Jan. 30, 2007
2006-07 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 21
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-7 / 4-3 BIG EAST) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (15-5 / 3-4 BIG EAST)
|DATE:||January 31, 2007|
|TIME:||7:00 p.m. ET|
Petersen Events Center (12,508)
|SERIES:||ND leads 16-0|
|1ST MTG:||2/7/96 (ND 90-51)|
|LAST MTG:||2/28/06 (ND 72-65)|
|RADIO:||ESPN Radio 1490 AM
Sean Stires, p-b-p
- Notre Dame wraps up a season-long three-game road trip before returning home for five of its final eight regular-season games.
- The Irish have shown good resiliency this year, going 3-0 in games following a double-digit loss.
Irish Close Out Three-Game Road Trip Wednesday At Pittsburgh
Looking to rebound from its first two-game losing streak of the season, Notre Dame will reach the midway point of the 2006-07 BIG EAST campaign when it visits Pittsburgh Wednesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) game with the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center.
Playing its second ranked opponent on the road in a four-day span, Notre Dame dropped a 64-47 decision at No. 7/5 Connecticut on Saturday night. The Irish once again struggled to find their shooting touch, hitting on a season-low 24.2 percent of their shots, but found themselves trailing by just six points at halftime and by only seven points with 14 minutes to play. However, UConn then went on a 15-4 run during the ensuing five and a half minutes to put the game out of reach.
Freshman center Erica Williamson came off the bench to score a game-high 12 points and pluck a team-best eight rebounds for Notre Dame. Senior forward Crystal Erwin added 11 points, including a career-high 3-of-5 three-pointers, for her first double-digit scoring night since just after Thanksgiving.
- Notre Dame is not ranked.
- Pittsburgh is receiving votes in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.
- Notre Dame: http://www.und.com
- Pittsburgh: http://www.pittsburghpanthers.com
- BIG EAST: http://www.bigeast.org
Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 20th-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 13 NCAA Tournaments (including a current streak of 11 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the previous 10 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, nine WNBA players (including six draft picks in the past six years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 30th season in 2006-07, the Irish own an all-time record of 606-273 (.689).
Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
Saint Joseph’s ’77
- 20th season at Notre Dame
- 442-174 (.718) at Notre Dame.
- 530-215 (.711) in 25 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
Heading into the final month of the 2006-07 regular season, the growth of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team already is evident, and the best may be yet to come.
With a young and inexperienced roster that has only two seniors and is missing its top returning scorer from a year ago, the Irish have had to learn on the run – and run is exactly what they have done this season. Notre Dame is averaging 70.7 points per game thus far, a significant improvement over the previous five Irish squads, none of which has averaged better than 66.3 points per night.
Of course, the Irish have traditionally hung their hat on their defense, a trait that is much harder to master and takes a bit longer. On the one hand, Notre Dame’s aggressive style has rattled opponents, causing 21.5 turnovers per game (including a BIG EAST-best 11.8 steals per night). However, the flip side has seen the Irish allow opponents to shoot .421 from the floor (.368 from the three-point line), while the Irish claim just a 1.7 rpg. edge on the boards), two areas Notre Dame will continue to focus on during the BIG EAST season.
Junior guard Charel Allen has been one of the main offensive catalysts for the Irish to this point, averaging a team-high 15.6 ppg., while scoring in double figures in 17 of 20 outings to date. The Monessen, Pa., native, who was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week on Jan. 22, also is collecting team highs of 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
Allen’s classmate and backcourt running partner, Tulyah Gaines, is easily one of the conference’s most improved players this season. The speedy Gaines has stoked the Notre Dame offensive fire to an even hotter level, averaging 9.9 points and 4.0 assists per game. Gaines, who came into the season with a 3.7 ppg. career scoring average, has scored 20 points in a game three times this year, including a career-high 27 points on Jan. 10 in a win over Cincinnati.
Another Irish junior, 6-foot-5 center Melissa D’Amico, continues to make strides in the post. The second-year starter is carding 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game with a team-high .534 field goal percentage. She also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Honor Roll on Dec. 18, and has posted two double-doubles this year.
