Freshman guard Ashley Barlow tied her career highs with 10 rebounds and four assists in her NCAA Tournament debut Sunday vs. California.

Irish Set To Face No. 2 North Carolina In NCAA Second-Round Game

March 19, 2007

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2007 NCAA Dallas Region — Second Round
#9 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (20-11 / 10-6 BIG EAST) vs.
#1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels (31-3 / 11-3 ACC)

DATE: March 20, 2007
TIME: 9:30 p.m. ET
AT: Pittsburgh, Pa. // Petersen Events Center (12,508)
SERIES: Notre Dame leads 2-0
LAST MTG: 12/3/00 (ND 78-55)
TICKETS: (800) 643-7488
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1490 AM // Sean Stires, p-b-p
TV: ESPN2 (live)
Linda Cohn, p-b-p
Fran Fraschilla, color
Wendi Nix, sideline


  • Notre Dame goes after its seventh NCAA Sweet 16 berth in 11 seasons.
  • The Irish are 2-1 against No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Opportunity knocks for Notre Dame in a big way on Tuesday night when the Irish square off with No. 2 North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh. Notre Dame is the No. 9 seed in the Dallas Region, while the Tar Heels are the top-seeded club in the region.

Notre Dame advanced to round two for the 11th time in 12 years with a 62-59 victory over eighth-seeded California on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Irish raced out to a 14-4 lead and went up by as many as 11 points in the second half before the Golden Bears rallied to take a two-point lead. But, Notre Dame used an 8-0 run late in the second half and got some clutch free throw shooting in the final minute to lock up the victory and claim a ticket to the second round.

Junior guard and Pittsburgh-area product Charel Allen scored a team-high 13 points for the Irish, while freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner added 12 points in her NCAA Tournament debut. Freshman guard Ashley Barlow chipped in a career-high-tying 10 rebounds and four assists for the Irish.


  • Notre Dame is not ranked.
  • North Carolina is ranked second in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.

Web Sites

  • Notre Dame:
  • North Carolina:
  • ACC:

Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 20th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the country’s leading women’s basketball powers. The Irish have appeared in 14 NCAA Tournaments (including a current streak of 12 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the previous 10 years. Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four twice, winning college basketball’s ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.

In its history, Notre Dame has developed eight All-Americans, nine WNBA players (including six draft picks in the past six years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 30th season in 2006-07, the Irish own an all-time record of 613-277 (.689).

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw Saint Joseph’s ’77

  • 20th season at Notre Dame
  • 449-178 (.716) at Notre Dame.
  • 537-219 (.710) in 25 years as head coach.


  • 2001 consensus National Coach of the Year
  • Four-time Naismith Coach of the Year finalist
  • Four-time conference Coach of the Year
  • BIG EAST Conference (2001)
  • Midwestern Collegiate Conference (1991)
  • North Star Conference (1988)
  • East Coast Conference (@ Lehigh) (1983)

A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Although the final weeks of the 2006-07 regular season may not have unfolded as Notre Dame hoped, it’s hard to deny the Irish have made significant progress this season, even in the face of numerous challenges.

With a young and inexperienced roster that has only two seniors, and subsequently losing its top returning scorer from a year ago due to a preseason knee injury, Notre Dame was not expected to do much in ’06-07. At least, that’s what the BIG EAST coaches thought, as they picked the Irish to finish 11th in their preseason poll (a survey taken before Lindsay Schrader had her season-ending ACL tear on Oct. 15).

However, the Notre Dame players and staff pulled together to prove the doubters wrong, and they have been largely successful at that goal, rising up to finish tied for fifth in the BIG EAST regular-season standings. The Irish also have collected two wins over Top 25 opponents (Purdue and Louisville) and three over conference champions (Purdue, Bowling Green and Prairie View A&M), while sporting a sleeker offensive style that has yielded 70.7 points per game. That’s a significant improvement over the previous five Notre Dame squads, none of which has averaged better than 66.3 points per night (including last year’s 64.5 ppg. mark).

The Irish also have employed an aggressive high-risk, high-reward defense that has rattled opponents to the tune of 20.5 turnovers per game (including a BIG EAST-best 10.7 steals per night). However, the flip side has seen the Irish allow opponents to shoot .419 from the floor (.367 from the three-point line).

Junior guard Charel Allen has been one of the main offensive catalysts for the Irish, averaging a team-high 16.9 ppg. (good for seventh in the league). A first-team all-BIG EAST selection and finalist for the Kodak/WBCA All-America Team, she also is logging a team-best 6.2 rebounds per game and 2.0 steals per night.

Allen’s classmate and backcourt running partner, Tulyah Gaines, was easily one of the conference’s most improved players this season. The speedy Gaines has stoked the Notre Dame offensive fire to an even hotter level, averaging 9.6 points and 3.8 assists per game. Gaines, who came into the season with a 3.7 ppg. career scoring average, has scored 20 points in a game three times this year, including a career-high 27 points on Jan. 10 in a win over Cincinnati.

The most pleasing contributions of the year for Notre Dame have come from its three BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks, each of whom ranks among the top 10 rookie scorers in the league. Guard Ashley Barlow is second on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg.) and rebounding (5.5 rpg.), and had a career-high 21 points twice (vs. Prairie View A&M and at DePaul). Guard Melissa Lechlitner (6.4 ppg., 2.8 apg.) was sharp down the stretch with a 1.55 assist/turnover ratio in league play. And, center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.4 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) logged her first career double-double at South Florida with 11 points and 18 rebounds (an Irish freshman record).

