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Women's Basketball Collides With No. 1 Connecticut

Feb. 20, 2003

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-8, 7-5) vs. (#1 AP/#1 ESPN/USA Today) Connecticut Huskies (25-0, 11-0)

The Date and Time: Sunday, Feb. 23, 2003, at 2 p.m. EST.

The Site: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion (10,167) in Storrs, Conn.

The TV Plans: College Sports Television national broadcast with Jack Edwards (play-by-play), Vera Jones (analysis) and Lisa Edwards (producer). WNDU-TV (Channel 16) in South Bend will carry the CSTV broadcast on a tape-delayed basis at 4 p.m. (EST). Connecticut Public Television also will televise the game on a regional basis, with Bob Picozzi (play-by-play) and Meghan Pattyson (analysis) calling the action.

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

Websites: Notre Dame (, Connecticut (

For the second time in just over a month, Notre Dame will get a chance to do what no team has been able to accomplish in nearly two years, beat Connecticut. The Irish and Huskies will tangle Sunday at 2 p.m. (EST) at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., in a game that will be televised nationwide on College Sports Television in the debut broadcast for the network. UConn comes into Sunday’s game as the No. 1 team in the nation and owns an NCAA-record 64-game winning streak. Notre Dame remains the last team to defeat the Huskies, posting a 90-75 win at the 2001 NCAA Final Four in St. Louis.

The Irish have had a week off since they posted their fourth win in the last five games on Feb. 16, a 67-61 victory at Providence. Senior guard Alicia Ratay stretched the nets to the tune of a season-high 30 points, including 7-of-9 three-point field goals. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast added 15 points and six rebounds for Notre Dame, which rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit and led by as many as 21 points in the second half.

Connecticut (25-0, 12-0 BIG EAST) kept its record winning streak intact Wednesday night with an 81-60 victory at Miami. Junior guard Diana Taurasi rolled up 19 points and nine rebounds, while junior guard Maria Conlon contributed 15 points for the Huskies. UConn actually trailed by eight points in the first half, matching its largest deficit during the winning streak, before pulling away to down the Hurricanes.

Taurasi leads the Huskies in virtually every statistical category, including scoring (16.7 ppg.), rebounding (6.3 rpg.) and assists (4.8 apg.). She is one of four UConn players currently scoring in double figures this season.

Head coach Geno Auriemma is in his 18th season at Connecticut, sporting a gaudy 489-98 (.833) career record. He is 14-2 all-time against Notre Dame, including an 8-0 mark at home.

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

McGraw now is in her 16th season at Notre Dame with a 357-135 (.726) record (445-176, .717 in 21 years overall) that includes 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament bids, four trips to the Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 national championship. Along the way, she has groomed seven All-Americans, 17 all-conference selections (including 10 first-team picks), seven players who have gone on to play professional basketball in the United States, and three USA Basketball National Team players (who have won a total of six medals). In addition, 15 of her former players and/or assistants currently are coaching at the high school or college level, including five collegiate head coaches. She also has been a master recruiter, attracting seven consecutive top 20 classes, including this year’s freshman class, which was ranked eighth in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. McGraw coached the 600th game of her career on Nov. 29, a 69-57 win at USC, and she earned her 350th victory at Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve at Marquette, joining Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to win 350 games at Notre Dame.

Two of Notre Dame’s three returning starters received numerous preseason accolades. Senior guard Alicia Ratay (11.7 ppg., 4.3 rpg., .493 3FG%, .873 FT%) is a two-time Associated Press All-American and she is a preseason first-team all-BIG EAST Conference selection this year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native has seen her name sprinkled liberally througout the Notre Dame record book, including marks for scoring (4th, 1,643 points), three-point field goal percentage (1st, .481) and free throw percentage (1st, .873). In the latter two categories, Ratay’s shooting numbers would be good enough to place her among the top 10 in NCAA history, and her three-point ratio would be the best in NCAA annals. She has led the Irish in scoring seven times this year, including a season-high 30-point effort (including a career-high seven three-pointers) on Feb. 16 at Providence. Ratay also tallied the 1,500th point of her career Jan. 8 at WVU, becoming the sixth player in school history to reach that milestone.

