Tulyah Gaines and the Irish tip off the 28th season at 9 p.m. (ET) against Illinois State.

No. 10/11 Notre Dame Opens Season Friday Against Illinois State

Nov. 11, 2004

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(#10 AP/#11 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0)
vs. Illinois State Redbirds (0-0)

The Date and Time: Friday, Nov. 12, 2004, at 9 p.m. ET.

The Site: Joyce Center (11,418) in Notre Dame, Ind.

The Tickets: Still available through the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356).

The Radio Plans: Friday’s game will be broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1580) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires (play-by-play) and former Irish All-American Ruth Riley (analysis) calling the action. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at www.und.com.

Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics, courtesy of College Sports Online’s GameTracker, are available for the Illinois State game, via the Notre Dame (www.und.com) athletics web site.

Web Sites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Illinois State (www.redbirds.org).

The No. 10/11 Notre Dame women’s basketball team tips off its 28th season of varsity competition Friday at 9 p.m. (ET) when it plays host to Illinois State at the Joyce Center in the first round of the Sportsview.tv Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). The Irish are making their second appearance in the 16-team event, having finished third back in 1996 en route to a trip to the NCAA Final Four.

Notre Dame is coming off an 80-61 exhibition victory over the Hoosier Lady Stars on Nov. 6 at the Joyce Center. Junior guard Megan Duffy had a game-high 16 points for the Irish, who had exceptional offensive balance – seven players finished with at least seven points in the game. Junior forward Courtney LaVere had 10 of her 12 points in the second half, while senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.

Batteast averaged a team-high 17.0 points per game during the exhibition season for the Irish, who trailed for a grand total of 30 seconds in two preseason contests.

Illinois State last played Sunday when it breezed past NAIA member St. Xavier, 102-64. Senior guard Katie Donovan nearly had a triple-double in the victory, finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. She averaged 24.0 ppg. in the preseason.

Head coach Robin Pingeton is starting her second season at ISU with a 16-13 record in Normal.

With four starters and seven monogram winners back in the fold, Notre Dame would appear to have all the pieces in place for a magical 2004-05 season.

The Irish, who have just two seniors and four upperclassmen on their 11-player roster, have been a nearly unanimous top-15 selection, checking in at No. 10 in the preseason Associated Press poll and 11th in the ESPN/USA Today poll. In addition, numerous publications have placed Notre Dame as high as 10th by SLAM and Gballmag.com and no lower than No. 17 (Women’s Basketball News Service) in their respective preseason polls.

Notre Dame is coming off an abbreviated preseason that saw the Irish play both of their exhibition games in a four-day span last week. The accelerated schedule didn’t seem to both Notre Dame, which averaged 82.0 points per game and posted a solid .458 field goal percentage (.483 on three-pointers) in convincing victories over Premier Sports (84-52) and the Hoosier Lady Stars (80-61). In fact, the Irish trailed for a grand total of just 30 seconds during the exhibition season (15 seconds in each game).

Senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast led Notre Dame in scoring during the preseason (17.0 ppg.), while freshman center Melissa D’Amico had team highs of 6.0 rebounds per game and a .643 field goal percentage (9-14). Junior guard Megan Duffy also played well, averaging 16.0 ppg. with a .579 field goal percentage (.700 from three-point range) and a 3.0 assist/turnover ratio (nine assists, three turnovers).


