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Notre Dame Set To Challenge Seton Hall

Feb. 6, 2004

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The Date and Time: Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004, at 2 p.m. ET.
The Site: Walsh Gym (2,600) in South Orange, N.J.
The Tickets: Still available by calling the Seton Hall Athletics Ticket Office (973-275-4255).
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 (play-by-play). These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at
Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Seton Hall (

Holding a season-long five-game winning streak, the 23rd-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team heads back out on the road Sunday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matinee affair at BIG EAST Conference foe Seton Hall. The Irish will be seeking to continue their strong defensive play of late, having set a school record for the fewest points allowed in a five-game span (223 points – 44.6 ppg.) during their current winning streak.

  • Notre Dame (14-7, 7-2 BIG EAST) is tied with West Virginia for second place in the BIG EAST, one-half game behind Connecticut, following Wednesday’s 66-52 victory over Georgetown at the Joyce Center. The Irish led all the way in extracting some revenge for an earlier heartbreaking loss to the Hoyas in Washington, D.C. Notre Dame also held an opponent to 52 points or less for the fifth consecutive game, tying a school record that was set six years ago.
  • Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast sparked a balanced Irish offense with 20 points and nine rebounds, knocking down eight of 15 shots from the floor. Sophomore guard Megan Duffy carded 11 points and a game-high five assists, while junior center Teresa Borton made all four of her field goal attempts and wound up with 10 points for Notre Dame. The Irish shot 46.2 percent from the field in the game, while holding the Hoyas to their lowest field goal percentage of the season (.296).
  • Seton Hall (12-8, 4-5) is aiming to continue its success at home, having posted a 7-2 mark at Walsh Gym this season. However, the Pirates currently are smarting from a 64-40 loss at No. 21/21 Virginia Tech on Tuesday night. No SHU player scored in double figures as the Pirates were held to a .255 field goal percentage and 14 first-half points.
  • Junior guard/forward Ashley Bush leads Seton Hall in scoring (10.3 ppg.), rebounding (6.3 rpg.) and steals (1.95 spg.). As a team, the Pirates rely heavily on their defense, which is allowing just 57.0 points per game this season.
  • Notre Dame leads the all-time series with SHU, 12-2, including a 5-1 mark at Walsh Gym. The Irish also have won the last 12 matchups in the series.

Notre Dame has ridden a true roller coaster of emotions this season. Facing the nation’s third-toughest schedule, the Irish have been particularly dominant at home, going 10-0 at the Joyce Center, but have had maddening runs of inconsistency on the road, posting a 4-7 mark. Still, Notre Dame has gained valuable experience against some top-notch opponents this year, going 6-3 against Top 25 teams and firmly planting itself within the Top 20 of all major RPI ladders.

  • Junior forward and preseason All-American Jacqueline Batteast (15.0 ppg., 8.3 rpg., .456 field goal percentage, seven double-doubles) has lived up to her accolades this season, ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots (1.24 bpg.). She was named to the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team on Nov. 15 after a superb weekend that included a career-high 27 points against 22nd-ranked Auburn. She then piled up back-to-back double-doubles vs. No. 20 Colorado (13p, 10r) and Valparaiso (15p, 10r) before logging team bests of 16 points and seven caroms at No. 3 Tennessee, 19 points at Washington and a game-high 13 points with six assists vs. Dayton. She then chalked up her third double-double vs. USC (20p, 13r) to earn the first BIG EAST Player of the Week honor of her career. Since BIG EAST play began, she has been red hot, averaging 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game with a .500 field goal percentage and four double-doubles (and three other near double-doubles). In her last outing on Wednesday vs. Georgetown, she came within a rebound of another twin killing, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds. She now has 63 double-figure scoring games and 26 double-doubles in her three-year Irish career. Batteast also became the 20th Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points when she tallied 14 points vs. Virginia Tech on Jan. 10, making her the fourth-fastest ever to reach that milestone (72 games).
  • Junior center Teresa Borton (6.5 ppg., 4.2 rpg., .509 FG%) and sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (8.8 ppg., 4.7 rpg.) also have made important contributions at times this season. Borton has recovered well from off-season heel surgery and was at her best vs. Colorado State and Marquette, ringing up 14 points on both occasions. Borton then added 11 points and eight rebounds at Georgetown, followed by 14 points and six boards against Virginia Tech, before scoring 10 points (4-4 FG) Wednesday night vs. Georgetown. Meanwhile, LaVere, a freshman All-American last year, has had an up-and-down second season. She tied Batteast for team-high scoring honors with 12 points at Michigan State before rising up and carding season highs of 22 points and nine rebounds vs. Wisconsin. She once again cracked double figures on Jan. 1 vs. Marquette, tossing in 16 points on six of 11 shooting. LaVere has looked solid in her last seven outings, averaging 10.3 ppg., with a .482 field goal percentage (27 of 56), providing a critical 14 points against Connecticut, 10 points at West Virginia and Syracuse, a team-high 15 points at Miami and 11 points vs. Boston College.
  • Sophomore Megan Duffy (11.4 ppg., team-high 4.62 apg., .422 3FG%, .818 FT%) is in her first season as the everyday point guard for the Irish and she is proving to be a key cog in the Notre Dame offensive arsenal. After averaging only three points and 2.3 assists per game last year, the Dayton, Ohio, native has more than tripled her scoring output, ranks sixth in the BIG EAST in assists and owns a team-best 1.49 assist/turnover ratio (seventh in the BIG EAST). In addition, she is showing offensive diversity, knocking down 35 three-pointers this season. She also has 12 double-figure scoring games to her credit this year, including a career-high 25 points vs. Wisconsin on Dec. 4, and 22 points at Georgetown on Jan. 7. Her ball handling skills have not diminished, as she also has registered five or more assists in 12 games, including a career-high nine assists on Dec. 7 at Washington. On Wednesday, she notched her fourth consecutive double-figure scoring game with 11 points vs. Georgetown, including a perfect six of six at the free throw line.
  • Senior captain Le’Tania Severe (7.6 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 3.2 apg., .481 FG%, .783 FT%) has slid over to the shooting guard position in place of the NCAA’s all-time three-point queen, Alicia Ratay, and Severe has filled the role admirably. While not putting up the three-point numbers Ratay had in her remarkable career, Severe is getting her points as a slasher, driving to the basket and creating havoc for opposing defenses. She also leads the team with 1.52 steals per game and has been a vital piece of Notre Dame’s transition game. She has scored in double digits seven times this year, including a season-high 15 points against Purdue and Boston College, as well as 12 points against Connecticut.