Potent Notables About The Irish

  • Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 11 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 267 victories in that span.
  • Notre Dame’s incoming class of 2007 (announced Nov. 8) has been ranked 11th in the nation by Blue Star Basketball, marking the 11th consecutive season that the Irish have had a top-25 recruiting class. Notre Dame is one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have an active streak of that length. A thumbnail sketch of the newest Irish signees can be found on page 10 of these notes.
  • On Feb. 24, incoming freshman forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) was named to the McDonald’s High School All-America Team and will play in the McDonald’s High School All-America Game March 28 at 5:30 p.m. (ET) inside Louisville’s Freedom Hall. Peters is the fourth future Notre Dame player in six years to be named a McDonald’s All-American, joining Courtney LaVere (2002), current Irish senior forward Crystal Erwin (2003) and current Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader (2005).
  • Notre Dame currently is ranked 11th nationally in attendance (6,364 fans per game). Last season marked the sixth consecutive campaign the Irish were among the national top 20 in attendance (No. 11 ranking). Notre Dame also has attracted 5,000-or-more fans to 94 of its last 96 home games, including three Joyce Center sellouts of 11,418 (most recently on Dec. 31, 2005 vs. Tennessee).
  • For the sixth time in school history, Notre Dame has been selected to host NCAA Tournament action, as the Joyce Center will be the site of NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games in 2010. In four of the five previous instances, Notre Dame was involved in NCAA Tournament play, going 6-1 all-time and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 three times (2000, 2001, 2004), with only a first-round loss to Minnesota in 1994 blotting the resume. Notre Dame also hosted the 1983 NCAA Mideast Regional at the Joyce Center, with Georgia defeating Tennessee, 67-63 in the regional final.
  • The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as six Notre Dame players have been selected in the past six seasons. All-America guard Megan Duffy was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Minnesota Lynx in the third round (31st overall pick) of the 2006 WNBA Draft. Other active Notre Dame players in the WNBA during the 2006 season included Ruth Riley and Jacqueline Batteast (league champion Detroit Shock), while Niele Ivey sat out the campaign as a free agent, rehabilitating an injury after previously playing with Indiana, Detroit and Phoenix. Riley’s WNBA title with Detroit was her second (she was the 2003 WNBA Finals MVP), while Batteast earned her first pro crown in ’06. In February 2007, Riley was traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars.
  • Notre Dame has been an elite program in the classroom as well. The Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2006. Notre Dame was one of 16 Division I-A programs to achieve this distinction, and one of only two BIG EAST programs (Syracuse was the other). Furthermore, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a perfect 51-for-51 success rate).

A Quick Look At North Carolina
With three starters and 11 letterwinners back from last year’s NCAA Final Four club, North Carolina appears to have all the tools necessary to make a run for college basketball’s Holy Grail. The Tar Heels (31-3) have been among the elite teams in the country all year long, and currently are ranked second in the nation in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls.

The top seed in the Dallas Region, UNC opened NCAA Tournament play on Sunday with a 95-38 thrashing of Prairie View A&M in Pittsburgh. The Tar Heels roared out to a 24-4 lead and never took their foot off the gas the rest of the way, building their lead to as much as 60 points in the latter stages of the second half. Senior forward Camille Little and freshman forward Jessica Breland shared game-high scoring honors with 14 points each for North Carolina.

Senior All-America guard Ivory Latta is the Tar Heels’ leader in scoring (16.3 ppg.), assists (4.4 apg.) and three-point percentage (.419). Little is second in scoring (14.3 ppg.) and third in rebounding (6.2 rpg.), while junior forward Erlana Larkins is third in scoring (12.8 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (9.5 rpg.) with a .553 field goal percentage.

Sylvia Hatchell is in her 21st season at North Carolina with a 476-191 (.714) record. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer is in her 32nd season walking the sidelines with a career record of 748-271 (.734), although she is 0-2 all-time against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-North Carolina Series
Notre Dame and North Carolina have met only twice previously on the hardwood, with the Irish winning both prior meetings. Curiously, Tuesday’s game will be the third consecutive contest in the series to be played on a neutral floor, with the other games occurring in Richmond, Va. (1999) and Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (2000).

The Last Time Notre Dame and North Carolina Met
Niele Ivey scored all but two of her 18 points in the decisive first half as No. 4 Notre Dame beat North Carolina 78-55 on Dec. 3, 2000, in the Honda Elite 4 Holiday Classic held at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Ruth Riley added 17 points while Ericka Haney added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Irish, who improved to 6-0 for the second time in school history.

North Carolina (3-3) was led by LaQuanda Barksdale’s 14 points. Barksdale, UNC’s leading scorer entering the game, was held to 6-of-24 shooting, but did have 17 rebounds.

Notre Dame opened up a 20-point lead less than 10 minutes into the game, as Ivey dropped in four three-pointers and Alicia Ratay added two. Ratay had all 12 of her points in the first half.

The Irish eventually expanded the margin to 23 points with 4:28 remaining in the half. Notre Dame had shot 57 percent (16-for-28) from the field to that point, but then missed its last nine attempts.

The Tar Heels shot only 22 percent in the first half and were held scoreless for more than seven minutes spanning halftime.

Notre Dame began the second half on a 9-2 run, and pushed the margin to 30 points, 51-21, with 16:52 to play. The Irish cruised from there and only in the final minute did North Carolina cut the deficit to 20 points.

