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Notre Dame Travels To Pittsburgh To Face Panthers

Feb. 20, 2004

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The Date and Time: Saturday, Feb. 21, 2004, at 2 p.m. ET.
The Site: Petersen Events Center (12,508) in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Tickets: None available – the game is sold out.
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). For the Pittsburgh game, Shawn Lewallen will fill in for Stires behind the microphone. These broadcasts also are available through the Notre Dame athletics web site at
Real-Time Statistics: Live in-game statistics are available for the Pittsburgh game through the Notre Dame ( and Pittsburgh ( athletics web sites.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Pittsburgh (

With the BIG EAST Conference Championship looming in two weeks, Notre Dame will look to solidify its place in the league standings when it travels to Pittsburgh Saturday for a 2 p.m. (ET) matchup at the sold-out Petersen Events Center. The Irish currently are in second place in the BIG EAST, owning a half-game lead over West Virginia and a one-game edge over three other teams (Boston College, Villanova and Miami). The top four teams in the conference will earn first-round byes for the BIG EAST Championship, which tips off March 6 in Hartford, Conn.

  • Notre Dame (16-8, 9-3 BIG EAST) collected its seventh win in the last eight games Tuesday night with a 69-56 win at St. John’s. The Irish trailed by three at halftime, but cranked up the defense in the final 20 minutes, holding the Red Storm to only 20 points and using some timely free throw shooting down the stretch to secure the important road win.
  • Sophomore guard Megan Duffy led all scorers with 17 points against St. John’s, highlighted by a career-best 11-for-13 effort at the free throw line (eight of 10 in the final three minutes). Senior guard Jeneka Joyce also was a key factor, setting new career highs with 15 points and five three-point field goals. In addition, senior guard Le’Tania Severe attained a personal milestone with her first career double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds).
  • Pittsburgh (6-17, 2-11) has struggled this season while getting accustomed to the new system employed by first-year head coach Agnus Berenato. The Panthers have lost nine in a row, including a 97-42 setback at No. 2/1 Connecticut on Tuesday night. Senior forward LaToya Kincaid is Pittsburgh’s statistical leader in most categories, including scoring (14.5 ppg.), rebounding (7.6 rpg.) and field goal percentage (.469).
  • Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Pittsburgh, 13-0, including a 6-0 mark in the Steel City.

Notre Dame has ridden a true roller coaster of emotions this season. Facing the nation’s fifth-toughest schedule, the Irish have been particularly dominant at home, going 11-0 at the Joyce Center, but have had maddening runs of inconsistency on the road, posting a 5-8 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 Naismith Award finalist Jacqueline Batteast (14.5 ppg., 8.2 rpg., .444 field goal percentage, eight 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 (1.21 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. Last weekend vs. Providence, Batteast picked up her eighth double-double of the year with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Since BIG EAST play began, she has been superb, averaging 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game with a .460 field goal percentage and five double-doubles (along with three other near double-doubles). She now has 64 double-figure scoring games and 27 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 (6.7 ppg., 4.6 rpg., .520 FG%) and sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (8.8 ppg., 4.5 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) vs. Georgetown and adding 11 points (4-4 FG) against Providence. She also piled up a season-best 11 rebounds at St. John’s, tying her career high in that category. 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 10 outings, breaking into double digits six times, including a 12-point, six-rebound effort last Saturday vs. Providence.
  • Sophomore Megan Duffy (11.3 ppg., team-high 4.54 apg., .424 3FG%, .822 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 fifth in the BIG EAST in assists and owns a team-best 1.54 assist/turnover ratio (seventh in the BIG EAST). In addition, she is showing offensive diversity, knocking down 39 three-pointers this season. She also has 14 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 13 games, including a career-high nine assists on Dec. 7 at Washington. She was stellar in her last outing at St. John’s, collecting a game-high 17 points while knocking down a personal-best 11 of 13 foul shots, including eight of 10 in the final three minutes.
  • Senior captain Le’Tania Severe (7.5 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 3.0 apg., .474 FG%, .819 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 1.42 steals per game and has been a vital piece of Notre Dame’s transition game. She has scored in double digits eight times this year, including a season-high 15 points against Purdue and Boston College, as well as 12 points against Connecticut. Severe also picked up her first career double-double on Tuesday night at St. John’s, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds while going a perfect eight for eight at the free throw line (six straight in the last 2:37).

