Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy leads the Irish in scoring (16.1 ppg.), assists (5.0 apg.) and steals (2.7 spg.) this season, ranking among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in all three categories.

No. 12/11 Notre Dame Returns From Christmas Holiday To Face Valparaiso

Dec. 28, 2005

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2005-06 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 10
#12/11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs.
Valparaiso Crusaders (5-4 / 0-0 Mid-Continent)

DATE: December 28, 2005
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. — Joyce Center (11,418)
SERIES: Notre Dame leads 18-0
1ST MTG: 12/3/77 (ND 48-41)
LAST MTG: 11/30/04 (ND 69-59)
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1580 AM,, Mike Lockert, p-b-p
TV: None
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356

• Notre Dame will play just its third game in the past three weeks and first home game in 29 days (the longest span between home games in 24 seasons).
• The Irish will look to improve to 9-1 for just the fourth time in school history (all in the past eight years).

Returning from a 10-day hiatus for the Christmas holiday, the No. 12/11 Notre Dame women’s basketball team (8-1) seeks to build on its solid early-season success when it plays host to Valparaiso (5-4) Wednesday at 2 p.m. (ET) at the Joyce Center. It will mark the first home game for the Irish since Nov. 29, ending a span of 29 days between contests before the Notre Dame faithful.

The Irish last took the court on Dec. 18, coming away with a 68-55 victory over No. 22/21 Utah in the title game of the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures and the Irish held the Utes to a .316 field goal percentage. Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors after averaging 16.0 ppg., 6.5 rpg. and shooting .824 from the floor (14-17) in two games. Senior guard Megan Duffy also garnered a spot on the all-tournament team after logging 12.5 points and 7.0 assists per game.

• Notre Dame is ranked 12th in this week’s Associated Press poll and 11th in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
• Valparaiso is unranked.

Web Sites
• Notre Dame:
• Valparaiso:
• Mid-Continent:

Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 19th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the country’s leading women’s basketball powers. The Irish have appeared in 12 NCAA Tournaments (including the past 10 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine years. Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four twice, winning college basketball’s ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.

In its history, Notre Dame has developed eight All-Americans, eight WNBA players (including five draft picks in the past five years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 29th season in 2005-06, the Irish own an all-time record of 583-255 (.696).

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw
Saint Joseph’s ’77
19th season at Notre Dame
• 419-156 (.729) at Notre Dame.
• 507-197 (.720) in 24 years as head coach.
• 2001 consensus National Coach of the Year
• Four-time Naismith Coach of the Year finalist
• Four-time conference Coach of the Year
• BIG EAST Conference (2001)
• Midwestern Collegiate Conference (1991)
• North Star Conference (1988)
• East Coast Conference (@ Lehigh) (1983)

A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Balance and chemistry will be the two main ingredients as Notre Dame looks to build upon last year’s successful 27-6 season that saw the Irish win the Preseason WNIT, rise to No. 3 in the national polls and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

With the graduation of 2004-05 BIG EAST Player of the Year and All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast, as well as rugged and dependable center Teresa Borton, Notre Dame will have a large infusion of youth on its roster, as eight of its 12 players are underclassmen (four freshmen, four sophomores). However, the team is in more than capable hands, as senior point guard and two-time captain Megan Duffy returns to run the Irish offense. Duffy spent the summer as a co-captain on the USA World University Games Team that won a gold medal and went unbeaten in Izmir, Turkey, and she hopes to use the lessons she learned on the international stage to help her take the Irish to grand heights in 2005-06.

Notre Dame has been a mainstay in both national polls this season, peaking at No. 10 on Dec. 5, and currently standing 12th in the Associated Press poll and 11th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ survey.

The balance the Irish have sought this season has been evident in the team’s first nine games. Notre Dame has had at least three double-figure scorers in seven games (four in four of the past five outings, including a season-high five in the last game vs. No. 22/21 Utah) and eight different players have scored in double digits at least once thus far. What’s more, eight players are averaging at least 17 minutes of action per night.

Duffy has been a strong all-around contributor for Notre Dame during non-conference play. The veteran floor general is averaging a team-best 16.1 points, 5.0 assists and 2.8 steals per game,with a 2.50 assist/turnover ratio, ranking among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in all four categories. In addition, she is third in the league and 21st in the nation in foul shooting (.905). She also has led the team in scoring six times and in assists eight times this year. Duffy has been tapped for the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll three times this season, and most recently, she earned a spot on the Duel in the Desert All-Tournament Team after averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 assists in piloting the Irish to the tourney title.

Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico has proven to be a solid complement in the post to Duffy’s perimeter presence. D’Amico is second on the team in scoring (10.3 ppg.) and rebounding (6.0 rpg.), while setting the pace in both blocked shots (1.67 bpg., fourth in BIG EAST) and field goal percentage (.569). The pre-Christmas Duel in the Desert may have been her breakout performance, as she averaged 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with an .824 field goal percentage (14-17) en route to tournament Most Valuable Player and BIG EAST Player of the Week honors.

Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader also has shown tremendous promise during the early portion of the season. The former McDonald’s All-American already has been named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week once (Nov. 21) after turning in an impressive 10-point, 14-rebound effort in her debut outing against Michigan, becoming just the second player in school history (first since 1979) to record a double-double in her first game. She also averaged 13.5 points per game and shot a blistering 80 percent from the field (12-of-15) in wins over Iona and Wisconsin, going 6-of-6 in the latter contest. Those marks earned Schrader a spot on the Dec. 5 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll, the first freshman to appear on that list this season. She recently tacked on her second double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds in Notre Dame’s most recent win over No. 22/21 Utah at the Duel in the Desert. Schrader is third on the team in scoring (9.4 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (6.1 rpg.), as well as third in field goal percentage (.451).

Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
• Notre Dame’s No. 12 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll represents the 26th consecutive appearance for the Irish in that survey, dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. All told, Notre Dame has appeared in 135 Associated Press polls since the balloting debuted 30 years ago, with their first AP ranking (No. 25) coming on Dec. 31, 1990.
• With its No. 10 AP ranking on Dec. 5, the Irish have appeared in the top 10 of the media balloting at some point in seven of the past 10 years (including three of the past four seasons). Notre Dame has spent a total of 73 weeks in the AP top 10 during the program’s 29-year history and owns a 110-21 (.840) record when it’s ranked in the top 10.
• The Irish have won 57 of their last 60 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season. All three of the losses in that span have come against Big Ten Conference opponents (Wisconsin in 1996, Purdue in 2003, Michigan State in 2004).
• The Irish defense continues to be its calling card. In each of the past six seasons, Notre Dame has held its opponents to an average of less than 62 points per game, including a 56.8 ppg. mark last year, which ranked as the third-lowest opponent scoring average in school history and second-best of the Muffet McGraw era (55.8 ppg. in 2000-01). Thus far in 2005-06, the Irish are allowing opponents to score 59.7 ppg.
• The Irish have posted 39 wins over Top 25 opponents in the past eight seasons (1998-99 to present), most recently knocking off No. 22/21 Utah, 68-55 on Dec. 18 in the championship game of the Duel in the Desert (Gray Division) out in Las Vegas. In each of the past two years, Notre Dame has set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents. Furthermore, since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Irish are 11-2 (.846) at home against Top 25 competition.
• Following their Nov. 29 win over Iona, the Irish have welcomed crowds of 5,000 or more fans to 68 of their last 70 home games. The only two blemishes on that mark came in the semifinals and finals of last year’s Preseason WNIT, because tickets for those games could not be included in the Notre Dame season ticket package and had to be purchased separately.
• Senior guard Megan Duffy was named a preseason All-American by three sources, has been cited on the preseason watch lists for both the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Women’s Award, and most recently was tabbed as one of the top five point guards in the nation by Duffy also was a preseason all-BIG EAST Conference selection, following up her first-team all-league citation last year.
• With a 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to reach the 500-win mark. She also is the 10th Division I coach to earn her 500th victory prior to age 50. McGraw reached another milestone on Nov. 29 vs. Iona with her 700th career game as a head coach (she was credited with the win despite missing the contest due to illness).

A Quick Look At Valparaiso
Fresh off its fourth consecutive season with at least 18 victories (18-10) and seventh in the past eight years, Valparaiso welcomes back seven letterwinners and three starters, complementing a solid crop of six freshmen (two of whom redshirted last season).

Like Notre Dame, the Crusaders (5-4) have been off for the past 10 days since an 83-50 pasting of Loyola (Ill.) at home on Dec. 18. Valparaiso shot a blistering 54 percent from the floor (34-63) and forced the Ramblers into 24 turnovers, parlaying those miscues into 27 points. The inside-outside combination of 6-foot-5 junior center Tamra Braun (21 points on 10-14 FG) and junior guard Carrie Myers (20 points on 6-9 3FG) powered the Crusaders to their biggest win of the season to date.

