Dec. 11, 2009
2009-10 ND Women’s Basketball: Game 9
#3/4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-0 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Valparaiso Crusaders (3-4 / 0-0 Horizon League)
DATE: December 12, 2009
TIME: 2:00 p.m. ET
AT: Notre Dame, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion (9,149)
SERIES: ND leads 22-0
1ST MTG: ND 48-41 (12/3/77)
LAST MTG: ND 63-55 (12/13/08)
WEBCAST: UND.com (live)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/UND.com (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
TEXT ALERT: UND.com
TICKETS: (574) 631-7356
- Notre Dame is off to the second-best start in school history.
- The Irish have forced at least 20 turnovers in all eight games this season, including upwards of 30 takeaways in three of four home games to date.
Northern Indiana Foes Collide As #3/4 Irish Welcome Valparaiso
For two hours on Saturday, the Notre Dame players will set aside their books, as the No. 3/4 Irish play host to northern Indiana rival Valparaiso in a 2 p.m. (ET) contest at Purcell Pavilion that will be webcast live and free of charge at www.UND.com. It will be Notre Dame’s last game before an eight-day break for the University’s final exam period.
The Irish are coming off a 96-60 win over another in-state foe, IPFW on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame broke free of the pesky Mastodons in the final 10 minutes of the first half, then put the game to bed with a 55-point second half and a season-high .578 field goal percentage for the night.
Junior forward (and Valparaiso native) Becca Bruszewski paced five Irish players in double figures with 18 points and career highs of five assists and four steals, while fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader rang up 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds for Notre Dame.
- Notre Dame is third in the current Associated Press poll and is fourth in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.
- Valparaiso is not ranked.
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
The faces may be the same, but the focus, drive and determination have never been greater for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program as the Irish head into the 2009-10 season. With all 12 players returning from a year ago, along with an incoming freshman class ranked as high as ninth in the land, expectations are high as Notre Dame looks to not only reach a new level of success, but also wash away the bitter taste left by a first-round loss in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Setting the tone for the Irish will be a trio of senior captains, including returning all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader and Ashley Barlow, both of whom also were tabbed for this year’s preseason all-conference team. Schrader was a first-team all-BIG EAST pick last season after piling up career bests of 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. In addition, she registered seven double-doubles, breaking the school single-season record for guards previously set by Danielle Green (1998-99).
Meanwhile, Barlow led the team in scoring last season at 12.7 points per game, and also logged 70 steals (2.4 spg.), making her only the fourth player in school history to record 60+ steals in three consecutive seasons. The Indianapolis native also made an early statement about her intentions this season, notching a team-high 13.0 ppg. with a .727 three-point percentage (8-11) and .577 field goal percentage during Notre Dame’s three-game, 11-day European tour in May 2009.
Completing this leadership triumverate is point guard Melissa Lechlitner. As a first-year starter in 2008-09, Lechlitner averaged personal bests of 10.6 points and 3.4 assists per game, driving the Irish offense with a steady hand.
Another first-year starter who made huge strides last season was junior forward Becca Bruszewski. The Valparaiso product doubled her averages in scoring (10.7 ppg.) and rebounding (5.0 rpg.), while honing a reliable three-point shot to the tune of a team-high .375 percentage from beyond the arc.
Not to be overlooked are a pair of returning BIG EAST All-Freshman Team picks in rapidly-maturing sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (6.9 ppg., 45 steals in 2008-09) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (6.0 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.2 bpg.), as well as their classmates in forward Kellie Watson (3.8 ppg., 28 3FGM) and Fraderica Miller (0.7 ppg., 0.7 spg.).
In addition, Notre Dame could get a significant boost this year from incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins, a three-time high school All-American from South Bend’s Washington High School, who averaged 25.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during her prep career. The other Irish rookie guard, Kaila Turner of Joliet, Ill., has incredible upside as well, having twice earned all-state honors at Marian Catholic High School.
Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish
- Notre Dame is among the nation’s winningest programs during the past 14 seasons (1996-97 to present), ranking seventh with 322 victories.
- Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past nine seasons. Last year, the program finished ninth in the country for the second year in a row with an average of 7,168 fans for its 13 home games (the second-highest single-season attendance average in school history). The Irish also have drawn 5,000-or-more fans to 128 of their last 130 home games, including six Purcell Pavilion sellouts (most recently on Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Purdue).
