Breona Gray and the Irish head to Syracuse to face the Orange on Tuesday night.

Irish Look To Bounce Back Against Orange

Jan. 30, 2006

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-7 / 3-5 BIG EAST)
Syracuse Orange (9-11 / 2-7 BIG EAST)

DATE: January 31, 2006
TIME: 7:30 p.m. ET
AT: Syracuse, N.Y. – Carrier Dome (33,000)
SERIES: Notre Dame leads 18-2
1ST MTG: 1/16/88 (ND 81-64)
LAST MTG: 1/19/05 (ND 74-61)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1580 AM (Sean Stires, p-b-p)
TV: Time Warner 26 (Syr.) – (Dan Liedka, p-b-p, Jamie Seh, color)
TICKETS: (888) 366-3849


  • Notre Dame closes out a difficult month with Tuesday night’s game at Syracuse. The Irish have dropped five of eight games in the month of January.
  • Notre Dame enters Tuesday’s game unranked in the AP poll for the first time since the end of the 2003-04 season, snapping a run of 30 consecutive appearances.

Challenges are nothing new to the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, and the Irish face another test as they open the second half of the BIG EAST Conference season Tuesday with a 7:30 p.m. (ET) game at Syracuse. Notre Dame finds itself in a group of seven teams separated by a single game in the BIG EAST standings, with another three teams only one game further ahead.

The Irish (12-7, 3-5 BIG EAST) experienced another in a series of frustrating setbacks on Saturday, dropping a 68-64 overtime decision at home to South Florida. Notre Dame seemingly had the game in hand, leading by three in the closing seconds of regulation before USF tossed in a desperation off-balance three-pointer to force OT. Senior guard Megan Duffy did all she could to secure a win for the Irish, scoring a game-high 25 points. Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader scored 12 points, and sophomore guard Charel Allen added 10 points and eight rebounds.


  • Notre Dame is not ranked in this week’s Associated Press poll and was 21st in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
  • Syracuse is not ranked.

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Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 19th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the country’s leading women’s basketball powers. The Irish have appeared in 12 NCAA Tournaments (including the past 10 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine years. Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four twice, winning college basketball’s ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.

In its history, Notre Dame has developed eight All-Americans, eight WNBA players (including five draft picks in the past five years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 29th season in 2005-06, the Irish own an all-time record of 587-261 (.692).

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

  • 19th season at Notre Dame
  • 423-162 (.723) at Notre Dame.
  • 511-203 (.716) in 24 years as head coach. NOTES
  • 2001 consensus National Coach of the Year
  • Four-time Naismith Coach of the Year finalist
  • Four-time conference Coach of the Year
  • BIG EAST Conference (2001)
  • Midwestern Collegiate Conference (1991)
  • North Star Conference (1988)
  • East Coast Conference (@ Lehigh) (1983)

A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
One of the more famous movie quotes of the past 20 years came from a simple Alabama man named Forrest Gump, who recalled his mother’s advice that “life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

In some ways, that philosophy would be appropriate when it comes to describing the 2005-06 season for Notre Dame. Despite losing two of their top three scorers and two primary rebounders from a year ago, the Irish bolted to a 9-1 record, highlighted by two wins over Top 25 teams (USC and Utah) as well as the championship at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas.

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

One of the critical elements for the Irish to be successful this season has been offensive balance. On 13 occasions, Notre Dame has had at least three players scoring in double figures (going 10-3 in those games), and eight separate players have cracked double digits at least twice this year. Additionally, five different players have led the team in scoring at some point.

The Irish also have the benefit of strong leadership in senior All-America point guard and two-year team captain Megan Duffy. The 5-foot-7 Dayton, Ohio, native spent last summer as a co-captain and starter on the United States World University Games Team that rolled to the gold medal with a 7-0 record. Duffy herself directed an American offense that averaged 97.4 points per game and set a USA World University Games record with a scoring margin of +43.1 ppg.

Back stateside, Duffy continues to make improvements in her game each night out and has been a strong all-around contributor and leader for Notre Dame once again this year. The veteran floor general is averaging a team-best 16.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game, with a 1.67 assist/turnover ratio, ranking among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in all four categories. In addition, she leads the league and is seventh in the nation in foul shooting (.905). She also has led the team in scoring 12 times and in assists 14 times this year. Duffy is a BIG EAST Player of the Week selection (Jan. 23), a three-time BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll choice, and was named to the Duel in the Desert (Gray Division) All-Tournament Team. Most recently, she poured in a game-high 25 points in Saturday’s overtime loss to South Florida.

Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader has shown tremendous promise in her first season with the Irish. The former McDonald’s All-American already has been named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week once (Nov. 21) after turning in an impressive 10-point, 14-rebound effort in her debut outing against Michigan, becoming just the second player in school history (first since 1979) to record a double-double in her first game. She also averaged 13.5 points per game and shot 80 percent from the field (12-of-15) in wins over Iona and Wisconsin, going 6-of-6 in the latter contest. Those marks earned Schrader a spot on the Dec. 5 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll, the first freshman to appear on that list this season. She also tacked on her second double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds in Notre Dame’s win over No. 22/21 Utah at the Duel in the Desert. Schrader is second on the team in scoring (8.6 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (5.8 rpg.), and contributed 12 points and four rebounds in Saturday’s loss to USF.

Sophomore guard Charel Allen appears to have fully recovered from her season-ending knee injury in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Monessen, Pa., product has been a sparkplug off the bench for Notre Dame, ranking third on the team in scoring (7.7 ppg.) and steals (1.2 spg.), while tying for fourth in rebounding (4.2 rpg.). She has scored in double figures seven times this year, including four of eight BIG EAST games, and is coming off a 10-point, eight-rebound effort Saturday against South Florida.

Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish

  • Notre Dame’s departure from the Jan. 30 Associated Press poll snapped a string of 30 consecutive appearances for the Irish in that survey, dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. All told, Notre Dame has appeared in 139 Associated Press polls since the balloting debuted 30 years ago, with their first AP ranking (No. 25) coming on Dec. 31, 1990.
  • With its No. 10 AP ranking on Dec. 5, the Irish have appeared in the top 10 of the media balloting at some point in seven of the past 10 years (including three of the past four seasons). Notre Dame has spent a total of 73 weeks in the AP top 10 during the program’s 29-year history and owns a 110-21 (.840) record when it’s ranked in the top 10.
  • The Irish have won 57 of their last 61 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Three of the losses in that span have come against Big Ten Conference opponents (Wisconsin in 1996, Purdue in 2003, Michigan State in 2004), with the other coming back on Dec. 31 vs. No. 1 Tennessee.
  • The Irish defense continues to be its calling card. In each of the past six seasons, Notre Dame has held its opponents to an average of less than 62 points per game, including a 56.8 ppg. mark last year, which ranked as the third-lowest opponent scoring average in school history and second-best of the Muffet McGraw era (55.8 ppg. in 2000-01). Thus far in 2005-06, the Irish are allowing opponents to score 62.1 ppg., the highest opponent scoring average since 1998-99 (65.5 ppg.).
  • The Irish are 3-3 against ranked teams this season and have posted 40 wins over Top 25 opponents in the past eight seasons (1998-99 to present), most recently knocking off No. 10/10 DePaul, 78-75 on Jan. 17 at the Joyce Center. In each of the past two years, Notre Dame has set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents. Furthermore, since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Irish are 12-3 (.800) at home against Top 25 competition (2-1 this year).
  • Drawing 6,309 fans to last Saturday’s overtime game vs. South Florida, the Irish now have welcomed crowds of 5,000 or more fans to 74 of their last 76 home games. The only two blemishes on that mark came in the semifinals and finals of last year’s Preseason WNIT, because tickets for those games could not be included in the Notre Dame season ticket package and had to be purchased separately.
  • The capacity crowd of 11,418 for the Dec. 31 home game vs. top-ranked Tennessee was the third sellout in program history and the 19-day advance sellout was the quickest in the 29-year history of Irish women’s basketball. As of Jan. 23, it also was the 23rd-largest crowd in the nation. For the season, Notre Dame ranks ninth in the country in average home attendance with 6,538 fans per game.
  • Senior guard Megan Duffy was named a preseason All-American by three sources, has been cited on the preseason watch lists for both the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Women’s Award, and was tabbed as one of the top five point guards in the nation by Duffy also was a preseason all-BIG EAST Conference selection, following up her first-team all-league citation last year.
  • With a 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to reach the 500-win mark. She also is the 10th Division I coach to earn her 500th victory prior to age 50. McGraw reached another milestone on Nov. 29 vs. Iona with her 700th career game as a head coach.