  • The No. 10 ranking in the preseason Associated Press poll and No. 11 placement in the ESPN/USA Today poll represents the eighth time in the past nine seasons the Irish have appeared in both preseason national polls. Notre Dame also has been ranked 16th or higher in both polls during each of the past six seasons, peaking in 2000-01 with a No. 6 ranking in the AP poll and a No. 5 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today survey.
  • Notre Dame will take a 20-game homecourt winning streak into the 2004-05 campaign. That’s the second-longest home winning streak in school history (51 games from 1998-2002) and eighth-longest active run in the nation heading into this season.
  • The Irish have won 38 consecutive home games when they are ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll at tipoff. Notre Dame is 42-2 at home all-time when it’s a top-10 club.
  • Notre Dame has won 47 of its last 49 non-conference home games, dating back to 1994-95.
  • The Irish have won six of their last seven regular-season tournament games, with their only loss being a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado in the championship game of last year’s WBCA Classic.
  • The Irish defense continues to be its calling card. In each of the past five seasons, Notre Dame has held its opponents to an average of less than 62 points per game, including a 58.5 ppg. mark last year.
  • The Irish have posted 30 wins over Top 25 opponents in the past six seasons (1998-99 to present), an average of five per year. Notre Dame set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents in 2003-04.
  • Notre Dame has an active streak of 51 consecutive home games with at least 5,000 fans in attendance (including 12 games with crowds of 8,000 fans or more).
  • Senior forward Jacqueline Batteast has been named a preseason All-American by six sources, including Basketball News, which tabbed her as its Preseason National Player of the Year.
  • Batteast and junior guard Megan Duffy both have earned preseason all-conference honors. Batteast is the 2004-05 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year (the first non-Connecticut player to be chosen in 12 years) and was a unanimous first-team all-league choice. Meanwhile, Duffy is a preseason second-team all-BIG EAST pick on the heels of her selection as the conference’s Most Improved Player last year.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw needs 10 victories to pass Digger Phelps for the most wins ever by a Notre Dame basketball coach (men’s or women’s). In 17-plus seasons with the Irish, McGraw has a 384-149 (.720) record, which also puts her just 16 victories shy of the 400-win mark for her Notre Dame career.

One of the nation’s most-improved teams in 2003-04, Illinois State has set its sights even higher this season. The Redbirds had nine more wins last year than the season before (finishing 16-13), and they also improved their scoring average by more than 13 points per game. Thus, it’s no surprise that ISU was picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference according to a preseason poll of the league’s coaches, media and sports information directors.

Illinois State showed off its high-octane offense in two exhibition games this year, averaging 93.5 points per game while attempting 57 three-pointers (making 24 for a .421 percentage). The Redbirds defeated Odyssey in their exhibition opener, 85-65, on Oct. 31, before ousting NAIA member St. Xavier (Ill.) by a 102-64 count last Sunday. In the latter contest, ISU actually trailed 29-28 with four minutes left in the first half before an offensive eruption that blew away pesky SXU.

Senior guard Katie Donovan led the Redbirds in virtually every category during the preseason, averaging 24.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists while shooting .471 from the floor (.545 from three-point range). Freshman guard Ashley Sanstead also showed promise, averaging 18.0 ppg.with a .571 field goal percentage (.533 on three-pointers).

ISU head coach Robin Pingeton is beginning her second season with the Redbirds, coming off last year’s 16-13 campaign that led to her selection as the MVC Coach of the Year. She is 210-89 in nine years as a collegiate head coach, the first eight of which came at her alma mater, NAIA member St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

Although Notre Dame and Illinois State have met only twice, both games were barnburners. In their initial meeting on Feb. 19, 1983 in Normal, Irish forward Laura Dougherty scored a team-high 14 points, including the game-winning jumper with 10 seconds left to give Notre Dame a 48-47 win. A little less than one year later on Feb. 8, 1984, the teams tangled at the Joyce Center with the Redbirds squeaking out a 61-59 victory. Dougherty again led Notre Dame with 19 points, but unlike the previous year, she came just short a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds (see box score on page 4).

