Jan. 26, 2007
2006-07 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 20
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-6 / 4-2 BIG EAST) vs.
#7/5 Connecticut Huskies (17-2 / 7-0 BIG EAST)
|DATE:||January 27, 2007|
|TIME:||7:00 p.m. ET|
|Gampel Pavilion (10,167)|
|SERIES:||UCONN leads 19-4|
|1ST MTG:||1/18/96 (UC 87-64)|
|LAST MTG:||3/5/06 (UC 71-60)|
|RADIO:||WWLV 1620 AM|
|Sean Stires, p-b-p|
|Bob Picozzi, p-b-p|
|Meghan Culmo, color|
- Notre Dame is in the midst of a three-game road trip against three ranked opponents, a first in the program’s 30-year history.
- In their last three games, the Irish have crafted a turnover margin of +9.33.
Irish Travel To No. 7/5 Connecticut Saturday Night
The challenges continue for Notre Dame this week, as the Irish continue their season-long three-game road swing Saturday with a 7 p.m. (ET) contest at No. 7/5 Connecticut. The Huskies will be the fourth ranked opponent of the season for Notre Dame and the second in as many games.
The Irish turned in a worthy effort Tuesday night at No. 17/18 Marquette, but came out on the short end of a 71-62 verdict in Milwaukee. Notre Dame simply ran into a hot-shooting Golden Eagle club that connected at an opponent season-best .549 rate, while the Irish picked the wrong night to go cold from the field, hitting on only 35.5 percent of their shots. Still, Notre Dame had a chance to take the lead midway through the second half and was within striking distance for much of the evening before succumbing down the stretch.
Junior guard Charel Allen led all players with 17 points, eight rebounds and a career-high-tying five steals in the loss. Freshman guard Ashley Barlow came off the bench to chip in 12 points and six rebounds for the Irish.
- Notre Dame is not ranked.
- Connecticut is seventh in the Associated Press poll and fifth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
- Notre Dame: http://www.und.com
- Connecticut: http://www.uconnhuskies.com
- BIG EAST: http://www.bigeast.org
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 606-272 (.690).
Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
Saint Joseph’s ’77
- 20th season at Notre Dame
- 442-173 (.719) at Notre Dame.
- 530-214 (.712) 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
Just beyond the halfway point of 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 71.9 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 21.2 turnovers per game (including a BIG EAST-best 11.9 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), while the Irish claim just a 2.4 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 16.0 ppg., while scoring in double figures in 17 of 19 outings to date. The Monessen, Pa., native is a the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Week, who also is collecting team highs of 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Last week, she averaged 28.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game with a .641 field goal percentage and a double-double in wins over St. John’s and Syracuse.
Allen’s classmate and backcourt running partner, Tulyah Gaines, is a candidate as one of the conference’s most improved players. The speedy Gaines has stoked the Notre Dame offensive fire to an even hotter level, averaging 10.3 points and 4.0 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.
Another Irish junior, 6-foot-5 center Melissa D’Amico, continues to make strides in the post. The second-year starter is carding 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with a team-high .542 field goal percentage. She also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Honor Roll on Dec. 18, and has posted two double-doubles this year. The most pleasing contributions of the year for Notre Dame to this point have come from its freshmen. Guard Ashley Barlow is second on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and steals (2.1 spg.), and came up with a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds on Dec. 28 vs. Prairie View A&M. Center Erica Williamson (6.5 ppg., 6.1 rpg., 1.4 bpg.) logged her first career double-double at South Florida with 11 points and 18 rebounds (an Irish freshman record). And, guard Melissa Lechlitner (5.4 ppg., 3.0 apg.) is averaging 9.8 points and 5.3 assists in her last four games, including career highs of 18 points and six rebounds vs. Syracuse and a personal-best nine assists (without a turnover) vs. St. John’s.
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 260 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 (6,331 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 89 of its last 91 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 Connecticut
The next generation of great players at Connecticut already has begun to make its mark, as the Huskies have surged to a 17-2 record (7-0 BIG EAST), with a No. 7 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll and the No. 5 spot in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches’ survey.
