Dec. 6, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
The eyes of the women’s basketball world will be on Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday night as the 57th Associated Press No. 1 vs. No. 2 game takes place, pitting Notre Dame (No. 1 coaches and No. 2 AP) against four-time defending national champion UConn (No. 1 AP and No. 2 coaches).
It is the ninth game played for Notre Dame (8-0) this year and the seventh to come against an undefeated foe as the Huskies stand at 7-0 on the year. The Irish have won their first six matchups of undefeateds. Here are a few more notes about the likely sold out contest.
Notre Dame-UConn History
UConn leads the series, 34-11, but that ratio belies the recent success enjoyed by the Irish. Notre Dame is 7-6 over the last 13 meetings between the sides, including wins in two of UConn’s last three visits to Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Since 2010, Notre Dame has more wins over UConn than every other school in the nation combined. The Irish have beaten UConn seven times since the 2011 Final Four alone. UConn has lost only five other games since the decade changed, two to Stanford, two to Baylor and one to St. John’s.
The 11 wins by Notre Dame over UConn are by far the most by any opponent whose series with the Huskies began after UConn’s first national championship (1995).
Many of the matchups have had championship ramifications as there has been no shortage of postseason tilts between the sides. The teams met 11 times in BIG EAST Tournament play, most recently in the 2013 BIG EAST championship game where the Irish claimed a 61-59 win.
The teams have met six times in the Final Four with Notre Dame claiming wins in the 2001, 2011 and 2012 semifinals. UConn beat the Irish in the 2013 semifinals and 2014 and 2015 national championship games.
The last meeting saw UConn take a 91-81 decision on Dec. 5, 2015, at Gampel Pavilion. Despite losing, the 10 points matched the smallest margin of victory all season for the Huskies. More remarkably, the 81 points were the most UConn has yielded in a non-overtime home game since Tennessee beat the Huskies, 92-81, on Jan. 10, 1999.
The head coaches are, of course, well acquainted. Both served as assistant coaches at St. Joseph’s under Jim Foster with Muffet McGraw replacing Geno Auriemma when he left Hawk Hill for an assistant coaching job at Virginia in 1980. McGraw’s 11 wins in their matchups ties Villanova’s Harry Perretta for the most wins against Auriemma.
Home Sweet Home
One dependable advantage the Irish will have in their favor on Wednesday is a typically large crowd at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame has won each of its last 35 contests on its home floor and 69 of its last 70 contests at home wrapped around a 2014 loss to UConn.
The 35-game home winning streak is the third-longest active run in the nation, trailing only UConn (54) and Baylor (46). It is the second-longest in school history behind a 51-game run from Dec. 12, 1998-Feb. 19, 2002.
Should a sell out crowd materialize for the UConn game, it would be the 49th sellout in school history with 43 of them coming since 2009-10.
Facing No. 1
Notre Dame will be facing the No. 1 team in the AP poll for the 28th time on Wednesday night. The Irish are 4-23 in the previous contests with all four wins coming over top-ranked UConn teams.
The most recent matchup against No. 1 was last year’s 91-81 loss to the Huskies in Storrs.
The most recent win over No. 1 was a 73-72 victory against UConn on Jan. 5, 2013 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.
In addition to a 4-15 mark against UConn when the Huskies are No. 1, the Irish have also faced top-ranked teams from Baylor (0-2), Louisiana Tech (0-1), Tennessee (0-4) and Texas (0-1) all-time.
This will be the sixth No. 1 vs. No. 2 game in school history. The Irish are 1-3 when ranked No. 2 in these games and 0-1 when ranked No. 1. The win was monumental though, coming over the Huskies in the 2001 NCAA semifinals en route to a national championship.
Another Matchup of Undefeateds
As a curious function of opening the season with the 16-team bracketed Preseason WNIT, along with winning each contest itself, each of Notre Dame’s first six games this year saw a matchup of undefeated teams.
UConn is the seventh undefeated team the Irish have faced in nine games this season.
Notre Dame, still undefeated itself, opened 2016-17 by facing six similarly undefeated schools in Central Michigan (0-0), Fordham (1-0), Green Bay (2-0), Washington (3-0), Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0) and TCU (4-0), defeating each of them.
The Nov. 30 game at then-5-2 Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was the first for the Irish this season against a team which had previously lost a game.
Checking the NCAA Leaders
The season is young, but several of Notre Dame’s top players have ascended to spots among the best in the country already in 2016-17. NCAA leaders below are from the Monday, Dec. 5 update
Some team categories where the Irish collectively excel and rank in the top 10 include rebound margin (fifth at +14.6), scoring margin (fifth at +31.8), assists per game (sixth at 20.0), field goal percentage (seventh at 49.6%), assists (seventh at 160), scoring offense (eighth at 85.8), 3-point shooting (eighth at 42.3%) and assist to turnover ratio (ninth at 1.44).
Two-time Nancy Lieberman Award finalist Lindsay Allen has made a quick claim to her status as the country’s top point guard, not only in how she keeps the Irish under control, but also for her passing ability. Allen is third nationally with 60 assists and fifth with 7.5 assists per game. Allen is also sixth with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.29. She leads the ACC in all three categories.
Allen is also 29th nationally in steals (34) and 39th in steals per game (2.88).
Arike Ogunbowale has already claimed an espnW National Player of the Week honor and an ACC Player of the Week accolade. Her 3-point shooting, instrumental to each award, ranks as the country’s best. Ogunbowale entered the Valparaiso game tied for first nationally with a 60.9% shooting percentage from downtown. Unfortunately, she has no longer taken the minimum number of shots to qualify.
Brianna Turner has shot the ball well this year and stands 38th nationally with her field goal percentage of 57.0%.
How to Watch/Listen
The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with the network’s top women’s basketball announcing crew of Dave O’Brien, Doris Burke and Holly Rowe calling the action. The game is available online at WatchESPN.com (formerly branded as ESPN3) or through the WatchESPN app. Streams are free to all ESPN subscribers.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN app, the direct link to the webcast of Wednesday’s game is available here.
Bob Nagle is in his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.