March 19, 2003
2003 NCAA East Regional – First Round
No. 11 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-10)
vs. No. 6 seed Arizona Wildcats (22-8)
The Date and Time: Sunday, March 23, 2003, at 6:06 p.m. CST (7:06 p.m. EST in South Bend).
The Site: Bramlage Coliseum (13,466) in Manhattan, Kan.
The TV Plans: ESPN2 split national broadcast with Dave O’Brien (play-by-play), Nancy Lieberman (analysis), Eric Posman (producer) and Greg Breakell (director). The game also will be available as part of the ESPN FullCourt pay-per-view package and can be seen on DirecTV Channel 781.
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 www.und.com.
Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics will be available for every game in the 2003 NCAA Tournament via the NCAA website (www.ncaasports.com).
Websites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Arizona (www.arizonaathletics.com).
For the 10th time in school history, and the eighth consecutive season, Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Irish are seeded 11th in the East Region and are headed to Manhattan, Kan., where they will play No. 6 seed Arizona Sunday at 6:06 p.m. (CST) at Bramlage Coliseum.
Notre Dame posted a 19-10 record this season and reached the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship before falling to eventual champion Villanova, 50-39, on March 9. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored 15 points and freshman forward Courtney LaVere pitched in 12 points for the Irish, who were held to their lowest point total of the year, thanks in part to Villanova’s methodical style of play.
Arizona is 22-8 this season and finished in a tie for second place in the Pacific-10 Conference. The Wildcats also reached the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament before losing to No. 9 Stanford, 59-49, on March 10. Sophomore guard Dee Dee Wheeler led three UA players in double figures with 13 points.
Freshman center Shawntinice Polk has been a force for Arizona this year, averaging a double-double with 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Wheeler is second on the team at 16.5 ppg.
Wildcats head coach Joan Bonvicini is in her 12th year at Arizona with a 215-139 (.607) record at the school. She is 1-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
SCOUTING THE IRISH
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 361-137 (.725) record (449-178, .716 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 reach that milestone.
Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters have received numerous accolades this season. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (11.7 ppg., 4.7 rpg., .458 3FG%, .884 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, 1,715 points), three-point field goals made (1st, 256), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .476) and free throw percentage (1st, .872). 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 eight 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 tallied the 1,500th point of her career Jan. 8 at WVU, becoming the sixth player in school history to attain that plateau.
This season, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (team-high 14.9 ppg., team-high 8.3 rpg., 2.5 apg., 1.5 bpg., 2.1 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 six games, Batteast has been a terror on the boards, averaging 11.0 rebounds per game.
Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (7.2 ppg., 3.4 rpg., team-high 3.9 apg., 2.1 spg., .434 FG%, .821 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 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. The Florida native has been directing the Irish offense well down the stretch, averaging 5.0 assists per game in her last seven outings, including a season-high eight handouts (one off her career best) at Syracuse.
Severe is backstopped by freshman Megan Duffy (2.6 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 has been especially solid of late at the foul line, making 19 of her last 22 charities.
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 will be 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 18 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 (8.2 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 1.2 bpg., team-high .580 FG%) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (7.7 ppg., 4.4 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 appears to have recovered nicely. 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.
Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (12.5 ppg., 5.6 rpg., .511 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 Hoops.com 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 19 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 and a .565 field goal percentage in her last six games, including a team-high 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting in a first-round win over Pittsburgh at the BIG EAST Championship.
THE NOTRE DAME-ARIZONA SERIES
Notre Dame holds a 2-1 lead in an abbreviated series with Arizona, including a 1-0 mark at neutral sites. The last time they met, the Wildcats edged the 15th-ranked Irish, 72-70, on Nov. 24, 2001, at the McKale Center in Tucson. Arizona forward Elizabeth Pickney scored a game-high 27 points, including the game-winning layup at the buzzer to hand Notre Dame its first loss against a Pac-10 Conference opponent since 1992. Pickney also made all 11 of her free throws, part of the Wildcats’ perfect 20-of-20 effort at the foul line, which set UA and Notre Dame opponent records. Dee Dee Wheeler came off the bench to contribute 18 points for the hosts.
Guard Alicia Ratay led a trio of Irish players in double figures with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including three three-point field goals. Guard Le’Tania Severe added 12 points and six assists, while forward Jacqueline Batteast also carded 12 points. Notre Dame held a sizeable 41-30 rebounding advantage, but was done in by turnovers, giving the ball up 21 times to just 12 for Arizona.