In addition, Ratay joined sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast (team-high 15.7 ppg., team-high 7.6 rpg., 2.4 apg., 1.7 bpg., 2.3 spg, six double-doubles) on the list of 30 candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding player. Batteast is the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year after turning in one of the finest rookie seasons in school history. Like Ratay, she also was a preseason first-team all-conference choice this year. Batteast has scored in double figures in 21 games this season, including five 20-point efforts. She also nearly posted a triple-double in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Cleveland State, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. She did notch her first double-double of the season with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds at USC. Batteast also contributed a season-best 24 points (10-15 FG) at Arizona State and added her second double-double (18 points, game-high 10 rebounds) vs. Colorado State. She tacked on her third double-double at Marquette, posting a game-high 23 points (career-best 11-17 FG) and 11 rebounds, and notched her fourth double-dip vs. Miami (12 points, 11 rebounds). Batteast tallied her fifth double-double at St. John’s with 24 points and 11 rebounds. She then compiled her sixth double-double at Boston College with 17 points and a season-best 13 rebounds. Batteast also posted 20-point outings in back-to-back games earlier this month, scoring 21 vs. West Virginia and 20 vs. Georgetown, both game highs.

Joining Ratay in the Irish backcourt is junior guard Le’Tania Severe (8.3 ppg., 3.8 rpg., team-high 3.6 apg., 2.1 spg., .472 FG%, .825 FT%), who quickly has developed into one of the top point guards in the BIG EAST. Last season, the speedy Severe capably filled the large shoes left by the graduation of All-American Niele Ivey, setting career highs in virtually every statistical category. Severe has evolved into a scoring threat for the Irish this year, scoring in double figures in 10 games after cracking double digits only seven times in her first two years at Notre Dame. She canned all three of her three-point attempts vs. Cleveland State and scored 15 points at Valparaiso, knocking down a career-best 11-14 FT. Severe chalked up 20 points (5-5 FG, 10-11 FT) and a season-high six assists at Marquette, before adding 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists vs. Purdue. However, her best all-around performance may have come at West Virginia, when she tallied a career-high 21 points (6-9 FG, 8-9 FT) along with six rebounds, five assists and five steals. She also added a season-high seven rebounds in the rematch with WVU on Feb. 1, and had a career-high eight steals vs. Georgetown, the highest single-game total by an Irish player since 1991.

Severe is backstopped by freshman Megan Duffy (2.3 ppg., 2.5 apg.), a crafty lefthander with a commanding floor presence and a smooth outside jumper. Duffy dished out a game-high seven assists at Arizona State, the most by an Irish rookie since Ratay’s seven handouts against Butler on Dec. 1, 1999. She also scored a season-high six points at Marquette, hitting the first two three-pointers of her career. Duffy added a game-high six assists at St. John’s and had a team-high five assists vs. Connecticut. She has started five games for the Irish, playing a career-high 37 minutes at Boston College and hitting four clutch free throws in the final 24 seconds to ice the win over West Virginia.

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

Sophomore center Teresa Borton (8.1 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 1.3 bpg., team-high .596 FG%) and sophomore forward Katy Flecky (7.5 ppg., 4.6 rpg.) have teamed up with Batteast to produce a formidable front line for Notre Dame this season. The 6-3 Borton turned in a solid performance in Notre Dame’s season opener, hitting her first six shots and finishing with 18 points. She also set new career highs with 11 rebounds and four assists vs. IPFW, and later added 14 points and four blocked shots against Tennessee. She then piled up a team-high 13 points vs. Miami and tossed in a season-best 19 points (8-11 FG) at St. John’s. On Feb. 1 vs. West Virginia, Borton knocked down all seven of her shots, tying her own mark for the second-best shooting performance in Joyce Center history. She then carded 11 points and a career-high five blocks vs. Georgetown, followed by a 12-point night (6-6 FT) vs. St. John’s. Borton also has been solid in BIG EAST games, posting a sparkling .618 field goal percentage (42-68). At the same time, Flecky is widely considered to be the most improved player on the Notre Dame roster, after logging 10 points per game during her team’s tour of Europe last May. She displayed her improvement in the season opener, tallying a career-high 22 points and game-best eight rebounds vs. Cleveland State. Her seven double-figure games this season already have topped her total (three) from all of last year. Flecky saw limited action during the month of January due to a lingering back injury, but appears to have recovered nicely of late. She recorded her first double-double of the year (and second of her career) vs. Georgetown with 12 points and a career-best 12 rebounds, then added 11 points and five rebounds at Virginia Tech. She returned to the starting lineup vs. St. John’s, rolling up career bests of five assists and four steals.