Notre Dame and Illinois State will match up on the basketball hardwood for the first time in more than 20 years (Feb. 8, 1984 – a 61-59 ISU win at the Joyce Center). For some perspective, here’s a look at the way things were the last time the Irish and Redbirds played one another:

  • President Ronald Reagan was just beginning his re-election campaign (he would defeat Walter Mondale with 59 percent of the popular vote).
  • “The Cosby Show” debuted on NBC, while “Cheers” won the Emmy for outstanding comedy series, and “Magnum P.I.” star Tom Selleck took home the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama series.
  • Apple introduced the new user-friendly personal computer called the Macintosh.
  • A first-class postage stamp cost 20 cents, while a gallon of gas sold for $1.20.
  • Michael Jackson won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year (“Beat It”) and Album of the Year (Thriller).
  • Just three current members of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team were even born – seniors Jacqueline Batteast and Teresa Borton, along with junior Courtney LaVere. In fact, LaVere was just 11 weeks old the last time the Irish played Illinois State.
  • Current Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw was in her second season as a college head coach, helping guide Lehigh to a 13-9 record. Strangely, at more than 20 years, this still won’t be the longest hiatus between series games in Irish history. That distinction belongs to Notre Dame’s series with IPFW (Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne), which saw a gap of 23 years, 10 months and 27 days between games (Jan. 24, 1979 to Dec. 21, 2002).

Notre Dame is 23-2 (.920) all-time against the current alignment of the Missouri Valley Conference, including a 10-1 (.909) record at home against MVC schools. The Irish have played five members of the Missouri Valley, owning records of .500 or better against all of them – Bradley (1-0), Creighton (1-0), Evansville (18-1), Illinois State (1-1) and Southwest Missouri State (2-0). The bulk of Notre Dame’s games against the present MVC membership came against Evansville, when the Irish and Purple Aces were rivals in both the North Star and Midwestern Collegiate conferences.

In the 18-year tenure of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, the Irish are 14-1 (.933) against the Missouri Valley Conference, going 7-0 at home, 5-1 on the road and 2-0 at neutral sites. Her only setback also represents a current MVC squad defeated Notre Dame on Jan. 28, 1993, when Evansville handed the visiting Irish a 73-69 loss. Since then, the Irish have won five consecutive games against current MVC schools.

Notre Dame also has an active nine-game home winning streak against MVC teams. Ironically, the last (and only) current MVC member to defeat the Irish at home was Illinois State, which squeezed out a 61-59 victory on Feb. 8, 1984 at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame is 56-31 (.644) all-time against teams from the state of Illinois, including a 26-11 (.703) record when playing at home inside the Joyce Center. In fact, the Irish have won seven consecutive home games against Illinois schools and are 13-3 at the Joyce Center against those teams in the 18-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present). All three home losses in that span came at the hands of DePaul in 1988, 1990 and most recently on Feb. 11, 1992 (a 62-49 Blue Demon victory). Notre Dame last played an Illinois school at home on Dec. 31, 2000, defeating DePaul, 79-50.

Notre Dame will try to continue its recent success in season openers Friday against Illinois State. The Irish have won their last eight season lidlifters and 14 of 17 openers under head coach Muffet McGraw. Notre Dame is 19-8 (.704) all-time in season openers and has not lost the first game of the season since its final season in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, when the Irish dropped a 65-60 overtime loss to future BIG EAST Conference sister (and 25th-ranked) Seton Hall on Nov. 26, 1994. Last season, Notre Dame opened with a 77-64 win over No. 22 Auburn in the opening round of the WBCA Classic.

Notre Dame has been particularly strong in home openers, going 19-8 (.704) in its first game of the season at the Joyce Center. The Irish also have won their last nine home openers (1995-present), coinciding exactly with their membership in the BIG EAST Conference, and they are 13-4 (.765) in home lidlifters under veteran head coach Muffet McGraw. The last time Notre Dame lost a home opener was Nov. 30, 1994, when 13th-ranked Purdue edged the Irish, 87-83.

Notre Dame has a record of 32-25 (.561) when playing in a regular-season, multi-game tournament. However, more than half of those losses (14) came before head coach Muffet McGraw arrived on the scene in South Bend 18 seasons ago. In fact, the Irish are 20-11 (.645) in such tournament games in the McGraw era, including a 9-4 (.692) mark since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. What’s more, Notre Dame has won six of its last seven in-season tournament games, claiming titles at the 1996 Comfort Inn Downtown Classic and the 2001 Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge before dropping a narrow 67-63 overtime decision at 20th-ranked Colorado in the championship game of last year’s WBCA Classic.