UConn has won three in a row and five of its last six games, most recently dispatching DePaul, 88-76 on Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. Sophomore guard Kalana Greene scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for her third double-double of the season, while junior forward Charde Houston piled up 19 points, seven rebounds and a game-high seven assists for the Huskies. Connecticut shot 49.2 percent from the floor and held a 42-32 rebounding edge in the win.
All five UConn starters currently are scoring in double figures, led by a pair of sophomores in Greene (13.4 ppg.) and guard Renee Montgomery (12.4 ppg.), with the latter also second in the league in assists (4.84 apg.). Houston (12.2 ppg.) is the BIG EAST pacesetter in field goal percentage at .602, while junior guard Mel Thomas (11.6 ppg.) is second in the conference with a .439 three-point percentage. Freshman center Tina Charles rounds out the potent quintet with 11.6 points and a team-high 8.0 rebounds per game, the latter total good for ninth in the BIG EAST.
Hall of Fame head coach Geno Auriemma is in his 22nd season at Connecticut, sporting a 606-118 (.837) record with the Huskies. He is 19-4 all-time against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Connecticut Series
Although Notre Dame and Connecticut had never met prior to 1995-96 (when the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference), the series has developed into one of the more entertaining, if not spirited matchups of the league. Notre Dame is 4-19 all-time against the Huskies, with a 1-9 record on the road (1-7 in Storrs).
The series was especially one-sided in Connecticut’s favor from 1996-2000, when the Huskies won the first 11 games vs. Notre Dame. The Irish broke through in 2000-01, winning two of three games vs. UConn, including a 90-75 victory at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis. Sine then, the Huskies have won seven of the past nine with Notre Dame, although the Irish did pick up their first-ever win at Gampel Pavilion on their last visit to Storrs (65-59 on Jan. 30, 2005).
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met
Barbara Turner scored 19 points and Ketia Swanier added a career-high 11 to lead No. 7 Connecticut to a 71-60 win over Notre Dame on March 5, 2006 in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at the Hartford Civic Center.
Notre Dame’s Megan Duffy had 14 of her game-high 20 points in the final 10 minutes as the Irish tried to rally from 21 down.
Willnett Crockett had a team-high 11 boards for UConn, which finished with a 36-23 advantage on the glass and outscored the 10th-seeded Irish 34-20 in the paint. The Huskies’ 27 defensive rebounds afforded the Irish few second chances and helped UConn get out in transition quickly. Guards Renee Mongtomery and Swanier directed UConn’s up-tempo attack with a combined 10 assists as the Huskies shot 58 percent from the floor.
The Huskies relied on their post game early to take control. Fifteen of their 19 first-half boards were on the defensive end resulted in several breakaway layups. Turner and Charde Houston muscled their way inside for two layups in a 9-0 UConn run. Turner capped the spurt with an up-and-under around 6-foot-5 Melissa D’Amico with 10:38 left in the period for an 18-11 lead.
The Huskies led by as many as 18 in the period and led 38-24 at the break. UConn stretched the lead to 21 in the first five minutes of the second half and the Irish would get no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Connecticut Met In Storrs
Notre Dame snapped Connecticut’s BIG EAST regular-season home winning streak at 112 games on Jan. 30, 2005, with Courtney LaVere scoring 14 points and anchoring a dominating inside game in the Irish’s 65-59 victory at Gampel Pavilion.
UConn hadn’t lost a home conference game since a 64-62 defeat to Georgetown on Feb. 27, 1993. The Irish also ended the Huskies’ 55-game streak at Gampel Pavilion – UConn’s last defeat at Gampel was a 72-71 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 1, 2001.
The sixth-ranked Irish (18-3, 6-2 BIG EAST) lost 18 days earlier to the No. 9 Huskies (13-5, 6-1) in South Bend. In avenging that loss, the Irish were able to post their first win in eight meetings at Storrs.
The Irish led by 10 at the half and countered every UConn move down the stretch with backdoor cuts to LaVere or three-pointers from Megan Duffy and Charel Allen.
Ann Strother kept the Huskies in the game with her perimeter shooting. She had a season-high 25 points on 7-of-9 three-point shooting. Her final trey with 12.6 seconds cut the Irish lead to 61-59, but Notre Dame iced it by hitting four straight free throws.
Duffy finished with 12 points, and Teresa Borton matched her career high with 11 rebounds for the Irish. Charde Houston had 10 points and 12 boards for the Huskies.
