March 15, 2005
2005 NCAA Tempe Region – First Round
(#11 AP/#13 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-5)
vs. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (21-8)
The Date and Time: Saturday, March 19, 2005, at 1:30 p.m. PT (4:30 p.m. ET in South Bend).
The Site: Save Mart Center (15,621) in Fresno, Calif.
The Tickets: Single-session and all-session tickets remain available through the Fresno State athletics ticket office (559-278-3647).
The TV Plans: ESPN2 national broadcast with Dave O’Brien (play-by-play), Kara Lawson (analysis), Heather Cox (sideline), Kim Belton (producer) and Doug Holmes (director). The game also is available through the ESPN FullCourt pay-per-view package.
The Radio Plans: Saturday’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) calling the action. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at www.und.com.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), UC Santa Barbara (www.ucsbgauchos.com).
#11/13 IRISH TIP OFF NCAA TOURNAMENT PLAY SATURDAY VS. UC SANTA BARBARA
For the 10th consecutive season and the 12th time in the past 14 years, Notre Dame will take part in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 11/13 Irish are seeded fourth in the Tempe Region and will face No. 13 seed UC Santa Barbara Saturday at approximately 1:30 p.m. (ET) in Fresno, Calif. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Notre Dame (26-5) enters the NCAA Tournament having won 13 of its last 15 games, but the Irish are smarting from a 67-54 loss to No. 13/14 Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals on March 7 in Hartford, Conn. Junior guard Megan Duffy scored a season-high 21 points for the Irish and was named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament Team.
UC Santa Barbara (21-8) is making its ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Big West Conference title for the ninth year in a row. The Gauchos punched their postseason ticket with a 74-66 victory over Idaho in the Big West Tournament title game on March 12 in Anaheim, Calif. Senior All-American Kristen Mann scored a career-high 33 points for UCSB in the win.
Mann, the reigning Big West Player of the Year, leads the Gauchos in scoring (19.9 ppg.) and rebounding (9.5 ppg.) this season with 15 double-doubles to her credit.
Mark French is in his 18th year as the head coach at UCSB, sporting a 380-163 (.700) record at the school. He is 0-1 all-time vs. Notre Dame.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE FIGHTING IRISH
One of the primary goals for Notre Dame this season has been to put itself in position to contend for a national championship. As they begin NCAA Tournament play, the Irish certainly have done just that, compiling a 26-5 record (13-3 in the BIG EAST) with seven victories over ranked opponents, including four against top-10 foes. Notre Dame also won the Sportsview.tv Preseason WNIT in mid-November, claiming its first regular-season tournament title since 2000-01.
Below the surface, it’s apparent the Irish have been strong in nearly all facets of their game. They are 12-3 on the road, making big strides from last year’s struggles away from home. Notre Dame also has shown excellent resiliency, losing back-to-back games just once all season and rebounding from those two losses with a season-long 10-game winning streak (the program’s longest since the ’00-01 campaign). And, the Irish have displayed an ability to win games in numerous different ways – last-second buzzer beaters (Marquette), thrilling second half comebacks (Duke, Ohio State, Rutgers, Boston College), gritty road victories (Connecticut, USC), defensive battles (twice vs. Seton Hall) and high-scoring shootouts (Purdue, Illinois State).
Despite the added focus shown to her by opposing teams, senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast was a major catalyst for the Irish this season, averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. The newly-crowned BIG EAST Player of the Year and a leading candidate for the Naismith Trophy, Wooden Women’s Award and Senior CLASS Award, Batteast has scored in double digits 28 times this season, has earned game-high scoring honors on 16 occasions and has six double-doubles. She also moved into the top five on Notre Dame’s career lists for points (1,846), rebounds (947), blocks (163) and double-doubles (38). In addition, with 15 points vs. West Virginia Feb. 26, she became the third Irish player to amass 1,800 points and 900 rebounds in her career, joining All-Americans Katryna Gaither and Ruth Riley. Batteast also is poised to break Gaither’s school record for consecutive starts, preparing to accept her 96th consecutive starting assignment Saturday vs. UC Santa Barbara.
