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Irish Face Southwest Missouri State Sunday In NCAA Tournament Opener

March 16, 2004

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2004 NCAA East Region — First Round
No. 5 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-10) vs.
No. 12 seed Southwest Missouri State Lady Bears (28-3)

The Date and Time: Sunday, March 21, 2004, 30 minutes following conclusion of North Carolina-Middle Tennessee game (approximately 2:30 p.m. ET).
The Site: Joyce Center (11,418) in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Tickets: Still available through the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).
The TV Plans: ESPN split national broadcast with Bob Picozzi (play-by-play), Debbie Antonelli (analysis), Bart Fox (producer) and Dennis Lanius (director). The game also will be available as part of the ESPN FullCourt pay-per-view package.
The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1580) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires (play-by-play). These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at
Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics will be available for all games in the 2004 NCAA Championship via the official NCAA Sports ( web site.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Southwest Missouri State (

For the 11th time in school history, Notre Dame will participate in the NCAA Tournament, playing host to Southwest Missouri State Sunday afternoon in an East Region first round game at the Joyce Center. The Irish are seeded fifth in the East and will be playing at home in the NCAA tourney for the fourth time.

  • Notre Dame (19-10) finished tied for second in the BIG EAST Conference this season with a 12-4 record, marking its seventh top-two placement in nine years in the league. However, Notre Dame has a sour taste in its mouth after a 51-45 loss to Rutgers in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals on March 7 in Hartford, Conn.
  • The Irish will look for better things at home, where they have won 18 consecutive games, including all 13 Joyce Center contests this season.
  • Southwest Missouri State (28-3) is the Missouri Valley Conference champion and 12th seed in the East Region. The Lady Bears defeated Drake, 74-67, on March 13 to claim the MVC Tournament title and the league’s automatic NCAA bid. Junior Jenni Lingor averaged 21.3 ppg. in the league tournament and was named the Most Outstanding Player.
  • Notre Dame and SMS have met only once before, also in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish defeated the Lady Bears, 78-64, on March 13, 1998, in a Midwest Region first round game in Lubbock, Texas.

Throughout the 2003-04 season, Notre Dame found itself in acquisition mode, picking up the knowledge and experience it will need to be highly competitive in the postseason. The Irish played a rugged schedule that was ranked in the Top 30 in the nation all year long, and they have faced 10 Top 25 teams to date, setting a school record with seven regular-season wins against those ranked foes (including a current six-game winning streak vs. Top 25 teams). In addition, Notre Dame endured some rough patches on the road, but lately, it has begun to learn how to win in hostile environments, winning four of its final six regular-season road games. As such, it seems the Irish are poised for big things as postseason play rolls around this weekend.

  • Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (15.4 ppg., 8.3 rpg., .448 field goal percentage, 10 double-doubles) is a Naismith Award and Kodak/WBCA All-America Team finalist and has lived up to her accolades this season, ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring, rebounding, double-doubles, field goal percentage and blocked shots (1.28 bpg.). A first-team all-conference selection, she also 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 and 19 points at Washington. She then chalked up a 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 on March 7 vs. Rutgers in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals, she piled up 22 points and eight rebounds, her eighth 20-point game of the year. During BIG EAST play, she was superb, averaging 15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game with a .470 field goal percentage and seven double-doubles (along with four other near double-doubles). She now has 69 double-figure scoring games (10th-best in school history) and 29 double-doubles in her three-year Irish career.
  • Junior center Teresa Borton (6.0 ppg., 4.2 rpg., team-high .530 FG%) and sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (8.8 ppg., 4.2 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 been a solid contributor down the stretch, notching eight double-digit scoring games in her last 15 outings.
  • Sophomore Megan Duffy (10.3 ppg., team-high 4.1 apg., team-high .427 3FG%, .816 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 showed why she was a clear choice as the BIG EAST’s Most Improved Player, more than tripling her scoring output, ranking ninth in the BIG EAST in assists and owning a team-best 1.42 assist/turnover ratio (sixth in the BIG EAST). In addition, she is showing offensive diversity, knocking down 44 three-pointers this season. An honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection, she also has 16 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 14 points (5-9 FG, 2-3 3FG) and had a game-high four assists at Rutgers.
  • Senior captain Le’Tania Severe (7.3 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 3.2 apg., .456 FG%, team-high .819 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 leads the team with 1.52 steals per game and has been a reliable force in the lineup, making 72 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) on Feb. 25 vs. Miami.