Notre Dame outscored UConn 36-16 in the paint and had 19 points off 20 UConn turnovers. Led by LaVere, a reserve forward, Notre Dame’s backups outscored the UConn reserves 29-12.
The Irish established their inside dominance early, outscoring UConn 22-6 in the paint in the first half. LaVere, who had 10 points in the period on 4-of-5 shooting, was nearly unstoppable with her hook shot.
UConn clung to a two-point lead with 7:49 remaining when the Irish went on a 10-0 run to take a 28-20 lead. The Huskies spent most of the period without center Jessica Moore, who picked up her third foul eight minutes in. The Irish also scored 17 points on 16 UConn turnovers in the first half and led 34-24 at the half.
Other Notre Dame-Connecticut Series Tidbits
- Connecticut is one of four BIG EAST Conference opponents to hold a series edge over Notre Dame, leading the series with the Irish, 19-4. The other league foes with winning records vs. Notre Dame are Rutgers (13-9), DePaul (15-10) and Louisville (3-1), although the majority of the latter two series came prior to both schools joining the BIG EAST before last season.
- Since the start of the 1998-99 season, Connecticut has lost by 15-plus points only six times, with half of those losses coming to Notre Dame (twice in 2000-01, once in 2003-04).
- Notre Dame is one of only four teams in the nation to defeat Connecticut at least three times in the past 12 seasons (1995-96 to present). During that 11-year stretch, the only programs with more wins over the Huskies than the Irish are Tennessee (nine) and Rutgers (four), while North Carolina also has defeated UConn three times.
- Notre Dame freshman guard Ashley Barlow and Connecticut freshman forward Kaili McLaren were teammates on the White squad at the 2006 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Game in Boston. Barlow had four points and four rebounds, while McLaren tallied eight points and two rebounds, but their White Team fell to the Red Team (led by UConn freshman center Tina Charles), 68-61.
- Connecticut sophomore forward/center Cassie Kerns is a native of Valparaiso, Ind., and graduated from Valparaiso High School.
- Both head coaches – Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma – were appointed to the WBCA Board of Directors in June 2005 by president (and DePaul head coach) Doug Bruno. McGraw assumed the title of NCAA Division I Legislative Chair for the group, taking over for another BIG EAST coach, Marquette’s Terri Mitchell.
- McGraw and Auriemma both hail from the Philadelphia metro area, and cut their coaching teeth in the region. McGraw spent two seasons as the head girls’ basketball coach at Archbishop Carroll High School (1977-79) before becoming an assistant at her alma mater, Saint Joseph’s, from 1980-82 under her mentor (and current Ohio State skipper) Jim Foster. Meanwhile, Auriemma coached the boys’ basketball team at Bishop Kenrick High School in Norristown, Pa., from 1979-81, and also spent a season (1978-79) as an assistant under Foster at SJU.
Allen Named BIG EAST Player Of The Week
Junior guard Charel Allen was chosen as the BIG EAST Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, the league office announced Monday. It’s the first time in Allen’s three-year career she has been tapped for the award, although she was twice named to the BIG EAST Honor Roll earlier this season and was selected as the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Feb. 7, 2005.
In one of the best weeks of her career, Allen averaged 28.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game with a .641 field goal percentage (25-of-39) and a .571 three-point percentage (4-of-7) as Notre Dame defeated both St. John’s (83-65) and Syracuse (83-55) at home. Against St. John’s, Allen poured in a career-high 31 points on 14-of-19 shooting, logging the second-most field goals made by an Irish player in Joyce Center history. Four days later vs. Syracuse, Allen notched her second career double-double (both this season) with a game-high 25 points and a career-high-tying 10 rebounds. She also became the first Notre Dame player with consecutive 25-point games since Feb. 16-19, 2002, when Alicia Ratay did so against Rutgers (25) and West Virginia (31).
For the season, Allen leads the team and ranks ninth in the BIG EAST in scoring (16.0 ppg.), while also collecting 6.2 rebounds per game. Besides her scoring totals, Allen is among the conference leaders in steals (tie-fourth, 2.42 spg.), and she has scored in double figures 17 times in 19 games this season, including each of the past nine contests (averaging 18.2 ppg. in that span).
