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Irish Look To Extend NCAA Tournament Run Against Purdue At East Regional

March 27, 2003

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2003 NCAA East Regional – Semifinal
No. 11 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-10)
vs. No. 2 seed Purdue Boilermakers (28-5)

The Date and Time: Sunday, March 30, 2003, at 2:30 p.m. EST.

The Site: University of Dayton Arena (13,455) in Dayton, Ohio.

The TV Plans: ESPN2 national broadcast with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Ann Meyers (analysis), Beth Mowins (sideline), Phil Dean (producer) and Chip Dean (director). The game also will be available as part of the ESPN FullCourt pay-per-view package.

The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires (play-by-play) and Shanele Stires (analysis). These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics website at

Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics will be available for every game in the 2003 NCAA Tournament via the NCAA website (

Websites: Notre Dame (, Purdue (

After turning the NCAA Tournament on its ear with its stunning run to the Sweet Sixteen, Notre Dame will aim to keep its postseason dreams in sharp focus when it takes on No. 2 seed (and 10th-ranked) Purdue in an NCAA East Regional semifinal Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (EST) at the University of Dayton Arena. The 11th-seeded Irish are making their fifth appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, having split their previous four regional semifinal games.

Notre Dame punched its ticket for the East Regional with a 59-53 win at No. 3 seed (and eighth-ranked) Kansas State on Tuesday night, snapping the nation’s second-longest home winning streak at 22 games. The Irish held the Wildcats to their lowest point total of the season, thanks in large measure to a 12-minute defensive lockdown in the second half when KSU scored just a single point.

Purdue (28-5) moved into the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history with an 80-62 win over Virginia Tech on Monday night. Junior guard Erika Valek knocked down 10 of 16 shots and finished with a game-high 24 points for the Boilermakers, who shot 49.1 percent from the field and committed just 10 turnovers.

Junior forward Shereka Wright leads Purdue in scoring (18.9 ppg.) and rebounding (6.2 rpg.), while Valek is second in scoring (14.0 ppg.) and first in three-point percentage (.409). Senior center Mary Jo Noon also is in double figures (11.0 ppg.) for the Boilers.

Kristy Curry is closing out her fourth season as the head coach at Purdue, sporting a 106-26 (.803) record. She is 3-2 all-time against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame’s latest ascension to college basketball’s summit already is underway, thanks in large part to the nine returning monogram winners and three starters back from last season’s 20-10 club. Of the nine veterans back in the fold, only two are seniors, providing head coach Muffet McGraw with a rich blend of stability and experience upon which to build her next title contender.

McGraw now is in her 16th season at Notre Dame with a 363-137 (.726) record (451-178, .717 in 21 years overall) that includes 14 20-win seasons, 13 postseason appearances, 10 NCAA Tournament bids, five trips to the Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 national championship. Along the way, she has groomed seven All-Americans, 17 all-conference selections (including 10 first-team picks), seven players who have gone on to play professional basketball in the United States, and three USA Basketball National Team players (who have won a total of six medals). In addition, 13 of her former players and/or assistants currently are coaching at the high school or college level, including five collegiate head coaches. She also has been a master recruiter, attracting seven consecutive top 20 classes, including this year’s freshman class, which was ranked eighth in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. McGraw coached the 600th game of her career on Nov. 29 at USC, and earned her 350th victory at Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve at Marquette, joining Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to reach that milestone. She went on to collect her 450th career coaching win on March 23 when the Irish ousted Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and worked her 500th game under the Golden Dome on March 25 when Notre Dame toppled No. 8/7 Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters have received numerous accolades this season. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (12.0 ppg., 4.9 rpg., .472 3FG%, .879 FT%) is a two-time Associated Press All-American and she was named an honorable mention all-BIG EAST Conference selection this year, as well as the Aeropostale/BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has seen her name sprinkled liberally throughout the Notre Dame record book, including marks for scoring (4th, 1,747 points), three-point field goals made (1st, 262), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .478) and free throw percentage (1st, .871). In the latter two categories, Ratay’s shooting numbers would be good enough to place her among the top 10 in NCAA history, and her three-point ratio would be the best in NCAA annals. She has led the Irish in scoring nine times this year, including a season-high 30-point effort (and a career high-tying seven three-pointers) on Feb. 16 at Providence. She also logged her first double-double of the year (and fifth of her career) with 12 points and a season-high 11 rebounds on Feb. 26 vs. Pittsburgh. In addition, Ratay helped propel the Irish into the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a game-high 20 points (including 3-of-4 three-point field goals) vs. Arizona on March 23.

This season, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (team-high 14.1 ppg., team-high 8.2 rpg., 2.6 apg., 1.5 bpg., 2.0 spg, eight double-doubles) on the list of 30 candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding player. Batteast earned second-team all-BIG EAST honors for the second consecutive season in 2002-03. She has scored in double figures in 26 games this season, including five 20-point efforts. She also nearly posted a triple-double in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Cleveland State, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. She did notch her first double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds at USC. Batteast also contributed a season-best 24 points (10-15 FG) at Arizona State and added her second double-double (18 points, game-high 10 rebounds) vs. Colorado State. She tacked on her third double-double at Marquette, posting a game-high 23 points (career-best 11-17 FG) and 11 rebounds, and notched her fourth double-dip vs. Miami (12 points, 11 rebounds). Batteast tallied her fifth double-double at St. John’s with 24 points and 11 rebounds. She then compiled her sixth double-double at Boston College with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Batteast also had a career-high 18 rebounds in Notre Dame’s rematch at Connecticut on Feb. 23, the most caroms by an Irish player since Nov. 1998, when Ruth Riley had 18 boards vs. Duke. She added her seventh double-double in the regular-season finale at Syracuse, piling up 15 points and 12 rebounds, and logged her eighth double play in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship vs. Pittsburgh (15 points, 10 rebounds). In her last eight games, Batteast has been a terror on the backboard, averaging 10.0 rebounds per game.

Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (7.5 ppg., 3.7 rpg., team-high 3.9 apg., team-high 2.2 spg., .822 FT%), who quickly has developed into one of the top point guards in the BIG EAST. Last season, the speedy Severe capably filled the large shoes left by the graduation of All-American Niele Ivey, setting career highs in virtually every statistical category. Severe has evolved into a scoring threat for the Irish this year, scoring in double figures in 11 games after cracking double digits only seven times in her first two years at Notre Dame. She canned all three of her three-point attempts vs. Cleveland State and scored 15 points at Valparaiso, knocking down a career-best 11-14 FT. Severe chalked up 20 points (5-5 FG, 10-11 FT) and six assists at Marquette, before adding 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists vs. Purdue. She then tallied a career-high 21 points (6-9 FG, 8-9 FT) at West Virginia, adding six rebounds, five assists and five steals along the way. She also carded a season-high seven rebounds in the rematch with WVU on Feb. 1, and had a career-high eight steals vs. Georgetown, the highest single-game total by an Irish player since 1991. The Florida native was a key factor in Notre Dame’s run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, pouring in a team-high 17 points (6-11 FG) and a season-best eight rebounds in a 59-53 Irish win at No. 8/7 Kansas State on March 25.

Severe is backstopped by freshman Megan Duffy (3.0 ppg., 2.3 apg.), a crafty lefthander with a commanding floor presence and a smooth outside jumper. Duffy has started five times this year, dishing out a game-high seven assists at Arizona State, the most by an Irish rookie since Ratay’s seven handouts against Butler on Dec. 1, 1999. She also hit the first two three-pointers of her career at Marquette and added a game-high six assists at St. John’s. In addition, she poured in a season-high 12 points, making 9-of-10 free throws against Pittsburgh. Duffy showed the poise of a wily veteran in Notre Dame’s NCAA second-round win at No. 8/7 Kansas State, tallying 10 points (including two three-pointers) and canning four critical free throws in the final 61 seconds to ice the victory.

