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Notre Dame Looks To Maintain Momentum As It Visits Providence

Feb. 14, 2003

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-8, 6-5) vs. Providence Friars (9-13, 3-8)

The Date and Time: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2003, at 2 p.m. EST.

The Site: Alumni Hall (2,620) in Providence, R.I.

The Radio Plans: All Notre Dame games are broadcast live on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and/or WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend with Sean Stires handling the play-by-play. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics website at

Websites: Notre Dame (, Providence (

With the BIG EAST Conference Championship looming in the not-too-distant future, Notre Dame will seek to continue its recent surge as it travels to Providence Sunday for a 2 p.m. (EST) contest with the Friars. Bolstered by a rejuvenated defense and an inspired offense, the Irish have won three of their last four games to move back into contention for one of the four first-round byes at the BIG EAST tourney.

In its last action on Wednesday night, Notre Dame completed a season sweep of St. John?s with a 76-48 rout of the Red Storm at the Joyce Center. The Irish shot 53.1 percent from the field and held SJU without a field goal for more than eight minutes to win their third consecutive home game and move to 13-0 all-time against the Red Storm.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay led four Irish players in double figures with 19 points, along with a game-high seven rebounds. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast pitched in with 16 points and seven rebounds, while freshman forward Courtney LaVere added 13 points and sophomore center Teresa Borton registered 12 points for Notre Dame.

Providence (9-13, 3-8 BIG EAST) lost for the sixth time in seven games on Thursday night, falling at home to Seton Hall, 54-42. The Friars scored just 17 first-half points and shot 34 percent from the floor in the game to seal their fate. The 42 points also represented PC’s lowest scoring output of the season.

Sophomore forward Jessica Simmonds was the lone bright spot for the Friars, carding a double-double with game highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds. The 2002 BIG EAST All-Rookie Team selection is the leading rebounder for Providence this season, averaging six boards per contest.

Sophomore guard Michal Epstein is the top scorer for PC, averaging 15 points per game with a team-high 27 three-point field goals to her credit. Senior guard/forward Kacee Wheeler is shooting a team-high 55.9 percent for the Friars.

Susan Yow is in her first season at Providence and her 20th as a collegiate head coach. She owns a career record of 231-309 (.428) at four schools, although Sunday’s game will mark her first-ever matchup with Notre Dame.

Notre Dame’s latest ascension to college basketball’s summit already is underway, thanks in large part to the nine returning monogram winners and three starters back from last season’s 20-10 club. Of the nine veterans back in the fold, only two are seniors, providing head coach Muffet McGraw with a rich blend of stability and experience upon which to build her next title contender.

McGraw now is in her 16th season at Notre Dame with a 356-135 (.725) record (444-176, .716 in 21 years overall) that includes 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament bids, four trips to the Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 national championship. Along the way, she has groomed seven All-Americans, 17 all-conference selections (including 10 first-team picks), seven players who have gone on to play professional basketball in the United States, and three USA Basketball National Team players (who have won a total of six medals). In addition, 15 of her former players and/or assistants currently are coaching at the high school or college level, including five collegiate head coaches. She also has been a master recruiter, attracting seven consecutive top 20 classes, including this year’s freshman class, which was ranked eighth in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. McGraw coached the 600th game of her career on Nov. 29, a 69-57 win at USC, and she earned her 350th victory at Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve at Marquette, joining Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to win 350 games at Notre Dame.

Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters received numerous preseason accolades. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (10.8 ppg., 4.2 rpg., .448 3FG%, .866 FT%) is a two-time Associated Press All-American and she is a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection this year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has seen her name sprinkled liberally througout the Notre Dame record book, including marks for scoring (4th, 1,613 points), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .476) and free throw percentage (1st, .866). In the latter two categories, Ratay’s shooting numbers would be good enough to place her among the top 10 in NCAA history, and her three-point ratio would be the best in NCAA annals. She has led the Irish in scoring six times this year, including a season-high 21-point effort on Feb. 1 vs. West Virginia. Ratay also tallied the 1,500th point of her career Jan. 8 at WVU, becoming the sixth player in school history to reach that milestone.

In addition, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (team-high 15.7 ppg., team-high 7.7 rpg., 2.4 apg., 1.7 bpg., 2.2 spg, six double-doubles) on the list of 30 candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding player. Batteast is the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year after turning in one of the finest rookie seasons in school history. Like Ratay, she also was a preseason first-team all-conference choice this year. Batteast has scored in double figures in 20 games this season, including five 20-point efforts. She also nearly posted a triple-double in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Cleveland State, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. She did notch her first double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds at USC. Batteast also contributed a season-best 24 points (10-15 FG) at Arizona State and added her second double-double (18 points, game-high 10 rebounds) vs. Colorado State. She tacked on her third double-double at Marquette, posting a game-high 23 points (career-best 11-17 FG) and 11 rebounds, and notched her fourth double-dip vs. Miami (12 points, 11 rebounds). Batteast tallied her fifth double-double at St. John’s with 24 points and 11 rebounds. She then compiled her sixth double-double at Boston College with 17 points and a season-best 13 rebounds. Batteast also posted 20-point outings in back-to-back games earlier this month, scoring 21 vs. West Virginia and 20 vs. Georgetown, both game highs.

Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (8.6 ppg., 3.8 rpg., team-high 3.6 apg., 2.1 spg., .484 FG%, .825 FT%), who quickly has developed into one of the top point guards in the BIG EAST. Last season, the speedy Severe capably filled the large shoes left by the graduation of All-American Niele Ivey, setting career highs in virtually every statistical category. Severe has evolved into a scoring threat for the Irish this year, scoring in double figures in 10 games after cracking double digits only seven times in her first two years at Notre Dame. She canned all three of her three-point attempts vs. Cleveland State and scored 15 points at Valparaiso, knocking down a career-best 11-14 FT. Severe chalked up 20 points (5-5 FG, 10-11 FT) and a season-high six assists at Marquette, before adding 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists vs. Purdue. However, her best all-around performance may have come at West Virginia, when she tallied a career-high 21 points (6-9 FG, 8-9 FT) along with six rebounds, five assists and five steals. She also added a season-high seven rebounds in the rematch with WVU on Feb. 1, and had a career-high eight steals vs. Georgetown, the highest single-game total by an Irish player since 1991.

Severe is backstopped by freshman Megan Duffy (2.5 ppg., 2.5 apg.), a crafty lefthander with a commanding floor presence and a smooth outside jumper. Duffy dished out a game-high seven assists at Arizona State, the most by an Irish rookie since Ratay’s seven handouts against Butler on Dec. 1, 1999. She also scored a season-high six points at Marquette, hitting the first two three-pointers of her career. Duffy added a game-high six assists at St. John’s and had a team-high five assists vs. Connecticut. She has started five games for the Irish, playing a career-high 37 minutes at Boston College and hitting four clutch free throws in the final 24 seconds to ice the win over West Virginia.