One Tough Road Trip
Notre Dame’s current three-game road swing against three ranked opponents stands as one of the toughest in program history. It’s the first time ever that the Irish have played three consecutive regular-season true road games vs. Top 25 teams, and only the fourth time Notre Dame has ever faced three consecutive ranked opponents in the regular season (first since Jan. 24-31, 2004 when the Irish downed No. 23/25 Villanova, No. 17/16 Miami and No. rv/23 Boston College in succession).
Barlow Gets Her SportsCenter Moment
Freshman guard Ashley Barlow made her first appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter Tuesday night. The Irish rookie earned the No. 6 spot on the show’s “Top 10 Plays” after sinking an acrobatic fastbreak layup while falling out-of-bounds with 11:05 left in the first half of Tuesday’s loss at No. 17/18 Marquette.
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. The Notre Dame reserves are averaging 23.4 points per game and are outscoring the opposition’s bench by more than nine points per game. For the year, the Irish second unit has outscored the opponent reserves in 15 of 19 games, with Notre Dame posting a 12-3 record in those contests.
The Familiar Five
The Irish have used the same starting lineup in all 19 games this season, with guards Tulyah Gaines, Charel Allen and Breona Gray joined by forward Crystal Erwin and center Melissa D’Amico.
Notre Dame is the only BIG EAST school that has started the same lineup in every game it has played this season.
The Best Things In Life Are Free
Notre Dame ranks sixth in the nation in free throw percentage (.778), through games of Jan. 21. 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.
The Irish also lead the BIG EAST Conference with a .791 free throw percentage in league play. The BIG EAST record for foul shooting in regular-season conference games is .787, set by Seton Hall in 1986-87.
Clutch When It Counts
Notre Dame is shooting 75.6 percent from the foul line (65-of-86) 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 Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner are a combined 18-of-21 (.857) at the charity stripe down the stretch.
Poise Under Pressure
The Irish are 6-3 this season in games decided by 10 points or less, including a 4-1 record when the margin is five points or fewer. Going back the previous two seasons (2004-05 to present), Notre Dame is 12-5 in five-point games and 26-10 in 10-point contests – with four of those 10 losses coming in overtime.
In addition, four 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 7-for-8 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.
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 (16.0 ppg.) and Tulyah Gaines (10.3 ppg.), and center Melissa D’Amico (9.9 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, they have 35 double-digit efforts.
Spread The Wealth
The Irish have fielded at least three double-figure scorers in 13 games this season, going 10-3 in those contests (losses at Penn State, South Florida and No. 17/18 Marquette). The Jan. 13 overtime loss at USF marked the fourth time this year Notre Dame had five players crack double digits in the same contest.
Keeping The Home Fires Burning
Notre Dame has been largely solid at home this season, going 10-1 due in part to a crisp offense that has averaged 80.1 points per game on the Joyce Center hardwood. Led by junior guard Charel Allen (16.9 ppg.), the Irish also have four players scoring better than 11 points per game through their 11 home outings and are shooting .469 from the floor in front of the Notre Dame faithful.
Contribute Early, Contribute Often
Notre Dame’s freshman class has wasted little time in making its presence felt this season. Three of the Irish rookies – guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner, and center Erica Williamson – make up the team’s primary bench rotation, with all three averaging at least 16 minutes per game, all three having scored in double figures at least three times, and both Barlow and Williamson have posted double-doubles this season.
Barlow also is second on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and ranks among the BIG EAST Conference leaders in both free throw percentage (.882, also 14th in NCAA as of Jan. 22) and steals (2.1 spg.). Williamson is carding 6.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, ranking sixth in the conference in the latter category. And, Lechlitner is logging 5.4 points and 3.0 assists per night, while being perhaps the most productive Irish freshman of late. In her last four games, Lechlitner is averaging 9.8 points and 5.3 assists per game with a 5.25 assist/turnover ratio. She scored a career-high 18 points vs. Syracuse, following a nine-assist, no-turnover effort vs. St. John’s. In addition, she had 11 points in the overtime loss at South Florida, including the game-tying three-pointer with 11 seconds left in regulation.
The Five-Finger Discount
Notre Dame’s aggressive defense has forced 21.2 turnovers per game this season, logging 20-or-more takeaways in 14 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 11.9 steals per night. In fact, Notre Dame has posted double-digit steal totals in 14 games this season, with junior guard Charel Allen committing the most larcenies to date (46, 2.42 per game, tied-fourthin BIG EAST) and leading four Irish players with at least 35 steals this season.