Freshman forward Courtney LaVere (12.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg., .495 FG%, five double-doubles) also is seeing significant playing time on the blocks for the Irish this season. LaVere was a consensus prep All-American as a senior at Buena High School in Ventura, Calif., averaging 26.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, all while shooting 57 percent from the field. The potential the 6-3 LaVere brings to the table was noticed by one national media outlet prior to the season, as the website Women’s College named the Irish rookie one of its “Top 21 Freshmen of Impact.” LaVere wasted little time in living up to that billing, coming off the bench to card 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists vs. Cleveland State. It was the highest scoring output by a Notre Dame freshman in her debut since Ratay’s 18-point night vs. Toledo in 1999.

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

Connecticut holds a 14-2 series lead over Notre Dame, although the series has been much tighter of late with the Huskies winning three of the last five. The series was decidedly one-sided prior to the 2000-01 season when the Irish won two of three meetings with their BIG EAST Conference rivals, including a 90-75 win in the 2001 NCAA Final Four. UConn also owns an 8-0 edge at home, including an 80-53 victory over the Irish in last season’s only meeting at the Hartford Civic Center.

This will be the second matchup this season between Notre Dame and Connecticut. Back on Jan. 20, the Huskies picked up a 72-53 win over the Irish at the Joyce Center. In that game, Notre Dame led by a point midway through the first half, but UConn closed the period on a 32-12 run to seize control. The Irish did play the Huskies evenly in the second half, but could not dent the Connecticut advantage. Freshman forward Barbara Turner had a career-high 25 points and freshman guard Ann Strother added 15 points for the Huskies, who shot an Irish opponent season-high 49.1 percent from the floor. Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast pitched in 16 points and freshman forward Courtney LaVere contributed 12 points for Notre Dame.

The last time they met at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, the Irish and Huskies played perhaps the most thrilling game in BIG EAST Conference history, as No. 2 Connecticut pulled out a last-second 78-76 win over top-ranked Notre Dame in the finals of the BIG EAST Championship on March 6, 2001. Irish All-American center Ruth Riley had 23 points to lead four Notre Dame players in double figures, and it was her free throws that tied the game at 76-76. However, Connecticut guard Sue Bird responded by driving the length of the floor and hitting a jumper over Riley as time expired to give the Huskies the win. Bird had 15 points to pace five UConn players in double figures. The game was labelled an “Instant Classic” by ESPN Classic, the first women’s basketball game to earn that designation, and it was (at the time) the most-watched women’s basketball game in ESPN2 history (730,914 households, 0.96 rating).

Despite losing four All-American starters from last year’s 39-0 national championship team, Connecticut has not skipped a beat this season, winning its first 25 games and breaking a 21-year-old NCAA record for consecutive victories (64 and counting). The Huskies are the only undefeated team in the nation still standing as the regular season reaches its climax, and they come into Sunday’s game ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press poll and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.

Connecticut posted its 64th consecutive win Wednesday night with an 81-60 victory at Miami. The Huskies actually trailed by eight points (23-15) midway through the first half, matching the largest deficit UConn has faced during its current winning streak. However, the Huskies went on a 22-4 run to swing the momentum solidly in their favor and they never looked back. Junior guard Diana Taurasi scored a game-high 19 points and plucked a team-best nine rebounds, while junior guard Maria Conlon chipped in with 15 points, hitting 7-of-10 shots from the field.

Taurasi, the 2002-03 preseason BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year and a returning Kodak All-American, leads Connecticut in scoring (16.7 ppg.), rebounding (6.3 rpg.), assists (4.8 apg.), blocked shots (1.38 bpg.) and free throw percentage (.831). She also has made a team-high 39 three-point field goals and is shooting 33.1 percent (39-118) from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Ann Strother is second on the team in scoring (10.8 ppg.), followed by freshman forward Barbara Turner (10.6 ppg.). Sophomore center Jessica Moore is the other Husky scoring in double figures (10.1 ppg.) < she=”” also=”” is=”” tied=”” with=”” taurasi=”” for=”” team-high=”” rebounding=”” honors=”” (6.3=”” rpg.)=”” and=”” she=”” is=”” shooting=”” a=”” team-best=”” .628=”” (103-164)=”” from=”” the=”” field.=””>

Connecticut’s success this season has centered around its defense. The Huskies are allowing just 51.7 points per game while holding opponents to a .317 field goal percentage (.284 from the three-point line). UConn also has compiled a +12.5 rpg. advantage and it is forcing nearly 17 turnovers per game.

