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Irish Continue Postseason Preparation Saturday At Rutgers

Feb. 27, 2004

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-8, 11-3)
vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (16-10, 8-6)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Feb. 28, 2004, at Noon ET.
The Site: Louis Brown Athletic Center (8,000) in Piscataway, N.J.
The Tickets: Still available by calling the Rutgers Athletics Ticket Office (1-866-445-4678).
The TV Plans: BIG EAST TV broadcast with Eric Frede (play-by-play), Margo Plotzke (analysis), George Smith (producer) and Shawn Jensen (director). The game will air live on Madison Square Garden Network (DirecTV Channel 621) and Fox Sports Net Florida (DirecTV Channel 634). It also will be shown on a tape-delayed basis by WHME-TV (Channel 46 in South Bend) Saturday at 7 p.m. (ET).
The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires (play-by-play). For the Rutgers game, Shawn Lewallen will fill in for Stires behind the microphone. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at
Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Rutgers (

Notre Dame faces its final road test of the 2003-04 regular season Saturday when it pays a visit to Rutgers for a noon (ET) game at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. The contest will be broadcast live to a regional audience as part of the BIG EAST Conference television package.

Notre Dame (18-8, 11-3 BIG EAST) earned its ninth win in the last 10 games, as well as a first-round bye in the upcoming conference tournament, with a 93-58 win over No. 21/19 Miami on Wednesday night at the Joyce Center. The Irish led all the way in picking up their seventh win over a Top 25 opponent this season.Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast sparked Notre Dame with her ninth double-double of the year, piling up 23 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six steals. Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere continued her late-season surge with 13 points, hitting six of seven shots from the floor.Rutgers (16-10, 8-6) had its two-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night with an 80-71 loss at West Virginia. Sophomore forward Michelle Campbell scored a career-high 23 points and had six rebounds for the Scarlet Knights in the loss.Junior All-America guard Cappie Pondexter is Rutgers’ leading scorer, ranking second in the BIG EAST at 17.4 points per game.The Scarlet Knights hold a slim 9-8 lead in the series with Notre Dame, including a 5-3 edge in Piscataway.

Throughout the 2003-04 season, Notre Dame has found itself in acquisition mode, picking up the knowledge and experience it will need to be highly competitive in the postseason. The Irish have played a rugged schedule that has been ranked in the Top 20 in the nation all year long, and they have faced 10 Top 25 teams, setting a school record with seven regular-season wins against those ranked foes. In addition, Notre Dame endured some early rough patches on the road, but lately, it has begun to learn how to win in hostile environments and seems poised for big things when March Madness rolls around.

Junior forward and Naismith Award finalist Jacqueline Batteast (14.8 ppg., 8.3 rpg., .451 field goal percentage, nine double-doubles) has lived up to her accolades this season, ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots (1.31 bpg.). She was named to the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team on Nov. 15 after a superb weekend that included a career-high 27 points against 22nd-ranked Auburn. She then piled up back-to-back double-doubles vs. No. 20 Colorado (13p, 10r) and Valparaiso (15p, 10r) before logging team bests of 16 points and seven caroms at No. 3 Tennessee, 19 points at Washington and a game-high 13 points with six assists vs. Dayton. She then chalked up her third double-double vs. USC (20p, 13r) to earn the first BIG EAST Player of the Week honor of her career. In her most recent game Wednesday vs. Miami, she amassed 23 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six steals for her ninth double-double of the year. Since BIG EAST play began, she has been superb, averaging 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game with a .473 field goal percentage and six double-doubles (along with four other near double-doubles). She now has 66 double-figure scoring games and 28 double-doubles in her three-year Irish career.Junior center Teresa Borton (6.5 ppg., 4.4 rpg., .531 FG%) and sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (9.2 ppg., 4.3 rpg.) also have made important contributions at times this season. Borton has recovered well from off-season heel surgery and was at her best vs. Colorado State and Marquette, ringing up 14 points on both occasions. Borton then added 11 points and eight rebounds at Georgetown, followed by 14 points and six boards against Virginia Tech, before scoring 10 points (4-4 FG) vs. Georgetown and adding 11 points (4-4 FG) against Providence. She also piled up a season-best 11 rebounds at St. John’s, tying her career high in that category. Meanwhile, LaVere, a freshman All-American last year, has had an up-and-down second season. She tied Batteast for team-high scoring honors with 12 points at Michigan State before rising up and carding season highs of 22 points and nine rebounds vs. Wisconsin. She once again cracked double figures on Jan. 1 vs. Marquette, tossing in 16 points on six of 11 shooting. LaVere has looked especially solid in her last four outings, averaging 11.3 ppg. with a .656 field goal percentage (21-32), including a six-for-seven, 13-point effort vs. Miami.Sophomore Megan Duffy (10.9 ppg., team-high 4.42 apg., .429 3FG%, .813 FT%) is in her first season as the everyday point guard for the Irish and she is proving to be a key cog in the Notre Dame offensive arsenal. After averaging only three points and 2.3 assists per game last year, the Dayton, Ohio, native has more than tripled her scoring output, ranking seventh in the BIG EAST in assists and owning a team-best 1.51 assist/turnover ratio (seventh in the BIG EAST). In addition, she is showing offensive diversity, knocking down 42 three-pointers this season. She also has 15 double-figure scoring games to her credit this year, including a career-high 25 points vs. Wisconsin on Dec. 4, and 22 points at Georgetown on Jan. 7. Her ball handling skills have not diminished, as she also has registered five or more assists in 14 games, including a career-high nine assists on Dec. 7 at Washington. Most recently, she tossed in 10 points (hitting all three of three-point attempts) and had five assists vs. Miami.Senior captain Le’Tania Severe (7.4 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 3.3 apg., .472 FG%, .815 FT%) has slid over to the shooting guard position in place of the NCAA’s all-time three-point queen, Alicia Ratay, and Severe has filled the role admirably. While not putting up the three-point numbers Ratay had in her remarkable career, Severe is getting her points as a slasher, driving to the basket and creating havoc for opposing defenses. She also is second on the team with 1.42 steals per game and has been a reliable force in the lineup, making 69 consecutive starts. She has scored in double digits eight times this year, including a season-high 15 points against Purdue and Boston College, as well as 12 points against Connecticut. Severe also picked up her first career double-double at St. John’s (10 points and 10 rebounds), came up with a critical steal and two game-clinching free throws at Pittsburgh, and then tied her career high by dishing out nine assists (with only one turnover) Wednesday vs. Miami.

