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Irish Opens Two Game Homestand Against Pittsburgh

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-9, 7-6)
vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (11-13, 3-10)

The Date and Time: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003, at 7 p.m. EST.

The Site: Joyce Center (11,418) in Notre Dame, Ind.

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 handling the play-by-play. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics website at

Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics are available for the Pittsburgh game via the Notre Dame ( athletics website.

Websites:Notre Dame (, Pittsburgh (

Less than two weeks remain before the start of the 2003 BIG EAST Conference Championship, and still almost none of the tournament seeds have been sorted out. Notre Dame will look to do its part in clearing up the playoff picture when it welcomes Pittsburgh to the Joyce Center Wednesday night in the first of two season-ending games at home for the Irish. With a victory, Notre Dame could jump into a tie for fifth place, while Pittsburgh is seeking to break out of an 11th-place deadlock with West Virginia, one-half game ahead of Providence for the final spot in the league tournament.

The Irish lost for only the second time in their last six games on Sunday, falling at No. 1 Connecticut, 77-59. After falling behind by eight points to start the game, Notre Dame rallied and pulled even at 28-28 with just over a minute left in the first half. However, UConn scored the final five points of the period, igniting an 18-2 run that fueled the Huskies’ victory.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton scored a career-high 21 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures. She also became the sixth different Irish player to score 20 points in a game this season, making Notre Dame one of only two schools in the nation to achieve that feat. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast added a career-high 18 rebounds, the most by an Irish player since 1998.

Pittsburgh (11-13, 3-10 BIG EAST) lost for the fifth time in its last six games last Saturday, bowing to No. 24 Boston College, 78-52. Senior guard Laine Selwyn notched her fifth double-double in the loss, piling up 18 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

Selwyn leads the Panthers in scoring (16.2 ppg.), rebounding (6.1 rpg.) and assists (6.1 apg.), ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in all three categories. Senior forward Mandy Wittenmyer (10.9 ppg.) and senior guard Brooke Stewart (10.6 ppg.) also are scoring in double digits for Pittsburgh.

Traci Waites is wrapping up her fifth season as the Panthers’ head coach with a 52-82 (.388) record. She is 0-6 in her career 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 357-136 (.724) record (445-177, .715 in 21 years overall) that includes 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament bids, four 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, 15 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, a 69-57 win at USC, and she 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 win 350 games at Notre Dame.

Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters received numerous preseason accolades. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (11.6 ppg., 4.3 rpg., .493 3FG%, .877 FT%) is a two-time Associated Press All-American and she is a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection this year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has seen her name sprinkled liberally througout the Notre Dame record book, including marks for scoring (4th, 1,653 points), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .481) and free throw percentage (1st, .870). 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 seven times this year, including a season-high 30-point effort (including a career-high seven three-pointers) on Feb. 16 at Providence. Ratay also tallied the 1,500th point of her career Jan. 8 at WVU, becoming the sixth player in school history to reach that milestone.

In addition, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (team-high 15.3 ppg., team-high 8.0 rpg., 2.5 apg., 1.6 bpg., 2.2 spg, six double-doubles) on the list of 30 candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding player. Batteast is the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year after turning in one of the finest rookie seasons in school history. Like Ratay, she also was a preseason first-team all-conference choice this year. Batteast has scored in double figures in 21 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 posted 20-point outings in back-to-back games earlier this month, scoring 21 vs. West Virginia and 20 vs. Georgetown, both game highs. In her most recent outing at Connecticut, Batteast had a career-high 18 rebounds, the most by an Irish player since Nov. 1998, when Ruth Riley had 18 boards vs. Duke.

Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (8.0 ppg., 3.8 rpg., team-high 3.5 apg., 2.1 spg., .455 FG%, .825 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 10 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 a season-high six assists at Marquette, before adding 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists vs. Purdue. However, her best all-around performance may have come at West Virginia, when she tallied a career-high 21 points (6-9 FG, 8-9 FT) along with six rebounds, five assists and five steals. She also added 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.

Severe is backstopped by freshman Megan Duffy (2.3 ppg., 2.4 apg.), a crafty lefthander with a commanding floor presence and a smooth outside jumper. Duffy dished 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 scored a season-high six points at Marquette, hitting the first two three-pointers of her career. Duffy added a game-high six assists at St. John’s and had a team-high five assists vs. Connecticut. She has started five games for the Irish, playing a career-high 37 minutes at Boston College and hitting four clutch free throws in the final 24 seconds to ice the win over West Virginia.