The victory over Loyola came on the heels of an impressive performance against No. 24/21 Purdue in Fort Wayne on Dec. 11, a game that saw Valparaiso take a 13-point lead in the second half before the Boilermakers rallied for a 70-55 win. The Crusaders do have a Big Ten triumph under the belt (57-51 vs. Northwestern on Nov. 30) and two of their four losses have come by eight points or less (one was a 79-71 double-overtime loss at Bradley on Nov. 21).

Myers has been Valparaiso’s leading scorer to this point in the ’05-06 season, averaging 14.1 points per game on .469 shooting (.448 from the three-point line, where 67 of her 96 shots have originated). Junior guard Betsy Rietema is second on the team in scoring (13.6 ppg.) and rebounding (6.3 rpg.), while also lifting a team-best 24 steals. Braun is the third Crusader scoring in double figures (11.9 ppg.) and she also sets the pace on the boards (8.7 rpg.).

Keith Freeman is in his 12th season as the head coach at Valparaiso, owning a 198-132 (.600) record that includes the school’s first two NCAA Tournament appearances (2003, 2004), as well as a trip to the WNIT quarterfinals in 2002. Counting prior stops at Huntington and St. Joseph’s (Ind.), Freeman has a career coaching record of 327-179 (.646) in his 18th season on the sidelines. He is 0-8 all-time against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-Valparaiso Series
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Valparaiso, 18-0, including victories in each of the eight prior matchups at the Joyce Center.

The series dates back to the first varsity game in Irish women’s basketball history (Dec. 3, 1977), a 48-41 Notre Dame victory at the Joyce Center. The teams would meet at least once during each of the first five seasons of the Irish women’s basketball program before the series went nearly dormant for the next 18 seasons (save only for a home-and-home series in 1987 and 1988, as well as 1995 and 1996).

Head coaches Muffet McGraw (Notre Dame) and Keith Freeman (Valparaiso) agreed to resume the series on an annual basis starting with the 1999-2000 season, with this year’s game marking the seventh consecutive year that the Irish and Crusaders have tangled on the hardwood.

Other Notre Dame-Valparaiso Series Tidbits
• Notre Dame has won all 18 games in the series by an average margin of 19.5 points per game (69.5-50.1). However, the past four matchups have been much closer than that spread, including three games that decided by 10 points or less.
• In the Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), four of the five series games played at the Joyce Center have been decided by double figures in Notre Dame’s favor, including Valparaiso’s most recent visit on Nov. 21, 2003 (a 74-57 Irish win). During the past five Joyce Center games in the series, Notre Dame has won by an average of 25.6 ppg.
• The Irish have scored 70 or more points in nine of their last 11 games against Valparaiso, narrowly missing that mark in alast year’s 69-59 win. Conversely, the Crusaders have not scored more than 68 points in any game against Notre Dame and have topped the 60-point mark three times in the 18-game series.
• Since the series resumed annually in 1999, Notre Dame has been ranked nationally in each of the seven matchups, including its No. 12/11 ranking entering Wednesday’s meeting.
• Valparaiso is one of two teams on this year’s schedule whom the Irish faced in their inaugural varsity season of 1977-78. Notre Dame also faced Marquette in that first year (a 66-41 MU win in Milwaukee) and will take on the Golden Eagles, a new BIG EAST Conference member, Jan. 10 at the Joyce Center.
• Normally an early-season contest, this year’s Notre Dame-Valparaiso game is the latest on the calendar since the Dec. 29, 1999 tussle the Joyce Center (won by the Irish, 88-63).
• Notre Dame is 104-31 (.770) all-time against other schools from the state of Indiana, including a 49-10 (.831) record at the Joyce Center. In fact, the Irish have won 12 of their last 13 home games vs. other Indiana schools since an 87-83 loss to Purdue on Nov. 30, 1994. The only setback in that span — a 71-54 loss to Purdue on Jan. 4, 2003.
• The 18 series wins vs. Valparaiso are the second-most for Notre Dame vs. an Indiana institution in program history. The Irish hold a 19-6 series record against Butler, but have not played the Bulldogs since 1999.
• Wednesday’s game marks a homecoming for Valparaiso freshman forward Aimee Litka, who graduated from South Bend St. Joseph’s High School last May and played a key role in the Indians’ run to the Class 3A state title. One of Litka’s teammates on that squad was Melissa Lechlitner, who signed a National Letter of Intent back in November to attend Notre Dame beginning next fall.
• First-year Valparaiso student manager Gary Paczesny (pronounced pah-CHEZ-knee) is a native of South Bend, matriculating from both St. Joseph’s High School and Holy Cross College, and has spent parts of the past four years working in the Notre Dame sports information office, assisting with various events, including women’s basketball and NBC’s broadcasts of Irish football.
• The states of Indiana and Michigan have produced more Notre Dame women’s basketball players (14 each) than any other in the program’s 29-year history. Freshman walk-on guard Brittney Bolden (South Bend/Adams HS) is the only native Hoosier on this year’s Notre Dame roster, although the Irish have signed three Indiana standouts to National Letters of Intent for the 2006-07 season.

