Junior guard Tulyah Gaines is coming off the best game of her career, a 27-point performance in Wednesday's win over Cincinnati at the Joyce Center.

Irish Head To South Florida Saturday For BIG EAST Matchup

Jan. 12, 2007

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-4 / 2-0 BIG EAST)
South Florida Bulls (12-4 / 2-1 BIG EAST

  • DATE: January 13, 2007
  • TIME: Noon ET
  • AT: Tampa, Fla. – Sun Dome (10,411)
  • SERIES: ND leads 3-1
  • 1ST MTG: 12/13/97 (ND 73-50)
  • LAST MTG: 3/4/06 (ND 73-66)
  • RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM
    Sean Stires, p-b-p
  • TV: BIG EAST TV (live)
    Al Keck, p-b-p
    Leah Secondo, color
  • LIVE STATS: www.GoUSFBulls.com
  • TICKETS: (800) 462-8557


  • Notre Dame has won five consecutive BIG EAST Conference games, and three in a row on the road, dating back to last season.
  • The Irish are 19-4 all-time vs. Florida schools, including a 10-1 record on the road.

For the first time in nearly three seasons, Notre Dame will visit the state of Florida when it travels to Tampa for a Saturday contest against BIG EAST foe South Florida. Tipoff from the Sun Dome is scheduled for noon (ET) and the game will be broadcast live as part of the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) Game of the Week package (see page 9 of these notes for a complete listing for outlets carrying the game).

Notre Dame picked up its eighth win in the past 10 games on Wednesday night with an 81-70 victory over Cincinnati at the Joyce Center. After a brief stumble in the game’s opening minutes, the Irish moved in front and never trailed again, keeping a double-digit lead on the Bearcats for much of the second half. Notre Dame also benefitted from an aggressive defense that forced 25 turnovers and turned those giveaways into 31 points.

Junior guard Tulyah Gaines scored a career-high 27 points, including 17 in the second half, to lead the Irish to the win. Classmate and backcourt partner Charel Allen chipped in 19 points and seven rebounds for Notre Dame.


  • Notre Dame is not ranked.
  • South Florida is receiving votes in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.

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Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 20th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the country’s leading women’s basketball powers. The Irish have appeared in 13 NCAA Tournaments (including a current streak of 11 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the previous 10 years. Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four twice, winning college basketball’s ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.

In its history, Notre Dame has developed eight All-Americans, nine WNBA players (including six draft picks in the past six years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 30th season in 2006-07, the Irish own an all-time record of 604-270 (.691).

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

  • 20th season at Notre Dame
  • 440-171 (.720) at Notre Dame.
  • 528-212 (.714) in 25 years as head coach.


  • 2001 consensus National Coach of the Year
  • Four-time Naismith Coach of the Year finalist
  • Four-time conference Coach of the Year
    • BIG EAST Conference (2001)
    • Midwestern Collegiate Conference (1991)
    • North Star Conference (1988)
    • East Coast Conference (@ Lehigh) (1983)

A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Just two months into the 2006-07 season, the growth of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team already is evident, and the best may be yet to come.

With a young and inexperienced roster that has only two seniors and is missing its top returning scorer from a year ago, the Irish have had to learn on the run — and run is exactly what they have done this season. Notre Dame is averaging 70.7 points per game thus far, a significant improvement over the previous five Irish squads, none of which has averaged better than 66.3 points per night.

Of course, the Irish have traditionally hung their hat on their defense, a trait that is much harder to master and takes a bit longer. On the one hand, Notre Dame’s aggressive style has rattled opponents, causing 21.9 turnovers per game (including a BIG EAST-best 12.3 steals per night). However, the flip side has seen the Irish allow opponents to shoot .416 from the floor (.382 from the three-point line), while the Irish claim just a 1.3 rpg. edge on the boards), two areas Notre Dame will continue to focus on during the BIG EAST season.

Junior guard Charel Allen has been one of the main offensive catalysts for the Irish to this point, averaging a team-high 14.7 ppg., while scoring in double figures in 13 of 15 outings to date. The Monessen, Pa., native, who was limited last year while recovering from knee surgery in the summer of 2005, also is collecting team highs of 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game and has twice been named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll (Dec. 4, Jan. 8).