Senior walk-on Karen Swanson (0.7 ppg., 0.2 rpg.), junior Jeneka Joyce and sophomore Jill Krause (0.4 ppg., 0.3 rpg.) also will be counted on for support at the guard positions. Swanson tied her career high with five points vs. Cleveland State, while Krause has seen action in 16 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 (8.6 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 1.3 bpg., team-high .599 FG%) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (7.6 ppg., 4.6 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 has been solid in BIG EAST games, posting a sparkling .620 field goal percentage (49-79), and she collected a career-high 21 points (7-11 FG, 7-7 FT) in her last league contest at Connecticut. 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 appears to have recovered nicely of late. 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.

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (12.0 ppg., 6.0 rpg., .500 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 12 times with four 20-point outings this season. Twice, she has scored a season-high 23 points (vs. Purdue and Rutgers), and she pulled down a personal-best 12 rebounds at Villanova.

Notre Dame has won each of the 11 prior meetings with Pittsburgh, including a 5-0 mark at the Joyce Center, the site of Wednesday?s bout. All 11 of the games between the Irish and Panthers have come since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995-96 season.

The last time they squared off on Feb. 5, 2002, the Irish recorded the 500th win in school history with a 68-56 triumph over the Panthers at historic Fitzgerald Field House. Notre Dame became the 50th team in NCAA history and the fourth BIG EAST school to reach that milestone.

Guard Alicia Ratay scored 13 of her game-high 21 points in the second half to pace the Irish, while forward Jacqueline Batteast notched her 10th double-double of the season (and third in as many games) with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Center Teresa Borton also picked up a double-double, the second of her career, with 10 points and a (then) career-high 10 rebounds.

Laine Selwyn had a double-double for Pittsburgh with 16 points and 10 rebounds. No other player scored in double figures for the Panthers, who shot just 33.3 percent from the field and came out on the short end of a 50-32 rebounding margin.

Notre Dame never trailed in the game, using a 21-6 first-half run to open up a 40-25 lead late in the period. Pittsburgh closed within four points (50-46) on Bettina Love’s layup with eight minutes remaining, but the hosts would get no closer. Ratay followed with nine points in a game-turning 15-4 Irish run that sealed Notre Dame’s 11th consecutive victory over the Panthers.

It’s been a season full of hair-raising twists and turns for Pittsburgh in 2002-03. The Panthers opened the year in high spirits with eight wins in their first 11 games, including a stirring 92-88 overtime win at home over (then) No. 11 Penn State. In fact, Pittsburgh’s brand-new Petersen Events Center was mighty cozy during the non-conference portion of the schedule, as the Panthers opened the new facility with a spotless 6-0 record.

However, the emotional pendulum has swung back the other way for Pittsburgh since BIG EAST Conference play began in January. The Panthers are 3-10 in league games, with six of those losses coming by eight points or less. Still, Pittsburgh remains squarely in contention for a berth in next month’s BIG EAST Championship, a place they have not visited in the last two seasons.

In their most recent outing, the Panthers lost for the fifth time in the last six games, falling at home to No. 24 Boston College, 78-52 last Saturday. Senior guard Laine Selwyn notched her fifth double-double of the season with 18 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard Haley Harguth came off the bench to chart 15 points for Pittsburgh. The Panthers shot just 29.8 percent from the floor (compared to an even 50 percent for BC), including a 1-for-10 mark from the three-point line. Pittsburgh also lost the rebounding battle by a 44-36 count.

Selwyn leads the Panthers and ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in virtually every statistical category, including scoring (7th, 16.2 ppg.), rebounding (17th, 6.1 rpg.), assists (4th, 6.08 apg.), steals (3rd, 2.79 spg.) and assist/turnover ratio (9th, 1.54). In addition to her five double-doubles this season, she also compiled a triple-double vs. Norfolk State on Dec. 29, the second triple play of her career. Senior forward Mandy Wittenmyer is second on the Panther roster in scoring (10.9 ppg.) and rebounding (4.6 rpg.), while senior forward Dallas Williams owns a team-high .564 field goal percentage. Pittsburgh also has six players shooting better than 33 percent from the three-point line, paced by freshman guard Jessica Allen at 46.3 percent (Harguth has canned a team-best 34 treys this year).