The most pleasing contributions of the year for Notre Dame to this point have come from its freshmen. Guard Ashley Barlow is second on the team in scoring (10.4 ppg.) and steals (2.1 spg.), and came up with a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds on Dec. 28 vs. Prairie View A&M. Center Erica Williamson (6.8 ppg., 6.2 rpg., 1.4 bpg.) logged her first career double-double at South Florida with 11 points and 18 rebounds (an Irish freshman record). And, guard Melissa Lechlitner (5.5 ppg., 3.0 apg.) has been particularly sharp of late, leading the BIG EAST with a 3.43 assist/turnover ratio in conference play, scoring a career-high 18 points vs. Syracuse and delivering a personal-best nine assists (without a turnover) against St. John’s.
Potent Notables About The Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 11 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 260 victories in that span.
- Notre Dame’s incoming class of 2007 (announced Nov. 8) has been ranked 11th in the nation by Blue Star Basketball, marking the 11th consecutive season that the Irish have had a top-25 recruiting class. Notre Dame is one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have an active streak of that length. A thumbnail sketch of the newest Irish signees can be found on page 8 of these notes.
- Notre Dame currently is ranked 10th nationally in attendance (6,331 fans per game). Last season marked the sixth consecutive campaign the Irish were among the national top 20 in attendance (No. 11 ranking). Notre Dame also has attracted 5,000-or-more fans to 89 of its last 91 home games, including three Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 31, 2005 vs. Tennessee).
- For the sixth time in school history, Notre Dame has been selected to host NCAA Tournament action, as the Joyce Center will be the site of NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games in 2010. In four of the five previous instances, Notre Dame was involved in NCAA Tournament play, going 6-1 all-time and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 three times (2000, 2001, 2004), with only a first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994 blotting the resume. Notre Dame also hosted the 1983 NCAA Mideast Regional at the Joyce Center, with Georgia defeating Tennessee, 67-63 in the regional final.
- The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as six Notre Dame players have been selected in the past six seasons. All-America guard Megan Duffy was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Minnesota Lynx in the third round (31st overall pick) of the 2006 WNBA Draft. Other active Notre Dame players in the WNBA during the 2006 season included Ruth Riley and Jacqueline Batteast (league champion Detroit Shock), while Niele Ivey sat out this year as a free agent, rehabilitating an injury after previously playing with Indiana, Detroit and Phoenix. Riley’s WNBA title with Detroit was her second (she was the 2003 WNBA Finals MVP), while Batteast earned her first pro crown this year.
- Notre Dame has been an elite program in the classroom as well. The Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2006. Notre Dame was one of 16 Division I-A programs to achieve this distinction, and one of only two BIG EAST programs (Syracuse is the other). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated.
A Quick Look At Pittsburgh
Following a successful run to the semifinals of the WNIT and a school-record 22 wins last year, Pittsburgh has its sights set on taking the next step and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The Panthers are slated to host NCAA first- and second-round games at the Petersen Events Center this year, giving Pitt added motivation to reach the tournament.
The Panthers (15-5, 3-4 BIG EAST) made an early statement about their intentions to the rest of the nation, reeling off a school-record 12 consecutive victories to open the campaign and moving into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in 27 years. Included in that non-conference spurt were wins over NCAA Elite Eight participant Utah (59-51 at the Oregon Duck Invitational) and perennial mid-major power Liberty (54-47 at the Caribbean Classic in Cancun, Mexico).
The past five weeks have been a bit tougher on Pittsburgh, with the Panthers going 3-5 in that span, although two of those losses came away from home at the hands of nationally-ranked opponents (No. 4 Duke and No. 17/18 Louisville). Pitt has lost its last two games, most recently a last-second 51-50 decision at Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon. The Panthers shot a season-low .288 from the floor, but rallied from a nine-point first-half deficit to tie the game four times in the second half, including three times in the final 2:04.
Freshman guard Jania Sims hit a jumper with 19 seconds to play, tying the score at 50-50, but Seton Hall made one of two foul shots in the closing seconds to escape with the victory. Junior center Marcedes Walker led three Panthers in double figures with 15 points, while sophomore guard Xenia Stewart added 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore guard Shavonte Zellous ranks second in the BIG EAST in scoring (19.8 ppg.), while Walker is 14th in the league in scoring (14.9 ppg.), and third in both rebounding (8.8 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.576). Stewart is third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.), and Sims ranks 10th in the conference with 3.75 assists per game.