In addition, freshman guard Ashley Barlow recorded a combined 11 steals vs. Western Michigan (six) and at USC (five). That made her the first Notre Dame player with back-to-back five-steal games since March 30-April 1, 2001, when Niele Ivey did so against Connecticut (five) and Purdue (six) at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in St. Louis.
Game #19 Recap: Marquette
Efueko Osagie-Landry scored 15 points and Krystal Ellis added 12 to lead No. 17/18 Marquette to an 71-62 victory over Notre Dame on Tuesday night at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee.
After trailing nearly the entire game, Notre Dame closed the gap to 52-48 when Allen hit two free throws with 7:27 remaining. Marquette then went on an 11-4 run to grab a 63-52 lead with 3:42 remaining when Osagie-Landry converted an old-fashioned three-point play.
Notre Dame could get no closer than seven points the rest of the way when Breona Gray hit two free throws with 35.6 seconds left. Marquette hit five of eight free throws, including three by Osagie-Landry, down the stretch.
The Golden Eagles pulled ahead in the first half, but Notre Dame cut the halftime lead to 31-29 on a three-pointer by Crystal Erwin with 32 seconds left in the opening period.
Noting The Marquette Game
- Notre Dame saw its 10-game series winning streak against Marquette come to an end, with the Golden Eagles collecting their first win over the Irish since Dec. 1, 1992 (66-62 in Milwaukee).
- MU’s 71 points were the most allowed by Notre Dame in the series since Dec. 1, 1993 (a 90-76 Irish win at the Joyce Center), and only the third time in 32 series games that the Golden Eagles have topped the 70-point mark.
- Marquette was the third ranked opponent for Notre Dame this season, with the Irish going 1-2 against Top 25 teams to date (67-59 win vs. No. 10/9 Purdue, 78-54 loss at No. 4 Tennessee); Notre Dame also dealt current No. 16 Bowling Green one of only two losses to date all season, an 85-81 overtime win on Nov. 13 (BGSU was receiving votes in both polls at tipoff and moved into the rankings two weeks later).
- Notre Dame’s bench was outscored for just the fourth time all season (1-3 record).
- The Irish carded double-digit steals for the 14th time in 19 games, with the 17 steals vs. Marquette being their second-highest total of the season (18 vs. Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28).
- MU shot a Notre Dame opponent season-high .549 from the field, exceeding Penn State’s .488 mark on Nov. 16.
- The Irish protected the ball well once again (12 turnovers) and are averaging just 11 turnovers in their last three games.
- Charel Allen tied her career high with five steals (achieved twice before, most recently vs. Prairie View A&M).
- Breona Gray’s four steals were a career best, passing the three-steal standard she had set nine previous times (most recently vs. St. John’s on Jan. 16).
Injury Bug Bites Irish Early
Sophomore guard Lindsay Schrader will miss the 2006-07 season after suffering a torn ACL in her right knee during practice on Oct. 15. Schrader underwent corrective surgery on Oct. 27, with the normal rehabilitation timeline extending 6-9 months.
Schrader was to be Notre Dame’s top returning scorer and rebounder this season, after averaging 10.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during her rookie campaign in 2005-06.
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 606-272 (.690) 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 557-252 (.689).
- 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 442-173 (.719) at the helm of the Irish and has a career record of 530-214 (.712) 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.
Notre Dame Ranked 11th In Preseason BIG EAST Coaches’ Poll
According to a preseason poll of the BIG EAST Conference coaches, Notre Dame will finish 11th in the conference this season. Those were the results released at the league’s annual Media Day Oct. 26 at the ESPN Zone in New York’s Times Square. The Irish earned 108 points, while reigning BIG EAST Championship victor, Connecticut (221 points, 11 first-place votes) was tabbed first, ahead of regular-season champion Rutgers (215 points, five first-place votes). The BIG EAST sent 11 teams to the postseason last year, including seven NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Notre Dame was one).