Senior walk-on Karen Swanson (0.8 ppg., 0.2 apg.), junior Jeneka Joyce and sophomore Jill Krause (0.5 ppg., 0.3 rpg.) also will be counted on for support at the guard positions. Swanson tied her career high with five points vs. Cleveland State, while Krause has seen action in 15 games, grabbing a career-high three rebounds vs. IPFW and canning her first career three-pointer vs. Tennessee. Meanwhile, Joyce is out indefinitely while recovering from a myriad of leg injuries suffered during her career.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton (8.2 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 1.3 bpg., team-high .603 FG%) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (7.6 ppg., 4.6 rpg.) have teamed up with Batteast to produce a formidable front line for Notre Dame this season. The 6-3 Borton turned in a solid performance in Notre Dame’s season opener, hitting her first six shots and finishing with 18 points. She also set new career highs with 11 rebounds and four assists vs. IPFW, and later added 14 points and four blocked shots against Tennessee. She then piled up a team-high 13 points vs. Miami and tossed in a season-best 19 points (8-11 FG) at St. John’s. On Feb. 1 vs. West Virginia, Borton knocked down all seven of her shots, tying her own mark for the second-best shooting performance in Joyce Center history. She then carded 11 points and a career-high five blocks vs. Georgetown, followed by a 12-point night (6-6 FT) vs. St. John’s. Borton also has been solid in BIG EAST games, posting a sparkling .635 field goal percentage (40-63). At the same time, Flecky is widely considered to be the most improved player on the Notre Dame roster, after logging 10 points per game during her team’s tour of Europe last May. She displayed her improvement in the season opener, tallying a career-high 22 points and game-best eight rebounds vs. Cleveland State. Her seven double-figure games this season already have topped her total (three) from all of last year. Flecky saw limited action during the month of January due to a lingering back injury, but appears to have recovered nicely of late. She recorded her first double-double of the year (and second of her career) vs. Georgetown with 12 points and a career-best 12 rebounds, then added 11 points and five rebounds at Virginia Tech. She returned to the starting lineup vs. St. John’s, rolling up career bests of five assists and four steals.

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (12.1 ppg., 6.5 rpg., .498 FG%, five double-doubles) also is seeing significant playing time on the blocks for the Irish this season. LaVere was a consensus prep All-American as a senior at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, all while shooting 57 percent from the field. The potential the 6-3 LaVere brings to the table was noticed by one national media outlet prior to the season, as the website Women’s College named the Irish rookie one of its “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact.” LaVere wasted little time in living up to that billing, coming off the bench to card 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists vs. Cleveland State. It was the highest scoring output by a Notre Dame freshman in her debut since Ratay’s 18-point night vs. Toledo in 1999.

LaVere has been at her best against top competition, compiling three of her five double-doubles against ranked opponents (No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Purdue and No. 20 Villanova). She also has scored in double figures 12 times with four 20-point outings this season. Twice, she has scored a season-high 23 points (vs. Purdue and Rutgers), and she pulled down a personal-best 12 rebounds at Villanova.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Providence, 10-0, in a rivalry that began only after the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 1995-96 season. Notre Dame is 5-0 against the Friars at Alumni Hall and is averaging nearly 86 points per game against PC.

Notre Dame and Providence played twice last season, with both games coming within a two-week span. In their first encounter on Jan. 5, 2002 at the Joyce Center, the Irish jumped out to a 19-point lead late in the first half, then had to fight off a furious Friar rally down the stretch to claim a 72-66 victory. Notre Dame was led by a trio of freshmen < forward=””>Jacqueline Batteast (26 points), center Teresa Borton (20) and guard Kelsey Wicks (9) < who=”” all=”” notched=”” career=”” highs,=”” accounted=”” for=”” 55=”” points=”” and=”” shot=”” a=”” combined=”” 59.3=”” percent=”” (19-32)=”” from=”” the=”” field=”” in=”” the=”” victory.=”” ryann=”” kilgore=”” came=”” off=”” the=”” bench=”” to=”” score=”” a=”” career-high=”” 19=”” points=”” and=”” michal=”” epstein=”” added=”” 13=”” points=”” for=”” providence.=””>

In the rematch on Jan. 19, 2002, at Alumni Hall, Notre Dame’s freshmen class combined for 48 points and the Irish picked up 47 points from their bench to post a 69-41 BIG EAST Conference win over Providence. Batteast scored a team-high 14 points, while Borton registered her first career double-double with 11 points and a (then) career-high 10 rebounds. Guard Le?Tania Severe highlighted a superb effort by the Irish reserves, scoring 13 points. PC got a game-high 15 points from Epstein and a game-best 10 rebounds from Dani Trippany. However, the Friars struggled mightily from the field in the contest, shooting just 23.3 percent (14-60) and making an opponent season-low five percent from the three-point line (1-20) on the day.

It takes time to get used to new things, and Providence is squarely in the midst of this adjustment period after welcoming a new head coach into the fold this season. Susan Yow, a veteran with 19 years of experience to her credit, has assumed the coaching reins for the Friars, taking over for Jim Jabir, who now is an assistant coach at Colorado.

Yow’s first season at Providence has been full of twists and turns. The Friars (9-13, 3-8) started the year slowly, losing five of their first seven contests. However, they rebounded nicely with a pair of three-game winning streaks, the second featuring BIG EAST Conference wins over Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Since then, the pendulum swung back the other direction once again, with PC dropping six of its last seven games.

The latest setback for the Friars came Thursday evening, when Seton Hall dealt Providence a 54-42 loss at Alumni Hall. PC struggled offensively in the first half, scoring only 17 points, but it still only trailed by nine points at the intermission. However, the Friars could not make up the difference in the end, shooting just 34 percent from the floor and 47.1 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Jessica Simmonds, a BIG EAST All-Rookie Team selection last season, chalked up a double-double for Providence, amassing game highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Michal Epstein has been the primary offensive producer for the Friars this season, averaging 15 points per game while making a team-high 27 three-point field goals. Simmonds has been tops on the glass for Providence, averaging 6.0 rebounds per game, while senior guard/forward Kacee Wheeler is shooting a team-best 55.9 percent from the floor.

As a team, the Friars are averaging 61.4 ppg., while allowing 65.5 points per contest. PC shoots 42.3 percent from the floor, but its opponents are hitting at a .432 clip from the field. Providence is virtually even in the rebounding column, grabbing 33.4 boards and yielding 33.6 caroms per game.

Yow is in her 20th season as a collegiate head coach, having also spent time at East Tennessee State (1978-86), Drake (1986-90), Kansas State (1990-93) and UNC Wilmington (1993-97). She has compiled a career record of 231-309 (.428) along the way, although Sunday’s game will mark her first-ever meeting with Notre Dame.