Notre Dame is 161-40 (.801) all-time when it is ranked in the Associated Press poll at tipoff (the Irish are 10th in the AP poll entering Friday’s game with Illinois State). When playing at home, Notre Dame has been especially strong, going 73-8 (.901) as a ranked host at the Joyce Center. Last season, the Irish won both times they were in the AP Top 25 coming into home games – ranked No. 20, they defeated Valparaiso, 74-57 (Nov. 21) and later ranked No. 23, they ousted Georgetown, 66-52 (Feb. 4).

Notre Dame has been very sharp when it’s ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll. The Irish are 88-15 (.854) as a top-10 squad, including a 42-2 (.955) record at home. In fact, Notre Dame currently has a 38-game home winning streak when it is ranked in the AP top 10, ever since the No. 6 Irish lost to top-ranked Connecticut, 106-81 on Dec. 8, 1998.

One interesting side note: Notre Dame is 8-1 (.889) all-time when it is ranked exactly 10th in the Associated Press poll, including a current eight-game winning streak. The last time the Irish were No. 10 in the AP rankings was the opening week of the 2002-03 season, when they defeated Cleveland State (107-65) and USC (69-57).

For the first time since 1996, and just the second time in school history, Notre Dame is taking part in the Sportsview.tv Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

The Irish last played in the Sportsview.tv Preseason WNIT eight years ago, advancing to the semifinals with victories over Kent State (66-41) and No. 6 Iowa (61-50). Following a 72-59 loss to third-ranked Tennessee in the semifinals, Notre Dame bounced back to defeat No. 8 North Carolina State, 64-53 in the consolation game (which no longer exists). Katryna Gaither earned a spot on the all-tournament team after making a tournament-record 42 field goals in the four-game set (a record that still stands). Notre Dame went on to log a 31-7 record in 1996-97, advancing to its first NCAA Final Four.

The Irish will be looking to continue the BIG EAST Conference’s run of success in the Sportsview.tv Preseason WNIT. BIG EAST teams have reached the semifinals six times in the 10-year history of the tournament, with Connecticut winning titles in 1997 and 2001. Last year, Rutgers made its second trip to the Sportsview.tv Preseason WNIT championship game before bowing to Texas Tech, 73-45.

Friday’s season opener against Illinois State will mark the earliest debut for the Irish since the program’s second season, when Notre Dame defeated Clark College, 81-51 on Nov. 1, 1978.

Notre Dame’s opening-round game vs. Illinois State in the Sportsview.tv Preseason WNIT is scheduled for a late tipoff (9 p.m. ET) on Friday at the Joyce Center, immediately following the traditional football pep rally for the next day’s matchup between the Irish and Pittsburgh at nearby Notre Dame Stadium. It will mark the first time in Notre Dame women’s basketball history that the Irish will play a regular-season game at the Joyce Center immediately after a football pep rally.

Notre Dame has been very successful in the month of November over the past nine seasons. Since the start of the 1995-96 campaign, the Irish are 29-8 (.784) in November games, including wins in 11 of their last 16 games in the month.

Senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast scored a game-high 23 points to lead four players in double figures as the 10th-ranked Irish posted a comfortable 84-52 exhibition victory over Premier Sports on Nov. 5 at the Joyce Center.

Batteast knocked down nine of her 14 shots from the field, while adding five rebounds and four steals in just 25 minutes. Junior guard Megan Duffy, a preseason second-team all-BG EAST Conference selection, turned in a solid all-around game with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists, canning three of her five three-point attempts in the contest.

All four Notre Dame freshmen also saw their first collegiate action against Premier Sports. Guard Charel Allen scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, while center Melissa D’Amico made all five of her shots and also finished with 10 points. Guard Tulyah Gaines ran a smart floor game, chipping in four points, six rebounds (five of which were offensive), three assists and three steals.