In their only other matchup on a neutral floor, the Irish ousted the Wildcats, 85-81 in overtime on Dec. 3, 1988, at the Investors Women’s Classic in Richmond, Va.
For the fifth time in the last six seasons, Arizona has advanced to the NCAA Tournament. In four previous NCAA Tournament appearances, the Wildcats hold a 6-5 record, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in 1998. All of this success has come under 12th-year head coach Joan Bonvicini.
Arizona is 22-8 this season and finished tied for second (with Washington) in the Pac-10 Conference behind nationally-ranked Stanford. Like Notre Dame, the Wildcats finished the season strong, winning nine of their last 11 games, including a 79-64 pasting of Stanford on Feb. 27 in Tucson. UA also advanced to the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament in San Jose before bowing to Stanford, 59-49.
In that most recent Stanford game, sophomore guard Dee Dee Wheeler led a trio of Wildcats in double figures with 13 points. Senior forward Krista Warren and junior Aimee Grzyb added 10 points each, while freshman center Shawntinice Polk grabbed a team-high nine rebounds for Arizona. The Wildcats won the rebounding battle with the Cardinal by a slim 32-31 margin and forced 18 Stanford turnovers, but a .345 field goal percentage proved to their undoing.
Polk leads a balanced Arizona scoring attack which features four players averaging in double figures. The Hanford, Calif., product was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year after logging 17.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game this season, along with a superb .622 field goal percentage. Wheeler is second on the team in scoring (16.5 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.358), and first in steals (2.1 spg.). Warren is third in scoring (11.7 ppg.), and second in rebounding (7.0 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.590). Grzyb rounds out the double-figure scoring quartet at 10.8 ppg., along with a team-best .366 three-point percentage.
Bonvicini has compiled a 540-210 (.720) record in 24 years as a collegiate head coach (first 12 at Long Beach State). She is 215-139 (.607) since coming to Arizona for the 1991-92 season and has guided the Wildcats to seven postseason appearances, including five NCAA berths. She 1-1 all-time against Notre Dame.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-ARIZONA SERIES TIDBITS
- Sunday’s matchup marks the third consecutive year in which Notre Dame and Arizona will meet on the hardwood. Prior to their contest in the 2000-01 season (a 95-65 Irish win), the teams had met only once before – an 85-81 overtime win for Notre Dame in 1988.
- This year also represents the first time in school history Notre Dame will have faced three Pac-10 Conference teams in the same season.
- Two of the three previous meetings between Notre Dame and Arizona were nail-biters, with the Irish winning the aforementioned overtime thriller in 1988, and the Wildcats repaying the favor with a buzzer-beating 72-70 victory last season.
- In two career games against Arizona, Irish senior guard Alicia Ratay is averaging 22.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. She also is shooting 69.6 percent (16-23) from the floor, 72.7 percent (8-11) from three-point range, and 100 percent (5-5) from the foul line against the Wildcats in her career.
NOTRE DAME-ARIZONA CONNECTIONS
- Notre Dame associate coach Carol Owens and Arizona associate head coach Denise Dove Ianello were teammates at Northern Illinois University from 1988-90. In fact, the pair, who often roomed together on road trips, could easily have been labelled NIU’s “Miss Inside” and “Miss Outside” – Owens is the Huskies’ all-time leading scorer with 2,102 points, while Ianello ranks ninth on the school’s career scoring list and holds all nine of its three-point records. In the 1989-90 season, Owens was Northern Illinois’ Player of the Year, while Ianello was the team Defensive Player of the Year as they teamed up to lead the Huskies to the best record in school history (26-5), the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament bid and a No. 11 national ranking. In addition, NIU had the nation’s highest-scoring offense that year (94.5 ppg.), led the country in free throw percentage (.775) and posted the second-highest point total in a single half in NCAA history (76 vs. Valparaiso, 2/20/90). In an interesting side note, Kansas State head coach Deb Patterson and KSU associate head coach Kamie Ethridge both served as assistants on that 1989-90 Northern Illinois team – Patterson was Owens’ position coach and worked mainly with the NIU posts, while Ethridge focused primarily on the Husky guards, including Ianello.