Strike up a conversation with almost any BIG EAST Conference women’s basketball observer about the most dangerous team in the league and invariably, the talk will come around to Seton Hall. With 10 returning letterwinners from last year’s club that qualified for the WNIT, the Pirates have quietly put themselves in a position to challenge the best teams in the BIG EAST.

Seton Hall (12-8, 4-5 BIG EAST) cemented that reputation during the non-conference portion of its schedule with an eight-game winning streak, its longest in nine seasons. Included in that stretch were wins over Michigan and South Carolina at Walsh Gym, highlighting the source of the Pirates’ strength this season.

However, SHU’s fire was cooled a bit with a four-game losing streak late last month, although three of those losses came to ranked opponents and two of them were on the road. The Pirates righted their ship with home wins over St. John’s (63-52) and Providence (66-49) to close out the month of January, but come into Sunday’s game on a sour note, having dropped a 64-40 decision at No. 21/21 Virginia Tech Tuesday night. Seton Hall shot just 25.5 percent from the floor in that game and was held to only 14 first-half points in the loss.

The Pirates’ success is based on their defense, which is allowing just 57.0 points per game this season. They also crash the boards extremely well, owning a +9.4 rebounding edge on their opponents. However, this defensive mentality has been countered by a low-scoring offense which averages 60.3 points per game. Junior guard/forward Ashley Bush is the only SHU player currently scoring in double figures this season, logging 10.3 ppg. (10.7 ppg. in conference games). She also leads the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg.) and steals (1.95 spg.), and she is third in field goal percentage (.462).

Two other senior post players (Charlene Thomas and LaNedra Brown) complement Bush on the Seton Hall front line. Thomas is averaging 9.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game with a solid .487 field goal ratio, while Brown, a transfer from Duke, is carding 7.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per outing with a team-high .579 shooting percentage. In the backcourt, senior guard Melissa Langelier is the Pirates’ top gunner, canning a team-high 23 three-point field goals with a .271 three-point percentage while registering 7.5 points per game.

Seton Hall head coach Phyllis Mangina is in her 19th season piloting her alma mater. She owns a career record of 271-264 (.507) with the Pirates, including a 2-12 mark against Notre Dame.

Sunday’s game will represent the 15th time Notre Dame and Seton Hall have met on the basketball court, with the Irish holding a 12-2 edge in the series (5-1 in South Orange, N.J.). The teams began playing one another just over a decade ago, setting up a home-and-home series in the 1993-94 and ’94-95 seasons. The Pirates won both of those early matchups, the first at Notre Dame (62-55) and the second in overtime at Walsh Gym (65-60).

Since the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995-96 season, they have won all 12 games against Seton Hall. The first conference contest went to overtime (88-79) before Notre Dame reeled off nine consecutive double-digit victories. However, the last two games between the Irish and Pirates have been tense affairs, with Notre Dame winning last-minute decisions both times.

Among current Irish players, sophomore forward Courtney LaVere has had the most individual success against Seton Hall, scoring 20 points in her only prior matchup with the Pirates. Among players with more than one game vs. SHU, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is averaging 11.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in three outings against the Pirates. Senior guard Monique Hernandez is another player to keep an eye on; although she hasn’t faced Seton Hall since the 2000-01 season, she is averaging 8.0 points in two games with a .667 field goal percentage (8-12). A complete rundown of the statistics active Notre Dame players have compiled against Seton Hall can be found on page 19 of this notes package.

Forward Katy Flecky canned two free throws with two seconds to play, lifting Notre Dame to a 62-60 Senior Day victory over Seton Hall in BIG EAST Conference action on March 1, 2003, at the Joyce Center. Forward Courtney LaVere tossed in a game-high 20 points for Notre Dame, including the game-tying layup with 7.8 seconds remaining. It was the fifth 20-point game of the year for the Irish rookie, who made seven of 13 shots and six of seven free throws. In her final home game, guard Alicia Ratay also scored a game-best 20 points and became Notre Dame’s career three-point field goal leader with 252 treys, three more than the previous record holder, Sheila McMillen.

Leslie Ardon paced three Seton Hall players in double figures with 16 points, as well as a game-high 10 rebounds. Melissa Langelier came off the bench to tally 13 points, including three three-pointers, and Cecilia Lindqvist contributed 10 points for the Pirates, who had a game decided by 10 points or less for the 14th time.

Following an emotional Senior Day ceremony prior to the game, Notre Dame came out ice cold, misfiring on 12 of its first 13 shots. Seton Hall took full advantage of the Irish shooting woes, jumping out to a pair of 12-point leads, the last at 19-7 with 6:44 to go in the first half. The lead remained in double digits for another two minutes, before Notre Dame scored six of the last eight points in the period to slice the Pirate edge to 27-21 at the half.

The Irish wiped their deficit clean in the opening three minutes of the second half, going on an 8-2 run. The spurt was highlighted by Ratay’s record-breaking three-pointer at the 18:42 mark. Center Teresa Borton added a layup to tie the game at 29-29 with 17:49 to play.

From there, neither team led by more than three points, with eight ties and nine lead changes down the stretch. At times, it seemed like a giant chess game, with every Seton Hall move being matched by Notre Dame. The Pirates took a 56-53 lead on a Lindqvist triple with 2:59 to play, but Ratay answered with her own trey 15 seconds later. Langelier then hit two free throws which were countered with a Ratay layup, tying the game at 58-58 with 1:14 to play.

Notre Dame forced a turnover on Seton Hall’s next possession, but could not cash in when Ratay missed a jumper in the lane and Borton fouled LaNedra Brown on the rebound with 29.7 seconds left. Brown then made both of her free throws to give the visitors their last lead of the day and set up the frantic final half-minute.

After a SHU timeout, Notre Dame worked the ball to Batteast at the top of the key. She drove the lane and at the last second, she dished off to a wide-open LaVere and the freshman made no mistake, knotting the score at 60-60. The Pirates got the ball to halfcourt and called timeout in front of their bench with 3.8 seconds left. However, Seton Hall’s plans were foiled when Flecky tipped away the inbounds pass and Brown fouled her as the pair scrambled for the loose ball.