The Panthers have had a potent offense all season long, ranking third in the BIG EAST in scoring (71.2 ppg.) and second in three-point percentage (.371). The problem for Pittsburgh lies with its defense, which stands 14th in the conference in points allowed (68.7 ppg.), 13th in field goal percentage defense (.432) and 14th in rebounding margin (-4.6 rpg.).

Head coach Traci Waites is closing out her fifth season at Pittsburgh, sporting a career record of 52-82 (.388). The 1999-2000 Co-BIG EAST Coach of the Year, Waites is 0-6 all-time against Notre Dame, including an 0-2 mark at the Joyce Center.


  • Notre Dame is 11-0 all-time against Pittsburgh, one of four BIG EAST Conference opponents the Irish have never lost to. The others are Providence (11-0), St. John?s (12-0) and West Virginia (11-0).
  • Nine of the 11 games in the series have been decided by double-digit margins. The only single-digit results came on Jan. 16, 1999 (ND 81-72) and Feb. 9, 2000 (ND 81-74).
  • In the history of the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh series, the Irish have never scored less than 65 points in any game against the Panthers. Conversely, UP has topped the 65-point mark twice in 11 games, both of which resulted in the two closest matchups in the series (81-72 in 1999, and 81-74 in 2000).
  • Senior guard Alicia Ratay loves playing against Pittsburgh < she=”” is=”” averaging=”” 16.6=”” points=”” in=”” five=”” career=”” games=”” against=”” the=”” panthers.=””>


  • There are three Ohio residents slated to be active for Wednesday?s contest. Notre Dame freshman guard Megan Duffy (Dayton/Chaminade-Julienne HS) and senior guard Karen Swanson (Westlake/Westlake HS) join Pittsburgh senior forward Dallas Williams (Mason/Mason HS) as natives of the Buckeye State. In addition, Pittsburgh assistant coach Deborah Perry (Cleveland) grew up in the state of Ohio and also spent time as an assistant at Ohio University from 1991-95.
  • There also will be two south Florida natives suiting up for Wednesday?s game. Notre Dame junior guard Le?Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines/Fort Lauderdale HS) and Pittsburgh junior guard Laine Selwyn (Coral Springs/Coral Springs HS) both hail from the Sunshine State.
  • Tony Rolinski, Notre Dame’s assistant coordinator for strength and conditioning, worked in the Pittsburgh strength and conditioning department from 1994-96 while attaining his master?s degree in exercise physiology from the school. He then was the head strength coach at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh before serving as the head strength and conditioning coach at Duquesne in 1997-98.
  • Seventh-year Irish women?s lacrosse coach Tracy Coyne is a Pittsburgh native and a 1978 graduate of Cenevin High School (which also produced Notre Dame All-America QB Tom Clements, who led the Irish to the 1973 national title and currently is the quarterbacks coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers). In addition, Coyne worked in the Pittsburgh athletic department in 1985 as an administrative assistant to the senior woman administrator.


  • Notre Dame will extend its series winning streak against Pittsburgh to 12 games, making the Panthers one of seven opponents on this year’s schedule against whom the Irish currently have a double-digit winning streak (others are Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Valparaiso and West Virginia). The 12-game winning streak also will be the third-longest active skein for Notre Dame against a BIG EAST opponent < the=”” irish=”” have=”” won=”” 15=”” in=”” a=”” row=”” vs.=”” georgetown=”” and=”” 13=”” straight=”” vs.=”” st.=”” john’s.=””>
  • The Irish will improve to 12-0 all-time against Pittsburgh, making the Panthers one of four BIG EAST teams Notre Dame has never lost to (the others are Providence, St. John?s and West Virginia).
  • The Irish will raise their all-time regular-season BIG EAST Conference record to 110-24 (.821), the best mark in league history.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 358-136 (.725) in 16 seasons, and her overall ledger will jump to 446-177 (.716) in 21 years.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 522-235 (.690) in 26 seasons of varsity competition.

Notre Dame owns an undefeated series record against 12 opponents in its history (with a minimum of three games played), including seven foes on this year?s schedule. The Irish have already preserved their unblemished marks against non-conference rivals Cleveland State (5-0), Valparaiso (16-0) and IPFW (3-0), as well as BIG EAST foes West Virginia (11-0), St. John?s (13-0) and Providence (11-0).