Allen’s classmate and backcourt running partner, Tulyah Gaines, is a candidate as one of the conference’s most improved players. The speedy Gaines assumed the large footprint left at the point by All-American (and WNBA Draft pick) Megan Duffy and has stoked the Notre Dame offensive fire to an even hotter level, averaging 11.1 points and 3.5 assists per game with a .492 field goal percentage. Gaines, who came into the season with a 3.7 ppg. career scoring average, has scored 20 points in a game three times this year, including a career-high 27 points on Wednesday night in a win over Cincinnati.

Another Irish junior, 6-foot-5 center Melissa D’Amico, continues to make strides in the post. The second-year starter is averaging 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game with a .547 field goal percentage. She also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Dec. 18.

The most pleasing contributions of the year for Notre Dame to this point have come from its freshmen, three of whom have seen significant playing time. Guard Ashley Barlow is third on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg.) and second in steals (2.3 spg.), and came up with a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds on Dec. 28 vs. Prairie View A&M. Center Erica Williamson (6.5 ppg., 5.2 rpg., 1.4 bpg.) is proving to be a capable understudy to D’Amico, amassing a season-high 15 points vs. Prairie View A&M. And, guard Melissa Lechlitner (4.2 ppg., 2.4 apg.) has shown little drop off at the point behind Gaines, registering at least five assists in a game three times this year, and carding a season-high 11 points (3-of-4 3FG) at Penn State.

Potent Notables About The Irish

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 11 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 258 victories in that span.
  • Notre Dame’s incoming class of 2007 (announced Nov. 8) has been ranked 11th in the nation by Blue Star Basketball, marking the 11th consecutive season that the Irish have had a top-25 recruiting class. Notre Dame is one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have an active streak of that length. A thumbnail sketch of the newest Irish signees can be found on page 8 of these notes.
  • Notre Dame currently is ranked 10th nationally in attendance (6,372 fans per game). Last season marked the sixth consecutive campaign the Irish were among the national top 20 in attendance (No. 11 ranking). Notre Dame also has attracted 5,000-or-more fans to 87 of its last 89 home games, including three Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 31, 2005 vs. Tennessee).
  • For the sixth time in school history, Notre Dame has been selected to host NCAA Tournament action, as the Joyce Center will be the site of NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games in 2010. In four of the five previous instances, Notre Dame was involved in NCAA Tournament play, going 6-1 all-time and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 three times (2000, 2001, 2004), with only a first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994 blotting the resume. Notre Dame also hosted the 1983 NCAA Mideast Regional at the Joyce Center, with Georgia defeating Tennessee, 67-63 in the regional final.
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as six Notre Dame players have been selected in the past six seasons. All-America guard Megan Duffy was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Minnesota Lynx in the third round (31st overall pick) of the 2006 WNBA Draft. Other active Notre Dame players in the WNBA during the 2006 season included Ruth Riley and Jacqueline Batteast (league champion Detroit Shock), while Niele Ivey sat out this year as a free agent, rehabilitating an injury after previously playing with Indiana, Detroit and Phoenix. Riley’s WNBA title with Detroit was her second (she was the 2003 WNBA Finals MVP), while Batteast earned her first pro crown this year.
  • Notre Dame has been an elite program in the classroom as well. The Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2006. Notre Dame was one of 16 Division I-A programs to achieve this distinction, and one of only two BIG EAST programs (Syracuse is the other). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated.

A Quick Look At South Florida
Last season was a landmark campaign for South Florida, with the Bulls breaking through for their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in their inaugural season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference. Now, with four starters and seven letterwinners back in the fold, USF is hoping that things are even better the second time around.

The early returns have been particularly favorable for South Florida, as the Bulls are 12-4 this season (2-1 in the BIG EAST), including an impressive 9-1 record at home. In fact, three of USF’s four losses have come at the hands of nationally-ranked opponents (No. 20/18 Michigan State, No. 12 Vanderbilt and No. 6 LSU). The Bulls also have won three in-season tournaments this year and continue to boast a high-octane offense that averages 76.1 points per game.