Flecky, a 63-percent foul shooter, gave Irish fans a momentary scare on her first free throw, banging it hard off the heel of the rim before it settled through the iron. Her second shot snapped the net cleanly, giving Notre Dame its third double-digit comeback victory of the season, and its sixth in the last three seasons. Ironically, the Irish turned a similar trick against Seton Hall in 2001-02, climbing out of a pair of 10-point holes to win on the road.

Forward Jacqueline Batteast notched the ninth double-double of her rookie season with game highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds to pace Notre Dame to a 65-60 victory over a scrappy Seton Hall squad on Feb. 2, 2002, at Walsh Gym in South Orange, N.J.

Guard Alicia Ratay added 10 points and forward Katy Flecky matched her (then) career high with nine points for the Irish. Notre Dame also received another solid performance from its freshman class, as the Irish kiddie corps accounted for 44 points and 26 rebounds in the victory.

Seton Hall fell to the Irish despite a team-high 19 points from Cecilia Lindqvist. Susan Murray tallied 12 points and Melissa Langelier chipped in with 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds for the Pirates. SHU held Notre Dame to its lowest shooting percentage of the season (.321), but suffered in the rebounding column, coming out on the short end of a 46-29 count on the glass.

The Irish fielded an unorthodox starting lineup vs. SHU when curfew violations resulted in four of the regular Notre Dame starters losing their game-opening assignments. In their places, Flecky and classmate Kelsey Wicks, along with guard Karen Swanson all earned their first starting nods for the Irish. The makeshift lineup caused Notre Dame to struggle in the first half, as the Irish could not find their offensive rhythm. Seton Hall took full advantage of Notre Dame’s early troubles, building a pair of 10-point leads, the last on a Simona Burgess free throw which resulted in a 21-11 Pirate edge at the 8:24 mark.

However, the Irish rallied back with an 11-2 run, tying the game at 23-23 on a three-pointer by Wicks from the right corner with 1:21 remaining in the period. After trading a pair of free throws, Seton Hall regained the lead at the half when Lindqvist drained a trey with one second left for a 28-25 advantage.

Notre Dame stormed from the gate in the second half, going on a 13-5 run to take a 38-33 lead when Ratay buried a three-pointer at the 13:53 junction. The Pirates fought back to tie the score three times in the next two minutes before Langelier rang up a triple to put the hosts back in front, 46-43 with 10:39 to go.

A pair of free throws by center Amanda Barksdale and a layup by guard/forward Ericka Haney briefly gave the Irish a one-point lead, but Murray knocked down two charities for a 48-47 SHU edge with 8:31 to play. However, Notre Dame was able to finally wrestle away the lead for good when Ratay canned two free throws and Batteast followed with a clutch three-point basket to put the Irish on top, 52-48 with just over five minutes remaining.

Seton Hall made one last charge, cutting a seven-point deficit to three when Burgess hit a driving layup and was fouled with 12.3 seconds left. However, she could not complete the old-fashioned three-point play and Batteast drilled two free throws to ice the win after she was fouled on the rebound. Notre Dame wound up doing much of its damage at the free throw line, making a season-high 26 charity tosses on 34 attempts (.765), including eight of 10 tries in the final 85 seconds.


  • After winning two of its first three games against Notre Dame and averaging 67 points per game, Seton Hall has lost its last 11 contests with the Irish and has averaged only 51.0 points in those games.
  • The first three games in the series all were decided by nine points or less, with two contests going to overtime. The next nine matchups all were decided by at least 11 points, with Notre Dame winning each time by an average margin of 30.7 points per game. However, the two most recent games in the series have been nailbiters that have seen the Irish win by only 3.5 ppg., and both games were still in doubt heading into the final minute of play.
  • In the 12 series games since Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, the Irish have never scored less than 62 points in a game against Seton Hall. Conversely, the Pirates have topped the mark just once, falling 88-79 in overtime to the Irish in their first conference matchup on Jan. 2, 1996 in South Orange, N.J. Seton Hall comes into Sunday’s game averaging 60.3 ppg. (54.9 ppg. in conference games).

Notre Dame is 119-26 (.821) 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 75 of their last 91 regular-season conference games (.824), 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 131-34 (.794) against league opponents – when factoring in these 20 postseason tilts, the Irish are 66-7 (.904) at home, 53-22 (.707) on the road and 12-5 (.706) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

The Irish have winning streaks of 10 or more games against four of their 13 BIG EAST Conference opponents. Their longest active conference winning streak is 13 games against St. John’s and Pittsburgh, followed by a 12-game run against Seton Hall and an 11-game success string against Providence. The longest current Irish winning streak vs. any opponent is 17 games against Valparaiso.

The Irish have played just three times on Feb. 8 in their history, going 1-2 on this date with an 0-1 mark on the road. The last time Notre Dame played on Feb. 8 was in 1992, when the Irish dropped a 63-62 decision at Midwestern Collegiate Conference rival Dayton. That was one of two games on this date that saw Notre Dame have a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but come up short; the Irish lost to Illinois State, 61-59 in 1984.

The lone victory for Notre Dame on Feb. 8 came in 1986, when the Irish pounded Xavier, 104-57 at the Joyce Center. Sandy Botham knocked down 10 of 12 shots and finished with a game-high 25 points for Notre Dame, which shot a sizzling 67.2 percent from the field (39 of 58) and tied a school and arena record with 46 free throw attempts (making 26).


  • Notre Dame will register its 13th consecutive victory over Seton Hall, matching its longest active winning streak against a BIG EAST Conference opponent (also 13 vs. St. John’s and Pittsburgh).
  • The Irish will extend their current winning streak to a season-high six games and will earn their third consecutive road win after starting the season at 1-7 in such games.
  • Notre Dame will card its 12th win in the last 15 games since opening the year at 3-4.
  • The Irish will improve to 120-26 (.822) all-time in regular-season games against the BIG EAST Conference, maintaining the best winning percentage in conference history.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 378-145 (.723) in 17 seasons under the Golden Dome. She also will watch her career ledger improve to 466-186 (.715) in 22 years at the college level.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 542-244 (.690) in 27 seasons of varsity competition.

Jacqueline Batteast had 20 points and nine rebounds and No. 23 Notre Dame held Georgetown to a season-low 29.6 percent shooting, beating the Hoyas 66-52 Wednesday night. Megan Duffy added 11 points and five assists, and Teresa Borton had 10 points for the Irish (14-7, 7-2 BIG EAST), who shot 46.2 percent and led throughout the entire game.