Head coach Geno Auriemma is in his 18th season at Connecticut with a 489-98 (.833) record at the school. He has guided the Huskies to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, six Final Fours and three national championships. In addition, Auriemma is the only Division I women’s coach ever to have two undefeated seasons (35-0 in 1994-95, and 39-0 last year) to his credit. He is 14-2 (.875) all-time against Notre Dame, including a 8-0 mark at home.


  • Connecticut is one of only two BIG EAST Conference opponent to hold a series edge over Notre Dame, leading the series with the Irish, 14-2. The other league foe with a winning record against Notre Dame is Rutgers, which owns a slim 9-8 series lead over the Irish.
  • The first meeting between Notre Dame and Connecticut in 2001 (a 92-76 Irish win on Jan. 15) was the scene of the first-ever sellout in Irish women’s basketball history, as 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center to witness the historic victory.
  • The Irish and Huskies have won the last three NCAA championships, making the BIG EAST one of only two conferences (SEC is the other) to win the national title in three consecutive seasons. However, the BIG EAST is the only league to have two different teams win the NCAA championship in consecutive seasons (Connecticut in 2000 and 2002, Notre Dame in 2001).
  • Either Notre Dame or Connecticut has appeared in five of the last seven Final Fours, with both teams reaching college basketball’s biggest stage in 2001.
  • Including Sunday’s game, at least one of the combatants will have been ranked in all 17 series matchups between Notre Dame and Connecticut, with both teams appearing in the polls 11 times.


  • Notre Dame sophomore forward Katy Flecky and Connecticut freshman guard Ann Strother were teammates at Highlands Ranch High School in Colorado during the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons. The duo helped guided the Falcons to a pair of Class 5A state championships, and Flecky twice was named Colorado Miss Basketball, sharing the honor with Strother in 2000-01. Two more members of that Highlands Ranch team will join the BIG EAST Conference next season, when guard Susie Powers enrolls at Notre Dame and forward Liz Sherwood arrives at Connecticut.
  • A handful of California natives will suit up for Sunday’s game. Notre Dame freshman forward Courtney LaVere is from Ventura, while Connecticut junior guard/forward Diana Taurasi is a Chino native, and Husky freshman forward Willnett Crockett is from Harbor City. Next season, the Irish will add another Golden State product, when Santa Fe Springs resident Crystal Erwin joins the squad.
  • Two of the premier coaches in the country will square off Sunday afternoon when Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw meets up with Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma. The pair have combined for an outstanding 934-274 (.773) record during their 39 seasons on the sidelines. McGraw and Auriemma also have guided 23 teams to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Final Four eight times with four national championship to their credit. In an interesting twist, McGraw and Auriemma were hired only one day and two years apart at their respective schools < auriemma=”” took=”” the=”” connecticut=”” job=”” on=”” may=”” 17,=”” 1985,=”” while=”” mcgraw=”” arrived=”” at=”” notre=”” dame=”” on=”” may=”” 18,=”” 1987.=””>
  • Both head coaches are products of the vaunted ?Cradle of Coaches? in Philadelphia. Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, a native of Pottsville, Pa., graduated from Saint Joseph’s, served as an assistant at SJU under current Ohio State skipper Jim Foster from 1980-82, and later became head coach at Lehigh before moving on to lead the Irish. Meanwhile, Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma grew up in Norristown, Pa., and graduated from West Chester University. He began his coaching career as an assistant under Foster at Saint Joseph’s in 1978, the year after McGraw graduated, before spending three years as the head boys’ coach at Bishop Kenrick (Pa.) High School. Some of the other coaching legends to come out of the Philadelphia area include Illinois’ Theresa Grentz, Villanova’s Harry Perretta, Penn State’s Rene Portland and former Old Dominion mentor Marianne Stanley, who now coaches the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

Notre Dame and Connecticut have faced nine common opponents this season < usc,=”” tennessee,=”” miami,=”” st.=”” john’s,=”” rutgers,=”” villanova,=”” boston=”” college,=”” georgetown=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech=””>< with=”” the=”” irish=”” going=”” 5-5=”” and=”” the=”” huskies=”” going=”” 9-0=”” against=”” this=”” common=”” group.=””>


  • Notre Dame will snap Connecticut’s NCAA-record 64-game winning streak, making the women’s basketball team the fourth Irish squad to end an NCAA-record winning streak (joining men’s basketball, football and women’s soccer).
  • The Irish will notch their third all-time victory over a top-ranked opponent, with all three wins coming over Connecticut. Notre Dame also will record its first victory over a top-10 opponent since a 68-66 win over No. 9 Purdue in the 2001 NCAA championship game.
  • Notre Dame will earn its third series win over Connecticut and its first-ever on the Huskies’ home floor (1-6 in Storrs, 0-2 in Hartford).
  • The Irish will raise their all-time regular-season BIG EAST Conference record to 110-23 (.827), the best mark in league history.
  • Head coach Muffet McGraw will see her record at Notre Dame rise to 358-135 (.726) in 16 seasons, and her overall ledger will jump to 446-176 (.717) in 21 years.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record to 522-234 (.690) in 26 seasons of varsity competition.