For the game, the Irish shot 44.6 percent from the floor (33-74), including a sharp 53.8 percent from the three-point line (7-13). Notre Dame also won the rebounding battle, 47-36, and had 21 assists against only 12 turnovers.

As one would expect from the first game of the season, both teams showed quite a bit of rust in the early going. Notre Dame had numerous good looks at the basket in the first half, but had most of its shots rim out. Meanwhile, Premier Sports provided a stern test in the opening moments and trailed by only six points at 22-16 on Lisa Cline’s basket with 5:21 left in the first half.

Batteast then ignited the Irish offense, hitting a jumper 15 seconds later and coming up with a steal on the ensuing possession to start a 16-5 Notre Dame run. Duffy’s runner on the break capped the surge and helped the hosts take a 38-24 lead into halftime.

As it turned out, that would be the closest Premier Sports would get for the rest of the night. Notre Dame scored 13 of the first 17 points in the second half and only briefly saw its lead dip below 20 points after that. Gaines hit a pair of free throws with 50 seconds to play, giving the Irish their largest lead of the night (84-50) and putting the exclamation point on an encouraging debut performance for Notre Dame.

Behind a game-high 16 points from junior guard Megan Duffy, the 10th-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team led virtually all the way in an 80-61 exhibition victory over the Hoosier Lady Stars on Nov. 6 before a crowd of 4,942 fans at the Joyce Center. The Irish extended their exhibition winning streak to 17 games and are now 22-1 (.957) in the preseason dating back to the 1993-94 campaign.

Duffy made five of her seven shots from the floor, including four of five from behind the three-point line. However, hers was just one in an exceptionally-balanced offensive performance for Notre Dame, which had seven different players score at least seven points in the game. In addition, the Irish had 10 different players crack the scoring column in the first half alone, with all five starters scoring before three minutes were gone in the contest.

Junior forward Courtney LaVere scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half, while senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds. The Notre Dame freshmen also made solid contributions once again – center Melissa D’Amico collected nine points and a game-high seven rebounds, while guard Charel Allen had eight points and four steals.

Another sign of Notre Dame’s strong balance was its 26 assists on 32 field goals. The Irish finished with a .471 field goal percentage and made seven of 16 three-point attempts (.438). In addition, Notre Dame held a 50-39 rebounding edge and limited the visitors to just 31.7 percent shooting.

Notre Dame wasted little time in jumping ahead, as Batteast canned a three-pointer from the left corner just 12 seconds into the contest. The Lady Stars came back and took their only lead of the game at 8-7 when Monica Maxwell knocked down a trey with two minutes gone. A layup by LaVere 15 seconds later put the Irish back in front for good, although the Lady Stars doggedly hung with the hosts for the better part of the first half.

Leading by five midway through the first half, Notre Dame put on the first of several scoring runs, going on a 9-2 surge to take a 33-21 lead at the 4:18 mark. D’Amico had four points in the mini-run, which was punctuated by a three-pointer from sophomore guard Susie Powers. After the Lady Stars got back within nine, the Irish went on a 17-6 run that crossed over halftime and put them ahead 52-32 four minutes into the second half.

From that point on, Notre Dame never led by less than 14 points, taking its largest lead of the day at 79-56 on a fastbreak layup by Allen with 4:05 to play.

Senior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) has been squarely in the national spotlight during the past three months as the 2004-05 campaign gets closer. In fact, no less than seven different outlets have placed the 6-foot-2 wing among the nation’s elite women’s college basketball players heading into this season (see chart on page 8 for complete rundown of honors).

The run began in August, when Batteast was selected to the John R. Wooden Women’s Award Preseason All-American Team, also putting her on a list of the top 30 candidates for the Wooden Women’s Award that is presented to the nation’s top women’s college basketball player. This marks the second consecutive year in which Batteast has been accorded preseason honors from the Wooden Women’s Award.

Shortly thereafter, Batteast’s name was placed on the 31-player watch list for the State Farm/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Wade Trophy, that also goes to the country’s top female collegiate cager. Like the Wooden Award, this is Batteast’s second consecutive appearance on the Wade Trophy Watch List.