Rebekkah Brunson scored 12 points, six below her average, to lead the Hoyas (10-10, 4-6). Kate Carlin added 11 points for Georgetown, whose previous worst shooting night was 30 percent in a 72-62 loss to Indiana in early December. Rhea Beal made a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to end Notre Dame’s streak of holding opponents to 50 points or fewer at four games; one shy of matching the school record set six years ago.

The game was quite a turnaround from the last time the Irish played the Hoyas, losing 76-73 on Jan. 7. Notre Dame squandered a six-point lead with 54 seconds left in that game, allowing Georgetown to score seven points in 14 seconds. On Wednesday, the Hoyas made one brief run at the Irish. Notre Dame took a 36-23 lead when Borton made a pair of free throws with 0.4 seconds left in the first half. The Hoyas then started the second half with a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 38-32 when Carlin hit a 10-foot turnaround shot.

The Irish regained control, though, with a 9-0 run when Courtney LaVere score five straight points to get Notre Dame going again. Batteast, who had failed to score in double figures the past two games, scored inside to end the run, giving the Irish a 47-33 lead. Notre Dame, which also outrebounded Georgetown 42-30, extended the lead to a game-high 19 points (60-41) when Batteast scored on a layup with 4:42 left.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has referred to the aftermath of her team’s 76-73 loss at Georgetown on Jan. 7 as the turning point of the season for the Irish. Upon returning to campus the day after the disheartening setback, the Irish coaches began preparing for practice in their office and then headed for the gym floor, only to find the team already working out on its own.

Since that time, Notre Dame has won seven of eight games, including five against Top 25 opponents. One of the key reasons for that run of success has been an increased focus on defense; the Irish are giving up just 47.2 points per game and holding opponents to a .320 field goal percentage (.209 three-point ratio) over that stretch. Notre Dame also made a key lineup change after the Georgetown contest, going to a more defensive-oriented starting five that included senior guard Monique Hernandez, who had never started a game in her Irish career prior to Jan. 10.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has taken her game to another level against BIG EAST Conference opponents this year. In nine conference games this year, Batteast is carding 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game with four double-doubles. She currently is second in the conference in rebounding and seventh in scoring. In addition, she has the top field goal percentage in the BIG EAST during league play (.500) and just missed double-doubles in three other conference outings (14 points and nine rebounds vs. Villanova; nine points and 10 rebounds at Miami; 20 points and nine rebounds vs. Georgetown).

Notre Dame has stepped up its play recently thanks in large measure to the added pressure applied by its defense. Through the first month of the BIG EAST season, the Irish rank among the top three in the conference in most major defensive categories, including scoring defense (1st – 50.4 ppg.), scoring margin (2nd – +7.6 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (1st – .333), three-point field goal percentage defense (1st – .216), rebounding defense (3rd – 32.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (2nd – 4.22 bpg.).

However, that’s just the start when it comes to noting Notre Dame’s defense. Here are some other tidbits about the current Irish defensive lockdown:

  • During its current five-game winning streak, Notre Dame has given up an average of just 44.6 ppg. In fact, the 223 points allowed by the Irish in that stretch represents the best five-game defensive run in school history. The previous record was 227 points (45.4 ppg.) from Jan. 18-Feb. 6, 1978, in wins over Purdue-Calumet, IPFW, Grace College and Saint Mary’s (Ind.), and a loss at Marquette (all came when the Irish played at the Division III level).
  • Notre Dame has limited its last five opponents to 52 points or less, the second time in school history the Irish have pulled off that feat. From Dec. 13, 1997 to Jan. 8, 1998, Notre Dame had a streak of five consecutive games allowing 52 points or less.
  • The Irish held back-to-back opponents (Syracuse and Villanova) to less than 40 points for only the second time in school history (and first in the program’s Division I era, which began in 1980-81. The first time came on Jan. 24 & 31, 1978, when the Irish defeated IPFW (68-39) and Grace College (68-25).
  • In 18 halves of BIG EAST action (nine games), Irish opponents have scored 30-or-more points just three times, with Georgetown accounting for two of those in the BIG EAST opener back on Jan. 7.
  • Notre Dame has limited seven of its last eight opponents to field goal percentages of less than .400, going 6-1 in those contests. In addition, Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown (second game) all shot less than 30 percent from the floor. For the season, the Irish are 11-2 when they hold their opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
  • Notre Dame held Syracuse to 35 points on Jan. 21, setting a school record for the fewest points ever allowed in a BIG EAST road game and the second-fewest yielded in any road game (84-27 at Valparaiso on Jan. 21, 1982).

For the most part, Notre Dame has done a good job of shutting down the opposition’s top offensive threat since the start of BIG EAST Conference play. Only two of these opposing players (Georgetown’s Rebekkah Brunson and West Virginia’s Kate Bulger) have matched or exceeded their season scoring averages, and just one (Tamara James of Miami) has topped her season shooting percentage.

Notre Dame has fought through a brutal schedule that has included playing nine games against Top 25 opponents. The Irish have handled the challenge very well, going 6-3 in those contests with victories over No. 22/25 Auburn (77-64), No. 16/15 Virginia Tech (53-40), No. 4/4 Connecticut (66-51), No. 23/25 Villanova (38-36), No. 17/16 Miami (59-50) and No. NR/23 Boston College (52-50). Notre Dame narrowly missed a seventh win over a Top 25 foe, as No. 20/20 Colorado rallied to defeat the Irish, 67-63 in overtime in the championship game of the season-opening WBCA Classic in Boulder, Colo.

By comparison, in the previous two seasons (2001-02 and 2002-03), Notre Dame had a total of five wins over ranked opponents, with three of those coming in the regular season (Virginia Tech and Boston College in ’01-02, and Villanova in ’02-03).

The rugged Irish schedule has not gone unnoticed by the national media. The latest, WBCA/Summerville RPI, Sagarin/Collegiate Basketball News and Massey rankings all have tabbed Notre Dame’s schedule as the third-toughest in the nation (as of Feb. 6).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has played very well in Notre Dame’s nine games against Top 25 opponents this year. She is averaging 14.9 points and 8.6 rebounds with three double-doubles (and three near double-doubles) in those matchups against ranked opponents in 2003-04.