Junior G Jeneka Joyce

leg injuries, out indefinitely

Connecticut enters Sunday’s game at Notre Dame with a 64-game winning streak, the longest in NCAA history, and a 59-game homecourt winning streak (sixth in NCAA annals). The Irish remain the last team to defeat the Huskies, winning 90-75 at the 2001 NCAA Final Four in St. Louis. Over the years, Notre Dame teams have had a tradition of ending noteworthy winning streaks in a number of sports, led by the following:

  • Nov. 17, 1957 < dick=”” lynch’s=”” three-yard=”” td=”” run=”” provides=”” the=”” only=”” scoring=”” as=”” the=”” notre=”” dame=”” football=”” team=”” wins=”” at=”” second-ranked=”” oklahoma,=”” 7-0,=”” ending=”” the=”” sooners’=”” 47-game=”” winning=”” streak=”” (still=”” the=”” ncaa=”” record).=”” in=”” an=”” interesting=”” twist,=”” the=”” irish=”” also=”” were=”” the=”” last=”” team=”” to=”” beat=”” ou=”” before=”” its=”” streak=”” began,=”” picking=”” off=”” the=”” sixth-ranked=”” sooners,=”” 28-21=”” on=”” sept.=”” 26,=”” 1953,=”” in=”” norman.=”” (note:=”” oklahoma=”” tied=”” nebraska,=”” 0-0=”” the=”” next=”” week=”” before=”” beginning=”” its=”” winning=”” streak.)=””>
  • Jan. 19, 1974 < dwight=”” clay=”” sinks=”” a=”” jumper=”” from=”” the=”” corner=”” with=”” 29=”” seconds=”” remaining=”” to=”” provide=”” the=”” winning=”” margin=”” as=”” the=”” notre=”” dame=”” men’s=”” basketball=”” team=”” halts=”” ucla’s=”” 88-game=”” winning=”” streak=”” (still=”” the=”” ncaa=”” record)=”” in=”” a=”” 71-70=”” thriller=”” at=”” the=”” joyce=”” center.=”” ironically,=”” the=”” irish=”” also=”” were=”” the=”” last=”” team=”” to=”” defeat=”” the=”” bruins=”” before=”” the=”” start=”” of=”” their=”” epic=”” streak,=”” downing=”” ucla=”” 89-82=”” on=”” jan.=”” 23,=”” 1971,=”” at=”” the=”” same=”” arena.=””>
  • Oct. 2, 1994 < the=”” notre=”” dame=”” women’s=”” soccer=”” team=”” plays=”” to=”” a=”” 0-0=”” tie=”” versus=”” perennial=”” power=”” north=”” carolina=”” in=”” st.=”” louis,=”” snapping=”” the=”” tarheels’=”” 92-match=”” winning=”” streak=”” (still=”” the=”” ncaa=”” record).=”” one=”” year=”” later,=”” the=”” irish=”” women’s=”” soccer=”” team=”” claimed=”” its=”” first=”” national=”” championship=”” with=”” wins=”” over=”” unc=”” and=”” portland=”” in=”” the=”” college=”” cup=”” semifinals=”” and=”” final.=””>
  • Jan. 15, 2001 < the=”” notre=”” dame=”” women’s=”” basketball=”” team=”” stuns=”” defending=”” national=”” champion=”” and=”” top-ranked=”” connecticut,=”” 92-76,=”” in=”” a=”” midseason=”” game=”” at=”” the=”” joyce=”” center,=”” ending=”” the=”” huskies’=”” 30-game=”” winning=”” streak=”” (10th-longest=”” in=”” ncaa=”” history).=”” the=”” win=”” also=”” vaulted=”” the=”” irish=”” to=”” no.=”” 1=”” in=”” the=”” nation=”” for=”” the=”” first=”” time=”” in=”” school=”” history=”” and=”” served=”” as=”” a=”” catalyst=”” for=”” notre=”” dame’s=”” run=”” to=”” its=”” first=”” national=”” championship.=””>
  • June 7, 2002 < the=”” notre=”” dame=”” baseball=”” team=”” ends=”” top-ranked=”” florida=”” state’s=”” 25-game=”” winning=”” streak=”” with=”” a=”” 10-4=”” win=”” at=”” dick=”” howser=”” stadium=”” in=”” the=”” first=”” game=”” of=”” the=”” ncaa=”” tallahassee=”” super=”” regional.=”” fsu’s=”” 25-game=”” success=”” string=”” is=”” an=”” atlantic=”” coast=”” conference=”” record=”” and=”” one=”” of=”” the=”” longest=”” winning=”” streaks=”” in=”” ncaa=”” history=”” (record:=”” 34=”” by=”” florida=”” atlantic=”” and=”” texas).=””>

