Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Irish Women Host Providence

Feb. 13, 2004

Complete Release in PDF Format
dot.gifspacer.gifDownload Free Acrobat Reader


The Date and Time: Saturday, Feb. 14, 2004, at 7 p.m. ET.
The Site: Joyce Center (11,418) in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Tickets: Still available by calling the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356).
The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires (play-by-play). These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at
Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics are available for the Providence game through the Notre Dame ( and Providence ( athletics web sites.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Providence (

After enjoying a well-deserved week of rest from the grind of the BIG EAST Conference season, Notre Dame will get back onto the hardwood Saturday with a 7 p.m. (ET) matchup against Providence at the Joyce Center. The Irish will be seeking to continue their run of success at home, where they are undefeated this season and have an active 15-game winning streak at the Joyce Center that stretches back to the end of last year.

  • Although the week off was beneficial for Notre Dame, the Irish (14-8, 7-3 BIG EAST) did have to spend the hiatus with a sour taste in their mouths after a 51-45 loss at Seton Hall last Sunday. Notre Dame led by six points at halftime and continued to remain in front for much of the second half, but a five-minute dry spell from the floor down the stretch meant trouble for the Irish. It also continued to magnify the problems Notre Dame has endured on the road this season.
  • For only the second time in school history (and the first since Feb. 3, 1978 at Marquette), the Irish did not have a single player score in double figures. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and senior guard Le’Tania Severe each tallied nine points for Notre Dame, which shot a season-low 31.4 percent in the loss.
  • Providence (4-17, 0-10) saw its current losing streak extended to a school-record 10 games on Wednesday night with a 68-41 loss to Villanova. Junior forward Gayle Nwafili led the Friars with 15 points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Kristin Quinn and freshman Shauna Snyder each chipped in with eight points.
  • Nwafili is PC’s leading scorer (11.8 ppg.) and rebounder (8.6 rpg.), ranking second in the BIG EAST in the latter category.
  • Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Providence, 11-0, including a 5-0 mark at home.

Notre Dame has ridden a true roller coaster of emotions this season. Facing the nation’s third-toughest schedule, the Irish have been particularly dominant at home, going 10-0 at the Joyce Center, but have had maddening runs of inconsistency on the road, posting a 4-8 mark. Still, Notre Dame has gained valuable experience against some top-notch opponents this year, going 6-3 against Top 25 teams and firmly planting itself within the Top 20 of all major RPI ladders.

  • Junior forward and preseason All-American Jacqueline Batteast (14.7 ppg., 8.2 rpg., .443 field goal percentage, seven double-doubles) has lived up to her accolades this season, ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots (1.32 bpg.). She was named to the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team on Nov. 15 after a superb weekend that included a career-high 27 points against 22nd-ranked Auburn. She then piled up back-to-back double-doubles vs. No. 20 Colorado (13p, 10r) and Valparaiso (15p, 10r) before logging team bests of 16 points and seven caroms at No. 3 Tennessee, 19 points at Washington and a game-high 13 points with six assists vs. Dayton. She then chalked up her third double-double vs. USC (20p, 13r) to earn the first BIG EAST Player of the Week honor of her career. Since BIG EAST play began, she has been red hot, averaging 14.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game with a .462 field goal percentage and four double-doubles (and three other near double-doubles). She now has 63 double-figure scoring games and 26 double-doubles in her three-year Irish career. Batteast also became the 20th Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points when she tallied 14 points vs. Virginia Tech on Jan. 10, making her the fourth-fastest ever to reach that milestone (72 games).
  • Junior center Teresa Borton (6.5 ppg., 4.3 rpg., .504 FG%) and sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (8.8 ppg., 4.5 rpg.) also have made important contributions at times this season. Borton has recovered well from off-season heel surgery and was at her best vs. Colorado State and Marquette, ringing up 14 points on both occasions. Borton then added 11 points and eight rebounds at Georgetown, followed by 14 points and six boards against Virginia Tech, before scoring 10 points (4-4 FG) vs. Georgetown. Meanwhile, LaVere, a freshman All-American last year, has had an up-and-down second season. She tied Batteast for team-high scoring honors with 12 points at Michigan State before rising up and carding season highs of 22 points and nine rebounds vs. Wisconsin. She once again cracked double figures on Jan. 1 vs. Marquette, tossing in 16 points on six of 11 shooting. LaVere has looked solid in her last eight outings, breaking into double digits five times (14 points against Connecticut, 10 points at West Virginia and Syracuse, team-high 15 points at Miami and 11 points vs. Boston College).
  • Sophomore Megan Duffy (11.0 ppg., team-high 4.50 apg., .409 3FG%, .818 FT%) is in her first season as the everyday point guard for the Irish and she is proving to be a key cog in the Notre Dame offensive arsenal. After averaging only three points and 2.3 assists per game last year, the Dayton, Ohio, native has more than tripled her scoring output, ranks sixth in the BIG EAST in assists and owns a team-best 1.43 assist/turnover ratio (eighth in the BIG EAST). In addition, she is showing offensive diversity, knocking down 36 three-pointers this season. She also has 12 double-figure scoring games to her credit this year, including a career-high 25 points vs. Wisconsin on Dec. 4, and 22 points at Georgetown on Jan. 7. Her ball handling skills have not diminished, as she also has registered five or more assists in 12 games, including a career-high nine assists on Dec. 7 at Washington. She notched her fourth consecutive double-figure scoring game with 11 points vs. Georgetown, including a perfect six of six at the free throw line.
  • Senior captain Le’Tania Severe (7.7 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 3.0 apg., .486 FG%, .797 FT%) has slid over to the shooting guard position in place of the NCAA’s all-time three-point queen, Alicia Ratay, and Severe has filled the role admirably. While not putting up the three-point numbers Ratay had in her remarkable career, Severe is getting her points as a slasher, driving to the basket and creating havoc for opposing defenses. She also leads the team with 1.5 steals per game and has been a vital piece of Notre Dame’s transition game. She has scored in double digits seven times this year, including a season-high 15 points against Purdue and Boston College, as well as 12 points against Connecticut.