Senior walk-on Karen Swanson (0.6 ppg., 0.2 rpg.), junior Jeneka Joyce and sophomore Jill Krause (0.4 ppg., 0.2 rpg.) also have been counted on for support at the guard positions. Swanson made her second career start vs. Seton Hall and had a season-high two rebounds, while Krause has seen action in 19 games, grabbing a career-high three rebounds vs. IPFW and canning her first career three-pointer vs. Tennessee. Meanwhile, Joyce is out indefinitely while recovering from a myriad of leg injuries suffered during her career.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton (8.0 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 1.2 bpg., team-high .571 FG%) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (7.2 ppg., 4.1 rpg.) have teamed up with Batteast to produce a formidable front line for Notre Dame this season. The 6-3 Borton turned in a solid performance in Notre Dame’s season opener, hitting her first six shots and finishing with 18 points. She also set new career highs with 11 rebounds and four assists vs. IPFW, and later added 14 points and four blocked shots against Tennessee. She then piled up a team-high 13 points vs. Miami and tossed in 19 points (8-11 FG) at St. John’s. On Feb. 1 vs. West Virginia, Borton knocked down all seven of her shots, tying her own mark for the second-best shooting performance in Joyce Center history. She then carded 11 points and a career-high five blocks vs. Georgetown, followed by a 12-point night (6-6 FT) vs. St. John’s. Borton also was solid against BIG EAST opponents, posting a sparkling .602 field goal percentage (56-93), and she collected a career-high 21 points (7-11 FG, 7-7 FT) at Connecticut. She then rolled up 13 points, including 7-of-7 free throws vs. Pittsburgh.

At the same time, Flecky is widely considered to be the most improved player on the Notre Dame roster, after logging 10 points per game during her team’s tour of Europe last May. She displayed her improvement in the season opener, tallying a career-high 22 points and game-best eight rebounds vs. Cleveland State. Her eight double-figure games this season have nearly tripled her total (three) from all of last year. Flecky saw limited action during the month of January due to a lingering back injury, but recovered nicely in February. She recorded her first double-double of the year (and second of her career) vs. Georgetown with 12 points and a career-best 12 rebounds, then added 11 points and five rebounds at Virginia Tech. She returned to the starting lineup vs. St. John’s, rolling up career bests of five assists and four steals, and she logged 10 points and five rebounds at Connecticut. Flecky also was the hero in Notre Dame’s victory over Seton Hall, drilling the two game-winning free throws with two seconds left. In addition, she pulled down 10 rebounds at Syracuse, her second double-figure rebounding game of the season, and logged 14 points in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship vs. Pittsburgh, posting her second-highest scoring total this year. A lingering knee injury has curtailed her playing time in the NCAA Tournament.

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (12.6 ppg., 5.7 rpg., .492 FG%, five double-doubles) also is seeing significant playing time on the blocks for the Irish this season. LaVere was a consensus prep All-American as a senior at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, all while shooting 57 percent from the field. The potential the 6-3 LaVere brings to the table was noticed by one national media outlet prior to the season, as the website Women’s College named the Irish rookie one of its “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact.” LaVere wasted little time in living up to that billing, coming off the bench to card 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists vs. Cleveland State. It was the highest scoring output by a Notre Dame freshman in her debut since Ratay’s 18-point night vs. Toledo in 1999.

LaVere has been at her best against top competition, compiling three of her five double-doubles against ranked opponents (No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Purdue and No. 20 Villanova). She also has scored in double figures 21 times this season, with a team-high five 20-point outings to her credit. Twice, she has scored a season-high 23 points (vs. Purdue and Rutgers), and she pulled down a personal-best 12 rebounds at Villanova. In addition, LaVere was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Week on March 3 after averaging 17 points and 4.5 rebounds in wins over Pittsburgh and Seton Hall. She has sparkled down the stretch, collecting 14.5 points in her last eight games, including 14 points (and a team-high eight rebounds) at Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 25.

Purdue owns a 11-4 edge in the all-time series with Notre Dame, although the matchup has been much tighter of late – the Boilermakers have won five of the last nine since taking the first six games in the series. Sunday’s game will mark the fourth time the Irish and Purdue have played on a neutral floor in NCAA tournament competition, with Notre Dame owning a 2-1 lead in those contests.

This intrastate rivalry began back in 1984, when Purdue claimed a 62-59 win at the Joyce Center. The teams played again the following year in West Lafayette, but the series then went dormant for the next five seasons. Notre Dame renewed acquaintances with the Boilermakers in 1991, and the series has been played annually since then, with the exception of the 1998-99 season.

Although the Irish came close against Purdue, they did not break through with their first win until the 1996 NCAA Tournament, when Notre Dame toppled the Boilermakers, 73-60, in the first round of the Midwest Regional at Lubbock, Texas. It also was the first-ever NCAA Tournament win for the Irish, and it coincided with Notre Dame’s first season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference.

Beginning with that postseason contest seven years ago, the rivalry has steadily grown in intensity, with the Boilermakers winning five of the last nine games. The Notre Dame-Purdue series reached a fever pitch two years ago when the two sides met in St. Louis to decide the 2001 NCAA championship. The Irish came out on top with a narrow 68-66 victory, getting two free throws from consensus national player of the year Ruth Riley with 5.8 seconds left to pull out the win.

The Boilermakers have exacted a measure of revenge by winning each of their last two matchups with Notre Dame, including a 71-54 victory back on Jan. 4 at the Joyce Center. Freshman forward Courtney LaVere notched a double-double with a season-high 23 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast added 14 points and junior guard Le’Tania Severe contributed 10 points for the Irish, who shot 50 percent from the field but were hindered by 25 turnovers. Shereka Wright scored 18 points for Purdue, which trailed by five (22-17) with six minutes left in the first half, but mounted an 18-1 run that crossed into the second period, and the Boilers never trailed again.

In many ways, Notre Dame and Purdue are similar teams. Both squads are coming off second round appearances in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Both teams also were picked high in their respective conferences and offer a strong mix of youthful talent and veteran savvy. However, that’s where the similarities end. While the Irish struggled during conference play and have only recently righted their ship, the Boilermakers won the Big Ten Conference tournament championship and have been ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation all year long.

Purdue advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history with wins over Valparaiso (66-51) and Virginia Tech (80-62) on their home floor at Mackey Arena in the first two rounds of this year’s tourney. Junior guard Erika Valek was the scoring leader for the Boilers in those two games, averaging 23.5 ppg., while shooting 55.9 percent (19-36) from the floor.

Junior forward Shereka Wright paces a balanced Boilermaker attack, posting team highs of 18.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Valek has set the tone for Purdue at both ends of the floor, collecting 14.0 points and 5.0 assists per game, along with 2.67 steals per contest. Senior center Mary Jo Noon is the other Purdue player scoring in double figures, posting 11.0 ppg. with a solid .519 field goal percentage, second-best on the team.

Head coach Kristy Curry is in her fourth season patrolling the sidelines in West Lafayette, owning a career record of 106-26 (.803) at Purdue. She is 3-2 in her coaching career against the Irish, winning twice at Mackey Arena, but losing two of her three matchups with Notre Dame away from home.


  • The 70-point mark seems to be a magic figure in the series. One or both teams have scored 70 points in 12 of the 15 matchups, with the first team to reach that milepost winning each time.
  • Two of Notre Dame’s four wins in the series have come in postseason play < a=”” 73-60=”” victory=”” in=”” the=”” first=”” round=”” of=”” the=”” 1996=”” ncaa=”” tournament,=”” and=”” a=”” 68-66=”” triumph=”” in=”” the=”” 2001=”” ncaa=”” championship=”” game.=”” the=”” 1996=”” win=”” also=”” was=”” notre=”” dame’s=”” first-ever=”” ncaa=”” tournament=”” victory.=””>
  • The Irish and Boilermakers are the first and only teams from the same state to play for the NCAA title.