Senior guard Alicia Ratay was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, the conference office announced Monday. It was the first weekly BIG EAST award of any kind for an Irish player this season, and it marked the third time in Ratay’s storied career she earned player-of-the-week honors.

In two BIG EAST victories last week, Ratay averaged 24.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game with a .619 field goal percentage (13-of-21), a staggering .769 three-point percentage (10-of-13) and a perfect 1.000 free throw percentage (13-of-13). She opened the week by tallying a team-high 19 points (including 3-of-4 three-pointers and 8-of-8 free throws), as well as a game-best seven rebounds in a Feb. 12 win over St. John’s at the Joyce Center. Four days later at Providence, Ratay erupted for a season-high 30 points, canning 7-of-9 three-point field goals to match her career best and finish just one away from the Irish school record. She also collected a team-high seven rebounds and was perfect at the foul line (5-of-5), including four critical charity tosses in the final minute to seal the win.

For the second consecutive season, senior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected to the Verizon Academic All-District V University Division Second Team, it was announced Thursday. She holds a 3.483 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) with a double major in psychology and education.

With Ratay’s back-to-back selections, the Irish now have had three women’s basketball student-athletes earn district academic recognition in the last three seasons. Ruth Riley was a first-team all-district choice in 2001, paving the way for her eventual selection as the Verizon Academic All-America? Women’s Basketball Team Member of the Year, as well as the overall Verizon Academic All-America? Team Member of the Year.

Ratay is third on the team in scoring this season at 11.7 points per game and ranks second in the BIG EAST Conference (17th in the nation) with an .873 free throw percentage. The reigning BIG EAST Player of the Week, she has come alive in her last two games, averaging 24.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 61.9 percent from the field (76.9 percent from the three-point line). Ratay also stands fourth in school history with 1,643 points, and ranks among the top 10 in NCAA history in career three-point percentage (first – .481) and career free throw percentage (sixth – .869). She is on pace to become the only player in NCAA history to rank among the top 10 in both categories.

Notre Dame has played the No. 1 team in the nation 11 times in its history, posting a 2-9 record in these games. Both victories came over Connecticut during the 2001 season (Jan. 15 at Notre Dame, March 30 at St. Louis), with the second coming in the NCAA Final Four. The latter game also represents the last time the Huskies tasted defeat prior to the start of their NCAA-record 64-game winning streak.

In a related note, Sunday’s game will mark the fourth time in the last month that a Notre Dame team has battled a top-ranked opponent. On Feb. 1, the Irish men’s fencing team ousted No. 1 Penn State at the Joyce Center, going on to take the top spot in the country. That same day, the Notre Dame women’s fencing team lost to top-ranked PSU. And, on Friday night, the Irish women’s tennis team played host to No. 1 Duke at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Despite its earlier struggles this season, Notre Dame remains firmly in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth. According to the Feb. 20 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings compiled by Richie Summerville and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the Irish are 30th in the nation, while their schedule strength also is rated No. 30 in the land. In addition, Notre Dame is one of six BIG EAST Conference schools ranked in the top 30 of the WBCA/Summerville RPI (#2 Connecticut, #8 Villanova, #15 Boston College, #16 Rutgers and #24 Virginia Tech are the others). The Irish already have a road win to their credit over Villanova (58-56 on Jan. 25).

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

Senior guard Alicia Ratay was virtually unstoppable from the perimeter on Feb. 16 at Providence, connecting on 7-of-9 three-point tries and finishing with a season-high 30 points in a 67-61 Irish victory. Ratay was 9-of-12 overall from the field, and her seven treys marked the fourth time in her career she rolled a lucky seven from beyond the arc. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native had a chance to break Sheila McMillen’s school record of eight triples (vs. St. John’s, 2/28/98), but one three-pointer was wiped out by a three-second violation and she had a toe on the line when she nailed another. The BIG EAST Conference record for three-pointers in a game is nine, held by Christine Lambert of West Virginia.