USF is coming off an uncharacteristic offensive dry spell in its last outing, a 62-36 loss at Rutgers on Tuesday night. Due in part to the Scarlet Knights’ suffocating defense, the Bulls struggled to find their rhythm, finishing with a .210 field goal percentage. Senior forward Jessica Dickson was the only USF player to reach double figures, posting a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Dickson, the nation’s No. 9 scorer entering the week, is averaging 20.5 points per game this season, while ranking second on the squad with 7.2 rebounds a night. Sophomore guard Shantia Grace has been a strong complement to Dickson this season, averaging 17.1 points and 4.9 assists per game with a solid .361 three-point percentage.

Head coach Jose Fernandez is in his seventh season at USF with a 91-99 (.479) record piloting the Bulls. He is 1-1 all-time against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-South Florida Series
The series between Notre Dame and South Florida is still in its infancy, with the teams having played only four times previously. The Irish lead the all-time series with USF, 3-1, including a victory in their only prior matchup in Tampa (83-63 on Dec. 19, 1998).

Saturday’s game will be the first for Notre Dame against the Bulls at the Sun Dome since USF joined the BIG EAST prior to last season.

The Last Time Notre Dame and South Florida Met
Megan Duffy scored all 16 of her points in the second half, including the last eight of the game, to lead Notre Dame to a 73-66 win over South Florida in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship on March 4, 2006 at the Hartford Civic Center.

Lindsay Schrader finished with 14 points for the 10th-seeded Fighting Irish (18-10), while Tulyah Gaines and Charel Allen each had 12 points and Courtney LaVere added 10 points for Notre Dame.

Shantia Grace led the Bulls (19-11) with 24 points and was 4-of-5 from three-point range. Jessica Dickson, the nation’s leading scorer added 16. Dickson’s jumper in traffic with 4:34 left put the Bulls up 64-61, but then it was all Duffy and the Irish.

After an Allen layup got Notre Dame within a point, Schrader put the Irish up for good at 65-64 with a pair of free throws with 3:19 left. Duffy drove the lane for a layup on Notre Dame’s next possession. She then added a pair of free throws for a 69-64 Irish lead. Grace hit a layup for the Bulls with 1:45 left for their final bucket.

Duffy, the BIG EAST’s leading free throw shooter, was perfect down the stretch hitting 6-of-6 to ice the game. The Bulls had their chances in the final minute, but threw the ball away twice beneath their basket.

The Last Time Notre Dame and South Florida Met In Tampa Danielle Green scored a game-high 16 points as No. 6 Notre Dame opened a four-game road trip with an 83-63 victory over South Florida on Dec. 19, 1998 at the Sun Dome in Tampa.

Sherisha Hills added 15 points as the Fighting Irish had five different players score in double-figures. Sonya Swick topped South Florida with 14 points and Avia Lee added 13 off the bench.

Notre Dame (8-1) used a 24-11 run to start the second half and break open a four-point game. Niele Ivey hit two 3-pointers and Ruth Riley added four baskets from the low post during the run. Hills then had two long-range shots, including one with 12 minutes left that put the Irish up 60-43.

Riley and Ivey finished with 12 points apiece. Shelia McMillen contributed 13 for the visitors.

South Florida trailed twice by 10 points in the first half, but battled back within 36-32 at halftime. Lee had 10 points, including two three-pointers, during the opening 20 minutes.

Other Notre Dame-South Florida Series Tidbits

  • In each of Notre Dame’s three series wins, the Irish have topped the 70-point mark.
  • Last spring’s matchup in the BIG EAST Championship marked the first time Notre Dame and South Florida met in postseason play in any sport. The Irish and Bulls would subsequently meet in the conference baseball and women’s tennis tournaments, with Notre Dame winning all three postseason encounters with USF.
  • Notre Dame sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) and USF sophomore guard Shantia Grace (Sarasota, Fla./Riverview HS) were named the 2005 Gatorade High School Player of the Year in their respective states. Schrader is sitting out this season while rehabilitating from an October knee injury and resulting surgery.
  • The greater Tampa Bay area and Florida Gulf Coast was the site as three Notre Dame teams won BIG EAST Conference titles in 2006. The Irish women’s tennis team opened matters in late April by claiming the league crown by defeating USF, 4-1 on its home courts in the final. The Notre Dame men’s golf team followed suit days later at the Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City, Fla., rallying from 12 shots back in the final round to defeat Louisville on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. Less than a month later, the Irish baseball team completed the trifecta by winning its fifth consecutive BIG EAST postseason title with a 7-0 whitewash of Louisville at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla. (the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies).
  • Notre Dame has had seven Florida natives suit up in the program’s 29-year history. The most recent Sunshine State product to don the Irish uniform was Pembroke Pines resident Le’Tania Severe, who played for Notre Dame from 2000-04, helping the Irish to three NCAA Sweet 16 berths and the 2001 NCAA title.