In many ways, Rutgers has gone through the same highs and lows that Notre Dame has experienced this season. Like the Irish, the Scarlet Knights are outstanding on their home floor, going 12-1 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. And, like its counterpart this weekend, Rutgers has struggled somewhat on the road, going 4-9 in hostile territory. The two teams also have played difficult schedules this season, with both dockets currently ranked among the Top 10 in the nation by

However, the key difference for Rutgers (16-10, 8-6 BIG EAST) lies in some of the heartbreak it has experienced in close games this year. The Scarlet Knights are 6-7 in contests decided by 10 points or less, narrowly missing high-profile wins on the road at LSU (78-68), Tennessee (59-49), Villanova (53-49) and Boston College (78-72). Still, Rutgers is a dangerous club, now more than ever as it looks to secure its sixth NCAA Tournament berth in the last seven years.

The Scarlet Knights are coming off an 80-71 loss Tuesday night at West Virginia, snapping a two-game winning streak. Rutgers led by four points with six minutes remaining, but the Mountaineers ended the game on a 17-4 run to pull out the victory. Sophomore forward Michelle Campbell tossed in a career-high 23 points (11 of 13 shooting) and grabbed six rebounds, while junior All-America guard Cappie Pondexter scored 12 points for the Scarlet Knights, who shot 47.5 percent from the floor and outrebounded WVU by a 36-27 count.

Pondexter leads Rutgers and ranks second in the BIG EAST in scoring (17.4 ppg.), while also placing among the league’s best in assist/turnover ratio (4th – 1.89), assists (7th – 4.42 apg.), steals (11th – 1.69 spg.) and free throw percentage (12th – .767). In addition, Pondexter is second on the RU roster in rebounds (4.8 rpg.) and three-point percentage (.375).

The Scarlet Knights are coached by 2001 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee C. Vivian Stringer, who has a 170-102 (.625) record in her ninth season at Rutgers. She has been a collegiate coach for the past 32 years and has an overall mark of 690-237 (.744) that includes stops at Cheyney and Iowa. She is the only coach (men’s or women’s) in NCAA history to have taken three different programs to the Final Four, most recently advancing to college basketball’s stage with Rutgers in 2000. Stringer has a 6-8 lifetime record against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame and Rutgers will be meeting for the 18th time in what has been the most evenly-matched BIG EAST Conference series for the Irish. The Scarlet Knights own a slim 9-8 edge over Notre Dame, retaking the series lead after a 64-61 win over the Irish last season at the Joyce Center (see recap in next note). Rutgers also has won five of eight games against Notre Dame when the scene shifts to the Louis Brown Athletic Center (aka “the RAC”) in Piscataway, N.J.

Among current Irish players, sophomore forward Courtney LaVere has had the most success against Rutgers, posting 23 points and nine rebounds on 60-percent shooting (nine of 15) in her only prior matchup with the Scarlet Knights. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast also has only faced Rutgers once in her career (she missed the 2002 game with a knee injury), and due to foul trouble last season, she only scored nine points in 15 minutes before fouling out. A complete rundown of the statistics active Notre Dame players have compiled against Rutgers can be found on page 20 of this notes package.

Cappie Pondexter hit a 12-foot jumper with 26 seconds left as Rutgers came back from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat No. 21 Notre Dame, 64-61 on Jan. 18, 2003, at the Joyce Center.

The Scarlet Knights (9-4, 3-1 Big East) held the Irish (10-5, 2-2) scoreless for 6:37 to cut the lead to 50-48. They moved ahead 61-59 with 1:41 left on a three-pointer by Mauri Horton, who led Rutgers with 19 points. Alicia Ratay tied it for the Irish by going 2-of-4 from the free-throw line, but the 5-foot-9 Pondexter put the Knights ahead 63-61 when she hit a jumper over 6-foot-3 Courtney LaVere.

The Irish had several chances to tie the score, but Ratay missed a 17-foot jumper, Katy Flecky missed a shot underneath and LaVere and Flecky both missed shots underneath.

