March 6, 2003
2003 BIG EAST Championship First Round
No. 6 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-9, 10-6)
vs. No. 11 seed Pittsburgh Panthers (12-15, 4-12)
The Date and Time: Saturday, March 8, 2003, at 8 p.m. EST.
The Site: Louis Brown Athletic Center (8,500) in Piscataway, N.J.
The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires handling the play-by-play. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics website at www.und.com.
Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics are available for all games at the BIG EAST Championship via the BIG EAST Championship (www.bigeast.org/sports/wbball/champs) website.
Websites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Pittsburgh (www.pittsburghpanthers.com).
Riding a wave of momentum that includes wins in seven of the last nine games, Notre Dame will look to make a big splash when it travels to Piscataway, N.J., for the 2003 BIG EAST Championship, which begins Saturday at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on the campus of Rutgers University. The Irish are the No. 6 seed in this year’s tournament, marking just the second time (the other was in 1998) that Notre Dame will not have the benefit of a first round bye.
The Irish wrapped the regular season on a high note Tuesday evening, posting their third consecutive victory with a 62-54 conquest of Syracuse at Manley Field House. Freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast picked up her seventh double-double, and first since late January, with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Senior guard Alicia Ratay added 14 points, including four three-pointers, and freshman forward Courtney LaVere pitched in 10 points for the Irish, who downed the Orangewomen for the 14th time in 16 series meetings.
Notre Dame fell behind by as many as five points in the first half, but used an 11-1 run over the final 6:50 of the period to take a 28-20 lead at the break. Syracuse erased that deficit in the second half, even taking a 50-49 lead with 4:55 to go. That’s when Ratay erupted from the arc, hitting three consecutive triples to highlight a 13-4 game-ending run for the Irish.
Pittsburgh (12-15, 4-12) provides the opposition for Notre Dame in Saturday’s first round game at the BIG EAST Championship. The Panthers earned their first conference tournament berth in three years with a 57-54 win over Seton Hall on Tuesday night. Senior guard Laine Selwyn paced Pittsburgh with 13 points and six assists.
Selwyn leads the Panthers in scoring (16.3 ppg.), rebounding (6.1 rpg.) and assists (5.9 apg.). Senior forward Mandy Wittenmyer adds 10.7 ppg., including a 23-point effort in Pittsburgh’s first meeting with the Irish on Feb. 26 (a 77-69 ND win).
Traci Waites is in her fifth season at Pittsburgh with a 53-85 (.384) record. She is 0-7 vs. 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 360-136 (.726) record (448-177, .717 in 21 years overall) that includes 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament bids, four trips to the Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 national championship. Along the way, she has groomed seven All-Americans, 17 all-conference selections (including 10 first-team picks), seven players who have gone on to play professional basketball in the United States, and three USA Basketball National Team players (who have won a total of six medals). In addition, 15 of her former players and/or assistants currently are coaching at the high school or college level, including five collegiate head coaches. She also has been a master recruiter, attracting seven consecutive top 20 classes, including this year’s freshman class, which was ranked eighth in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. McGraw coached the 600th game of her career on Nov. 29, a 69-57 win at USC, and she earned her 350th victory at Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve at Marquette, joining Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to win 350 games at Notre Dame.
Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters received numerous preseason accolades. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (12.0 ppg., 4.6 rpg., .484 3FG%, .881 FT%) is a two-time Associated Press All-American and she was a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection this year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has seen her name sprinkled liberally throughout the Notre Dame record book, including marks for scoring (4th, 1,699 points), three-point field goals made (1st, 256), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .480) and free throw percentage (1st, .871). In the latter two categories, Ratay’s shooting numbers would be good enough to place her among the top 10 in NCAA history, and her three-point ratio would be the best in NCAA annals. She has led the Irish in scoring 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 reach that milestone.
This season, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (team-high 14.9 ppg., team-high 8.2 rpg., 2.6 apg., 1.4 bpg., 2.2 spg, seven double-doubles) on the list of 30 candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding player. Batteast is the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year after turning in one of the finest rookie seasons in school history. Like Ratay, she also was a preseason first-team all-conference choice this year. Batteast has scored in double figures in 24 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. In her last four games, Batteast has been a terror on the boards, averaging 11.8 rebounds per game.
Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (7.6 ppg., 3.5 rpg., team-high 3.9 apg., 2.2 spg., .446 FG%, .824 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 7.0 assists per game in her last three 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 18 of her last 20 charities.
Senior walk-on Karen Swanson (0.7 ppg., 0.3 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 17 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 (8.5 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 1.3 bpg., team-high .590 FG%) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (7.6 ppg., 4.6 rpg.) have teamed up with Batteast to produce a formidable front line for Notre Dame this season. The 6-3 Borton turned in a solid performance in Notre Dame’s season opener, hitting her first six shots and finishing with 18 points. She also set new career highs with 11 rebounds and four assists vs. IPFW, and later added 14 points and four blocked shots against Tennessee. She then piled up a team-high 13 points vs. Miami and tossed in 19 points (8-11 FG) at St. John’s. On Feb. 1 vs. West Virginia, Borton knocked down all seven of her shots, tying her own mark for the second-best shooting performance in Joyce Center history. She then carded 11 points and a career-high five blocks vs. Georgetown, followed by a 12-point night (6-6 FT) vs. St. John’s. Borton also 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 of late. She recorded her first double-double of the year (and second of her career) vs. Georgetown with 12 points and a career-best 12 rebounds, then added 11 points and five rebounds at Virginia Tech. She returned to the starting lineup vs. St. John’s, rolling up career bests of five assists and four steals, and she logged 10 points and five rebounds at Connecticut. 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 her last outing, Flecky pulled down 10 rebounds at Syracuse, her second double-figure rebounding game of the season.
Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (12.3 ppg., 5.8 rpg., .500 FG%, five double-doubles) also is seeing significant playing time on the blocks for the Irish this season. LaVere was a consensus prep All-American as a senior at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, all while shooting 57 percent from the field. The potential the 6-3 LaVere brings to the table was noticed by one national media outlet prior to the season, as the website Women’s College 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 16 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 for the first time on March 3 after averaging 17 points and 4.5 rebounds in wins over Pittsburgh and Seton Hall.
THE NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH SERIES
Notre Dame has won each of the 12 prior meetings with Pittsburgh, but Saturday’s game will mark the first time the two teams have clashed in postseason play. All 12 of the series games between the Irish and Panthers have come since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995-96 season.
The two clubs should be quite familiar with one another, having faced off less than two weeks ago on Feb. 26 at the Joyce Center, with Notre Dame collecting a 77-69 victory. Freshman forward Courtney LaVere scored a team-high 14 points to lead five Irish players in double figures as Notre Dame led virtually the entire way to claim the win. Senior guard Alicia Ratay chipped in with her first double-double of the season (and the fifth of her career), amassing 12 points and a season-high 11 rebounds.
Senior forward Mandy Wittenmyer scored a game-high 23 points for Pittsburgh, while sophomore guard Haley Harguth added 19 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the final minute which got the Panthers as close as six points. Senior guard Laine Selwyn tossed in a double-double for Pittsburgh, finishing with 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
The game itself was a physical one, with the teams combining for 49 fouls and 63 free throw attempts. Notre Dame took full advantage of its trips to the charity stripe, nailing a season-high 30-of-37 (.811) foul shots, while the Panthers were slightly more efficient at 84.6 percent (22-26). Both benches also turned in strong performances < the=”” pittsburgh=”” reserves=”” outscored=”” their=”” notre=”” dame=”” counterparts=”” by=”” a=”” 30-27=”” margin.=””>
The Irish opened up a 15-3 lead in the first five minutes of the game, but the Panthers rallied to the score at 19-all midway through the first half. From there, Notre Dame regained the lead, which it would hold the rest of the way. The Irish bumped their advantage into double digits just before halftime, and with the exception of a late Pittsburgh flurry in the final minute, Notre Dame remained in control throughout the second half.
It’s been a season full of hair-raising twists and turns for Pittsburgh in 2002-03. The Panthers opened the year in high spirits with eight wins in their first 11 games, including a stirring 92-88 overtime win at home over (then) No. 11 Penn State. In fact, Pittsburgh’s brand-new Petersen Events Center was mighty cozy during the non-conference portion of the schedule, as the Panthers opened the new facility with a spotless 6-0 record.
