Jan. 9, 2007
|DATE:||January 10, 2007|
|TIME:||7:00 p.m. ET|
|AT:||Notre Dame, Ind.|
|Joyce Center (11,418)|
|SERIES:||ND leads 2-0|
|1ST MTG:||2/13/82 (ND 67-58)|
|LAST MTG:||2/25/06 (ND 75-66, ot)|
|RADIO:||ESPN Radio 1490 AM|
|Sean Stires, p-b-p|
- Notre Dame has won five of its last seven BIG EAST home openers, but dropped a 74-61 decision to Seton Hall last season.
- The Irish have won 12 consecutive home games vs. Ohio schools, a streak that dates back almost 14 years.
Irish Tip Off BIG EAST Home Slate Wednesday Against Cincinnati
Following its third week-long break in the past month, Notre Dame will dig into the heart of the BIG EAST Conference season Wednesday when it plays host to Cincinnati at 7 p.m. (ET) inside the Joyce Center. It will mark the first of three home games for the Irish in a four-game span covering the next 10 days.
Notre Dame has won seven of its last nine games and enters Wednesday night’s matchup with Cincinnati on a high note following a 64-61 victory at Seton Hall on Jan. 2 in the BIG EAST opener for the Irish. For the third time this season, Notre Dame came back from a double-digit deficit to win, this time erasing a 10-point first-half lead by the Pirates. An 8-2 run down the stretch also helped the Irish cause, with the Notre Dame defense holding SHU empty on four of its final six possessions.
Junior guard Charel Allen recorded her first career double-double, finishing with game highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds (the latter also was a career best). Senior guard Breona Gray added 14 points, including a shot from midcourt at the halftime horn that ultimately provided the margin of victory for the Irish.
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 13 NCAA Tournaments (including a current streak of 11 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 603-270 (.691).
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Just two months into the 2006-07 season, the growth of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team already is evident, and the best may be yet to come. With a young and inexperienced roster that has only two seniors and is missing its top returning scorer from a year ago, the Irish have had to learn on the run – and run is exactly what they have done this season. Notre Dame is averaging 70.0 points per game thus far, a significant improvement over the previous five Irish squads, none of which has averaged better than 66.3 points per night.
Of course, the Irish have traditionally hung their hat on their defense, a trait that is much harder to master and takes a bit longer. On the one hand, Notre Dame’s aggressive style has rattled opponents, causing 21.7 turnovers per game (including a BIG EAST-best 12.2 steals per night). However, the flip side has seen the Irish allow opponents to shoot .411 from the floor (.371 from the three-point line), while the Irish claim just a 1.5 rpg. edge on the boards), two areas Notre Dame will continue to focus on during the BIG EAST season.
Junior guard Charel Allen has been one of the main offensive catalysts for the Irish to this point, averaging a team-high 14.4 ppg., while scoring in double figures in 12 of 14 outings to date. The Monessen, Pa., native, who was limited last year while recovering from knee surgery in the summer of 2005, also is collecting team highs of 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game and has twice been named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll (Dec. 4, Jan. 8).
Allen’s classmate and backcourt running partner, Tulyah Gaines, is a candidate as one of the conference’s most improved players. The speedy Gaines assumed the large footprint left at the point by All-American (and WNBA Draft pick) Megan Duffy and has stoked the Notre Dame offensive fire to an even hotter level, averaging 10.0 points and 3.4 assists per game with a .481 field goal percentage. Gaines, who came into the season with a 3.7 ppg. career scoring average, has twice scored 20 points in a game this year, including a career-high 25 points in a Nov. 13 overtime win vs. Bowling Green.
Another Irish junior, 6-foot-5 center Melissa D’Amico, continues to make strides in the post. The second-year starter is averaging 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game with a .545 field goal percentage. She also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Dec. 18.
The most pleasing contributions of the year for Notre Dame to this point have come from its freshmen, three of whom have seen significant playing time. Guard Ashley Barlow is second on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and steals (2.4 spg.), and came up with a career-high 21-points and nine rebounds on Dec. 28 vs. Prairie View A&M. Center Erica Williamson (6.4 ppg., 5.1 rpg., 1.4 bpg.) is proving to be a capable understudy to D’Amico, amassing a season-high 15 points vs. Prairie View A&M. And, guard Melissa Lechlitner (4.3 ppg., 2.5 apg.) has shown little drop off at the point behind Gaines, registering at least five assists in a game three times this year, and carding a season-high 11 points (3-of-4 3FG) at Penn State.
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 257 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 8 of these notes.
- Notre Dame currently is ranked 10th nationally in attendance (6,495 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 86 of its last 88 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 this year 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 this year.