- The Irish have become a regular fixture in the WNBA Draft in recent years, as seven Notre Dame players have been selected in the past nine seasons. Charel Allen was the most recent Irish player to be chosen, going to the Sacramento Monarchs in the third round (43rd overall pick) of the 2008 WNBA Draft. Ruth Riley (San Antonio) was active in the league during the ’09 season, helping the Silver Stars return to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Three of Notre Dame’s eight WNBA alums have won a total of four league championships — Riley won a pair of crowns with the Detroit Shock (2003 Finals MVP, 2006), Coquese Washington toiled for the 2000 Houston Comets, while Jacqueline Batteast was Riley’s teammate on the ’06 title-winning squad in Detroit.
- For the fourth year in a row, the Irish posted a perfect 100-percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR), according to figures released by the NCAA in October 2009. What’s more, since Muffet McGraw became the Irish head coach in 1987, every Notre Dame women’s basketball player that has completed her athletic and academic eligibility at the University has graduated (a 57-for-57 success rate), with all five members of this year’s senior class on target to graduate by May 2010 (Erica Williamson will complete work on her undergraduate degree one semester early in December 2009).
A Quick Look At Valparaiso
Valparaiso brings back two starters and eight letterwinners from last year’s 16-14 squad that finished in the upper half of the Horizon League. Yet, it’s been the newest additions to the Crusader lineup that have made the biggest impact thus far.
Valparaiso (3-4) is coming off a 77-52 loss at Notre Dame’s BIG EAST Conference sister (and 15th-ranked) Pittsburgh on Tuesday night in the Steel City. Sophomore guard (and first-year starter) Betsy Adams chalked up a team-high 18 points (6-14 on 3FG), and senior forward Lauren Kenney added 12 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Crusaders.
Adams (17.1 ppg.) and Kenney (16.0 ppg.) offer a strong one-two punch for Valparaiso, ranking first and third in the Horizon League in scoring, respectively. Adams is an exceptional shooter (team-high .379 3FG%, .906 FT%), while Kenney complements her as a physical force on the blocks, averaging a team-high 8.4 rebounds per game.
Head coach Keith Freeman is in his 15th season, with a 262-186 (.585) record on the Crusader bench. Of the course of his 21-year coaching career, Freeman has a 391-233 (.627) record, with an 0-12 mark vs. Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Valparaiso Series
Separated by less than 60 miles, Notre Dame and Valparaiso are set to tangle for the 23rd time, with the Irish leading the all-time series against the Crusaders by a 22-0 count, with a 10-0 record at home.
The teams met a total of eight times during the first five seasons of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program (1977-78 through 1981-82), then went on hiatus with the exception of home-and-home renewals in 1987-88/1988-89 and 1995-96/1996-97. However, starting with the 1999-2000 season, the series has been continuous, alternating sites annually.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Valparaiso Met
Wide open for a three, Ashley Barlow decided to ignore Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw’s order to drive inside.
Her three-point shot bounced high off the rim, then ricocheted two more times off metal before finally falling through for the first three-pointer of the game for the eighth-ranked Irish, giving them a four-point lead as visiting Notre Dame finished with a 13-5 run to beat Valparaiso 63-55 on Dec. 13, 2008 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Valparaiso (4-3), coming off a 71-60 upset of No. 21 Purdue on three days earlier, trailed 38-31 after Barlow drove inside for a basket three minutes into the second half. But Valparaiso tied the score at 42 when Aimee Litka hit a 3 midway through the second half.
But then Melissa Lechlitner scored 12 of her 18 points in the final 9:22 to rally the Irish.
Whitney Farris scored inside for the Crusaders to cut the lead to 55-53. But the Irish scored the next three baskets, with Lechlitner putting the game away with a 12-foot jumper with 51 seconds left.
Barlow had 15 points and Lindsay Schrader added 14 points and six rebounds for the Irish. Agnieszka Kulaga led Valparaiso with 12 points and Lauren Kenney had 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Valparaiso got off to a strong start, making 7 of 10 shots to open a 15-8 lead when Ashley Varner scored inside six minutes into the game. Defensively, the Crusaders held Notre Dame to 4-of-13 shooting.
But the Irish closed to 16-15 on a three-point play by Erica Solomon, igniting a 16-0 run by the Irish to take a 28-16 lead as Valparaiso missed 16 consecutive shots and had five turnovers during the run, including a shot-clock violation. The Irish led 32-24 at halftime.
The Last Time Notre Dame and Valparaiso Met At Purcell Pavilion
Ashley Barlow scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half and No. 17 Notre Dame forced 27 turnovers en route to its seventh straight victory, 94-56 over Valparaiso on Dec. 12, 2007, at the (formerly-named) Joyce Center.