In early September, two national publications came out with their preseason All-America teams and Batteast was a top selection by both outlets. Lindy’s College Basketball Annual touted Batteast as a preseason first-team All-America selection, while Street & Smith’s put the South Bend native on its preseason “Terrific 10” list, highlighting what it believes to be the 10 best players in the country.

The web-based publication Gballmag.com also chimed in on Batteast’s abilities, making her a preseason second-team All-America selection in October.

Earlier this week, two more honors came Batteast’s way. The Associated Press named her to its exclusive five-player preseason All-America team, while the Naismith Trophy placed her on its 50-player preseason watch list for the award, which goes to the nation’s top player.

However, Batteast’s highest honor to date came in late October, when Basketball News chose her as its 2004-05 Preseason National Player of the Year. The magazine also made her a preseason first-team All-America choice. All three preseason publications (Lindy’s, Street & Smith’s and Basketball News) are currently available at newsstands across the country.

Notre Dame senior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind./Washington HS) was chosen as the 2004-05 BIG EAST Conference Preseason Player of the Year, according to a vote of the league’s head coaches. In addition, Batteast was a unanimous preseason first-team all-conference selection, while Irish junior guard Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne HS) was named a preseason second-team all-BIG EAST honoree. The preseason all-conference teams were announced Oct. 28 at BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Media Day, which was held at the Liberty Airport Hilton in Newark, N.J.

Batteast, a fifth-team All-America pick by Basketball Times and honorable mention All-America choice by the Associated Press last season, is the first player from a school other than Connecticut to be chosen as the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year since Miami’s Vicki Plowden in 1992. Plowden went on to earn first-team all-conference honors and was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1993 BIG EAST Championship, which Miami won.

Batteast is coming off the finest campaign of her Notre Dame career, averaging personal bests of 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while garnering first-team all-BIG EAST Conference honors, her third consecutive all-league selection. In addition, Batteast was dominating in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, averaging 22.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game with a .483 field goal percentage and three double-doubles as the Irish advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and came within a minute of ousting top-seeded Penn State in the regional semifinals before falling, 55-49. Her performances against Top 25 opponents last season also were sharp, as she registered 16.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks with five double-doubles and three near double-doubles in 11 games.

Duffy was chosen as the 2004 BIG EAST Most Improved Player and was an honorable mention all-conference selection last season after averaging 9.9 points and 3.9 assists per game. She posted a nearly 100 percent improvement in both her field goal (.403) and three-point (.404) percentages while more than tripling her scoring average from her freshman season. She also was a steady influence at the point guard position, ranking seventh in the BIG EAST in assist/turnover ratio (1.36) and free throw percentage (.819). She is set to begin her second full season as a starter for the Irish next month.

For the eighth time in the past nine seasons, Notre Dame is ranked in both the preseason Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The Irish are tabbed 10th in this year’s first AP poll and 11th in the initial coaches’ poll, marking the sixth consecutive year that Notre Dame is ranked 16th or higher by both polls to start the season.

The Irish achieved their highest preseason ranking in 2000-01, when they debuted at No. 5 in the coaches’ poll and No. 6 in the Associated Press poll. In addition to the two major polls, every preseason publication also has the Irish ranked nationally. The chart to the right details those rankings.

According to a preseason survey of the BIG EAST Conference coaches, Notre Dame is expected to finish second in the conference this season. Those were the results released at the league’s annual Media Day Oct. 28 in Newark, N.J. The Irish earned 105 points, including two first-place votes, which placed them behind only three-time defending national champion Connecticut (120 points, 10 first-place votes). Boston College was third, followed by Rutgers, Villanova and West Virginia. All six of those schools qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season, with Notre Dame, Connecticut and Boston College all advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Notre Dame is beginning its 10th season as a member of the BIG EAST Conference in 2004-05. The Irish have gone 124-28 (.816) all-time in regular-season conference games, posting the best winning percentage in league history. Connecticut is second with a .778 success rate. Notre Dame also has finished either first or second in the final BIG EAST regular-season standings eight times in its first nine seasons in the conference, including a share of the BIG EAST title in 2000-01.