  • Providence is one of four BIG EAST Conference opponents against whom Notre Dame is unbeaten (9-0). The others are Pittsburgh (11-0), St. John?s (13-0) and West Virginia (11-0).
  • Notre Dame has scored at least 90 points six times in 10 previous meetings with Providence. Conversely, the Friars have broken the 70-point mark just three times against the Irish and have scored more than 60 points only once in their last seven games against Notre Dame (a 72-66 loss on Jan. 5, 2002 at the Joyce Center).
  • The six-point margin (72-66) in that Jan. 5, 2002 game between the Irish and PC was the closest in the 10-game series between the two schools.
  • The 69 points scored by Notre Dame in its last game with Providence (a 69-41 win) represented the second-lowest scoring output by the Irish in the series.
  • The Irish have averaged 88.6 points per game in five previous visits to Alumni Hall and have won all five games by an average margin of 23.8 ppg.
  • Notre Dame is the only visiting school to have a unblemished all-time record (5-0) at Providence?s Alumni Hall with a minimum of three games played. The Irish also are one of four teams to boast a winning record on the Friars? home court < the=”” other=”” success=”” stories=”” are=”” massachusetts=”” (3-2),=”” miami=”” (6-3)=”” and=”” rutgers=”” (7-1).=””>
  • Notre Dame forward Jacqueline Batteast and Providence forward Jessica Simmonds were two of the six players selected to last year’s BIG EAST Conference All-Rookie Team. Batteast was one of two unanimous selections, along with Clare Droesch of Boston College.

Notre Dame and Providence have faced six common opponents this season < west=”” virginia,=”” st.=”” john’s,=”” rutgers,=”” boston=”” college,=”” georgetown=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech=””>< with=”” the=”” irish=”” going=”” 5-3=”” and=”” the=”” friars=”” going=”” 1-6=”” against=”” this=”” common=”” group.=””>


  • Notre Dame will extend its series winning streak against Providence to 11 games, making the Friars one of seven opponents on this year’s schedule against whom the Irish currently have a double-digit winning streak (others are Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Valparaiso and West Virginia). The 11-game winning streak also will match the third-longest active skein for Notre Dame against a BIG EAST opponent < the=”” irish=”” have=”” won=”” 15=”” in=”” a=”” row=”” vs.=”” georgetown,=”” 13=”” straight=”” vs.=”” st.=”” john’s,=”” and=”” 11=”” in=”” a=”” row=”” against=”” pittsburgh,=”” seton=”” hall=”” and=”” west=”” virginia.=””>
  • The Irish will improve to 11-0 all-time against Providence, making the Friars one of four BIG EAST teams Notre Dame has never lost to (the others are Pittsburgh, St. John?s and West Virginia).
  • Notre Dame will be assured of finishing this season with a .500 or better record for the 23rd time in the 26-year history of the program.
  • The Irish will lock up a winning record for the month of February, marking the 41st time in the last 43 months that Notre Dame has had a .500 or better record in a single month (dating back to Dec. 1994).
  • The Irish will raise their all-time regular-season BIG EAST Conference record to 109-23 (.826), the best mark in league history.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 357-135 (.726) in 16 seasons, and her overall ledger will jump to 445-176 (.717) in 21 years.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 521-234 (.690) in 26 seasons of varsity competition.

Junior G Jeneka Joyce leg injuries, out indefinitely

Notre Dame owns an undefeated series record against 12 opponents in its history (with a minimum of three games played), including seven foes on this year?s schedule. The Irish have already preserved their unblemished marks against non-conference rivals Cleveland State (5-0), Valparaiso (16-0) and IPFW (3-0), as well as BIG EAST foes West Virginia (11-0) and St. John?s (12-0). In addition to Sunday?s opponent, Providence (10-0), Notre Dame also has never lost to Pittsburgh (11-0) < the=”” irish=”” will=”” play=”” host=”” to=”” the=”” panthers=”” on=”” feb.=”” 26.=””>

With a win at Providence on Sunday, Notre Dame will clinch a winning record for the 2002-03 season, marking the 23rd time in the 26-year history of the program that the Irish will have finished at or above .500 for the season. The success has been even more impressive under current head coach Muffet McGraw < notre=”” dame=”” has=”” had=”” just=”” one=”” losing=”” season=”” during=”” her=”” 16-year=”” tenure=”” (14-17=”” in=”” 1991-92),=”” and=”” still=”” advanced=”” to=”” the=”” ncaa=”” tournament=”” that=”” season=”” after=”” winning=”” the=”” midwestern=”” collegiate=”” conference=”” tournament.=””>

Another indication of Notre Dame?s continued rise to national prominence has been its consistent run of success. With a victory over Providence on Sunday, the Irish would assured themselves of finishing with no worse than a .500 mark in February (they currently are 3-1 this month with three games remaining). Notre Dame has posted a record of .500 or better in 40 of their last 42 months of action, dating back to December 1994. The only blemishes on that record came in March 2002, when Notre Dame went 1-2 during the BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments, and January 2003, when the Irish went 3-5.

Despite its earlier struggles this season, Notre Dame remains firmly in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth. According to the Feb. 14 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings compiled by Richie Summerville and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the Irish are 27th in the nation, while their schedule strength is rated No. 18 in the land. In addition, Notre Dame is one of six BIG EAST Conference schools ranked in the top 30 of the WBCA/Summerville RPI (#1 Connecticut, #9 Villanova, #14 Rutgers, #19 Boston College and #21 Virginia Tech are the others). The Irish already have a road win to their credit over Villanova (58-56 on Jan. 25).

As a league, the BIG EAST ranks fifth in the country, trailing only the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-10, and leading the Big 12. In addition, the BIG EAST posted a 114-38 (.750) record against non-conference opponents this season, the best mark in league history. That includes an 8-2 record against the Pac-10 and a 7-3 record against the ACC.

Notre Dame is tied for the BIG EAST Conference lead and ranks 15th nationally with 5.18 blocked shots per game this season. The Irish are led by a trio of players who are averaging nearly one block per game < sophomore=”” forward=””>Jacqueline Batteast at 1.68 bpg. (third in the BIG EAST), sophomore center Teresa Borton at 1.27 bpg. (tied for fifth in the BIG EAST) and freshman forward Courtney LaVere at 0.95 bpg. (tied for 12th in the BIG EAST). Batteast has been especially potent of late, averaging 2.67 blocks per game in Notre Dame’s last six contests, including a career-high five rejections on Feb. 9 at Virginia Tech. Batteast also is the BIG EAST’s top shot blocker in conference games, averaging 2.18 rejections per league contest.