  • Irish head athletic trainer Jim Russ < now=”” in=”” his=”” 17th=”” season=”” at=”” notre=”” dame=””>< served=”” as=”” an=”” assistant=”” athletic=”” trainer=”” at=”” purdue=”” from=”” 1977-82.=””>
  • Notre Dame director of golf George Thomas is a 1950 Purdue graduate and was a member of the Boilermaker golf team that finished second at the 1950 NCAA Championship.
  • Fourth-year Notre Dame assistant athletic trainer Doug Boersma is a 1997 Purdue graduate and worked with the Boilermaker football team as an undergraduate.
  • Second-year Notre Dame assistant athletic trainer Tricia Matasyk is a 1999 Purdue graduate.

Notre Dame is 26-38 (.406) all-time against the current alignment of the Big Ten Conference, although the Irish have won five of their last eight games against Big Ten schools. Notre Dame has played all 11 members of the Big Ten, owning winning records against Indiana (5-3), Wisconsin (3-2), Northwestern (2-1) and Iowa (1-0). In addition, Notre Dame’s 15-game series with Purdue is the longest against any Big Ten opponent in school history.

Notre Dame and Purdue have faced three common opponents this season < valparaiso,=”” boston=”” college=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech=”” -=”” with=”” the=”” boilermakers=”” sporting=”” a=”” 3-0=”” record=”” and=”” the=”” irish=”” owning=”” a=”” 1-2=”” mark=”” against=”” this=”” mutual=”” trio.=””>


  • Notre Dame will advance to the NCAA Elite Eight for the third time in school history, and the second time in the last three seasons.
  • The Irish will become the lowest seed to advance to the round of eight in NCAA Tournament history. In fact, only one other double-digit seed has ever reached that point (No. 10 Lamar made it to the Elite Eight in 1991).
  • The Irish will defeat their second straight top-10 opponent, their third consecutive ranked adversary, and their fourth Top 25 foe this year. The last time Notre Dame won three in a row against ranked opponents was during the 2001 NCAA Tournament, when the Irish knocked off No. 17 Utah, No. 10 Vanderbilt, No. 1 Connecticut and No. 9 Purdue in succession to win their first national championship.
  • Notre Dame will lift its record to 20-8 (.714) in the NCAA Tournament, including a 20-6 record over the last eight seasons, and a 4-2 mark as a double-digit seed. The Irish also will jump to 7-1 all-time in NCAA East Region action.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 364-137 (.727) in 16 seasons under the Golden Dome. She also will watch her career ledger improve to 452-178 (.717) in 21 years at the college level.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 528-236 (.691) in 26 seasons of varsity competition.

IRISH INJURY REPORT (as of March 27) Junior G Jeneka Joyce

leg injuries, out indefinitely

Notre Dame freshman guard Megan Duffy is a Dayton native and graduated last year from Chaminade-Julienne High School, where she was a four-time all-state and all-city selection in basketball and a four-year all-city choice in golf. She guided CJHS to the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today Super 25 poll during her junior year and led her team to the 1999 state championship. Upon her graduation, she held the school single-game records for points, assists and steals, as well as the single-season mark for assist average. Last year, she was presented with the Rae Burick Women in Sports Award, which is given annually to the top female high school athlete in Ohio’s Miami Valley.

Besides her high school exploits, Duffy played six seasons with the AAU Dayton Lady Hoopstars, helping that team win three AAU national titles (1996, 1998, 2000) and six consecutive Ohio state crowns (1996-2001). One of her teammates during her AAU career was former Connecticut standout Tamika Williams, who currently plays for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.

Notre Dame is the sixth team in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Sweet Sixteen when seeded 11th or lower. The Irish also are the third No. 11 seed in the last four years to reach the Sweet Sixteen, following in the footsteps of UAB (2000) and BYU (2002). The other lower seeds to reach the round of 16 were Stephen F. Austin (#11 in 1996), San Francisco (#12 in 1996), and Texas A&M (#13 in 1994). No team seeded 11th or lower has advanced beyond the Sweet Sixteen, and only one double-digit seed has managed to turn that trick < no.=”” 10=”” seed=”” lamar=”” reached=”” the=”” elite=”” eight=”” in=”” 1991.=””>

Notre Dame is seeded 11th in this year’s NCAA Tournament, its lowest seed since 1996, when it was 12th in the Midwest Region. However, as has been the case this season, the low seed in ’96 only served as a rallying point for the Irish < they=”” toppled=”” the=”” no.=”” 5=”” seed=”” purdue,=”” 73-60,=”” in=”” lubbock,=”” texas,=”” for=”” their=”” first-ever=”” ncaa=”” tournament=”” win.=”” including=”” last=”” weekend’s=”” two=”” wins=”” at=”” the=”” manhattan=”” subregional,=”” notre=”” dame=”” is=”” 3-2=”” all-time=”” with=”” a=”” double-digit=”” seed=””>< aside=”” from=”” its=”” win=”” over=”” purdue,=”” the=”” irish=”” fell=”” as=”” a=”” no.=”” 12=”” seed=”” in=”” both=”” 1992=”” (93-72=”” at=”” no.=”” 5=”” seed=”” ucla=”” in=”” the=”” first=”” round)=”” and=”” 1996=”” (82-67=”” at=”” fourth-seeded=”” texas=”” tech=”” in=”” the=”” second=”” round).=””>

One of the main reasons for Notre Dame’s drive to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen this season was the play of its defense in the first two rounds. The Irish are allowing just 50 points per game thus far in the tournament (fourth-best in the 64-team field), and held Arizona and No. 8/7 Kansas State to a combined .277 field goal percentage, the third-lowest mark among tournament squads. In addition, Notre Dame is allowing teams to shoot only 20 percent (11-55) from three-point range, a defensive ratio that also ranks third in the NCAA field.

In each of their first two NCAA games this year, the Irish have forced the opposition into prolonged scoring droughts which have tipped the scales in Notre Dame’s favor. Against Arizona, the Irish limited the Wildcats to just two field goals over a span of 12:22 in the second half, highlighting a 25-6 Notre Dame run that propelled the lower seed to the win. Then, against Kansas State, the Irish held the Wildcats to only one point for a 12:43 stretch crossing between halves, and did not give up an offensive rebound for all but the last seven seconds of that run. The end result was K-State’s lowest scoring total of the season (53 points), and another Notre Dame win.

Last season, the Irish tied a Midwest Region first/second round record by holding New Mexico to 11 second-half points, including a scoreless drought of 12:13 and only one Lobo field goal over the final 15:10 of the contest.

Notre Dame registered 16 steals in its win over Arizona Sunday night, tying the second-highest total ever amassed by the Irish in an NCAA Tournament game, and notching the most steals by any team in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The school record for thefts in an NCAA tourney contest is 20, set against Southwest Missouri State on March 13, 1998 in the opening round of the NCAA Mideast Regional. The Irish steal total vs. Arizona also marked the fifth time this season Notre Dame has had 15-or-more steals in a game. The Irish had a season-best 20 steals in their 107-65 win over Cleveland State back on Nov. 26.

Notre Dame has been placed in the East Region for the third time in its NCAA Tournament history in 2003. In those three East Region appearances, the Irish have posted a 6-1 record, winning the 1997 East Regional title in Columbia, S.C., en route to their first NCAA Final Four berth. In fact, since dropping its first East Region game in 1994 (81-76 to Minnesota), Notre Dame has won its last six regional tilts out of the East bracket, including wins over Arizona and No. 8/7 Kansas State in the first two rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Thanks to their 59-47 win over Arizona on March 23, the Irish have continued to do a good job of starting their NCAA Tournament experience in the right way, winning their first round game for the eighth consecutive season. That corresponds exactly to Notre Dame’s affiliation with the BIG EAST Conference, which began with the 1995-96 season. During that time, Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen five times, moving to the Final Four twice and winning the 2001 NCAA title.