Over the past four seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 77-7 (.917) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including a 14-3 mark last year.

Over the past 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 129-6 (.956) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame added 15 more wins to that ledger last season.

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 past nine seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 88-3 (.967) 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 three more wins to that tally in 2003-04.

Notre Dame is one of only five schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen six times in the past eight seasons (1997-2004). The others are Connecticut (eight times), Tennessee (eight times), Duke (seven times) and Louisiana Tech (seven times).

The Irish are one of just six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 11 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in these elite club are Tennessee (28), Texas Tech (15), Louisiana Tech (13), Old Dominion (13) and Connecticut (11).

Notre Dame has won 202 games over the past eight seasons (25.3 victories per year), which stands as the ninth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

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 113 of their last 122 games (.926) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a current 20-game winning streak, the second-longest in school history and eighth-longest active run in the nation entering this season. Notre Dame also has a 69-7 (.908) 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 47 of their last 49 non-BIG EAST contests (.959) 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 263-70 (.790) record at the venerable facility. In three of the past five seasons (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), 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 15 in the nation in attendance each of the past four years. The Irish extended that streak in 2003-04, ranking 12th with an average of 6,650 fans per game.

All of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 18-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 past six seasons (1999-2000 to present), including 12 audiences of 8,000 or more fans, and an active streak of 51 consecutive games with at least 5,000 fans in the house.

The Irish are scheduled to make at least seven appearances on regional or national television during the 2004-05 season (additional broadcasts may be announced at a later date).

Notre Dame makes its TV debut this season on Dec. 2 when it plays host to Michigan State on College Sports Television (CSTV). That’s the first of three games that will air nationally on the fledgling cable network, which recently signed an agreement with the BIG EAST Conference to carry a national women’s basketball Game of the Week eight times in 2004-05. The Irish also will face Connecticut on Jan. 12 at the Joyce Center and visit Boston College on Feb. 15 in front of the CSTV cameras.

In addition, Notre Dame is scheduled to play twice on ESPN2 this season. On Jan. 16, the Irish will battle Purdue in the second annual BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge at the Joyce Center. Two weeks later on Jan. 30, Notre Dame travels to Storrs, Conn., to meet Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion.

The BIG EAST also has added two Irish games to its regional television package this season. Notre Dame will visit Villanova on Jan. 9 and will play host to Rutgers on Jan. 23, both on BIG EAST Television. Among those affiliates carrying the BETV package are Comcast SportsNet outlets in Chicago, Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as Fox Sports Net outlets in New York, New England and Pittsburgh. Exact clearances will be made available closer to game time.

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 1580) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his fifth season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.und.com) by subscribing to College Sports Pass, which gives listeners full multimedia access to a variety of Irish athletics events for only $6.95 per month.

For the fourth time in school history (all during the Muffet McGraw era), Notre Dame will have three players sharing the captain’s duties this year. Senior forward Jacqueline Batteast, senior center Teresa Borton and junior guard Megan Duffy all were accorded the honor based upon a vote of their teammates prior to the season. All three are serving as captains for the first time in their respective careers.

Head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 10 that Lindsay Schrader, a 6-0 guard from Bartlett, Ill., has chosen to continue her career with the Irish, signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2005. Schrader is the first player to commit to the Irish during the early signing period, which continues through Nov. 17.

Schrader has been widely regarded as one of the top all-around players in the state of Illinois while attending Bartlett High School the past three seasons. She is a three-time all-state selection, a two-time Illinois Miss Basketball finalist, and a two-time Street & Smith’s All-America selection who has averaged 20.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in her prep career. Her finest all-around season came as a junior in 2003-04, when she averaged 20.8 ppg., 10.8 rpg. and 2.0 bpg. while earning first-team all-state honors from the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune and Champaign News-Gazette. She also was a sixth-team All-America selection by Street & Smith’s and was a finalist for Illinois Miss Basketball honors, an award she will likely contend for once again this season.