To say the 2003-04 season has been a trying one for Providence would be a bit of an understatement. In fact, the Friars have had to battle through injuries and other adversities all year long, all while playing in one of the nation’s toughest conferences, the BIG EAST. PC has seen its depth sapped throughout the season and also has four freshmen on its roster, who possess tremendous talent, but are still learning the ropes at the college level.

Providence (4-17, 0-10 BIG EAST) is in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, the longest in school history, after falliing at home to Villanova, 68-41 on Wednesday night. Junior forward Gayle Nwafili continued her impressive play this season, piling up 15 points and eight rebounds in a complete-game effort. The Friars also committed just 11 turnovers, but they also shot only 33.3 percent from the floor (17 of 51) in the loss.

Without question, Nwafili is the top threat for Providence, averaging 11.8 points per game and ranking second in the BIG EAST with 8.6 rebounds per game. She also is tops on the squad with a .445 field goal percentage and she has six double-doubles this year. Senior guard Kristin Quinn complements Nwafili from the perimeter, averaging 10.3 ppg., with a .407 three-point percentage. She also ranks eighth in the BIG EAST in steals (1.95 spg.) and has a team-best .857 free throw percentage, which would stand third in the conference if she had made enough foul shots to qualify.

Providence head coach Susan Yow is in the middle of her second season with the Friars, owning a 13-35 (.271) record. A veteran of 21 years as a collegiate head coach at Drake, Kansas State and UNC Wilmington, Yow has a career record of 235-331 (.423). She is 0-1 all-time against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame and Providence had never met on the hardwood prior to the Irish joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. Since that time, the series has been one-sided in Notre Dame’s favor, with the Irish going 11-0 all-time against the Friars (5-0 at the Joyce Center). Notre Dame also has outscored PC by an average of 22.6 points per game during their series, although two of the last three games have been decided by six points (the first single-digit margins in the rivalry).

Among current Irish players, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has had the most success against Providence, averaging 18.3 points and 6.0 rebounds with an .889 free throw percentage (24 of 27) in three games vs. the Friars. Junior center Teresa Borton also has played well against PC, averaging 12 points and 5.3 rebounds with a .652 field goal percentage (15 of 23) in three career matchups. A complete rundown of the statistics active Notre Dame players have compiled against Providence can be found on page 19 of this notes package.

Alicia Ratay poured in a season-high 30 points and tied her career best with seven three-point field goals, as Notre Dame picked up its fourth win in five games with a 67-61 BIG EAST Conference triumph at Providence on Feb. 16, 2003, inside historic Alumni Hall/Mullaney Gymnasium.

Ratay canned six of her seven three-point attempts in the first half, finishing the day one trey short of the school record held by Sheila McMillen (vs. St. John’s, 2/28/98) and two shy of the BIG EAST record owned by West Virginia’s Christine Lambert (vs. Providence, 1/21/98). It was the third 30-point game of Ratay’s career, making her just the sixth player in school history to top the 30-point mark three times at Notre Dame.

In addition to her scoring and shooting prowess (she was nine of 12 from the field overall), Ratay also claimed team-high rebounding honors, pulling down seven caroms in the victory. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast chipped in with 15 points, six rebounds and four steals for the Irish.

Jessica Simmonds and Kristin Quinn shared team-high scoring honors for Providence with 15 points each, leading four Friars in double figures. Quinn got the starting nod in place of PC’s leading scorer, Michal Epstein, who was sidelined with an injury. Quiana Copeland came off the bench to grab a game-high nine rebounds for the Friars.

Playing before a boisterous Senior Day crowd of 1,781, Providence jumped out to an early 12-2 lead behind six quick points from Simmonds. The Friars maintained their advantage for the next 12 minutes and owned a 27-20 lead when Simmonds sank a layup with 7:35 remaining in the first half.

However, as it did with regularity during the 2002-03 season, Notre Dame rode the strength of its defense to erase the deficit. For the fourth consecutive contest, the Irish used a massive scoring spurt to seize control, this time going on a 32-4 run that spanned 12:26 and crossed over into the second half. Ratay highlighted the charge with 13 points, including four three-pointers over that stretch. She also converted a rare four-point play (her first of the year and third of her career) with 2:24 left in the first half to push the Notre Dame lead into double digits for the first time.

When the dust had settled, the Irish led by a comfortable 21-point margin (52-31) with 14:57 to play. Providence would not go quietly, and used an 18-5 run of its own to pull back within 57-49 with 5:27 remaining. Ratay helped Notre Dame rebuild a 12-point lead when she knocked down a long jumper with 2:45 left, but PC hung tough and behind three-point baskets from Quinn and Brooke Freeburg, the Friars got to within 63-57 with 32 seconds left.

Ratay then iced the game for Notre Dame at the free throw line, hitting two charities with 28 seconds to go for an eight-point margin. She nailed two more with five seconds left to fend off a final Providence charge after the hosts had whittled the lead to 65-61 on two Quinn free throws.

Notre Dame’s freshman class combined for 55 points as the Irish raced out to a 19-point lead and then held off a furious Providence rally to post a 72-66 win on Jan. 5, 2002, before 7,804 fans at the Joyce Center.

Jacqueline Batteast scored a (then) career-high 26 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to pace the Notre Dame effort. Teresa Borton came off the bench to tally a (then) career-best 20 points, hitting nine of 11 shots from the field, while Kelsey Wicks matched her career high (at the time) with nine points.

Ryann Kilgore led Providence with a (then) career-high 19 points in a reserve role. Michal Epstein added a (then) career-best 13 points and six rebounds, while Jessica Simmonds collected a team-high eight rebounds for the Friars, who remain winless in five career visits to South Bend.

Notre Dame logged its sixth win in seven games thanks to another solid shooting performance – the Irish connected on 48.9 percent of their shots, including a .586 ratio in the first half. The Irish also made 24 of 34 free throws (.706) in the win over Providence.