It’s been a year of growing pains for Pittsburgh as the Panthers move into a new era under first-year head coach Agnus Berenato. The former longtime Georgia Tech mentor came on the scene in May and has spent the 2003-04 season getting her charges acclimated to a new system that she hopes will vault Pittsburgh back into contention in the BIG EAST Conference.

The learning curve has been a steep one for the Panthers (6-17, 2-11), who have just one starter back from last year’s club that made its first BIG EAST Championship appearance in three seasons. Pittsburgh started off well, posting a 6-8 record through the first two months of the campaign. However, the conference season has take its toll on the youthful Panthers, who are in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. Most recently, they came out on the short end of a 97-42 score at No. 2/1 Connecticut on Tuesday night. Sophomore guard Katie Histed and freshman forward Jennifer Brown each scored a team-high 12 points for Pittsburgh.

Senior forward LaToya Kincaid is the Panthers’ leader in most statistical categories, including scoring (14.5 ppg.), rebounding (7.6 rpg.), field goal percentage (.469) and steals (1.1 spg.). She also has five double-doubles, which is sixth-best in the BIG EAST.

Berenato has 20 seasons of head coaching experience to her credit, having also spent four years at Rider. She has a career record of 289-281 (.507), that includes an 0-1 mark vs. Notre Dame.

Like many of its other current BIG EAST series, Notre Dame did not beginning playing Pittsburgh until the Irish joined the conference for the 1995-96 season. Since that time, the Irish and Panthers have tangled 13 times, with Notre Dame winning each time by an average margin of 16.8 points per game. The Irish also are 6-0 all-time in the Steel City with a winning spread of 18.7 ppg., although Saturday’s game will mark Notre Dame’s first-ever visit to Pittsburgh’s new Petersen Events Center.

Among current Irish players, sophomore forward Courtney LaVere has had the most success against Pittsburgh, averaging 16.0 points in two games with a .636 field goal percentage (14 of 22) vs. the Panthers. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast also has played well against Pittsburgh, averaging a double-double with 13.7 points and 10.0 rebounds in three career matchups with the Panthers. A complete rundown of the statistics active Notre Dame players have compiled against Pittsburgh can be found on page 20 of this notes package.

Courtney LaVere tallied a team-high 18 points to lead four players in double figures as Notre Dame defeated Pittsburgh, 73-65 on March 8, 2003, in the first round of the BIG EAST Conference Championship at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on the campus of Rutgers University. LaVere connected on eight of 10 shots, highlighting a 51-percent shooting night for the Irish.

Alicia Ratay scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds while canning a season-high 10 of 11 free throws. Jacqueline Batteast charted her eighth double-double of the season, and second in as many games with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Katy Flecky rounded out the double-digit scoring effort with 14 points and a career-high four blocked shots.

Mandy Wittenmyer led all scorers with 19 points for Pittsburgh, while Laine Selwyn carded 17 points and Brooke Stewart chipped in with 10 points. The Panthers were making their first BIG EAST Championship appearance in three years, and it was their first-ever postseason matchup against Notre Dame.

The game proved to be a physical battle, with the teams combining for 42 fouls and 56 free throws. Both squads shot well from the foul line, with Pittsburgh connecting at an 81.5-percent rate (22 of 27), while Notre Dame made 75.9 percent (22 of 29) of its charity tosses. The Irish also owned a sizeable advantage in the post, outscoring the Panthers, 44-20 on the blocks and claiming the rebounding battle by a 40-25 count.

The first half was a tightly-played affair, with seven ties and seven lead changes in the opening 20 minutes. Neither side led by more than five points, as Pittsburgh took advantage of 11 Notre Dame turnovers, and the Irish countered by shooting 51.9 percent from the floor in the first half. A Flecky free throw gave Notre Dame the largest lead by either side at 27-22 with 5:47 remaining in the period. A 7-0 Panther run wiped out the Irish lead before Ratay’s putback at the halftime horn gave her team a 35-33 lead.

Pittsburgh took its only lead of the second half when Wittenmyer made one of two free throws with 17:23 to play, forging a 39-38 edge for the Panthers. The lead was surprising considering Pittsburgh logged just one field goal over a 16-minute span crossing between halves (4:20, 1st half to 8:19, 2nd half).