For the first time in school history, Notre Dame is sending both its women’s and men’s basketball teams to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Notre Dame is one of just four schools to have both teams still playing in the NCAA Tournament (Texas, Duke and Connecticut are the others), and joins Texas as the only institutions to have both basketball teams reach the NCAA Tournament and have the football team earn a bowl berth (the 17th-ranked Irish gridders played in the Toyota Gator Bowl back in January).

The Irish men’s basketball team, seeded fifth in the West Region, reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1987 with a 68-60 win over No. 4 seed Illinois on March 22 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Coach Mike Brey’s charges faced top-seeded Arizona Thursday in the West Regional semifinals at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif.

Notre Dame was one of record seven BIG EAST Conference teams selected for the 2003 NCAA Tournament, breaking the old conference standard set in each of the last two seasons. Connecticut, Rutgers, Villanova, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami also qualified for this year’s tourney, with UConn owning the top seed in the East Region. The BIG EAST has won the last three championships (Connecticut – 2000 & 2002; Notre Dame – 2001) and is the only league to have two different teams win the title in consecutive seasons, but also have two different pairs of teams qualify for the Final Four in back-to-back years< rutgers=”” joined=”” uconn=”” in=”” the=”” 2000=”” final=”” four,=”” and=”” the=”” huskies=”” returned=”” a=”” year=”” later=”” to=”” face=”” the=”” irish=”” in=”” the=”” national=”” semifinals.=””>

The BIG EAST has acquitted itself quite well in the first two rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament, posting a 10-3 (.769) record and sending four teams to the Sweet Sixteen, the most of any conference in the country. Three of those squads (Notre Dame, Connecticut and Boston College) will be in Dayton this weekend for the East Regional.

According to the latest WBCA/Summerville RPI ratings, the BIG EAST Conference ranked third in the country, trailing only the ACC and SEC, while leading the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big 12. In addition, the BIG EAST posted a 114-38 (.750) regular-season record against non-conference opponents this year, the best mark in league history. That includes an 8-2 record against the Pac-10 and a 7-3 record against the ACC.

Notre Dame played a difficult 2002-03 schedule, one which was ranked in the top 30 in the country all year long. Highlighting that fact, a total of 15 Irish opponents qualified for postseason play < 10=”” in=”” the=”” ncaa=”” tournament=”” (boston=”” college,=”” connecticut,=”” depaul,=”” miami,=”” purdue,=”” rutgers,=”” tennessee,=”” valparaiso,=”” villanova=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech)=”” and=”” five=”” in=”” the=”” wnit=”” (arizona=”” state,=”” colorado=”” state,=”” georgetown,=”” marquette=”” and=”” seton=”” hall).=”” notre=”” dame=”” went=”” 2-10=”” against=”” the=”” ncaa=”” qualifiers=”” (wins=”” over=”” big=”” east=”” conference=”” tournament=”” champion=”” villanova=”” and=”” mid-continent=”” conference=”” tournament=”” winner=”” valparaiso),=”” and=”” posted=”” a=”” 5-0=”” mark=”” against=”” the=”” wnit=”” group.=””>

Senior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected to play in the sixth annual Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-Star Challenge on Friday, April 4 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta. The game will be part of a doubleheader at the WBCA’s “Night of All-Stars”, which also will feature the WBCA High School All-America Game. The all-star event, which will tip off at 6 p.m. (EST) with the high school game, is being held as a prelude to the 2003 NCAA Women’s Final Four later that weekend.

Ratay is one of 20 college seniors from around the country who have been chosen to play in this elite event. Seventeen of those student-athletes are from the NCAA Division I level and were selected based on a vote of Division I head coaches. Besides Ratay, two other BIG EAST Conference players were tapped to play in this year’s game < trish=”” juhline=”” of=”” villanova=”” and=”” brianne=”” stepherson=”” of=”” boston=”” college.=”” in=”” addition,=”” the=”” top=”” vote-getters=”” on=”” the=”” state=”” farm=”” player=”” of=”” the=”” year=”” ballots=”” at=”” the=”” ncaa=”” division=”” ii,=”” division=”” iii=”” and=”” naia=”” levels=”” have=”” been=”” invited=”” to=”” take=”” part=”” in=”” this=”” year’s=”” event.=”” a=”” complete=”” list=”” of=”” the=”” participants=”” in=”” the=”” 2003=”” wbca=”” all-star=”” challenge=”” may=”” found=”” on=”” the=”” wbca=”” website=”” (””>

Ratay holds numerous Notre Dame career records, including all-time marks for three-point field goal percentage (.478), three-point field goals made (262), free throw percentage (.871) and games started (128). She also stands fourth on the Irish career scoring list (1,747 points) and 10th on the school’s all-time rebounding list (661), and she is one of only five players to school history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in her career. Furthermore, her three-point percentage is on target to rank as the best in NCAA history, while her free throw percentage is the sixth-best career total in NCAA annals. If she maintains her current pace, she will be the only player in NCAA history to rank in the top 10 in both career categories.

This season, Ratay leads the BIG EAST and ranks 12th nationally with an .879 free throw percentage. She also stands second on the team in three-point percentage (.472), and third in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and rebounding (4.9 rpg.).

Three Notre Dame women’s basketball players were honored March 7 at the BIG EAST Conference Championship awards banquet, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Brunswick, N.J.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast was named a second-team all-BIG EAST selection for the second consecutive season. The South Bend native has averaged a team-high 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season, along with eight double-doubles and five 20-point games. She ranks among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding, steals (2.03 spg.), blocked shots (1.48 bpg.) and double-doubles, while scoring in double figures in 26 of 31 games.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay was an honorable mention all-conference selection, earning a spot on an all-BIG EAST team for the third consecutive season (third team – 2001, first team – 2002). She ranks third on the team at 12.0 points per game, and is second with a .472 three-point percentage. Ratay holds the Notre Dame records for career three-point field goals (262) and three-point percentage (.478), as well as career free throw percentage (.871) < the=”” latter=”” marks=”” ranks=”” in=”” the=”” top=”” 10=”” in=”” ncaa=”” history.=”” in=”” addition,=”” ratay=”” closed=”” out=”” her=”” big=”” east=”” career=”” tied=”” for=”” the=”” league’s=”” all-time=”” best=”” free=”” throw=”” percentage,=”” hitting=”” on=”” 87.3=”” percent=”” of=”” her=”” foul=”” shots.=”” she=”” has=”” scored=”” in=”” double=”” figures=”” 20=”” times=”” this=”” season,=”” including=”” five=”” 20-point=”” games.=””>

Besides winning all-conference honors, Ratay was lauded as the Aeropostale/BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She is a three-time Dean’s List honoree and four-time conference Academic All-Star Team member. With her start vs. Pittsburgh in the BIG EAST Championship opener, Ratay broke Ruth Riley’s school record for career starts (now at 128 and counting). Ratay holds a 3.5 grade-point average with a double major in psychology and education, and she ranks fourth in school history with 1,747 career points. Ratay is the second Notre Dame player in three years to be named the league’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year < riley=”” was=”” accorded=”” the=”” honor=”” in=”” 2001.=”” ratay=”” will=”” receive=”” a=”” $2,000=”” scholarship=”” which=”” may=”” be=”” applied=”” to=”” graduate=”” or=”” professional=”” studies.=””>

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere rounded out the trio of Irish BIG EAST award winners, earning a spot on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team. LaVere ranks second on the team in field goal percentage (.492), scoring (12.6 ppg.) and rebounding (5.7 rpg.), placing among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in the latter two categories. She also has posted five double-doubles, five 20-point games and scored in double figures 21 times this season. LaVere is the third Irish freshman in the last four seasons to be selected to the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team — Ratay made the squad in 2000, and Batteast was a unanimous pick in 2002 en route to winning the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year award.