However, the emotional pendulum swung back the other way for Pittsburgh since BIG EAST Conference play began in January. The Panthers went 4-12 in league games, with seven of those losses coming by eight points or less. However, Pittsburgh recovered and posted a 57-54 win over Seton Hall on Tuesday in its regular-season finale, earning a BIG EAST Championship berth for the first time in three seasons.
In that game with Seton Hall, senior guard Laine Selwyn piled up 13 points and six assists, while senior guard Brooke Stewart added 12 points and freshman guard Jessica Allen came off the bench to chip in with 10 points. The Panthers didn’t shoot particularly well in the contest (34 percent) and they also were outrebounded by a 45-30 count. However, they did force 19 Seton Hall turnovers and knocked down 15 of 20 free throws to edge out the Pirates.
Selwyn leads the Panthers and ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in virtually every statistical category, including scoring (16.3 ppg.), rebounding (6.1 rpg.), assists (5.89 apg.), steals (3.0 spg.) and assist/turnover ratio (1.54). In addition to her six double-doubles this season, she also compiled a triple-double vs. Norfolk State on Dec. 29, the second triple play of her career. Senior forward Mandy Wittenmyer is second on the Panther roster in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (4.6 rpg.), while senior forward Dallas Williams owns a team-high .541 field goal percentage. Pittsburgh also has four players shooting better than 35 percent from the three-point line, paced by freshman guard Jessica Allen at 43.4 percent (Harguth has canned a team-best 41 treys this year).
The Panthers have had a potent offense all season long, ranking in the top half of the BIG EAST in scoring (70.2 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.362). The problem for Pittsburgh lies with its defense, which stands near the bottom of the conference table in points allowed (68.6 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (.429) and rebounding margin (-5.3 rpg.).
Head coach Traci Waites is closing out her fifth season at Pittsburgh, sporting a career record of 53-85 (.384). The 1999-2000 Co-BIG EAST Coach of the Year, Waites is 0-7 all-time against Notre Dame, including an 0-1 mark this season.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH SERIES TIDBITS
- Notre Dame is 12-0 all-time against Pittsburgh, one of four BIG EAST Conference opponents the Irish have never lost to. The others are Providence (11-0), St. John’s (12-0) and West Virginia (11-0).
- Nine of the 12 games in the series have been decided by double-digit margins. The only single-digit results came on Jan. 16, 1999 (ND 81-72), Feb. 9, 2000 (ND 81-74) and Feb. 26, 2003 (ND 77-69).
- In the history of the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh series, the Irish have never scored less than 65 points in any game against the Panthers. Conversely, UP has topped the 65-point mark three times in 12 games, all of which resulted in the closest matchups in the series (see previous note).
- Senior guard Alicia Ratay loves playing against Pittsburgh < she=”” is=”” averaging=”” 15.8=”” points=”” in=”” six=”” career=”” games=”” against=”” the=”” panthers,=”” including=”” a=”” double-double=”” earlier=”” this=”” year=”” against=”” pittsburgh.=””>
NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH CONNECTIONS
- There are three Ohio residents slated to be active for Saturday’s contest. Notre Dame freshman guard Megan Duffy (Dayton/Chaminade-Julienne HS) and senior guard Karen Swanson (Westlake/Westlake HS) join Pittsburgh senior forward Dallas Williams (Mason/Mason HS) as natives of the Buckeye State. In addition, Pittsburgh assistant coach Deborah Perry (Cleveland) grew up in the state of Ohio and also spent time as an assistant at Ohio University from 1991-95.
- There also will be two south Florida natives suiting up for Saturday’s game. Notre Dame junior guard Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines/Fort Lauderdale HS) and Pittsburgh junior guard Laine Selwyn (Coral Springs/Coral Springs HS) both hail from the Sunshine State.
- Tony Rolinski, Notre Dame’s assistant coordinator for strength and conditioning, is a Pittsburgh native and worked in the Pittsburgh strength and conditioning department from 1994-96 while attaining his master’s degree in exercise physiology from the school. He then was the head strength coach at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh before serving as the head strength and conditioning coach at Duquesne in 1997-98.
- Seventh-year Irish women’s lacrosse coach Tracy Coyne also is a Steel City native and a 1978 graduate of Cenevin High School (which also produced Notre Dame All-America QB Tom Clements, who led the Irish to the 1973 national title and currently is the quarterbacks coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers). In addition, Coyne worked in the Pittsburgh athletic department in 1985 as an administrative assistant to the senior woman administrator.
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
- The Irish will extend their winning streak to four games, matching their longest success string of the season which they achieved in the first four contests this year (Nov. 26-Dec. 7).
- Notre Dame will extend its series winning streak against Pittsburgh to 13 games, making the Panthers one of seven opponents on this year’s schedule against whom the Irish currently have a double-digit winning streak (others are Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Valparaiso and West Virginia). The 13-game winning streak also will match the second-longest active success string for Notre Dame against a BIG EAST opponent < the=”” irish=”” have=”” won=”” 15=”” in=”” a=”” row=”” vs.=”” georgetown=”” and=”” 13=”” straight=”” vs.=”” st.=”” john’s.=””>
- The Irish will improve to 12-0 all-time against Pittsburgh, making the Panthers one of four BIG EAST teams Notre Dame has never lost to (the others are Providence, St. John’s and West Virginia).
- Notre Dame will earn at least one win in the BIG EAST Championship for the seventh time in eight career trips to the conference tournament.
- The Irish will raise their all-time record in BIG EAST Championship play to 12-7 (.632), the second-best mark in league history behind Connecticut.
- Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 361-136 (.726) in 16 seasons, and her overall ledger will jump to 449-177 (.717) in 21 years.
- The Irish will raise their all-time record to 525-235 (.691) in 26 seasons of varsity competition.
IRISH INJURY REPORT (as of March 6)
Junior G Jeneka Joyce
leg injuries, out indefinitely
IRISH AT THE BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP
Notre Dame begins play in its eighth BIG EAST Championship this weekend and has compiled an 11-7 (.611) record in its seven previous appearances. The Irish have reached at least the semifinals in six of the last seven years and made the title game four times (1996, ’97, ’99 and 2001), falling to Connecticut in each of those finals. Notre Dame won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference championship five times in its seven years in the league, with the last Irish conference tournament title coming in 1994. A complete listing of Notre Dame’s appearances in the BIG EAST Championship may be found in the sidebar on page 6.
Notre Dame owns an undefeated series record against 12 opponents in its history (with a minimum of three games played), including seven foes on this year’s schedule, including Saturday night’s opponent, Pittsburgh (12-0). The Irish also have preserved their unblemished marks against non-conference rivals Cleveland State (5-0), Valparaiso (16-0) and IPFW (3-0), as well as BIG EAST foes West Virginia (11-0), St. John’s (13-0) and Providence (11-0).
STREAKING ACROSS THE BIG EAST
The Irish have winning streaks of 10-or-more games against six of their 13 BIG EAST Conference opponents. Their longest active conference winning streak is 15 games (vs. Georgetown), followed by a 13-game run against St. John’s. Notre Dame also has an active 12-game success string against Pittsburgh, and ongoing 11-game winning streaks against Providence, Seton Hall and West Virginia. The longest current Irish winning streak vs. any opponent is 16 games against both Detroit and Valparaiso.
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=”” (.480),=”” a=”” mark=”” which=”” also=”” would=”” qualify=”” as=”” the=”” best=”” ratio=”” in=”” ncaa=”” history.=””>
LaVERE NAMED BIG EAST ROOKIE OF THE WEEK
Freshman forward Courtney LaVere was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Women’s Basketball Rookie of the Week, the conference office announced on Monday. It is the first weekly BIG EAST award of LaVere’s career, and it marks the fifth time in the last six seasons that the Irish have won the conference’s top weekly rookie award at least once.
In two BIG EAST victories last week, LaVere averaged 17 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with a .520 field goal percentage (13-25). She collected a team-high 14 points last Wednesday against Pittsburgh, scoring 10 points during a three-minute span in the second half. She then piled up a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting in Saturday’s home finale against Seton Hall, logging her team-best fifth 20-point game of the season. LaVere also played a major role in Notre Dame’s comeback victory over the Pirates, sinking the game-tying layup with 7.8 seconds remaining.
Despite its earlier struggles this season, Notre Dame remains firmly in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth. According to the March 6 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings compiled by Richie Summerville and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the Irish are 25th in the nation, while their schedule strength is rated No. 26 in the land. In addition, Notre Dame is one of six BIG EAST Conference schools ranked in the top 30 of the WBCA/Summerville RPI (#2 Connecticut, #6 Villanova, #11 Rutgers, #14 Boston College and #26 Virginia Tech are the others). The Irish already have a road win to their credit over Villanova (58-56 on Jan. 25).
As a league, the BIG EAST ranks fifth in the country, trailing only the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-10, and leading the Big 12. In addition, the BIG EAST posted a 114-38 (.750) record against non-conference opponents this season, the best mark in league history. That includes an 8-2 record against the Pac-10 and a 7-3 record against the ACC.
Here are some of the more interesting trends to note regarding the Irish in 2002-03 (a complete listing of other Irish tendencies may be found in the page 11 sidebar):
- Notre Dame is 10-3 in games decided by 10 points or less.
- Notre Dame is 9-3 when its bench outscores the opponent’s bench.
- Notre Dame is 18-6 when Jacqueline Batteast scores in double figures.
- Notre Dame is 13-4 when Alicia Ratay scores in double figures.
- Notre Dame is 16-5 when it has at least three players score in double figures.
- Notre Dame is 10-3 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 16th nationally with 5.0 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 1.44 bpg., sophomore center Teresa Borton at 1.33 bpg. and freshman forward Courtney LaVere at 0.96 bpg.. Batteast also averaged a team-high 1.63 rejections in BIG EAST games.
WE DO WINDOWS
Rebounding has been a key to Notre Dame’s success this season. The Irish are 14-2 when they outrebound their opponent, with their only losses coming on the road at Virginia Tech and Connecticut. The latter contest was significant because, even in defeat, Notre Dame became just the third team all season to beat the Huskies on the boards (the others are Tennessee and Virginia Tech). For the season, the Irish are averaging 37.9 rebounds per game, good for fifth in the BIG EAST Conference, and own a +2.6 rpg. margin, sixth-best in the league.
Individually, sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast ranks fourth in the BIG EAST with 8.2 rebounds per game, including 11.8 rpg. in her last four 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 the other Notre Dame player currently ranked among the top 20 in the BIG EAST in rebounding < she=”” is=”” 18th=”” with=”” 5.8=”” 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 21 of 27 games (and 16 of 18 wins). In addition, the Irish have had four players reach double digits in 10 games this season (Cleveland State, USC, Valparaiso, Arizona State, Temple, Miami, Georgetown, St. John’s, Connecticut and Pittsburgh) 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 12.3 points per game. Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Alicia Ratay is third at 12.0 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 < no.=”” 21/22=”” wisconsin-green=”” bay.=””>
The free throw line has been a very friendly place for Notre Dame this season. The Irish rank second in the BIG EAST Conference and 37th in the nation with a .742 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 .881 free throw percentage. That should come as no surprise, because Ratay ranks sixth in NCAA history with an .871 career free throw ratio (365-419). However, Ratay is only one of four Notre Dame players who are shooting 70 percent or better at the stripe this year < junior=”” guard=””>Le’Tania Severe is second at .824 (6th in the BIG EAST), followed by freshman guard Megan Duffy (.723) and sophomore center Teresa Borton (.702).
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 almost 23 percent over last year’s mark (.474), and has been especially strong of late, making 23 of her last 27 charity tosses dating back to the Providence game (Feb. 16). Meanwhile, Severe came into this season with a .651 career free throw ratio and has raised that mark by more than 17 percent this year. Duffy has been a study in contrasts at the line, starting the year below 60 percent (16-27), but lifting that mark considerably in the last six weeks by connecting at a 90-percent clip (18-20) 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 9-5 this year on hostile ground (9-4 road, 0-1 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.
The Irish have won 15 of their last 22 regular-season games outside the Joyce Center, including 13 of their last 18. Of those last 18 regular-season games in hostile territory, the only blemishes on that record came earlier this year against teams that currently are ranked or receiving votes in one or both of the major national polls < depaul,=”” no.=”” 3/3=”” tennessee=”” (neutral=”” site),=”” no.=”” 24/23=”” boston=”” college,=”” virginia=”” tech=”” and=”” no.=”” 1/1=”” connecticut.=””>
THE BEASTS OF THE BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 112-24 (.824) in regular-season competition against the rest of BIG EAST Conference, owning the best conference winning percentage of any current member of the BIG EAST since joining the circuit for the 1995-96 campaign. The Irish also have won 67 of their last 81 regular-season conference games, and claimed a share of their first-ever BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2001. When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 124-31 (.800) against league opponents < when=”” factoring=”” in=”” these=”” 19=”” postseason=”” tilts,=”” the=”” irish=”” are=”” 61-7=”” (.897)=”” at=”” home,=”” 51-20=”” (.718)=”” on=”” the=”” road=”” and=”” 12-7=”” (.632)=”” at=”” neutral=”” sites=”” all-time=”” vs.=”” big=”” east=”” foes.=””>
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.=””>
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 13 games this season which were decided by 10 points or less. The Irish are a stellar 10-3 in those games, including wins in each of their last three regular-season games (vs. Pittsburgh, 77-69; vs. Seton Hall, 62-60; at Syracuse, 62-54).
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 524-235 (.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 360-136 (.726) in 16 seasons at Notre Dame, while Phelps posted a 393-197 (.666) mark in 20 years at the helm of the Irish men’s basketball program.
In addition, McGraw has the third-highest winning percentage of any basketball coach at Notre Dame (men’s or women’s) with at least five years of service, and her .726 ratio is the best by any coach in the last 60 years. Only men’s coaches Bertram G. Maris (.794 from 1907-12) and George Keogan (.771 from 1923-43) have had more success at Notre Dame over an extended period than McGraw.
THE BATTEAST 500
Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the 500th point of her career on Dec. 31 at Marquette. She now has 760 points in only 53 career games (14.3 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 (12th, 3.93 apg.), steals (5th, 2.19 spg.) and free throw percentage (6th, .824). However, she also has displayed a nose for the basket, ranking fifth on the team with 7.6 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 five games. Severe charted a season-high eight assists in the regular-season finale at Syracuse, and she now is averaging 7.0 apg. in her last three contests. In addition, she owns a team-best 1.16 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 field goal percentage (.500), scoring (12.3 ppg.) and rebounding (5.8 rpg.), ranking 19th and 18th in the BIG EAST Conference in the latter two categories. 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 for the first time in her career on March 3, after averaging 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.
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 Tournament quarterfinals vs. Syracuse. With the Irish trailing by 16 points and only 3:52 left, Ratay scored 17 of the next 19 Notre Dame points, including nine in a span of 18 seconds, to single-handedly spark a 19-5 run that pulled her team within 81-79 with 18 seconds remaining. However, Syracuse finally forced a Ratay miss and hit three free throws to save the victory.
START ME UP
With her next starting assignment, senior guard Alicia Ratay will 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 will break Ruth Riley’s old school record (124), while extending her current streak of games started to 67 in a row. Ratay has started 124 of 125 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 move closer to catching Kelley Siemon for eighth place on Notre Dame’s career games played list < siemon=”” played=”” in=”” 127=”” games=”” from=”” 1997-2001.=””>
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 1,699 points, 632 rebounds and 234 assists, becoming the sixth Irish player to score 1,500 points with 14 points at West Virginia Jan. 8.
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 1,699 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 125 Irish games in her career and starting all but one (2001 Senior Night vs. Georgetown). She can break the Notre Dame career records for starts and games played with one more start and eight more games played this season.
Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.871) and three-point field goal (.480) percentages, records which would rank among the top 10 in NCAA history. In fact, if her career ended today, Ratay’s three-point percentage would stand as the best in women’s college basketball history, and her free throw ratio would be sixth in NCAA annals. For a complete rundown of Ratay’s place in the Notre Dame and national record books, please see the charts in the page 9 sidebar.
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 178 games over the last seven seasons, which stands as the sixth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.
NOTRE DAME HAD REASON TO BE THANKFUL AFTER FALL SEASONS
Irish teams turned in exceptional performances during the 2002 fall sports season. All six of Notre Dame’s fall sports (football, volleyball, men’s/women’s soccer, men’s/women’s cross country) qualified for postseason play, headlined by a third-place finish for the women’s cross country squad at the NCAA Championships, an NCAA quarterfinal finish for the women’s soccer team, and a Gator Bowl berth and No. 9 BCS ranking for the football team. In fact, Notre Dame was the only school in the nation to have all six of those fall sports qualify for the postseason.
Thanks to its successful finishes in the fall, Notre Dame moved into third place in the latest NACDA Directors’ Cup standings (see sidebar on page 16).
HALF AND HALF
Over the last three seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 60-4 (.938) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign (13-3 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 112-3 (.974) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. The only times that notion didn’t come to pass were on Feb. 17, 2001 (Rutgers 54-53), Feb. 26, 2002 (Villanova 48-45) and Feb. 9, 2003 (Virginia Tech 53-50). Notre Dame has added 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.
… 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 2). 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 FACING 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 6 edition of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) RPI rankings, produced by Richie Summerville.
Upon closer examination, six Notre Dame opponents currently are ranked in one or both of the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls (No. 1/1 Connecticut, No. 3/3 Tennessee, No. 12/12 Purdue, No. 18/20 Rutgers, No. 20/18 Villanova and No. 24/23 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 at least eight times, including nationally-televised contests against Arizona State (Dec. 7 on Fox Sports Net), Purdue (Jan. 4 on CBS) and Connecticut (Jan. 20 on ESPN2, Feb. 23 on College Sports TV). In addition, Notre Dame appeared three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Miami (Jan. 11, noon ET) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 25, noon ET) and Virginia Tech (Feb. 9, 2 p.m. ET). WHME-TV in South Bend also aired the Irish game at DePaul (Dec. 11) live from Chicago.
Besides the regular-season conference television deal, the BIG EAST semifinals on March 10 also will be aired on BIG EAST TV, while the conference title game on March 11 will air live on ESPN2.
The Irish are 2-6 on TV this year, defeating Arizona State and Villanova, but falling to DePaul, Purdue, Miami, Connecticut (twice) and Virginia Tech.
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).
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.
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 360-136 (.726) record (448-177, .717 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 ON WNBA.COM
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 will feature regular interviews and chat sessions with Washington. Readers will get an inside look at how she successfully handles the challenges of being a collegiate assistant, while also remaining prepared for the next professional basketball season.
TICKETS 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: VILLANOVA (BIG EAST QUARTERFINALS)
With a win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, Notre Dame would advance to the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals to meet No. 3 seed Villanova at 8 p.m. (EST) Sunday at Rutgers’ Louis Brown Athletic Center. The Wildcats are 22-5 this season and finished tied for third place in the BIG EAST with a 12-4 record. Villanova also is ranked 20th in the latest Associated Press poll and 18th in the most recent ESPN/USA Today coaches survey. VU has won eight of its last nine games, including an 83-48 conquest of Providence in its regular-season finale on Tuesday night. Senior guard Katie Davis scored a game-high 26 points and knocked down seven three-pointers for the Wildcats, who rang up their second-highest point total of the season.
Notre Dame defeated Villanova in their only meeting this season, winning 58-56 on Jan. 25 at The Pavilion. Freshman forward Courtney LaVere came off the bench to notch her fifth double-double of the year with 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Irish. LaVere also made 12-of-16 free throws in the victory, part of Notre Dame’s 80-percent effort (20-25) at the stripe. Senior guard Trish Juhline had a game-high 22 points for the Wildcats, who set an Irish opponent record with just five turnovers.
NCAA AND BIG EAST STATISTICAL LEADERS
Here’s where the Irish players and team stand in the most recent NCAA (through games of March 3, top 50 only) and BIG EAST Conference statistics reports (through games of March 3):