Batteast answered with a layup on the next Notre Dame possession, putting her side ahead to stay with just under 17 minutes remaining. That ignited a 13-4 run that boosted the Irish lead into double figures at 53-43 at the 11:19 mark. A free throw by Megan Duffy gave Notre Dame its largest advantage of the night at 62-48 with 7:17 to play. Pittsburgh made one final charge, going on an 11-3 run to get within six points with five and a half minutes to go, but the Panthers would manage only two baskets the rest of the way as the Irish advanced to the conference quarterfinals.

Alicia Ratay scored 13 of her game-high 21 points in the second half as Notre Dame recorded the 500th win in school history with a 68-56 triumph over BIG EAST Conference foe Pittsburgh on Feb. 5, 2002, at historic Fitzgerald Field House. The Irish become the 50th team in NCAA history and the fourth BIG EAST school to reach that milestone.

Jacqueline Batteast notched the 10th double-double of her freshman season (and third in as many games) with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Irish. Teresa Borton also picked up a double-double, the second of her career, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Laine Selwyn had a double-double for Pittsburgh with 16 points and 10 rebounds. No other player scored in double figures for the Panthers, who shot just 33.3 percent from the field and came out on the short end of a 50-32 rebounding margin.

Notre Dame never trailed in the game, although it never led by more than six points in the first seven minutes of play. Pittsburgh pulled even twice in the early going, the last on a layup by Allisha Morris that forged a 19-19 draw.

The Irish offense then erupted, firing off a 21-6 run that featured eight points from Ratay and seven from Batteast. A pair of free throws by Ratay gave Notre Dame its largest lead of the night at 40-25 with 3:49 remaining in the first half. However, the visitors would then go scoreless the rest of the period, while the Panthers sliced the deficit to 40-31 at halftime. Still, the Irish shot a solid 48.5 percent in the opening 20 minutes to take the lead at the break.

As hot as Notre Dame was from the field in the first half, it went cold in the second stanza, misfiring on 11 of its first 14 shots. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh (6-15, 1-9) continued to doggedly stick with the Irish and eventually pulled within 50-46 when Bettina Love converted a fast break layup 8:04 to play. Yet, that would be as close as the Panthers would get in the contest.

Following a quick 30-second timeout, Notre Dame went to work, going on a 15-4 run to finally put an end to Pittsburgh’s comeback hopes. Ratay tallied nine points in the spurt that opened up a 65-50 lead and sealed the sixth victory in as many tries for the Irish at Pittsburgh.


  • Notre Dame is 13-0 all-time against Pittsburgh, one of three BIG EAST Conference opponents the Irish have never lost to. The others are Providence (12-0) and St. John’s (14-0).
  • Nine of the 13 games in the series have been decided by double-digit margins in favor of Notre Dame. However, both of last year’s games between the Irish and Panthers were single-digit verdicts.
  • In the history of the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh series, the Irish have never scored less than 65 points in any game against the Panthers. Conversely, UP has hit the 65-point mark four times in 13 games, including both games last year (77-69 at the Joyce Center and 73-65 in the BIG EAST Championship).
  • Notre Dame has the best record of any visiting team in Pittsburgh’s history, going 6-0 all-time on the Panthers’ home floor. Two other schools are undefeated at Pittsburgh with at least three visits to their credit – Cheyney State (4-0) and Maryland (3-0).