Sunshine State Success
Notre Dame is 19-4 (.826) all-time against Florida-based schools, including a 12-1 (.923) record against Sunshine State teams away from home (road/neutral combined), and a 10-1 (.909) mark on their opponent’s home court. The only true road loss the Irish have taken in the state of Florida came on Feb. 3, 1998 at Miami, when the Hurricanes edged Notre Dame, 77-76 on Octavia Blue’s free throw after time expired.

Notre Dame also is 13-2 (.867) when playing in the state of Florida, regardless of the opposition, with the only other loss coming to James Madison, 53-51, on Jan. 3, 1986 at Miami’s Burger King Classic in Coral Gables (JMU won on a three-point play with four seconds left).

Saturday’s game will be Notre Dame’s first visit to the state of Florida since Jan. 28, 2004, when the Irish defeated No. 17/16 Miami, 59-50 at the Hurricanes’ new on-campus Convocation Center (now known as the BankUnited Center).

Allen Returns To BIG EAST Honor Roll
Junior guard Charel Allen has earned a place on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll, the league office announced Monday. It’s the second time this season that Allen has been chosen for the distinction, following up her Dec. 4 selection. Allen’s honor also is the fourth this year for a Notre Dame player, with senior guard Breona Gray (Dec. 11) and junior center Melissa D’Amico (Dec.18) also receiving recognition on the BIG EAST Honor Roll.

In Notre Dame’s only game last week, Allen registered her first career double-double with 16 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as the Irish earned a 64-61 victory at Seton Hall. Allen put Notre Dame ahead for good on a foul-line jumper with 3:09 to play, then added a key insurance bucket at the 1:55 mark. In addition, the 5-11 wing collected three crucial defensive rebounds while leading an Irish defense that held Seton Hall scoreless on four of its final six possessions.

Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is shooting 75 percent from the foul line (54-of-72) this season inside the final five minutes of regulation and overtime.

Upon closer inspection, the Irish have gotten some of their most critical free throw production from their freshmen — guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are a combined 17-of-18 (.944) at the charity stripe down the stretch.

Poise Under Pressure
The Irish are 6-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or less, including a 4-1 record when the margin is five points or fewer. Going back the previous two seasons (2004-05 to present), Notre Dame is 12-5 in five-point games and 26-8 in 10-point contests — with three of those eight losses coming in overtime.

In addition, four times this season, the Irish have sent a player to the free throw line with less than five seconds remaining in regulation or overtime and the game hanging in the balance. In those clutch situations, Notre Dame is 7-for-8 at the charity stripe, with the only miss being a semi-intentional one by senior guard Breona Gray on the second of two tries with 1.2 seconds to go in a 60-59 win at Valparaiso on Dec. 19.

Junior Achievement
The common basketball adage holds that college players make their biggest improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons. However, for Notre Dame, it’s been the time between the sophomore and junior years that has been conducive to the most development.

Three of the top four Irish scorers this season are juniors and all three are posting the best scoring averages of their careers — guards Charel Allen (14.7 ppg.) and Tulyah Gaines (11.1 ppg.), and center Melissa D’Amico (10.1 ppg.). Allen came into the year with an 8.1 ppg. career average, while D’Amico had a two-year ratio of 4.0 ppg., and Gaines was averaging 3.7 ppg. Between them, the junior trio had a combined 37 double-figure scoring games in two seasons entering the 2006-07 campaign — so far through this year, they have 27 double-digit efforts.