A Quick Look At Syracuse
As the old cliche goes, “you can’t tell the players without a program.” When it comes to Syracuse (9-11, 2-7 BIG EAST), that phrase might be particularly apt, as the Orange have six newcomers on their 12-player roster, with nine players being either freshmen or sophomores, and 10 appearing in either their first or second season at SU.

However, one would be foolish to overlook the talent on the Syracuse roster this season. A combination of inside muscle and perimeter accuracy make the Orange a dangerous team every time they take the floor. On top of that, SU comes into Tuesday’s matchup with Notre Dame having won back-to-back BIG EAST road games and the ingredients are in place for a barnburner in the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse earned consecutive victories for the first time since the opening month of the season, and logged its first two conference wins of the year, with triumphs at Seton Hall (64-56) and Providence (77-76 in overtime) last week. In the latter contest, the Orange trailed much of the way, but got a three-pointer from freshman guard Jenny Eckhart with eight seconds left in regulation to force bonus basketball. In the extra session, SU jumped out to a six-point lead, but its win wasn’t secure until Providence missed a potential game-winning shot in the waning seconds.

Sophomore center Vaida Sipaviciute, a member of last year’s BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, was dominant in the paint for Syracuse, rolling up 25 points (on 11-of-16 shooting), 13 rebounds and four blocks, all while coming off the bench in 31 minutes. Eckhart perfectly complemented Sipaviciute on the perimeter, hitting for 19 points (7-9 FG, 3-3 3FG), while junior forward Tracy Harbut, a candidate for BIG EAST Most Improved Player honors, chipped in with nine points and nine assists. Both Eckhart and Harbut played all 45 minutes in the win.

For the season, the trio of Sipaviciute, Eckhart and Harbut has paced Syracuse. Sipaviciute leads the team in scoring (17.2 ppg.), rebounding (7.8 rpg.), blocks (2.35 bpg.) and field goal percentage (.526). Meanwhile, Harbut is second in scoring (12.7 ppg.), and first in both assists (4.95 apg.) and steals (1.35 spg.), after averaging a combined 3.6 ppg., 1.46 apg. and 0.66 spg. in her first two seasons with the Orange.

Not to be overlooked, Eckhart is making a strong push for BIG EAST Freshman of the Year consideration, carding 11.2 ppg. with a team-best .351 three-point percentage and 1.65 three-pointers per game. She has started every game for Syracuse as a rookie and ranks among the conference leaders in minutes per game (38.0).

Keith Cieplicki is in his third season as the head coach at Syracuse, having put together a 28-48 (.368) record while piloting the Orange. Previously, Cieplicki spent six seasons (1997-2003) on the sidelines at Vermont, leading the Catamounts to three America East Conference titles, an NCAA bid in 2000 and a WNIT berth in 2002. All told, he owns a career record of 155-101 (.605), although is 0-4 all-time against Notre Dame (all since he came to Syracuse).

The Notre Dame-Syracuse Series
Syracuse has been one of the more common BIG EAST Conference opponents for Notre Dame over the years, with the teams set to square off for the 21st time Tuesday night. The Irish hold an 18-2 series lead on the Orange, including an 8-1 mark on the road, although this will be the first time Notre Dame has ever played a women’s basketball game in the Carrier Dome.

The matchup between the Irish and SU actually pre-dates Notre Dame’s entrance into the BIG EAST in 1995-96. The teams met in home-and-home series twice (1988-89 and 1990-91), splitting the first twinbill and seeing the Irish sweep the second. Syracuse won the first encounter in central New York (63-56 on Feb. 4, 1989), but the non-conference sweep in 1990 and 1991 would tip off a 12-game Notre Dame winning streak in the series.

Syracuse broke the string in 2002 at the BIG EAST Championship in Piscataway, N.J., using a barrage of three-pointers to upset the Irish, 84-79 in the quarterfinals. That victory helped propel the Orange to the NCAA Tournament, their first postseason berth in 14 seasons.

Since that day, Notre Dame has won the past five series games with Syracuse, with three of those coming on the SU campus. Last season, the teams played one another twice (the fifth time that’s happened since Notre Dame joined the conference), with the Irish winning 75-58 at the Joyce Center and 74-61 at Manley Field House.