  • The relationship between the two head coaches – Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and Pittsburgh’s Agnus Berenato – dates back more than 20 years to their formative days in the coaching ranks. The pair matched wits on several occasions during the early 1980s in the old East Coast Conference when McGraw was the head coach at Lehigh and Berenato held a similar post at Rider. The duo renewed acquaintances on Nov. 30, 1997, when McGraw’s ninth-ranked Irish defeated Berenato’s Georgia Tech squad, 76-69 in Atlanta to win the Comfort Inn Downtown Classic, en route to Notre Dame’s first NCAA Final Four appearance.
  • There are three Ohio residents slated to be active for Saturday’s contest. Notre Dame sophomore guard Megan Duffy (Dayton/Chaminade-Julienne HS) joins Pittsburgh freshmen Brooke Hughes (Wheelersburg/South Webster HS) and Danielle Taylor (Cleveland/Villa Angela-St. Joseph HS) as natives of the Buckeye State.
  • Notre Dame will add a Pittsburgh-area product to its roster next year when high-scoring Monessen High School standout Charel Allen joins the Irish. She will be the fourth Pennsylvanian to play for Notre Dame (and the first in 13 seasons).
  • Tony Rolinski, Notre Dame’s assistant coordinator for strength and conditioning, is a Pittsburgh native and worked in the Pittsburgh strength and conditioning department from 1994-96 while attaining his master’s degree in exercise physiology from the school. He then was the head strength coach at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh before serving as the head strength and conditioning coach at Duquesne in 1997-98.
  • Eighth-year Irish women’s lacrosse coach Tracy Coyne also is a Steel City native and a 1978 graduate of Cenevin High School (which produced Notre Dame All-America QB Tom Clements, the statrter on the 1973 Irish national championship team and the newly-named offensive coordinator for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills). In addition, Coyne worked in the Pittsburgh athletic department in 1985 as an administrative assistant to the senior woman administrator.

Notre Dame is 121-27 (.818) 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 77 of their last 94 regular-season conference games (.819), 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 133-35 (.792) against league opponents – when factoring in these 20 postseason tilts, the Irish are 67-7 (.905) at home, 54-23 (.701) 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 three of their 13 BIG EAST Conference opponents. Their longest active conference winning streak is 14 games against St. John’s, followed by a 13-game run vs. Pittsburgh and a 12-game success string against Providence. The longest current Irish winning streak vs. any opponent is 17 games against Valparaiso.

Coming into the 2003-04 season, Notre Dame had a perfect all-time record against six of the opponents on its schedule (Valparaiso, Washington, West Virginia, Providence, St. John’s and Pittsburgh). Pittsburgh represents the sixth and final foe in that list, with the Irish holding a 13-0 series record against the Panthers. In fact, Pittsburgh is one of four foes the Irish have defeated at least 10 times without a loss – the others are Providence (12-0), St. John’s (14-0) and Valparaiso (17-0).

The Irish have played four times on Feb. 21 in their history, going 3-1 on this date, with a 1-1 record in the Muffet McGraw era. In an interesting twist, all four previous Irish games on Feb. 21 have come on the road, as will be the case with Saturday’s contest at Pittsburgh. The last time Notre Dame played on this day was in 1998, when the Irish were dealt their only loss on Feb. 21, a 73-61 setback at second-ranked Connecticut.


  • Notre Dame will maintain its perfect series record against Pittsburgh (14-0), matching his mark against St. John’s for the longest active unblemished streak against a BIG EAST opponent.
  • The Irish will move to 7-0 all-time at Pittsburgh, preserving the best record of any visiting team in Panthers’ history.
  • Notre Dame will card its 14th win in the last 18 games since opening the year at 3-4.
  • The Irish will improve to 122-27 (.819) 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 380-146 (.722) in 17 seasons under the Golden Dome. She also will watch her career ledger improve to 468-187 (.715) in 22 years at the college level.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 544-245 (.689) in 27 seasons of varsity competition.

Behind solid three-point shooting from a cagey veteran and some timely free throw shooting down the stretch, Notre Dame picked up an important BIG EAST Conference road win, toppling St. John’s, 69-56 on Tuesday night at Alumni Hall in Jamaica, N.Y. The victory, coupled with West Virginia’s loss at Villanova later in the evening, lifted the Irish back into second place in the conference standings, one-half game clear of the Mountaineers.

Sophomore guard Megan Duffy led all scorers with 17 points, connecting on a career-high 11 of 13 free throws, while senior guard Jeneka Joyce turned in her second consecutive career performance, rolling up new personal bests with 15 points and five three-point field goals (on 10 attempts). Senior guard Le’Tania Severe also established a career milestone, notching her first-ever double-double with 10 points and a career-high tying 10 rebounds. In addition, junior center Teresa Borton made a solid contribution on the glass, matching her career best with a game-high 11 rebounds.

Notre Dame (16-8, 9-3 BIG EAST) earned its seventh win in the last eight games the hard way, fighting off a stiff challenge from a rapidly-improving St. John’s club. The Irish found themselves behind almost right from the opening tip, as Shemika Stevens converted a three-point play only four seconds into the game. The hosts opened up a four-point lead in the early stages before Notre Dame took its first lead at 7-6 on a triple by Joyce at the 16:29 mark. That signalled the beginning of a back-and-forth struggle that would last well into the second half. In fact, the team combined for 10 lead changes in the first half alone.