Flying below the national radar for much of the 2003-04 season, Southwest Missouri State quietly has posted one of the country’s best records, rolling to a 28-3 mark, including a 16-2 record in Missouri Valley Conference action. In fact, SMS won 21 of its first 22 games, highlighted by a 19-game winning streak that last more than two months. The Lady Bears won the MVC regular-season title, then added the conference tournament championship to their resume by ousting Drake, 74-67, in the MVC final on March 13.

Junior guard Jenni Lingor was named the Most Outstanding Player in this year’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after averaging 21.3 points per game and shooting .694 (25 of 36) from the field in the three-game set. Lingor was joined on the all-tournament team by two of her teammates — sophomore guard Kari Koch and senior forward Meg Tierney. Koch averaged 14.3 points and 5.7 assists in the tourney, while Tierney logged 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds en route to the championship.

Without question, SMS has been successful this season because of its uncanny ability to shoot the basketball. The Lady Bears are ranked among the Top 10 in the nation in every shooting percentage category — field goal percentage (.486), three-point percentage (.417) and free throw percentage (.767). In addition, Southwest Missouri State has been at or near the top of the NCAA statistical ladders in three-pointers made per game (8.7), scoring offense (78.1 ppg.) and scoring margin (+19.9 ppg.).

Koch has been the Lady Bears’ top playmaker this season, registering a team-high 17.8 points and 4.5 assists per game. She also has made a team-best 72 three-pointers and is one of six SMS players to be shooting at least 40 percent from the three-point line with a minimum of 10 attempts. Lingor is second on the squad in scoring (13.4 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (6.2 rpg.), while Tierney is third in scoring (12.7 ppg.) and second in rebounding (5.5 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.535).

Two other Lady Bears to keep an eye on are junior guard K.C. Cowgill, who comes off the bench to average 8.4 ppg., and is among the nation’s top three-point shooters (.481), and senior guard Morgan Hohenberger, who has expertly run the point for SMS this season, ranking second on the team with 4.1 assists per game.

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson is in her second year as the head coach at Southwest Missouri State, having guided the Lady Bears to a 46-16 (.742) record, two MVC titles and two NCAA Tournament berths in her brief tenure. Sunday’s game will be her first against Notre Dame as a head coach.

Sunday’s game will represent just the second career meeting between Notre Dame and Southwest Missouri State. Back on March 13, 1998, the Irish defeated the Lady Bears, 78-64, in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Region in Lubbock, Texas. Four of Notre Dame’s five starters scored in double figures as the Irish shot 51.7 percent from the field, while holding SMS to a .396 field goal percentage and forcing 25 turnovers.

Freshman center Ruth Riley posted game highs of 21 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame, while junior guard Sheila McMillen scored 13 points on the strength of three three-point field goals. Senior guard Mollie Peirick added 12 points and nine assists, while another rookie, forward Kelley Siemon had 12 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Niele Ivey was the only Irish player to not to score in double figures, as she chipped in nine points, but made a game-high seven steals (the second-most ever in an NCAA Midwest Region first or second round game).

SMS had four players score in double figures, led by freshman guard Jackie Stiles who piled up 15 points before fouling out late in the second half.

Notre Dame trailed only once in the contest and held a double-digit lead for the majority of the game, including a 38-25 edge at halftime. A complete box score of this game may be found on page 177 of the 2003-04 Irish women’s basketball media guide.