Other Notre Dame-Syracuse Series Tidbits

  • With Tuesday’s 21st meeting, Syracuse will match Connecticut for the second-most series games played by Notre Dame against an established BIG EAST school. The Irish have met Georgetown and Rutgers 22 times each, in addition to longer series with new BIG EAST members (and regional rivals) Marquette (31) and DePaul (24).
  • Notre Dame has won all 14 regular-season matchups with Syracuse since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96.
  • Tuesday’s game marks the fourth consecutive season, and fifth time in six years, that Notre Dame will pay a visit to Syracuse.
  • The Irish have scored at least 70 points in 16 of 20 series games with the Orange, while SU has topped that mark only twice in the series (last coming in its most recent series win, 84-79 on March 3, 2002 in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J.).
  • Notre Dame’s average winning margin on the road in the series has been 20.4 points per game, slightly larger than its 19.8 ppg. overall series winning margin.
  • The Irish defense has been a key during its current five-game series winning streak. Notre Dame has limited Syracuse to 48.2 points per game in that stretch, including two games of 35 points or less.
  • In both of last year’s matchups, a Notre Dame guard established a new career scoring high. Breona Gray had 17 points in the Jan. 5 game at the Joyce Center, while Charel Allen dropped in 17 points in the Jan. 19 rematch at Syracuse. Also in the latter game, Syracuse center Vaida Sipaviciute set a Notre Dame opponent record with eight blocked shots.
  • Notre Dame is 36-3 (.923) all-time against New York schools, including a 17-3 record away from the Joyce Center, with an average winning margin against the Empire State of 24.9 points per game. The Irish are 1-1 against New York-based teams this season, having defeated Iona, 74-55 back on Nov. 29 at the Joyce Center, before losing at St. John’s, 66-63 on Jan. 4.
  • Two of last year’s top high school seniors in the state of Illinois will be featured on Tuesday night. Notre Dame guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett HS) was chosen as that state’s Miss Basketball, while Syracuse guard Jenny Eckhart (Libertyville, Ill./Carmel HS) was a first-team all-state selection in 2005. Both players led their teams to the Illinois Class AA Tournament, with Eckhart’s Carmel squad advancing to the second round, and Schrader’s Bartlett unit rolling all the way to the title game before bowing to top-ranked Peoria Richwoods, 52-48, despite 18 points and a tournament-record 18 rebounds from Schrader.
  • Syracuse freshman forward Keri Laimbeer is the daughter of former Notre Dame men’s basketball player Bill Laimbeer (’79), who currently is the head coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock (and whose roster includes former Irish All-America center and 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley).

The Last Time Notre Dame And Syracuse Met
Jacqueline Batteast scored 19 points to lead No. 11/10 Notre Dame past Syracuse 74-61 on Jan. 19, 2005 at Manley Field House in Syracuse.

Megan Duffy and Charel Allen each had 17 points, and Courtney LaVere had 13 points and 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season for the Irish, who outrebounded Syracuse 40-27.

Notre Dame’s bench also contributed 30 points while Syracuse’s three reserves netted only three points, all on free throws.

Rochelle Coleman led the Orange (10-6, 2-3) with 16 points, Chineze Nwagbo had 15, and Jessica Richter added 14. Vaida Sipaviciute had 10 points, eight blocks, and six rebounds.

The Orange trailed by 13 at halftime and drew to 56-49 on a three-point play by Nwagbo at 11:04. Batteast was called for her fourth foul on the play and had to sit. The Irish missed their next five shots, but Syracuse also sputtered and only managed to close to 57-51 on a layup by Sipaviciute at 7:27.

Batteast returned and hit a driving layup, Teresa Borton followed with another layup, and Batteast hit a pair of free throws and a three-point play to boost the Notre Dame lead to 66-54 with 3:27 remaining, putting the game out of reach.

Syracuse, riding a modest two-game win streak in the league, took a 15-9 lead midway through the first half. The Orange went 5-for-9 from the field while Notre Dame shot 4-for-18.

That changed in a hurry. After a Notre Dame timeout, the Irish hit six of their next seven shots and scored 14 straight points to take control.

Batteast began the run with a jumper in the lane, Duffy followed with four straight points and LaVere added six, her turnaround jumper in the lane giving Notre Dame a 23-15 lead with 9:13 left.

LaVere was a torrid 6-for-7, scoring all of her points in the opening period. She drained a three-pointer from the right corner with 1:17 left to boost the lead to 40-26. It was her first three of the season and only her second attempt from beyond the arc.

A trey by Duffy from the right wing in the final minute gave the Irish a 43-30 lead at the break.