Birthday Presents
Senior guard Breona Gray celebrated her 22nd birthday in style on Jan. 2, scoring 14 points in a 64-61 Irish victory at Seton Hall. Gray also canned 2-of-3 three-pointers, including a left-handed shot from midcourt at the halftime horn.

Gray’s performance helped continue a unique trend for Notre Dame this season. Four times, an Irish player or coach has celebrated a birthday during the 2006-07 campaign, and each time, Notre Dame has registered a win in its next game.

Other Irish players/coaches with upcoming in-season birthdays include: associate head coach Coquese Washington (Jan. 17), freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner (Jan. 24) and sophomore guard Lindsey Schrader (Feb. 24).

Spread The Wealth
The Irish have fielded at least three double-figure scorers in nine games this season, going 8-1 in those contests (only loss was at Penn State). The Dec. 28 Prairie View A&M game marked the third time this year Notre Dame had five players crack double digits in the same contest.

Keeping The Home Fires Burning
Notre Dame has been largely solid at home this season, going 8-1 due in part to a crisp offense that has averaged 79.4 points per game on the Joyce Center hardwood. Led by junior guard Charel Allen (14.4 ppg.), the Irish also have four players scoring in double figures through their nine home games and are shooting .474 from the floor in front of the Notre Dame faithful.

Contribute Early, Contribute Often
Notre Dame’s freshman class has wasted little time in making its presence felt this season. Three of the Irish rookies — guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner, and center Erica Williamson — make up the team’s primary bench rotation, with all three averaging at least 15 minutes per game, all three having scored in double figures at least twice, and Barlow has posted a double-double already this season (19 points, 10 rebounds vs. Bowling Green).

Barlow also is third on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg.) and ranks among the BIG EAST Conference leaders in both free throw percentage (.914, also eighth in NCAA) and steals (2.3 spg.). Williamson is carding 6.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. And, Lechlitner is logging 4.2 points and 2.4 assists per night with six three-pointers (fifth on the squad).

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame’s aggressive defense has forced 21.9 turnovers per game this season, logging 20-or-more takeaways in 11 games. In addition, the Irish caused an opponent season-high 30 turnovers at Michigan on Dec. 1, the first 30-turnover outing by the Notre Dame defense since Feb. 25, 2004 (37 turnovers by Miami at the Joyce Center).

The Irish also lead the BIG EAST Conference (and rank 21st in the nation) with 12.3 steals per night. In fact, Notre Dame has posted double-digit steal totals in 11 games this season (and never fewer than seven in one game), with junior guard Charel Allen committing the most larcenies to date (37, 2.47 per game, fifth in BIG EAST) and leading four Irish players with at least 25 steals this season — with all four ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in that category.

In addition, freshman guard Ashley Barlow recorded a combined 11 steals vs. Western Michigan (six) and at USC (five). That made her the first Notre Dame player with back-to-back five-steal games since March 30-April 1, 2001, when Niele Ivey did so against Connecticut (five) and Purdue (six) at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.

Game #15 Recap: Cincinnati
Junior guard Tulyah Gaines poured in a career-high 27 points, including 17 in the second half, to help Notre Dame post an 81-70 BIG EAST Conference victory over Cincinnati on Wednesday night at the Joyce Center. Gaines also collected five assists and four steals for the Irish, who forced the visiting Bearcats into 25 turnovers and parlayed those takeaways into 31 points.

Junior guard Charel Allen gave Notre Dame a first-half boost with 15 of her 19 points in the period. Allen also shared team-high rebounding honors with freshman center Erica Williamson, as both players grabbed seven caroms. As a team, the Irish shot 49.2 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the foul line en route to their eighth win in the past 10 games.

Coming off its third week-long break in the past month, Notre Dame (11-4, 2-0 BIG EAST) looked a bit rusty in the early going, turning the ball over twice and missing three of its first four shots. Treasure Humphries scored the first five points of the night, and as it turned out, those markers gave the Bearcats their largest lead less than a minute into the game. However, the Irish fired back with seven unanswered points, going in front on a three-pointer by senior forward Crystal Erwin at the 16:43 mark.

