Dec. 26, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
After a few days home with their families for Christmas, the No. 2 Notre Dame women’s basketball team reconvened in South Bend on Monday morning to practice before an afternoon flight south for Chattanooga. The 6:30 p.m. Tuesday matchup with the Mocs will be the fourth of six consecutive road games for Notre Dame and the first of two this week as the Irish will head straight from Chattanooga for Raleigh and Thursday night’s ACC opener at NC State.
It is also the penultimate non-conference game this season a Notre Dame team which is 11-1 thus far outside of league play. The Irish will be back in the Volunteer State on Jan. 16 to face Tennessee.
Here are a few notes about the matchup on Tuesday afternoon.
Notre Dame-Chattanooga History
In the only previous meeting between the teams, Notre Dame defeated Chattanooga, 88-53, on Nov. 21, 2014, at Purcell Pavilion. Jewell Loyd led the way with 20 points for the Irish. Mychal Johnson scored 17 points off of the bench in what remains her career high to this day.
This game will be the first of two Notre Dame trips to east Tennessee this season as the Irish also head to Knoxville on Jan. 16 to face the Lady Vols of Tennessee. The Irish last appeared in the Volunteer State on April 6-8, 2014, when Notre Dame beat Maryland but lost to UConn in the Final Four at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
The Mocs stand at a deceptive 5-7 on the year. NCAA Championship participants in each of the past four years, Chattanooga has played a fierce non-conference schedule, facing UConn, Louisville, Florida and Indiana among other tough foes. Jim Foster is in his fourth year at UTC and his 39th year as a head coach overall, boasting a 870-330 mark in his career and a 87-23 record with the Mocs. Jasmine Joyner is four rebounds short of averaging a double-double for the season, posting 11.1 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Facing Her Mentor
Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster hired Muffet McGraw to be his assistant coach at St. Joseph’s in 1980 (replacing another future coaching star in Geno Auriemma) and the two have remained great friends since.
Their meetings on the court have swayed significantly based on McGraw’s employer at the time. As head coach at Lehigh, she went 0-3 against Foster’s Hawks. Since coming to Notre Dame, she is 5-0 against Foster-coached teams: 1-0 vs. St. Joseph’s, 1-0 vs. Vanderbilt, 2-0 vs. Ohio State and 1-0 vs. Chattanooga. The most note-worthy game among them was a 72-64 win over Vanderbilt in the 2001 Elite Eight en route to Notre Dame’s first national championship.
Reflecting the deep friendship between the two, Foster is Godfather is Matt and Muffet McGraw’s son, Murphy.
14-Game Road Winning Streak Among Best Ever
Notre Dame has won each of its last 14 road games since a Dec. 5, 2015, loss at UConn.
The streak is tied for the 13th-longest run in NCAA history. The Irish match 14-game runs by St. Bonaventure (2011-12 to 2012-13) and Nebraska (2008-09 to 2010-11) in this regard. Next up is Purdue’s run of 15 consecutive road wins from 1989-90 to 1990-91.The Irish share the NCAA record of 30 with UConn.
The streak is the second-longest active run in the nation. UConn has presently won 29 consecutive road games.
Merry Christmases Carry Over
Notre Dame has won its first game after the Christmas break in each of the past 13 years.
The last time an Irish team lost its first game after the holiday came on Dec. 28, 2002, when No. 5 Tennessee dropped 12th-ranked Notre Dame, 77-61, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Last year, the first game after break resulted in a thrilling, 62-61, win over No. 10 Oregon State at Purcell Pavilion.
This will mark the third time in four years that Notre Dame’s first game after Christmas has been played on the road. Dec. 29, 2013, saw the Irish defeat Oregon State, 70-58, in Corvalis while Dec. 28, 2014, marked a 82-67 win for Notre Dame at UCLA’s famed Pauley Pavilion.
Irish Routinely Play the Best
Notre Dame leads the nation in the NCAA’s strength of schedule measure as its opposition has combined for a .803 winning percentage. That mark comfortably outdistances second-place UConn’s .760 and third-place Kentucky’s .730.
This trend should continue when the rigors of ACC play come starting on Thursday. Measuring both past and future opponents, Notre Dame’s .787 opponents’ winning percentage ranks second only to Washington State’s .791.
Television Schedule Update
The Jan. 8 game at Miami that had been listed as “ESPN Flex” now has a broadcast home. The 3 p.m. contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, a decision announced late last week. It means that Notre Dame will play six regular season games on “the deuce” including matchups with UConn (Dec. 7), Tennessee (Jan. 16), Louisville (Feb. 6), Syracuse (Feb. 19) and Florida State (Feb. 26).
How to Watch/Listen
The Chattanooga game will not be televised but it will be streamed online via the SoCon Digital Network. The direct link to the webcast of Tuesday’s matinee is available here.
Bob Nagle is in his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.