Beasts Of The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 140-36 (.795) in regular-season competition against the rest of BIG EAST Conference, owning the best conference winning percentage of any current member of the BIG EAST (minimum of one year membership) since joining the circuit for the 1995-96 campaign. The Irish also have finished among the top three in the BIG EAST nine times in their 10-year membership, and claimed a share of their first-ever regular-season conference championship in 2001.

When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 154-46 (.770) vs. league opponents – factoring in 23 postseason tilts, the Irish are 78-10 (.886) at home, 62-29 (.681) on the road and 14-7 (.667) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

Finding A Way
Notre Dame is 5-2 this season in games decided by five points or less. The two close Irish losses came at the hands of St. John’s (66-63 on Jan. 4) and South Florida (68-64 in overtime on Jan. 28).

Taking it one step further, the Notre Dame women’s and men’s basketball teams have seen 11 of their 15 combined BIG EAST games decided by six points or less, with four going into overtime (and two men’s games needing double OT). The Irish women are 3-2 in close BIG EAST games (wins over Marquette, DePaul and Georgetown), while the Notre Dame men are 0-6 in conference nailbiters, although their last three games all have come down to the final possession in regulation.

A History Lesson
With one steal vs. South Florida, senior All-America guard Megan Duffy became only the fifth player in school history to record 1,000 points and 200 steals in her career. Duffy has 1,127 points and 200 steals since arriving in South Bend in 2002.

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

What’s more, Duffy has 456 career assists, putting her just 44 handouts short of pairing with Robinson and Ivey as the only Notre Dame players ever to amass 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals in their careers.

Ms. Smith Arrives In South Bend
Freshman forward Chandrica Smith (Stone Mountain, Ga./Oak Hill Academy (Va.)) has come alive in her last two games, averaging 7.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest after amassing a total of 19 points and 15 rebounds in her first 11 appearances of the season (1.7 ppg., 1.4 rpg.).

Smith nearly posted her first career double-double at No. 10/9 Rutgers on Jan. 24, coming away with personal bests of nine points and 10 rebounds. She came back with six points and three rebounds Saturday vs. South Florida, in a performance limited by foul trouble.

When The Game Is On The Line
The Irish have posted a .674 free throw percentage (64-of-95) in the final two minutes and overtime of games this season.

Leading the way are junior forward Crystal Erwin, who made her only two late-game free throws of the year with 41 seconds left in regulation Saturday vs. USF, and senior guard Megan Duffy, who has made 30 of her 32 foul shots (.938) in crunch time.

Second-Half Sizzle
Ten times this season, Notre Dame has used a significant second-half run to either take control or battle their way back into the contest. Included in that total are four games against Top 25 opponents (USC, Utah, Tennessee and DePaul), with three of those second-half charges leading to Irish wins (all but Tennessee).

What’s more, five times the Irish have trailed at some point in the final 11 minutes, but on the strength of their second-half run, they rallied to take the win.

Game #19 Recap: South Florida
South Florida’s Ezria Parsons hit a desperation three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to force overtime, then Jessica Jackson hit a key three in OT for the Bulls, who survived a late rally to beat No. 21 Notre Dame 68-64 on Saturday at the Joyce Center.

USF, which led by as many as 15 points, needed Jackson’s three-pointer with 2:12 left in overtime for a 65-62 lead. Notre Dame cut the lead to a point on a fastbreak layup by sophomore guard Charel Allen. But USF’s Jessica Dickson, the nation’s leading scorer who scored 13 of her 18 points after halftime, hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left for a 67-64 lead.

Senior guard Megan Duffy, who led Notre Dame (12-7, 3-5 BIG EAST) with 25 points, had a chance to tie it, but her contested three-pointer didn’t find iron with three seconds left. The Irish lost for the sixth time in their last nine games.

Two South Florida starters, Rachel Sheats and Shantia Grace, fouled out midway through the second half of the physical game.

South Florida appeared to take control midway through the first half after Duffy hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 20-18 with 8:51 left. The Bulls’ defense then held Notre Dame without a field goal the rest of the half, outscoring the Irish 14-3 to take a 34-21 halftime lead.

Notre Dame didn’t hit a field goal for the first four minutes of the second half either, but the Bulls missed their first 11 shots. The Irish came within one point twice before Duffy’s layup finally gave them a 47-46 lead.

Duffy’s free throws extended the Irish lead to 58-55 with 24 seconds left. But Parsons, who was just 2-of-11 from three-point range all season, hit a trey from the top of the key as she was falling down to force the overtime.