Junior guard Megan Duffy also has stepped up her play this season, registering 11.8 points per game with a team-high 5.52 assists (second in the BIG EAST and 27th in the nation as of March 14) and 2.71 steals per game (first in the BIG EAST). Duffy also leads the league and is third nationally with a .902 free throw percentage (120-133) this season, sparking the Irish to a BIG EAST-best .742 free throw ratio, which also ranks 34th in the nation.
In the post, senior center Teresa Borton is showing capable leadership by example. A veteran post and tri-captain, Borton has not missed a game (125 and counting), nor a practice in her entire four-year career at Notre Dame. For the season, she has posted career-best numbers in almost every statistical category, ranking third on the team in scoring (8.4 ppg.), second in rebounding (5.8 rpg.) and first in both blocked shots (1.74 bpg.) and field goal percentage (.566).
SOME POTENT NOTABLES ABOUT THE FIGHTING IRISH
- Notre Dame won its first seven games this season, the second-best debut in the program’s history. The 2000-01 squad opened with a 23-game win streak en route to school’s first national championship. The Irish also reached the double-digit win mark Dec. 19 at Marquette, getting their 10th win faster than any team in school history (the ’00-01 team did it two days later on Dec. 21, 2000).
- Notre Dame’s 10-game winning streak from Jan. 16-Feb. 15 was its longest since a school-record 23-game run to open the 2000-01 season. It also was the ninth double-digit winning streak in school history and the seventh in Muffet McGraw’s 18 seasons as head coach.
- The Irish are 12-3 away from home this year, and won their first five road games this season for the second time in school history. The 2000-01 club opened with a 10-game road winning streak to set the school standard. Ironically, Notre Dame struggled in true road games last year, losing its first four and six of its first seven on the opposition’s floor.
- Notre Dame picked up its 20th win of the season Feb. 5 at Pittsburgh. The Irish have now posted 12 consecutive 20-win seasons (one of only six schools in the nation that can make that claim) and 16 in the 18-year Muffet McGraw era. In addition, Notre Dame reached the 20-win mark in its 23rd game this season, marking the fourth-fastest run to 20 victories in school history. The 2000-01 club opened with 23 consecutive wins, while the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 squads each did it in 22 games. However, in terms of calendar dates, the Irish logged their 20th win faster than any Notre Dame team except the 2000-01 unit, which reached the mark on Jan. 31.
- The Irish were a fixture near the top of the RPI charts this year. Through the end of the conference tournament season, Notre Dame was fifth in the WBCA/Summerville RPI rankings, with the nation’s 22nd-toughest schedule.
- Notre Dame appeared in the top 10 of the AP balloting 16 times in the 19 polls this year before winding up 11th in the final poll that came out on March 14. On two other occasions in school history have the Irish spent as long in the AP top 10 during one season – 1998-99 (16 weeks) and 2000-01 (18 weeks). All told, Notre Dame has now spent 72 weeks in the AP top 10 in the program’s 28-year history and has a 110-20 (.846) all-time record when it’s ranked in the top 10.
- The Irish have posted 37 wins over AP Top 25 opponents in the past seven seasons (1998-99 to present), including seven this year (No. 6 Duke, No. 10 Ohio State, No. 20 Purdue, No. 6 Rutgers, No. 9 Connecticut, No. 16 Boston College and No. 25 Boston College). Notre Dame is tied for the fifth-most Top 25 wins in the nation this season. During the past two years, the Irish have 14 wins over ranked opponents.
- Notre Dame has defeated 23 top-10 opponents in its history, adding to that total with four victories this season. The four top-10 wins represent the second-highest total in school history (and tie Penn State and North Carolina for the second-most by any team in the nation this season behind Rutgers’ five wins) – the 2000-01 squad holds the Irish record with seven top-10 victories.
- Head coach Muffet McGraw has a 410-154 (.727) record in 18 seasons with the Irish, having logged the milestone 400th victory Jan. 23 against Rutgers. She also has a 498-195 (.719) overall record in 23 seasons, leaving her only two victories shy of the 500-win plateau for her career.
IRISH IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Notre Dame is beginning its 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament this week and has compiled a 21-10 (.677) record in its 11 previous trips. The Irish have reached the Sweet Sixteen (regional semifinals) on six occasions, all in the past eight years, along with two Final Four berths and the 2001 NCAA title.