The first half started as a nip-and-tuck affair, with four ties and four lead changes in the opening 11 minutes. Providence held the largest lead by either team during the first quarter of play, building a 16-10 edge on a three-pointer by Kilgore with 13:11 left in the first half. Notre Dame battled back with an 8-0 run, regaining the lead on a short jumper by Wicks at the 10:42 mark. However, that lead was short-lived, as the Friars snatched back a 21-20 advantage on a trey by Catrina Hawley-Stewart with nine minutes to go in the period.

From there, the Irish freshman corps went to work, as Batteast, Borton and Wicks combined to score 22 of the next 24 points, giving Notre Dame a seemingly comfortable 42-23 lead with 2:36 remaining in the first half. The Friars then provided the crowd with a preview of things to come, scoring the final six points of the period to whittle its deficit down to 13 points at the half.

Providence built on the mini-rally it started at the end of the first half, scoring seven of the first nine points in the period to pull within 44-36 less than three minutes into the stanza. Notre Dame worked the lead back up to 13 points twice over the next five minutes, owning a 54-41 edge with 13:42 to play.

At that point, the Friars rocked the Irish on their collective heels, going on a 18-6 run and getting within 60-59 on a three-pointer by Kristin Quinn with 6:24 still to play. However, Notre Dame steadied itself, getting a critical layup from Borton on the next possession to keep Providence at bay. Epstein hit a jumper to get the Friars back within 64-61 with 4:37 to go, but that would be as close as the visitors would get. The Irish held PC to two field goals over the final four minutes and made seven of 10 free throws in the last 62 seconds to seal the important conference victory.


  • Providence is one of three BIG EAST Conference opponents against whom Notre Dame is unbeaten (11-0). The others are St. John’s (13-0) and Pittsburgh (13-0), who also happen to be the next two teams on the schedule for the Irish.
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points six times in 11 previous meetings with Providence. Conversely, the Friars have broken the 70-point mark just three times against the Irish and have scored more than 60 points only twice in their last eight games against Notre Dame (72-66 on Jan. 5, 2002; 67-61 on Feb. 16, 2003).
  • Notre Dame has averaged only 68 points in its last four games against Providence, including a series-low 64 points on Jan. 31, 2001, at the Joyce Center.
  • The six-point margins on Jan. 5, 2002 (72-66) and Feb. 16, 2003 (67-61) represent the closest games in the Notre Dame-Providence series.
  • The Irish have averaged 83.0 points per game in five previous matchups with the Friars at the Joyce Center, winning all five games by an average margin of 22.8 points per game.
  • Notre Dame is the only visiting school to have a unblemished all-time record (5-0) at Providence’s Alumni Hall with a minimum of three games played. The Irish also are one of four teams to boast a winning record on the Friars’ home court – the other success stories are Massachusetts (3-2), Miami (6-3) and Rutgers (7-1).
  • Two of the premier players in New Mexico girls high school basketball history will appear in Saturday night’s game as Cibola High School products Monique Hernandez of Notre Dame and Shauna Snyder of Providence do battle. Hernandez, a Rio Rancho, N.M. native, was a two-time USA Today and Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American and was named the New Mexico Player of the Year as a senior in 1998-99 after averaging 15.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 4.0 steals per game. Hernandez also held the Cibola HS record for career points (1,307) before it was broken by Snyder last year with 1,386 points. Like Hernandez four years earlier, Snyder, an Albuquerque resident, went on to be named the New Mexico Player of the Year in 2002-03.
  • Saturday’s game will feature two of the top rebounders in the BIG EAST, as Notre Dame junior forward Jacqueline Batteast squares off with Providence junior forward Gayle Nwafili. Batteast is fourth in the league with 8.2 rebounds per game, while Nwafili is second with 8.6 caroms per contest. The situation is reversed in conference games, with Batteast ranking third (8.8 rpg.) and Nwafili hot on her heels in fourth (8.7 rpg.). The pair also rank among the top five in the BIG EAST in double-doubles this year – Batteast is tied for third with seven double dips, while Nwafili is fifth with six double-doubles.

Notre Dame is 119-27 (.815) 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 75 of their last 92 regular-season conference games (.815), 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 131-35 (.789) against league opponents – when factoring in these 20 postseason tilts, the Irish are 66-7 (.904) at home, 53-23 (.697) on the road and 12-5 (.706) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

The Irish have winning streaks of 10 or more games against three of their 13 BIG EAST Conference opponents. Their longest active conference winning streak is 13 games against St. John’s and Pittsburgh, followed by an 11-game success string against Providence. The longest current Irish winning streak vs. any opponent is 17 games against Valparaiso.

Coming into the 2003-04 season, Notre Dame had a perfect all-time record against six of the opponents on its schedule (Valparaiso, Washington, West Virginia, Providence, St. John’s and Pittsburgh). Providence represents the fourth foe in that list, with the Irish holding an 11-0 series record against the Friars. In fact, PC is one of four foes the Irish have defeated at least 10 times without a loss – the others are Pittsburgh (13-0), St. John’s (13-0) and Valparaiso (17-0).

The Irish have played five times on Feb. 14 in their history, going 4-1 on Valentine’s Day, with a 3-0 record in the Muffet McGraw era and a 2-0 mark at home. The last time Notre Dame played on Feb. 14 was in 2001, when the top-ranked Irish rolled to a 75-61 win at Syracuse.


  • Notre Dame will remain perfect in 12 series meetings with Providence, extending the third-longest active unblemished streak against a BIG EAST opponent (13-0 vs. St. John’s and Pittsburgh).
  • The Irish will extend their current home winning streak to 16 games, collect their 109th win in their last 118 home games (.924) and move to 67-7 (.905) all-time at home against BIG EAST opposition.
  • Notre Dame will card its 12th win in the last 16 games since opening the year at 3-4.
  • The Irish will improve to 120-27 (.816) all-time in regular-season games against the BIG EAST Conference, maintaining the best winning percentage in conference history.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 378-146 (.721) in 17 seasons under the Golden Dome. She also will watch her career ledger improve to 466-187 (.714) in 22 years at the college level.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 542-245 (.689) in 27 seasons of varsity competition.