- Although they are both freshmen at the college level, Notre Dame forward Courtney LaVere (Ventura, Calif./Buena HS) and Arizona center Shawntinice Polk (Hanford, Calif./Hanford HS) have faced one another on several occasions during the prep days in southern California. They are two of eight Californians who will suit up for Sunday night’s game, seven of whom play for Arizona. Notre Dame will add another Golden State native next season when Crystal Erwin (Santa Fe Springs, Calif./St. Paul HS) arrives in South Bend.
- The Chicagoland area also will be sufficiently represented in Sunday’s Notre Dame-Arizona game. Irish senior guard Alicia Ratay was a standout at Lake Zurich (Ill.) High School, while sophomore guard Jill Krause was a stalwart at Regina Dominican High School in suburban Glenview. Arizona sophomore guard Dee Dee Wheeler is also from the Windy City, having graduated from Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. And, Irish associate coach Carol Owens also is from Chicago and played at nearby Northern Illinois University.
OTHER NOTRE DAME STORYLINES AT THE MANHATTAN SUBREGIONAL
- Notre Dame has two Kansas natives on this year’s roster – junior guards Jeneka Joyce (Topeka/Washburn Rural HS) and Anne Weese (Salina/Sacred Heart HS). Joyce has missed the entire 2002-03 season while rehabilitating numerous leg injuries she has suffered during her first two years with the Irish. Meanwhile, Weese joined the Notre Dame squad Jan. 7 as a walk-on after graduating from Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kan., last spring. She played against several members of the Kansas State team during her high school career in Salina, including Nicole Ohlde, Kendra Wecker and Laurie Koehn.
- This weekend’s subregional easily could be renamed the Jim Foster Invitational, in honor of the longtime Saint Joseph’s (Pa.), Vanderbilt and Ohio State head coach. Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw was an assistant at SJU under Foster from 1980-82 and still maintains a close relationship with her mentor. Meanwhile, virtually every member of the Kansas State coaching staff also has worked with Foster – head coach Deb Patterson, associate head coach Kamie Ethridge and assistant coach Kristin Becker all spent time as assistants on Foster’s staff at Vanderbilt during the 1990s.
- Irish senior guard Alicia Ratay has a family tie to the state of Kansas. Her father, Greg, played basketball at Wichita State from 1968-70.
- Notre Dame sophomore forward Katy Flecky (Lone Tree, Colo./Highlands Ranch HS) was an AAU teammate of Kansas State sophomore guard Chelsea Domenico (Thornton, Colo./Horizon HS) with the Colorado Hoopsters in 1999-2000, when that team won a pair of U.S. Junior National tournaments.
- Notre Dame radio analyst Shanele Stires should be a familiar face to Kansas State fans. She was a standout guard/forward for the Wildcats from 1993-95, averaging 16.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game during her career. Her 19.3 ppg. scoring average in 1994-95 remains the best-ever by a KSU senior and she ranks in the top 10 in school history for career points, rebounds, steals and double-doubles. A two-time all-Big Eight Conference selection and 1995 Kodak honorable mention All-American, she now plays for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Stires, a Salina native, will be working this weekend’s games with her brother, Sean, who is in his third season as Notre Dame’s play-by-play voice for women’s basketball and baseball, and also serves as the sports director at WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) in South Bend.
- Longtime South Bend Tribune reporter and Notre Dame women’s basketball beat writer Forrest “Woody” Miller was a part-time sportswriter at the Topeka Capital-Journal from 1950-52.
NOTRE DAME VERSUS THE PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE
The Irish have a limited history against the Pacific-10 Conference, posting a 12-13 (.480) record against the league all-time. However, their recent history with the Pac-10 has been much better, as the Irish have won nine of their last 10 games against that conference, dating back to a 93-72 loss to UCLA on March 18, 1992 in Los Angeles. Notre Dame has played six of the 10 Pac-10 member schools, holding .500 or better series records against Arizona (2-1), Arizona State (1-1), USC (4-1) and Washington (1-0). The Irish have never faced California, Oregon, Oregon State or Washington State.