Notre Dame leads the BIG EAST Conference and ranks 20th nationally with 5.13 blocked shots per game this season. The Irish are led by a trio of players who are averaging nearly one block per game < sophomore=”” forward=””>Jacqueline Batteast at 1.65 bpg. (third in the BIG EAST), sophomore center Teresa Borton at 1.3 bpg. (seventh in the BIG EAST) and freshman forward Courtney LaVere at 0.96 bpg. (14th in the BIG EAST). Batteast has been especially potent of late, averaging 2.43 blocks per game in Notre Dame’s last seven contests, including a career-high five rejections on Feb. 9 at Virginia Tech. Batteast also is the BIG EAST’s top shot blocker in conference games, averaging 2.08 rejections per league contest.

The Irish defense has come alive in the last month, holding five of the last seven opponents under 35 percent shooting, and five of the seven to 61 points or less for the contest. Notre Dame has been especially strong in the last four games, holding the opposition without a field goal for an extended period of time < georgetown=”” went=”” seven=”” minutes=”” without=”” a=”” basket=”” in=”” the=”” second=”” half,=”” virginia=”” tech=”” went=”” 9:08=”” without=”” a=”” field=”” goal=”” and=”” had=”” just=”” one=”” bucket=”” over=”” the=”” final=”” 12:33=”” of=”” the=”” first=”” half,=”” st.=”” john’s=”” went=”” dry=”” from=”” the=”” field=”” for=”” a=”” stretch=”” of=”” 8:15=”” spanning=”” the=”” first=”” and=”” second=”” halves,=”” while=”” providence=”” managed=”” only=”” one=”” field=”” goal=”” over=”” a=”” period=”” of=”” 11:20=”” that=”” also=”” crossed=”” between=”” both=”” halves.=””>

Notre Dame has benefited this season from a well-balanced offense, one that has seen at least three players score in double figures in 17 of 23 games (and 13 of 15 wins). In addition, the Irish have had four players reach double digits in eight games this season (Cleveland State, USC, Valparaiso, Arizona State, Temple, Miami, Georgetown, St. John’s) and had five double-figure scorers on five occasions (Cleveland State, USC, Temple, Miami, Georgetown). The last time Notre Dame had five double-figure scorers five times in the same season was 1998-99, when the Irish turned the trick seven times (vs. UCLA, San Francisco, Toledo, South Florida, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Syracuse).

As you might expect, Notre Dame has three players averaging in double figures for the season. Sophomore forward and Naismith Award candidate Jacqueline Batteast has been the pacesetter at 15.7 ppg., followed by freshman forward Courtney LaVere, who averages 12.0 points per game. Last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Alicia Ratay is third at 11.7 ppg. this season.

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

The free throw line has been a very friendly place for Notre Dame this season. The Irish rank third in the BIG EAST Conference and 42nd in the nation with a .740 free throw percentage, a far cry from their .673 mark last season (ND’s lowest in 15 years). Notre Dame has shot 75 percent or better at the charity stripe 10 times this season, highlighted by its 95-percent efficiency rate (19-20) Jan. 14 at St. John’s. That was the highest free throw percentage by an Irish squad since Dec. 1, 1993, when Notre Dame connected at a school-record .960 clip (24-25) in a win over Marquette.

Leading the Irish assault from the line has been senior guard Alicia Ratay, who ranks second in the BIG EAST and 17th in the nation with an .873 free throw percentage. That should come as no surprise, because Ratay ranks sixth in NCAA history with an .868 career free throw ratio (350-403). However, Ratay is only one of three Notre Dame players who are shooting 70 percent or better at the stripe this year < junior=”” guard=””>Le’Tania Severe is second at .825 (8th in the BIG EAST), followed by sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast at .756 (14th in the BIG EAST). Severe’s free throw percentage has been perhaps the most pleasant development for the Irish < coming=”” into=”” this=”” season,=”” she=”” owned=”” a=”” .651=”” career=”” free=”” throw=”” ratio.=””>

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

In a surprising reversal of fortune this season, Notre Dame has had slightly more success on the road than at home. The Irish are 8-4 this year on hostile ground (8-3 road, 0-1 neutral), compared to a 7-4 record at the Joyce Center. That’s a far cry from last season’s road woes when Notre Dame lost its first five games outside the Joyce Center and finished with a 7-9 record in road/neutral site games. Conversely, the Irish went 13-1 at home last year, winning their first 13 games at the Joyce Center before a season-ending three-point loss to Villanova.