  • Notre Dame and Southwest Missouri State crossed paths three years ago in St. Louis, when both teams advanced to the NCAA Final Four at the Savvis Center. The Lady Bears wound up falling to Purdue, 81-64, in the national semifinals, while the Irish knocked off Connecticut (90-75) and Purdue (68-66) to win their first national championship.
  • Including Southwest Missouri State, Notre Dame has faced 11 teams exclusively in the NCAA Tournament, posting an 11-2 (.846) record. The Irish also have tangled with Alcorn State (1-0), George Washington (2-0), Kansas State (1-0), Memphis (1-0), Minnesota (0-1), New Mexico (1-0), Saint Mary’s (Calif.) (1-0), San Diego (1-0), Texas Tech (1-2) and Utah (1-0) solely in NCAA competition.
  • Despite only meeting once before, Notre Dame holds three spots in the opponent section of Southwest Missouri State’s NCAA Tournament record book. The Irish registered the most blocked shots (8) and steals (20) ever against the Lady Bears in NCAA action, while guard Mollie Peirick set the SMS opponent mark with nine assists in Notre Dame’s 1998 first-round win.
  • Both of the head coaches have ties to Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly. SMS mentor Katie Abrahamson-Henderson spent six seasons (1994-2000) as an assistant coach on Fennelly’s staff at ISU. Meanwhile, Fennelly was an assistant at Notre Dame on Muffet McGraw’s staff during her first season with the Irish in 1987-88.
  • Southwest Missouri State forward Jessica Aldridge is a native of South Bend and graduated from Clay High School in 2002. During her final prep season, she was the Colonials’ team captain, guiding her squad to a 15-7 record, while earning a place on the South Bend Tribune All-Star Team that year. For her career, she ranks among Clay’s leaders in scoring (third – 824), steals (second – 358), rebounds (second – 571) and assists (third – 242). Aldridge spent the 2002-03 season at Kankakee (Ill.) Community College before heading to SMS last fall.
  • Notre Dame has had five Missouri natives within its ranks over the years. Most recently, St. Louis resident Niele Ivey (1996-2001) helped pilot her team to the 2001 NCAA Final Four, which was held in her hometown. Other Missourians who have played for the Irish include Carrie Bates (Kansas City – 1981-85), current Notre Dame senior associate athletics director Missy Conboy (Columbia – 1978-82), Beth Morrison (St. Louis – 1984-87) and Mollie Peirick (Eureka – 1994-98).

Notre Dame is 22-2 (.917) all-time against the current alignment of the Missouri Valley Conference, including a 9-1 record at home against MVC schools. The Irish have played five members of the Missouri Valley, owning records of .500 or better against all of them — Bradley (1-0), Creighton (1-0), Evansville (18-1), Illinois State (1-1) and Southwest Missouri State (1-0). The bulk of Notre Dame’s games against the present MVC membership came against Evansville, when the Irish and Purple Aces were rivals in both the North Star and Midwestern Collegiate conferences.

In the 17-year tenure of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, the Irish are 13-1 (.929) against the Missouri Valley Conference, going 6-0 at home, 5-1 on the road and 2-0 at neutral sites. Her only setback came the last time an MVC squad defeated Notre Dame on Jan. 28, 1993, when Evansville handed the visiting Irish a 73-69 loss.


  • The coaches coming to town can be divided into the veterans and the young guns. Between them, North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell and Notre Dame mentor Muffet McGraw have coached in 1,574 games during a combined 51 years on the sidelines (Hatchell – 654 wins; McGraw – 470 wins). Conversely, Middle Tennessee’s Stephany Smith and Southwest Missouri State’s Katie Abrahamson-Henderson have 268 games of experience in a total of nine seasons as collegiate head coaches (Smith – 128 wins; Abrahamson-Henderson – 46 wins).
  • Points could be at a premium if Notre Dame’s last two NCAA Tournament appearances are any indication. In their last five NCAA Tournament games (2002 & 2003), the Irish are allowing just 59.8 points per game. At the same time, Notre Dame has had trouble finding the range itself, averaging only 54.6 ppg.
  • The Notre Dame-Southwest Missouri State game will no doubt be decided at the three-point line. SMS has been among the national leaders all season in three-point percentage (.417) and three-pointers made per game (8.7). On the other hand, the Irish led the BIG EAST Conference in three-point percentage defense (.253 overall; .230 in league games – second-lowest in conference history) and are yielding just 3.9 treys per contest.
  • None of the other three teams coming to South Bend this weekend have ever played a game on the Joyce Center floor. At the same time, Notre Dame has never played at Southwest Missouri State, North Carolina or Middle Tennessee.
  • Notre Dame assistant coach Jonathan Tsipis is a 1996 graduate of North Carolina, having earned his bachelor of science degree in pharmacy. He has several other ties to the Tarheel State, having cut his teeth as an student assistant men’s basketball coach at Duke. He then returned in 2000 and spent two seasons as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Elon University before moving on to UNC Greensboro, where he served under former Notre Dame assistant Fran McCaffery as the Spartans’ director of men’s basketball operations in 2002-03.