The Irish now are in their 12th season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference in 2006-07. The Irish have gone 149-41 (.784) all-time in regular-season conference games, posting the second-best winning percentage in league history. Connecticut is first with a .787 success rate (307-83). Notre Dame also has finished among the top three in the final BIG EAST regular-season standings nine times in its first 11 seasons in the conference, including a share of the BIG EAST title in 2000-01.
Half And Half
During the past seven seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 118-10 (.922) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 46 of their last 50 such contests. Nine times this year, Notre Dame has led at the break, going on to win each time (Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Richmond, IUPUI, Valparaiso, Prairie View A&M, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Syracuse).
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 164-10 (.943) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has held six foes to less than 60 points, and is 5-1 in those games (wins over Michigan, Purdue, Valparaiso, Prairie View A&M and Syracuse; loss 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 99-3 (.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 eight times this season, winning on each occasion (Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Richmond, Prairie View A&M, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Syracuse).
The eight 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 145 of their last 162 games (.895) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has an 83-12 (.874) 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 295-78 (.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 will tie 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.
Jammin’ The Joyce
Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past six years. This season looks to be no exception, as the Irish currently are 10th in the nation in average attendance (6,331 fans per game), according to the latest unofficial weekly rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office. What’s more, each of the top 20 women’s basketball crowds in Joyce Center history have occurred during the 20-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present), with 19 of those 20 occurring in the past seven seasons (2000-01 to present). Lastly, the Irish have attracted at least 5,000 fans to 89 of their last 91 home games, including 15 contests with at least 8,000 fans and the first three sellouts in the program’s history (two in 2000-01, one in 2005-06).
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.
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 will have 11 of its regular-season games televised during the 2006-07 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket are 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.
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 77 televised games, including 47 that were broadcast nationally.
Notre Dame On The Airwaves
For the 11th consecutive season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on commercial radio in South Bend, and for the seventh year in a row, Notre Dame can be heard on the flagship station of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network – WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his seventh season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard free of charge on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com).
Irish Debut Free Video Coverage
In the latest instance of the wide-ranging media avenues afforded the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, the Irish will have several of their 2006-07 home games televised free of charge through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com). Thanks to the considerable efforts of CSTV Online (based in Carlsbad, Calif.) and its new Fighting Irish All-Access package, fans of Notre Dame women’s basketball can watch every minute of exciting action at the Joyce Center live from the comfort of their own homes. The video will be supplemented by an audio simulcast of the Notre Dame radio broadcast, led by veteran sportscaster Sean Stires.
This free service is limited to those home games that have not been selected for broadcast by other TV outlets. The Irish have been seen on und.com four times this season (Indiana, IUPUI, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Syracuse), with the remainder of this year’s Internet video broadcast schedule to include home games vs. Louisville (Feb. 7) and Georgetown (Feb. 21).
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.
Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356), on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center, or via the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com/tickets). Consult the Notre Dame promotions web site (www.notredamepromotions.com) for the latest information:
- Feb. 4 vs. West Virginia – Girls and Women in Sports Celebration … Cheerleading Clinic … Faculty/Staff Day (half-priced tickets for Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s/Holy Cross faculty/staff and up to four guests) … Notre Dame women’s basketball freshman/sophomore player trading cards to the first 1,000 fans, courtesy of Homerun Inn Pizza … post-game autograph session on upper arena concourse with selected Irish players.
- Feb. 7 vs. Louisville – Heart of the Irish (Heart Health Awareness) … Wacky Wednesday (buy one ticket, get one free) … Notre Dame women’s basketball long-sleeved t-shirts to the first 1,000 fans, courtesy of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center … post-game autograph session on upper arena concourse with selected Irish players.
Next Game: Pittsburgh
The Irish close out their three-game BIG EAST road swing next Wednesday, Jan. 31, when they travel to Pittsburgh for a 7 p.m. (ET) game at the Petersen Events Center. The game will serve as a homecoming for junior guard Charel Allen, who grew up 30 miles south of the Steel City in Monessen, Pa.
Pittsburgh (15-4, 3-3 BIG EAST) is ranked 23rd in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll and got the season off to a flying start with 12 consecutive victories before a loss to current No. 1 Duke on a neutral floor in Cancun, Mexico. Most recently, the Panthers dropped a 72-59 decision at No. 18/17 Louisville on Wednesday night, and are slated to visit Seton Hall Saturday afternoon before returning home to take on Notre Dame.