The Last Time Notre Dame And Valparaiso Met
Jacqueline Batteast had game highs of 25 points and 10 rebounds and Megan Duffy added a season-high 20 points for third-ranked Notre Dame, which used a 12-4 surge in the final 4:30 to finally beat back a stern challenge from host Valparaiso, 69-59, on Nov. 30, 2004, at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

Betsy Rietema scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half for Valparaiso (1-3), which stayed competitive throughout in a series dominated by Notre Dame. Coming into the game, the Irish had won the previous 17 games of the series by an average of 20 points.

The Irish appeared well on their way to another easy win after Batteast scored 11 of Notre Dame’s first 13 points to key a 21-9 start. But the Crusaders responded with a 9-2 run keyed by strong inside play from Tamra Braun, and opened the second half with an 8-3 spurt to make it a game.

Down 53-43 with just under nine minutes to play, the Crusaders went on an 8-0 run to get back in the game. Rietema scored six points during the charge, including a driving layup that cut the lead to two points with 6:18 to play.

But the momentum changed on the next play. Batteast got a layup off an inbounds pass that quieted the crowd, Teresa Borton hit two free throws to pad the lead, and the Irish held on to extend their season-opening winning streak to seven games.

Notre Dame helped its cause by outrebounding Valpo, 43-27, making all 18 of its free throws (a new school record) and holding the Crusaders to 35-percent shooting. The Irish were also able to limit Valpo forward Jenna Stangler, who came into the game averaging 21.3 points, but was hounded by Irish double teams all night. Valpo’s top scorer didn’t get a shot off in the first six minutes and finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Notre Dame vs. The Mid-Continent
The Irish have faced only three of the eight current members of the Mid-Continent Conference, logging a perfect 21-0 record (9-0 at home) against the Mid-Con. The vast majority of those games have come against Valparaiso, with Notre Dame owning an 18-0 mark against the Crusaders (8-0 at the Joyce Center. The Irish also have met Mid-Con members Chicago State (2-0) and Oakland (1-0) in their 29-year history.

Protecting Perfection
With an 18-0 series record, Valparaiso is the first of four opponents on the 2005-06 Notre Dame schedule against whom the Irish have never lost (min. 10 games). The others are BIG EAST Conference members Pittsburgh (15-0), Providence (13-0) and St. John’s (15-0), with Notre Dame scheduled to open its conference season Jan. 4 at SJU.

A Rested Development
Notre Dame will be playing its first game in 10 days and only its third in the past three weeks when it squares off with Valparaiso Wednesday at the Joyce Center. Last season, the Irish had 11 days off for the Christmas holiday and came back refreshed, going on the road to defeat Northern Illinois, 73-49, on Dec. 30, 2004.

Put Away The Presents
Wednesday’s game with Valparaiso represents something of a rarity for Notre Dame, as the Irish will be playing their first post-Christmas game at the Joyce Center for only the fifth time in school history (first since Dec. 27, 1999 — a 74-59 win over USC).

All-time, the Irish are 17-11 (.607) in their first game after Christmas, but 4-0 when that contest is played at home (11-7 overall, 3-0 at home in the Muffet McGraw era). Besides that 1999 USC win, Notre Dame has victories over East Carolina (52-50 in 1982), Georgetown (78-72 in OT in 1992) and San Francisco (62-49 in 1997).