The Tar Heels received a bad break early in the game when starting guard Juana Brown appeared to injure her right knee while trying to block a shot. She was carried off the court and did not return, but her injury was not believed to be serious.

Other Notre Dame-North Carolina Series Tidbits

  • Notre Dame and North Carolina are two of the 10 winningest programs in NCAA Tournament history (min. 20 games played). The Irish are ninth with a .657 winning percentage (23-12), while the Tar Heels are 10th with a .653 success ratio (32-17).
  • Notre Dame is 10-1 (.909) all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina, including a 7-1 (.875) record away from home. Most recently, the Irish downed Duke, 76-65 on Nov. 17, 2004 in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT at the Joyce Center. The Blue Devils also are the lone North Carolina school to defeat Notre Dame, winning 80-62 on Nov. 22, 1997 in Durham, N.C.
  • Freshman center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg) is only the second North Carolina native in the 30-year history of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program. Back in the 1980-81 season, Raleigh resident Mary Joan Forbes suited up for the Irish in their first season at the Division I level.
  • Notre Dame assistant coach Jonathan Tsipis is a 1996 graduate of North Carolina, having earned his bachelor of science degree in pharmacy while in Chapel Hill.
  • Notre Dame and North Carolina have met in three other team sports this year. The Tar Heels defeated the Irish in the NCAA women’s soccer national championship match, 2-1, while Notre Dame ousted UNC in football, 45-26, and women’s tennis, 5-2.

Notre Dame vs. The Atlantic Coast Conference
The Irish are 38-15 (.717) all-time against current Atlantic Coast Conference teams, with a 20-11 (.645) record away from home (road/neutral combined). The vast majority of Notre Dame’s contests against the ACC have come against Boston College and Miami (Fla.), two schools who formerly were members of the BIG EAST Conference with the Irish.

Notre Dame met an ACC school in the NCAA Tournament for the first time last year, when Boston College handed the Irish a season-ending 78-61 loss in West Lafayette, Ind.

Other Tidbits From The Pittsburgh Site

  • Notre Dame is quite familiar with the University of Pittsburgh and the Petersen Events Center, with the host Panthers playing alongside the Irish in the BIG EAST Conference. Notre Dame is 9-1 all-time in the Steel City (8-1 vs. Pittsburgh, 1-0 vs. Duquesne), and 3-1 at the Petersen Events Center.
  • Notre Dame junior guard Charel Allen is a native of Monessen, Pa., located approximately 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, and graduated from Monessen High School in 2004. Allen remains one of leading scorers in Pennsylvania high school history, having piled up 3,110 points during her storied prep career. In three prior games at the Petersen Events Center (including Sunday vs. California), Allen is averaging 15.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists with a .444 field goal percentage (20-of-45).
  • Second-year Notre Dame coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio graduated from Pittsburgh in 2004 with a degree in business administration. During her time there, Menio spent two years as a marketing assistant with the Panther women’s basketball program, and in conjunction with the debut of the Petersen Events Center, she aided in the program’s 114-percent increase in attendance from 2002-04 and the first women’s basketball sellout in school history (12,632 vs. Connecticut on Jan. 25, 2003).
  • Three members of the Irish staff are natives of Pennsylvania — head coach Muffet McGraw (Pottsville), assistant coach Angie Potthoff (Erie) and coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio (Wilkes-Barre).
  • Notre Dame assistant coach Angie Potthoff spent three seasons (2002-05) coaching the girls’ basketball team at Beaver (Pa.) Area High School, located about 45 minutes northwest of Pittsburgh. Potthoff was an assistant for two seasons before taking over as head coach for the 2004-05 campaign.
  • Potthoff also was a three-year college assistant from 1999-2002, spending the first of those seasons as a graduate assistant at Indiana (Pa.) University, located approximately 70 miles east of Pittsburgh, She then worked two years (2000-02) as an assistant at Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa. (located near Pittsburgh International Airport).
  • Notre Dame associate head coach Coquese Washington and Prairie View A&M head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke were teammates with the WNBA’s Houston Comets during the 2000 season, helping that franchise win its fourth consecutive league championship.
  • Notre Dame sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) and Tennessee redshirt sophomore forward Candace Parker (Naperville, Ill./Naperville Central) have been friends for several years, dating back to their grade-school days, when the pair were teammates on an AAU team coached by Parker’s father, Larry. The two young stars still chat occasionally via e-mail and text messaging.
  • Notre Dame freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner is a 2006 graduate of South Bend St. Joseph’s High School and spent three seasons (2004-06) in the Indians’ backcourt with recent Tennessee signee Sydney Smallbone. Lechlitner and Smallbone led SBSJ to the 2005 Indiana Class 3A title, and state semifinal berths in ’04 and ’06.
  • Tennessee head strength and conditioning coach Heather Mason spent five years on the staff at Notre Dame from 1998-2003. In addition, two of Mason’s graduate assistants on the UT strength and conditioning staff are twins Jessica and Kristen Kinder, who were standout volleyball players for the Irish from 2000-03.
  • Drake is one of six teams ever to advance to the NCAA Tournament with a losing record. The first team to do that? Notre Dame, which entered the 1992 NCAA Tournament at 14-15 following a 59-54 upset win over top-seeded Xavier in the finals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament. Making their NCAA Tournament debut, the Irish then lost at UCLA, 93-72.