Since the start of the BIG EAST Conference season on Jan. 7, Notre Dame has received critical support from its reserves. The Irish bench has averaged 18.2 points in nine conference games this year, outscoring its opponent’s reserves by an average margin of 8.3 ppg. over that time.

Notre Dame’s bench play was especially important in its wins over Syracuse, No. 23/25 Villanova and No. 17/16 Miami. In that three-game span, the Irish reserves averaged 25.3 ppg., including a season-high 35 points at Syracuse and 33 points at Miami.

Maybe it’s the long plane rides, or the lumpy mattresses in the hotel, or even the quality of the pre-game meal. Whatever the reason, Notre Dame has struggled at times on the road this season, going 4-7 away from the Joyce Center (3-7 in true road games). That’s a far cry from the success the Irish have experienced at home, where they are a perfect 10-0 and own an active 15-game winning streak.

Notre Dame’s 66-51 victory over No. 4/4 Connecticut on Jan. 13 at the Joyce Center was historic for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of them:

  • Notre Dame’s win over Connecticut snapped the Huskies’ 121-game winning streak against unranked opponents, a string that dated back to Jan. 23, 1999 (a 78-66 loss at Boston College).
  • Since the start of the 1998-99 season, Connecticut has lost by 15-plus points only three times and each time, those losses have come to Notre Dame (twice in 2000-01, once in 2003-04).
  • Notre Dame is one of only two teams in the nation (and the first BIG EAST squad) to defeat Connecticut more than once in the past 11 seasons (1993-94 to present). During that 11-year stretch, Tennessee is the only other program with multiple wins over the Huskies.
  • In the past four seasons (2000-01 to present), half of Connecticut’s six losses have come at the hands of Notre Dame.
  • Over the past five seasons (1999-2000 to present), the Joyce Center is the only arena to see multiple losses by Connecticut.

Saying January was a crazy month for Notre Dame would probably be a bit of an understatement. To begin with, the Irish had 10 games on the schedule last month, its fullest slate since January 1997, when Notre Dame also played 10 times, posting a 9-1 record en route to its first NCAA Final Four appearance. However, that 1997 docket saw the Irish go the entire month without facing a ranked opponent. This year’s Notre Dame squad didn’t have that kind of luck, facing six Top 25 foes during the month.

This January didn’t start out well for Notre Dame, as the Irish lost two of their first three games, including a heartbreaking 76-73 setback at Georgetown in which the Hoyas scored seven points in the final 14 seconds to steal the victory. Unfazed, Notre Dame bounced back with wins in six of its last seven games, highlighted by victories over No. 4/4 Connecticut (66-51), No. 16/15 Virginia Tech (53-40), No. 17/16 Miami (59-50), No. 23/25 Villanova (38-36) and No. NR/23 Boston College (52-50). Those five wins helped propel the Irish into a second-place tie in the BIG EAST standings and a return to the AP poll (No. 23) heading into the second half of the conference season.

Notre Dame put together one of the best defensive performances in school history on Dec. 13 vs. Dayton, rolling over the Flyers, 78-41 at the Joyce Center. In that game, the Irish held UD to just 11 first-half points, which matches the third-lowest mark in school history and equals the lowest opponent total ever at the Joyce Center (11 in the second half by Grace College on Jan. 31, 1978 (pre-NCAA era). The fewest points Notre Dame has ever allowed in one half is seven (first half) at Maryland on Jan. 9, 1985. The Irish also gave up just 10 first-half points to Georgetown on March 4, 2001, in a BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinal game at Storrs, Conn.

In addition, Notre Dame limited Dayton to an opponent record-low .050 field goal percentage (one for 20) in the first half, breaking the old Irish opponent record of .115 (three for 26), which had been set twice (in the first half of the aforementioned Maryland game, and by DePaul in the first half on Dec. 31, 2001 at the Joyce Center).

The Irish have often opened games in strong fashion, but nothing like what they turned out on Dec. 13 vs. Dayton. Notre Dame began the game on a 26-0 run, the largest game-opening surge in 27 seasons of Irish basketball. The previous record for the best start to a game was 17-0 vs. Texas Tech in the 2000 NCAA Mideast Regional Semifinal in Memphis.

The 26 unanswered points also tied for the second-longest run of consecutive markers by Notre Dame. The school record is 31 straight points, which the Irish achieved on Jan. 18, 1997 vs. Pittsburgh; Notre Dame trailed 14-2, but went on a 31-0 run over the next 13:14 to seize control of the game. The Irish also had a 26-point spree on Jan. 31, 1998 against Seton Hall, turning a 56-29 score into an 82-29 margin over a 9:44 span in the second half.

Based on her play this season, sophomore point guard Megan Duffy is making a strong case to be named the BIG EAST Conference Most Improved Player. Last season, the Dayton native averaged 3.0 points and 2.3 assists per game while still shaking off the rust caused by off-season knee surgery. She also struggled to find her shooting touch, hitting at a .242 clip from the floor and making only seven of 35 three-point attempts (.200).

Fast forward to this season, where Duffy has been an impact player from the outset. She is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 ppg., which more than triples her production from last year. However, her biggest improvement has come in her shooting numbers, where she’s connecting at a .422 percentage (35-83) from the three-point line and would be leading the BIG EAST if she had made enough treys to qualify (min. 2.0 per game). She’s also has five times as many treys as she sank all of last year and after cracking double digits just twice in 2002-03 (career high was 12 points), she has 12 double-figure games this season, with two topping the 20-point mark. Her best outing to date was a 25-point outburst on Dec. 4 vs. Wisconsin, where she shattered her career standard from beyond the arc, going six for 10 from downtown.

But lest we forget her primary duties at the point, Duffy is leading the Irish and ranks sixth in the BIG EAST with 4.62 assists per game, more than doubling last year’s output. She also has just 65 turnovers, giving her a healthy 1.49 assist/turnover ratio (seventh in the BIG EAST). She has dished out at least five assists 12 times this year, including a career-high nine dimes on Dec. 7 at Washington. In addition, she is logging 5.0 assists in Notre Dame’s last eight games with at least five handouts in five contests.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast scored a game-high 14 points on Jan. 10 against No. 16/15 Virginia Tech, becoming the 20th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. She also was the fourth-fastest Irish player ever to reach that milestone, doing so in her 72nd career game.