The Irish defense has come alive in the last three weeks, holding five of the last six opponents under 35 percent shooting, and four of the six under 60 points for the contest. Notre Dame has been especially strong in the last three games, limiting Georgetown to 49 points and a .269 field goal percentage, stifling Virginia Tech to the tune of 53 points and a .286 field goal ratio, and slowing St. John’s to only 48 points and a .347 field goal percentage. In all three games, the Irish held the opposition without a field goal for an extended period of time < georgetown=”” went=”” seven=”” minutes=”” without=”” a=”” basket=”” in=”” the=”” second=”” half,=”” virginia=”” tech=”” went=”” 9:08=”” without=”” a=”” field=”” goal=”” and=”” had=”” just=”” one=”” bucket=”” over=”” the=”” final=”” 12:33=”” of=”” the=”” first=”” half,=”” while=”” st.=”” john’s=”” went=”” dry=”” from=”” the=”” field=”” for=”” a=”” stretch=”” of=”” 8:15=”” spanning=”” the=”” first=”” and=”” second=”” halves.=””>

Notre Dame has benefited this season from a well-balanced offense, one which has seen at least three players score in double figures in 17 of 22 games (and 13 of 14 wins). In addition, the Irish have had four players reach double digits in eight games this season (Cleveland State, USC, Valparaiso, Arizona State, Temple, Miami, Georgetown, St. John’s) and had five double-figure scorers on five occasions (Cleveland State, USC, Temple, Miami, Georgetown). The last time Notre Dame had five double-figure scorers five times in the same season was 1998-99, when the Irish turned the trick seven times (vs. UCLA, San Francisco, Toledo, South Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Syracuse).

As you might expect, Notre Dame has three players averaging in double figures for the season. Sophomore forward and Naismith Award candidate Jacqueline Batteast has been the pacesetter at 15.7 ppg., followed by freshman forward Courtney LaVere, who averages 12.1 points per game. Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Alicia Ratay is third at 10.8 ppg. this season.

Taking their offensive balance to another level, the Irish have had five different players score at least 20 points in a game this season <>Jacqueline Batteast (five times), Courtney LaVere (four times), Alicia Ratay (three times), Le’Tania Severe (twice) and Katy Flecky (once). No other team in the BIG EAST Conference can make that claim, and only six other schools in the nation have done so this year < austin=”” peay,=”” eastern=”” kentucky,=”” oklahoma,=”” south=”” florida,=”” valparaiso=”” and=”” wisconsin-green=”” bay.=”” uwgb=”” is=”” the=”” only=”” school=”” in=”” the=”” land=”” to=”” have=”” six=”” different=”” 20-point=”” scorers=”” in=”” 2002-03.=””>

The free throw line has been a very friendly place for Notre Dame this season. The Irish rank second in the BIG EAST Conference with a .741 free throw percentage, a far cry from their .673 mark last season (ND’s lowest in 15 years). If it holds up, that .741 ratio also would be second-best in school history, trailing only the .743 mark posted by the 1996-97 club that advanced to the school’s first NCAA Final Four. Notre Dame has shot 75 percent or better at the charity stripe 10 times this season, highlighted by its 95-percent efficiency rate (19-20) Jan. 14 at St. John’s. That was the highest free throw percentage by an Irish squad since Dec. 1, 1993, when Notre Dame connected at a school-record .960 clip (24-25) in a win over Marquette.

Leading the Irish assault from the line has been senior guard Alicia Ratay, who ranks second in the BIG EAST and 25th in the nation with an .866 free throw percentage. That should come as no surprise, because Ratay ranks seventh in NCAA history with an .867 career free throw ratio (345-398). However, Ratay is only one of three Notre Dame players who are shooting 70 percent or better at the stripe this year < junior=”” guard=””>Le’Tania Severe is second at .825 (4th in the BIG EAST), followed by sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (.741). Severe’s free throw percentage has been perhaps the most pleasant development for the Irish < coming=”” into=”” this=”” season,=”” she=”” owned=”” a=”” .651=”” career=”” free=”” throw=”” ratio.=””>

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere added to Notre Dame’s free throw resurgence on Jan. 25 with her 12-for-16 performance from the charity stripe at Villanova. Her 12 made free throws were an Irish freshman record and tied for the fifth-highest total in school history. In addition, her 16 free throw attempts matched the fourth-highest single-game mark in the Notre Dame record book.

In a surprising reversal of fortune this season, Notre Dame has had just as much success on the road than at home. The Irish are 7-4 this year on hostile ground (7-3 road, 0-1 neutral), compared to a 7-4 record at the Joyce Center. That’s a far cry from last season’s road woes when Notre Dame lost its first five games outside the Joyce Center and finished with a 7-9 record in road/neutral site games. Conversely, the Irish went 13-1 at home last year, winning their first 13 games at the Joyce Center before a season-ending three-point loss to Villanova.

The Irish have won 13 of their last 19 regular-season games outside the Joyce Center, including 11 of their last 15. Of those last 15 games in hostile territory, the only blemishes on that record came earlier this season against four teams that currently are ranked or receiving votes in one or both of the major national polls < depaul,=”” no.=”” 3/3=”” tennessee=”” (neutral=”” site),=”” no.=”” 25/22=”” boston=”” college=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech.=””>

Notre Dame is 108-23 (.824) 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 won 64 of their last 77 regular-season conference games, and claimed a share of their first-ever BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2001. When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 120-30 (.800) against league opponents < when=”” factoring=”” in=”” these=”” 19=”” postseason=”” tilts,=”” the=”” irish=”” are=”” 59-7=”” (.894)=”” at=”” home,=”” 49-19=”” (.721)=”” on=”” the=”” road=”” and=”” 12-7=”” (.632)=”” at=”” neutral=”” sites=”” all-time=”” against=”” big=”” east=”” foes.=””>

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the 500th point of her career on Dec. 31 at Marquette. She now has 704 points in only 48 career games (14.7 ppg.), making her the fourth-fastest player to reach the 500-point mark in school history. A total of 13 players have scored their 500th point in less than two seasons at Notre Dame, although only five have done so in less than 40 career games (including Batteast and senior guard Alicia Ratay, who did it in 35 games).

The Irish posted their largest comeback in more than a year when they rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to knock off previously unbeaten West Virginia, 66-59, on Jan. 8 in Morgantown. Notre Dame trailed 33-22 at the half and fell into a deeper hole when Mountaineer guard Kate Bulger nailed a three-point field goal on her team’s first possession of the second half. However, the Irish answered with a 16-2 run over the next 3:43 to tie the game and eventually take the victory.

The WVU win was the biggest comeback for Notre Dame since it set a NCAA Final Four record by erasing a 16-point deficit in a 90-75 win over Connecticut on March 30, 2001 in St. Louis. The victory over the Mountaineers also marked the fourth time in the last three years the Irish have won after trailing by double digits. In addition to the UConn game, Notre Dame rallied from 12 points down to defeat Purdue in the 2001 NCAA championship game, and the Irish also came back from a pair of 10-point deficits to win at Seton Hall on Feb. 2, 2002.

Notre Dame played the 750th game in the program’s history on Jan. 29 at Boston College. The Irish have an all-time record of 520-234 (.690) in 26 seasons of varsity competition. Included in that record are 17 20-win seasons (13 under current head coach Muffet McGraw), nine NCAA Tournament appearances, four trips to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 NCAA championship. However, what may be most impressive about Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program is the fact that the Irish have had exactly three losing seasons (1980-81, 1986-87 and 1991-92) in their first 25 years of existence!

With a 75-68 Irish win at Marquette on New Year’s Eve, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw joined Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to collect 350 victories at the school. McGraw is 356-135 (.725) in 16 seasons at Notre Dame, while Phelps posted a 393-197 (.666) mark in 20 years at the helm of the Irish men’s basketball program.