Notre Dame In The NCAA Tournament
Notre Dame is in the midst of its 14th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and 12th in a row, as it competes in first- and second-round action this week in Pittsburgh. The Irish have a .657 winning percentage (23-12) in NCAA Tournament play, which ranks ninth all-time (minimum of 20 games played).

In addition, Notre Dame’s current streak of 12 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances ranks eighth in the record books.

Here are some other facts about the Irish in the “Big Dance” (see page 6 sidebar for Notre Dame’s year-by-year NCAA Tournament results and check pp. 156-173 in the Notre Dame media guide for box scores and recaps):

  • Each of Notre Dame’s 14 NCAA Tournament appearances have come during the tenure of 20th-year head coach Muffet McGraw.
  • With its victory over California on Sunday, the Irish now have won their NCAA Tournament first-round game in 11 of the past 12 seasons, corresponding exactly with both their current NCAA Tournament appearance streak, as well as their membership in the BIG EAST Conference (1995-96 to present).
  • Notre Dame is one of 10 schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past decade (1997-2006). The others are: Connecticut and Tennessee (10 times), Duke (nine times), Georgia, LSU, Louisiana Tech and North Carolina (seven times), and Purdue and Texas Tech (six times).
  • Notre Dame is one of 11 schools (three of which are playing in Pittsburgh this weekend) to make multiple appearances at the NCAA Final Four and win at least one national championship, going to the semifinals in 1997 and winning it all in 2001. The others in this elite club are: Connecticut (eight trips, five titles), Louisiana Tech (10 trips, two titles), Maryland (three trips, one title), North Carolina (two trips, one title), Old Dominion (three trips, one title), Purdue (three trips, one title), Stanford (six trips, two titles), Tennessee (16 trips, six titles), Texas (three trips, one title) and USC (three trips, two titles).

Sowing The Seeds
Notre Dame has been seeded ninth for the third time in 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, and the second consecutive year. The first time the Irish acquired a No. 9 seed was 1998, and they promptly defeated both eighth-seeded Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State), 78-64, and No. 1 seed Texas Tech, 74-59, on the Lady Raiders’ home court at the Lubbock (Texas) Municipal Coliseum, to advance to the Sweet 16. Notre Dame then returned to Lubbock the following week and dropped a 70-65 decision to fourth-seeded Purdue in the Midwest Regional semifinals. Last season, the Irish were a No. 9 seed and fell to eighth-seeded Boston College, 78-61 in the first round of the Albuquerque Region in West Lafayette, Ind.

The Irish have played 18 NCAA Tournament games as a lower seed and have posted a 9-9 (.500) record. Notre Dame also has twice advanced to the Sweet 16 as a ninth seed or lower. In addition to the aforementioned 1998 run, the Irish pulled off that feat in 2003 as a No. 11 seed, ousting sixth-seeded Arizona (59-47) and No. 3 seed Kansas State (59-53) in Manhattan, Kan.

Giant Killers
Notre Dame is no stranger to playing the spoiler role in the NCAA Tournament. Three times previously, the Irish have played a top-three seed (and on their home floors, to boot), and has come away with a win each time. Here’s a quick look at each of these signature victories:

  • March 17, 1997 (#6 ND 86, @ #3 Texas 83) — Notre Dame shoots 54.7 percent from the floor, including 66.7 percent in the second half, to reach its first Sweet 16 (and eventually its first Final Four). All-Americans Beth Morgan and Katryna Gaither score 29 points apiece, with Gaither adding a game-high 11 rebounds. (recap/box on pp. 158 of Notre Dame media guide)
  • March 15, 1998 (#9 ND 74, @#1 Texas Tech 59) — The Irish use runs of 9-0 and 12-0 in the second half to erase a three-point halftime deficit and shock the homestanding Lady Raiders. Ruth Riley shook off first-half foul trouble to score a game-high 23 points for the Irish. (recap/box on pp. 161 of Notre Dame media guide)
  • March 25, 2003 (#11 ND 59, @#3 Kansas State 53) — The Irish fashion a masterful defensive performance, holding K-State without a field goal for 12:43 crossing over halftime, while limiting the Wildcats to one offensive rebound in that stretch. Le’Tania Severe scored 17 points and Megan Duffy added 10 points, including four free throws in the final 61 seconds to secure the victory. (recap/box on pp. 169-170 of Notre Dame media guide)

It Hinges On Defense
Notre Dame’s success in the NCAA Tournament can be directly traced to its performance at the defensive end of the floor. In their 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, the Irish are 14-1 (.933) when holding the opposition to 60 points or less — the only foe to escape a low-scoring battle with Notre Dame was Penn State, which won 55-49 in the 2004 NCAA East Regional semifinals at the Hartford Civic Center.

Looking For Postseason Productivity
Come NCAA Tournament time, the Irish have preferred a low-scoring “grind-it-out” style of play. In fact, Notre Dame has not scored more than 62 points in a regulation NCAA Tournament game since it defeated Purdue, 68-66 to win the 2001 national championship. The lone exception was a 69-65 overtime win over Southwest Missouri State in 2004, a game that was tied at 59-all after regulation.

In an interesting twist, Notre Dame has scored either 61 or 62 points in its last four NCAA Tournament games, dating back to 2005.

Notre Dame Against The NCAA Field
Notre Dame has played 14 of its 31 games this season against teams that are in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, registering a 7-7 (.500) record vs. the rest of this year’s NCAA Tournament field.