Batteast also is one of only five Irish players to score 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame, joining Morgan, Matvey, Riley and Ratay. For her career, the South Bend native ranks sixth in school history with a 14.2 ppg. scoring average, and 16th in total points (1,118), needing 76 points to pass Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91) for 15th place all-time.

One of the supposed question marks surrounding this year’s Notre Dame squad was its perimeter shooting. Through the first two-thirds of the season, the Irish have had an emphatic response to that question. Notre Dame is third in the BIG EAST with a .362 three-point percentage, hitting 79 of 218 shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Megan Duffy has been a major contributor from beyond the arc, connecting at a .422 clip (35-83), which would lead the BIG EAST, but she has not made enough field goals to qualify for statistical ranking (minimum of 2.0 per game). Nevertheless, she stands 13th in the BIG EAST with 1.67 triples made per game.

Another long distance specialist for Notre Dame has been senior guard Jeneka Joyce, which is a pleasant surprise when you consider the Topeka, Kan., native has spent the better part of the past two seasons trying to recover from leg injuries. Joyce has knocked down 21 of 52 treys for a .404 three-point percentage, but she also has not yet made enough field goals to qualify for the rankings. The veteran sharpshooter is working to regain her form after missing three games late last month due to a sprained ankle suffered in practice Jan. 22.

Although they didn’t come away with the trophy they wanted at the WBCA Classic, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and senior guard Le’Tania Severe did receive individual honors as members of the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team. Batteast averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds in the two-game tournament, while shooting .529 from the field. Severe carded 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in the tournament and posted a stellar .857 free throw percentage (12 of 14). It was the first career all-tournament team selection for both players.

After spending the first three weeks of this season in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, Notre Dame resurfaced in the media poll this week, checking in at No. 23. The Irish were ranked 15th in the preseason AP poll, marking the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the Irish were tapped in the initial AP survey of the year.

Notre Dame also is earning 60 votes in the most recent ESPN/USA Today coaches poll (good for 27th if the poll were extended) after appearing in the Top 25 for the first three weeks of 2003-04. The Irish were pegged No. 16 in the preseason coaches poll, also the seventh time in eight years that they had shown up in the first ESPN/USA Today poll of the year.

This season, Notre Dame has faced or will face no less than eight teams that are currently ranked in both major polls (No. 1/1 Tennessee, No. 4/3 Connecticut, No. 6/5 Purdue, No. 11/10 Colorado, No. 19/22 Auburn, No. 20/18 Michigan State, No. 21/21 Virginia Tech and No. 22/20 Miami). In addition, Boston College is ranked 25th in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Also, five other Irish opponents; Marquette, Rutgers, USC, Villanova and West Virginia are receiving votes in one or both polls this week.

Over the last four seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 71-5 (.934) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including a 9-1 mark this year. One of those rare losses occurred vs. Colorado in the WBCA Classic on Nov. 15. Notre Dame led 37-33 at the intermission before the Buffaloes rallied for a 67-63 overtime win.

Over the last nine 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 124-4 (.969) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added 10 more wins to that ledger this season by holding down Valparaiso (74-57), Dayton (78-41), Colorado State (63-59), Virginia Tech (53-40), Connecticut (66-51), Syracuse (64-35), Villanova (38-36), Miami (59-50), Boston College (52-50) and Georgetown (66-52).

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 nine seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 86-3 (.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 tacked on another win to this tally on Dec. 4 with its 82-64 win over Wisconsin.

Notre Dame is one of only eight schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen five times in the past seven seasons (1997-2003). The others are Connecticut (seven times), Tennessee (seven times), Duke (six times), Louisiana Tech (six times), North Carolina (five times), Old Dominion (five times) and Texas Tech (five times).

The Irish are one of just six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 10 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in these elite club are Tennessee (27), Texas Tech (14), Louisiana Tech (12), Old Dominion (12) and Connecticut (10).

Notre Dame has won 195 games over the last eight seasons (24.4 victories per year), which stands as the ninth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Irish are wearing white uniforms at home this season, eschewing the golden togs they sported for the past four seasons. Notre Dame has worn white uniforms on numerous occasions on the past, dating as far back as the school’s first varsity women’s basketball squad, which took the floor in 1977-78. Blue continues to be the primary color for the Irish road uniforms.

Notre Dame recently unveiled some new championship banners which now hang in the Joyce Center. The NCAA title flag won by the Irish women in 2001 and the Helms Foundation national championship banners won by the Notre Dame men in 1927 and 1936 now have been converted to gold with blue lettering, reversing the look of the other banners currently on display. In addition, the Irish basketball and volleyball teams have added blue flags for Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

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 108 of their last 117 games (.923) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a current 15-game winning streak. Notre Dame also has a 66-7 (.904) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strong when it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 45 of their last 47 non-BIG EAST contests (.957) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only two losses in that span came to Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69) and Purdue in 2003 (71-54). The Purdue loss 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 Joyce Center, posting a 258-70 (.787) 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.

Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in attendance each of the past three years. The Irish are looking to extend that streak to a fourth straight season, averaging 6,496 fans for their 10 home games, including a season-high 8,574 fans on Jan. 13 vs. fourth-ranked Connecticut, the seventh-largest crowd in school history. According to the latest unofficial national attendance rankings compiled by the Wisconsin Sports Information Office (as of Feb. 2), Notre Dame ranks 12th in the country in attendance.

The Irish averaged 7,132 fans for their 13 home games last season, good for their second consecutive eighth-place finish in the final NCAA attendance rankings. Last year also saw Notre Dame register two of the top 10 crowds in school history, including a season-high gathering of 9,483 fans, the fifth-largest in school history for the nationally-televised matchup with Purdue on Jan. 4, 2003.

All of the top 20 crowds in the Irish record book have occurred during the 17-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 five seasons.

Based on its success in recent years, Notre Dame continues to be a favorable television draw and the 2003-04 season will be no exception. The Irish are slated to play on the small screen no less than nine times in the coming campaign, including four appearances on national television.

Notre Dame made its ’03-04 television debut on Dec. 7 at Washington in a matchup that was shown to a national cable audience on Fox Sports Net. The Irish returned to coast-to-coast television on Jan. 4 when they visited Purdue for the inaugural BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge on ESPN2.