Sunday’s game is the third this season for Notre Dame against a Pac-10 institution, with the Irish sporting a 2-0 mark against the league. Back on Nov. 29, Notre Dame rallied from a three-point halftime deficit to oust USC, 69-57, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Senior guard Alicia Ratay scored a team-high 17 points to pace five Irish players in double figures. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast added her first double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Irish also logged an 81-52 win at Arizona State on Dec. 7 in the AstraZeneca Hoops for the Cure Classic II. Batteast carded a season-high 24 points and eight rebounds, hitting 10 of her 15 shots from the floor. As a team, Notre Dame had four players score in double figures, shot 55.6 percent (35-63) from the field, outrebounded ASU by a 50-29 count, and used a 25-1 first-half run to hand the Sun Devils their worst home loss in seven years.
Notre Dame and Arizona have faced two common opponents this season – USC and Arizona State – and the Irish owning a 2-0 mark and the Wildcats coming away with a 3-1 record against this duo.
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
- Notre Dame will earn its 20th victory of the year, marking the 10th consecutive 20-win season for the Irish, and the 14th 20-win campaign in the 16-year Muffet McGraw era.
- The Irish will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the eighth consecutive season, corresponding exactly to their affiliation with the BIG EAST Conference (1995-96 to present).
- Head coach Muffet McGraw will pick up her 450th career coaching win, improving to 450-178 (.717) in 21 years at the college level. Her record at Notre Dame also will rise to 362-137 (.725) in 16 seasons under the Golden Dome.
- Notre Dame will card its 10th win in the last 11 games against Pacific-10 Conference opponents.
- The Irish will raise their all-time record to 526-236 (.690) in 26 seasons of varsity competition.
IRISH INJURY REPORT (as of March 17)
Junior G Jeneka Joyce – leg injuries, out indefinitely
BLOWIN’ IN FROM THE EAST
Notre Dame has been placed in the East Region for the second time in its NCAA Tournament history. In two previous East Region appearances, the Irish have posted a 4-1 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 four regional tilts out of the East bracket.
GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
The Irish have done a good job of starting their NCAA Tournament experience in the right way, winning their first round game in each of the last seven seasons. During that time, Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen four times, moving to the Final Four twice and winning the 2001 NCAA title.
SOWING THE SEEDS, PART ONE
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, 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. Notre Dame is 1-2 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).
SOWING THE SEEDS, PART TWO
The 11th seed might not be a bad locale for Notre Dame in this year’s field. In first-round matchups between the No. 6 and No. 11 seeds over the last five seasons, the sixth-seeded team only holds a 12-8 record. Furthermore, at least one No. 11 seed has emerged victorious in the first round in seven of the last eight NCAA Tournaments, including two 11th-seeded winners in 1998 (UC Santa Barbara and Virginia Tech), 1999 (SMU and Saint Joseph’s) and 2000 (Stephen F. Austin and UAB). Last season, BYU was the lucky No. 11 seed, downing sixth-seeded Florida in the opening round, 90-52, and upending No. 3 seed (and subregional host) Iowa State, 75-69, sending BYU to its first-ever Sweet Sixteen.
HOOP DREAMS FOR TWO
For the third consecutive season, and just the third time in school history, Notre Dame is sending both its women’s and men’s basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame is one of 22 schools in the country to have both hoop squads qualify for “The Big Dance”. It also is one of only seven institutions to have both basketball teams reach the NCAA Tournament and have its 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 is the No. 5 seed in the West Region and faced 12th-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee in its first-round game on Thursday, March 18 in Indianapolis. The winner of that contest advances to a Saturday, March 20 matchup against the survivor of the tussle between fourth-seeded Illinois and No. 13 seed Western Kentucky.
BIG EAST FLEXES ITS MUSCLE AGAIN
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.
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) 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.
IRISH OPPONENTS QUALIFY FOR THE SECOND SEASON
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.
ADD ANOTHER STAR ON THE MAP
This weekend’s NCAA subregional will mark Notre Dame’s first-ever foray into the state of Kansas. Including this current trip to the Sunflower State, the Irish have played in 34 different states during their 26-year history. The only states Notre Dame has yet to visit are: Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.
ALICIA RATAY TO PARTICIPATE IN WBCA ALL-STAR CHALLENGE
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 (www.wbca.org).
Ratay holds numerous Notre Dame career records, including all-time marks for three-point field goal percentage (.476), three-point field goals made (256), free throw percentage (.872) and games started (126). She also stands fourth on the Irish career scoring list (1,715 points) and 10th on the school’s all-time rebounding list (645), 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 11th nationally with an .884 free throw percentage. She also stands second on the team in three-point percentage (.458), and third in scoring (11.7 ppg.) and rebounding (4.7 rpg.).
