Jan. 4, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
After a month of constant booing from fans clad in red, black, green and everything but Notre Dame’s famed blue and gold (and lime green), an endless series of busses, airplanes, new hotel rooms and unfamiliar arenas, the No. 7/6 Irish women’s basketball team can enjoy some home cooking on Thursday night.
Notre Dame will play host to Wake Forest at 7 p.m. in its first appearance on the Purcell Pavilion court since Dec. 7. The Irish have played six consecutive true road games in between, bringing the team from Chicago to Atlanta and several points in between. Notre Dame has paused for final exams and Christmas during this stretch that saw the team spend nearly a month away from its home floor aside from an occasional practice between road trips.
The Irish, as usual, stand among the top teams in the nation in home attendance and are looking forward to having that support behind them against the Demon Deacons. Notre Dame stands fifth in both average home attendance (8,196) and total home attendance (57,372) while ranking third in percentage of capacity (89.58%).
Here are a few notes about the matchup on Thursday night.
About the Demon Deacons
Wake Forest carries a 9-4 record into their ACC season opener on Thursday night. The Demon Deacons went 6-1 in November but posted just a 3-3 record in December with wins over Xavier, Samford and VCU and losses to Seton Hall, Radford and James Madison. Wake Forest has four starters who average over 11 points per game, led by Amber Campbell with 14.5 Milan Quinn is averaging a double-double for the season with 11.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
Jen Hoover is in her fifth season as the head coach of her alma mater, compiling a 67-75 record to date. She was a three-time all-ACC performer for the Demon Deacons, graduating in 1991.
The Irish have won all four meetings with the Demon Deacons, three of them coming since Notre Dame joined the ACC for the 2013-14 season. The series has been lopsided with the Irish winning the four games by an average of 27.75 points per game. In the only pre-ACC era meeting, Notre Dame beat Wake Forest, 92-69, on Nov. 27, 2010, in Winston-Salem during the WBCA Classic – a three-game event which also saw the Irish defeat IUPUI and Butler.
Last year, Notre Dame claimed an 86-52 victory in Winston-Salem on Feb. 18. Brianna Turner led the way with a double-double on 19 points and 11 rebounds. Arike Ogunbowale came off the bench and finished second on the Irish with 16 points. The Irish shot 56.5% for a game in which they never trailed.
Notre Dame has been at its best this year when getting off to a fast start to games. Out of the four quarters of a game, Notre Dame has scored the most points (314), allowed the fewest points (194) and has the widest scoring margin (+120) in the first quarter of any single stanza. In 15 games this year, Notre Dame has only trailed twice after 10 minutes of play with those two games (UConn and NC State) being the team’s only two losses.
The Irish have held a lead after the first quarter in 12 of their 15 games while standing tied with TCU, 22-22, after the first quarter of an eventual Notre Dame win on Nov. 26.
Irish Bounce Back in Win at Georgia Tech
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s recent run of success has been its ability to get back up after being knocked down and, true to form, the Irish did not stay down for long after its Dec. 29 loss at NC State. Notre Dame held Georgia Tech to just 38 points — its lowest offensive output at home since 2005 — in a 55-38 Irish win on Jan. 2 in Atlanta.
The Irish have not lost consecutive games in six years, stemming back to a Nov. 18, 2010, loss to No. 15 UCLA, 86-83 in double overtime, and a Nov. 21, 2010, loss at No. 9 Kentucky, 81-76. Including that loss to the Wildcats, followed up by a win against IUPUI, Notre Dame has bounced back to win its next contest following each of its last 21 losses.
The Irish are 3-0 this year following a loss, downing No. 16 DePaul on Dec. 10, three days after losing to No. 1 UConn, and beating Georgia Tech on Jan. 2 to bounce back from the Dec. 29 loss at NC State. Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Central Michigan also recovered the team from its 2016 NCAA Sweet 16 loss to Stanford.
McGraw Radio Show Debuts on Monday
For the first time, Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw will have her own local radio show as the Muffet McGraw Show Presented by TireRack.com debuts Jan. 9 at O’Rourke’s Public House, conveniently located in Eddy Street Commons, across the street from Notre Dame’s campus.
The hour-long show, which begins at 6 p.m., will be hosted by Bob Nagle, now in his 12th year as the radio voice of the Irish women’s basketball team. It will be broadcast live locally on 92.1 Pulse FM and also be available over the internet at WatchND.tv. The shows will also be archived as Notre Dame Athletics Podcasts which are presented by Nissan.
Each episode will also feature interviews with a current student-athlete, a member of the Irish coaching staff and also a feature on a select former player. Fans will have an opportunity to ask questions of coach McGraw and her guests along with winning prizes.
Five shows, all on Monday nights, are planned for the 2016-17 season with the dates being Jan. 9, Jan. 23, Feb. 13, Feb. 20 and Feb. 27. The convenient dinner-time live episodes also allow fans to partake in O’Rourke’s dining options along with its regular Monday night specials which include 35-cent boneless wings, 60-cent bone-in wings and $4 drink specials.
Irish Routinely Play the Best
Notre Dame ranks second in nation in the NCAA’s strength of schedule measure as its opposition has combined for a .754 winning percentage. That mark is outdistanced only by UConn’s .767.
This trend should continue with the rigors of ACC play. Measuring both past and future opponents, Notre Dame’s .765 opponents’ winning percentage is the best nationally, ahead of second place Kentucky’s .749.
Television Schedule Update
Notre Dame’s next contest, the Jan. 8 game at No. 14 Miami that had been listed as “ESPN Flex” now has a broadcast home. The 3 p.m. contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, a decision announced just before Christmas. It means that Notre Dame will play six regular season games on “the deuce” including matchups with UConn (Dec. 7), Tennessee (Jan. 16), Louisville (Feb. 6), Syracuse (Feb. 19) and Florida State (Feb. 26).
How to Watch/Listen
The first official steps towards the creation of an ACC Network began this summer in conjunction with ESPN. All non-televised home games which used to be streamed live online through WatchND (including Thursday’s) will now be streamed under the banner of ACC Network Extra. Games are available online at WatchESPN.com (formerly branded as ESPN3) or through the WatchESPN app. Streams are free to all ESPN subscribers. Sunday afternoon’s game will feature audio from Mike Monaco and A.J. Burgett.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Thursday’s game is available here.
Bob Nagle is in his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.