This season marks only the second time Notre Dame has played an NCAA Tournament game in California (lost 93-72 at UCLA in 1992). A complete listing of Notre Dame’s appearances in NCAA Tournament may be found in the sidebar on page 5 of this notes package.
THE NOTRE DAME-UC SANTA BARBARA SERIES
Saturday’s game will represent just the second all-time meeting between Notre Dame and UC Santa Barbara. On Nov. 28, 1997, the Irish registered an 86-75 victory over the Gauchos at the Thunderdome in Santa Barbara. Sheila McMillen led four Notre Dame players in double digits with 23 points, while Danielle Green added 19 points for the Irish, who shot 46.8 percent from the floor and forced 28 UCSB turnovers.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-UC SANTA BARBARA SERIES NOTES
- Notre Dame and UC Santa Barbara crossed paths just last season when both teams advanced to the NCAA East Regional semifinals at the Hartford Civic Center. The Irish dropped a hard-fought 55-49 decision to No. 5/7 Penn State, while the Gauchos came up on the short end of an equally hard-fought 63-55 verdict to eventual national champion and sixth-ranked Connecticut.
- Notre Dame and UCSB have two of the top seven win totals in the country during the past nine seasons. The Gauchos are sixth in that span with 230 victories, followed next by the Irish with 228 wins, starting with the 1996-97 campaign. The chart on page 12 of these notes shows the individual season-by-season breakdown of both teams’ win totals.
- Notre Dame junior forward Courtney LaVere grew up not far from the UCSB campus in Ventura, Calif., and was heavily recruited by the Gauchos. She is still close with several UCSB players, most notably Gaucho All-American Kristen Mann, with whom she roomed at the 2003 USA Basketball Women’s National Team trials (also attended by Irish All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast). LaVere and Mann also squared off along the AAU circuit for several years, dating back to their middle school days.
- In addition to her relationship with Mann, LaVere was a teammate of UCSB guard Courtney Young at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. In the latter campaign, Buena advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing 56-51 to eventual state champion Narbonne, in a game that was played in Fresno.
- Notre Dame sophomore forward Crystal Erwin also is a California native, hailing from Rancho Cucamonga and graduating from St. Paul’s School in Santa Fe Springs.
- Irish freshman guard Tulyah Gaines was born in Fontana, Calif., and spent much of her formative years in Burbank, Calif., including her first three prep seasons at John Burroughs High School. At BHS, Gaines averaged 18.9 points and 5.1 assists per game as a junior and was a two-time Street & Smith’s All-American, as well as a Los Angeles Times first-team all-area choce in 2003. She also owns the BHS school record for assists in a season (122 in 2003) and even broke the school standard on the track in the triple jump in 2003. Gaines moved to North Las Vegas, Nev., in the summer of 2003 and graduated from Cheyenne High School the following spring.
- UCSB assistant coach April McDivitt, who played for the Gauchos on their Sweet Sixteen club last year, is a native of Connersville, Ind., and was named Indiana Miss Basketball in 1999 while playing at Connersville High School. She later attended Tennessee before transferring to UC Santa Barbara.
- Notre Dame and UCSB have tangled in other sports during the past couple of years. In 2001, the Gaucho baseball team came to South Bend for the NCAA South Bend Regional – the Irish won the only matchup between the clubs, 11-10 in 10 innings, but wound up falling to Florida International in the regional title game. More recently, the Notre Dame and UCSB softball teams clashed less than two weeks ago on March 7 in Santa Barbara, with Irish junior pitcher Heather Booth tossing a six-hitter in a 1-0 Notre Dame victory.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE BIG WEST CONFERENCE
Notre Dame is 3-1 (.750) all-time against the current alignment of the Big West Conference, with three of those four matchups coming in the postseason. The Irish have defeated Pacific (88-74 on March 23, 1995 at the NWIT in Amarillo, Texas), UC Irvine (72-71 on Dec. 2, 1994 at the UCI/Newport Beach Marriott Classic) and UC Santa Barbara (86-75 on Nov. 28, 1997 in Santa Barbara). Notre Dame’s only loss to a Big West school was a 67-65 overtime setback vs. Idaho on March 21, 1986 in the NWIT at Amarillo, Texas, despite 24 points and 16 rebounds from Notre Dame’s Heidi Bunek.