A year earlier, the Irish needed a last-second free throw to beat Valparaiso. This time, though, the game was over early as the Crusaders couldn’t handle Notre Dame’s pressing defense. Notre Dame forced 16 turnovers in the first half, leading to 19 Irish points.
Back-to-back plays summed up the kind of night it was for the two teams. Agnieszka Kulaga, Valparaiso’s leading scorer, took a 10-foot jumper that rolled twice around the rim and appeared as though it would fall in, but spun out instead. The Irish took the ball down the other end and Melissa Lechlitner took a 14-foot baseline jumper that bounced hard off the back of the rim, off the front of the rim and fell in. The basket was part of a 14-2 run that gave the Irish a 23-8 lead.
The Irish followed that moments later with a 15-2 run to move ahead 40-15. Notre Dame shot 58 percent in the first half and led 47-22 at intermission.
Other Notre Dame-Valparaiso Series Tidbits
- Notre Dame’s 22-0 record against Valparaiso represents the most victories against one opponent without a loss in school history.
- The Irish have held the Crusaders to 60 points or fewer in 20 of 22 series matchups. Conversely, Notre Dame has scored at least 60 points in 15 of 22 meetings, including 13 of the past 15 games.
- The series has tightened considerably in recent years, with six of the past eight games decided by 10 points or fewer. However, the majority of those nailbiters came at Valparaiso’s Athletics-Recreation Center, while Notre Dame is 10-0 in the series at Purcell Pavilion, with five of the past seven decided by double figures.
- The last time Valparaiso came to town (a 94-56 Irish win in 2007) was an anomaly in the series, with the 38-point margin being the largest for Notre Dame over Valparaiso since Dec. 17, 1995 (90-44 at the Joyce Center).
- Notre Dame’s 22 wins over Valparaiso are the most victories for the Irish against an Indiana opponent. Another Horizon League member, Butler, is tied for second on that list (with Evansville), as Notre Dame is 19-6 all-time against the Bulldogs (but have not faced BU since 1999).
- Valparaiso holds a special place in Notre Dame women’s basketball history as the first-ever opponent for the Irish as a varsity-level program on Dec. 3, 1977 (a 48-41 Notre Dame win at the Joyce Center). It was the start of three seasons the Irish spent as an AIAW Division III entity before elevating to Division I in 1980-81.
- Valparaiso is the second of three Notre Dame opponents this season that the Irish also faced in their inaugural campaign (1977-78), along with IPFW and Marquette.
- Notre Dame junior forward Becca Bruszewski is a native of Valparaiso and graduated from nearby Wheeler High School in 2007. She is Porter County’s all-time leading scorer (1,808 points) and holds 11 school/county records, while earning Indiana All-Star status in 2007 and winding up as second runner-up for Indiana Miss Basketball honors. Bruszewski is averaging 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds with a .600 field goal percentage in two games against her hometown school.
- Notre Dame senior guard Melissa Lechlitner and Valparaiso student assistant coach Aimee Litka were teammates at South Bend’s St. Joseph’s High School from 2002-05, helping the Indians to the ’05 Class 3A state title and a runner-up finish in ’03.
- Bruszewski, Lechlitner and Litka all developed through the Indiana Elite AAU program, which is based at Midwest Sports Academy in Mishawaka, Ind.
- Litka and Valparaiso junior forward Whitney Farris are no strangers to the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, having worked as counselors at the Irish summer basketball camps in recent years along with several of the current Notre Dame players.
- Irish freshman guard Skylar Diggins and Valparaiso junior forward Ashley Varner are graduates of South Bend’s Washington High School and were teammates on the school’s 2007 Class 4A state championship team.
Notre Dame vs. The Horizon League
Notre Dame is 103-14 (.880) all-time against the Horizon League, including a 52-5 (.922) record at Purcell Pavilion.
As a former member of the Horizon League (back when it was known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference from 1988-95), the Irish have extensive experience against several of its members. In addition, Notre Dame and Valparaiso were regular opponents long before the Crusaders joined the league from the Mid-Continent Conference (now known as the Summit League) in 2007-08.
Valparaiso is the second of three in-state opponents on Notre Dame’s schedule this season, following Tuesday’s 96-60 win over IPFW, with Purdue (Jan. 4) to follow next month.