Here are some of the more interesting trends to note regarding the Irish in 2002-03 (a complete listing of other Irish tendencies may be found in the page 7 sidebar):

  • Notre Dame is 12-3 in games decided by 10 points or less.
  • Notre Dame is 12-4 when its bench outscores the opponent’s bench.
  • Notre Dame is 16-4 when Alicia Ratay scores in double figures.
  • Notre Dame is 7-0 when Alicia Ratay makes at least three three-point field goals.
  • Notre Dame is 18-5 when it has at least three players score in double figures.
  • Notre Dame is 12-1 when it forces more turnovers than it gives up.

Notre Dame leads the BIG EAST Conference and ranks 18th nationally with 4.87 blocked shots per game this season. The Irish are led by a trio of players who are averaging nearly one block per game < sophomore=”” forward=””>Jacqueline Batteast at 1.48 bpg. (third in the BIG EAST), sophomore center Teresa Borton at 1.19 bpg. (sixth in the BIG EAST), and freshman forward Courtney LaVere at 0.87 bpg. (15th in the BIG EAST). Batteast also averaged a team-high 1.63 rejections in BIG EAST games this season.

In addition, this year marks the second consecutive season in which Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in blocked shots. Last year, the Irish were second in the country with 6.3 rejections per contest.

Rebounding has been a key to Notre Dame’s success this season. The Irish are 16-3 when they outrebound their opponent, with their only losses coming on the road at Virginia Tech and Connecticut, as well as a neutral site loss to Villanova. The UConn contest was significant because, even in defeat, Notre Dame became just the third team all season to beat the Huskies on the boards (the others are Tennessee and Virginia Tech). For the season, the Irish are averaging 38.5 rebounds per game, good for third in the BIG EAST Conference, and own a +3.1 rpg. margin, fifth-best in the league.

Individually, sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast ranks fourth in the BIG EAST with 8.2 rebounds per game, including 10.0 rpg. in her last eight outings. She also pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds on Feb. 23 at No. 1 Connecticut, logging the most boards by an Irish player since Ruth Riley had 18 vs. Duke on Nov. 21, 1998. It was the highest rebounding total by any individual in a BIG EAST game this season. Freshman forward Courtney LaVere is currently ranked 19th in the BIG EAST in rebounding – she is logging 5.7 caroms per contest.

Notre Dame has benefited this season from a well-balanced offense, one that has seen at least three players score in double figures in 23 of 31 games (and 18 of 21 wins). In addition, the Irish have had four players reach double digits in 12 games this season (Cleveland State, USC, Valparaiso, Arizona State, Temple, Miami, Georgetown, St. John’s, Connecticut, Pittsburgh (twice) and Kansas State) and had five double-figure scorers on six occasions (Cleveland State, USC, Temple, Miami, Georgetown and Pittsburgh). The last time Notre Dame had five double-figure scorers six times in the same season was 1998-99, when the Irish turned the trick seven times (vs. UCLA, San Francisco, Toledo, South Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Syracuse).

As you might expect, Notre Dame has three players averaging in double figures for the season. Sophomore forward and All-America candidate Jacqueline Batteast has been the pacesetter at 14.1 ppg., followed by freshman forward Courtney LaVere, who averages 12.6 points per game. Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Alicia Ratay is third at 12.0 ppg. this season.

Taking their offensive balance to another level, the Irish have had six different players score at least 20 points in a game this season – Jacqueline Batteast (five times), Courtney LaVere (four times), Alicia Ratay (three times), Le’Tania Severe (twice), Teresa Borton (once) and Katy Flecky (once). No other team in the BIG EAST Conference can make that claim, and only one other school in the nation has done so this year – Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The free throw line has been a very friendly place for Notre Dame this season. The Irish rank third in the BIG EAST Conference and 38th in the nation with a .744 free throw percentage, a far cry from their .673 mark last season (ND’s lowest in 15 years). Notre Dame has shot 75 percent or better at the charity stripe 13 times this season, highlighted by its 95-percent efficiency rate (19-20) Jan. 14 at St. John’s. That was the highest free throw percentage by an Irish squad since Dec. 1, 1993, when Notre Dame connected at a school-record .960 clip (24-25) in a win over Marquette.

Leading the Irish assault from the line has been senior guard Alicia Ratay, who leads the BIG EAST and ranks 12th in the nation with an .879 free throw percentage. That should come as no surprise, because Ratay ranks sixth in NCAA history with an .871 career free throw ratio (385-442). However, Ratay is only one of three Notre Dame players who are shooting 70 percent or better at the stripe this year – junior guard Le’Tania Severe is second at .822 (5th in the BIG EAST), followed by freshman guard Megan Duffy (.754). Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (.699) and sophomore center Teresa Borton (.695) are lurking just below the 70-percent mark.

The free throw percentages for Borton and Severe have been among the most pleasant developments for the Irish. Borton has improved her free throw efficiency by more than 22 percent over last year’s mark (.474), and has been especially strong of late, making 24 of her last 29 charity tosses dating back to the Providence game (Feb. 16). Meanwhile, Severe came into this season with a .651 career free throw ratio and has raised that mark by more than 17 percent this year. Duffy has been a study in contrasts at the line, starting the year below 60 percent (16-27), but lifting that mark considerably in the last two months of the season, connecting at a .921 clip (35-38) from the stripe.

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere added to Notre Dame’s free throw resurgence on Jan. 25 with her 12-for-16 performance from the foul line at Villanova. Her 12 made free throws were an Irish freshman record and tied for the fifth-highest total in school history. In addition, her 16 free throw attempts matched the fourth-highest single-game mark in the Notre Dame record book.

In a surprising reversal of fortune this season, Notre Dame has nearly as success on the road as it has at home. The Irish are 12-6 this year on hostile ground (10-4 road, 2-2 neutral), compared to a 9-4 record at the Joyce Center. That’s a far cry from last season’s road woes when Notre Dame lost its first five games outside the Joyce Center and finished with a 7-9 record in road/neutral site games. Conversely, the Irish went 13-1 at home last year, winning their first 13 games at the Joyce Center before a season-ending three-point loss to Villanova.

For the 10th consecutive season, Notre Dame has won at least 20 games, reaching that magic figure on March 23 with its victory over Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Irish now have posted 18 20-win seasons in their 26-year history, with 14 of those coming under current head coach Muffet McGraw.

With its win at Providence on Feb. 16, Notre Dame clinched a winning record for the 2002-03 season, marking the 23rd time in the 26-year history of the program that the Irish have finished at or above .500 for the season. The success has been even more impressive under current head coach Muffet McGraw – Notre Dame has had just one losing season during her 16-year tenure (14-17 in 1991-92), and still advanced to the NCAA Tournament that season after winning the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament.

Another indication of Notre Dame’s continued rise to national prominence has been its consistent run of success. With its victory at Syracuse on March 4, the Irish assured themselves of finishing with no worse than a .500 mark in March (they currently are 5-1 this month). Notre Dame now has posted a record of .500 or better in 42 of its last 44 months of action, dating back to December 1994. The only blemishes on that record came in March 2002, when Notre Dame went 1-2 during the BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments, and January 2003, when the Irish went 3-5.

Three times this season, Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to record a victory. The Irish posted their largest comeback in more than a year when they rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to knock off previously unbeaten West Virginia, 66-59, on Jan. 8 in Morgantown. The WVU win was the biggest comeback for Notre Dame since it set a NCAA Final Four record by erasing a 16-point deficit in a 90-75 win over Connecticut on March 30, 2001 in St. Louis.

The Irish then pulled another rabbit out of their collective hat on Feb. 16 at Providence, wiping out a 10-point first-half blemish to notch a 67-61 victory over the Friars. And, as if that weren’t enough, Notre Dame climbed out of a pair of 12-point first-half holes to defeat Seton Hall, 62-60, on March 1. The victory over SHU marked the sixth time in the last three years the Irish have won after trailing by double digits. In addition to the aforementioned games, Notre Dame rallied from 12 points down to defeat Purdue in the 2001 NCAA championship game, and came back from a pair of 10-point deficits to win at Seton Hall on Feb. 2, 2002.