Horton made a free throw with 0.3 seconds left as the Scarlet Knights beat ranked teams in consecutive games for the first time in 12 years. Chelsea Newton added 16 points and four assists for Rutgers and Pondexter added 14 points, four assists and four rebounds.

LaVere led the Irish with 23 points and nine rebounds and Ratay added 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Jacqueline Batteast, who played only 15 minutes because she was in foul trouble, had nine points.

The Irish led 21-9 when LaVere scored on her own rebound with 13:01 to go in the half as the hosts were nine of 12 from the field. After LaVere scored again on a rebound off her own missed shot on Notre Dame’s next possession, the Irish missed six of their final seven shots in the half. At the same time, the Scarlet Knights used a 10-3 run to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 34-28 at the break.

Notre Dame opened a 50-35 lead when LaVere scored inside on a three-point play with 12:44 to go, but the Irish started turning the ball over to let the Scarlet Knights get back into the game.

Returning to the site of the only regular-season loss during their 2001 national championship campaign, the Irish pulled out a tough 57-52 win over Rutgers on Feb. 16, 2002, at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway. Alicia Ratay continued her uncanny success on the Scarlet Knights’ home floor, collecting a game-high 25 points and eight rebounds. Ericka Haney added 10 points for Notre Dame, which shot 47.8 percent from the floor and held a sizeable 38-22 rebounding advantage.

The Irish led 26-15 at the half, and after Rutgers climbed back to within three points, Ratay scored 10 straight points to spark a 14-6 Notre Dame run that rebuilt the visitors’ double-digit lead. The Scarlet Knights got as close as 55-52 with three seconds left, but Kelsey Wicks canned two free throws to preserve the win. Mauri Horton tossed in 25 points and Davalyn Cunningham contributed a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds to pace Rutgers.


Nine of the 17 games in the series have been decided by single-digit margins, with two contests going into overtime. The series has been especially close of late, with seven of the last nine games decided by nine points or less, including each of the last three (all by five or less). Overall, Rutgers holds a narrow victory margin in the series of 3.9 points per game.Neither team won back-to-back games in the series since Notre Dame defeated Rutgers at the 1999 BIG EAST Championship semifinals and took an overtime victory the following season.Saturday’s encounter will mark the seventh time in the last 11 series games that Notre Dame and Rutgers have played in Piscataway.Two of the top women’s basketball coaches in the country will face off Saturday when Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw squares off with Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer. The two coaches have combined to post a staggering record of 1,159-424 (.732) in 54 seasons of coaching, averaging better than 21 wins per year. McGraw and Stringer also have guided 26 teams to the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Final Four on five occasions.

Notre Dame is 123-27 (.820) 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 since joining the circuit for the 1995-96 campaign. The Irish also have won 79 of their last 96 regular-season conference games (.823), and claimed a share of their first-ever BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2001. When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 135-35 (.794) against league opponents — when factoring in these 20 postseason tilts, the Irish are 68-7 (.907) at home, 55-23 (.705) on the road and 12-5 (.706) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

The Irish have played eight times on Feb. 28 in their history, going 5-3 on this date, with a 2-2 record in the Muffet McGraw era and a 1-1 mark on the road. Notre Dame has won its last two games on Feb. 28, both coming in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship at the site of Saturday’s game — the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway. In 1998, the Irish ousted St. John’s, 94-57 behind a school-record eight three-pointers from Sheila McMillen, and a year later, Notre Dame returned to “the RAC” and defeated Villanova, 83-53, as 10 different Irish players scored at least four points.

For those who are curious in this leap year, Notre Dame has played once on Feb. 29 in its history. In 1980, the Irish downed Huntington, 52-46 in the semifinals of the Indiana Division III State Tournament, which was held at Saint Mary’s College, across the street from the Notre Dame campus.


The Irish will be assured of finishing no lower than second place in the BIG EAST, marking the seventh time in Notre Dame’s nine-year conference membership that it has placed among the top two.Notre Dame will even its all-time series with Rutgers at 9-9, winning for the fourth time in its last five visits to Piscataway after losing its first four games at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.The Irish will close out the regular season with their fifth road victory in the last six games, capping a superb turnaround after beginning the year with a 2-7 mark away from home.Notre Dame will card its 16th win in the last 20 games since opening the year at 3-4.The Irish will improve to 124-27 (.821) all-time in regular-season games against the BIG EAST Conference, maintaining the best winning percentage in conference history.Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 382-146 (.723) in 17 seasons under the Golden Dome. She also will watch her career ledger improve to 470-187 (.715) in 22 years at the college level.The Irish will raise their all-time record to 546-245 (.690) in 27 seasons of varsity competition.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast had 23 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six steals, and Notre Dame forced Miami into a season-high 37 turnovers and beat the 21st-ranked Hurricanes 93-58 Wednesday night at the Joyce Center. The 35-point margin of victory also tied a school record for the biggest win ever against a ranked opponent — Notre Dame downed George Washington, 95-60 in the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament when the Colonials were ranked 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. The Irish now have won six straight against ranked teams to improve to 7-3 against them, extending their school record for the most regular-season wins vs. Top 25 opposition.

Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere added 13 points as all 12 Irish players scored for the first time this season. Notre Dame’s reserves outscored their Miami counterparts, 40-2 as the Irish shot 58 percent en route to scoring their most points since a 107-65 win over Cleveland State in the opener of last season. For the Hurricanes, it was their worst loss since they were beaten 96-50 by top-ranked Connecticut two years ago.

Notre Dame (18-8, 11-3 BIG EAST), which stretched its home winning streak to 17 games, also clinched a first-round bye in the BIG EAST Championship with the victory. The Hurricanes (20-5, 9-5) had won four straight games coming into Wednesday’s game, but now have seen two of their five losses this year come at the hands of the Irish.

Batteast had her ninth double-double of this season and her fourth against a ranked opponent. Sophomore guard Megan Duffy and senior guard Monique Hernandez added 10 points each for the Irish, with Hernandez tying her career high for the second time this season. Senior guard Le’Tania Severe matched her career best with nine assists as Notre Dame registered a season-high 28 assists on 33 field goals (an .848 efficiency ratio).

Tamara James led the Hurricanes with 17 points and Yalonda McCormick added 16. Chanivia Broussard had 14 points, but also set a dubious Notre Dame opponent record with 13 turnovers, breaking a 16-year-old standard. McCormick turned the ball over 10 times for the Hurricanes, who had the most turnovers by an Irish opponent in more than 13 years (37 by Saint Louis on Feb. 19, 1991).

Batteast, who had 13 points and seven rebounds in the first half, hit a pair of free throws and a three-pointer to ignite a 13-2 Irish run in the first half that broke the game open. She later hit a pair of free throws with 3:33 left in the first half to give the Irish a 34-24 lead. The Hurricanes never got any closer than 10 points thereafter.

Miami, which held Seton Hall to 43 points in a victory Saturday, gave up 45 in the first half alone against the Irish. The Hurricanes had 19 turnovers in the half and trailed 45-29 at the break.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has referred to the aftermath of her team’s 76-73 loss at Georgetown on Jan. 7 as the turning point of the season for the Irish. Upon returning to campus the day after the disheartening setback, the Irish coaches began preparing for practice in their office and then headed for the gym floor, only to find the team already working out on its own.

Since that time, Notre Dame has won 11 of 13 games, including six against Top 25 opponents. One of the key reasons for that run of success has been an increased focus on defense — the Irish are giving up just 50.9 points per game and holding opponents to a .351 field goal percentage (.240 three-point ratio) over that stretch.

Notre Dame’s offense has come alive during its current four-game winning streak, averaging 78.8 points per game with a .502 field goal percentage (113-255) and a .453 three-point ratio (24-53). Prior to this run, the Irish had gone nine games without topping the 70-point mark, but they have reached that plateau in three of their last four games (81 vs. Providence, 72 at Pittsburgh, 93 vs. Miami). In addition, Notre Dame had shot 50 percent or better three times in its first 22 games this season, but has exceeded that threshold in three of its last four games (.541 vs. Providence, .565 at Pittsburgh, .579 vs. Miami).

Individually, Notre Dame has four players scoring in double figures during this winning streak. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast leads the way at 15.5 ppg., followed by senior guard Jeneka Joyce, who has erupted of late (13.3 ppg.). Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere has come alive down the stretch, averaging 11.3 ppg., and sophomore guard Megan Duffy rounds out the quartet (10.3 ppg.).

Upon closer inspection, it’s been the inside-outside tandem of LaVere and Joyce that has been most effective lately. LaVere has a .656 field goal percentage (21 of 32) in her last four games, including matching season highs of .857 (six of seven) in her two most recent outings vs. Pittsburgh and Miami. At the same time, Joyce posted three consecutive career-high scoring totals vs. Providence (14), St. John’s (15) and Pittsburgh (16), and has been blistering the nets from the three-point line at a .485 clip (16 of 33) during the past four games.

Notre Dame has stepped up its play thanks in large measure to the added pressure applied by its defense. During BIG EAST play, the Irish rank among the top three in the conference in several major defensive categories, including scoring defense (3rd – 52.7 ppg.), scoring margin (2nd – +10.3 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (2nd – .357), three-point field goal percentage defense (1st – .242), rebounding margin (3rd – +4.9 rpg.) and blocked shots (2nd – 4.57 bpg.).

However, that’s just the start when it comes to noting Notre Dame’s defense. Here are some other tidbits about the Irish defensive lockdown in conference play:

During an eight-game stretch from Jan. 21-Feb. 17, Notre Dame gave up an average of just 47.6 ppg. In fact, the 381 points allowed by the Irish in that stretch represented the best eight-game defensive run in school history. The previous record was 393 points (49.1 ppg.) from Jan. 21-Feb. 10, 1982, in wins over Valparaiso, Michigan, Ball State, Marquette, Mount St. Joseph, Taylor and Cincinnati, as well as a loss to Miami (Ohio).Notre Dame set a new school record by limiting seven consecutive opponents to 52 points or less from Jan. 21-Feb. 14. The old record stood from Dec. 13, 1997 to Jan. 8, 1998, when Notre Dame had a streak of five consecutive games allowing 52 points or less.The Irish held back-to-back opponents (Syracuse and Villanova) to less than 40 points for only the second time in school history (and first in the program’s Division I era, which began in 1980-81. The first time came on Jan. 24 & 31, 1978, when the Irish defeated IPFW (68-39) and Grace College (68-25).In 28 halves of BIG EAST action (14 games), Irish opponents have scored 30-or-more points just seven times, with Georgetown and Pittsburgh accounting for four of those in games on Jan. 7 and Feb. 21, respectively.Notre Dame has limited nine of its last 13 opponents to field goal percentages of less than .400, going 7-2 in those contests. In addition, Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown (second game) all shot less than 30 percent from the floor. For the season, the Irish are 12-3 when they hold their opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.Notre Dame held Syracuse to 35 points on Jan. 21, setting a school record for the fewest points ever allowed in a BIG EAST road game and the second-fewest yielded in any road game (84-27 at Valparaiso on Jan. 21, 1982).