Jackson finished with 12 points and Nalini Miller had 10 points and seven rebounds for South Florida. The Bulls had a 48-42 edge in rebounds.

Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader had 12 points for Notre Dame and Allen added 10.

Noting The South Florida Game

  • Notre Dame is 1-1 in overtime games this season, with both contests coming in BIG EAST Conference play and both at home; in each case, the OT was forced when the visitors hit a desperation three-pointer in the final three seconds of regulation (Marquette’s Krystal Ellis banked in a trey at the horn on Jan. 10; USF’s Ezria Parsons hit a three as she was falling down with 2.2 seconds left on Jan. 28).
  • Notre Dame loses its first BIG EAST regular-season overtime game in four outings.
  • The Irish played multiple OT games for the second time in three seasons, but only the seventh time in school history; the ND record for overtime games in one year is three, set in 1995-96.
  • The loss to South Florida marked only the second time in the past 11 seasons that Notre Dame has followed up a double-digit loss with a defeat at home in its next game (now 25-2 in such games).
  • The Irish are 14-3 when playing a new BIG EAST team for the first time, with two of those losses coming this season (Louisville and USF).
  • The Bulls pick up their first win in three series matchups with Notre Dame and become just the second Florida-based team ever to defeat the Irish (Miami won three times, including twice at the Joyce Center).
  • The Irish nearly won after overcoming a 15-point first-half deficit, which would have marked their third such double-digit comeback of the season (trailed by 11 vs. Marquette and 12 vs. #10 DePaul in their previous two home games, but rallied to win both).
  • Notre Dame did hold USF to an opponent season-low 24 points in the second half, one fewer the totals posted by Michigan (Nov. 18) and Marquette (Jan. 10).

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

Duffy now has 1,127 career points, good for 17th on the Irish career scoring chart.

And LaVere Follows Suit 10 Days Later
Senior co-captain and forward Courtney LaVere joined Duffy as a 1,000-point scorer at Notre Dame on Jan. 14 at Louisville, hitting a hook shot in the lane 2:27 into the contest. LaVere now has 1,027 career points, putting her seven markers behind Mollie Peirick (1994-98) for 20th on the Irish all-time scoring list.

The Duffy-LaVere 1,000-point tandem marks just the fifth time in school history have teammates reached the 1,000-point plateau in the same season, with Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon the last to do so in 2000-01.

Duffy and LaVere also have recorded the shortest span between hitting the mark (three games). The previous school record was eight games, the term between Mary Beth Schueth and Carrie Bates scoring their 1,000th points in the 1984-85 season.

Give Her Five (Hundred)
With Notre Dame’s 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th women’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 500-win mark. McGraw now has a career record of 511-203 (.716) in 24 years of coaching, including 19 seasons at Notre Dame (423-162, .723).

Here’s a closer look at how that milestone victory breaks down for McGraw:

  • She is the 10th NCAA Division I women’s basketball coach to register her 500th victory before turning 50 (her birthday was Dec. 5).
  • McGraw is the fourth active coach in the BIG EAST Conference to reach the career 500-win mark, joining Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Villanova’s Harry Perretta.
  • She is the third BIG EAST coach in as many seasons to celebrate her 500th win. Auriemma hit the milestone late in the 2002-03 campaign, while Perretta joined the club with his landmark victory midway through last season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half And Half
During the past six seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 107-10 (.915) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 35 of their last 39 such contests. Notre Dame has won 10 games this season when it led at the break (the Irish were tied at halftime of their win over No. 24/21 USC).

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense
During the past 11 seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 156-9 (.945) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame is 6-0 in such games this season.

But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past decade (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 91-3 (.968) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998.

Sweet Success
Notre Dame is one of only nine schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine seasons (1997-2005). The others are Connecticut and Tennessee (nine times), Duke (eight times), Louisiana Tech (seven times), and Georgia, LSU, North Carolina and Texas Tech (six times).

The Gold Standard
The Irish are one of six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 12 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in this club are Tennessee (29), Texas Tech (16), Louisiana Tech (14), Old Dominion (14) and Connecticut (12).

Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 133 of their last 147 games (.905) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 78-10 (.886) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 57 of their last 61 non-BIG EAST contests (.934) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only three losses in that span all came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents – Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54) and Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT). The Purdue loss snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 283-75 (.791) record at the venerable facility. In three of the previous six seasons (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.