In addition, McGraw has the third-highest winning percentage of any basketball coach at Notre Dame (men’s or women’s) with at least five years of service, and her .725 ratio is the best by any coach in the last 60 years. Only men’s coaches Bertram G. Maris (.794 from 1907-12) and George Keogan (.771 from 1923-43) have had more success at Notre Dame over an extended period than McGraw.

Five times this season, Notre Dame has been involved in some hair-raising finishes. The Irish pulled out narrow victories over Colorado State (46-45), Villanova (58-56) and West Virginia (69-64), but came up just short against Rutgers (64-61) and Virginia Tech (53-50). However, a close game shouldn’t come as any surprise to Notre Dame fans. Over the last three seasons, the Irish have played 16 games that were decided by five points or less, evenly splitting those contests. The Colorado State nail-biter was the first one-point win for Notre Dame since a 63-62 squeaker over Villanova on Dec. 12, 1998 at the Joyce Center.

During the 16-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw, the Irish have posted a 34-40 (.459) record in games decided by five points or less, including a 16-14 (.533) mark since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96.

Junior guard Le’Tania Severe has evolved into a major contributor at both ends of the floor for Notre Dame this season. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., product leads the Irish and ranks among the leaders in the BIG EAST Conference in assists (13th, 3.55 apg.), steals (10th, 2.14 spg.) and free throw percentage (4th, .825). However, she also has displayed a nose for the basket, ranking fourth on the team with 8.6 points per game, nearly doubling her career scoring average of 4.6 ppg. entering this season. In addition, Severe has scored in double figures 10 times this year (including a career-high 21 points at West Virginia), after reaching double digits seven times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

At the same time, Severe’s prowess on the defensive end of the court was evident against Georgetown, as she racked up a career-high eight steals. That tied for the second-most thefts ever by an Irish player in a single game, and it was the most since current Notre Dame assistant coach Coquese Washington also had eight steals against Stanford on Nov. 24, 1991.

Despite having to adjust to the faster college game, not to mention the unfamiliar winter weather of South Bend, freshman forward Courtney LaVere has made a significant impact in her first season at Notre Dame. The Ventura, Calif., native ranks second on the team in scoring (12.1 ppg.), field goal percentage (.498) and rebounding (6.5 rpg.), ranking 13th in the BIG EAST Conference in the latter category. In addition, she has five double-doubles to her credit, with three of her double-dips coming against ranked opponents (No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Purdue and No. 20 Villanova).

LaVere began the season in fine fashion, coming off the bench to score 18 points in Notre Dame’s 107-65 rout of Cleveland State. That was the highest-scoring debut for an Irish freshman since current senior guard Alicia Ratay tallied 18 points at Toledo in 1999. As it turned out, that would be just the beginning for LaVere, who has scored in double figures 13 times and earned game-high scoring honors four times this season. She tallied a season-high 23 points twice this year (vs. Purdue and Rutgers) and chalked up a season-best 12 rebounds at Villanova.

Twice this season, senior guard Alicia Ratay has added chapters to her ever-growing legend at Notre Dame. On Dec. 23, she buried two free throws with 9.3 seconds left to defeat Colorado State, 46-45. It wasn’t the first time the Lake Zurich, Ill., product had stepped up in the clutch. Then, just over a month later on Jan. 25 at No. 20 Villanova, she canned a jumper in the lane with 48 seconds remaining to break a 53-53 tie and propel the Irish to the victory.

Late-game heroics have been nothing new for Ratay, who has been tough in the clutch ever since her freshman season. As a rookie playing at No. 8 Rutgers in 2000, Ratay set a BIG EAST Conference record by going 7-for-7 from three-point range, including two treys in the final 16 seconds of the contest with the Irish trailing by six. She went on to finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds as Notre Dame pulled out a 78-74 overtime win.

Last season, Ratay nearly topped herself in the BIG EAST Tournament quarterfinals vs. Syracuse. With the Irish trailing by 16 points and only 3:52 left, Ratay scored 17 of the next 19 Notre Dame points, including nine in a span of 18 seconds, to single-handedly spark a 19-5 run that pulled her team within 81-79 with 18 seconds remaining. However, Syracuse finally forced a Ratay miss and hit three free throws to save the victory.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay reached a milestone at Valparaiso, becoming the 10th player in school history to start 100 career games. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native now has started 119 of 120 games for Notre Dame (including the last 61 in a row), yielding her starting spot to Imani Dunbar for Senior Night in 2001 (vs. Georgetown). With her start vs. St. John’s, Ratay broke a tie Mollie Peirick (1994-98) for second place on Notre Dame’s career games started list. Ratay is presently five starts away from the school record of 124, currently held by Ruth Riley. At her current pace, Ratay would tie Riley’s mark in Notre Dame’s regular-season finale at Syracuse, and would break it at the BIG EAST Championship.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay is on the threshold of several other career milestones in 2002-03. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native reached her first landmark at Valparaiso, becoming the fifth player in school history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in her career. She also is the second Irish player in three seasons to attain that feat, following Kelley Siemon, who completed the hat trick when she scored her 1,000th point in Notre Dame’s NCAA championship game win over Purdue in 2001. The others in this elite group are Beth Morgan (1993-97), current Irish assistant coach Letitia Bowen (1991-95) and Trena Keys (1982-86). Ratay currently has 1,613 points, 602 rebounds and 228 assists, becoming the sixth Irish player to score 1,500 points with 14 points at West Virginia Jan. 8.

Ratay also is 11 three-point field goals away from tying the Notre Dame career record of 249, currently held by Sheila McMillen (1995-99). With two treys at Boston College, Ratay moved past Morgan into second place on that list (now with 238 triples). Ratay averaged more than 70 three-pointers per season during her first three years at Notre Dame.

Some other milestones also are within Ratay’s reach. She ranks fourth on the Irish all-time scoring list with 1,613 points, passing Karen Robinson (1987-91) for the No. 4 spot with four points at Virginia Tech. In addition, Ratay has been one of the most durable players in school history, appearing in all 120 Irish games in her career and starting all but one (2001 Senior Night vs. Georgetown). She can break the Notre Dame career records for starts and games played with another six starts and 13 games played this season.

Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.867) and three-point field goal (.476) percentages, records which would rank among the top 10 in NCAA history. In fact, if her career ended today, Ratay’s three-point percentage would stand as the best in women’s college basketball history, and her free throw ratio would be seventh in NCAA annals. For a complete rundown of Ratay’s place in the Notre Dame and national record books, please see the charts in the page 9 sidebar.

Irish teams have turned in exceptional performances during the 2002 fall sports season. All six of Notre Dame’s fall sports (football, volleyball, men’s/women’s soccer, men’s/women’s cross country) qualified for postseason play, headlined by a third-place finish for the women’s cross country squad at the NCAA Championships, an NCAA quarterfinal finish for the women’s soccer team, and a Gator Bowl berth and No. 9 BCS ranking for the football team. In fact, Notre Dame was the only school in the nation to have all six of those fall sports qualify for the postseason.