Reserve center LaNedra Brown scored all 10 of her points in the final 9:21, leading Seton Hall to a 51-45 victory over No. 23 Notre Dame on Feb. 8 at Walsh Gym. Melissa Langelier scored 13 points and made four free throws in the final 25 seconds for Seton Hall, which won for the third time in four games. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Notre Dame, which did not have a player score in double figures for only the second time in school history (and first since Feb. 3, 1978 at Marquette).

Ashley Bush’s drive put Seton Hall ahead 43-41 with 3:21 left. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast, who was in foul trouble all game and finished with nine points, six below her season average, made one free throw with 2:11 remaining to cut it to 43-42. With the shot clock winding down, Brown hit a 14-foot jumper with 43 seconds left. She added two free throws with 19 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

The teams took turns exchanging the lead in a tight second half. A layup by sophomore forward Courtney LaVere and a three-point play by senior guard Le’Tania Severe gave the Irish a 33-29 lead with 12:02 left, but Seton Hall regained the lead at 41-40 on two free throws by Langelier with 4:40 to go. Notre Dame tied it on a free throw by LaVere before Bush put Seton Hall back on top.

The Irish went on a 10-0 run in the first half, led by two power post moves from reserve freshman forward Crystal Erwin. Batteast and junior center Teresa Borton also added baskets inside during the spurt, helping Notre Dame take a 14-10 lead with 11:50 remaining in the first half. Notre Dame extended its lead to 21-13, the biggest by either team in the game, and was up 23-17 at halftime.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has referred to the aftermath of her team’s 76-73 loss at Georgetown on Jan. 7 as the turning point of the season for the Irish. Upon returning to campus the day after the disheartening setback, the Irish coaches began preparing for practice in their office and then headed for the gym floor, only to find the team already working out on its own.

Since that time, Notre Dame has won seven of nine games, including five against Top 25 opponents. One of the key reasons for that run of success has been an increased focus on defense – the Irish are giving up just 47.7 points per game and holding opponents to a .325 field goal percentage (.212 three-point ratio) over that stretch. Notre Dame also made a key lineup change after the Georgetown contest, going to a more defensive-oriented starting five that included senior guard Monique Hernandez, who had never started a game in her Irish career prior to Jan. 10.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has taken her game to another level against BIG EAST Conference opponents this year. In 10 conference games this year, Batteast is carding 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game with four double-doubles. She currently is third in the conference in rebounding and seventh in scoring. In addition, she has the No. 5 field goal percentage in the BIG EAST during league play (.462) and just missed double-doubles in three other conference outings (14 points and nine rebounds vs. Villanova; nine points and 10 rebounds at Miami; 20 points and nine rebounds vs. Georgetown).

Notre Dame has stepped up its play thanks in large measure to the added pressure applied by its defense. Through the first six weeks of the BIG EAST season, the Irish rank among the top three in the conference in several major defensive categories, including scoring defense (2nd – 50.5 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (1st – .336), three-point field goal percentage defense (1st – .218), rebounding margin (3rd – +4.5 rpg.) and blocked shots (2nd – 4.60 bpg.).

However, that’s just the start when it comes to noting Notre Dame’s defense. Here are some other tidbits about the current Irish defensive lockdown:

  • During its last six games, Notre Dame has given up an average of just 45.7 ppg. In fact, the 274 points allowed by the Irish in that stretch represents the best six-game defensive run in school history. The previous record was 276 points (46.0 ppg.) from Jan. 18-Feb. 9, 1978, in wins over Purdue-Calumet, IPFW, Grace College, Saint Mary’s (Ind.) and Manchester, and a loss at Marquette (all came when the Irish played at the Division III level).
  • Notre Dame has set a new school record by limiting its last six opponents to 52 points or less. The old record stood from Dec. 13, 1997 to Jan. 8, 1998, when Notre Dame had a streak of five consecutive games allowing 52 points or less.
  • The Irish held back-to-back opponents (Syracuse and Villanova) to less than 40 points for only the second time in school history (and first in the program’s Division I era, which began in 1980-81. The first time came on Jan. 24 & 31, 1978, when the Irish defeated IPFW (68-39) and Grace College (68-25).
  • In 20 halves of BIG EAST action (10 games), Irish opponents have scored 30-or-more points just four times, with Georgetown accounting for two of those in the BIG EAST opener back on Jan. 7.
  • Notre Dame has limited eight of its last nine opponents to field goal percentages of less than .400, going 6-2 in those contests. In addition, Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown (second game) all shot less than 30 percent from the floor. For the season, the Irish are 11-3 when they hold their opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
  • Notre Dame held Syracuse to 35 points on Jan. 21, setting a school record for the fewest points ever allowed in a BIG EAST road game and the second-fewest yielded in any road game (84-27 at Valparaiso on Jan. 21, 1982).

Notre Dame has fought through a brutal schedule that has included playing nine games against Top 25 opponents. The Irish have handled the challenge very well, going 6-3 in those contests with victories over No. 22/25 Auburn (77-64), No. 16/15 Virginia Tech (53-40), No. 4/4 Connecticut (66-51), No. 23/25 Villanova (38-36), No. 17/16 Miami (59-50) and No. NR/23 Boston College (52-50). Notre Dame narrowly missed a seventh win over a Top 25 foe, as No. 20/20 Colorado rallied to defeat the Irish, 67-63 in overtime in the championship game of the season-opening WBCA Classic in Boulder, Colo.

By comparison, in the previous two seasons (2001-02 and 2002-03), Notre Dame had a total of five wins over ranked opponents, with three of those coming in the regular season (Virginia Tech and Boston College in ’01-02, and Villanova in ’02-03).

The rugged Irish schedule has not gone unnoticed by the national media. The latest, WBCA/Summerville RPI, Sagarin/Collegiate Basketball News and Massey rankings all have tabbed Notre Dame’s schedule as the third-toughest in the nation (as of Feb. 13).

For the most part, Notre Dame has done a good job of shutting down the opposition’s top offensive threat since the start of BIG EAST Conference play. Only two of these opposing players (Georgetown’s Rebekkah Brunson and West Virginia’s Kate Bulger) have matched or exceeded their season scoring averages, and just two (Tamara James of Miami and Ashley Bush of Seton Hall) have topped her season shooting percentage.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has played very well in Notre Dame’s nine games against Top 25 opponents this year. She is averaging 14.9 points and 8.6 rebounds with three double-doubles (and three near double-doubles) in those matchups against ranked opponents in 2003-04.