The Irish have winning streaks of 10-or-more games against six of their 13 BIG EAST Conference opponents. Their longest active conference winning streak is 15 games (vs. Georgetown), followed by a 13-game run against St. John?s. Notre Dame also has an active 11-game success string against Pittsburgh, Providence, Seton Hall and West Virginia. The longest current Irish winning streak vs. any opponent is 16 games against both Detroit and Valparaiso.

Despite its earlier struggles this season, Notre Dame remains firmly in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth. According to the Feb. 24 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings compiled by Richie Summerville and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the Irish are 29th in the nation, while their schedule strength also is rated No. 12 in the land. In addition, Notre Dame is one of six BIG EAST Conference schools ranked in the top 30 of the WBCA/Summerville RPI (#2 Connecticut, #8 Villanova, #12 Rutgers, #15 Boston College and #25 Virginia Tech are the others). The Irish already have a road win to their credit over Villanova (58-56 on Jan. 25).

As a league, the BIG EAST ranks fifth in the country, trailing only the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-10, and leading the Big 12. In addition, the BIG EAST posted a 114-38 (.750) record against non-conference opponents this season, 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 leads the BIG EAST Conference and ranks 14th nationally with 5.25 blocked shots per game this season. The Irish are led by a trio of players who are averaging at least one block per game < sophomore=”” forward=””>Jacqueline Batteast at 1.58 bpg. (third in the BIG EAST), sophomore center Teresa Borton at 1.33 bpg. (fifth in the BIG EAST) and freshman forward Courtney LaVere at 1.04 bpg. (11th in the BIG EAST). Batteast also is the BIG EAST’s second-best shot blocker in conference games, averaging 1.92 rejections per league contest.

Rebounding has been a key to Notre Dame’s success this season. The Irish are 12-2 when they outrebound their opponent, with their only losses coming on the road at Virginia Tech and Connecticut. The latter contest was significant because, even in defeat, Notre Dame became just the third time all season to beat the Huskies on the boards (the others are Tennessee and Virginia Tech). For the season, the Irish are averaging 38.1 rebounds per game, good for fifth in the BIG EAST Conference, and own a +2.5 rpg. margin, sixth-best in the league.

Individually, sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast ranks fifth in the BIG EAST with 8.0 rebounds per game. She 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. Freshman forward Courtney LaVere is the other Notre Dame player currently ranked among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in rebounding < she=”” is=”” 18th=”” with=”” 6.0=”” 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 18 of 24 games (and 13 of 15 wins). In addition, the Irish have had four players reach double digits in nine games this season (Cleveland State, USC, Valparaiso, Arizona State, Temple, Miami, Georgetown, St. John’s and Connecticut) and had five double-figure scorers on five occasions (Cleveland State, USC, Temple, Miami, Georgetown). The last time Notre Dame had five double-figure scorers five 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 Naismith Award candidate Jacqueline Batteast has been the pacesetter at 15.3 ppg., followed by freshman forward Courtney LaVere, who averages 12.0 points per game. Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Alicia Ratay is third at 11.6 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 < no.=”” 22=”” wisconsin-green=”” bay.=””>

The free throw line has been a very friendly place for Notre Dame this season. The Irish rank second in the BIG EAST Conference and 45th in the nation with a .739 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 10 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 16th in the nation with an .877 free throw percentage. That should come as no surprise, because Ratay ranks sixth in NCAA history with an .870 career free throw ratio (354-407). 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 .825 (6th in the BIG EAST), followed by sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (.734). Severe’s free throw percentage has been perhaps the most pleasant development for the Irish < coming=”” into=”” this=”” season,=”” she=”” owned=”” a=”” .651=”” career=”” free=”” throw=”” ratio.=””>

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere added to Notre Dame’s free throw resurgence on Jan. 25 with her 12-for-16 performance from the charity stripe 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 had as much success on the road as it has at home. The Irish are 8-5 this year on hostile ground (8-4 road, 0-1 neutral), compared to a 7-4 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.