Miami came into Wednesday’s game at Notre Dame forcing an average of 22.5 turnovers per game. However, the Irish defense turned the tables on the Hurricanes, forcing them into a season-high 37 turnovers, highlighted by 18 steals. Those 37 turnovers are tied for the third-most takeaways in Notre Dame history (record is 48 vs. SIU-Edwardsville on Jan. 11, 1980), and they are the most the Irish have ever caused against a BIG EAST Conference opponent. The last time Notre Dame forced that many turnovers in a game was Feb. 19, 1991, when Saint Louis also coughed up the orange 37 times in an 87-47 Irish win at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame has fought through a brutal schedule that has included playing 10 games against Top 25 opponents. The Irish have handled the challenge very well, going 7-3 in those contests with victories over No. 22/25 Auburn (77-64), No. 16/15 Virginia Tech (53-40), No. 4/4 Connecticut (66-51), No. 23/25 Villanova (38-36), No. 17/16 Miami (59-50), No. NR/23 Boston College (52-50) and a second win over No. 21/19 Miami (93-58). Notre Dame narrowly missed an eighth win over a Top 25 foe, as No. 20/20 Colorado rallied to defeat the Irish, 67-63 in overtime in the championship game of the season-opening WBCA Classic back on Nov. 15 in Boulder, Colo. Nevertheless, Notre Dame has set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents this season, topping the old mark of five by the 2000-01 national championship squad (that team had nine total Top 25 wins, but four came in the NCAA Tournament).

By comparison, in the previous two seasons combined (2001-02 and 2002-03), Notre Dame had a total of five wins over ranked opponents, with three of those coming in the regular season (Virginia Tech and Boston College in ’01-02, and Villanova in ’02-03).

The rugged Irish schedule has not gone unnoticed by the national media. Four major outlets — Sagarin/Collegiate Basketball News (7th), Massey (7th), (10th) and WBCA/Summerville RPI (11th)

For the most part, Notre Dame has done a good job of shutting down the opposition’s top offensive threat since the start of BIG EAST Conference play. Through 14 games, only three of these opposing players (Georgetown’s Rebekkah Brunson, West Virginia’s Kate Bulger, Pittsburgh’s LaToya Kincaid and Miami’s Tamara James) have exceeded their season scoring averages, and just four (Kincaid, James, Ashley Bush of Seton Hall and Kim MacMillan of St. John’s) have reached their season shooting percentages.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has been chosen as one of 20 finalists for the 2004 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award, it was announced Feb. 17 by Jackie Bradford, President of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. With her selection, Batteast remains poised to become the second Irish player in four years to win college basketball’s most coveted award, following in the footsteps of All-America center Ruth Riley, who claimed the honor in 2001.

Batteast is averaging 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game with eight double-doubles this season, while leading Notre Dame to a 18-8 record and a second-place standing in the BIG EAST Conference with a 11-3 mark. The talented Irish wing has been at her best against top competition this year, averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds with four double-doubles and three near double-doubles against 10 ranked opponents. Batteast’s best effort against a Top 25 team came on Jan. 13 when she piled up 23 points and 11 rebounds to help Notre Dame knock off No. 4 Connecticut, 66-51 at the Joyce Center.

Batteast currently ranks among the Top 10 in the BIG EAST in scoring (10th), rebounding (fourth), field goal percentage (10th), blocked shots (fifth) and double-doubles (second). She also was a preseason all-BIG EAST First Team selection and was named to the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team on Nov. 15 after averaging 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds with a .529 field goal percentage against nationally-ranked Auburn and Colorado.

For her career, Batteast ranks 16th in school history in scoring (1,189 points), sixth in scoring average (14.2 ppg.), 10th in rebounding (687) and second in rebounding average (8.2 rpg.). She also owns an active streak of 58 consecutive games started, dating back to the beginning of last year, and she has started 80 of a possible 84 games in her college career.

The Naismith Award winner will be honored in Atlanta on April 9. The Naismith Awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and is in its 36th year of recognizing top college basketball players in the United States.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has taken her game to another level against BIG EAST Conference opponents this year. In 14 conference games this year, Batteast is carding 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game with six double-doubles. She currently is second in the conference in rebounding and eighth in scoring during league play. In addition, she has the third-best field goal percentage in the BIG EAST during league play (.473) and just missed double-doubles in four other conference outings (14 points and nine rebounds vs. Villanova; nine points and 10 rebounds at Miami; 20 points and nine rebounds vs. Georgetown; 17 points and eight rebounds at Pittsburgh).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has played very well in Notre Dame’s 10 games against Top 25 opponents this year. She is averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds with four double-doubles (and three near double-doubles) in those matchups against ranked opponents in 2003-04.