Maybe it’s the long plane rides, or the lumpy mattresses in the hotel, or even the quality of the pre-game meal. Whatever the reason, Notre Dame has struggled at times on the road this season, going 4-8 away from the Joyce Center (3-8 in true road games). That’s a far cry from the success the Irish have experienced at home, where they are a perfect 10-0 and own an active 15-game winning streak.

Since the start of the BIG EAST Conference season on Jan. 7, Notre Dame has received critical support from its reserves. The Irish bench has averaged 18.2 points in 10 conference games this year, outscoring its opponent’s reserves by an average margin of 8.0 ppg. over that time.

Notre Dame’s bench play was especially important in its wins over Syracuse, No. 23/25 Villanova and No. 17/16 Miami. In that three-game span, the Irish reserves averaged 25.3 ppg., including a season-high 35 points at Syracuse and 33 points at Miami.

Notre Dame’s 66-51 victory over No. 4/4 Connecticut on Jan. 13 at the Joyce Center was historic for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of them:

  • Notre Dame’s win over Connecticut snapped the Huskies’ 121-game winning streak against unranked opponents, a string that dated back to Jan. 23, 1999 (a 78-66 loss at Boston College).
  • Since the start of the 1998-99 season, Connecticut has lost by 15-plus points only three times and each time, those losses have come to Notre Dame (twice in 2000-01, once in 2003-04).
  • Notre Dame is one of only two teams in the nation (and the first BIG EAST squad) to defeat Connecticut more than once in the past 11 seasons (1993-94 to present). During that 11-year stretch, Tennessee is the only other program with multiple wins over the Huskies.
  • In the past four seasons (2000-01 to present), half of Connecticut’s six losses have come at the hands of Notre Dame.
  • Over the past five seasons (1999-2000 to present), the Joyce Center is the only arena to see multiple losses by Connecticut.

Saying January was a crazy month for Notre Dame would probably be a bit of an understatement. To begin with, the Irish had 10 games on the schedule last month, its fullest slate since January 1997, when Notre Dame also played 10 times, posting a 9-1 record en route to its first NCAA Final Four appearance. However, that 1997 docket saw the Irish go the entire month without facing a ranked opponent. This year’s Notre Dame squad didn’t have that kind of luck, facing six Top 25 foes during the month.

This January didn’t start out well for Notre Dame, as the Irish lost two of their first three games, including a heartbreaking 76-73 setback at Georgetown in which the Hoyas scored seven points in the final 14 seconds to steal the victory. Unfazed, Notre Dame bounced back with wins in six of its last seven games, highlighted by victories over No. 4/4 Connecticut (66-51), No. 16/15 Virginia Tech (53-40), No. 17/16 Miami (59-50), No. 23/25 Villanova (38-36) and No. NR/23 Boston College (52-50).

Notre Dame put together one of the best defensive performances in school history on Dec. 13 vs. Dayton, rolling over the Flyers, 78-41 at the Joyce Center. In that game, the Irish held UD to just 11 first-half points, which matches the third-lowest mark in school history and equals the lowest opponent total ever at the Joyce Center (11 in the second half by Grace College on Jan. 31, 1978 – pre-NCAA era). The fewest points Notre Dame has ever allowed in one half is seven (first half) at Maryland on Jan. 9, 1985. The Irish also gave up just 10 first-half points to Georgetown on March 4, 2001, in a BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinal game at Storrs, Conn.

In addition, Notre Dame limited Dayton to an opponent record-low .050 field goal percentage (one for 20) in the first half, breaking the old Irish opponent record of .115 (three for 26), which had been set twice – in the first half of the aforementioned Maryland game, and by DePaul in the first half on Dec. 31, 2001 at the Joyce Center.

The Irish have often opened games in strong fashion, but nothing like what they turned out on Dec. 13 vs. Dayton. Notre Dame began the game on a 26-0 run, the largest game-opening surge in 27 seasons of Irish basketball. The previous record for the best start to a game was 17-0 vs. Texas Tech in the 2000 NCAA Mideast Regional Semifinal in Memphis.

The 26 unanswered points also tied for the second-longest run of consecutive markers by Notre Dame. The school record is 31 straight points, which the Irish achieved on Jan. 18, 1997 vs. Pittsburgh – Notre Dame trailed 14-2, but went on a 31-0 run over the next 13:14 to seize control of the game. The Irish also had a 26-point spree on Jan. 31, 1998 against Seton Hall, turning a 56-29 score into an 82-29 margin over a 9:44 span in the second half.

Based on her play this season, sophomore point guard Megan Duffy is making a strong case to be named the BIG EAST Conference Most Improved Player. Last season, the Dayton native averaged 3.0 points and 2.3 assists per game while still shaking off the rust caused by off-season knee surgery. She also struggled to find her shooting touch, hitting at a .242 clip from the floor and making only seven of 35 three-point attempts (.200).

Fast forward to this season, where Duffy has been an impact player from the outset. She is second on the team in scoring at 11.0 ppg., which more than triples her production from last year. However, her biggest improvement has come in her shooting numbers, where she’s connecting at a .409 percentage (36-88) from the three-point line and would be second in the BIG EAST if she had made enough treys to qualify (min. 2.0 per game). She’s also has more than five times as many treys as she sank all of last year and after cracking double digits just twice in 2002-03 (career high was 12 points), she has 12 double-figure games this season, with two topping the 20-point mark. Her best outing to date was a 25-point outburst on Dec. 4 vs. Wisconsin, where she shattered her career standard from beyond the arc, going six for 10 from downtown.

But lest we forget her primary duties at the point, Duffy is leading the Irish and ranks sixth in the BIG EAST with 4.50 assists per game, more than doubling last year’s output. She also has just 69 turnovers, giving her a healthy 1.43 assist/turnover ratio (eighth in the BIG EAST). She has dished out at least five assists 12 times this year, including a career-high nine dimes on Dec. 7 at Washington.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast scored a game-high 14 points on Jan. 10 against No. 16/15 Virginia Tech, becoming the 20th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. She also was the fourth-fastest Irish player ever to reach that milestone, doing so in her 72nd career game.