Six times this season, Notre Dame has been involved in games decided by five points or less, with the Irish posting a superb 4-2 record in these contests. Notre Dame pulled out narrow victories over Colorado State (46-45), Villanova (58-56), West Virginia (69-64) and Seton Hall (62-60), but came up just short against Rutgers (64-61) and Virginia Tech (53-50). However, a close game shouldn’t come as any surprise to Irish fans. Over the last three seasons, their club has played 17 games that were decided by five points or less, going 9-8 in those contests. The Colorado State nail-biter was the first one-point win for Notre Dame since a 63-62 squeaker over Villanova on Dec. 12, 1998 at the Joyce Center.

During the 16-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw, the Irish have posted a 34-40 (.459) record in games decided by five points or less, including a 16-14 (.533) mark since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.

In a related note, Notre Dame has played 15 games this season which were decided by 10 points or less. The Irish are a stellar 12-3 in those games, including a narrow 59-53 win at No. 8/7 Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 25.

Notre Dame played the 750th game in the program’s history on Jan. 29 at Boston College. The Irish have an all-time record of 527-236 (.691) in 26 seasons of varsity competition. Included in that record are 18 20-win seasons (14 under current head coach Muffet McGraw), 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, five trips to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 NCAA championship. However, what is most impressive about Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program is the fact that the Irish have had three losing seasons (1980-81, 1986-87 and 1991-92) in their 26 years of existence.

With a 75-68 Irish win at Marquette on New Year’s Eve, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw joined Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to collect 350 victories at the school. McGraw is 363-137 (.726) in 16 seasons at Notre Dame, while Phelps posted a 393-197 (.666) mark in 20 years at the helm of the Irish men’s basketball program.

In addition, McGraw has the third-highest winning percentage of any basketball coach at Notre Dame (men’s or women’s) with at least five years of service, and her .726 ratio is the best by any coach in the last 60 years. Only men’s coaches Bertram G. Maris (.794 from 1907-12) and George Keogan (.771 from 1923-43) have had more success at Notre Dame over an extended period than McGraw.

With three three-pointers in her final home game against Seton Hall on March 1, senior guard Alicia Ratay broke Sheila McMillen’s school record for career treys (249 from 1995-99). Ratay’s record-breaking three-pointer came from the right wing with 18:42 remaining in the game and was part of a game-high 20-point performance for the Lake Zurich, Ill., native. Ratay now has 262 career three-pointers and owns the top two three-point records in school history – she already holds the Notre Dame record for career three-point percentage (.478), a mark which also would qualify as the best ratio in NCAA history.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the 500th point of her career on Dec. 31 at Marquette. She now has 795 points in only 57 career games (13.9 ppg.), making her the fourth-fastest player to reach the 500-point mark in school history. A total of 13 players have scored their 500th point in less than two seasons at Notre Dame, although only five have done so in less than 40 career games (including Batteast and senior guard Alicia Ratay, who did it in 35 games).

Head coach Muffet McGraw coached her 500th game at Notre Dame on March 25, guiding the Irish to a NCAA second round win at No. 8/7 Kansas State. McGraw is 363-137 (.726) in her career under the Golden Dome, having guided the Irish to 10 NCAA Tournaments, five Sweet Sixteens, two Final Fours and the 2001 national title.

Despite having to adjust to the faster college game, not to mention the unfamiliar winter weather of South Bend, freshman forward Courtney LaVere has made a significant impact in her first season at Notre Dame. The Ventura, Calif., native ranks second on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg.), rebounding (5.7 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.492), ranking 19th in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring and 20th in rebounding. In addition, she has five double-doubles to her credit, with three of her double-dips coming against ranked opponents (No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Purdue and No. 20 Villanova).

LaVere began the season in fine fashion, coming off the bench to score 18 points in Notre Dame’s 107-65 rout of Cleveland State. That was the highest-scoring debut for an Irish freshman since current senior guard Alicia Ratay tallied 18 points at Toledo in 1999. As it turned out, that would be just the beginning for LaVere, who has scored in double figures 21 times, earned game-high scoring honors five times and has a team-high five 20-point games this season. She tallied a season-high 23 points twice this year (vs. Purdue and Rutgers) and chalked up a season-best 12 rebounds at Villanova.

LaVere also was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Week on March 3 after carding 17 points and 4.5 rebounds in wins over Pittsburgh and Seton Hall. In the latter game, she scored a game-high 20 points, including the tying layup with 7.8 seconds to play. LaVere has been stellar down the stretch, averaging 14.5 points in her last eight games.

CATCH HER IF YOU CAN Junior guard Le’Tania Severe has evolved into a major contributor at both ends of the floor for Notre Dame this season. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., product ranks among the leaders in the BIG EAST Conference in assists (11th, 3.87 apg.), steals (6th, 2.16 spg.) and free throw percentage (5th, .822). However, she also has displayed a nose for the basket, ranking fifth on the team with 7.5 points per game, easily exceeding her career scoring average of 4.6 ppg. entering this season. In addition, Severe has scored in double figures 11 times this year (including a career-high 21 points at West Virginia), after reaching double digits seven times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

At the same time, Severe’s prowess on the defensive end of the court was evident against Georgetown, as she racked up a career-high eight steals. That tied for the second-most thefts ever by an Irish player in a single game, and it was the most since current Notre Dame assistant coach Coquese Washington also had eight steals against Stanford on Nov. 24, 1991.

Severe was a key factor in Notre Dame’s win at No. 8/7 Kansas State in the second round of this year’s NCAA Tournament, scoring a team-high 17 points and pulling down a season-best eight rebounds. It was her first double-digit scoring night since Feb. 5 vs. Georgetown, and her second double-figure effort in the last 10 weeks.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay was virtually unstoppable from the perimeter on Feb. 16 at Providence, connecting on 7-of-9 three-point tries and finishing with a season-high 30 points in a 67-61 Irish victory. Ratay was 9-of-12 overall from the field, and her seven treys marked the fourth time in her career she rolled a lucky seven from beyond the arc. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native had a chance to break Sheila McMillen’s school record of eight triples (vs. St. John’s, 2/28/98), but one three-pointer was wiped out by a three-second violation and she had a toe on the line when she nailed another. The BIG EAST Conference record for three-pointers in a game is nine, held by Christine Lambert of West Virginia.

Twice this season, senior guard Alicia Ratay has added chapters to her ever-growing legend at Notre Dame. On Dec. 23, she buried two free throws with 9.3 seconds left to defeat Colorado State, 46-45. It wasn’t the first time the Lake Zurich, Ill., product had stepped up in the clutch. Then, just over a month later on Jan. 25 at No. 20 Villanova, she canned a jumper in the lane with 48 seconds remaining to break a 53-53 tie and propel the Irish to the victory.

Late-game heroics have been nothing new for Ratay, who has been tough in the clutch ever since her freshman season. As a rookie playing at No. 8 Rutgers in 2000, Ratay set a BIG EAST Conference record by going 7-for-7 from three-point range, including two treys in the final 16 seconds of the contest with the Irish trailing by six. She went on to finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds as Notre Dame pulled out a 78-74 overtime win.

Last season, Ratay nearly topped herself in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals vs. Syracuse. With the Irish trailing by 16 points and only 3:52 left, Ratay scored 17 of the next 19 Notre Dame points, including nine in a span of 18 seconds, to single-handedly spark a 19-5 run that pulled her team within 81-79 with 18 seconds remaining. However, Syracuse finally forced a Ratay miss and hit three free throws to save the victory.