Agnus Berenato is in her fourth season as the head coach at Pittsburgh, owning a 56-51 (.523) record at the school. A 23-year coaching veteran with prior stops at Rider and Georgia Tech, Berenato has a career record of 339-315 (.518) with an 0-9 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series
Wednesday’s game will be the 17th in the series between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with the Irish going 16-0 all-time against the Panthers (8-0 in the Steel City). All but one of those games took place during BIG EAST regular-season action, with the lone postseason matchup coming in the 2003 BIG EAST Championship (a 73-65 Notre Dame victory in the opening round at Piscataway, N.J.).
The Irish will be playing at the Petersen Events Center for the third time, having won on each of their two prior visits to the four-year-old arena (72-68 in 2004; 75-47 in 2005).
The Last Time Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Met
Lindsay Schrader scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while 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 Feb. 28, 2006, 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, 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 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 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 play on LaVere’s putback with 13:49 to go. The Panthers, who shot 55.2 percent in the first 20 minutes and had an assist on all 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, holding the Panthers to one field goal down the stretch and canning 7-of-10 free throws to preserve the victory.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Met In Pittsburgh
Courtney LaVere came off the bench to lead No. 6 Notre Dame’s pivotal 14-0 run late in the first half and the Irish went on to defeat Pittsburgh, 75-47 on Feb. 5, 2005, at the Petersen Events Center.
LaVere scored 11 of her 17 points in the first half to help Notre Dame turn a 24-18 lead into a 38-18 advantage over a five-minute stretch in which Pitt star Marcedes Walker drew her third foul.
Walker had 13 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 6:32 remaining for the Panthers.
Charel Allen, who is one of Pennsylvania’s leading high school scorers ever, didn’t start but scored 16 points for the Irish while being cheered on by hundreds of fans from her Monessen, Pa., hometown.
With Walker out, the 6-foot-3 LaVere and 6-3 Teresa Borton dominated inside against Pittsburgh. LaVere started the run with a steal and finished it with consecutive baskets, then added two free throws after Pittsburgh scored for the first time in five minutes on Jessica Allen’s three-pointer, her only basket.
Borton had two blocked shots, a steal and a basket, and Crystal Erwin added a steal and basket during the run, which repeatedly saw the Panthers settle for three-point attempts when they couldn’t get the ball inside. Jacqueline Batteast added 12 points for Notre Dame, while Borton finished with 10 points and four blocked shots, and Erwin had eight points.
Other Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Series Tidbits
- Pittsburgh is one of two BIG EAST Conference opponents Notre Dame has played at least five times and has never lost to. The other is Providence, with the Irish sporting a 14-0 record against the Friars heading into their Feb. 17 matchup in the Rhode Island capital.
- Notre Dame’s 8-0 record at Pittsburgh is the best by any visiting school in Panther women’s basketball history.
- Ten of the first 11 series games were decided by double digits. However, four of the past five games in the series have been single-digit victory margins for Notre Dame, with an average spread of 6.8 ppg. in those contests.
- Notre Dame has scored 65 or more points in each of its 16 meetings with Pitt, while the Panthers have reached that standard six times against the Irish, including four of the past five games. The Notre Dame offense has been even more potent in the past five games, topping 70 points on each occasion.
- Notre Dame’s 10 blocked shots in their most recent game at the Petersen Events Center (Feb. 5, 2005) are tied for the opponent record at the facility. The mark was matched by Connecticut on Jan. 21, 2006.
- Both teams lost important players to season-ending knee injuries during the preseason. Notre Dame sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader, the top returning scorer (10.5 ppg.) and rebounder (5.4 rpg.) for the Irish, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee during practice on Oct. 15. Pittsburgh redshirt senior guard Mallorie Winn, who led the Panthers in assists (4.0 apg.) and was second in scoring (15.8 ppg.) a year ago, tore the same ligament in the same knee during a Nov. 2 practice session.
- The two head coaches in Wednesday night’s game have faced one another on the sidelines nine times during the past quarter century. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw is 9-0 in these contests with Pitt skipper Agnus Berenato, with the first five games coming when McGraw was at Lehigh and Berenato at Rider in the early 1980s.
- Notre Dame junior guard Charel Allen is a native of Monessen, Pa., located approximately 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, and graduated from Monessen High School in 2004. Allen remains one of leading scorers in Pennsylvania high school history, having piled up 3,110 points during her storied prep career. Allen also has scored 16 points in each of her first two games vs. Pittsburgh since coming to Notre Dame in 2004-05.