Thanks to its successful finishes in the fall, Notre Dame moved into third place in the latest NACDA Directors’ Cup standings (see sidebar on page 17).

Senior guard Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) were named preseason candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award, which is presented annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Naismith Awards program, now in its 35th year, honors the outstanding male and female college basketball players in the United States. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.

For Ratay, this year’s selection to the Naismith Preseason Watch List was her third in as many seasons. The senior guard is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and ranks fourth on Notre Dame’s career scoring list with 1,613 points. She also ranks among the top 10 in NCAA history in career three-point (.476) and free throw percentage (.867), and she is on the verge of breaking the school record for career three-point field goals made, needing just 11 treys to match Sheila McMillen’s total of 249 from 1995-99.

Last season, Ratay was a first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection after finishing third in the conference in scoring at 15.4 points per game. She also averaged a career-high 5.5 rebounds per game and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record 88.2 percent of her charities. Ratay started every game for the Irish last season and has played in every Notre Dame game in her career, starting 117 of a possible 118 contests to date.

Batteast was named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America pick after averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in her rookie season at Notre Dame. The sophomore forward ranked second in the BIG EAST in rebounding and double-doubles (11) and fifth in blocked shots (1.38 bpg.), earning second-team all-conference honors along the way. She also was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and was a six-time conference Rookie of the Week in 2001-02. Batteast was one of only four sophomores to be named to the 2002-03 Naismith Preseason Watch List.

Notre Dame was one of five schools to have more than one women’s basketball player named to the Naismith Award Watch List, joining Duke, Kansas State, LSU and Tennessee in that select group.

Notre Dame has won 174 games over the last seven seasons, which stands as the sixth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

Over the last three seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 57-4 (.934) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign (10-3 this season) when they go into the dressing room with the lead.

Over the last eight 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 111-3 (.974) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. The only times that notion didn?t come to pass were on Feb. 17, 2001 (Rutgers 54-53), Feb. 26, 2002 (Villanova 48-45) and Feb. 9, 2003 (Virginia Tech 53-50). Notre Dame has added nine wins to that count this season with victories over USC, Arizona State, IPFW, Colorado State, West Virginia, St. John’s (twice), Villanova and Georgetown.

Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. Over the last eight seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 85-3 (.966) 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 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998. Notre Dame has added four wins to that total this year with its victories over Cleveland State, Arizona State, Temple and IPFW.

Notre Dame has two captains this season < senior=”” guard=””>Alicia Ratay (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and junior guard Le’Tania Severe (Pembroke Pines, Fla.).They are the 34th and 35th different players to serve as captains for the Irish in the 26-year history of the program (not including the 1986-87 season, when captains were chosen on a game-by-game basis).

The 11 players on this year?s Notre Dame roster hail from nine different states, including two each from Illinois, Kansas and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana and Washington. The all-time Notre Dame roster features players from 34 different states, including 23 during the Muffet McGraw era. Ironically, the most common home state on the Irish all-time roster < michigan=”” (14)=””>< is=”” not=”” represented=”” for=”” the=”” second=”” year=”” in=”” a=”” row,=”” although=”” assistant=”” coaches=”” (and=”” former=”” notre=”” dame=”” players)=””>Coquese Washington and Letitia Bowen both are Michigan natives.

This season, Notre Dame fans are seeing a pair of jersey numbers on the floor that are a bit uncommon in Irish colors. Freshman guard Megan Duffy has chosen to wear No. 13, becoming only the second Notre Dame player since 1986 to wear those digits. Danielle Green was the last to sport No. 13, doing so during her freshman season (1995-96). Prior to Green, no Irish player had worn that number since Trena Keys (1982-86).

In addition, freshman forward Courtney LaVere is wearing No. 41 this season, a number which has been modeled just once before by an Irish player. Imani Dunbar had that jersey number throughout her Notre Dame career from 1997-2001.

For the first time in its eight-year affiliation with the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame was picked to finish first in the league’s preseason coaches poll that was released Oct. 24 at BIG EAST Media Day. The Irish shared top billing with defending national champion Connecticut, with each team earning seven first-place votes and 161 total points in the balloting. Boston College (143 points), Villanova (128 points) and Virginia Tech (110 points) round out the top five.

Individually, Notre Dame was the only school to place two players on the preseason all-BIG EAST first team. Senior guard Alicia Ratay earned Associated Press honorable mention All-America honors for the second time in her career last season, and was a first-team all-conference selection. She is the top returning scorer for the Irish, averaging 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in ’01-02. She also led the BIG EAST and ranked 15th in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting a school-record .882 from the charity stripe. Ratay also was named one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award, her third selection in as many seasons.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast also was recognized by the conference coaches after being named the 2002 United States Basketball Writers Association National Freshman of the Year. The South Bend native averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, and was a unanimous selection as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. She also registered 11 double-doubles (second in the conference) and was a second-team all-league selection, the only freshman to make an all-BIG EAST squad in ’01-02. In addition, Batteast was a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America selection last year and like Ratay, she was chosen as one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year award.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay was selected as one of 30 candidates for the second annual Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to the nation?s senior Player of the Year by the Senior CLASS Organizing Committee. Ratay is one of three BIG EAST Conference student-athletes on the list of Senior CLASS Award ?Players to Watch,? joining Villanova?s Trish Juhline and Brianne Stepherson of Boston College. Connecticut guard Sue Bird received the inaugural award last year.

Ratay is a two-time Associated Press honorable mention All-American and was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection last season. She ranks fourth in school history with 1,613 points and is among the top perimeter shooters in the country, connecting at a school-record .476 clip from behind the three-point line in her career. She also has made a school-record 86.7 percent of her free throws at Notre Dame, and both her free throw and three-point percentages would rank among the top 10 in NCAA history.

Ratay also is an exemplary student, owning a 3.483 cumulative grade-point average while pursuing a double major in psychology and education. She has been named to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star Team each of the last three years, and she has garnered Dean?s List honors three times.

The Senior CLASS Award < the=”” acronym=”” stands=”” for=”” celebrating=”” loyalty=”” and=”” achievement=”” for=”” staying=”” in=”” school=””>< is=”” based=”” on=”” a=”” number=”” of=”” factors,=”” the=”” most=”” important=”” being=”” that=”” the=”” recipient=”” must=”” have=”” exhausted=”” their=”” four=”” years=”” of=”” eligibility=”” and=”” have=”” fulfilled=”” their=”” commitment=”” to=”” their=”” respective=”” university.=”” in=”” addition,=”” the=”” recipient=”” must=”” be=”” working=”” toward=”” their=”” degree,=”” be=”” in=”” good=”” academic=”” standing=”” and=”” be=”” of=”” sound=”” moral=”” character.=”” the=”” award=”” was=”” developed=”” last=”” season=”” in=”” response=”” to=”” the=”” recent=”” trend=”” of=”” college=”” basketball=”” players=”” leaving=”” early=”” to=”” turn=”” professional.=””>

The performances of the 30 ?Players to Watch? will be tracked during the season, and from that pool of players, a group of 10 finalists will be selected by a national committee of sportscasters and sportswriters that cover Division I college basketball. The finalists then will appear on the official ballot which will be voted upon in March by the national media committee and Division I college basketball coaches. The winner will be announced during the Women?s Final Four April 6-8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Courtney LaVere was a consensus All-America selection and one of the top 25 prep players in the country following her senior season at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif. One media outlet believes LaVere will continue that success in her initial campaign at Notre Dame. Women’s College chose the 6-3 freshman forward as one its “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact” for the 2002-03 season.