- 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 is 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 Quick Look At Cincinnati
Bolstered by a crop of nine returning letterwinners, including three starters, and fresh off its second WNIT appearance in three years, Cincinnati appears to have all the tools necessary to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in school history and first since 2003.
The Bearcats have made a strong statement about their postseason intentions during the first two months of the campaign, moving out to a 10-4 record (1-2 in the BIG EAST) that includes a spotless 8-0 mark at home. What’s more, three of UC’s losses have been by 12 points or less, with narrow setbacks to Northern Illinois (81-73) and nationally-ranked Louisville (67-62) and Arkansas (94-82).
Cincinnati comes to town on the heels of a 67-49 loss at South Florida last Saturday night. The Bearcats put together another tough defensive performance, keeping the high-octane Bulls in check much of the evening and trailing by just a 26-23 margin at the break. However, the UC offense never quite got on track down in Tampa, finishing with a .275 field goal percentage and 20 turnovers. Sophomore forward Michelle Jones collected 15 points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Karen Twehues chalked up a double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) for Cincinnati.
Sophomore guard/forward Shelly Bellman leads the Bearcats in scoring (13.9 ppg.) and rebounding (6.9 rpg.) this season. Senior guard and preseason all-BIG EAST honorable mention pick Treasure Humphries is second in scoring (12.6 ppg.) and tops in assists (4.7 apg.), while Jones is third in scoring (11.8 ppg.) with a team-best .545 field goal percentage. Twehues (.413) and Bellman (.361) anchor a solid three-point attack for UC.
Head coach Laurie Pirtle is in 21st season at Cincinnati with a 305-291 (.512) record. Including four prior seasons spent at Division III power Capital, Pirtle has a career record of 388-307 (.558). She is 0-1 all-time vs. Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series
Wednesday night’s game will be just the third all-time between Notre Dame and Cincinnati. The Irish have won both prior matchups, once at home (67-58 in 1982) and once on the road (75-66 in overtime last year).
The Last Time Notre Dame and Cincinnati Met
Tulyah Gaines picked the perfect time for the best game of her young college career, posting her first-ever double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds to help Notre Dame register a critical 75-66 overtime win at Cincinnati on Feb. 25, 2006, before a crowd of 1,072 fans inside Fifth Third Arena. Gaines also was responsible for sending the Irish (16-10, 7-8 BIG EAST) to their school-record fourth overtime game of the season, hitting the game-tying layup as time expired in regulation.
Co-captains Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere displayed expert leadership against the Bearcats, each scoring a game-high 17 points. Duffy had 10 of her markers in overtime, including 8-of-8 at the foul line, while LaVere added seven rebounds and a season-high four blocks (one off her career best) while knocking down 8-of-11 shots from the floor.
Lindsay Schrader also made big contributions for Notre Dame, scoring five of her 11 points in overtime and coming up with the two biggest assists of the game – to Gaines for the game-tying layup and then to LaVere for an old-fashioned three-point play with 2:07 left in OT that put the Irish ahead for good.
Treasure Humphries and Karen Twehues scored 14 points apiece for Cincinnati (17-9, 7-8), while Michelle Jones added 11 points and nine rebounds. The Bearcats won the battle on the boards, 41-38, but Notre Dame shot a sharp 49.1 percent from the floor (.571 in the second half and overtime) and was strong from the foul line when it counted, going 16-of-19 (.842) in the second half and OT session.
The contest was a tight affair throughout, as the teams combined for 13 ties and 15 lead changes. Neither side led by more than six points at any time in regulation, with Notre Dame going on a 6-0 run to take a 28-22 lead on two foul shots by Gaines with 1:24 left in the first half. Despite a layup in the closing minute by Humphries, the Irish still took a four-point lead to the locker room.
Cincinnati stormed from the gate in the second half, scoring 10 of the first 14 points and grabbing a 34-32 lead on Jones’ jumper in the paint at the 13:55 mark. However, Duffy canned a three-pointer with a little more than 12 minutes left, and the Irish were either tied or in front from that point forward until the final minute of play. A jumper by Charel Allen at the 4:06 juncture boosted the Notre Dame lead to 53-47 and forced a UC timeout. After that break, the Bearcats responded with six consecutive points, the last on a bucket by Jones that tied matters at 53-all with 1:36 to go. LaVere hit a putback in the lane 22 seconds later to rebuild a two-point Irish lead, but Twehues then knotted the score again on two foul shots with 46.8 seconds left in regulation. Notre Dame had a chance to go back in front, but Schrader had her baseline jumper rattle out and Cincinnati tied up the rebound, getting the ball on the alternating possession.