In addition, Notre Dame has been selected to appear on the BIG EAST Conference television package four times this season, including three home games. The Irish already have taken on Virginia Tech (Jan. 10), Villanova (Jan. 24) and Boston College (Jan. 31) at home, and will travel to Rutgers (Feb. 28) for games in front of the BIG EAST TV cameras. Those games may be seen on a regional basis in several major East Coast markets, including New York, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as South Bend, where WHME-TV (Channel 46) will show the Virginia Tech, Villanova and Rutgers games on a same-day, tape-delayed basis at 7 p.m. (ET).

Furthermore, the Jan. 13 BIG EAST matchup between Notre Dame and two-time defending national champion Connecticut was televised by Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) with College Sports Television (CSTV) picking up the broadcast and airing it nationally.

Both Notre Dame-Miami games also will be televised this season. The Jan. 28 matchup in Coral Gables, Fla., was picked up by the Sunshine Network on a tape-delayed basis. Meanwhile, the Feb. 25 rematch at the Joyce Center will be broadcast live to a nationwide audience on CSTV. That contest will tip off at 8 p.m. (ET).

In addition, the semifinals of this year’s BIG EAST Championship presented by State Farm will be broadcast on the BIG EAST television package Monday, March 8 at 6 and 8 p.m. (ET) from the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center. WHME-TV in South Bend will carry those games live. The championship game will air live on ESPN2 on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. (ET).

After a two-year absence, the Joyce Center once again will be home to NCAA Tournament competition as Notre Dame was selected to be one of 16 sites for first- and second-round games in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Action at the South Bend subregional will take place Sunday, March 21 and Tuesday, March 23, with exact tipoff times and potential television broadcasts to be determined by the NCAA during the week leading up to the competition.

Should Notre Dame qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in school history (and the ninth consecutive season), the Irish are guaranteed to play at home. Notre Dame has played five NCAA tourney games at the Joyce Center in its history, going 4-1 and and advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2000 and 2001 (the Irish went on to win the national championship in the latter season).

Single-session ticket books for NCAA Tournament games at the Joyce Center currently are available to the general public (one ticket for both Sunday games, one ticket for Tuesday’s only game). Single-game tickets will not be made available until after the field of 64 is announced on March 14. For more information on how to purchase tickets for the 2004 NCAA Notre Dame subregional, contact the Irish athletics ticket office at (574) 631-7356 or visit the ticket windows located on the second floor of the Joyce Center at Gate 1.

Once again this season, every Irish women’s basketball game (home and away) will air on the flagship stations of the Artistic Media Partners (AMP) Network, WDND-AM (ESPN Radio 1620) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his fourth 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 athletics events on radio for only $6.95 per month.

THE Muffet McGraw SHOW
Muffet McGraw’s half-hour, weekly television show is produced by LeSea Broadcasting and hosted by Bob Nagle. The show, now in its seventh season, is carried by WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and airs at 6:30 p.m. (ET) Saturdays through the end of the 2003-04 season. The show also is available via satellite (Galaxy 6, Transponder 15) each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (ET), and may be seen on LeSea Broadcasting stations in Denver, Honolulu, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Tulsa (check local listings).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) is one of 30 players who were named to the 2003-04 John R. Wooden Women’s Award Preseason All-America Team on Aug. 13. Based on a vote of the Wooden Women’s Award National Advisory Board, these 30 players are considered the top candidates for the inaugural Wooden Women’s Award, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-2nd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast is one of five BIG EAST players named to the Wooden Preseason All-America Team, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers, and the Connecticut duo of Ann Strother and Diana Taurasi.

In mid-January, the Wooden Women’s Award Committee will release its Midseason Top 20 List, followed in March by the official voting ballot which will consist of the top 10-15 players who have proven their success in the classroom (minimum 2.0 grade-point average) as well as on the court. More than 250 voters, comprised of sports media members and women’s college basketball experts around the country, will then cast their votes for the five-member Wooden All-America Team and the Wooden Award winner.

Although the 2003-04 season marks the debut of the Wooden Women’s Award, the honor initially was created in 1976 to recognize the top male collegiate basketball player in the nation. Past winners include Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84) and Tim Duncan (’97).

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is one of 35 players who were selected to the 2003-04 State Farm Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List on Aug. 20 by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Based on a vote of committee members which include leading coaches, journalists and basketball administrators, these 35 players are considered the top candidates for the State Farm Wade Trophy, which will be presented to the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player at the conclusion of the ’03-04 season.

Batteast is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection who started every game for the Irish last season, leading the team in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.56 bpg.). She also ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in those categories, as well as steals (1.97 spg.) and double-doubles (8). In addition, the 6-2 wing scored in double figures 26 times, topped the 20-point mark five times, and earned game-high rebounding honors of 14 occasions. She ranks among Notre Dame’s career leaders in scoring average (6th – 13.8 ppg.) and rebounding average (tie-2nd – 8.1 rpg.), and she is one of only five players in school history to amass at least 800 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.

Batteast was one of five BIG EAST players named to the ’03-04 Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List, joining Rebekkah Brunson of Georgetown, Ieva Kublina of Virginia Tech, Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers and last year’s Wade Trophy recipient, Diana Taurasi of Connecticut.

The State Farm Wade Trophy, now in its 27th year, is named after Margaret Wade, the late Delta State University coach who won three national championship in the mid-1970s. The Wade Trophy is considered the one of the most prestigious individual awards in women’s college basketball and is organized by the WBCA and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS).

Adding to her armload of preseason hardware, junior forward Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind.) was named a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s in the magazine’s annual basketball preview issue. It’s the third preseason honor for the talented 6-2 wing, who is a two-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection. She also was the 2001-02 United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and a WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-American that season, as well as the unanimous choice for BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast and freshman forward Crystal Erwin both received preseason recognition in a vote of the BIG EAST Conference coaches that was released at the league’s annual Media Day on Oct. 30 at the Newark (N.J.) Liberty Airport Hilton. Batteast was a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST selection, while Erwin was named the Preseason BIG EAST Co-Freshman of the Year, sharing the honor with Connecticut’s Liz Sherwood.