OTHER NCAA TOURNAMENT STORYLINES IN FRESNO
- Points could be at a premium if Notre Dame’s last three NCAA Tournament appearances are any indication. In their last eight NCAA Tournament games (2002-04), the Irish are allowing only 58.1 points per game. At the same time, Notre Dame has had trouble finding the range itself, averaging just 56.3 ppg., with only one game of more than 60 points (a 69-65 overtime victory over Southwest Missouri State in last year’s opening round).
- Saturday’s game vs. UC Santa Barbara will mark the third time Notre Dame has faced a California school in NCAA Tournament play. The Irish lost their first-ever NCAA postseason game at UCLA, 93-72, in 1992, but defeated Saint Mary’s (Calif.), 61-57 in 1999 at Baton Rouge, La.
- Although in a different grouping than Notre Dame, some Irish fans might have a vested interest when Iowa State comes to Fresno for its first-round game vs. Utah. ISU head coach Bill Fennelly is a former assistant coach at Notre Dame, having spent two seasons at the school (1986-88), including the second as a member of Muffet McGraw’s staff in her initial season at Notre Dame.
- Notre Dame director of athletics Kevin White held the same post at Arizona State from 1996-2000. While in Tempe, White oversaw an ASU athletics program that won three NCAA titles and posted NCAA runner-up finishes twice. The Sun Devils also rose to 11th in the 1999-2000 Sears Directors’ Cup rankings under White’s guidance.
GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
The Irish have done a good job of starting their NCAA Tournament experience in the right way, winning their first round game in each of the last nine seasons. That corresponds exactly with Notre Dame’s membership in the BIG EAST Conference, which began with the 1995-96 campaign. During that time, the Irish have advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen six times, moving on to the Final Four twice and winning the 2001 NCAA title.
IRISH OPPONENTS QUALIFY FOR THE SECOND SEASON
Notre Dame played a difficult 2004-05 schedule, one which was ranked in the top 25 in the country all year long. Highlighting that fact, a total of 14 Irish opponents qualified for postseason play – nine in the NCAA Tournament (Boston College, Connecticut, Duke, Illinois State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers and USC) and five in the WNIT (Marquette, Nebraska, St. John’s, Villanova and West Virginia). Notre Dame went 9-4 against the NCAA qualifiers (wins over all but Michigan State, including two wins over BC), and posted a 5-1 mark against the WNIT group (defeated all but Villanova and beat WVU twice).
SOWING THE SEEDS, PART ONE
Notre Dame is seeded fourth in the Tempe Region of this year’s NCAA Tournament, representing the third-best seed in school history. It’s also Notre Dame’s highest seed since 2001, when the Irish carried the top seed in the Midwest Region all the way to the program’s first national championship. This year marks the first time Notre Dame is the No. 4 seed. Overall, Notre Dame has played 25 NCAA Tournament games as a single-digit seed, posting an 18-7 (.720) record. The Irish also are 8-1 (.889) all-time as a top-four seed, with their only loss coming to Texas Tech, 69-65 in the 2000 Mideast Regional semifinals at The Pyramid in Memphis.
SOWING THE SEEDS, PART TWO
Although some bracketologists could peg a matchup between the No. 4 and 13 seeds as being ripe for an upset, the fourth spot might not be a bad locale for Notre Dame in this year’s field. In first-round games between the No. 4 and No. 13 seeds over the past five seasons (2000-04), the fourth-seeded team holds an 18-2 (.900) record. However, both the Irish and UC Santa Barbara are intimately familiar with the perils of the 4-13 matchup – in 2000, the fourth-seeded Gauchos were toppled by No. 13 seed Rice, 67-64 in the opening round, while last season, Notre Dame’s Joyce Center played host to another such upset when 13th-seeded Middle Tennessee downed No. 4 seed North Carolina, 67-62.