Batteast also is one of only five Irish players to score 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame, joining Morgan, Matvey, Riley and Ratay. For her career, the South Bend native ranks sixth in school history with a 14.2 ppg. scoring average, and 16th in total points (1,127), needing 67 points to pass Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91) for 15th place all-time.

One of the supposed question marks surrounding this year’s Notre Dame squad was its perimeter shooting. Through the first two-thirds of the season, the Irish have had an emphatic response to that question. Notre Dame is fifth in the BIG EAST with a .360 three-point percentage, hitting 81 of 225 shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Megan Duffy has been a major contributor from beyond the arc, connecting at a .409 clip (36-88), which would be second in the BIG EAST, but she has not made enough field goals to qualify for statistical ranking (minimum of 2.0 per game). Nevertheless, she stands 14th in the BIG EAST with 1.64 triples made per game.

Another long distance specialist for Notre Dame has been senior guard Jeneka Joyce, which is a pleasant surprise when you consider the Topeka, Kan., native has spent the better part of the past two seasons trying to recover from leg injuries. Joyce has knocked down 22 of 53 treys for a team-best .415 three-point percentage, but she also has not yet made enough field goals to qualify for the rankings. The veteran sharpshooter is working to regain her form after missing three games late last month due to a sprained ankle suffered in practice Jan. 22.

Although they didn’t come away with the trophy they wanted at the WBCA Classic, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and senior guard Le’Tania Severe did receive individual honors as members of the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team. Batteast averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds in the two-game tournament, while shooting .529 from the field. Severe carded 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in the tournament and posted a stellar .857 free throw percentage (12 of 14). It was the first career all-tournament team selection for both players.

Notre Dame is receiving 30 votes in this week’s Associated Press poll after spending four weeks in the Top 25 earlier this season. The Irish were ranked 15th in the preseason AP poll, marking the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the Irish were tapped in the initial AP survey of the year.

Notre Dame also is earning 20 votes in the most recent ESPN/USA Today coaches poll after appearing in the Top 25 for the first three weeks of 2003-04. The Irish were pegged No. 16 in the preseason coaches poll, also the seventh time in eight years that they had shown up in the first ESPN/USA Today poll of the year.

This season, Notre Dame has faced or will face no less than eight teams that are currently ranked in both major polls (No. 2/1 Connecticut, No. 3/3 Tennessee, No. 5/5 Purdue, No. 12/12 Colorado, No. 14/18 Auburn, No. 17/15 Michigan State and No. 21/19 Virginia Tech). In addition, Miami is ranked 23rd and Boston College is 25th in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Also, four Irish opponents – Marquette, USC, Villanova and West Virginia – are receiving votes in one or both polls this week.

Over the last four seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 71-6 (.922) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including a 9-2 mark this year. The two rare losses this season came on Nov. 15 at Colorado (led 37-33 at half; lost 67-63 in overtime) and at Seton Hall (led 23-17; lost 51-45).

Over the last nine 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 124-5 (.961) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added 10 more wins to that ledger this season by holding down Valparaiso (74-57), Dayton (78-41), Colorado State (63-59), Virginia Tech (53-40), Connecticut (66-51), Syracuse (64-35), Villanova (38-36), Miami (59-50), Boston College (52-50) and Georgetown (66-52).

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 nine seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 86-3 (.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 tacked on another win to this tally on Dec. 4 with its 82-64 win over Wisconsin.

Notre Dame is one of only eight schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen five times in the past seven seasons (1997-2003). The others are Connecticut (seven times), Tennessee (seven times), Duke (six times), Louisiana Tech (six times), North Carolina (five times), Old Dominion (five times) and Texas Tech (five times).

The Irish are one of just six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 10 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in these elite club are Tennessee (27), Texas Tech (14), Louisiana Tech (12), Old Dominion (12) and Connecticut (10).

Notre Dame has won 195 games over the last eight seasons (24.4 victories per year), which stands as the ninth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Irish are wearing white uniforms at home this season, eschewing the golden togs they sported for the past four seasons. Notre Dame has worn white uniforms on numerous occasions on the past, dating as far back as the school’s first varsity women’s basketball squad, which took the floor in 1977-78. Blue continues to be the primary color for the Irish road uniforms.

Notre Dame recently unveiled some new championship banners which now hang in the Joyce Center. The NCAA title flag won by the Irish women in 2001 and the Helms Foundation national championship banners won by the Notre Dame men in 1927 and 1936 now have been converted to gold with blue lettering, reversing the look of the other banners currently on display. In addition, the Irish basketball and volleyball teams have added blue flags for Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

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 108 of their last 117 games (.923) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a current 15-game winning streak. Notre Dame also has a 66-7 (.904) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 45 of their last 47 non-BIG EAST contests (.957) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only two losses in that span came to Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69) and Purdue in 2003 (71-54). The Purdue loss 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 258-70 (.787) 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.

Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in attendance each of the past three years. The Irish are looking to extend that streak to a fourth straight season, averaging 6,496 fans for their 10 home games, including a season-high 8,574 fans on Jan. 13 vs. fourth-ranked Connecticut, the seventh-largest crowd in school history. According to the latest unofficial national attendance rankings compiled by the Wisconsin Sports Information Office (as of Feb. 9), Notre Dame ranks 12th in the country in attendance.

The Irish averaged 7,132 fans for their 13 home games last season, good for their second consecutive eighth-place finish in the final NCAA attendance rankings. Last year also saw Notre Dame register two of the top 10 crowds in school history, including a season-high gathering of 9,483 fans, the fifth-largest in school history for the nationally-televised matchup with Purdue on Jan. 4, 2003.

All of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 17-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 five seasons.

Based on its success in recent years, Notre Dame continues to be a favorable television draw and the 2003-04 season will be no exception. The Irish are slated to play on the small screen no less than nine times in the coming campaign, including four appearances on national television.