St. John’s (9-14, 3-9) had the largest lead of the period for either side, going on an 11-4 run that included a pair of threes by Kim MacMillan, and taking a 34-28 advantage with 2:40 to go. Notre Dame rallied to within a point, but Danielle Chambers sank a layup with 11 seconds remaining to give the Red Storm a 36-33 lead at halftime. SJU shot a blistering 53.6 percent (15 of 28) in the opening 20 minutes.

The see-saw affair continued into the second half with two more ties and three more lead changes in the first 11 and a half minutes. The Irish grabbed a three-point lead, matching their largest at the time, at 45-42 when sophomore forward Courtney LaVere hit a spinning layup in the paint with 9:08 left. However, that was quickly erased when MacMillan canned her third three-pointer of the night just 36 seconds later to knot the score at 45-45. At it turned out that would be the final tie of the ball game.

Duffy gave Notre Dame the lead for good with an old-fashioned three-point play at the 7:43 mark. That ignited a 10-2 Irish run that swung the momentum over to the visitors’ side. Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast, who had been held largely in check to that point, came up big in the game-changing run, grabbing a pair of missed layups and converting on her third opportunity with six minutes left. That boardwork also helped propel Batteast into 10th place on the school’s career rebounding list with 669 caroms, passing Alicia Ratay (665 from 1999-2003).

Joyce then followed with a crucial three-pointer, finding the bottom of the net for the fifth time as the shot clock expired with 4:40 remaining. Batteast tacked on a foul line jumper on her team’s next possession and Notre Dame was in control.

St. John’s made one final charge, getting within six points twice, the second coming when MacMillan hit a trey with 2:23 left to pull her side within 58-52. However, the Irish kept the Red Storm at bay down the stretch, connecting on 14 of 16 free throws in the final three minutes – Duffy was eight for 10 and Severe made all six of her foul shots. As a team, Notre Dame wound up connecting at an 84.6 percent clip (22 of 26) from the free throw line in the victory.

With its win at St. John’s on Tuesday night, Notre Dame clinched a winning record for the 2002-03 season, marking the 23rd time in the 27-year history of the program (and the 12th consecutive season) that the Irish have finished above .500. The success has been even more impressive under current head coach Muffet McGraw – Notre Dame has had just one losing season during her 17-year tenure (14-17 in 1991-92), and still advanced to the NCAA Tournament that season after winning the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has been chosen as one of 20 finalists for the 2004 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award, it was announced Tuesday afternoon by Jackie Bradford, President of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. With Tuesday’s selection, Batteast remains poised to become the second Irish player in four years to win college basketball’s most coveted award, following in the footsteps of All-America center Ruth Riley, who claimed the honor in 2001.

Batteast is averaging 14.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game with eight double-doubles this season, while leading Notre Dame to a 16-8 record and a second-place standing in the BIG EAST Conference with a 9-3 mark. The talented Irish wing has been at her best against top competition this year, averaging 14.9 points and 8.6 rebounds with three double-doubles and three near double-doubles against nine ranked opponents. Batteast’s best effort against a Top 25 team came on Jan. 13 when she piled up 23 points and 11 rebounds to help Notre Dame knock off No. 4 Connecticut, 66-51 at the Joyce Center.

Batteast currently ranks among the Top 12 in the BIG EAST in scoring (12th), rebounding (fourth), field goal percentage (ninth), blocked shots (seventh) and double-doubles (third). She also was a preseason all-BIG EAST First Team selection and was named to the WBCA Classic All-Tournament Team on Nov. 15 after averaging 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds with a .529 field goal percentage against nationally-ranked Auburn and Colorado.

For her career, Batteast ranks 16th in school history in scoring (1,149 points), sixth in scoring average (14.0 ppg.), 10th in rebounding (669) and second in rebounding average (8.2 rpg.). She also owns an active streak of 56 consecutive games started, dating back to the beginning of last year, and she has started 78 of a possible 82 games in her college career.

The Naismith Award winner will be honored in Atlanta on April 9. The Naismith Awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and is in its 36th year of recognizing top college basketball players in the United States.