BEEN DOWN THIS ROAD BEFORE
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw ranks fifth among active Division I coaches in terms of NCAA Tournament winning percentage, owning a .677 mark (21-10) in her previous 11 appearances in the event. The remainder of the top five is: Tennessee’s Pat Summitt (.833, 85-17), Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (.828, 53-11), Duke’s Gail Goestenkors (.722, 26-10) and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer (.691, 38-17). All records require a minimum of 20 NCAA Tournament games played.
THE BEAST OF THE BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 137-31 (.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 finished either first or second in the BIG EAST nine times in their 10-year membership, and claimed a share of their first-ever regular-season conference championship in 2001. When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 151-41 (.786) against league opponents – when factoring in these 24 postseason tilts, the Irish are 76-8 (.905) at home, 61-26 (.701) on the road and 14-7 (.667) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.
Notre Dame is 187-45 (.806) all-time when it is ranked in the Associated Press poll at tipoff (the Irish were 11th in the final AP poll released earlier this week). When playing at home, Notre Dame has been especially strong, going 87-10 (.897) as a ranked host after posting a 14-2 record at the Joyce Center this season. Conversely, the Irish are 75-26 (.743) on the road and 25-9 (.735) at neutral sites all-time as a ranked team.
Notre Dame was ranked in all 19 AP polls this season and spent 16 weeks in the top 10, with the latter mark tying for the second-most top-10 appearances for a season in school history (16 in 1998-99; 18 in 2000-01). This year’s final No. 11 ranking is the first time the Irish have appeared in the year-end AP poll since 2000-01, when they were second following a 78-76 loss to Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship title game. However, Notre Dame bounced back nicely that year to win its first-ever national championship.
McGRAW AMONG ACTIVE COACHING LEADERS IN AP POLL APPEARANCES
With Notre Dame’s No. 11 ranking in this year’s final Associated Press poll, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw has moved into 18th place among active Division I coaches, having piloted her team to 128 AP poll appearances. That’s one more than Old Dominion’s Wendy Larry (127), with retiring Colorado head coach Ceal Barry (142) and Texas A&M mentor Gary Blair (146) just ahead of McGraw.
SOLID AS A ROCK
The Irish have fielded just two different starting lineups this season, a testament to the team’s consistency throughout the campaign. In fact, four players – senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast, senior center Teresa Borton, junior guard Megan Duffy and sophomore guard Breona Gray – have started every game for Notre Dame this season. The fifth starting spot has been split between junior forward Courtney LaVere and sophomore forward Crystal Erwin, due in part to LaVere’s knee surgery and subsequent recovery period earlier this season.
Batteast’s regularity in the starting lineup is especially notable. Assuming she starts Saturday’s NCAA Tournament first-round game vs. UC Santa Barbara, she will break Katryna Gaither’s school record with her 96th consecutive start, dating back to the opening game of the 2002-03 season against Cleveland State (Gaither started 95 in a row from 1994-97).
Junior guard Megan Duffy is on pace to shatter the Notre Dame single-season records for total minutes and minutes per game this year. Duffy presently has amassed 1,148 minutes played and is averaging 37.0 minutes per night, with nine 40-minute games to her credit (including a career-long 45-minute ironman performance vs. Michigan State on Dec. 2). The school record for total minutes is held by Beth Morgan (1,227 in 1996-97), while Mary Gavin owns the Irish minutes-per-game record (35.1 in 1986-87).
For her career, Duffy is averaging 31.2 minutes per game, which would rank fourth in school history just behind her current teammate, senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast (31.6).
BALANCE IS KEY
Notre Dame has had nine of the 11 players on its roster score in double figures at least once this season, with seven of them earning a share of team-high scoring honors in a game. The Irish also have had eight different players claim team-high rebounding honors in a game, while five separate players have led the squad in assists.
In addition, four of Notre Dame’s five current starters have at least two double-doubles to their credit this season. Senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast leads the way with six double-doubles, followed by two each for senior center Teresa Borton, junior guard Megan Duffy and junior forward Courtney LaVere.
THE SEASON FOR SHARING
One of the key elements in Notre Dame’s success this season has been its penchant for distributing the ball well. In fact, the Irish have 494 assists (15.94 apg.; third in the BIG EAST and 36th in the nation as of March 14) on 747 field goals made (24.1 per game), including a Preseason WNIT-record 29 handouts in the season opener vs. Illinois State.