Maybe it’s the long plane rides, or the lumpy mattresses in the hotel, or even the quality of the pre-game meal. Whatever the reason, Notre Dame has struggled at times on the road this season, going 6-8 away from the Joyce Center (5-8 in true road games), although they have won four of their last five on the road. Still, that’s a far cry from the success the Irish have experienced at home, where they are a perfect 12-0 and own an active 17-game winning streak.

Some of Notre Dame’s success this season can be traced to the contribution provided by the Irish bench. Notre Dame’s reserves are averaging 20.4 points per game (531 total) this season, compared to 14.1 ppg. (366) by the opposition, an average margin of 6.3 points per game.

Since the start of the BIG EAST Conference season on Jan. 7, Notre Dame has received critical support from its reserves. The Irish bench has scored 311 points (22.2 ppg.) in 14 conference games this year, compared to its opponent’s reserves who have logged 148 points (10.6 ppg.) over that same time, good for a +11.6 ppg. scoring margin.

In addition, the Notre Dame second unit has rung up at least 30 points on five occasions this season, four during conference play (season-high 46 points vs. Dayton, 40 points in the second game with Miami, 38 points vs. Providence, 35 points at Syracuse, 33 points in the first Miami game).

With its win at St. John’s on Feb. 17, Notre Dame clinched a winning record for the 2003-04 season, marking the 23rd time in the 27-year history of the program (and the 12th consecutive season) that the Irish have finished above .500. The success has been even more impressive under current head coach Muffet McGraw — Notre Dame has had just one losing season during her 17-year tenure (14-17 in 1991-92), and still advanced to the NCAA Tournament that year after winning the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament.

Senior guard Le’Tania Severe and junior forward Jacqueline Batteast have the longest active streaks of consecutive games started among Irish players. Severe has earned 69 consecutive starting assignments, a streak which began on Notre Dame’s last visit to Pittsburgh (Feb. 5, 2002). Meanwhile, Batteast has been in the starting lineup for 58 straight games, beginning with the first game of the 2002-03 campaign (Nov. 26, 2002 vs. Cleveland State). The South Bend native actually started the first 22 games of her Irish career before suffering a knee injury that relegated her to a supporting role for the remainder of the 2001-02 season. The school record for consecutive games started is 95, which Katryna Gaither established from 1994-97.

Notre Dame’s 66-51 victory over No. 4/4 Connecticut on Jan. 13 at the Joyce Center was historic for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of them:

Notre Dame’s win over Connecticut snapped the Huskies’ 121-game winning streak against unranked opponents, a string that dated back to Jan. 23, 1999 (a 78-66 loss at Boston College).Since the start of the 1998-99 season, Connecticut has lost by 15-plus points only three times and each time, those losses have come to Notre Dame (twice in 2000-01, once in 2003-04).Notre Dame is one of only two teams in the nation (and the first BIG EAST squad) to defeat Connecticut more than once in the past 11 seasons (1993-94 to present). During that 11-year stretch, Tennessee is the only other program with multiple wins over the Huskies.In the past four seasons (2000-01 to present), half of Connecticut’s six losses have come at the hands of Notre Dame.Over the past five seasons (1999-2000 to present), the Joyce Center is the only arena to see multiple losses by Connecticut.

Notre Dame has pulled off a rare feat this season, becoming just the fourth school since the inception of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in 1982 to have both its men’s and women’s basketball teams defeat the defending national champions in the same season. The Irish women did their part by ousting Connecticut (66-51) on Jan. 13, while the Notre Dame men completed the double with an 84-72 win at Syracuse on Feb. 16.

The only other schools who can lay claim to this accomplishment are Duke (1998-99), Tennessee (1999-2000) and Michigan State (1999-2000), with Notre Dame and Michigan State being the only institutions to turn the trick in the regular season (Duke’s women beat Tennessee in the ’99 NCAAs, while Tennessee’s men downed Connecticut in the ’00 NCAAs).

Saying January was a crazy month for Notre Dame would probably be a bit of an understatement. To begin with, the Irish had 10 games on the schedule last month, its fullest slate since January 1997, when Notre Dame also played 10 times, posting a 9-1 record en route to its first NCAA Final Four appearance. However, that 1997 docket saw the Irish go the entire month without facing a ranked opponent. This year’s Notre Dame squad didn’t have that luck, facing six Top 25 foes in the month.

This January didn’t start out well for Notre Dame, as the Irish lost two of their first three games, including a heartbreaking 76-73 setback at Georgetown in which the Hoyas scored seven points in the final 14 seconds to steal the victory. Unfazed, Notre Dame bounced back with wins in six of its last seven games, highlighted by victories over No. 4/4 Connecticut (66-51), No. 16/15 Virginia Tech (53-40), No. 17/16 Miami (59-50), No. 23/25 Villanova (38-36) and No. NR/23 Boston College (52-50).