  • Notre Dame will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the ninth consecutive season, corresponding exactly with its membership in the BIG EAST Conference.
  • The Irish will record their 20th victory of the 2003-04 campaign, marking their 11th consecutive 20-win season and the 15th in the 17-year Muffet McGraw era.
  • Notre Dame will improve to 20-9 (.690) all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including a 7-2 (.778) mark when playing in the East Region.
  • The Irish will extend their home winning streak to 19 games and rise to 5-1 (.833) all-time when playing in the NCAA Tournament at the Joyce Center.
  • Notre Dame will move to 46-2 (.958) in its last 48 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season.
  • The Irish will jump to 23-2 (.920) all-time against the Missouri Valley Conference, including a 10-1 (.909) record at home.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 383-148 (.721) in 17 seasons under the Golden Dome. She also will watch her career ledger improve to 471-189 (.714) in 22 years at the college level.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 547-247 (.689) in 27 seasons of varsity competition.

Notre Dame has been placed in the East Region for the fourth time in its NCAA Tournament history (and the second consecutive season) in 2004. In three previous East Region appearances, the Irish have posted a 6-2 (.750) record, winning the 1997 East Regional title in Columbia, S.C., en route to their first NCAA Final Four berth, and advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last season. In fact, since dropping its first East Region game in 1994 (81-76 to Minnesota at the Joyce Center), Notre Dame has won six of its last seven games coming out of the East bracket, including wins over Arizona (59-47) and No. 8/7 Kansas State (59-53) in the first two rounds of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Irish have done a good job of starting their NCAA Tournament experience in the right way, winning their first round game in each of the last eight seasons. That corresponds exactly with Notre Dame’s membership in the BIG EAST Conference, which began with the 1995-96 campaign. During that time, the Irish have advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen five times, moving on to the Final Four twice and winning the 2001 NCAA title.

Notre Dame is seeded fifth in the East Region of this year’s NCAA Tournament, matching the third-best seed in school history. It’s also Notre Dame’s highest seed since 2001, when the Irish carried the top seed in the Midwest Region all the way to the program’s first national championship. This year marks the second time Notre Dame is the No. 5 seed — in 1999, the Irish rallied to defeat Saint Mary’s (Calif.), 61-57, in Baton Rouge, La., before bowing to host (and fourth-seeded) LSU, 74-64, in round two. Overall, Notre Dame has played 22 NCAA Tournament games as a single-digit seed, posting a 16-6 (.727) record.

Although some bracketologists could peg a matchup between the No. 5 and 12 seeds as being ripe for an upset, the fifth spot might not be a bad locale for Notre Dame in this year’s field. In first-round games between the No. 5 and No. 12 seeds over the last five seasons (1999-2003), the fifth-seeded team holds a 17-3 (.850) record, including a 3-0 mark as the host team. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1995 to find the last time a 12th-seeded team won on the home court of a No. 5 seed — Montana turned the trick with a 57-46 victory at San Diego State.

Notre Dame is one of a record eight BIG EAST Conference teams selected for the 2004 NCAA Tournament, breaking the old conference standard of seven, which was set just last season. The eight participants also makes the BIG EAST only the second conference ever to advance that many teams to the NCAA Tournament (the Southeastern Conference had eight in 1999 and 2002). This year, the BIG EAST sent Boston College, Connecticut, Miami, Rutgers, Villanova, Virginia Tech and West Virginia to this year’s tourney, with WVU making its first appearance in 12 years.