With her starting assignment vs. Pittsburgh in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship on March 8, senior guard Alicia Ratay set a new Notre Dame record for career starts, making her 125th appearance as a member of the Irish starting five. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native broke Ruth Riley’s old school record (124), while extending her current streak of games started (which now stands at 70 in a row). Ratay has started 128 of 129 games for Notre Dame in her illustrious career, only yielding her starting spot to Imani Dunbar for Senior Night in 2001 (vs. Georgetown). With her next game appearance, Ratay also will tie former teammate Julie Henderson for fourth place on Notre Dame’s career games played list – Henderson played in 130 games from 1996-2000.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay is on the threshold of several other career milestones in 2002-03. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native reached her first landmark at Valparaiso, becoming the fifth player in school history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in her career. She also is the second Irish player in three seasons to attain that feat, following Kelley Siemon, who completed the hat trick when she scored her 1,000th point in Notre Dame’s NCAA championship game win over Purdue in 2001. The others in this elite group are Beth Morgan (1993-97), current Irish assistant coach Letitia Bowen (1991-95) and Trena Keys (1982-86). Ratay currently has 1,747 points, 661 rebounds and 238 assists, moving into 10th place on the Notre Dame career rebounding chart with four boards against Villanova in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals on March 9.

Ratay conquered another landmark on March 1 vs. Seton Hall, setting a new Notre Dame record for career three-point field goals with 262, surpassing the standard previously held by Sheila McMillen (249 from 1995-99). In addition, with her three triples at Kansas State on March 25, Ratay moved into 35th place on the NCAA’s career three-point field goals list.

Some other milestones also are within Ratay’s reach. She ranks fourth on the Irish all-time scoring list with 1,747 points, having passed Karen Robinson (1987-91) for the No. 4 spot with four points at Virginia Tech. In addition, Ratay has been one of the most durable players in school history, appearing in all 129 Irish games in her career and starting all but one (2001 Senior Night vs. Georgetown). She broke the Notre Dame record for career starts when she debuted vs. Pittsburgh in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship, and she can attain the games played record with another four appearances this year.

Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.871) and three-point field goal (.478) percentages, records which would rank among the top 10 in NCAA history. In fact, if her career ended today, Ratay’s three-point percentage would stand as the best in women’s college basketball history, and her free throw ratio would be sixth in NCAA annals, making Ratay the only player in NCAA history to rank in the top 10 in both career categories. For a complete rundown of Ratay’s place in the Notre Dame and national record books, please see the charts in the page 9 sidebar.

For the second consecutive season, senior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected to the Verizon Academic All-District V University Division Second Team, it was announced Feb. 20. She holds a 3.483 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) with a double major in psychology and education.

With Ratay’s back-to-back selections, the Irish now have had three women’s basketball student-athletes earn district academic recognition in the last three seasons. Ruth Riley was a first-team all-district choice in 2001, paving the way for her eventual selection as the Verizon Academic All-America? Women’s Basketball Team Member of the Year, as well as the overall Verizon Academic All-America? Team Member of the Year.

Notre Dame has won 181 games over the last seven seasons, which stands as the seventh-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

Irish teams have turned in exceptional performances during the 2002-03 sports season. All six of Notre Dame’s fall sports (football, volleyball, men’s/women’s soccer, men’s/women’s cross country) qualified for postseason play, headlined by a third-place finish for the women’s cross country squad at the NCAA Championships, an NCAA quarterfinal finish for the women’s soccer team, and a Gator Bowl berth and No. 9 BCS ranking for the football team. In fact, Notre Dame was the only school in the nation to have all six of those fall sports qualify for the postseason.

The Irish winter sports teams have done just as well, with the Notre Dame fencing teams winning their sixth NCAA title on March 23 in Colorado Springs.The Irish men’s and women’s basketball teams also advanced to NCAA Tournament play (both are in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history), while the Irish track squads turned in some of their highest team point totals ever at the NCAA indoor meet. In addition, for the third time in four years, the Notre Dame hockey team advanced to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Super Six quarterfinals at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, and the Irish women’s swimming team sent four of its athletes to the NCAA Championships.

Thanks to its successful team finishes thus far, Notre Dame has moved into third place in the NACDA Directors’ Cup standings (see sidebar on page 16).

Over the last three seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 62-4 (.939) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign (15-3 this season) when they go into the dressing room with the lead.

Over the last eight 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 114-4 (.966) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added 12 wins to that count this season with victories over USC, Arizona State, IPFW, Colorado State, West Virginia, St. John’s (twice), Villanova, Georgetown, Syracuse, Arizona and Kansas State.

Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. Over the last eight seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 85-3 (.966) 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 added four wins to that total this year with its victories over Cleveland State, Arizona State, Temple and IPFW.

Notre Dame has two captains this season – senior guard Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and junior guard Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines, Fla.).They are the 34th and 35th different players to serve as captains for the Irish in the 26-year history of the program (not including the 1986-87 season, when captains were chosen on a game-by-game basis).

The 11 players on this year’s Notre Dame roster hail from nine different states, including two each from Illinois, Kansas and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana and Washington. The all-time Notre Dame roster features players from 34 different states, including 23 during the Muffet McGraw era. Ironically, the most common home state on the Irish all-time roster – Michigan (14) – is not represented for the second year in a row, although assistant coaches (and former Notre Dame players) Coquese Washington and Letitia Bowen both are Michigan natives.

This season, Notre Dame fans are seeing a pair of jersey numbers on the floor that are a bit uncommon in Irish colors. Freshman guard Megan Duffy has chosen to wear No. 13, becoming only the second Notre Dame player since 1986 to wear those digits. Danielle Green was the last to sport No. 13, doing so during her freshman season (1995-96). Prior to Green, no Irish player had worn that number since Trena Keys (1982-86).

In addition, freshman forward Courtney LaVere is wearing No. 41 this season, a number which has been modeled just once before by an Irish player. Imani Dunbar had that jersey number throughout her Notre Dame career from 1997-2001.

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 85 of their last 92 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak from 1998-2002. Notre Dame also has a 61-7 (.897) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

Notre Dame also owned a 33-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center (dating back more than six years) before No. 7 Purdue broke it on Jan. 4, 2003. That streak included victories over a trio of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke in 1998-99 and Purdue in 2000-01), as well as No. 19 Illinois in ’98-99. Prior to the Purdue loss, Notre Dame’s last non-conference defeat at home came way back on Dec. 9, 1996, when 19th-ranked Wisconsin toppled the Irish, 81-69.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center. The Irish own a 248-70 (.780) record at the venerable facility. In both the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. Also, since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame is 98-9 (.916) at the Joyce Center.

For the third consecutive season, Notre Dame is ranked among the top 10 in the nation in attendance, according to the latest unofficial rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office. The Irish have averaged 7,132 fans for 13 home games this season, placing them ninth in the country (through games of March 23). Notre Dame also drew the fifth-largest crowd in school history on Jan. 4 for its nationally-televised game with Purdue, attracting 9,483 fans to the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame averaged a school-record 7,825 fans for their 14 home games last season, good for eighth in the final NCAA attendance rankings. The 2001-02 season also saw Notre Dame register 13 of the top 20 crowds in school history, including a gathering of 9,676 fans, the third-largest in school annals, for a 60-44 win over 16th-ranked Boston College.

Furthermore, all of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 16-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present). And, as more evidence of Notre Dame’s rapid elevation to “hot ticket” status in South Bend, 19 of the top 20 crowds in school history have been recorded in the last four seasons.

Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2002-03 is no exception. This year’s Irish docket is ranked as the 26th-hardest slate in the country, according to the latest edition of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) RPI rankings, produced by Richie Summerville.

Upon closer examination, eight Notre Dame opponents currently are ranked in one or both of the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls (No. 1/2 Connecticut, No. 4/4 Tennessee, No. 8/7 Kansas State, No. 10/10 Purdue, No. 11/12 Villanova, No. 22/22 Arizona, No. 23/24 Rutgers and No. 25/rv Boston College). Two others – DePaul and Virginia Tech – presently are receiving votes in one or both of the major polls.

Furthermore, of Notre Dame’s 27 regular-season games, 15 were against teams that appear in the top 100 of the latest WBCA/Summerville RPI rankings, including 10 in the top 50.