The Irish have won 14 of their last 21 regular-season games outside the Joyce Center, including 12 of their last 17. Of those last 17 games in hostile territory, the only blemishes on that record came earlier this season against teams that currently are ranked or receiving votes in one or both of the major national polls < depaul,=”” no.=”” 3/3=”” tennessee=”” (neutral=”” site),=”” no.=”” 23/21=”” boston=”” college,=”” virginia=”” tech=”” and=”” no.=”” 1/1=”” connecticut.=””>

Notre Dame is 109-24 (.820) in regular-season competition against the rest of BIG EAST Conference, owning the best conference winning percentage of any current member of the BIG EAST since joining the circuit for the 1995-96 campaign. The Irish also have won 65 of their last 79 regular-season conference games, and claimed a share of their first-ever BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2001. When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 121-31 (.796) against league opponents < when=”” factoring=”” in=”” these=”” 19=”” postseason=”” tilts,=”” the=”” irish=”” are=”” 59-7=”” (.894)=”” at=”” home,=”” 50-20=”” (.714)=”” on=”” the=”” road=”” and=”” 12-7=”” (.632)=”” at=”” neutral=”” sites=”” all-time=”” against=”” big=”” east=”” foes.=””>

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 over Providence on Feb. 16, the Irish assured themselves of finishing with no worse than a .500 mark in February (they currently are 4-2 this month with one game remaining). Notre Dame now has posted a record of .500 or better in 41 of its last 43 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.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the 500th point of her career on Dec. 31 at Marquette. She now has 724 points in only 50 career games (14.5 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). Here’s a list of those Irish players with 500 points in two years (shown in order of when they scored their 500th point):

Twice 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. Notre Dame trailed 33-22 at the half and fell into a deeper hole when Mountaineer guard Kate Bulger nailed a three-point field goal on her team’s first possession of the second half. However, the Irish answered with a 16-2 run over the next 3:43 to tie the game and eventually take the victory. 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. The victory over Providence also marked the fifth 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.

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 521-235 (.689) in 26 seasons of varsity competition. Included in that record are 17 20-win seasons (13 under current head coach Muffet McGraw), nine NCAA Tournament appearances, four trips to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 NCAA championship. However, what may be most impressive about Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program is the fact that the Irish have had exactly 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 357-136 (.724) 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 .724 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.

Five times this season, Notre Dame has been involved in some hair-raising finishes. The Irish pulled out narrow victories over Colorado State (46-45), Villanova (58-56) and West Virginia (69-64), 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 Notre Dame fans. Over the last three seasons, the Irish have played 16 games that were decided by five points or less, evenly splitting 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.

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 leads the Irish and ranks among the leaders in the BIG EAST Conference in assists (14th, 3.54 apg.), steals (8th, 2.13 spg.) and free throw percentage (6th, .825). However, she also has displayed a nose for the basket, ranking fifth on the team with 8.0 points per game, easily exceeding her career scoring average of 4.6 ppg. entering this season. In addition, Severe has scored in double figures 10 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.

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 (12.0 ppg.), field goal percentage (.500) and rebounding (6.0 rpg.), ranking 18th in the BIG EAST Conference in the latter category. 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 14 times and earned game-high scoring honors four times 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.

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 Tournament 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.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay reached a milestone at Valparaiso, becoming the 10th player in school history to start 100 career games. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native now ranks second in school annals, having started 121 of 122 games for Notre Dame (including the last 63 in a row), while yielding her starting spot to Imani Dunbar for Senior Night in 2001 (vs. Georgetown). Ratay is presently three starts away from the school record of 124, currently held by Ruth Riley. At her current pace, Ratay would tie Riley’s mark in Notre Dame’s regular-season finale at Syracuse next Tuesday, and would break it in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship on March 8.

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 1,653 points, 613 rebounds and 231 assists, becoming the sixth Irish player to score 1,500 points with 14 points at West Virginia Jan. 8.

Ratay also is two three-point field goals away from tying the Notre Dame career record of 249, currently held by Sheila McMillen (1995-99). With two treys at Boston College, Ratay moved past Morgan into second place on that list (now with 247 triples). Ratay averaged more than 70 three-pointers per season during her first three years at Notre Dame.

Some other milestones also are within Ratay’s reach. She ranks fourth on the Irish all-time scoring list with 1,643 points, passing 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 122 Irish games in her career and starting all but one (2001 Senior Night vs. Georgetown). She can break the Notre Dame career records for starts and games played with another four starts and 11 games played this season.

Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.870) and three-point field goal (.481) 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. 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.

Ratay is third on the team in scoring this season at 11.6 points per game and leads the BIG EAST Conference (16th in the nation) with an .877 free throw percentage. The BIG EAST Player of the Week for Feb. 17, she has come alive in her last three games, averaging 19.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 70.6 percent from the three-point line (12-17). Ratay also stands fourth in school history with 1,653 points, and ranks among the top 10 in NCAA history in career three-point percentage (first – .481) and career free throw percentage (sixth – .870). She is on pace to become the only player in NCAA history to rank among the top 10 in both categories.