- Second-year Notre Dame coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio graduated from Pittsburgh in 2004 with a degree in business administration. During her time there, Menio spent two years as a marketing assistant with the Panther women’s basketball program, and in conjunction with the debut of the new Petersen Events Center, she aided in the program’s 114-percent increase in attendance from 2002-04 and the first women’s basketball sellout in school history (12,632 vs. Connecticut on Jan. 25, 2003).
- Notre Dame associate director of strength & conditioning Tony Rolinski is a Pittsburgh native, earned his master’s degree in exercise physiology from Pitt in 1996, and served as an intern on the Panther football program staff during his graduate studies.
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 12 seasons ago, Notre Dame is 43-9 (.827) in “bounce back” games, including a 3-0 record this season.
Overall, Notre Dame is 68-26 (.723) in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present) when playing its first game after a loss of 10-or-more points.
Pine Time Players
Part of the reason for Notre Dame’s success this season can be traced to the production the Irish have gotten from their bench (comprised almost entirely of their freshmen class). The Notre Dame reserves are averaging 23.4 points per game and are outscoring the opposition’s bench by nine points per game.
For the year, the Irish second unit has outscored the opponent reserves in 16 of 20 games, with Notre Dame posting a 12-4 record in those contests.
The Familiar Five
The Irish have used the same starting lineup in all 20 games this season, with guards Tulyah Gaines, Charel Allen and Breona Gray joined by forward Crystal Erwin and center Melissa D’Amico.
Notre Dame is the only BIG EAST school that has started the same lineup in every game it has played this season.
The Best Things In Life Are Free
Notre Dame ranks ninth in the nation in free throw percentage (.775), through games of Jan. 28. Should it hold up, that figure would shatter the school’s single-season record for foul shooting (.743), currently held by the 1996-97 Final Four squad.
The Irish also stand second behind DePaul in the BIG EAST Conference with a .778 free throw percentage in league play. The BIG EAST record for foul shooting in regular-season conference games is .787, set by Seton Hall in 1986-87.
Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is shooting 75.0 percent from the foul line (66-of-88) this season inside the final five minutes of regulation and overtime.
Upon closer inspection, the Irish have gotten some of their most critical free throw production from their freshmen – guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are a combined 18-of-21 (.857) at the charity stripe down the stretch.
Poise Under Pressure
The Irish are 6-3 this season in games decided by 10 points or less, including a 4-1 record when the margin is five points or fewer. Going back the previous two seasons (2004-05 to present), Notre Dame is 12-5 in five-point games and 26-10 in 10-point contests – with four of those 10 losses coming in overtime.
In addition, four times this season, the Irish have sent a player to the free throw line with less than five seconds remaining in regulation or overtime and the game hanging in the balance. In those clutch situations, Notre Dame is 7-for-8 at the charity stripe, with the only miss being a semi-intentional one by senior guard Breona Gray on the second of two tries with 1.2 seconds to go in a 60-59 win at Valparaiso on Dec. 19.
The common basketball adage holds that college players make their biggest improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons. However, for Notre Dame, it’s been the time between the sophomore and junior years that has been conducive to the most development.
Three of the top four Irish scorers this season are juniors and all three are posting the best scoring averages of their careers – guards Charel Allen (15.6 ppg.) and Tulyah Gaines (9.9 ppg.), and center Melissa D’Amico (9.6 ppg.). Allen came into the year with an 8.1 ppg. career average, while D’Amico had a two-year ratio of 4.0 ppg., and Gaines was averaging 3.7 ppg. Between them, the junior trio had a combined 37 double-figure scoring games in two seasons entering the 2006-07 campaign – so far this year, they have 35 double-digit efforts.
Spread The Wealth
The Irish have fielded at least three double-figure scorers in 13 games this season, going 10-3 in those contests (losses at Penn State, South Florida and No. 17/18 Marquette). The Jan. 13 overtime loss at USF marked the fourth time this year Notre Dame had five players crack double digits in the same contest.