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 nine of 11 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 48.7 points per game and holding opponents to a .337 field goal percentage (.218 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.

Notre Dame has stepped up its play thanks in large measure to the added pressure applied by its defense. Through the first two months of the BIG EAST season, the Irish rank among the top three in the conference in several major defensive categories, including scoring defense (1st – 51.0 ppg.), scoring margin (2nd – +8.8 ppg.), field goal percentage defense (1st – .345), three-point field goal percentage defense (1st – .223), rebounding (2nd – 38.6 rpg.), rebounding margin (2nd – +6.2 rpg.) and blocked shots (3rd – 4.25 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 last eight games, Notre Dame has given up an average of just 47.6 ppg. In fact, the 381 points allowed by the Irish in that stretch represents the best seven-game defensive run in school history. The previous record was 393 points (49.1 ppg.) from Jan. 21-Feb. 10, 1982, in wins over Valparaiso, Michigan, Ball State, Marquette, Mount St. Joseph, Taylor and Cincinnati, as well as a loss to Miami (Ohio).
  • Notre Dame set a new school record by limiting seven consecutive opponents to 52 points or less from Jan. 21-Feb. 14. The old record stood from Dec. 13, 1997 to Jan. 8, 1998, when 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 24 halves of BIG EAST action (12 games), Irish opponents have scored 30-or-more points just five times, with Georgetown accounting for two of those in the BIG EAST opener back on Jan. 7.
  • Notre Dame has limited nine of its last 11 opponents to field goal percentages of less than .400, going 7-2 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 12-3 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).

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 Sagarin/Collegiate Basketball News ratings have tabbed Notre Dame’s schedule as the fifth-toughest in the nation, while ranked the Irish docket sixth in the country, the Massey ratings have pegged the ND schedule as the seventh-hardest in the land, and the WBCA/Summerville RPI ratings have the Irish ledger as the 10th-hardest in the land (as of Feb. 20).

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. Through 12 games, 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 three (Tamara James of Miami, Ashley Bush of Seton Hall and Kim MacMillan of St. John’s) have reached their season shooting percentages.

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.

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 5-8 away from the Joyce Center (4-8 in true road games). That’s a far cry from the success the Irish have experienced at home, where they are a perfect 11-0 and own an active 16-game winning streak.

Junior forward Jacqueline Batteast has taken her game to another level against BIG EAST Conference opponents this year. In 12 conference games this year, Batteast is carding 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game with five double-doubles. She currently is second in the conference in rebounding and eighth in scoring during league play. In addition, she has the fourth-best field goal percentage in the BIG EAST during league play (.460) 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).

Some of Notre Dame’s success this season can be traced to the contribution provided by the Irish bench. Notre Dame’s reserves are averaging 19.4 points per game (466 total) this season, compared to 14.2 ppg. (341) by the opposition, an average margin of 5.2 points per game.

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 scored 246 points (20.5 ppg.) in 12 conference games this year, compared to its opponent’s reserves who have logged 123 points (10.3 ppg.) over that same time, good for a +10.2 ppg. scoring margin.

In addition, the Notre Dame second unit has rung up at least 30 points on four occasions this season, three during conference play (season-high 46 points vs. Dayton, 38 points vs. Providence, 35 points at Syracuse and 33 points at Miami).

Senior guard Le’Tania Severe and junior forward Jacqueline Batteast have the longest active streaks of consecutive games started among Irish players. Severe has earned 67 consecutive starting assignments, a streak which began on Notre Dame’s last visit to Pittsburgh (Feb. 5, 2002). Meanwhile, Batteast has been in the starting lineup for 56 straight games, beginning with the first game of the 2002-03 campaign (Nov. 26, 2002 vs. Cleveland State). The South Bend native actually started the first 22 games of her Irish career before suffering a knee injury that relegated her to a supporting role for the remainder of the 2001-02 season. The school record for consecutive games started is 95, which Katryna Gaither established from 1994-97.

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.

Notre Dame has pulled off a rare feat this season, becoming just the fourth school since the inception of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in 1982 to have both its men’s and women’s basketball teams defeat the defending national champions in the same season. The Irish women did their part by ousting Connecticut (66-51) on Jan. 13, while the Notre Dame men completed the double with an 84-72 win at Syracuse on Feb. 16.

