.

Game #18 Recap: Rutgers
Matee Ajavon scored a season-high 28 points and No. 10/9 Rutgers held No. 21 Notre Dame to one point over the game’s first 11 minutes in a 69-43 victory Tuesday night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

Senior guard Megan Duffy had 10 points for Notre Dame (12-6, 3-4).

Cappie Pondexter, the BIG EAST’s second-leading scorer at 22 points per game, had 20 for Rutgers, including 14 in the second half when she and Ajavon led a 32-6 run that put away the Irish. Notre Dame had clawed back from a 20-1 deficit to trail by only eight points at halftime.

Notre Dame then made it 28-24 early in the second half on a three-pointer by junior guard Breona Gray with 16:07 to play. Ajavon and Pondexter combined for 23 of Rutgers’ 32 points over the next eight minutes to spark the game-turning run.

Considering the way the Irish began the game, the fact they trailed only 26-18 at halftime had to be considered quite a feat. After junior forward Crystal Erwin’s free throw 18 seconds into the game, they didn’t score again until Duffy hit a three-pointer with 8:42 left.

During that stretch Ajavon got the Scarlet Knights going with consecutive three-pointers. Two jumpers by Michelle Campbell gave them a 14-1 lead, and six straight points by Pondexter made it 20-1 with 9:26 left.

The Irish scored the next 13 points, starting with Duffy’s three-pointer and ending with an uncontested putback by Gray on which no Rutgers player bothered to box out.

Noting The Rutgers Game

  • The Irish were held to their lowest point total of the season and fewest points since March 1, 2005, when Notre Dame won at Seton Hall, 41-35.
  • The Irish lost to Rutgers for the fifth time in the past six outings, and fall to 9-13 all-time against the Scarlet Knights (3-8 in Piscataway, where Notre Dame now has played RU in five of the past six seasons).
  • Tthe 43 points scored by the Irish marked their lowest scoring output ever vs. Rutgers, two points fewer than a 51-45 loss to the Scarlet Knights on March 7, 2004 in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at the Hartford Civic Center.
  • Defense continues to be the story of the series, as neither side has cracked 70 points in a regulation game in the past 12 outings, dating back to a 77-57 RU win on Feb. 13, 1999 in Piscataway.
  • Notre Dame lost for just the second time in 11 games this season when outrebounding its opponent.
  • The Irish now are 3-3 this season vs. ranked opponents (1-2 vs. Top 10 clubs).
  • Freshman forward Chandrica Smith turned in her best performance of the season with personal bests of nine points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes of court time.

Duffy Joins Irish 1,000-Point Club …
Senior co-captain and All-America guard Megan Duffy became the 21st member of Notre Dame’s 1,000-Point Club with her 13-point night at St. John’s on Jan. 4. Duffy eclipsed the milestone on an old-fashioned three-point play with 14:01 left in the game.

Duffy now has 1,102 career points, four shy of Danielle Green (1995-2000) for 17th on the Irish career scoring chart.

… And LaVere Follows Suit 10 Days Later Senior co-captain and forward Courtney LaVere joined Duffy as a 1,000-point scorer at Notre Dame on Jan. 14 at Louisville, hitting a hook shot in the lane 2:27 into the contest. LaVere now has 1,021 career points, putting her 13 markers behind Mollie Peirick (1994-98) for 20th on the Irish all-time scoring list.

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 511-202 (.717) in 24 years of coaching, including 19 seasons at Notre Dame (423-161, .724).

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.

Join The Club
The Irish women’s basketball team is one of a staggering eight Notre Dame squads this year to be ranked in the top 10 in its respective sport at some point during the season – the cagers joined the party when they earned the No. 10 spot in the Dec. 5 AP poll. The other top-10 Irish teams include (highest rank listed): women’s fencing (1st), men’s fencing (2nd), women’s cross country (3rd), football (5th AP), men’s cross country (5th), women’s soccer (5th) and volleyball (7th).

In addition, all six of Notre Dame’s fall sports teams advanced at least as far as the round of 16 (or its equivalent) in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish cross country teams both finished among the top 10 at the NCAA Championships (men – 3rd; women – 7th), while the women’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals (lost at eventual champion Portland), and the men’s soccer squad made its first-ever trip to the Sweet 16 before bowing by a 1-0 count at College Cup participant Clemson.

The Irish volleyball team reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1997, falling to Wisconsin in five games down in College Station, Texas.

Meanwhile, the Notre Dame football team advanced to its first Bowl Championship Series game since 2000, dropping a 34-20 decision to No. 4 Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

On the strength of their success to date, the Irish were first in the final fall standings for the NACDA/USSA Directors’ Cup (released Jan. 10) with 412 points, outpacing Penn State (308.5) and Stanford (282).

This marks the second consecutive year that Notre Dame has ranked atop the final fall standings, and its 412 points are its highest-ever fall total.

Half And Half
During the past six seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 107-10 (.915) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 35 of their last 39 such contests. Notre Dame has won 10 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 156-9 (.945) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame is 6-0 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.

Sweet Success
Notre Dame is one of only 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 133 of their last 146 games (.911) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 78-9 (.897) 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 283-74 (.793) 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 has averaged 6,566 fans in its eight home games this season, and is ninth 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 73 of their last 75 home games, including 13 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 23rd-largest crowd in the nation this season (as of Jan. 23). The game sold out 19 days in advance, making its 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.

They’ve Got The Know-How
Notre Dame is one of only two schools in the country that have two or more WNBA veterans on their coaching staffs. Associate head coach Coquese Washington played six seasons (1998-2003) in the league with three different clubs, and also served as the first-ever president of the WNBA Players Association. Meanwhile, assistant coach Angie Potthoff spent the 2000 season as a starter with the Minnesota Lynx after two years in the now-defunct American Basketball League (ABL) with the two-time champion Columbus Quest.

Besides Notre Dame, Virginia Commonwealth is the other school with multiple WNBA veterans on its staff. VCU assistant coach Wendy Palmer-Daniel currently plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars, while the Rams’ head coach is a familiar name to Irish women’s basketball fans – Beth (Morgan) Cunningham, who played for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics in 2000 after an All-America career at Notre Dame from 1993-97.

Special thanks to Virginia Commonwealth women’s basketball SID Chris Kowalczyk for compiling this information.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have nine of its regular-season games televised during the 2005-06 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket are six nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including three consecutive games on the ESPN family of networks during a 12-day span in mid-February.

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 64 televised games, including 39 that were broadcast nationally. Last year, the Irish had 17 games televised, with 10 being national broadcasts.

Notre Dame is 3-2 in televised games this season. The Irish defeated Western Michigan (71-68 on Nov. 20) and No. 24/21 USC (73-62 on Nov. 27) in contests broadcast live to a regional audience by Comcast Local (based in Detroit). Notre Dame’s last three TV games all were aired nationally by College Sports Television (CSTV), with the Irish falling to top-ranked Tennessee, 62-51 on Dec. 31, defeating No. 10 DePaul, 78-75 on Jan. 17, and most recently losing at No. 10/9 Rutgers, 69-43 on Jan. 24.

Three of the remaining four televised games on the ’05-06 Notre Dame schedule also are slated for national broadcasts. The Irish next are slated to make three consecutive appearances on the ESPN family of networks, beginning with a Feb. 7 home game against Villanova that will be broadcast live on ESPNU. That game will tip off at 6 p.m. (ET), one hour earlier than previously listed on some schedules. The following Sunday (Feb. 12), Notre Dame will travel to DePaul for a 4:40 p.m. CT (5:40 p.m. ET) game that will air on ESPN2 as part of that network’s “February Frenzy” split-national coverage designed to preview a similar coverage pattern for the NCAA Tournament. The Irish are back on ESPN2 on Feb. 19, when they play host to Connecticut in a 7 p.m. (ET) prime-time BIG EAST showdown at the Joyce Center. During the past five seasons, Notre Dame has appeared on the ESPN family of networks 24 times, averaging nearly five telecasts per year on “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”.

Notre Dame will make its final regular-season television appearance on Feb. 25, when it travels to new conference member Cincinnati for a 2 p.m. (ET) game that will air as part of the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) package. Among the outlets scheduled to televise the game live are WHME-TV (Channel 46 in South Bend), Comcast Chicago, Comcast Local, Comcast Philadelphia and Madison Square Garden Network.

Notre Dame On The Airwaves
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 1580) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his sixth season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com) by subscribing to Fighting Irish All-Access, which gives listeners full multimedia access to a variety of Irish athletics events for only $6.95 per month.

Check Out The New Digs
The Notre Dame women’s basketball program recently relocated its first-floor offices at the Joyce Center to the west wing of the facility, adjacent to Gate 1. The renovated suites include plasma televisions in each coach’s individual office (as well as one in the main conference room), a stand-alone video editing facility and tape library (complete with the latest in video editing technology and software), and spacious meeting facilities. The centerpiece of the offices is the main reception area, which features a hardwood floor comprised entirely of the exact court upon which the Irish won the 2001 NCAA Championship at the Saavis Center in St. Louis.

The new women’s basketball offices are part of a series of relocations and renovations of office space within the Joyce Center. The Irish men’s basketball program – which previously filled the space where the women now reside – has moved to the opposite corner of the first-floor west wing offices, taking over the Gate 2 area formerly occupied by the Notre Dame football program (which now operates out of the 95,840-square foot Guglielmino Athletics Complex that opened last summer and is located northeast of the Joyce Center).

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: Syracuse
The Irish close out the month of January next Tuesday, Jan. 31 with a 7:30 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST Conference road contest against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. It will be the first time the teams have played in the venerable facility, as the Orange began playing the majority of their home games at the Dome this season.

Syracuse (8-11, 1-7) picked up its initial conference win of the season Wednesday with a 64-56 victory at Seton Hall. The Orange led by just two points with three minutes to play, but closed the game on a 10-4 run to preserve the win. SU is scheduled to visit Providence Saturday before returning home to face the Irish next week.