The BIG EAST has set a new NCAA record by winning the last four championships (Connecticut – 2000, 2002 & 2003; Notre Dame – 2001) and is the only league to have two different teams win the title in four consecutive seasons. The BIG EAST also is the only conference ever to witness two different pairs of teams qualify for the Final Four in back-to-back years< rutgers=”” joined=”” uconn=”” in=”” the=”” 2000=”” final=”” four,=”” and=”” the=”” huskies=”” returned=”” a=”” year=”” later=”” to=”” face=”” the=”” irish=”” in=”” the=”” national=”” semifinals.=””>

Notre Dame played a difficult 2003-04 schedule, one which was ranked in the Top 30 in the country all year long. Highlighting that fact, a total of 17 Irish opponents qualified for postseason play — 14 in the NCAA Tournament (Auburn, Boston College, Colorado, Connecticut, Marquette, Miami, Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers, Tennessee, Valparaiso, Villanova, Virginia Tech and West Virginia) and three in the WNIT (Colorado State, Seton Hall and Washington). Notre Dame went 9-7 against the NCAA qualifiers (wins over BIG EAST Conference regular-season champion Connecticut, BIG EAST Tournament winner Boston College and Mid-Continent Conference Tournament winner Valparaiso, as well as Auburn, Marquette, Miami – twice, Villanova and Virginia Tech), and posted a 1-2 mark in three road games against the WNIT group (won at Colorado State).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has been chosen as one of 48 finalists for the 2004 Kodak/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-America Team, it was announced March 10. It marks the second time in three years Batteast has been tapped as a finalist for the Kodak/WBCA All-America Team, having also earned that designation during her freshman season of 2001-02. The Kodak/WBCA All-America Team will be announced Saturday, April 3 during a 9:45 a.m. (CT) press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in New Orleans, site of this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Batteast is averaging 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game with 10 double-doubles and eight 20-point games this season, all while leading Notre Dame to a 19-10 record and a second-place finish in the BIG EAST Conference at 12-4. 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.

A first-team all-conference selection and Naismith Award finalist this year, Batteast currently ranks among the Top 10 in the BIG EAST in scoring (seventh), rebounding (fourth), field goal percentage (ninth – .448), blocked shots (sixth – 1.28 bpg.) and double-doubles (second). She also 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 (both 2004 NCAA Tournament qualifiers).

For her career, Batteast ranks 12th in school history in scoring (1,249 points), fifth in scoring average (14.4 ppg.), ninth in rebounding (712) and second in rebounding average (8.2 rpg.). She also owns an active streak of 61 consecutive games started, dating back to the beginning of last year, and she has started 83 of a possible 87 games in her college career.

Batteast was one of five finalists selected from the BIG EAST by the WBCA member head coaches from Region I, which also includes schools from the America East, Atlantic 10 and Northeast conferences, as well as the Patriot League and the Ivy Group. The other BIG EAST finalists are Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Amber Jacobs of Boston College, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers and Diana Taurasi of Connecticut. Cathy Joens of George Washington is the sixth player on the all-region team.

Notre Dame added some more hardware to its trophy case on March 5 when two of its players were recognized for outstanding achievement at the BIG EAST Conference Championship Awards Banquet, which was held at the Hartford/Windsor Airport Marriott in Hartford, Conn.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast was named a first-team all-BIG EAST selection for the first time in her career after garnering second-team honors the past two seasons. Batteast, a Naismith Award and Kodak/WBCA All-America Team finalist, ranked among the Top 10 in the conference in scoring (seventh – 15.4 ppg.), rebounding (fourth – 8.3 rpg.), field goal percentage (ninth – .448), blocked shots (sixth – 1.28 bpg.) and double-doubles (second – 10). She was especially sharp against ranked opponents, averaging 15.7 ppg. and 8.7 rpg. with four double-doubles in 10 games against Top 25 teams.

Sophomore guard Megan Duffy was a double honoree at the conference gala, earning honorable mention all-BIG EAST laurels as well as the league’s Most Improved Player award. Duffy ranks second on the team in scoring (10.3 ppg.) and stands among the conference leaders in assists (ninth – 4.10 apg.), free throw percentage (seventh – .816) and assist/turnover ratio (sixth – 1.42). In addition, she has posted a team-best .427 three-point percentage, which would lead the league if she had made enough treys to qualify.