The only other schools who can lay claim to this accomplishment are Duke (1998-99), Tennessee (1999-2000) and Michigan State (1999-2000), with Notre Dame and Michigan State being the only institutions to turn the trick in the regular season (Duke’s women beat Tennessee in the ’99 NCAAs, while Tennessee’s men downed Connecticut in the ’00 NCAAs).

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).

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 year, 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 11.3 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 .424 percentage (39-92) from the three-point line and would be second in the BIG EAST if she had made enough treys to qualify (min. 2.0 per game). She’s also has more than 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 14 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 fifth in the BIG EAST with 4.54 assists per game, more than doubling last year’s output. She also has just 71 turnovers, giving her a healthy 1.54 assist/turnover ratio (seventh in the BIG EAST). She has dished out at least five assists 13 times this year, including a career-high nine dimes on Dec. 7 at Washington.

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 (1,149), needing 46 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 .368 three-point percentage, hitting 93 of 253 shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Megan Duffy has been a major contributor from beyond the arc, connecting at a .424 clip (39-92), which also would rank second in 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 14th in the BIG EAST with 1.62 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 31 of 71 treys for a team-high .437 three-point percentage, but she also has not yet made enough field goals to qualify for the rankings. Still, she is 13th in the BIG EAST with 1.63 triples per game (ninth with 1.78 three-pointers per night in conference play).

The veteran sharpshooter has been at her best in Notre Dame’s last two outings vs. Providence and St. John’s. Against the Friars, she tied her (then) career high with 14 points and four treys, scoring all of her points in the final 6:25 of the first half. Three days later against the Red Storm, Joyce outdid herself, ringing up a career-best 15 points while making a career-high five three-point field goals (on 10 tries), including the last with the shot clock expiring and 4:40 remaining to help seal an Irish victory. Overall, Joyce is averaging 14.5 ppg. with a .500 three-point percentage (9 of 18) in her last two games.

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.

Notre Dame is receiving 23 votes in the latest Associated Press poll after spending four weeks in the Top 25 earlier this season. 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 17 votes in the current ESPN/USA Today coaches poll 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 were ranked in both major polls this week (No. 2/1 Connecticut, No. 3/3 Tennessee, No. 5/5 Purdue, No. 13/13 Colorado, No. 14/16 Auburn, No. 20/20 Michigan State, No. 22/21 Miami and No. 23/23 Boston College). In addition, Virginia Tech is ranked 25th in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Also, four Irish opponents – Marquette, USC, Villanova and West Virginia – were receiving votes in one or both of the polls this week.

Over the last four seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 72-6 (.923) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including a 10-2 mark this year. The two rare losses this season came on Nov. 15 at Colorado (led 37-33 at half; lost 67-63 in overtime) and at Seton Hall (led 23-17; lost 51-45).

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 126-5 (.962) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame has added 12 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), Georgetown (66-52), Providence (81-51) and St. John’s (69-56).

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 87-3 (.967) 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 tacked on two more wins to that tally this year with victories over Wisconsin (82-64) and Providence (81-51).

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 197 games over the last eight seasons (24.6 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.

In January, Notre Dame unveiled 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 109 of their last 118 games (.924) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a current 16-game winning streak. Notre Dame also has a 67-7 (.905) 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 259-70 (.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 6,702 fans for their 11 home games, including a season-high 8,760 fans on Feb. 14 vs. Providence, 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. 16), Notre Dame ranks 11th 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 11 times this year, 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) – some early schedules initially had this game listed one hour earlier.

Two other Irish road games (at West Virginia and Syracuse) were broadcast locally in those markets.

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).

Full-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.

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.

The Irish are back at home Wednesday for an 8 p.m. (ET) matchup with No. 22/21 Miami at the Joyce Center – the game will be broadcast nationally on College Sports Television (CSTV). Back on Jan. 28, Notre Dame handed the Hurricanes just their second loss of the year (and first at home) with a 59-50 victory in Coral Gables. The Irish lead the all-time series with UM, 13-3, including a 5-2 mark at home, although the ‘Canes came away with an 80-70 victory in their last visit to South Bend on Jan. 11, 2003.

Miami (19-4, 8-4) and Notre Dame are part of a logjam near the top of the BIG EAST Conference standings, where five teams are separated by just one game entering this weekend’s action. The Hurricanes have won three in a row with Seton Hall coming to town on Saturday.