Notre Dame made its ’03-04 television debut on Dec. 7 at Washington in a matchup that was shown to a national cable audience on Fox Sports Net. The Irish returned to coast-to-coast television on Jan. 4 when they visited Purdue for the inaugural BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge on ESPN2.

In addition, Notre Dame has been selected to appear on the BIG EAST Conference television package four times this season, including three home games. The Irish already have taken on Virginia Tech (Jan. 10), Villanova (Jan. 24) and Boston College (Jan. 31) at home, and will travel to Rutgers (Feb. 28) for games in front of the BIG EAST TV cameras. Those games may be seen on a regional basis in several major East Coast markets, including New York, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as South Bend, where WHME-TV (Channel 46) will show the Virginia Tech, Villanova and Rutgers games on a same-day, tape-delayed basis at 7 p.m. (ET).

Furthermore, the Jan. 13 BIG EAST matchup between Notre Dame and two-time defending national champion Connecticut was televised by Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) with College Sports Television (CSTV) picking up the broadcast and airing it nationally.

Both Notre Dame-Miami games also will be televised this season. The Jan. 28 matchup in Coral Gables, Fla., was picked up by the Sunshine Network on a tape-delayed basis. Meanwhile, the Feb. 25 rematch at the Joyce Center will be broadcast live to a nationwide audience on CSTV. That contest will tip off at 8 p.m. (ET) – some early schedules initially had this game listed one hour earlier.

In addition, the semifinals of this year’s BIG EAST Championship presented by State Farm will be broadcast on the BIG EAST television package Monday, March 8 at 6 and 8 p.m. (ET) from the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center. WHME-TV in South Bend will carry those games live. The championship game will air live on ESPN2 on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. (ET).

After a two-year absence, the Joyce Center once again will be home to NCAA Tournament competition as Notre Dame was selected to be one of 16 sites for first- and second-round games in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Action at the South Bend subregional will take place Sunday, March 21 and Tuesday, March 23, with exact tipoff times and potential television broadcasts to be determined by the NCAA during the week leading up to the competition.

Should Notre Dame qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in school history (and the ninth consecutive season), the Irish are guaranteed to play at home. Notre Dame has played five NCAA tourney games at the Joyce Center in its history, going 4-1 and and advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2000 and 2001 (the Irish went on to win the national championship in the latter season).

Full-session ticket books for NCAA Tournament games at the Joyce Center currently are available to the general public (one ticket for both Sunday games, one ticket for Tuesday’s only game). Single-game tickets will not be made available until after the field of 64 is announced on March 14. For more information on how to purchase tickets for the 2004 NCAA Notre Dame subregional, contact the Irish athletics ticket office at (574) 631-7356 or visit the ticket windows located on the second floor of the Joyce Center at Gate 1.

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on the flagship stations of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network – WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his fourth 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 ( by subscribing to Fighting Irish Pass, which gives listeners full access to a variety of Irish athletics events on radio for only $6.95 per month.

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 seventh season, is carried by WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and airs at 6:30 p.m. (ET) Saturdays through the end of the 2003-04 season. The show also is available via satellite (Galaxy 6, Transponder 15) each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (ET), and may be seen on LeSea Broadcasting stations in Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Tulsa (check local listings).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) is one of 30 players who were named to the 2003-04 John R. Wooden Women’s Award Preseason All-America Team on Aug. 13. Based on a vote of the Wooden Women’s Award National Advisory Board, these 30 players are considered the top candidates for the inaugural Wooden Women’s Award, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-2nd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast is one of five BIG EAST players named to the Wooden Preseason All-America Team, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers, and the Connecticut duo of Ann Strother and Diana Taurasi.

In mid-January, the Wooden Women’s Award Committee will release its Midseason Top 20 List, followed in March by the official voting ballot which will consist of the top 10-15 players who have proven their success in the classroom (minimum 2.0 grade-point average) as well as on the court. More than 250 voters, comprised of sports media members and women’s college basketball experts around the country, will then cast their votes for the five-member Wooden All-America Team and the Wooden Award winner.

Although the 2003-04 season marks the debut of the Wooden Women’s Award, the honor initially was created in 1976 to recognize the top male collegiate basketball player in the nation. Past winners include Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84) and Tim Duncan (’97).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is one of 35 players who were selected to the 2003-04 State Farm Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List on Aug. 20 by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Based on a vote of committee members which include leading coaches, journalists and basketball administrators, these 35 players are considered the top candidates for the State Farm Wade Trophy, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-2nd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast was one of five BIG EAST players named to the ’03-04 Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Ieva Kublina of Virginia Tech, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers and last year’s Wade Trophy recipient, Diana Taurasi of Connecticut.

The State Farm Wade Trophy, now in its 27th year, is named after Margaret Wade, the late Delta State University coach who won three national championship in the mid-1970s. The Wade Trophy is considered the one of the most prestigious individual awards in women’s college basketball and is organized by the WBCA and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS).

Adding to her armload of preseason hardware, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) was named a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s in the magazine’s annual basketball preview issue. It’s the third preseason honor for the talented 6-2 wing, who is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection. She also was the 2001-02 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-American that season, as well as the unanimous choice for BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and freshman forward Crystal Erwin both received preseason recognition in a vote of the BIG EAST Conference coaches that was released at the league’s annual Media Day on Oct. 30 at the Newark (N.J.) Liberty Airport Hilton. Batteast was a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST selection, while Erwin was named the Preseason BIG EAST Co-Freshman of the Year, sharing the honor with Connecticut’s Liz Sherwood.

Batteast led the Irish in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.), blocked shots (1.56 bpg.) and double-doubles (8), ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in all four categories. She is a two-time second-team all-conference selection and is one of only five players in school history to score 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

As a senior last year at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Erwin earned All-America honors from Parade, Street & Smith’s and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and also was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-America Game in Atlanta. She averaged 22.3 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game during her storied prep career, averaging double-doubles during both her junior (24.9 ppg., 14.9 rpg.) and senior seasons (21.2 ppg., 10.2 rpg.). She holds career records at St. Paul for points (2,720), rebounds (1,630) and blocks (380), as well as the school single-season scoring mark (869 in 2001-02). She follows Batteast as the second Irish rookie in three years to be chosen the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is among 30 preseason candidates named to the watch list for 2003-04 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Awards which are presented annually by the Atanta Tip-Off Club. The Naismith Awards program, now in its 36th year, honors the outstanding male and female college basketball players in the United States. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.