TRIO OF IRISH PLAYERS HONORED AT BIG EAST AWARDS BANQUET
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 14.9 points and 8.3 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 (2.1 spg.), blocked shots (1.45 bpg.) and double-doubles, while scoring in double figures in 26 of 29 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 11.7 points per game, and is second with a .458 three-point percentage. Ratay holds the Notre Dame records for career three-point field goals (256) and three-point percentage (.476), as well as career free throw percentage (.872) – 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 18 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 126 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 1,715 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 (.511), scoring (12.5 ppg.) and rebounding (5.6 rpg.), placing among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in scoring. She also has posted five double-doubles, five 20-point games and scored in double figures 19 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.
Coach Muffet McGraw has made two trips to the Final Four while at Notre Dame.
Here are some of the more interesting trends to note regarding the Irish in 2002-03:
- Notre Dame is 11-3 in games decided by 10 points or less.
- Notre Dame is 10-4 when its bench outscores the opponent’s bench.
- Notre Dame is 19-7 when Jacqueline Batteast scores in double figures.
- Notre Dame is 14-4 when Alicia Ratay scores in double figures.
- Notre Dame is 17-5 when it has at least three players score in double figures.
- Notre Dame is 11-4 when fielding a starting lineup consisting of Jacqueline Batteast, Teresa Borton, Katy Flecky, Alicia Ratay and Le’Tania Severe.
TAKING THE IRISH TO BLOCK
Notre Dame leads the BIG EAST Conference and ranks 17th nationally with 4.97 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 1.45 bpg. (third in the BIG EAST), sophomore center Teresa Borton at 1.24 bpg. (fifth in the BIG EAST), and freshman forward Courtney LaVere at 0.9 bpg. (13th 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.
WE DO WINDOWS
Rebounding has been a key to Notre Dame’s success this season. The Irish are 15-3 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 38.2 rebounds per game, good for fifth in the BIG EAST Conference, and own a +3.4 rpg. margin, sixth-best in the league.
Individually, sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast ranks fourth in the BIG EAST with 8.3 rebounds per game, including 11.0 rpg. in her last six 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 just outside the top 20 in the BIG EAST in rebounding – she is logging 5.6 caroms per contest.
A WELL-BALANCED DIET
Notre Dame has benefited this season from a well-balanced offense, one that has seen at least three players score in double figures in 22 of 29 games (and 17 of 19 wins). In addition, the Irish have had four players reach double digits in 11 games this season (Cleveland State, USC, Valparaiso, Arizona State, Temple, Miami, Georgetown, St. John’s, Connecticut and Pittsburgh (twice)) 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 14.9 ppg., followed by freshman forward Courtney LaVere, who averages 12.5 points per game. Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Alicia Ratay is third at 11.7 ppg. this season.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
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 fourth in the BIG EAST Conference and 43rd in the nation with a .738 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 11 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 11th in the nation with an .884 free throw percentage. That should come as no surprise, because Ratay ranks sixth in NCAA history with an .872 career free throw ratio (375-430). 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 .821 (5th in the BIG EAST), followed by freshman guard Megan Duffy (.714). Sophomore center Teresa Borton (.695) and freshman forward Courtney LaVere (.689) 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 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 an .864 clip (19-22) 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 had nearly as much success on the road as it has at home. The Irish are 10-6 this year on hostile ground (9-4 road, 1-2 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.
TAKING THAT FIRST STEP
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.
WINNING BY THE MONTH
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 3-1 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.
RETURN OF THE RALLY MONKEY
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 14 games this season which were decided by 10 points or less. The Irish are a stellar 11-3 in those games, including wins in each of their last four games (vs. Pittsburgh, 77-69; vs. Seton Hall, 62-60; at Syracuse, 62-54; vs. Pittsburgh, 73-65).
THREE-QUARTERS OF A MILLENNIUM
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 525-236 (.690) 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.
DIGGER AND ME
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 361-137 (.725) 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 .725 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.
QUEEN OF THE LONG BALL
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 256 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 (.476), a mark which also would qualify as the best ratio in NCAA history.
THE BATTEAST 500
Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the 500th point of her career on Dec. 31 at Marquette. She now has 790 points in only 55 career games (14.4 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).