Duffy also has had 16 double-figure scoring games and 14 games with five or more assists, a far cry from her freshman campaign when she scored in double digits only twice and averaged just 3.0 ppg. and 2.3 apg. with a .242 field goal percentage. She is the second Notre Dame player in the last four years to earn the BIG EAST Most Improved Player award. Kelley Siemon picked up the honor in 2001 after helping lead the Irish to a share of their first-ever BIG EAST regular-season title, and eventually playing a pivotal role in their first NCAA championship.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but it was not enough as the second-seeded Notre Dame women’s basketball team was upset by the No. 7 seed Rutgers, 51-45, on March 7 in the quarterfinals of the 2004 BIG EAST Championship at the Hartford Civic Center.

Batteast moved into 12th place on the Irish career scoring list with 1,249 points, tallying 16 of her points in the first half. However, she was the only Notre Dame player to score in double figures. Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere had eight points and junior forward Katy Flecky came off the bench to kick in eight points and a season-high seven rebounds for the Irish. Cappie Pondexter led Rutgers with 24 points, while Dawn McCullouch added 15 markers for the Scarlet Knights, who picked up their third consecutive series win over Notre Dame.

The Irish (19-10) exploded from the gate in the early going, racing out to a 17-2 lead with 10:54 remaining in the first half behind 11 points from Batteast. Rutgers steadied itself, but Notre Dame still held a 20-10 lead with 4:09 left in the period. That’s when the Scarlet Knights went on a 9-3 run to end the half, pulling within 23-19 at the break.

Notre Dame remained in front for the first seven minutes of the second half, fighting off several Rutgers attacks. However, the Scarlet Knights’ pressure finally paid off as they took their first lead of the game at 29-28 on Courtney Locke’s jumper with 12:39 to go. From there, the Irish went on a 7-0 run to take their largest edge of the second half (35-29) at the 10:13 mark. At that time, Notre Dame went scoreless for five minutes while Rutgers tied the game twice. The Scarlet Knights finally took the lead for good on two Pondexter free throws with just over five minutes left. Rutgers had a 43-40 lead after Michelle Campbell beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper at the 2:09 junction. Senior guard Le’Tania Severe answered with an old-fashioned three-point play on Notre Dame’s next possession and the score was tied with 1:48 left.

Pondexter gave her team the lead for good with two free throws 18 seconds later, but after an Irish turnover, Pondexter gave it right back to Notre Dame with 38 seconds to go. However, Severe saw her cross-court pass go awry and Pondexter followed by a jumper at the 28-second mark which made it 47-43. Batteast hit a putback with 7.6 seconds to go, getting her side within two points, but Pondexter iced the victory with two free throws and McCullouch hit a breakaway layup in the waning moments for the final margin. Pondexter wound up going 12 for 12 at the foul line, part of Rutgers’ 16 for 18 effort (.889).

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has referred to the aftermath of her team’s 76-73 loss at Georgetown in its BIG EAST Conference opener 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 12 of 16 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 .357 field goal percentage (.218 three-point ratio) over that stretch.

Notre Dame has fought through a brutal schedule that has included playing 10 games against Top 25 opponents, all of whom qualified for the 2004 NCAA Tournament. 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 set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents in ’03-04, 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).

Notre Dame has stepped up its play in the second half of the season, thanks in large measure to the added pressure applied by its defense. During BIG EAST games, the Irish ranked among the top three in the conference in several major defensive categories, including scoring defense (2nd – 52.5 ppg.), scoring margin (2nd – +9.4 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (2nd – .361), three-point field goal percentage defense (1st – .230), rebounding margin (3rd – +4.6 rpg.), blocked shots (3rd – 4.56 bpg.) and steals (3rd – 8.38 spg.).

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 the last two months:

  • 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 32 halves of BIG EAST action (16 games), Irish opponents scored 30-or-more points just eight times, with Georgetown and Pittsburgh accounting for four of those in games on Jan. 7 and Feb. 21, respectively.
  • Notre Dame has limited 11 of its last 16 opponents to field goal percentages of less than .400, going 8-3 in those contests. In addition, Syracuse (twice), Villanova and Georgetown (second game) all shot less than 30 percent from the floor. For the season, the Irish are 13-4 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).
  • In their return encounter on March 2, Notre Dame limited Syracuse to opponent season lows of 33 points and a .224 field goal percentage. It was the fewest points the Irish have given up in a game since Feb. 13, 2002, when they defeated St. John’s, 66-31 at the Joyce Center.

Miami came into its Feb. 25 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. Southern Illinois-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.

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.

A first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection, Batteast is averaging 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game with 10 double-doubles this season, while leading Notre Dame to a 19-10 record and a second-place finish in the BIG EAST with a 12-4 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 (seventh), rebounding (fourth), field goal percentage (ninth), blocked shots (sixth) 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 12th in school history in scoring (1,249 points), fifth in scoring average (14.4 ppg.), ninth in rebounding (712) and second in rebounding average (8.2 rpg.). She also owns an active streak of 61 consecutive games started, dating back to the beginning of last year, and she has started 83 of a possible 87 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 took her game to another level against BIG EAST Conference opponents this year. In 16 conference games this year, Batteast carded 15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game with seven double-doubles. She wound up third in the conference in rebounding and seventh in scoring during league play. In addition, she had the fifth-best field goal percentage in the BIG EAST against conference opponents (.470) 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 6-10 away from the Joyce Center (5-9 in true road games). Still, that’s a far cry from the success the Irish have experienced at home, where they are a perfect 13-0 and own an active 18-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 19.6 points per game (567 total) this season, compared to 13.5 ppg. (391) by the opposition, an average margin of 6.1 points per game.

During the BIG EAST Conference season, Notre Dame received critical support from its reserves. The Irish bench scored 337 points (21.1 ppg.) in 16 conference games this year, compared to its opponent’s reserves who logged 171 points (10.7 ppg.) over that same time, good for a +10.4 ppg. scoring margin.

In addition, the Notre Dame second unit has rung up at least 30 points on five occasions this season, including four against BIG EAST opponents (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 72 consecutive starting assignments, a streak which began on Feb. 5, 2002 at Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Batteast has been in the starting lineup for 61 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.

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 fifth in school history with a 14.4 ppg. scoring average, and 12th in total points (1,249), needing 64 points to pass Margaret Nowlin (1,312 from 1988-92) for 11th place all-time.

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 three teams in the nation (and was 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 and Villanova are the only other programs with multiple wins over the Huskies.
  • In the past four seasons (2000-01 to present), nearly half (three) of Connecticut’s eight 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 left no doubt that she was the BIG EAST Conference’s 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 10.3 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 team-high .427 percentage (44-103) from the three-point line and would be leading the BIG EAST if she had made enough treys to qualify (min. 2.0 per game). She’s also has more than 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 16 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 ninth in the BIG EAST with 4.1 assists per game, nearly doubling last year’s output. She also has just 84 turnovers, giving her a healthy 1.42 assist/turnover ratio (sixth 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.

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. Entering postseason play, the Irish have had an emphatic response to that question. Notre Dame is second in the BIG EAST with a .375 three-point percentage, hitting 112 of 299 shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Megan Duffy has been a major contributor from deep, connecting at a team-best .427 clip (44-103), which also would lead 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 39 of 94 treys for a .415 three-point percentage, but she also has not yet made enough field goals to qualify for the rankings (she would be second in the league behind Duffy). Still, Joyce is 13th in the BIG EAST with 1.62 triples per game, and ended up eighth with 1.85 three-pointers per night in conference play.

The veteran sharpshooter was at her best in a three-game stretch vs. Providence, St. John’s and Pittsburgh last month. 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.