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to this season, where Duffy has been an impact player from the outset. She is second on the team in scoring at 10.9 ppg., which more than triples her production from last year. However, her biggest improvement has come in her shooting numbers, where she’s connecting at a .429 percentage (42-98) from the three-point line and would be second in the BIG EAST if she had made enough treys to qualify (min. 2.0 per game). She’s also has six times as many treys as she sank all of last year and after cracking double digits just twice in 2002-03 (career high was 12 points), she has 15 double-figure games this season, with two topping the 20-point mark. Her best outing to date was a 25-point outburst on Dec. 4 vs. Wisconsin, where she shattered her career standard from beyond the arc, going six for 10 from downtown.

But lest we forget her primary duties at the point, Duffy is leading the Irish and ranks seventh in the BIG EAST with 4.42 assists per game, nearly doubling last year’s output. She also has just 76 turnovers, giving her a healthy 1.51 assist/turnover ratio (seventh in the BIG EAST). She has dished out at least five assists 14 times this year, including a career-high nine dimes on Dec. 7 at Washington.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast scored a game-high 14 points on Jan. 10 against No. 16/15 Virginia Tech, becoming the 20th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. She also was the fourth-fastest Irish player ever to reach that milestone, doing so in her 72nd career game.

Batteast also is one of only five Irish players to score 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame, joining Morgan, Matvey, Riley and Ratay. For her career, the South Bend native ranks sixth in school history with a 14.2 ppg. scoring average, and 16th in total points (1,189), needing six points to pass Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91) for 15th place all-time. Batteast actually is only 16 points away from jumping into 13th place on the Irish career scoring list, skipping past Davis, Heidi Bunek (1,202 from 1985-89) and Letitia Bowen (1,205 from 1991-95).

One of the supposed question marks surrounding this year’s Notre Dame squad was its perimeter shooting, especially with the departure of the NCAA’s career three-point percentage record holder, Alicia Ratay. Through the first two-thirds of the season, the Irish have had an emphatic response to that question. Notre Dame is second in the BIG EAST with a .378 three-point percentage, hitting 105 of 278 shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Megan Duffy has been a major contributor from beyond the arc, connecting at a .429 clip (42-98), which also would rank second in the BIG EAST, but she has not made enough field goals to qualify for statistical ranking (minimum of 2.0 per game).

Another long distance specialist for Notre Dame has been senior guard Jeneka Joyce, which is a pleasant surprise when you consider the Topeka, Kan., native has spent the better part of the past two seasons trying to recover from leg injuries. Joyce has knocked down 38 of 86 treys for a team-high .442 three-point percentage, but she also has not yet made enough field goals to qualify for the rankings (she would be leading the league). Still, she is 12th in the BIG EAST with 1.81 triples per game, and sixth with 2.09 three-pointers per night in conference play.

The veteran sharpshooter has been at her best in Notre Dame’s last four outings vs. Providence, St. John’s, Pittsburgh and Miami. Against the Friars, she tied her (then) career high with 14 points and four treys, scoring all of her points in the final 6:25 of the first half. Three days later against the Red Storm, Joyce outdid herself, ringing up a career-best 15 points while making a career-high five three-point field goals (on 10 tries), including the last with the shot clock expiring and 4:40 remaining to help seal an Irish victory. Then, at Pittsburgh, the Kansas gunner did it again, rolling up a career-high 16 points, hitting five of eight three-point attempts. Most recently vs. Miami, Joyce tallied eight points and buried two more triples. Overall, Joyce is averaging 13.3 ppg. with a .485 three-point percentage (16 of 33) in her last four games.

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

Notre Dame is receiving 46 votes in the latest Associated Press poll after spending four weeks in the Top 25 earlier this season. The Irish were ranked 15th in the preseason AP poll, marking the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the Irish were tapped in the initial AP survey of the year.

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

This season, Notre Dame has faced or will face no less than seven teams that were ranked in both major polls this week (No. 1/1 Connecticut, No. 2/2 Tennessee, No. 4/4 Purdue, No. 14/13 Colorado, No. 18/20 Auburn, No. 21/19 Miami and No. 22/22 Michigan State). In addition, Boston College is ranked 24th and Virginia Tech is 25th in this week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Also, four other Irish opponents — Rutgers, USC, Villanova and West Virginia — were receiving votes in one or both of the polls this week.

Over the last four seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 74-6 (.925) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including a 12-2 mark this year. The two rare losses this season came on Nov. 15 at Colorado (led 37-33 at half; lost 67-63 in overtime) and at Seton Hall (led 23-17; lost 51-45).

Over the last nine seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 127-5 (.962) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added 13 more wins to that ledger this season by holding down Valparaiso (74-57), Dayton (78-41), Colorado State (63-59), Virginia Tech (53-40), Connecticut (66-51), Syracuse (64-35), Villanova (38-36), Miami (59-50), Boston College (52-50), Georgetown (66-52), Providence (81-51), St. John’s (69-56) and Miami again (93-58).

Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. Over the last nine seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 88-3 (.967) 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 tacked on three more wins to that tally this year with high-scoring victories over Wisconsin (82-64), Providence (81-51) and Miami (93-58).