LaVere joins the Irish after averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during her senior season. She finished her high school career with 1,897 points (second in school history), 1,029 rebounds (third in school history) and 303 blocks (first in school history). She also holds school single-game records for points (45) and blocks (9), as well as BHS single-season marks for points (741), scoring average (26.5) and blocks (99). LaVere was named the 1999 California Freshman of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, and she helped lead Buena to the top spot in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings for much of the 2000-01 season.

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 83 of their last 90 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak from 1998-2002. Notre Dame also has a 59-7 (.894) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

Notre Dame also owned a 33-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center (dating back more than six years) before it was snapped Jan. 4 with a loss to No. 7 Purdue. This streak included victories over a trio of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke in 1998-99 and Purdue in 2000-01), as well as No. 19 Illinois in ?98-99. Prior to the Purdue loss, Notre Dame?s last non-conference defeat at home came way back on Dec. 9, 1996, when 19th-ranked Wisconsin toppled the Irish, 81-69.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center. The Irish own a 246-70 (.778) record at the venerable facility. In both the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season. Also, since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96, Notre Dame is 96-9 (.914) at the Joyce Center.

For the third consecutive season, Notre Dame is ranked among the top 10 in the nation in attendance, according to the latest unofficial rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office. The Irish have averaged 7,189 fans for 11 home games this season, placing them seventh in the country (through games of Feb. 9). Notre Dame also drew the fifth-largest crowd in school history on Jan. 4 for its nationally-televised game with Purdue, attracting 9,483 fans to the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame averaged a school-record 7,825 fans for their 14 home games last season, good for eighth in the final NCAA attendance rankings. The 2001-02 season also saw Notre Dame register 13 of the top 20 crowds in school history, including a gathering of 9,676 fans, the third-largest in school annals, for a 60-44 win over 16th-ranked Boston College.

Furthermore, all of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 16-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present). And, as more evidence of Notre Dame’s rapid elevation to “hot ticket” status in South Bend, 19 of the top 20 crowds in school history have been recorded in the last four seasons.

Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2002-03 is no exception. This year’s Irish docket is ranked as the 18th-hardest slate in the country, according to the Feb. 14 edition of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) RPI rankings, produced by Richie Summerville.

Upon closer examination, six Notre Dame opponents currently are ranked in one or both of the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls (No. 1/1 Connecticut, No. 3/3 Tennessee, No. 9/9 Purdue, No. 19/20 Villanova, No. 23/25 Rutgers and No. 25/22 Boston College). Four others < depaul,=”” marquette,=”” miami=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech=””>< are=”” receiving=”” votes=”” in=”” one=”” or=”” both=”” major=”” polls=”” this=”” week.=””>

Furthermore, of Notre Dame’s 27 regular-season games, 17 are against teams that appear in the top 100 of the latest WBCA/Summerville RPI rankings, including 10 in the top 50.

Looking back, the Irish are playing no less than 14 teams that qualified for postseason play in 2001-02, including nine NCAA Tournament teams (highlighted by defending national champion Connecticut and Final Four participant Tennessee). In addition, six opponents (Arizona State, Connecticut, Purdue, Temple, Tennessee and Valparaiso) won the regular-season or tournament title in their respective conferences last season. What’s more, 17 of the 24 Irish opponents finished with records of .500 or better last season, including 10 squads that posted 20-win campaigns.

College Sports Television, the first 24-hour television network devoted exclusively to college sports, will sign on Sunday, Feb. 23, with a special live telecast of the Notre Dame vs. Connecticut BIG EAST Conference women’s basketball game from Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. Outlets carrying the UConn vs. Notre Dame contest will be made available at a later date by CSTV.

Defending national champion and top-ranked Connecticut women ran its NCAA-record winning streak to 62 games following Wednesday’s win over Syracuse. Notre Dame, the 2001 national champion, was the last team to defeat the Huskies, in the 2001 NCAA Final Four en route to its title.

The 2 p.m. (EST) telecast on February 23, will tip off “Countdown to CSTV,” a six-week free preview of CSTV: College Sports Television, that will culminate with the official launch of the network Monday evening, April 7, immediately following the final end of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game. CSTV: College Sports Television will unscramble its signal for the Connecticut-Notre Dame telecast and throughout the six-week preview period, enabling cable and satellite operators to carry this and subsequent special presentations. CSTV: College Sports Television is telecasting the February 23 game in conjunction with CPTV.

CSTV: College Sports Television will telecast live regular season and championship games in more than 25 men’s and women’s intercollegiate sports via agreements with 27 major college athletic conferences representing more than 250 universities. It also has agreements with several national organizations, including the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). CSTV: College Sports Television will also air news and other studio shows, coaches’ shows, documentaries, profiles and classic event programming.

Notre Dame is getting a good deal of face time in 2002-03, playing on television at least eight times, including nationally-televised contests against Arizona State (Dec. 7 on Fox Sports Net), Purdue (Jan. 4 on CBS) and Connecticut (Jan. 20 on ESPN2, Feb. 23 on College Sports TV). In addition, Notre Dame appears three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Miami (Jan. 11, noon ET) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 25, noon ET) and Virginia Tech (Feb. 9, 2 p.m. ET). All three of those games will be telecast locally in South Bend on WHME-TV as part of the league?s TV deal. WHME-TV also broadcast the Irish game at DePaul (Dec. 11) live from Chicago.

Besides the regular-season conference television deal, the BIG EAST semifinals on March 10 also will be aired on BIG EAST TV, while the conference title game on March 11 will air live on ESPN2.

The Irish are 2-5 on TV this year, defeating Arizona State and Villanova, but falling to DePaul, Purdue, Miami, Connecticut and Virginia Tech.

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game will air on WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and WDND sports director Sean Stires is now in his third season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics website ( by subscribing to Fighting Irish Pass, which gives listeners full access to a variety of Irish events on radio for only $6.95 per month.

Muffet McGraw?s half-hour, weekly television show is produced by LeSea Broadcasting and hosted by Bob Nagle. The show, now in its fifth season, is carried by WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and will air at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Saturdays through the completion of the 2002-03 season. The show also is available via satellite (Galaxy 6, Transponder 15) each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (EST), and may be seen on LeSea Broadcasting stations in Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Tulsa (check local listings).

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Jan. 7 the addition of 5-10 junior non-scholarship guard Anne Weese (first name pronounced Annie) to the 2002-03 Irish roster.