Junior guard Megan Duffy leads the way at 5.52 assists per game (second in the BIG EAST and 27th in the nation), with at least five dimes in 19 contests this year, four double-digit assist games (most by an Irish player since Niele Ivey’s five in 2000-01), and a career-high 11 assists vs. Rutgers on Jan. 23. Duffy also was second in the BIG EAST with 6.19 apg. in conference play.
GETTING IT ON THE PLUS SIDE
The Irish currently are just shy of the break-even point with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.996 this season (494 assists, 496 turnovers). If that figure moves back into the black, it would mark the second time since turnovers became an official statistic in 1987-88 that Notre Dame has finished with more assists than turnovers in a season. The Irish also pulled off that feat in 2000-01, winding up with a 1.15 assist-to-turnover ratio (650 assists, 567 turnovers) during their run to the national championship.
The Irish are 12-3 away from home this season and have 11 true road wins, tying for the third-highest total in school history (13 in 1996-97; 12 in 1998-99; 11 on three other occasions – most recently in 2000-01). In fact, Notre Dame won its first five road games this year, marking only the second time ever the Irish opened with five or more road victories (they won 10 in a row to begin the 2000-01 campaign).
Accenting Notre Dame’s play on the road has been its defensive prowess. The Irish are holding opponents to 53.3 ppg., a .347 field goal percentage (288-for-829) and a .250 three-point percentage (63-for-252) away from home and have allowed more than 60 points only twice in their 15 games away from home this year (61 by Syracuse on Jan. 19; 67 by Connecticut on March 7 in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals).
PINE TIME PLAYERS
Notre Dame is 18-0 this year (9-0 vs. BIG EAST Conference opponents) when its bench outscores the opposition’s reserves. For the season, the Irish understudies are averaging 16.8 ppg., compared to 14.0 ppg. for Notre Dame opponents. Freshman guard Charel Allen has been the top Irish reserve this season, logging 7.9 ppg.
Notre Dame’s bench play has been especially important during the past 15 games (13-2 record). The Irish are getting an average of 19.3 ppg. (290 total points) from their reserves in that stretch, compared to 14.3 ppg. (214 total points) from the opposition’s bench. Allen (9.3 ppg., 140 total) has been the key bench contributor in that stretch with six double-figure games – 17 points at Syracuse (Jan. 19), 16 points at Pittsburgh (Feb. 5), 14 points vs. Georgetown (Feb. 12) and at Seton Hall (March 1), and 11 points at No. 9/10 Connecticut (Jan. 30) and vs. West Virginia (March 6).
THE FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT
Notre Dame ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference in steals this season, averaging 9.29 thefts per game (288 total). The Irish have come up with at least 10 steals in 13 games and had a season-best 20 thefts on Nov. 22 vs. Colorado State, the most by a BIG EAST team this season.
Individually, junior guard Megan Duffy is tops in the conference in steals (2.71 spg.), while her 84 total steals ranks as the fifth-highest single-season mark in school history (Niele Ivey holds the record with 95 swipes in 1999-2000). Duffy’s backcourt mate, sophomore Breona Gray, and senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast are tied for second on the team with 1.19 steals per game (37 total), while freshman guard Charel Allen (35) also has at least 30 steals this year.
LOTS OF FREE STUFF
When given the opportunity, Notre Dame has taken advantage of its trips to the free throw line this season. The Irish lead the BIG EAST Conference and rank 34th in the nation (as of March 14), shooting 74.2 percent from the charity stripe. In fact, they set a school record by going a perfect 18-for-18 on Nov. 30 at Valparaiso, which also matches the best mark by any team in the country this season.
Notre Dame has been led at the gift line by junior guard Megan Duffy (.902, 120-133), freshman guard Charel Allen (.848, 67-79) and senior All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast (.794, 123-155). Duffy currently ranks first in the BIG EAST and third in the nation in free throw percentage, while Batteast is second in the conference and has shown the greatest improvement among all Irish players this season with nearly a 17-percent jump from last year’s career low .627 mark.
One side note about Duffy’s free throw prowess – the Irish junior struggled at the line ea