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

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

Notre Dame has won 199 games over the last eight seasons (24.9 victories per year), which stands as the ninth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

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

In January, Notre Dame unveiled new championship banners which now hang in the Joyce Center. The NCAA title flag won by the Irish women in 2001 and the Helms Foundation national championship banners won by the Notre Dame men in 1927 and 1936 now have been converted to gold with blue lettering, reversing the look of the other banners currently on display. In addition, the Irish basketball and volleyball teams have added blue flags for Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

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 110 of their last 119 games (.924) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a current 17-game winning streak, the second-longest in school history. Notre Dame also has a 68-7 (.907) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 45 of their last 47 non-BIG EAST contests (.957) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only two losses in that span came to Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69) and Purdue in 2003 (71-54). The Purdue loss snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 260-70 (.788) record at the venerable facility. In both the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.

Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in attendance each of the past three years. The Irish are looking to extend that streak to a fourth straight season, averaging 6,698 fans for their 12 home games, including a season-high 8,760 fans on Feb. 14 vs. Providence, the seventh-largest crowd in school history. According to the latest unofficial national attendance rankings compiled by the Wisconsin Sports Information Office (as of Feb. 23), Notre Dame ranks 11th in the country in attendance.

The Irish averaged 7,132 fans for their 13 home games last season, good for their second consecutive eighth-place finish in the final NCAA attendance rankings. Last year also saw Notre Dame register two of the top 10 crowds in school history, including a season-high gathering of 9,483 fans, the fifth-largest in school history for the nationally-televised matchup with Purdue on Jan. 4, 2003.

All of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 17-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present). And, as more evidence of Notre Dame’s rapid elevation to “hot ticket” status in South Bend, 19 of the top 20 crowds in school history have been recorded in the last five seasons.

Based on its success in recent years, Notre Dame continues to be a favorable television draw and the 2003-04 season will be no exception. The Irish are slated to play on the small screen no less than 11 times this year, including four appearances on national television.

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

In addition, Notre Dame has been selected to appear on the BIG EAST Conference television package four times this season, including three home games. The Irish already have taken on Virginia Tech (Jan. 10), Villanova (Jan. 24) and Boston College (Jan. 31) at home, and will travel to Rutgers (Saturday) for games in front of the BIG EAST TV cameras. Those games may be seen on a regional basis in several major East Coast markets, including New York, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington (check your local listings), as well as South Bend, where WHME-TV (Channel 46) will show the Virginia Tech, Villanova and Rutgers games on a same-day, tape-delayed basis at 7 p.m. (ET).

Furthermore, the Jan. 13 BIG EAST matchup between Notre Dame and two-time defending national champion Connecticut was televised by Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) with College Sports Television (CSTV) picking up the broadcast and airing it nationally.

Both Notre Dame-Miami games also were televised this season. The Jan. 28 matchup in Coral Gables, Fla., was picked up by the Sunshine Network on a tape-delayed basis. Meanwhile, the Feb. 25 rematch at the Joyce Center was broadcast live to a nationwide audience on CSTV. The fledgling network has been particularly kind to the Irish this season — Notre Dame is 2-0 when appearing on the CSTV airwaves.

Two other Irish road games (at West Virginia and Syracuse) were broadcast locally on a delayed basis in those markets.

In addition, the semifinals of this year’s BIG EAST Championship presented by State Farm will be broadcast on the BIG EAST television package Monday, March 8 at 6 and 8 p.m. (ET) from the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center. Clearances for those semifinal games have yet to be announced. The championship game will air live on ESPN2 on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. (ET).

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

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

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

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on the flagship stations of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network — WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his fourth season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics website ( by subscribing to College Sports Pass, which gives listeners full multimedia access to a variety of Irish athletics events for only $6.95 per month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 18 that three of the nation’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2004. Charel Allen, a 5-10 guard from Monessen, Pa., Melissa D’Amico, a 6-5 forward/center from Manorville, N.Y., and Tulyah Gaines (pronounced too-LIE-uh), a 5-8 guard from North Las Vegas, Nev., all committed to the Irish during the early signing period, which lasted from Nov. 12-19.

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

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

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

With the addition of Allen, D’Amico and Gaines, Notre Dame has assembled the nation’s 14th-ranked recruiting class according to Blue Star Index. This marks the eighth consecutive year in which the Irish have attracted a Top 20 class, making Notre Dame one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have such a consistent run of recruiting success.

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

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

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

The Irish will return home to close out the 2003-04 regular season Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ET) when they play host to Syracuse at the Joyce Center. Prior to the game, Notre Dame will pay tribute to its four seniors, who will be playing in the final regular-season home game for the Irish. Three of those four veterans — Monique Hernandez, Jeneka Joyce and Le’Tania Severe — represent the last links to Notre Dame’s 2001 national championship team.

Tuesday’s matchup will be the second of the season for Notre Dame and Syracuse. Back on Jan. 21 in upstate New York, the Irish downed the Orangewomen, 64-35, at Manley Field House, setting a school record for the fewest points allowed to a BIG EAST Conference opponent. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Syracuse, 15-2, including a 7-0 mark at the Joyce Center.

The Orangewomen (6-18, 3-11) currently are tied for 11th place in the BIG EAST and hold the final berth in the conference tournament by one game over Pittsburgh with two games remaining. Under new head coach Keith Cieplicki, Syracuse has struggled to adjust to a new perimeter-oriented system, losing 18 of its last 22 games, including a current 10-game losing streak, its longest of the year. Nevertheless, the Orangewomen can clinch a spot in the BIG EAST Championship on Saturday with either a win at home over Boston College or a loss by Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech.