March 15, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the 15th consecutive season, and the 17th time in school history, Notre Dame has earned a berth in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. The Fighting Irish are the No. 2 seed in the Kansas City Region and will play 15th-seeded Cleveland State (the Horizon League tournament champion) Sunday at approximately 2:30 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion.
The game will be televised by ESPN as part of that network’s “whiparound coverage,” while viewers in the South Bend market, as well as those watching on the Internet at ESPN360.com, will see the game in its entirety. However, the majority of ESPN viewers nationwide will be shuttled between all four games in that time slot, including the Notre Dame-Cleveland State contest.
Seventh-seeded Wisconsin and No. 10 seed Vermont will square off in Sunday’s other first-round Kansas City Region game at Purcell Pavilion (noon ET tipoff on ESPN2), with the two first-round winners advancing to a March 23 second-round contest at 7 p.m. (ET), with that game to be televised on ESPN2.
Single-game tickets for either of Sunday’s first-round matchups or Tuesday’s second-round game in South Bend can be purchased now ($16 adults/$11 youth college age and under) through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site (www.UND.com/tickets). These single-game tickets also will go on sale Tuesday at 9 a.m. (ET) through the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office, either by visiting the ticket windows on the first floor of the new Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion (accessible via Gate 9) or by calling (574) 631-7356. In addition, ticket packages for all three games at Purcell Pavilion are now available ($32 adults/$22 youth college age and under) and can be purchased either on-line or through the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office — processing fees and service charges may apply.
“We got the seed we thought we deserved,” Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We’re just excited to play at home, that’s the first thing. This really gives our team the confidence to go. That’s where we thought we were, and we got it.
“I had the chance to watch Cleveland State (Sunday),” she continued. “They are a well-coached team. Their offense is very good. It was a lot of motion and movement, similar to what we do with our Princeton offense. They’re just a very good team that can shoot the ball, and they have a very good inside player as well. It’s going to be a great game. We’ll get some great fans from Cleveland, and then, of course, with Wisconsin coming down, a Big Ten team, you’ll have a great crowd. I’m hoping to have a sellout crowd.”
Notre Dame (27-5, 12-4 BIG EAST Conference) is ranked seventh in the final Associated Press poll of the season and seventh in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches poll (final poll to be released after the NCAA tournament). The Fighting Irish tied for fourth in the BIG EAST this season and picked up six victories over Top 25 opponents (No. 16/11 West Virginia, No. 16 St. John’s, No. 18/16 Vanderbilt, No. 20/17 Oklahoma, No. 21 Michigan State and No. 23/24 San Diego State). What’s more, Notre Dame earned eight wins over teams that qualified for this year’s NCAA Championship — the aforementioned six ranked squads, plus fellow BIG EAST members DePaul and Rutgers.
Three Notre Dame players also earned all-conference recognition this season — fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) was a first-team pick for the second consecutive season, while senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) was a second-team selection, also for the second year in a row, joining freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) on the All-BIG EAST Second Team. In addition, Diggins was a unanimous choice for the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team this year, giving Notre Dame eight all-rookie team choices in the past four seasons (more than any other school in the BIG EAST).
Notre Dame is 25-15 (.625) all-time in 16 previous NCAA Championship appearances (all under McGraw), having won 12 of its past 14 NCAA first-round games, and advancing to the Sweet 16 (regional semifinals) seven times in the past 13 seasons. In addition, Notre Dame’s current streak of 15 consecutive NCAA tournament berths is the sixth-longest in the nation, while its .625 winning percentage is 13th-best in tournament history. The Fighting Irish also have made two NCAA Final Four appearances and won the national championship in 2001.
Notre Dame, which earned its highest NCAA Championship seed since 2001 (when it was a No. 1 seed), has been seeded second once before. In 2000, the Fighting Irish were the No. 2 seed in the Mideast Region, defeating 15th-seeded San Diego, 87-61, and seventh-seeded George Washington, 95-60, at Purcell Pavilion, before being eliminated in the regional semifinals by third-seeded Texas Tech, 69-65, in Memphis.
Notre Dame also will be playing host to first- and second-round games in the NCAA Championship for the sixth time, having also done so in 1994, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2009. The Irish are 6-2 all-time in NCAA postseason play at Purcell Pavilion, most recently falling to 10th-seeded Minnesota, 79-71, in the first round of last year’s tournament.
Cleveland State (19-13, 11-7 Horizon League) is making its second NCAA Championship appearance, and second in three seasons. After finishing fourth in the Horizon League standings this season, the Vikings (winners in seven of their last eight games) steamrolled through the conference tournament, picking off Illinois-Chicago (78-72), top-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay (83-75 in overtime) and Butler (66-57) — the latter two games in Green Bay, Wis. — to claim the Horizon League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
CSU is led by a pair of all-Horizon League selections — three-time first-team senior guard (and the 2009-10 Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year) Kailey Klein (18.6 ppg., 7.3 rpg.) and two-time second-team all-conference and Horizon League All-Defensive Team junior guard Shawnita Garland (13.0 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 3.3 apg., 3.0 spg.).
The Fighting Irish will be facing Cleveland State for the sixth time on Sunday afternoon, with Notre Dame holding a 5-0 series lead on the Vikings (3-0 at Purcell Pavilion). The teams last played on Nov. 26, 2002, at Notre Dame, with the Fighting Irish earning a 107-65 victory behind a school-record 61 points in the first half. Notre Dame and Cleveland State actually were members of the Horizon League for one season (1994-95) when it was still known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, with the Fighting Irish earning home-and-away wins over the Vikings that season (90-66 at Purcell Pavilion, 83-79 in overtime in Cleveland).
Wisconsin (21-10, 10-8 Big Ten) tied for third in the Big Ten standings this season and advanced to the conference tournament semifinals before falling to eventual champion Ohio State, 82-73, in Indianapolis. The Badgers will be making their seventh NCAA Championship appearance, but first since 2002.
Notre Dame is 5-2 all-time against Wisconsin, most recently edging the Badgers, 77-72, on Dec. 4, 2005, in Madison, Wis.
Vermont (26-6, 13-3 America East) earned the automatic berth from the America East Conference after defeating 21st-ranked (and top-seeded) Hartford, 55-50 on the road in the conference tournament title game. The Catamounts, who finished second in the America East regular season standings, are making their second consecutive NCAA Championship appearance and sixth in school history, having fallen at Connecticut, 104-65, in last year’s tournament opener.
Notre Dame never has faced Vermont on the hardwood.
— ND —
NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament
March 18, 2010
Head Coach Muffet McGraw
On her initial reaction of being named a number two seed…
“We got the seed we thought we deserved. We’re just excited to play at home, that’s the first thing. This really gives our team the confidence to go. That’s where we thought we were, and we got it.”
On the other regions of the bracket…
“I haven’t even looked at the other side of the bracket yet. It’s great though to see all the BIG EAST teams getting in. We’re in a tough bracket, but then every bracket is tough. This time of the year everybody is coming out with their best shot. You’ve got one game to prove that you can win and move on, and that’s what it is all about right now.”
On the keys to the game…
“It’s all mindset and attitude. We’re expecting our seniors to come out and take over right now. You can also count on Skylar [Diggins] because she wants to up her game right now too, but the seniors have to lead the way so we’re ready to play at the right level.”
On the team’s early tournament loss last year…
“We started talking about last year’s tournament the day after we lost and through the whole past season; then we let it go. We’re not going to talk about it any more. We don’t need to think about it anymore. It’s a new season. We need to move on.”
On taking a break after the BIG EAST Championship…
“We had a nice break. We had practice Wednesday morning, and then we were off until today. Mentally, as well as physically, we really needed a break, and now we’re ready to go. We’ll take another day off this week because we don’t play until Sunday. The adrenaline is pumping, but we still have to wait.”
On the positives the team took out of the Connecticut game in the BIG EAST tournament…
“It was great to see that we could actually make a highlight film after our last game with Connecticut because we played so poorly against them the first two times. Our defense was really outstanding. We’ve gotten a lot of confidence in our zone, and I think that’s a great thing we can take into the tournament. We’ve played man-to-man all year, and now we’ve got a great zone. We’re working on our presses too, so I think we’ll have some new looks to take into the tournament.”
On Cleveland State…
“I had the chance to watch Cleveland State yesterday. They are a well-coached team. Their offense is very good. It was a lot of motion and movement similar to what we do with our Princeton offense. They’re just a very good team that can shoot the ball, and they have a very good inside player as well. It’s going to be a great game. We’ll get some great fans from Cleveland, and then of course with Wisconsin coming down, a Big Ten team, you’ll have a great crowd. I’m hoping to have a sell-out crowd.”
Notre Dame Player Quotes
Ashley Barlow | Senior | Guard
On not seeing Connecticut as the one seed in their region…
“It’s nice. But we have to take it one game at a time. We’ve got Cleveland State on Sunday and then we’ll go from there.”
On the first impression of their bracket…
“We have to be ready for whoever we take on. But we have to take it one step at a time and be ready for our first game this weekend.”
On her knowledge of Cleveland State…
“I’ve actually watched them play Butler, because Butler is right down the street from my house. They have a couple good shooters, a good inside game. And they’re pretty athletic. So we have to come ready to play.”
On the physical and mental help of the recent time off…
“I think that was a big help to us because we got some time to lay down and chill for a while without being pounded on in games and practice. “
Erica Williamson | Senior | Center
On the team’s joyous reaction on getting a two seed…
“All of us were so excited because we saw the rest of our bracket unfold in front of us. It was the feeling of ‘We Made It’. We worked so hard this year and all of that work has paid off.”
On not repeating last year’s postseason performance…
“We have five seniors this year that have developed a sense of urgency that this could be the last game for five girls who have meant so much to this program. The senior class has the mentality that were not going to lose at home and we’re going to make it as far as possible.”
Skylar Diggins | Freshman | Guard
On the team’s karma going into the tournament…
“This team, minus me and (fellow freshman) Kaila (Turner), know what it feels like to lose in the first round. Their motivation is not to lose in the first round. For me and Kaila, our motivation is to make our first tournament experience memorable. Hopefully, we can get to that Final Four and possibly win a national championship”
On the positives from the team’s last loss to Connecticut…
“We grew so much and showed the potential that we have to stay in it with a team like UConn. I told coach earlier that we are one of the most prepared teams because we’ve played UConn three times, and she got a chuckle out of that. But I think it’s true. Our out of season schedule was tough and we’ve grown through that schedule. The BIG EAST tournament was also a good experience. We are going into Sunday with a confident attitude.”