Perhaps the most notable win for the Irish coming out of the Christmas break came on Dec. 28, 1990, when Notre Dame knocked off No. 11 Louisiana Tech, 71-66, in the opening round of the Saint Joseph’s Texaco-Hawk Classic in Philadelphia. The Irish used that win, and a 72-53 conquest of SJU in the tourney final a night later, to earn the first Associated Press Top 25 ranking in program history (No. 25 on Dec. 31).

Remember Us?
The Irish will play their first home game since Nov. 29 (a 74-55 win over Iona) when they take on Valparaiso Wednesday afternoon at the Joyce Center. That 29-day drought between home games is the longest for Notre Dame since the 1981-82 season, when the Irish went 36 days between contests at the Joyce Center (Dec. 12 vs. Northern Illinois; Jan. 17 vs. SMU).

In The Light Of Day
Notre Dame has enjoyed playing in the afternoon this season, posting a 5-0 record in games when the tip comes before 6 p.m. local time. Dating back to last year, the Irish are 14-2 in day games, with their only two losses in that span coming at Villanova (59-54 on Jan. 9, 2005) and at No. 10 Rutgers (59-48 on Feb. 19, 2005).

When The Game Is On The Line …
The Irish have posted a .691 free throw percentage (38-of-55) inside the final two minutes of games this season. Leading the way is senior guard Megan Duffy, who has made 21 of her 22 foul shots (.955) in crunch time.

The Efficiency Expert
Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico pulled off a unique feat in Notre Dame’s 77-54 win over Arkansas State Dec. 17 at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas. D’Amico scored a career-high 20 points in only 18 minutes of court time, becoming the first Irish player to average better than a point per minute (min. 10 minutes) in a game since Dec. 21, 2002, when current senior Courtney LaVere had 20 points in 19 minutes vs. IPFW.

The Long Island Express
The Duel in the Desert on Dec. 17-18 in Las Vegas proved to be a coming-out party for sophomore center Melissa D’Amico. The Manorville, N.Y., native averaged 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds with an astronomical .824 field goal percentage (14-of-17) en route to Most Valuable Player honors in the Gray Division (won by Notre Dame). D’Amico scored a career-high 20 points (10-12 FG) in the opener vs. Arkansas State, then came back with a team-high 13 points (4-5 FG) and seven rebounds in the championship game vs. No. 22/21 Utah.

D’Amico’s effort also was enough to make her the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Week for Dec. 19, the first time she has been selected for that honor. She’s also the first Irish player to garner that award since Teresa Borton was chosen on Feb. 28, 2005.

Viva Las Vegas
Notre Dame made the most of its first-ever visit to Las Vegas, coming away with the Duel in the Desert (Gray Division) title on the strength of wins over Arkansas State (77-54) and No. 22/21 Utah (68-55). The championship was the fifth in the last six opportunities for the Irish, who also have now won 12 of their last 13 regular-season tournament games.

The Duel in the Desert crown was even more rewarding when you consider Notre Dame trailed for a grand total of 15 seconds the entire weekend (a one-point deficit midway through the second half vs. Utah). The Irish defense also played a pivotal role, holding ASU and Utah to a .286 field goal percentage and 54.5 points per game.

Second-Half Sizzle
In six of their eight victories this season, Notre Dame has used a significant second-half run to take control of the contest. In four of those instances (Michigan, Indiana, USC, Utah), the Irish trailed at some point in the final 11 minutes, but on the strength of their second-half run, rallied to take the win.

Starting Strong
The Irish got off to a 6-0 start for the second time in as many seasons, marking the first time in the 29-year history of the program Notre Dame has put together back-to-back 6-0 starts (the Irish began last year with a 7-0 record).

All told, Notre Dame has won the first six games of the season only four times, all in the Muffet McGraw era (and all in the past eight seasons beginning in 1998-99). In the three previous 6-0 starts, the Irish went on to win at least 25 games and reach the NCAA Tournament every time.

ND-Tennessee Game Sold Out
The University of Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office announced Dec. 12 that this Saturday’s New Year’s Eve game between the Irish and Tennessee at the Joyce Center is sold out. The official announcement of the 11,418-seat sellout, the third in program history, came 19 days prior to tip-off and makes the 2 p.m. (ET) New Year’s Eve contest the fastest sellout in the 29-year history of Notre Dame women’s basketball. The Irish had two capacity crowds in their first national championship season of 2000-01 — vs. top-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 15, and vs. Georgetown for Senior Night on Feb. 24 — with the latter contest exhausting its ticket allotment 15 days in advance.