Keeping The Home Fires Burning
Notre Dame has been largely solid at home this season, going 10-1 due in part to a crisp offense that has averaged 80.1 points per game on the Joyce Center hardwood. Led by junior guard Charel Allen (16.9 ppg.), the Irish also have four players scoring better than 11 points per game through their 11 home outings and are shooting .469 from the floor in front of the Notre Dame faithful.
Contribute Early, Contribute Often
Notre Dame’s freshman class has wasted little time in making its presence felt this season. Three of the Irish rookies – guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner, and center Erica Williamson – make up the team’s primary bench rotation, with all three averaging at least 16 minutes per game, all three having scored in double figures at least four times, and both Barlow and Williamson have posted double-doubles this season.
Barlow also is second on the team in scoring (10.4 ppg.) and ranks among the BIG EAST Conference leaders in both free throw percentage (.882, also 14th in NCAA as of Jan. 28) and steals (2.1 spg.). Williamson is carding 6.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, tying for seventh in the conference in the latter category. And, Lechlitner is logging 5.5 points and 3.0 assists per night with a 1.73 assist/turnover ratio that is good for eighth in the BIG EAST. Lechlitner has been even better in conference play, leading the BIG EAST with a 3.43 assist/turnover ratio (that includes 20 assists and just two turnovers in her last four games).
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame’s aggressive defense has forced 21.5 turnovers per game this season, logging 20-or-more takeaways in 14 games. In addition, the Irish caused an opponent season-high 30 turnovers at Michigan on Dec. 1, the first 30-turnover outing by the Notre Dame defense since Feb. 25, 2004 (37 turnovers by Miami at the Joyce Center).
The Irish also lead the BIG EAST Conference and ranked 18th in the country with 11.8 steals per night. In fact, Notre Dame has posted double-digit steal totals in 15 games this season, with junior guard Charel Allen committing the most larcenies to date (46, 2.3 per game, sixth in BIG EAST) and leading four Irish players with at least 35 steals this season.
In addition, freshman guard Ashley Barlow recorded a combined 11 steals vs. Western Michigan (six) and at USC (five). That made her the first Notre Dame player with back-to-back five-steal games since March 30-April 1, 2001, when Niele Ivey did so against Connecticut (five) and Purdue (six) at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.
Game #20 Recap: Connecticut
Tina Charles had 12 points and tied a school-record with nine blocks to help No. 7 Connecticut run its BIG EAST record to 8-0 Saturday with a 64-47 win over Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. Charles also had 10 rebounds and came within one block of recording only the second triple-double in UConn history.
Kalana Greene added 10 points and seven rebounds for Connecticut (18-2), which has won 196 consecutive games against unranked opponents at home. Freshman center Erica Williamson had 12 points to lead Notre Dame (13-7, 4-3 BIG EAST) and senior forward Crystal Erwin added 11.
The Huskies jumped to an early 8-4 lead, in what was a sloppy game, as Renee Montgomery hit her first three shots. Notre Dame shot just 24 percent from the floor, and hit just one of its first 11 attempts from the field. However, the Irish were able to stay in the game thanks to 15 first-half turnovers by Connecticut, eight in the first 10 minutes of the game. The two teams combined for 45 giveaways – 27 turnovers for Connecticut and 18 for Notre Dame.
UConn led just 29-23 at the half, and got its first double-digit lead, 35-25, three minutes into the second half on a spin move and bucket by Charde Houston. The Huskies stretched that to 18 after Erwin was called for an intentional foul. Houston hit one foul shot, and Charles hit a turnaround on the ensuing possession to put UConn up 54-36.
Noting The Connecticut Game
- The Irish lose back-to-back games for the first time all season and drop to 1-3 vs. ranked opponents this year.
- Notre Dame was held to a season-low (and series-low) 47 points, two fewer than its total at Penn State on Nov. 16; it also was just the fourth time all year Connecticut was held to 65 points or less (the Huskies came into the game averaging better than 80 ppg.).
- After not holding UConn below 70 points in any of its first 17 games, Notre Dame has limited the Huskies to less than 70 points five times in the past seven meetings.
- The Irish shot a season-low 24.2 percent from the field, their lowest field goal percentage since March 1, 2005 (.220 at Seton Hall).
- Connecticut’s season-high 27 turnovers tied for the third-most by an Irish opponent in 2006-07 (Michigan had 30 on Dec. 1, Prairie View A&M had 28 on Dec. 28 and USC had 27 on Nov. 24).
- Connecticut set a Notre Dame opponent record with 16 blocked shots, topping the old mark of 13 swats by Bradley on Feb. 18, 1983 in Peoria, Ill. (a 68-57 ND win).
- UConn’s Tina Charles set an Irish individual opponent record with nine blocks, one more than Syracuse’s Vaida Sipaviciute on Jan. 19, 2005 (a 74-61 ND win in central New York).
- Charel Allen had her nine-game double-digit scoring streak snapped and was held to single figures for only the third time all year.
- At the same time, Erica Williamson posted her fourth double-digit scoring night of the season, while Crystal Erwin logged her third double-figure point total of the year and set a new career high with three three-point field goals (previous best: two vs. Richmond on Nov. 28 in a 10-point outing, the last double-digit game she had before UConn).
Injury Bug Bites Irish Early
Sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader will miss the 2006-07 season after suffering a torn ACL in her right knee during practice on Oct. 15. Schrader underwent corrective surgery on Oct. 27, with the normal rehabilitation timeline extending 6-9 months.
Schrader was to be Notre Dame’s top returning scorer and rebounder this season, after averaging 10.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during her rookie campaign in 2005-06.
2006-07: The Anniversary Season
- 2006-07 marks the 30th season of Notre Dame women’s basketball, with the Irish having compiled an all-time record of 606-273 (.689) since making their varsity debut in 1977-78. Actually, Notre Dame spent its first three seasons at the Division III level, playing under the banner of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) before making the move to Division I status in 1980-81 (the NCAA began sponsoring a women’s basketball championship the following season). The Irish have an overall Division I record of 557-253 (.688).
- This year also represents Muffet McGraw’s 20th season as the head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame and her 25th campaign overall, including her five-year run at Lehigh (1982-87). McGraw’s record is a stellar one – she is 442-174 (.718) at the helm of the Irish and has a career record of 530-215 (.711) in her silver anniversary season on the sidelines.
- In addition, Notre Dame is celebrating the 35th anniversary of women’s athletics at the University during the 2006-07 season. All Irish women’s sports teams will hold events to commemorate this milestone during their respective seasons. What’s more, all Notre Dame women’s teams are sporting 35th anniversary logo patches on their uniforms for the ’06-07 campaign.
Notre Dame Ranked 11th In Preseason BIG EAST Coaches’ Poll
According to a preseason poll of the BIG EAST Conference coaches, Notre Dame will finish 11th in the conference this season. Those were the results released at the league’s annual Media Day Oct. 26 at the ESPN Zone in New York’s Times Square. The Irish earned 108 points, while reigning BIG EAST Championship victor, Connecticut (221 points, 11 first-place votes) was tabbed first, ahead of regular-season champion Rutgers (215 points, five first-place votes). The BIG EAST sent 11 teams to the postseason last year, including seven NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Notre Dame was one).
The Irish now are in their 12th season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference in 2006-07. The Irish have gone 149-42 (.780) all-time in regular-season conference games, posting the second-best winning percentage in league history. Connecticut is first with a .788 success rate (308-83). Notre Dame also has finished among the top three in the final BIG EAST regular-season standings nine times in its first 11 seasons in the conference, including a share of the BIG EAST title in 2000-01.
Half And Half
During the past seven seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 118-10 (.922) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 46 of their last 50 such contests. Nine times this year, Notre Dame has led at the break, going on to win each time (Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Richmond, IUPUI, Valparaiso, Prairie View A&M, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Syracuse).
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 12 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 164-10 (.943) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has held six foes to less than 60 points, and is 5-1 in those games (wins over Michigan, Purdue, Valparaiso, Prairie View A&M and Syracuse; loss to Indiana).
…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 12 seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 99-3 (.971) 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 has topped the 80-point mark eight times this season, winning on each occasion (Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Richmond, Prairie View A&M, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Syracuse).
The eight 80-point games are the most for the Irish in a single season since 2000-01, when Notre Dame reached that level 15 times during its run to the national championship.
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 145 of their last 162 games (.895) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has an 83-12 (.874) 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 64 of their last 69 non-BIG EAST contests (.928) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents – Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana this year (54-51), with the fifth defeat coming to Tennessee last year (62-51). The Purdue loss also 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 295-78 (.791) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. The 2006-07 campaign will tie for the most regular-season home games (16) in school history, although in 2004-05, the Irish played host to all four rounds of the Preseason WNIT before its regular 12-game home slate began.
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 six years. This season looks to be no exception, as the Irish currently are 10th in the nation in average attendance (6,331 fans per game), according to the latest unofficial weekly rankings compiled 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 20-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present), with 19 of those 20 occurring in the past seven seasons (2000-01 to present). Lastly, the Irish have attracted at least 5,000 fans to 89 of their last 91 home games, including 15 contests with at least 8,000 fans and the first three sellouts in the program’s history (two in 2000-01, one in 2005-06).
States of Grace
Notre Dame is one of 12 schools in the country to have more than one player on its roster who was named a high school Player of the Year in their home state. Irish junior guard Tulyah Gaines was tapped as the 2004 Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year, while sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as the 2005 Illinois Miss Basketball and Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Breona Gray and junior guard Tulyah Gaines are team captains for the 2006-07 season. Both players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have 11 of its regular-season games televised during the 2006-07 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket are five nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including a pair of games on the ESPN family of networks a week apart in early 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 continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 78 televised games, including 47 that were broadcast nationally.
Notre Dame On The Airwaves
For the 11th consecutive season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on commercial radio in South Bend, and for the seventh year in a row, Notre Dame can be heard on the flagship station of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network – WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his seventh season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard free of charge on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com).
Irish Debut Free Video Coverage
In the latest instance of the wide-ranging media avenues afforded the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, the Irish will have several of their 2006-07 home games televised free of charge through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com). Thanks to the considerable efforts of CSTV Online (based in Carlsbad, Calif.) and its new Fighting Irish All-Access package, fans of Notre Dame women’s basketball can watch every minute of exciting action at the Joyce Center live from the comfort of their own homes. The video will be supplemented by an audio simulcast of the Notre Dame radio broadcast, led by veteran sportscaster Sean Stires.
This free service is limited to those home games that have not been selected for broadcast by other TV outlets. The Irish have been seen on und.com four times this season (Indiana, IUPUI, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Syracuse), with the remainder of this year’s Internet video broadcast schedule to include home games vs. Louisville (Feb. 7) and Georgetown (Feb. 21).
Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
On Oct. 5, Notre Dame announced plans for a nearly $25 million renovation of the Joyce Center arena, including new chairback seating, a four-sided digital video scoreboard, and a club/hospitality area (as part of a new two-story addition to be built on the south side of the facility).
The $24.7 million renovation project has been underwritten with a $12.5 million leadership gift from Philip J. Purcell III, a Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee, and the retired chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley. Upon completion, the arena will be known as Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Purcell gift, combined with other benefactions, including a $5 million gift from 1959 Notre Dame graduate and Tampa Bay Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli, brings the total contributions to the project to $22 million.
In accordance with University policies for new construction, work on the renovation will begin after the project is fully funded and designed. The University is actively seeking additional contributions.
Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com/tickets). Consult the Notre Dame promotions web site (www.notredamepromotions.com) for the latest information:
- Feb. 4 vs. West Virginia – Girls and Women in Sports Celebration … Cheerleading Clinic … Faculty/Staff Day (half-priced tickets for Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s/Holy Cross faculty/staff and up to four guests) … Notre Dame women’s basketball freshman/sophomore player trading cards to the first 1,000 fans, courtesy of Homerun Inn Pizza … post-game autograph session on upper arena concourse with selected Irish players.
- Feb. 7 vs. Louisville – Heart of the Irish (Heart Health Awareness) … Wacky Wednesday (buy one ticket, get one free) … Notre Dame women’s basketball long-sleeved t-shirts to the first 1,000 fans, courtesy of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center … post-game autograph session on upper arena concourse with selected Irish players.
Next Game: West Virginia
Notre Dame returns to the familiar surroundings of the Joyce Center for a season-long three-game homestand, beginning Sunday afternoon against West Virginia. The 5:30 p.m. (ET) game will be televised live to a national audience on ESPNU.
The Mountaineers (14-7, 5-3 BIG EAST) are arguably the hottest team in the conference right now, riding a six-game winning streak, including five consecutive BIG EAST wins after starting league play at 0-3. WVU will play host to Syracuse Wednesday night before venturing to South Bend this weekend.