Jammin’ The Joyce
Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past five years, including a No. 16 rating in 2004-05 (5,830 fans per game). Notre Dame has averaged 6,538 fans in its nine home games this season, and is ninth in the latest unofficial national attendance rankings, released each Monday by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office.

What’s more, each of the top 20 women’s basketball crowds in Joyce Center history have occurred during the 19-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present), with 19 of those 20 occurring in the past six seasons (2000-01 to present). Lastly, the Irish have attracted at least 5,000 fans to 74 of their last 76 home games, including 13 contests with at least 8,000 fans and the first three sellouts in the program’s history.

The most recent sellout in Notre Dame women’s basketball history took place on Dec 31, when 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center for the Irish matchup with No. 1 Tennessee, the 23rd-largest crowd in the nation this season (as of Jan. 23). The game sold out 19 days in advance, making its the fastest sellout in the 29-year history of the program.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Notre Dame’s two seniors – guard Megan Duffy and forward Courtney LaVere – are serving as team captains for the 2005-06 season. Duffy is in her second year as a captain (making her the 16th two-time captain in school history, and 12th in the Muffet McGraw era), while LaVere is a first-time captain. Both players received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

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

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

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

This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 (and including games to date this year), Notre Dame has played in 65 televised games, including 40 that were broadcast nationally. Last year, the Irish had 17 games televised, with 10 being national broadcasts.

Notre Dame is 3-2 in televised games this year, with wins over Western Michigan and USC (Comcast Local), as well as DePaul (CSTV).

Notre Dame’s remaining TV games are:

  • Feb. 7 vs. Villanova (ESPNU) – 6 p.m. ET
  • Feb. 12 @ DePaul (ESPN2) – 4:40 p.m. CT
  • Feb. 19 vs. UConn (ESPN2) – 7 p.m. ET
  • Feb. 25 @ Cincinnati (BIG EAST TV) – 2 p.m. ET

During the past five seasons, Notre Dame has appeared on the ESPN family of networks 24 times, averaging nearly five telecasts per year on “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”.

The Feb. 25 game at Cincinnati will air as part of the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) package. Among the outlets scheduled to televise the game live are WHME-TV (Channel 46 in South Bend), Comcast Chicago, Comcast Local, Comcast Philadelphia and Madison Square Garden Network.

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

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

Riley Named One Of’s Top 25 Players Of The Past 25 Years
Former Notre Dame All-America center and 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley has been selected as one of the top 25 women’s college basketball players of the past 25 years, according to The list of all-time greats was released Jan. 10 in conjunction with the silver anniversary celebration of the inaugural NCAA women’s basketball season in 1981-82.

A native of Macy, Ind., Riley was tapped as one of the legends of the sport in part because of her contributions in the NCAA Tournament, where she led Notre Dame to three NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and the 2001 national championship. In the ’01 NCAA title game vs. Purdue, Riley tallied 28 points (on 9-of-13 shooting), 13 rebounds and seven blocks, not to mention the two game-winning free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining which snapped a 66-66 tie. It was an effort that termed as “the third-best all-time championship game performance in NCAA history.” That outing capped a six-game NCAA tourney stretch in which the 6-foot-5 post averaged 23.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game while shooting at a .632 clip (48-of-76).

Riley was a two-time first-team Associated Press All-America selection and two-time CoSIDA Academic All-America choice, earning Academic All-America Team Member of the Year honors in 2001. In addition, she was a three-time first team all-BIG EAST selection, earning the league’s Player of the Year award in 2001 and the conference Defensive Player of the Year hardware three consecutive years. The only player in school history to amass 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career (2,072 points/1,007 rebounds), Riley also is the Irish all-time leader in seven statistical categories, including blocked shots (370 – fifth in NCAA history) and field goal percentage (.632 – 11th in NCAA history).

Next Game: Providence
Notre Dame will play three of its next four games at home, starting Saturday with a 1 p.m. (ET) matchup against Providence at the Joyce Center. The Irish are 13-0 all-time against the Friars, including a 6-0 mark in South Bend.

Under first-year head coach Phil Seymore, PC (6-13, 1-7 BIG EAST) has made significant strides from last year’s club that went 1-27 and 0-16 in league play. The Friars are scheduled for a two-game Midwest road trip this week, visiting Marquette on Tuesday night, then heading back to Providence for mid-week classes before coming west to South Bend for Saturday’s matinee at Notre Dame.