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, 3.9 apg.), steals (6th, 2.14 spg.) and free throw percentage (5th, .821). However, she also has displayed a nose for the basket, ranking sixth on the team with 7.2 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.
However, Severe’s main objective has been distributing the ball to her teammates, a job she has done quite well this season. She has logged five-or-more handouts in 11 games this year, including four of her last seven games. Severe charted a season-high eight assists in the regular-season finale at Syracuse, and she now is averaging 5.0 apg. in her last seven contests. In addition, she owns a team-best 1.11 assist/turnover ratio.
WISH THEY ALL COULD BE CALIFORNIA GIRLS
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 (12.5 ppg.), rebounding (5.6 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.511), ranking 19th in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring. 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 16 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 with a .565 field goal percentage in her last six games.
RATAY ERUPTS FROM THE LAND OF PLENTY
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.
COOL AS ICE
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.
START ME UP
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 68 in a row). Ratay has started 126 of 127 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 Katryna Gaither and Mollie Peirick for sixth place on Notre Dame’s career games played list – Gaither played in 128 games from 1993-97, while Peirick saw action in 128 games from 1994-98.
RATAY’S MILESTONE WATCH
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 1,715 points, 645 rebounds and 235 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 256, surpassing the standard previously held by Sheila McMillen (249 from 1995-99). Ratay needs five treys to move into the top 35 on the NCAA career three-point list.
Some other milestones also are within Ratay’s reach. She ranks fourth on the Irish all-time scoring list with 1,715 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 127 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 six appearances this year.
Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.872) and three-point field goal (.476) 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.
RATAY SELECTED TO VERIZON ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT SECOND TEAM
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 AMONG RECENT WINS LEADERS
Notre Dame has won 179 games over the last seven seasons, which stands as the seventh-most wins of any school in the country during that time.
NOTRE DAME HAS HAD REASON TO SMILE DURING 2002-03 SPORTS SEASON
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 almost as well, with both the men’s and women’s basketball teams advancing to NCAA Tournament play. The Notre Dame fencing teams also qualified the maximum 12 fencers for the NCAA Championships, 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 has advanced to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Super Six quarterfinals at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, and the Irish women’s swimming team will send 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).
HALF AND HALF
Over the last three seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 61-4 (.938) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign (14-3 this season) when they go into the dressing room with the lead.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE …
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 112-4 (.966) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added 10 wins to that count this season with victories over USC, Arizona State, IPFW, Colorado State, West Virginia, St. John’s (twice), Villanova, Georgetown and Syracuse.
Freshman forward Courtney LaVere earned a spot on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team this season.
… BUT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SCORE IF YOU WANT TO WIN
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. 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.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
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).
IRISH HAIL FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA
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.
FUN WITH NUMBERS
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.
NOW THAT?S A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 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.
JAMMIN’ THE JOYCE
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 9). 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.
NOTRE DAME FACES ONE TOUGH SLATE
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 March 14 edition of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) RPI rankings, produced by Richie Summerville.
Upon closer examination, seven 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. 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.
NOTRE DAME ON THE AIRWAVES
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 (www.und.com) 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.
IRISH ON THE SMALL SCREEN
Notre Dame is getting a good deal of face time in 2002-03, playing on television nine 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. All games in the NCAA Tournament will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN FullCourt.
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.
THE MUFFET McGRAW SHOW
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).
ANNE WEESE ADDED TO NOTRE DAME ROSTER
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.
KELSEY WICKS LEAVES IRISH WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PROGRAM
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.
NOTRE DAME INKS PAIR OF TOP 20 PREP STANDOUTS IN EARLY SIGNING PERIOD
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.
McGRAW INDUCTED INTO SAINT JOSEPH’S UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME
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 361-137 (.725) record (449-178, .716 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.
IRISH ASSISTANT COACH FEATURED IN NATIONAL MEDIA OUTLETS
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, WNBA.com 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 provides motivational tips for young student-athletes.
TICKETS ON SALE FOR 2003 NOTRE DAME WOMEN?S BASKETBALL BANQUET
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.
IRISH ENJOY SUCCESSFUL SUMMER TRIP TO EUROPE
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.
UP NEXT: NCAA EAST REGIONAL
The winner of this weekend’s Manhattan subregional will advance to the NCAA East Regional in Dayton, Ohio. The regional semifinals will take place March 30, with the regional final slated for April 1. All games will be played at the University of Dayton Arena and will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2.