After UC scored six straight to regain an 11-7 lead, the Notre Dame offense kicked into gear on the back of a relentless defense that caused 17 Bearcat turnovers in the first half alone. The Irish went on an 11-2 run during the next five minutes, with Allen and Gaines accounting for all but two of the points in the spurt. Cincinnati (10-5, 2-2) got back to within 20-18 on Carla Jacobs’ trey with 8:10 to go in the period, but again Notre Dame counterpunched, this time on a 7-0 spree in an 80-second span that cracked open the largest lead of the first half for the Irish.

The teams traded baskets for the balance of the opening 20 minutes before the Bearcats made a late run behind some defensive pressure of their own. The Irish turned the ball over five times in the closing four minutes and allowed Cincinnati to get as close as 33-32 on Humphries’ fast break layup with 2:12 to go. Notre Dame wobbled, but never surrendered the lead, eventually taking a 37-34 edge to the locker room.

The Irish regained their footing early in the second half, as junior center Melissa D’Amico dropped in a pair of buckets to spark a 14-6 run by the hosts, pushing Notre Dame’s lead into double figures for the first time with little more than six minutes gone. The two sides then seemed content to trade baskets for the next four minutes as the lead hovered between eight and 12 points. The Irish then mounted an 11-3 charge, getting seven points from Gaines and running out to a 77-58 lead with 3:57 remaining. Cincinnati made a handful of late field goals against the Notre Dame second unit to trim the margin to 11 by the final horn.

Noting The Cincinnati Win

  • Notre Dame’s 81 points were the most for the Irish against a BIG EAST opponent since Feb. 26, 2005, when they defeated West Virginia, 82-57 on Senior Day at the Joyce Center.
  • Notre Dame is unbeaten in three series games against Cincinnati, with Wednesday’s game the first between the Irish and Bearcats in South Bend since Feb. 13, 1982 (nearly 25 years ago).
  • Notre Dame has won six of its last eight BIG EAST home openers.
  • Notre Dame just missed its best foul-shooting night of the year, with Wednesday’s 90-percent outing topped only by a 90.9-percent showing (10-of-11) vs. Indiana on Dec. 3.
  • The past three Notre Dame games all have featured final rebounding margin of +1, with the Irish winning the first two board battles (at Tennessee and +Seton Hall) before Cincinnati claimed Wednesday’s tally.
  • Notre Dame is shooting better from the three-point line of late, going 10-of-24 (.417) from deep in its last three games.
  • Tulyah Gaines scored a career-high 27 points, the most by an Irish player this season, and two more than her previous best set against Bowling Green in an overtime win on Nov. 13 at the Joyce Center; Gaines also set personal bests for free throws made and attempted (tied) and was one steal off her career high (five vs. IUPUI on Dec. 16).
  • Crystal Erwin’s first-half three-pointer pushed her past the 500-point mark for her career.

Injury Bug Bites Irish Early
Sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader will miss the 2006-07 season after suffering a torn ACL in her right knee during practice on Oct. 15. Schrader underwent corrective surgery on Oct. 27, with the normal rehabilitation timeline extending 6-9 months.

Schrader was to be Notre Dame’s top returning scorer and rebounder this season, after averaging 10.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during her rookie campaign in 2005-06.

2006-07: The Anniversary Season

  • 2006-07 marks the 30th season of Notre Dame women’s basketball, with the Irish having compiled an all-time record of 604-270 (.691) since making their varsity debut in 1977-78. Actually, Notre Dame spent its first three seasons at the Division III level, playing under the banner of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) before making the move to Division I status in 1980-81 (the NCAA began sponsoring a women’s basketball championship the following season). The Irish have an overall Division I record of 555-250 (.689).
  • This year also represents Muffet McGraw’s 20th season as the head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame and her 25th campaign overall, including her five-year run at Lehigh (1982-87). McGraw’s record is a stellar one — she is 440-171 (.720) at the helm of the Irish and has a career record of 528-212 (.714) in her silver anniversary season on the sidelines.
  • In addition, Notre Dame is celebrating the 35th anniversary of women’s athletics at the University during the 2006-07 season. All Irish women’s sports teams will hold events to commemorate this milestone during their respective seasons. What’s more, all Notre Dame women’s teams are sporting 35th anniversary logo patches on their uniforms for the ’06-07 campaign.

