Jan. 15, 2007
|DATE:||January 16, 2007|
|TIME:||7:00 p.m. ET|
|AT:||Notre Dame, Ind.|
|Joyce Center (11,418)|
|SERIES:||ND leads 15-1|
|1ST MTG:||1/4/96 (ND 74-48)|
|LAST MTG:||1/4/06 (SJU 66-63)|
|RADIO:||ESPN Radio 1490 AM|
|Sean Stires, p-b-p|
- Notre Dame faces St. John’s for the first time since the Red Storm toppled the 12th-ranked Irish, 66-63 last season in Queens.
- Notre Dame is 19-0 all-time against New York schools at the Joyce Center (7-0 against St. John’s).
Irish Look To Bounce Back Tuesday Night Against St. John’s
Resiliency has been one of Notre Dame’s hallmarks this season and the Irish will look to continue that trend Tuesday night when they play host to St. John’s in a BIG EAST Conference game at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame has bounced back from each of its first four losses this season with a victory, including a win over No. 10/9 Purdue last month.
The Irish are coming off just their third loss the past 11 games, a hard-fought 87-78 overtime loss at South Florida on Saturday afternoon. With much of the Notre Dame roster plagued by foul trouble, the Irish freshman class played a big role in getting the game to an extra session, combining for 34 points and 30 rebounds on the day.
Junior center Melissa D’Amico led five Irish players in double figures with 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Ashley Barlow added 12 points and nine boards, freshman center Erica Williamson had her first career double-double with 11 points and 18 rebounds, while freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner tossed in a career-high 11 points, including the game-tying trey with 11 ticks left in regulation.
- Notre Dame is not ranked.
- St. John’s is not ranked.
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 604-271 (.690).
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Halfway through 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 71.2 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 21.4 turnovers per game (including a BIG EAST-best 11.8 steals per night). However, the flip side has seen the Irish allow opponents to shoot .413 from the floor (.381 from the three-point line), while the Irish claim just a 1.8 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 14.4 ppg., while scoring in double figures in 14 of 16 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 5.9 rebounds and a team-high 2.4 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 has stoked the Notre Dame offensive fire to an even hotter level, averaging 10.9 points and 3.6 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 Jan. 10 in a win over Cincinnati.
Another Irish junior, 6-foot-5 center Melissa D’Amico, continues to make strides in the post. The second-year starter is carding 10.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game with a team-high .548 field goal percentage. She also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Honor Roll on Dec. 18.
The most pleasing contributions of the year for Notre Dame to this point have come from its freshmen. Guard Ashley Barlow is third on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg.) and second in steals (2.2 spg.), and came up with a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds on Dec. 28 vs. Prairie View A&M. Center Erica Williamson (6.8 ppg., 6.1 rpg., 1.5 bpg.) is proving to be a capable understudy to D’Amico, logging her first career double-double at South Florida with 11 points and 18 rebounds (an Irish freshman record). And, guard Melissa Lechlitner (4.7 ppg., 2.5 apg.) has shown little drop off at the point behind Gaines, posting three double-figure scoring games, including a career-high 11 points at Penn State and USF (hitting the game-tying trey late in regulation in the latter game).
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 St. John’s Last season was a memorable one for St. John’s, as the Red Storm went 22-8 (11-5 in the BIG EAST) and earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1988. Then, not comfortable simply with earning the NCAA invitation, SJU defeated California in the first round of the tourney and put a scare into eventual national champion Maryland before bowing out.
This year hasn’t been quite as kind to St. John’s (5-10, 1-3), as the Red Storm has dealt with adversity from a variety of different areas, most notably the injury bug. Senior all-BIG EAST guard Kia Wright spent the better part of the non-conference season sidelined with an injury, forcing SJU into using its younger players much earlier than anticipated. However, the Red Storm rookies have held their own and with Wright now rounding back into form, St. John’s has a chance to make some noise in the second half of the 2006-07 campaign.
The Red Storm are coming off perhaps their best win of the season, a 76-69 conquest at No. 23 (ESPN/USA Today) Pittsburgh last Saturday. Wright set the tone with 23 points and 10 assists, while sophomore forward Angel Tate nearly added her own double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds. As a team, SJU shot 45.3 percent from the field (53.8 from the three-point line, and outscored the Panthers, 15-8 in the final six minutes for the win.