Weese spent the last two seasons at Seward County (Kan.) Community College, helping the Saints to a combined record of 71-1 and the 2002 NJCAA national championship. She averaged 4.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game during her two-year junior college career. Weese also was a starter on the Saints’ 38-0 national championship squad.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Feb. 3 that sophomore guard Kelsey Wicks (Gillette, Wyo./Campbell County H.S.) elected to leave the Irish women?s basketball program for personal reasons. Wicks had played in 16 games this season, starting once, while averaging 2.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. She scored a season-high 12 points on Dec. 14 against Temple.

Wicks appeared in 45 games during her Notre Dame career, starting twice. She averaged 4.0 points and 3.1 rebounds while logging 14.8 minutes per game in her tenure with the Irish. In addition, Wicks had three double-digit scoring games to her credit, including a career-best 16 points at Connecticut on Jan. 21, 2002.

University of Notre Dame women?s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 14 that two of the nation?s top high school student-athletes have chosen to continue their careers with the Irish, signing national letters of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2003. Crystal Erwin, a 6-2 forward from St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and Susie Powers, a 5-11 guard from Highlands Ranch High School in Denver, Colo., will join the Irish for the 2003-04 campaign.

Erwin has averaged 22.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game during her three-year prep career at St. Paul. She holds the school records for career points (2,084) and rebounds (1,324), as well as single-season points (869) with one year still to play for the Swordsmen. Ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report, Erwin was named to the 2002-03 USA Today Preseason Super 25 Team, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s All-America pick, earning third-team honors last season. She also has been named to all-star teams at the adidas Top Ten Camp each of the last two years and she was a member of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team this past summer. Erwin is the second California native in as many seasons to commit to the Irish, following current Notre Dame freshman Courtney LaVere.

Powers averaged 11.5 points and 6.8 assists per game last season for perennial national power Highlands Ranch High School, which won its third consecutive Colorado Class 5A title last season and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the campaign according to the USA Today Super 25 poll. Powers was ranked as high as 12th in the nation by the Greg Swaim Basketball Report, and she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-America selection. She also was Erwin’s teammate on the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival West Team in the summer of 2002. In addition to Erwin, Powers will have some familiarity with another Irish player < she=”” played=”” with=”” sophomore=”” forward=””>Katy Flecky at Highlands Ranch in 2000, helping lead the Falcons to the first of their three straight state championships.

With the addition of Erwin and Powers, Notre Dame has its seventh consecutive top 20 recruiting class, according to Blue Star Basketball, which rated the newest Irish signees 16th in the nation.

University of Notre Dame women?s basketball coach Muffet McGraw was one of seven people inducted into the Saint Joseph?s (Pa.) University Athletics Hall of Fame Nov. 16 in Philadelphia. McGraw was a standout point guard for Saint Joseph?s during its first four years of varsity competition, serving as team captain during her final two seasons (1975-76 and 1976-77). She helped lead the Hawks to an 18-3 record as a junior and a third-place finish in the AIAW Eastern Regional Tournament. A year later, she guided SJU to a 23-5 record, a sixth-place finish at the AIAW National Tournament, and a No. 3 national ranking in the Associated Press poll, the highest year-end poll finish in school history. She also set the Saint Joseph?s single-season record for steals with 102 during the 1976-77 campaign.

McGraw graduated from SJU in 1977 with a bachelor?s degree in sociology. She played one season for the California Dreams in the Women?s Professional Basketball League (WBL) before beginning her college coaching career as an assistant coach at her alma mater from 1980-82. Following five successful seasons at Lehigh (1983-87), McGraw was named the head coach at Notre Dame, a position she has held ever since.

Now in her 16th year with the Irish, McGraw has posted a stellar 356-135 (.725) record (444-176, .716 overall in 21 years), guiding Notre Dame to 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament berths, four Sweet Sixteen visits, two Final Fours and the 2001 NCAA title. The 2001 Naismith and AP National Coach of the Year, McGraw also is a member of the SJU Women?s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame.

When she’s not diligently working with the Notre Dame women?s basketball team, assistant coach Coquese Washington spends the offseason playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). A six-year veteran point guard, Washington guided the Indiana Fever to their first-ever playoff berth this past summer, following her midseason trade from the Houston Comets.

During the course of the 2002-03 college basketball season, will feature regular interviews and chat sessions with Washington. Readers will get an inside look at how she successfully handles the challenges of being a collegiate assistant, while also remaining prepared for the next professional basketball season.

Last May, the Irish embarked on a 12-day tour of Italy and France, going 3-1 in a four-game series against Italian professional teams. Among the Notre Dame victories was an 82-76 conquest of 14-time Italian First Division champion Pool Comense 1872, which had won its latest league title only two weeks prior to playing the Irish.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast and sophomore guard Kelsey Wicks shared team-high scoring honors on the tour, averaging 14.8 points per game during the series. Batteast, the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year, also registered two double-doubles and carded 11.3 rebounds per game while in Europe.

Sophomore center Teresa Borton collected team-high rebounding laurels, averaging 12.3 boards per contest. She also posted double-figure rebounding totals in three of four games, finishing with nine caroms in her other outing. Like Batteast, she averaged a double-double, adding 10 points per night.

All told, five Irish players scored in double figures while in Europe < the=”” aforementioned=”” trio,=”” along=”” with=”” junior=”” guard=””>Le’Tania Severe (13.5 ppg.) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (10.0 ppg.). As a team, Notre Dame averaged 79.5 points and 51.3 rebounds per game during the trip.

Notre Dame could get another crack at ending the longest winning streak in NCAA women’s basketball history when it visits top-ranked Connecticut Sunday, Feb. 23 for a 2 p.m. (EST) contest that will be the inaugural broadcast for College Sports Television (CSTV). Not only do the Huskies boast a 62-game success string entering this weekend’s action, but they also have a 58-game home winning streak, just 11 shy of the NCAA record held by Tennessee. The Irish have yet to defeat UConn in six previous trips at Gampel Pavilion, the site of next weekend’s confrontation.

UConn is 23-0 this season (10-0 in the BIG EAST) as it prepares to play host to Seton Hall Sunday afternoon. The Huskies keep their winning streak alive earlier this week with a 75-51 thrashing of Syracuse at Gampel Pavilion. Barbara Turner scored a game-high 18 points to lead four UConn players in double figures. Ashley Battle added a double-double for the Huskies, collected 13 points and a game-best 10 rebounds.

Connecticut leads the all-time series with Notre Dame, 14-2, following a 72-53 win over the Irish on Jan. 20 at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame held a one-point lead midway through the first half, but Maria Conlon drained three consecutive three-point baskets to ignite a late Husky charge that gave the visitors the lead for good. Turner scored a career-high 25 points for UConn, while Jacqueline Batteast tallied a team-high 16 points for the Irish, who played the Huskies dead even (26-26) in the second half and limited Connecticut’s All-American guard Diana Taurasi to a season-low four points.