The Irish are 115-32 (.782) all-time against other Indiana schools, including a 56-11 (.836) record at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has won 10 consecutive games against in-state opponents (six in a row at home) since a 54-51 loss to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006 at the former Joyce Center.
Getting The Jump
At 8-0, Notre Dame is off to the second-best start in the program’s 33-year history. The only time the Irish opened with a better record that this season was in 2000-01, when they reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins en route to a 34-2 final record and the program’s first national championship.
The Season For Taking
Although the Christmas holiday is traditionally a time for giving gifts, Notre Dame has been in the taking mood this season, forcing its opponents into at least 20 turnovers in all eight games thus far, with Irish foes averaging 25.4 giveaways per game this year — Notre Dame also logs 14.4 steals per game, which ranks second in the BIG EAST and was among the top five in the nation in the most recent NCAA statistical rankings.
The Irish have been particularly hard on opponents in four home games this season, forcing 29.5 turnovers per game while holding visitors to 55.3 points a night and a .333 field goal percentage (76-of-228).
Notre Dame is 21-9 (.700) in true road games since the start of the 2007-08 season, including a 68-67 win at No. 21 Michigan State to begin this year.
In addition, the past seven road losses for the Irish have been decided by an average of 8.4 points per game (all by 12 points or fewer), including all five road setbacks last season (average margin of 8.6 ppg.).
Notre Dame posted 10 wins on the road in each of the past two years, marking just the second time in school history the Irish have logged double-digit win totals away from home in consecutive seasons (11 wins in 1989-90; 10 wins in 1990-91).
Notre Dame is ranked third (a season high) in this week’s Associated Press poll, appearing in the top five for the fourth consecutive week — it’s the longest run in the AP Top 5 for the Irish since the 2000-01 season, when Notre Dame was a top-five fixture for the final 17 weeks.
This week’s ranking also marks the 43rd consecutive AP poll appearance for the Irish, with the current No. 3 ranking being Notre Dame’s highest since the week of Nov. 29, 2004, when the Irish also were ranked third.
What’s more, Notre Dame’s No. 4 preseason ranking on Oct. 30 was its the highest ever, topping its No. 6 debut in the 2000-01 poll.
With their current poll position, the Irish now have appeared in the top 10 of the AP poll during 10 of the past 14 seasons (1996-97 through 2009-10).
Notre Dame has been ranked in the AP poll for 183 weeks during the program’s 33-year history, with every one of those appearances coming in the Muffet McGraw era (since 1987-88). McGraw ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I head coaches for weeks in the AP poll, and also is 23rd all-time in that category.
In addition, the Irish are ranked a season-high No. 4 in this week’s ESPN/USA Today/WBCA coaches’ poll. It’s the second time in the current calendar year that Notre Dame has risen to fourth in that survey, having also done so for two weeks in January 2009 (Jan. 6 & 13).
This marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 10 of the coaches’ poll, as well as eight of the past 12 campaigns (1998-99 to present).
Notre Dame was ranked in the coaches’ survey for 38 consective weeks before falling just outside the Top 25 in the final poll of last season. their current No. 4 ranking, the Irish have appeared in the coaches’ poll for 175 weeks during their history (all coming during McGraw’s tenure).
More Polling Data
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is one of 24 people in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history who have both played for and coached a team that has appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Besides her 183 AP poll appearances while coaching at Notre Dame, McGraw was the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) as a senior in 1977, helping the Hawks rise to No. 3 in the nation. Of the 24 people on this list, 12 currently are NCAA Division I head coaches (see accompanying chart).
Game #8 Recap: IPFW
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was probably the only thing that kept Becca Bruszewski from having a career night.
After scoring 14 points in the first half and matching her career high with four steals, Bruszewski played only seven minutes in the second to finish with 18 points and five assists as the No. 3 Fighting Irish cruised to a 96-60 victory over IPFW on Tuesday night.
Bruszewski, whose career high for points is 20, had been slowed by fouls in recent games.
“Without foul trouble, that’s what Becca’s going to do for us every game. I think she’s been doing that for us every game, just in smaller pieces because of the foul trouble,” McGraw said. “It’s probably frustrating for her we subbed so early because she was playing so well.”
Bruszewski said she played smarter.
“I guess just getting around in the post without touching them at all, because that’s what I struggled with,” she said.
Lindsay Schrader added 14 points and eight rebounds as the Irish (8-0) dominated inside, outscoring the Mastodons (2-5) 62-12 in the paint and outrebounding them 39-27. IPFW’s leading scorer Stephanie Rosado (14.7 points a game) was 1-of-12 shooting for eight points and Eva Ivanova (10 ppg) was 0 of 3.
“Our two posts go 1 for 15, it’s going to be tough for us to win a basketball game,” IPFW coach Chris Paul said.
Anne Boese, making her first start, had a career-high 24 points for the Mastodons on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. She said the Notre Dame defense was tough.
“Once somebody got the ball it was a matter of split seconds before they all swarmed us,” she said. “It was tough to get open shots.”
Noting The IPFW Game
- Notre Dame is off to an 8-0 start for the second time in school history, following a 23-0 debut in 2000-01, the season in which the Fighting Irish won their first national championship.
- The Fighting Irish are 4-0 all-time against IPFW, and 7-0 all-time against the current Summit League alignment.
- IPFW was the first of three in-state opponents for Notre Dame, with the Fighting Irish moving to 115-32 (.782) all-time against Indiana schools and 56-11 (.836) at Purcell Pavilion.
- Notre Dame also has won 10 consecutive games against in-state opponents (six in a row at home) since a 54-51 loss at home to Indiana on Dec. 3, 2006.
- The Fighting Irish posted their third 35-point win of the season, having similarly defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57) and Iona (80-45).
- For the third time in four home games this season, Notre Dame forced at least 30 opponent turnovers.
- The Fighting Irish also have caused at least 20 opponent turnovers in all eight games this season.
- Notre Dame nabbed a season-high 22 steals, one shy of its high-water mark in its BIG EAST Conference era (1995-96 to present).
- Notre Dame shot a season-best .578 from the floor, its highest field goal percentage since Nov. 23, 2008, when the Fighting Irish connected at a blistering .646 clip in a 102-54 win at Boston College.
- Notre Dame also posted a season-high .545 three-point percentage, its sharpest shooting effort from distance since going 7-for-8 (.875) outside the arc in the aforementioned win at BC.
- The Fighting Irish scored 55 second-half points, their best total in the final 20 minutes since Jan. 19, 2008, when they chalked up 56 second-half points in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.
- Junior forward Becca Bruszewski dished out a career-high five assists and tied her personal best with four steals.
- Sophomore guard Natalie Novosel came off the bench to tie her season high with 10 points.
- Senior center Erica Williamson dropped in a season-best 11 points and added a season-high three blocks.
- Freshman guard Kaila Turner notched a season-best five points (including her first career three-pointer) and three assists.
- Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow moved into 18th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,198 points, passing Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91).
- Barlow also took over sole possession of sixth place on the school’s career steals list with 223 thefts, passing Megan Duffy (220 from 2002-06).
- Fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader jumped into a tie for 20th place on the Fighting Irish all-time scoring chart with former teammate Courtney LaVere (2002-06), with both players tallying 1,150 points under the Golden Dome.
- Sophomore guard Fraderica Miller tied her career highs with two assists and one block.
Notre Dame has felt right at home in tournament situations during the past 14 years. Starting with the 1996-97 season, the Irish have won 21 of their last 24 regular-season tournament games (multi-game events only), most recently capping a three-game run to the 2009 Paradise Jam Island Division championship over the Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The only Notre Dame losses during this current stretch were a pair of defeats to third-ranked teams in the Preseason WNIT semifinals (72-59 vs. Tennessee at Ruston, La., in 1996; 75-59 at Maryland in 2007) and a 67-63 overtime setback at No. 20 Colorado on Nov. 15, 2003 in the finals of the WBCA Classic — a game that saw the Buffaloes sink a desperation 30-footer at the end of regulation to force the extra session.
High Value Freshman
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins was named the most valuable player in the Island Division of the 2009 Paradise Jam after averaging 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with a .538 field goal percentage (21-of-39) and a .545 three-point ratio (6-of-11) at the tournament.
Diggins, who also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll for her efforts, was the first Notre Dame rookie in a decade to collect all-tournament team honors in a regular-season event. Alicia Ratay was the last to do so, garnering a place on the 1999 Wachovia Women’s Basketball Invitational all-tournament team after helping Notre Dame to wins over No. 9/12 North Carolina (99-86) and Liberty (85-68) in Richmond, Va.
For the first time in Notre Dame women’s basketball history, four players have hit the 100 games played mark in the same season. Senior guards/tri-captains Ashley Barlow, Melissa Lechlitner and Lindsay Schrader, along with senior center Erica Williamson, all reached the century mark during the Thanksgiving weekend at the Paradise Jam (Lechlitner and Williamson on Nov. 26 vs. San Diego State, Barlow and Schrader on Nov. 27 vs. South Carolina).
Current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey holds the school record with 132 games played from 1996-2001.
Schrader is poised to hit another milestone on Saturday, as she needs just one start to become the 12th player in school history with 100 starting assignments in her career.
McGraw Joins Elite Notre Dame Club
With a 84-79 win over No. 23/24 San Diego State on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw reached a personal milestone, becoming the fourth coach in school history (in any sport) to register 500 victories while coaching under the Golden Dome. McGraw now has a record of 504-197 (.719) in 23 seasons at Notre Dame (1987-88 to present) and a 593-238 (.713) record in 28 seasons overall — including a five-year stint at Lehigh from 1982-87.
Fencing’s Michael DeCicco (680-45 from 1962-86) and Yves Auriol (525-33 from 1986-2002), and baseball’s Jake Kline (558-449-5 from 1934-75) are the only other members of the “Fighting Irish Five Hundred Club,” with one able to connect 75 years of Notre Dame athletics history and success via just four degrees of separation (Kline to DeCicco to Auriol to McGraw).
McGraw reached two other mileposts on Dec. 2 vs. Eastern Michigan, as she coached her 700th game at Notre Dame, as well as her 300th at Purcell Pavilion.
Two of Notre Dame’s senior guards and tri-captains — Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader — are already members of the program’s 1,000-Point Club, and will spend this season trying to work their way up the Irish all-time scoring ladder.
Barlow currently ranks 18th in school history with 1,198 career points, while Schrader is tied for 20th with 1,150 points. They could be joined by their fellow senior guard and tri-captain, Melissa Lechlitner, who has 763 points to date.
Only one other time in program history has Notre Dame fielded three 1,000-point scorers on its roster at the same time — and it literally happened for less than one game. Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon all reached the millennium mark and played on the 2000-01 Irish national championship squad, with Siemon reaching the milestone after scoring 10 points in her final collegiate contest — Notre Dame’s 68-66 title-game victory over Purdue in St. Louis.
With its 102-57 season-opening win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark for the 13th time in school history, and the third time in less than two years (104-86 at Georgetown on Jan. 19, 2008; 102-54 at Boston College on Nov. 23, 2008).
Notre Dame also hit the century mark at home for the first time since Nov. 26, 2002, when the Irish toppled Cleveland State, 107-65 in the 2002-03 season opener.
Eight Is Enough (For Now)
Notre Dame had a school-record eight players score in double figures in its 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 at Purcell Pavilion. That eclipsed the old standard of seven double-digit scorers that was first set on Feb. 6, 1997 vs. Syracuse (90-73 win at the Joyce Center) and matched on Jan. 19, 2008, in a 104-86 win at Georgetown.
Dishing Thirty-One Flavors
Notre Dame’s 31 assists against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15 were the most for the Irish in a single game since Nov. 20, 2000, when they also recorded 31 assists in a 95-65 win over Arizona at the Joyce Center.
Leading the way for Notre Dame on that night was current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
Freshman guard Skylar Diggins had 14 points in the Nov. 15 season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the fifth-most by an Irish rookie in her debut game during the 23-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present), and the most since Courtney LaVere began her career with 18 points in a 2002 win over Cleveland State.
Irish Enjoy Successful ’09 European Tour
In May, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program embarked on a memorable 11-day adventure to France, Monaco and Italy, visiting some of the world’s most historic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, picturesque Lake Como in the foothills of the Italian Alps, the famed El Duomo cathedral in Milan, the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, as well as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel located at The Vatican.
The Irish also had the chance to play three exhibition games against international opponents on the tour, winning all three contests against the French Junior National Team (77-44) and Italian professional teams GEAS Sesto San Giovanni (78-68) and Roma Athena Basket (94-39). The win over the French side was particularly noteworthy, as it came only weeks before France won the gold medal at the European U20 Championships with much of the same team that faced the Irish in May.
Senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow led Notre Dame in scoring (13.0 ppg.) and three-point percentage (.727, 8-11) on the trip, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski was second in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and fourth in rebounding (5.7 rpg.). Other statistical leaders included: fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and sophomore forward Kellie Watson (6.3 rpg.), sophomore guard Natalie Novosel (3.3 spg.), senior guard Melissa Lechlitner (3.3 apg.) and sophomore forward Erica Solomon (2.5 bpg.).
Half And Half
During the past decade, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 171-17 (.910) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 99 of their last 110 such contests.
Notre Dame has led at the break in all eight games this season, and has gone on to earn victories each time.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense…
During the past 15 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 199-14 (.934) record when they hold their opponents below 60 points in a game.
Notre Dame has added four more wins to the ledger this season with victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), South Carolina (78-55) and Eastern Michigan (69-59).
…But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past 15 seasons (since 1995-96), the Irish are 128-4 (.970) 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, a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998, and an 81-80 loss to DePaul in 2008.
Notre Dame already has added five more wins to this ongoing record with its conquests of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (102-57), Iona (80-45), No. 23/24 San Diego State (84-79), No. 20/17 Oklahoma (81-71) and IPFW (96-60).
Now That’s A Home Court Advantage
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 177 of their last 201 games (.881) at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 99-17 (.853) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the former Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.
The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 80 of their last 87 non-BIG EAST contests (.920) at Purcell Pavilion, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Five of the losses in that span came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents (four by 12 points or less) — Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54), Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT), Indiana in 2006 (54-51) and Minnesota in 2009 (79-71) — with the other two defeats coming to Tennessee in 2005 (62-51) and 2008 (87-63). The Purdue loss also snapped a 33-game non-conference home winning streak which began after the UW setback.
Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the former Joyce Center, posting a 327-85 (.794) record at the venerable facility. Three times (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish went a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.
It’s Fan-Demonium At Notre Dame
If the preseason was any indication, Notre Dame women’s basketball is easily the hottest ticket in South Bend. For the first time in school history, all Irish women’s basketball season ticket packages (close to 7,500) have been sold, including more than 1,000 packages to first-time season ticket purchasers when they went on sale Aug. 14. Furthermore, fans were waiting in line at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office as early as 4:30 that morning, more than four hours before the ticket windows opened. Those early birds were rewarded with a visit from Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, who delivered coffee and bagels, courtesy of McGraw and athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
While it’s likely that some tickets will be made available for individual games during the weeks and days prior to the contests, there’s a very real possibility that Notre Dame could approach a sell out for every one of its regular-season home games at the newly-refurbished 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the crowd of 9,080 for the Nov. 15 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the largest season-opening audience in program history, more than 1,100 higher than the old mark set in 2001-02 (7,960 vs. Valparaiso).
Through four home games this season, Notre Dame is averaging 8,348 fans per game, putting the Irish more than 500 fans above their school-record attendance average of 7,825 fans per game, also set in 2001-02.
Notre Dame has posted six sellouts in program history, the most recent coming on Dec. 7, 2008, for a 62-51 win over in-state rival Purdue. That capacity crowd not only was the first on-campus sellout in the 22-game series with the Boilermakers, but it also helped the Irish win the NCAA/BIG EAST Conference Pack The House Challenge for 2008-09.
Irish On Your Radio Dial
Beginning with the 2008-09 athletics year, the Notre Dame athletics department announced it had partnered with the LeSEA Broadcasting Network, making Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) the new radio home of Notre Dame women’s basketball in the South Bend market.
LeSEA originates all Notre Dame women’s basketball games, with those events carried on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), marking a return to the FM side of the dial for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Combined, these two stations blanket the nation’s No. 89 media market (South Bend-Elkhart), covering a 21-county area in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan that contains more than 1.35 million listeners (better than 800,000 in the greater South Bend area alone). All told, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball network stretches from Kalamazoo, Mich., to the north, North Judson, Ind., to the west, Macy, Ind., (home of former Irish All-America center Ruth Riley) to the south, and LaGrange, Ind., to the east.
Women’s basketball game broadcasts also continue to be streamed live and free of charge on Notre Dame’s official athletics web site (www.UND.com) through the Fighting Irish All-Access multimedia package.
Bob Nagle, the voice of Notre Dame women’s basketball from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (including the program’s first NCAA Final Four berth in 1997), returns for his second season in his second stint as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Irish.
Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have at least 18 games televised during the 2009-10 season. Highlighting this year’s broadcast schedule are 11 nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including at least six games on the ESPN family of networks and four others on CBS College Sports (check schedule on page 1 of these notes for exact broadcast coverage).
In addition, Notre Dame continues to expand its broadcast reach globally on the Internet. All Irish regular-season home games not selected for commercial TV coverage (with the exception of the Nov. 15 game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff) will be webcast live on the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com, via the site’s free multimedia package, Fighting Irish All-Access. And, the Thanksgiving weekend Paradise Jam was webcast in its entirety through Fox College Sports Broadband on a pay-per-view basis.
This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 and continuing through this year, Notre Dame has played in 145 televised games, including 92 that were broadcast nationally.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Fifth-year senior guard Lindsay Schrader and senior guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner all return for their second year as team captains for the 2009-10 season. All three players received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.
This marks the first time in program history that the same players are serving as captains in consecutive seasons.
Purcell Pavilion Opens Its Doors
Following an intensive five-month, $26.3 million interior renovation, the arena for the newly-christened Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center made its regular season women’s basketball debut on Nov. 15 when Notre Dame defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 102-57.
The UAPB game was part of the culmination of a two-year project to upgrade the home for Notre Dame basketball and volleyball.
The first (exterior) phase of the project, that began in September 2008, involves construction of a new three-story structure at the south end of the arena. That structure will include a new three-story lobby, which will house the Notre Dame ticket operations (approximately 4,500 square feet) and a varsity shop to sell apparel and souvenirs (approximately 3,000 square feet), in addition to a new club seating and hospitality area.
Replacement of the existing arena seating footprint, including installation of single-color chair-back seating throughout the arena, began following the University’s Commencement Exercises in May 2009 and was completed in time for the Irish volleyball team to play the first athletic event in the facility on Oct. 30 (a 3-1 win over Seton Hall). The entire project is scheduled for completion in January 2010.
The University announced in October 2007 that this ambitious arena renovation had received a $12.5 million leadership gift from Notre Dame alumnus and Trustee Philip J. Purcell III, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Additional cornerstone donations were made by: Vincent J. Naimoli (’59), whose $5 million contribution will lead to the creation of the new Naimoli Family Club Room, and South Bend-area auto dealership owner Mike Leep Sr., whose generous gift will be recognized with the naming of the Mike Leep Sr. Varsity Shop.
Irish Sign Three For 2010-11 Season
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 13 that three of the country’s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their academic and athletic careers with the Fighting Irish, each signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2010.
Natalie Achonwa (last name pronounced uh-CHAWN-wuh), a 6-3 forward from Guelph, Ontario (St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School/National Elite Development Academy), Ariel Braker, a 6-1 forward from Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (Grosse Pointe North High School) and Kayla McBride, a 5-11 guard from Erie, Pa. (Villa Maria Academy) all made their official commitments to the Fighting Irish during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 18.
All three student-athletes are rated among the top 50 players in the country by various national recruiting services. As a group, this trio is ranked as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country by All-Star Girls Report (and a consensus top-16 class by other recruiting services), giving Notre Dame a Top 25 recruiting class for the 14th consecutive year, a streak only two other schools in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee) can match. It’s also the third consecutive top-10 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish.
“I’m very excited about the class that we’re signing this year,” McGraw said. “I think we really addressed our needs, with three very good players coming in. They’re going to change the way we do some things at both ends of the floor next year. We’re going to be able to be more aggressive on defense because we’re adding athleticism, length and speed, and on offense, we’ll look at ways that we can take advantage of the size that we’re going to have. It will probably be a whole new look, going from the more guard-oriented team that we have now, to next year when we’ll have some depth in the post as well.”
“Notre Dame emphasized strengthening their perimeter game and did so with size, athleticism and versatility,” said Dan Olson, director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
The full press release, with a complete look at the newest members of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, is available on-line at http://www.und.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111309aab.html.
Irish Fans Crave Another Big Mac Attack
It’s year three of Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Irish score at least 88 points in a home game.
In the three-year history of the promotion (and counting exhibition games), Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 15 times, including wins this season over Indianapolis (exhibition), Arkansas-Pine Bluff and IPFW.
It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac” baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger — junior guard Brittany Mallory, who sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) four times during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things (or perhaps falling under the heading of “SID has way too much time on his hands”), nine different players have converted the “burger ball”, including eight current members of the Irish roster.
What’s more, of the 15 Big Mac games to date, nine have been reached on two-point baskets, five on free throws, and once on a three-pointer (Mallory vs. Canisius in 2007-08).
Next Game: Charlotte
Notre Dame will have the next eight days off for its final exam break before returning to the hardwood to close out its four-game homestand on Dec. 20 with a 1 p.m. (ET) matchup against defending Atlantic 10 Conference tournament champion Charlotte at Purcell Pavilion.
The 49ers (4-5) have won three in a row as they wrap up their own four-game homestand Saturday against Southern Mississippi. Like the Irish, Charlotte will go on an eight-day hiatus after Saturday’s game before making its first-ever trip to South Bend next weekend.
— ND —