Batteast led the Irish in scoring (13.9 ppg.), rebounding (8.3 rpg.), blocked shots (1.56 bpg.) and double-doubles (8), ranking among the BIG EAST leaders in all four categories. She is a two-time second-team all-conference selection and is one of only five players in school history to score 800 points in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

As a senior last year at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Erwin earned All-America honors from Parade, Street & Smith’s and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and also was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-America Game in Atlanta. She averaged 22.3 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game during her storied prep career, averaging double-doubles during both her junior (24.9 ppg., 14.9 rpg.) and senior seasons (21.2 ppg., 10.2 rpg.). She holds career records at St. Paul for points (2,720), rebounds (1,630) and blocks (380), as well as the school single-season scoring mark (869 in 2001-02). She follows Batteast as the second Irish rookie in three years to be chosen the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast is among 30 preseason candidates named to the watch list for 2003-04 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Awards which are presented annually by the Atanta Tip-Off Club. The Naismith Awards program, now in its 36th 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.

The Naismith Award is the latest in a series of preseason honors for the Batteast. She was named a preseason All-American by both the John R. Wooden Women’s Award and Street & Smith’s magazine, and she also was selected to the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy Preseason Watch List. In addition, she was a first-team all-BIG EAST choice, according to a vote of the league’s head coaches.

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 18 that three 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 2004. Charel Allen , a 5-10 guard from Monessen, Pa., Melissa D’Amico, a 6-5 forward/center from Manorville, N.Y., and Tulyah Gaines (pronounced too-LIE-uh) , a 5-8 guard from North Las Vegas, Nev., all committed to the Irish during the early signing period, which lasted from Nov. 12-19.

Allen will arrive at Notre Dame next fall as one of the top college prospects from western Pennsylvania. She is a three-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American who averaged 29.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 7.2 steals and 4.8 assists per game last season at Monessen High School. She also is a two-time Associated Press first-team all-state pick and was named the 2003 AP Class A Player of the Year. In addition, she is a two-time all-Pittsburgh metro area selection and a ’03 AAU 16-and-under All-American. As a freshman in 2001, she was a fifth-team AP all-state choice when she averaged 23.6 points per game. In her first three seasons at MHS, Allen has piled up 2,302 points (26.2 ppg.), 995 rebounds (11.3 rpg.), 600 steals (6.8 spg.), 426 assists (4.8 apg.) and 102 blocks (1.2 bpg.). She was ranked 27th in the nation by Blue Star Index and she will be the fourth Pennsylvania native to play for the Irish (the first in 13 seasons).

At 6-5, D’Amico will be the tallest player on the Irish roster when she sets foot on the Notre Dame campus in the fall of 2004. A versatile post player, she averaged 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game last season for William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, N.Y. (located on Long Island). She burst onto the national scene this past summer at the adidas Top Ten Camp in Suwanee, Ga., and is considered by most recruiting services to be one of the top players on the rise in this year’s class. She currently is ranked 47th in the country by All-Star Girls Report and 91st by Blue Star Index , and she follows in the footsteps of another talented New Yorker who came to Notre Dame, two-time honorable mention All-American and Mount Vernon, N.Y., product, Katryna Gaither (1993-97).

Gaines is a playmaking guard who will give the Irish solid depth in the backcourt. Last summer, she moved to North Las Vegas and is attending Cheyenne High School, where she will play for the Desert Shields this year. Gaines previously lived in Burbank, Calif., where she was a three-year starter at John Burroughs High School. She averaged 18.9 points and 5.1 assists per game last season and was a first-team all-CIF SS (Southern California) Division 2A First Team selection. In addition, she is a two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American and won a bronze medal with the West Team at the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. Gaines averaged 6.0 points per game during the five-game tournament, which featured the top prep players from around the country. She is ranked 25th nationally by All-Game Sports, 52nd by Blue Star Index and 61st by All-Star Girls Report , and she is the second Las Vegas area resident in as many years to sign with Notre Dame; current Irish freshman guard Breona Gray graduated from Bishop Gorman High School last May.

With the addition of Allen, D’Amico and Gaines, Notre Dame has assembled the nation’s 14th-ranked recruiting class according to Blue Star Index. This marks the eighth consecutive year in which the Irish have attracted a Top 20 class, making Notre Dame one of only three schools (along with Connecticut and Tennessee) to have such a consistent run of recruiting success.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw tried her hand at writing during the past year and has co-authored a book with Bradley University professor Paul Gullifor entitled “Courting Success: Muffet McGraw’s Formula For Winning In Sports And In Life.” The book, which currently is in bookstores nationwide and may be purchased through on-line booksellers such as, touches on how, in the shadows of the nation’s most storied football program, McGraw has quietly built the women’s basketball program into a national power.

Women’s basketball has been one of the University’s most consistently successful varsity sport during the past 16 years, qualifying for the postseason 13 times, including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, five NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances and two Final Fours berths. The team’s rise to national prominence was then cemented with a national championship in 2001. In short, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program has been steadily built into a perennial national championship contender, and its architect for those 16 years has been McGraw. Entering the 2003-04 season, the Pottsville, Pa., native has won 363 games at Notre Dame, has a stellar .725 winning percentage and was the consensus 2001 national Coach of the Year.

Personal accolades aside, McGraw has always been more concerned with off-court success than the progress of her teams. Accordingly, this book is a motivational and inspirational book in which she shares her ingredients for success, on and off the court. It provides lessons for those aspiring toward success in basketball, and in life, while illustrating why Muffet McGraw is one of college basketball’s most accomplished coaches.

Media members wishing to obtain a copy of Coach McGraw’s book should contact Notre Dame assistant sports information director Chris Masters at (574) 631-8032.

For the first time since the Christmas holiday, Notre Dame has an extended break in the schedule, going on a six-day hiatus before returning to the hardwood Saturday, Feb. 14 for a 7 p.m. (ET) contest against Providence at the Joyce Center. The Irish and Friars will be meeting for the 12th time in their series, with Notre Dame having won all 11 previous matchups (5-0 at home).

Providence (4-15, 0-8 BIG EAST) has been beset with injuries and defections throughout this season, hampering its progress. The Friars opened the year at 3-5, with four of those losses coming by single digits. However, the last six weeks have been particularly unkind to PC, with the Friars losing 10 of their 11 games, including eight in a row to open BIG EAST play. Providence will visit St. John’s Sunday afternoon and play host to Villanova on Wednesday, Feb. 11 before coming to South Bend.

Here’s where the Irish players and team stand in the most recent NCAA statistics report (through games of Feb. 2) and BIG EAST Conference statistics report (through games of Feb. 2).