Notre Dame Ranked 11th In Preseason BIG EAST Coaches’ Poll
According to a preseason poll of the BIG EAST Conference coaches, Notre Dame will finish 11th in the conference this season. Those were the results released at the league’s annual Media Day Oct. 26 at the ESPN Zone in New York’s Times Square. The Irish earned 108 points, while reigning BIG EAST Championship victor, Connecticut (221 points, 11 first-place votes) was tabbed first, ahead of regular-season champion Rutgers (215 points, five first-place votes). The BIG EAST sent 11 teams to the postseason last year, including seven NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Notre Dame was one).

The Irish now are in their 12th season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference in 2006-07. The Irish have gone 147-39 (.790) all-time in regular-season conference games, posting the best winning percentage in league history. Connecticut is second with a .785 success rate (303-83). Notre Dame also has finished among the top three in the final BIG EAST regular-season standings nine times in its first 11 seasons in the conference, including a share of the BIG EAST title in 2000-01.

Half And Half
During the past seven seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 116-10 (.921) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 44 of their last 48 such contests. Seven times this year, Notre Dame has led at the break, going on to win each time (Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Richmond, IUPUI, Valparaiso, Prairie View A&M and Cincinnati).

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 12 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 163-10 (.942) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has held five foes to less than 60 points, and is 4-1 in those games (wins over Michigan, Purdue, Valparaiso and Prairie View A&M; loss to Indiana).

…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win

Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 12 seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 97-3 (.970) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998. Notre Dame has topped the 80-point mark six times this season, winning on each occasion (Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Richmond, Prairie View A&M and Cincinnati).

The six 80-point games are the most for the Irish in a single season since 2000-01, when Notre Dame reached that level 15 times during its run to the national championship.

Now That’s A Home Court Advantage One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 143 of their last 160 games (.894) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has an 81-12 (.871) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 64 of their last 69 non-BIG EAST contests (.928) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana this year (54-51), with the fifth defeat coming to Tennessee last year (62-51). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 293-78 (.790) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. The 2006-07 campaign will tie for the most regular-season home games (16) in school history, although in 2004-05, the Irish played host to all four rounds of the Preseason WNIT before its regular 12-game home slate began.

Jammin’ The Joyce
Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past six years. This season looks to be no exception, as the Irish currently are 10th in the nation in average attendance (6,372 fans per game), according to the latest unofficial weekly rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office.

What’s more, each of the top 20 women’s basketball crowds in Joyce Center history have occurred during the 20-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present), with 19 of those 20 occurring in the past seven seasons (2000-01 to present). Lastly, the Irish have attracted at least 5,000 fans to 87 of their last 89 home games, including 15 contests with at least 8,000 fans and the first three sellouts in the program’s history (two in 2000-01, one in 2005-06).

Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Breona Gray and junior guard Tulyah Gaines will serve as team captains for the 2006-07 season. Both players are serving as captains for the first time in their respective careers, and each received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

Notre Dame is one of 12 schools in the country to have more than one player on its roster who was named a high school Player of the Year in their home state.

Irish junior guard Tulyah Gaines was tapped as the 2004 Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year, while sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as the 2005 Illinois Miss Basketball and Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have 11 of its regular-season games televised during the 2006-07 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket are five nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including a pair of games on the ESPN family of networks a week apart in early February.

This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 75 televised games, including 46 that were broadcast nationally.

Notre Dame made its 2006-07 television debut Nov. 16 when its road opener at Penn State aired live on College Sports Television (CSTV). That was the first of three Irish women’s basketball broadcasts for the national cable network, with the second coming Jan. 23 at Marquette (8 p.m. CT tip) and the third coming in the regular-season finale on Feb. 26 at DePaul (8 p.m. CT). The latter two contests are part of the BIG EAST-CSTV Game of the Week package, now in its second season. Counting the Penn State contest, CSTV now has aired 12 Notre Dame women’s basketball games during the past five seasons, with the first being that network’s inaugural broadcast of any sport (a Feb. 2003 game at Connecticut).