Following a timeout, UC looked inside for Jones, but Allen knocked the ball free – directly into the hands of Humphries, who canned a tough off-balance jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw then called her own timeout and diagrammed a game-tying play – LaVere whipped a three-quarter court baseball pass to Schrader, whose touch pass to Gaines was perfect, and the speedy guard drove all the way in for the equalizer as the horn sounded.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Cincinnati Met At The Joyce Center
Mary Beth Schueth scored 17 points and Laura Dougherty came off the bench to add 15 points as Notre Dame posted a 67-58 victory over Cincinnati on Feb. 13, 1982 at the Joyce Center.
Schueth and Dougherty combined to go 12-of-20 from the field, highlighted a .587 team field goal percentage for the Irish. Schueth tacked on eight rebounds, Dougherty had a team-best six assists and five steals, and Shari Matvey almost recorded a double-double for the hosts, finishing with 10 points and a game-best nine rebounds.
Joy Roberts led Cincinnati with 16 points and Cheryl Cook chipped in with 10 points in a reserve role. The Bearcats also shot well from the floor, connecting at a .482 clip.
UC had control for much of the first half, opening up a 22-14 lead on a driving layup by Deona Jennings with 6:11 left in the period. However, Notre Dame responded with a 19-7 run to close out the frame and take a four-point lead to the locker room.
The Irish continued their surge in the opening five minutes of the second half, scoring 12 of the first 16 points (a combined 31-11 run between periods) and taking a 45-33 lead when Schueth converted off a pass from Ruth Kaiser at the 13:39 mark.
Cincinnati then made a charge of its own with a 19-10 rally, punctuated by Barb Jaksa’s layup with 5:04 left that trimmed the Notre Dame lead to 55-52. But, Dougherty answered with a pair of long jumpers on the next two Irish possessions and UC could not get closer than five points the rest of the way.
Other Notre Dame-Cincinnati Series Tidbits
- Cincinnati will be making its second visit to the Joyce Center and first since Feb. 13, 1982 (a span of 24 years, 10 months and 28 days). In fact, no player on either the Notre Dame or UC roster was born the last time the Irish played the Bearcats in South Bend.
- Notre Dame is 64-16 (.800) all-time against teams from the state of Ohio, including a 31-7 (.816) record when playing them at the Joyce Center. The Irish also have won 12 consecutive home games against Buckeye State schools since a 78-74 loss to Dayton on March 8, 1993 in the quarterfinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament. In the Muffet McGraw era, Notre Dame is 47-12 (.797) against Ohio schools, with a 23-4 (.852) record at the Joyce Center. These totals include an 85-81 overtime win over Bowling Green back on Nov. 13 in South Bend.
- Junior guard Amanda Tsipis is the lone Ohio native on this year’s Notre Dame roster. Tsipis hails from Perry, Ohio, and graduated from Perry High School in 2004. All told, nine Ohio residents have played for the Irish, with that total ranking fourth in program history behind Indiana (17), Michigan (14) and Illinois (10).
- Notre Dame freshman guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner were members of the 2005 Indiana Junior All-Star Team that played the Indiana Senior All-Stars (featuring UC sophomore guard Kahla Roudebush from Noblesville, Ind.) in a hard-fought two-game exhibition series won by the seniors.
- Second-year Cincinnati head rowing coach Pam Mork spent six seasons (1999-2005) as the top assistant on Martin Stone’s staff at Notre Dame prior to assuming her current post with the Bearcats. Mork helped guide the Irish to a pair of BIG EAST titles as well as two top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships during her tenure in South Bend.
Getting Off On The Right Foot At Home
Notre Dame is 7-4 (.636) in BIG EAST Conference home openers since it joined the league in time for the 1995-96 season. The Irish also have won five of their last seven BIG EAST lidlifters at the Joyce Center, but are coming off a 74-61 loss to Seton Hall to begin last year’s home conference docket.
Allen Returns To BIG EAST Honor Roll
Junior guard Charel Allen has earned a place on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll, the league office announced Monday. It’s the second time this season that Allen has been chosen for the distinction, following up her Dec. 4 selection. Allen’s honor also is the fourth this year for a Notre Dame player, with senior guard Breona Gray (Dec. 11) and junior center Melissa D’Amico (Dec. 18) also receiving recognition on the BIG EAST Honor Roll.
In Notre Dame’s only game last week, Allen registered her first career double-double with 16 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as the Irish earned a 64-61 victory at Seton Hall. Allen put Notre Dame ahead for good on a foul-line jumper with 3:09 to play, then added a key insurance bucket at the 1:55 mark. In addition, the 5-11 wing collected three crucial defensive rebounds while leading an Irish defense that held Seton Hall scoreless on four of its final six possessions.