Irish teams turned in exceptional performances during the 2002 fall 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.

Thanks to its successful finishes in the fall, Notre Dame moved into third place in the latest 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 58-4 (.935) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign (11-3 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 111-3 (.974) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. The only times that notion didn?t come to pass were on Feb. 17, 2001 (Rutgers 54-53), Feb. 26, 2002 (Villanova 48-45) and Feb. 9, 2003 (Virginia Tech 53-50). Notre Dame has added nine wins to that count this season with victories over USC, Arizona State, IPFW, Colorado State, West Virginia, St. John’s (twice), Villanova and Georgetown.

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 83 of their last 90 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak from 1998-2002. Notre Dame also has a 59-7 (.894) 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 it was snapped Jan. 4 with a loss to No. 7 Purdue. This 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 246-70 (.778) 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 96-9 (.914) 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 7,189 fans for 11 home games this season, placing them eighth in the country (through games of Feb. 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 12th-hardest slate in the country, according to the Feb. 24 edition of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) RPI rankings, produced by Richie Summerville.

Upon closer examination, six Notre Dame opponents currently are ranked in one or both of the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls (No. 1/1 Connecticut, No. 3/3 Tennessee, No. 11/12 Purdue, No. 18/17 Villanova, No. 20/23 Rutgers and No. 23/21 Boston College). Three others < arizona=”” state,=”” depaul=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech=””>< are=”” receiving=”” votes=”” in=”” one=”” or=”” both=”” of=”” the=”” major=”” polls=”” this=”” week.=””>

Furthermore, of Notre Dame’s 27 regular-season games, 18 are against teams that appear in the top 100 of the latest WBCA/Summerville RPI rankings, including nine 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.

Notre Dame is getting a good deal of face time in 2002-03, playing on television at least eight 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). All three of those games were telecast locally in South Bend on WHME-TV as part of the league?s TV deal. WHME-TV also broadcast the Irish game at DePaul (Dec. 11) live from Chicago.

Besides the regular-season conference television deal, the BIG EAST semifinals on March 10 also will be aired on BIG EAST TV, while the conference title game on March 11 will air live on ESPN2.

The Irish are 2-6 on TV this year, defeating Arizona State and Villanova, but falling to DePaul, Purdue, Miami, Connecticut (twice) and Virginia Tech.

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.

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).

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.

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 her tenure with the Irish. In addition, Wicks had three double-digit scoring games to her credit, 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 357-136 (.724) record (445-177, .715 overall in 21 years), guiding Notre Dame to 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament berths, four 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, will feature regular interviews and chat sessions with Washington. Readers will 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.

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 all remaining home basketball games and 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.

Notre Dame will close out its 2002-03 home schedule Saturday with a 4 p.m. (EST) contest against Seton Hall at the Joyce Center. Prior to the game, the Irish will honor their two departing senior players, guards Alicia Ratay and Karen Swanson, as well as their two senior managers, Ned Holland and Kelly Landers.

Seton Hall is 12-11 this season (6-7 in the BIG EAST Conference) as it gets set to welcome Miami for a key conference game on Wednesday night. The Pirates have been one of the more dangerous teams in the BIG EAST this season, especially on the road where they are 4-2 in league games. SHU also has been in some tight ballgames, with 12 of its games decided by 10 points or less, including a narrow 53-48 loss at home to (then) No. 3/2 Connecticut on Jan. 15. Saturday’s game with Notre Dame also could have significant ramifications on the BIG EAST Championship seeding race < if=”” both=”” teams=”” win=”” on=”” wednesday=”” night,=”” their=”” head-to-head=”” matchup=”” may=”” very=”” well=”” determine=”” the=”” no.=”” 6=”” seed.=””>

The Irish lead the all-time series with the Pirates, 11-2, including a 5-1 mark at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame picked up a pair of victories over SHU last season, winning easily, 79-45, at home, but scrambling back from two 10-point deficits to ease past the Pirates, 65-60, in South Orange, N.J.

Here?s where the Irish players and team stand in the most recent NCAA (through games of Feb. 24, top 50 only) and BIG EAST Conference statistics reports (through games of Feb. 25):