A BIG EAST Bonanza
Notre Dame is one of eight BIG EAST Conference schools that earned invitations to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, joining a club that includes five-time national champion Connecticut, as well as West Virginia (making its second-ever appearance) and first-time participant Pittsburgh.

Through the first round of action this year, the BIG EAST more than held its own, going 7-1, with the lone loss being DePaul’s 55-54 setback vs. Georgia Tech at Austin, Texas. Two other conferences are undefeated after first-round play (ACC 6-0, SEC 5-0), but no league registered more opening-round victories than the BIG EAST.

This year, the BIG EAST tied its own record for the highest number of teams from one conference invited to a single NCAA Tournament, a mark the BIG EAST reached in 2004. The SEC first set that record in 1999, and duplicated it in 2002.

The BIG EAST also has two teams participating in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), meaning 10 conference schools have advanced to postseason play this year. That’s one off last year’s record of 11, which included seven NCAA and four WNIT qualifiers.

Don’t Mess With Tradition
The Irish have developed two traditions that should be quite evident at this weekend’s NCAA Tournament.

  • Green nails — this tradition started for Notre Dame at the 1997 NCAA Tournament. The Irish chose to wear green nail polish on their fingers prior to their second-round St. Patrick’s Day game at Texas, which Notre Dame won, 86-83. The Irish ended up going all the way to the NCAA Final Four that season and the green nail polish was here to stay.
  • Irish jig — although not reserved simply for NCAA Tournament play, this unique pre-game ritual has become one of the widely-recognized traditions of Notre Dame women’s basketball. Just prior to the introduction of starting lineups, the Irish players will circle up in the lane with a basketball at their feet. As the Notre Dame pep band plays, the team will perform the Irish Jig (a popular step with Notre Dame fans, especially the student body) with the ball bouncing around in the midst of their dance. This tradition is believed to have started during the 1999-2000 season, but picked up steam during Notre Dame’s 2000-01 national championship run and has been part of the Irish pre-game ritual ever since.

Twenty Questions
With Sunday’s victory over California, Notre Dame has registered its 13th 20-win season in the past 14 years. The Irish also have reached that milestone 21 times in the 30 years of the program’s existence, including 17 times in the first 20 seasons of the Muffet McGraw era.

Allen Named Kodak/WBCA All-America Team Finalist
Junior guard Charel Allen has been chosen as one of 52 finalists for the Kodak/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-America Team, it was announced March 8 by the WBCA and the Eastman Kodak Company. With Allen’s selection (the first of her career), Notre Dame now has had at least one Kodak/WBCA All-America Team finalist in 10 of the past 12 seasons, with Ruth Riley (2001) and Jacqueline Batteast (2005) earning a place on the prestigious 10-player Kodak/WBCA All-America Team.

Allen was a first-team all-BIG EAST honoree this season after nearly doubling her scoring average to 16.9 points per game, good for seventh in the conference. She also ranked among the top 10 in the league in free throw percentage (third – .841) and steals (eighth – 2.0 spg.), while scoring in double figures 28 times in 31 games (including 10 20-point outings and a career-high 31 points vs. St. John’s on Jan. 16). Allen was even stronger during BIG EAST play, ranking second in the loop in scoring (19.3 ppg.), fourth in free throw percentage (.862), tying for 13th in steals (1.75 spg.) and tying for 14th in rebounding (7.0 rpg.). The 5-foot-11 wing also recently became Notre Dame’s 23rd 1,000-point scorer, eclipsing that mark in the regular-season finale at DePaul, and now standing 22nd in school history with 1,032 career points.

These Kids Can Play
The Notre Dame women’s basketball team was well represented when the awards were handed out at the BIG EAST Awards Banquet, held on March 2 in the Hartford Hilton Ballroom. Junior guard Charel Allen was a first-team all-conference selection (the 10th for Notre Dame in its 12-year league membership), while a trio of Irish freshmen — guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner, and center Erica Williamson — all were chosen for the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team, setting a conference record for rookie team selections in one year.

Barlow ranks second on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg.) and rebounding (5.5 rpg.), while also placing among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in free throw percentage (fifth – .826) and steals (10th – 1.93 spg.). Playing primarily as Notre Dame’s “sixth man,” Barlow has scored in double digits 15 times this season, including a career-high 21 points on two occasions (vs. Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28 and at DePaul on Feb. 26). In addition, she posted a double-double in her second career game, logging 19 points and 10 rebounds in an overtime win over Bowling Green.

Lechlitner has proven to be a solid backup at point guard for Notre Dame this season, averaging 6.4 points and 2.8 assists in 24 minutes per night as a reserve. She has eight double-figure scoring games to her credit and has dished out five-or-more assists in five games. What’s more, she recorded a 1.36 assist/turnover ratio this season, including a 1.55 ratio in conference games that was good for seventh in the BIG EAST. Lechlitner had a season-high 18 points vs. Syracuse on Jan. 20 and her nine assists vs. St. John’s four nights earlier were the most by an Irish freshman since 1995.

Williamson has been a highly-productive reserve in the post for Notre Dame this season, with 6.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game (the latter figure standing third on the team). She also is tied for eighth in the BIG EAST with 1.3 blocks per game, while her 1.13 bpg. in conference play put her 11th in the loop. The 6-4 center also found her way into the Irish record book, setting a new school standard for freshmen with 18 rebounds in an overtime loss at South Florida on Jan. 13.

Coming into this season, Notre Dame had five BIG EAST All-Freshman Team selections, with Allen the most recent honoree in 2005. The others were: Ruth Riley (1998), Alicia Ratay (2000), Jacqueline Batteast (2002) and Courtney LaVere (2003).

The Deuce Is Loose
Junior guard Charel Allen is playing some of the best basketball of her college career during the past six weeks. The Monessen, Pa., native is averaging 19.4 points in the past 14 games, cracking the 20-point mark eight times and scoring 25-or-more points on six occasions.

Allen also scored 25+ points in Notre Dame’s back-to-back-to-back wins over DePaul, Villanova and Providence. Previously, the last time an Irish player tallied at least 25 points in three consecutive games was from March 17-28, 1997, when Katryna Gaither closed her career with four straight 25-point outings in the NCAA Tournament as the Irish made their first trip to the Final Four — at Texas (29), vs. Alabama (26), vs. George Washington (25) and vs. Tennessee (28).

Having A Grand Time
On a runner in the lane with 4:19 to play at DePaul on Feb. 26, junior guard Charel Allen became the 23rd player in school history to score 1,000 career points. Allen is the 14th Irish women’s cager in the past 13 seasons to do so, with at least one Notre Dame player scoring her 1,000th career point in 10 of the past 13 seasons (1994-95 to present).

Pine Time Players
Part of the reason for Notre Dame’s success this season can be traced to the production the Irish have gotten from their bench (comprised almost entirely of their freshmen class). The Notre Dame reserves are averaging 23.1 points per game and are outscoring the opposition’s bench by 8.5 points per game.

For the year, the Irish second unit has outscored the opponent reserves in 24 of 31 games (17-7 record).

On The Learning Curve
While some would agree Notre Dame has performed above outside expectations this season, the youthful Irish have opened some eyes even in defeat. In fact, Notre Dame has been either leading or trailing by just one possession during the second half in eight of its last nine losses (three of those coming at the hands of Top 25 opponents).

Here’s a rundown of those “educational” losses for the Irish this season:

• Dec. 3 vs. Indiana (L, 54-51) — led 41-33 with 11:54 to play … had four possessions to tie or take lead in final 2:45 but didn’t score.

• Dec. 30 at #4 Tennessee (L, 78-54) — trailed 31-29 one minute into second half before UT used 11-2 run to take control.

• Jan. 13 at South Florida (L, 87-78 OT) — forced OT on three-pointer with 11 seconds left in regulation … scored first basket of OT, then remained within one possession for first half of OT period despite losing three players to fouls.

• Jan. 23 at #17/18 Marquette (L, 71-62) — missed FT that would have tied game at 42-42 with 11:39 left.

• Jan. 31 at Pittsburgh (L, 71-62) — led 28-26 at halftime … rallied from 10-point deficit in final three minutes and had two looks at tying 3FG in final 30 seconds, but neither shot connected.

• Feb. 24 vs. #21/22 Rutgers (L, 76-60) — trailed 39-36 with 15:21 to play before RU pulled clear with an 11-4 run.

• Feb. 26 at DePaul (L, 87-73) — led 39-38 with 19:17 left before DPU went on a 10-0 run to move ahead for good.

• March 3 vs. DePaul (L, 76-71) — led 44-38 with 17:03 to play … tied game at 66-66 with 3:44 left, but missed second of two FT that would have put team ahead … after falling behind, had two other chances to tie, including 3FG attempt with nine seconds left, but it rattled out.

The Best Things In Life Are Free
Notre Dame ranks 13th in the nation in free throw percentage (.760), as of March 16. Should it hold up, that figure would shatter the school’s single-season record for foul shooting (.743), currently held by the 1996-97 Final Four squad.

Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is shooting 72.6 percent from the foul line (119-of-164) this season inside the final five minutes of regulation and overtime.

Upon closer inspection, the Irish have gotten some of their most critical free throw production from their freshmen — guards Melissa Lechlitner and Ashley Barlow are a combined 32-of-39 (.821) at the charity stripe down the stretch.

Poise Under Pressure
The Irish are 10-5 this season in games decided by 10 points or less, including a 5-2 record when the margin is five points or fewer. Going back the previous two seasons (2004-05 to present), Notre Dame is 13-6 in five-point games and 30-12 in 10-point contests — with four of those 12 losses coming in overtime.

In addition, five times this season, the Irish have sent a player to the free throw line with less than five seconds remaining in regulation or overtime and the game hanging in the balance. In those clutch situations, Notre Dame is 9-for-10 at the charity stripe, with the only miss being a semi-intentional one by senior guard Breona Gray on the second of two tries with 1.2 seconds to go in a 60-59 win at Valparaiso on Dec. 19.

Junior Achievement
The common basketball adage holds that college players make their biggest improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons. However, for Notre Dame, it’s been the time between the sophomore and junior years that has been conducive to the most development.

Three of the top four Irish scorers this season are juniors and all three are posting the best scoring averages of their careers — guards Charel Allen (16.9 ppg.) and Tulyah Gaines (9.6 ppg.), and center Melissa D’Amico (8.1 ppg.). Allen came into the year with an 8.1 ppg. career average, while D’Amico had a two-year ratio of 4.0 ppg., and Gaines was averaging 3.7 ppg. Between them, the junior trio had a combined 37 double-figure scoring games in two seasons entering the 2006-07 campaign — so far this year alone, they have 54 double-digit efforts.

Spread The Wealth
The Irish have fielded at least three double-figure scorers in 19 games this season, going 15-4 in those contests (losses at Penn State, South Florida, No. 17/18 Marquette and DePaul). Notre Dame also has had four double-figure scorers on 11 occasions (9-2 record, losses at USF in overtime and at DePaul) and five double-digit scorers four times (3-1).

The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame’s aggressive defense has forced 20.5 turnovers per game this season, logging 20-or-more takeaways in 19 games. In addition, the Irish caused an opponent season-high 30 turnovers at Michigan on Dec. 1, the first 30-turnover outing by the Notre Dame defense since Feb. 25, 2004 (37 turnovers by Miami at the Joyce Center).

The Irish also lead the BIG EAST Conference with 10.61 steals per night. In fact, Notre Dame has posted double-digit steal totals in 19 games this season, with junior guard Tulyah Gaines committing the most larcenies to date (65, 2.1 per game, sixth in BIG EAST).

In addition, Notre Dame has three players (Gaines, junior guard Charel Allen and freshman guard Ashley Barlow) with at least 60 steals this season. That feat had not been accomplished by the Irish since 1996-97, when Jeannine Augustin (92), Katryna Gaither (76) and Beth Morgan (66) all eclipsed the 60-steal mark in leading Notre Dame to the NCAA Final Four (the Irish finished with 394 thefts that year, the second-highest total in school history).

Game #31 Recap: California
Notre Dame had green uniforms, green fingernails and one of the greenest lineups in the NCAA women’s tournament. By the end of a tightly played game that tested the inexperienced Irish’s nerves and composure, they looked liked veterans.

Junior guard Tulyah Gaines made two free throws with 16.5 seconds remaining after junior guard Charel Allen scored a key basket and set up another, and the Irish rallied for a 62-59 victory over California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.

The ninth-seeded Irish (20-11) relied on Allen’s 13 points and freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner’s 12 to advance to a second-round game Tuesday in the Dallas Regional against top-seeded North Carolina (31-3), also in Pittsburgh.

The Irish reached the second round for the 11th time in 12 years despite having only two seniors — a lack of experience that led to them being picked to finish 11th in the Big East. Maybe it was fitting they painted their fingernails green, a tradition any time the Irish play on or near St. Patrick’s Day, and wore green uniforms for the first time since last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Allen, a former Pittsburgh area high school star playing before a contingent of hometown fans, had an uneven game. She missed 10 shots on 6-of-16 shooting, turned the ball over four times and did little offensively for a long stretch of the second half as Cal (23-9) rallied from a 36-25 deficit to take four separate leads. Almost all the Bears’ offense came from sophomore inside players Ashley Walker (20 points) and Devanei Hampton (13 points).

But after Walker missed two free throws, senior forward Crystal Erwin scored on a feed in the lane from Allen, and Allen then scored herself after freshman guard Ashley Barlow’s steal to make it 56-51.

Freshman center Erica Williamson scored from the lane to up the Irish’s lead to seven points, but the Bears had one more comeback left in them. Lauren Greif hit a three-pointer and Natasha Vital scored on a four-player fast break to cut it to 58-56.

Lechlitner, one of the Irish’s four rookies, gave the Bears another chance by missing the front end of a one-and-one with 31 seconds to go. But Hampton dribbled the ball out of bounds off her foot with 19 seconds remaining, and Gaines took advantage by making her two free throws.

Greif made three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt with seven seconds remaining, but the Irish dribbled the clock down to a half-second remaining. Lechlitner then made two more free throws to seal it and end Notre Dame’s three-game losing streak.

The Irish played at the Petersen Events Center earlier this season — a 71-62 loss to Pitt on Jan. 31 — and they clearly looked more comfortable at the start in opening a 12-2 lead. The noon start also couldn’t have helped the Golden Bears, who looked to still be on Pacific time in their first game in two weeks.

What helped the Irish was Hampton — the Pac-10 Player of the Year — getting into foul trouble and having to sit out 12 minutes in the first half. She drew her third foul with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining, shortly after returning.

The 6-1 Walker, Cal’s other strong sophomore inside player, kept the Bears from getting too far down by going 10-of-10 from the foul line and scoring 12 of their 23 first-half points as the Irish led 32-23 at halftime.

Noting The California Win

  • Notre Dame advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons.
  • Notre Dame registers its 20th victory of the year, posting its 13th 20-win season in the past 14 years and 17th in the 20-year Muffet McGraw era.
  • The Irish are 34-5 (.872) against first-time opponents in the past 12 seasons (1995-96 to present), including a 14-1 (.933) mark since 2000-01 and a 11-2 (.846) record in NCAA Tournament games (and an active 11-game win streak in NCAA play).
  • Notre Dame gains its first-ever win over a Pac-10 Conference opponent in the NCAA Tournament (now 1-2) and rises to 18-16 (.529) all-time against Pac-10 teams.
  • The Irish wore their green road uniforms in Sunday’s NCAA opener vs. Cal, the first time all season they have sported the green threads; Notre Dame is 5-5 (.500) all-time when wearing the green in postseason play, winning an NCAA Tournament game in those colors for the first time since March 17, 2001 (98-49 vs. Alcorn State).
  • The Irish registered at least 10 steals for the 19th time this season; they also now have 329 steals this season, which is fifth on the school’s single-season chart.
  • The Irish attempted 18 three-point field goals, tying for their third-highest total ever in the NCAA Tournament (most since program-record 24 vs. Southwest Missouri State on March 21, 2004).
  • Freshman guard Ashley Barlow tied her career highs for rebounds (10; also vs. Bowling Green on Nov. 13) and assists (4; three other times, most recently vs. Georgetown on Feb. 21).
  • Barlow also had two steals, giving him 60 thefts for the season. She’s the third Irish player this year to reach the 60-steal milestone, marking the first time since 1996-97 that Notre Dame has fielded three 60-steal players in the same season.
  • Junior guard Charel Allen now has the third-highest single-season point total ever posted by a Notre Dame junior with 524 markers; she passed Jacqueline Batteast (512 in 2003-04) and Ruth Riley (518 in 1999-2000) Sunday vs. California.
  • Freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner notched her eighth double-digit scoring game of the season, with four of those coming in the past eight outings.