The Irish also are scheduled to make two appearances on the ESPN family of networks, beginning with a Feb. 4 home game against West Virginia that will be broadcast live on ESPNU and will start at 5:30 p.m. (ET). The following Sunday (Feb. 11), Notre Dame will play host to DePaul for a 5:30 p.m. (ET) game that will air on ESPN2 as part of that network’s “February Frenzy” split-national coverage designed to preview a similar coverage pattern for the NCAA Tournament. During the past six seasons, Notre Dame has appeared on the ESPN family of networks 28 times, averaging nearly five telecasts per year on “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”.

In addition, Notre Dame will play in five regionally-televised games this season. The first of those took place Dec. 6, when the Irish defeated No. 10/9 Purdue at the Joyce Center in a game seen live on Comcast Local (based in Detroit). On Dec. 30, Notre Dame visited Tennessee in a contest at Thompson-Boling Arena that was seen live on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast. And, on Jan. 27, the Irish will visit Connecticut for a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup that will be carried live on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV).

Notre Dame will appear twice on the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) package this season with contests at South Florida (Saturday, noon ET) and home against Rutgers (Feb. 24, noon ET). SportsNet New York will serve as the flagship for the BIG EAST package, with additional clearances to be announced during the week leading to tipoff.

The other televised game for the Irish was a local broadcast (WHME-TV in South Bend/Lakeshore Public Television in Chicagoland) of the Dec. 19 contest at Valparaiso.

Notre Dame On The Airwaves
For the 11th consecutive season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on commercial radio in South Bend, and for the seventh year in a row, Notre Dame can be heard on the flagship station of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network — WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his seventh season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard free of charge on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com).

Irish Debut Free Video Coverage
In the latest instance of the wide-ranging media avenues afforded the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, the Irish will have several of their 2006-07 home games televised free of charge through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com). Thanks to the considerable efforts of CSTV Online (based in Carlsbad, Calif.) and its new Fighting Irish All-Access package, fans of Notre Dame women’s basketball can watch every minute of exciting action at the Joyce Center live from the comfort of their own homes. The video will be supplemented by an audio simulcast of the Notre Dame radio broadcast, led by veteran sportscaster Sean Stires.

This free service is limited to those home games that have not been selected for broadcast by other TV outlets. The Irish have been televised on und.com three times this season (Indiana, IUPUI and Cincinnati), with the remainder of this year’s Internet video broadcast schedule to include home games vs. St. John’s (Jan. 16), Syracuse (Jan. 20), Louisville (Feb. 7) and Georgetown (Feb. 21).

Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
On Oct. 5, Notre Dame announced plans for a nearly $25 million renovation of the Joyce Center arena, including new chairback seating, a four-sided digital video scoreboard, and a club/hospitality area (as part of a new two-story addition to be built on the south side of the facility).

The $24.7 million renovation project has been underwritten with a $12.5 million leadership gift from Philip J. Purcell III, a Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee, and the retired chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley. Upon completion, the arena will be known as Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Purcell gift, combined with other benefactions, including a $5 million gift from 1959 Notre Dame graduate and Tampa Bay Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli, brings the total contributions to the project to $22 million.

In accordance with University policies for new construction, work on the renovation will begin after the project is fully funded and designed. The University is actively seeking additional contributions.

Promotional Corner Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com/tickets). Please note — additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site (www.notredamepromotions.com) for the latest information:
• Jan. 16 vs. St. John’s — Leprechaun Fest (pre-game photos with Irish leprechaun on the upper arena concourse); all fans dressing like a leprechaun will be admitted free … Notre Dame women’s basketball dinner placemats to first 1,000 fans, courtesy of Damon’s … post-game autograph session on upper arena concourse with selected Irish players.

Next Game: St. John’s The Irish come back home for a pair of games next week, beginning Tuesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup vs. St. John’s at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame will be seeking to avenge its first-ever loss to the Red Storm, a 66-63 setback last year in Queens.

Coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1988, SJU (4-10, 0-3 BIG EAST) has been plagued by injuries to key personnel this season and have lost five games by 10 points or less. The Red Storm had a bye earlier this week and get back into action Saturday when they visit Pittsburgh for a 1:30 p.m. (ET) tipoff.