On the summer camp circuit, Schrader was an Underclass All-Star at the 2002 adidas Top Ten Camp, before attending the Nike All-America Camp in both 2003 and 2004. She is ranked among the top 30 high school seniors in the nation by three separate recruiting services – Blue Star Index (14th), All-Game Sports (21st) and All-Star Girls Report (26th overall – eighth among shooting guards).

In addition, Schrader made a significant impact at the 2004 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. Playing for the North Team that won the silver medal, she ranked third at the Festival in scoring (14.8 ppg.) and rebounding (8.6 rpg.), as well as second in field goal percentage (.542). All three figures were team highs, as were her 2.2 steals per game. For her efforts, Schrader was invited to attend the 2004 USA Women’s Junior World Championship Qualifying Team Trials, where she was one of 17 finalists for the 12-player team that won the gold medal in Puerto Rico in August.

On Nov. 6, Notre Dame announced that Muffet McGraw has signed a two-year extension to continue as head coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program through the 2010-11 season.

McGraw, who is now in her 18th season with the Irish, most recently signed a four-year contract extension in July 2002 that took her through the 2008-09 season. Her first 17 seasons at Notre Dame have been highlighted by 15 20-win campaigns (including a current string of 11 straight), 11 NCAA tournament appearances (including a current streak of nine straight) and the 2001 NCAA title. Entering the 2004-05 season, she has a 384-149 (.720) record at Notre Dame.

In 2003-04, McGraw skillfully guided her team to a 21-11 record and a second consecutive berth in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen (the fourth for the Irish in five years). McGraw’s charges placed second in the BIG EAST Conference, their eighth top-two finish since joining the league nine years ago. In addition, the Irish went 15-0 at home, their third perfect record at the Joyce Center in the past five seasons, and extended their overall home win streak to 20 games, the second-longest in school history and eighth-longest active string in the nation heading into the 2004-05 campaign.

McGraw has continued to enhance her reputation as one of the nation’s outstanding big-game coaches and tacticians, piloting Notre Dame to a school-record seven wins over top 25 teams during the 2003-04 regular season. During her 17-year tenure with the Irish, McGraw has compiled 40 victories over nationally-ranked opponents, including 30 in the past six seasons (an average of five per year).

Under McGraw’s guidance, the past nine years have been the most successful in Notre Dame’s history as the Irish have compiled an impressive 225-69 (.765) record, including a sparkling 124-28 (.816) regular-season mark in BIG EAST play, the best winning percentage in league history. Notre Dame also has averaged 25 victories per campaign during that span, with two 30-win seasons to its credit. The Irish have won at least one NCAA tournament game every season over that time, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen six times (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004) and the Final Four twice (1997 and 2001).

Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season (additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date):

  • Nov. 22 vs. Colorado State – Notre Dame women’s basketball schedule posters (first 5,000 fans)
  • Dec. 2 vs. Michigan State – Notre Dame women’s basketball rally towels (first 1,500 fans)
  • Dec. 11 vs. Washington – Notre Dame women’s basketball glow balls (first 2,000 fans)

Notre Dame’s next opponent depends upon the outcome of Friday’s game with Illinois State. Should the Irish defeat the Redbirds, they would advance to the quarterfinals of the Sportsview.tv Preseason WNIT against the winner of the Nebraska/Western Illinois first-round game (also being played Friday night). That quarterfinal would take place Sunday, with the site and time to be determined by WNIT officials after the completion of first-round play.

Notre Dame has faced Nebraska just once in its history, dropping a 98-88 double-overtime decision to the Huskers on Feb. 25, 1982 at the Joyce Center. The Irish have never played Western Illinois.

If Illinois State defeats Notre Dame on Friday night, the Irish will be off until Nov. 22, when they will return to the hardwood for a 7 p.m. (ET) game against Colorado State at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame has won the last two matchups with the Rams, including a 63-59 victory last season in Fort Collins.