2006-07: The Anniversary Season

  • 2006-07 marks the 30th season of Notre Dame women’s basketball, with the Irish having compiled an all-time record of 613-277 (.689) since making their varsity debut in 1977-78. Actually, Notre Dame spent its first three seasons at the Division III level, playing under the banner of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) before making the move to Division I status in 1980-81 (the NCAA began sponsoring a women’s basketball championship the following season). The Irish have an overall Division I record of 564-257 (.687).
  • This year also represents Muffet McGraw’s 20th season as the head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame and her 25th campaign overall, including her five-year run at Lehigh (1982-87). McGraw’s record is a stellar one — she is 449-178 (.716) at the helm of the Irish and has a career record of 537-219 (.710) in her silver anniversary season on the sidelines.
  • In addition, Notre Dame is celebrating the 35th anniversary of women’s athletics at the University during the 2006-07 season. All Irish women’s sports teams will hold events to commemorate this milestone during their respective seasons. What’s more, all Notre Dame women’s teams are sporting 35th anniversary logo patches on their uniforms for the ’06-07 campaign.

Half And Half
During the past seven seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 124-12 (.912) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 52 of their last 58 such contests. Notre Dame has led at the break 17 times this year, winning on 15 occasions. The Jan. 31 loss at Pittsburgh was Notre Dame’s first setback when leading at the half since Jan. 7, 2006 (led Seton Hall 32-27, but ended up losing, 74-61 at the Joyce Center).

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 12 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 168-10 (.944) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has held 10 foes to less than 60 points this season, and is 9-1 in those games (losing only to Indiana).

…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. During the past 12 seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 100-3 (.971) 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 topped the 80-point mark nine times this season, winning on each occasion (Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Richmond, Prairie View A&M, Cincinnati, St. John’s, Syracuse and Providence). The nine 80-point games are the most for the Irish in a single season since 2000-01, when Notre Dame reached that level 15 times during its run to the national championship.

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 149 of their last 167 games (.892) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has an 87-13 (.870) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 64 of their last 69 non-BIG EAST contests (.928) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Four of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT) and Indiana this year (54-51), with the fifth defeat coming to Tennessee last year (62-51). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, posting a 299-79 (.791) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. The 2006-07 campaign tied for the most regular-season home games (16) in school history, although in 2004-05, the Irish played host to all four rounds of the Preseason WNIT before its regular 12-game home slate began.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior guard Breona Gray and junior guard Tulyah Gaines are team captains for the 2006-07 season. Both players are serving as captains for the first time in their careers, and each received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame has had 13 of its games televised during the 2006-07 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket were five nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including a pair of games on the ESPN family of networks a week apart in early February. In addition, all of Notre Dame’s games in the NCAA Tournament are televised nationally.

This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 84 televised games, including 51 that were broadcast nationally.

States of Grace
Notre Dame is one of 12 schools in the country to have more than one player on its roster who was named a high school Player of the Year in their home state. Irish junior guard Tulyah Gaines was tapped as the 2004 Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year, while sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader was chosen as the 2005 Illinois Miss Basketball and Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year.

Joyce Center Arena Renovation On Tap
On Oct. 5, Notre Dame announced plans for a nearly $25 million renovation of the Joyce Center arena, including new chairback seating, a four-sided digital video scoreboard, and a club/hospitality area (as part of a new two-story addition to be built on the south side of the facility).

The $24.7 million renovation project has been underwritten with a $12.5 million leadership gift from Philip J. Purcell III, a Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee, and the retired chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley. Upon completion, the arena will be known as Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Purcell gift, combined with other benefactions, including a $5 million gift from 1959 Notre Dame graduate and Tampa Bay Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli, brings the total contributions to the project to $22 million.

In accordance with University policies for new construction, work on the renovation will begin after the project is fully funded and designed. The University is actively seeking additional contributions.

Next Game: NCAA Dallas Regional
With a victory over North Carolina on Tuesday night, Notre Dame would advance to the NCAA Dallas Regional March 25 against the winner of the second-round game between fifth-seeded George Washington and No. 4 seed Texas A&M.

The Irish are 2-0 all-time against GW, with both victories occurring in NCAA Tournament play (1997 East Regional final; 2000 Mideast Region second round). Meanwhile, Notre Dame is 0-1 against Texas A&M, with the Aggies winning 88-84 in overtime on Dec. 3, 1995 at the Kona (Hawaii) Women’s Basketball Classic in the team’s lone prior matchup.