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 received two votes in the final Associated Press poll of the 2003-04 season after spending four weeks in the Top 25 earlier this year. 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 six votes in this week’s 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 no less than seven teams that currently are ranked in both major polls (No. 2/3 Tennessee, No. 3/2 Purdue, No. 6/6 Connecticut, No. 17/16 Colorado, No. 18/18 Boston College, No. 22/21 Auburn and No. 23/24 Michigan State ). In addition, Villanova is ranked 25th in the latest AP poll, while Miami (Fla.) is 23rd in this week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Also, four other Irish opponents — Rutgers, Southwest Missouri State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia — are receiving votes in one or both of the polls.

Over the last four seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 75-7 (.915) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including a 13-3 mark this year. Those three losses this season came on Nov. 15 at Colorado (led 37-33 at half; lost 67-63 in overtime), Feb. 8 at Seton Hall (led 23-17; lost 51-45), and March 7 vs. Rutgers in the BIG EAST Championship (led 23-19; 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 128-6 (.955) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added 14 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), Miami again (93-58) and Syracuse again (54-33).

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 200 games over the last eight seasons (25.0 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 111 of their last 120 games (.925) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a current 18-game winning streak, the second-longest in school history. Notre Dame also has a 69-7 (.908) 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 261-70 (.789) 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. In 2003-04, Notre Dame is bidding to make it three unbeaten seasons in the last five years, going 13-0 at the Joyce Center in the regular season (the Irish will host NCAA first- and second-round games on March 21 and 23).

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 6,699 fans for their 13 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 March 15), 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 has been no exception. The Irish have played on the small screen 11 times during the regular season and will make their fifth national television appearance Sunday on ESPN when they play host to Southwest Missouri State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Joyce Center.

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 was selected to appear on the BIG EAST Conference television package four times this season, including three home games. The Irish earned wins over Virginia Tech (Jan. 10), Villanova (Jan. 24) and Boston College (Jan. 31) at home, before falling at Rutgers (Feb. 28) in front of the BIG EAST TV cameras. Those games were seen on a regional basis in several major East Coast markets, including New York, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as South Bend, where WHME-TV (Channel 46) showed 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.

A tip of the cap goes out to South Bend Tribune reporter Forrest “Woody” Miller, who has been selected to the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. He will be honored April 5 at a dinner in Greenwood, Ind.

Currently the Tribune’s beat writer for Notre Dame women’s basketball, as well as the South Bend Silverhawks of the Class A Midwest League, Miller has been at the newspaper since 1955, and owns the unique distinction of having covered both of Notre Dame’s trips to the NCAA College World Series — in 1957 and 2002.

In between, Miller was the Irish men’s basketball beat writer from 1964-96, a span which included the coaching tenures of John Jordan, Johnny Dee, Digger Phelps and John MacLeod. He also has been witness to some of the great moments in Notre Dame sports history — besides his two CWS visits, he was the Tribune’s voice when the Irish men’s basketball team shocked the nation by ending UCLA’s 88-game winning streak with a 71-70 upset on Jan. 19, 1974 at the Joyce Center. Four years later in 1978, he followed Phelps’ charges to St. Louis, as they advanced to the NCAA Final Four. Ironically, Miller returned to the Gateway City 23 years later in 2001, covering the Irish women’s basketball team when it won the program’s first NCAA championship.

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on the flagship stations of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network — WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1580) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his 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 web site ( 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.

(NOTE: Media members wishing to obtain a copy of Coach McGraw’s book should contact Notre Dame assistant sports information director Chris Masters.)

Should Notre Dame defeat Southwest Missouri State in Sunday’s first-round NCAA Tournament matchup, the Irish would face either fourth-seeded North Carolina or No. 13 seed Middle Tennessee in the second round Tuesday at the Joyce Center. The exact tipoff time is still to be determined by the NCAA.

Notre Dame has played UNC twice before, winning both times on neutral floors. On Dec. 4, 1999, the Irish claimed a 99-86 victory at the Wachovia Women’s Basketball Invitational in Richmond, Va., and on Dec. 3, 2000, Notre Dame defeated the Tarheels, 78-55, at the Honda Elite Classic at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Irish have never met Middle Tennessee on the hardwood. In fact, if Notre Dame were to take on the Lady Raiders, it would be just the second time in school history the Irish played a current Sun Belt Conference member. On Dec. 19, 1999, Notre Dame earned a 68-62 win at Florida International.