The Naismith Award is the latest in a series of preseason honors for the Batteast. She was named a preseason All-American by both the John R. Wooden Women’s Award and Street & Smith’s magazine, and she also was selected to the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List. In addition, she was a first-team all-BIG EAST choice, according to a vote of the league’s head coaches.

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 18 that three 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 2004. Charel Allen , a 5-10 guard from Monessen, Pa., Melissa D’Amico, a 6-5 forward/center from Manorville, N.Y., and Tulyah Gaines (pronounced too-LIE-uh) , a 5-8 guard from North Las Vegas, Nev., all committed to the Irish during the early signing period, which lasted from Nov. 12-19.

Allen will arrive at Notre Dame next fall as one of the top college prospects from western Pennsylvania. She is a three-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American who averaged 29.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 7.2 steals and 4.8 assists per game last season at Monessen High School. She also is a two-time Associated Press first-team all-state pick and was named the 2003 AP Class A Player of the Year. In addition, she is a two-time all-Pittsburgh metro area selection and a ’03 AAU 16-and-under All-American. As a freshman in 2001, she was a fifth-team AP all-state choice when she averaged 23.6 points per game. In her first three seasons at MHS, Allen has piled up 2,302 points (26.2 ppg.), 995 rebounds (11.3 rpg.), 600 steals (6.8 spg.), 426 assists (4.8 apg.) and 102 blocks (1.2 bpg.). She was ranked 27th in the nation by Blue Star Index and she will be the fourth Pennsylvania native to play for the Irish (the first in 13 seasons).

At 6-5, D’Amico will be the tallest player on the Irish roster when she sets foot on the Notre Dame campus in the fall of 2004. A versatile post player, she averaged 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game last season for William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, N.Y. (located on Long Island). She burst onto the national scene this past summer at the adidas Top Ten Camp in Suwanee, Ga., and is considered by most recruiting services to be one of the top players on the rise in this year’s class. She currently is ranked 47th in the country by All-Star Girls Report and 91st by Blue Star Index , and she follows in the footsteps of another talented New Yorker who came to Notre Dame – two-time honorable mention All-American and Mount Vernon, N.Y., product, Katryna Gaither (1993-97).

Gaines is a playmaking guard who will give the Irish solid depth in the backcourt. Last summer, she moved to North Las Vegas and is attending Cheyenne High School, where she will play for the Desert Shields this year. Gaines previously lived in Burbank, Calif., where she was a three-year starter at John Burroughs High School. She averaged 18.9 points and 5.1 assists per game last season and was a first-team all-CIF SS (Southern California) Division 2A First Team selection. In addition, she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American and won a bronze medal with the West Team at the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. Gaines averaged 6.0 points per game during the five-game tournament, which featured the top prep players from around the country. She is ranked 25th nationally by All-Game Sports, 52nd by Blue Star Index and 61st by All-Star Girls Report , and she is the second Las Vegas area resident in as many years to sign with Notre Dame – current Irish freshman guard Breona Gray graduated from Bishop Gorman High School last May.

With the addition of Allen, D’Amico and Gaines, Notre Dame has assembled the nation’s 14th-ranked recruiting class according to Blue Star Index. This marks the eighth consecutive year in which the Irish have attracted a Top 20 class, making Notre Dame one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have such a consistent run of recruiting success.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw tried her hand at writing during the past year and has co-authored a book with Bradley University professor Paul Gullifor entitled “Courting Success: Muffet McGraw’s Formula For Winning In Sports And In Life.” The book, which currently is in bookstores nationwide and may be purchased through on-line booksellers such as, touches on how, in the shadows of the nation’s most storied football program, McGraw has quietly built the women’s basketball program into a national power.

Women’s basketball has been one of the University’s most consistently successful varsity sport during the past 16 years, qualifying for the postseason 13 times, including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, five NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances and two Final Fours berths. The team’s rise to national prominence was then cemented with a national championship in 2001. In short, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program has been steadily built into a perennial national championship contender, and its architect for those 16 years has been McGraw. Entering the 2003-04 season, the Pottsville, Pa., native has won 363 games at Notre Dame, has a stellar .725 winning percentage and was the consensus 2001 national Coach of the Year.

Personal accolades aside, McGraw has always been more concerned with off-court success than the progress of her teams. Accordingly, this book is a motivational and inspirational book in which she shares her ingredients for success – on and off the court. It provides lessons for those aspiring toward success in basketball, and in life, while illustrating why Muffet McGraw is one of college basketball’s most accomplished coaches.

Media members wishing to obtain a copy of Coach McGraw’s book should contact Notre Dame assistant sports information director Chris Masters at (574) 631-8032.

It’s a quick turnaround for Notre Dame as the Irish visit St. John’s Tuesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) BIG EAST Conference tussle at Alumni Hall. Notre Dame is 13-0 all-time against the Red Storm, including a 6-0 mark on the road. Last year, the teams met twice with the Irish winning 71-42 in Jamaica, N.Y., and 76-48 at the Joyce Center.

The rebirth of the St. John’s (9-13, 3-8 BIG EAST) program has been one of the better stories to come out of the BIG EAST this year. Just two years after a tumultuous coaching change and a 3-24 record (including an winless conference season), the Red Storm are flirting with their first BIG EAST Championship berth since 2001 and their first .500 record since the 1994-95 season.

The last month hasn’t been kind to St. John’s, as the Red Storm have lost seven of their last nine games, all against BIG EAST opponents. However, SJU will get a chance to lick its wounds and prepare for Notre Dame – the Red Storm are in the midst of a week-long hiatus following an 85-74 loss at No. 23 Miami on Tuesday night. In that game, St. John’s trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half, but rallied to get within six points (73-67) at the 1:31 mark before UM knocked down six of eight free throws to preserve its win.