Sophomore guard Monique McLean leads St. John’s in scoring (16.4 ppg.), three-pointers (28) and steals (2.1 spg.), while tying for second in rebounding (6.3 rpg.). Junior forward Tiina Sten is second in scoring (13.0 ppg.), and Wright is up to third in scoring (12.2 ppg.) while setting the pace in assists (6.4 apg.).
The 2006 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, Kim Barnes Arico is in her fifth season at St. John’s, holding a 65-66 (.496) record at the school. She is in her 11th season as a collegiate head coach with a 159-138 (.535) career record, including a 1-4 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-St. John’s Series
Notre Dame and St. John’s didn’t begin to face one another until the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 1995-96 season. Since then, the teams have met 16 times with Notre Dame holding a 15-1 edge on the Red Storm. The Irish also have won each of the previous seven series games at the Joyce Center.
The Last Time Notre Dame and St. John’s Met
Angela Clark scored 18 points and St. John’s held on to beat No. 12 Notre Dame 66-63 on Jan. 4, 2006 at Carnesecca Arena in Queens. It was the Red Storm’s first victory over the Irish.
Tara Walker added 14 points and Monique McLean had 13 for the Red Storm (11-2, 1-1 BIG EAST), who lost their first 15 meetings with Notre Dame (9-3, 0-1).
Melissa D’Amico had 14 points for the Irish, who were coming off a 62-51 loss to No. 1 Tennessee less than a week earlier. Megan Duffy had 13 points and became Notre Dame’s 21st 1,000-point scorer, while Crystal Erwin added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Irish, who finished with a 41-21 advantage on the boards.
Walker had two three-pointers in the first 56 seconds of the second half to give St. John’s the lead for good at 38-37. The Red Storm extended the lead to 54-44 on a jumper by Danielle Chambers with 9:14 to play.
But D’Amico and Lindsay Schrader each had six points in a 19-10 run that brought Notre Dame within 64-63 on a jumper by D’Amico with nine seconds to play.
Greeba Barlow of St. John’s hit a jumper with 2.8 seconds to go and Notre Dame was unable to get off a potential game-tying shot.
The Last Time Notre Dame and St. John’s Met At The Joyce Center
Crystal Erwin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Megan Duffy added 14 points and 10 assists, leading the sixth-ranked Irish to a 72-65 victory over St. John’s on Jan. 26, 2005 at the Joyce Center.
Jacqueline Batteast added 10 points and 10 rebounds, giving the Irish (17-3, 5-2 BIG EAST) three players with double-doubles for the first time since they accomplished the feat against Michigan State in 1995.
Kia Wright led St. John’s with 23 points, including 17 in the first half, and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. Tara Walker had 16 points for St. John’s and Greeba Barlow added 12.
The double-doubles were firsts for Erwin and Duffy, while Batteast moved alone into second place on Notre Dame’s career list with 37, and also had four blocked shots. Teresa Borton added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Irish started the game with little intensity, falling behind by eight points and trailing 35-31 at halftime. However, Notre Dame came out more aggressive in the second half, using a 19-4 run early in the second half to take control. Duffy started the run with a three-pointer, but the key was improved defense. The Irish held St. John’s to 2-of-19 shooting during the stretch, forcing five turnovers.
The Irish also outplayed St. John’s inside in the second half, outscoring the Red Storm 22-14 and winning the rebounding battle 26-21.
Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is shooting 75 percent from the foul line (57-of-76) 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-19 (.895) at the charity stripe down the stretch.
Poise Under Pressure
The Irish are 6-2 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 26-9 in 10-point contests – with four of those nine losses coming in overtime.
In addition, four times this season, the Irish have sent a player to the free throw line with less than five seconds remaining in regulation or overtime and the game hanging in the balance. In those clutch situations, Notre Dame is 7-for-8 at the charity stripe, with the only miss being a semi-intentional one by senior guard Breona Gray on the second of two tries with 1.2 seconds to go in a 60-59 win at Valparaiso on Dec. 19.
The common basketball adage holds that college players make their biggest improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons. However, for Notre Dame, it’s been the time between the sophomore and junior years that has been conducive to the most development.
Three of the top four Irish scorers this season are juniors and all three are posting the best scoring averages of their careers – guards Charel Allen (14.4 ppg.) and Tulyah Gaines (10.9 ppg.), and center Melissa D’Amico (10.3 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 29 double-digit efforts.