Looking back, the Irish are playing no less than 14 teams that qualified for postseason play in 2001-02, including nine NCAA Tournament teams (highlighted by defending national champion Connecticut and Final Four participant Tennessee). In addition, six opponents (Arizona State, Connecticut, Purdue, Temple, Tennessee and Valparaiso) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conferences last season. What’s more, 17 of the 24 Irish opponents finished with records of .500 or better last season, including 10 squads that posted 20-win campaigns.

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

Notre Dame is getting a good deal of face time in 2002-03, playing on television 11 times, including nationally-televised contests against Arizona State (Dec. 7 on Fox Sports Net), Purdue (Jan. 4 on CBS) and Connecticut (Jan. 20 on ESPN2, Feb. 23 on College Sports TV). In addition, Notre Dame appeared three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Miami (Jan. 11, noon ET) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 25, noon ET) and Virginia Tech (Feb. 9, 2 p.m. ET). WHME-TV in South Bend also aired the Irish game at DePaul (Dec. 11) live from Chicago. In addition, all games in the NCAA Tournament are being broadcast nationally on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN FullCourt.

The Irish are 4-6 on TV this year, defeating Arizona State, Villanova, Arizona and Kansas State, while falling to DePaul, Purdue, Miami, Connecticut (twice) and Virginia Tech.

Muffet McGraw’s half-hour, weekly television show is produced by LeSea Broadcasting and hosted by Bob Nagle. The show, now in its fifth season, is carried by WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and will air at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturdays through the completion of the 2002-03 season. The show also is available via satellite (Galaxy 6, Transponder 15) each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (EST), and may be seen on LeSea Broadcasting stations in Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Tulsa (check local listings for time and availability).

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Jan. 7 the addition of 5-10 junior non-scholarship guard Anne Weese (first name pronounced Annie) to the 2002-03 Irish roster.

Weese spent the last two seasons at Seward County (Kan.) Community College, helping the Saints to a combined record of 71-1 and the 2002 NJCAA national championship. She averaged 4.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game during her two-year junior college career. Weese also was a starter on the Saints’ 38-0 national championship squad. Her complete informational sketch may be found in the “Player Bios” section of this postseason media guide.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Feb. 3 that sophomore guard Kelsey Wicks (Gillette, Wyo./Campbell County H.S.) elected to leave the Irish women’s basketball program for personal reasons. Wicks had played in 16 games this season, starting once, while averaging 2.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. She scored a season-high 12 points on Dec. 14 against Temple.

Wicks appeared in 45 games during her Notre Dame career, starting twice. She averaged 4.0 points and 3.1 rebounds while logging 14.8 minutes per game. In addition, Wicks had three career double-digit scoring games, including a career-best 16 points at Connecticut on Jan. 21, 2002.

University of Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 14 that two of the nation’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2003. Crystal Erwin, a 6-2 forward from St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and Susie Powers, a 5-11 guard from Highlands Ranch High School in Denver, Colo., will join the Irish for the 2003-04 campaign.

Erwin has averaged 22.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game during her three-year prep career at St. Paul. She holds the school records for career points (2,084) and rebounds (1,324), as well as single-season points (869) with one year still to play for the Swordsmen. Ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report, Erwin was named to the 2002-03 USA Today Preseason Super 25 Team, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s All-America pick, earning third-team honors last season. She also has been named to all-star teams at the adidas Top Ten Camp each of the last two years and she was a member of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team this past summer. Erwin is the second California native in as many seasons to commit to the Irish, following current Notre Dame freshman Courtney LaVere.

Powers averaged 11.5 points and 6.8 assists per game last season for perennial national power Highlands Ranch High School, which won its third consecutive Colorado Class 5A title last season and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the campaign according to the USA Today Super 25 poll. Powers was ranked as high as 12th in the nation by the Greg Swaim Basketball Report, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-America selection. She also was Erwin’s teammate on the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team in the summer of 2002. In addition to Erwin, Powers will have some familiarity with another Irish player – she played with sophomore forward Katy Flecky at Highlands Ranch in 2000, helping lead the Falcons to the first of their three straight state championships.

With the addition of Erwin and Powers, Notre Dame has its seventh consecutive top 20 recruiting class, according to Blue Star Basketball, which rated the newest Irish signees 16th in the nation.

University of Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw was one of seven people inducted into the Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) University Athletics Hall of Fame Nov. 16 in Philadelphia. McGraw was a standout point guard for Saint Joseph’s during its first four years of varsity competition, serving as team captain during her final two seasons (1975-76 and 1976-77). She helped lead the Hawks to an 18-3 record as a junior and a third-place finish in the AIAW Eastern Regional Tournament. A year later, she guided SJU to a 23-5 record, a sixth-place finish at the AIAW National Tournament, and a No. 3 national ranking in the Associated Press poll, the highest year-end poll finish in school history. She also set the Saint Joseph’s single-season record for steals with 102 during the 1976-77 campaign.

McGraw graduated from SJU in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She played one season for the California Dreams in the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) before beginning her college coaching career as an assistant coach at her alma mater from 1980-82. Following five successful seasons at Lehigh (1983-87), McGraw was named the head coach at Notre Dame, a position she has held ever since.

Now in her 16th year with the Irish, McGraw has posted a stellar 363-137 (.726) record (451-178, .717 overall in 21 years), guiding Notre Dame to 14 20-win seasons, 13 postseason appearances, 10 NCAA Tournament berths, five Sweet Sixteen visits, two Final Fours and the 2001 NCAA title. The 2001 Naismith and AP National Coach of the Year, McGraw also is a member of the SJU Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame.

When she’s not diligently working with the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, assistant coach Coquese Washington spends the offseason playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). A six-year veteran point guard, Washington guided the Indiana Fever to their first-ever playoff berth this past summer, following her midseason trade from the Houston Comets.

During the course of the 2002-03 college basketball season, has featured regular interviews and chat sessions with Washington. Readers get an inside look at how she successfully handles the challenges of being a collegiate assistant, while also remaining prepared for the next professional basketball season.

In addition, Washington has been a featured columnist in the monthly publication, Women’s Basketball Magazine. In her column, she offers insights into coaching strategy and techniques, as well as motivational tips for young student-athletes.

Tickets are now on sale for the 2003 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Awards Banquet, which will be held Sunday, April 13 at the Joyce Center. The festivities will get underway at 12:15 p.m. (EST) with a player autograph session on the concourse at the Joyce Center. The banquet will begin at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on the arena floor, and will include award presentations, video highlights from the 2002-03 season and remarks by Notre Dame President Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., director of athletics Kevin White, head coach Muffet McGraw and senior honorees.

Tickets are $25 each and tables of eight are available. Proceeds from ticket sales go to benefit the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made payable to the University of Notre Dame and may be mailed to the Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Telephone reservations will not be accepted.

Reservation forms are available at the Joyce Center second-floor ticket windows. The deadline for reservations is Friday, April 4. For more information, call (574) 631-5420.

Last May, the Irish embarked on a 12-day tour of Italy and France, going 3-1 in a four-game series against Italian professional teams. Among the Notre Dame victories was an 82-76 conquest of 14-time Italian First Division champion Pool Comense 1872, which had won its latest league title only two weeks prior to playing the Irish.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast and sophomore guard Kelsey Wicks shared team-high scoring honors on the tour, averaging 14.8 points per game during the series. Batteast, the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year, also registered two double-doubles and carded 11.3 rebounds per game while in Europe.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton collected team-high rebounding laurels, averaging 12.3 boards per contest. She also posted double-figure rebounding totals in three of four games, finishing with nine caroms in her other outing. Like Batteast, she averaged a double-double, adding 10 points per night.

All told, five Irish players scored in double figures while in Europe – the aforementioned trio, along with junior guard Le’Tania Severe (13.5 ppg.) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (10.0 ppg.). As a team, Notre Dame averaged 79.5 points and 51.3 rebounds per game during the trip.

The winner of this weekend’s East Regional will advance to the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta. The national semifinals will take place Sunday, April 6, with the national championship game slated for Tuesday, April 8. All games will be played at the Georgia Dome and will be televised by ESPN.