The Irish have won 14 of their last 20 regular-season games outside the Joyce Center, including 12 of their last 16. Of those last 16 games in hostile territory, the only blemishes on that record came earlier this season against four teams that currently are ranked or receiving votes in one or both of the major national polls < depaul,=”” no.=”” 3/3=”” tennessee=”” (neutral=”” site),=”” no.=”” 24/22=”” boston=”” college=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech.=””>

Notre Dame is 109-23 (.826) 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 65 of their last 78 regular-season conference games, and claimed a share of their first-ever BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2001. When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 121-30 (.801) against league opponents < when=”” factoring=”” in=”” these=”” 19=”” postseason=”” tilts,=”” the=”” irish=”” are=”” 59-7=”” (.894)=”” at=”” home,=”” 50-19=”” (.725)=”” on=”” the=”” road=”” and=”” 12-7=”” (.632)=”” at=”” neutral=”” sites=”” all-time=”” against=”” big=”” east=”” foes.=””>

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

Another indication of Notre Dame’s continued rise to national prominence has been its consistent run of success. With its victory over Providence on Feb. 16, the Irish assured themselves of finishing with no worse than a .500 mark in February (they currently are 4-1 this month with two games remaining). Notre Dame now has posted a record of .500 or better in 41 of its last 43 months of action, dating back to December 1994. The only blemishes on that record came in March 2002, when Notre Dame went 1-2 during the BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments, and January 2003, when the Irish went 3-5.

Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the 500th point of her career on Dec. 31 at Marquette. She now has 719 points in only 49 career games (14.7 ppg.), making her the fourth-fastest player to reach the 500-point mark in school history. A total of 13 players have scored their 500th point in less than two seasons at Notre Dame, although only five have done so in less than 40 career games (including Batteast and senior guard Alicia Ratay, who did it in 35 games).

Twice this season, Notre Dame has rallied from a double-digit deficit to record a victory. The Irish posted their largest comeback in more than a year when they rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to knock off previously unbeaten West Virginia, 66-59, on Jan. 8 in Morgantown. Notre Dame trailed 33-22 at the half and fell into a deeper hole when Mountaineer guard Kate Bulger nailed a three-point field goal on her team’s first possession of the second half. However, the Irish answered with a 16-2 run over the next 3:43 to tie the game and eventually take the victory. The WVU win was the biggest comeback for Notre Dame since it set a NCAA Final Four record by erasing a 16-point deficit in a 90-75 win over Connecticut on March 30, 2001 in St. Louis.

The Irish pulled another rabbit out of their collective hats on Feb. 16 at Providence, wiping out a 10-point first-half blemish to notch a 67-61 victory over the Friars. The victories over Providence also marked the fifth time in the last three years the Irish have won after trailing by double digits. In addition to the UConn game, Notre Dame rallied from 12 points down to defeat Purdue in the 2001 NCAA championship game, and the Irish also came back from a pair of 10-point deficits to win at Seton Hall on Feb. 2, 2002.

Notre Dame played the 750th game in the program’s history on Jan. 29 at Boston College. The Irish have an all-time record of 521-234 (.690) in 26 seasons of varsity competition. Included in that record are 17 20-win seasons (13 under current head coach Muffet McGraw), nine NCAA Tournament appearances, four trips to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, two Final Four berths and the 2001 NCAA championship. However, what may be most impressive about Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program is the fact that the Irish have had exactly three losing seasons (1980-81, 1986-87 and 1991-92) in their 26 years of existence!

With a 75-68 Irish win at Marquette on New Year’s Eve, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw joined Digger Phelps as the only Irish basketball coaches (men’s or women’s) to collect 350 victories at the school. McGraw is 357-135 (.726) in 16 seasons at Notre Dame, while Phelps posted a 393-197 (.666) mark in 20 years at the helm of the Irish men’s basketball program.

In addition, McGraw has the third-highest winning percentage of any basketball coach at Notre Dame (men’s or women’s) with at least five years of service, and her .726 ratio is the best by any coach in the last 60 years. Only men’s coaches Bertram G. Maris (.794 from 1907-12) and George Keogan (.771 from 1923-43) have had more success at Notre Dame over an extended period than McGraw.

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

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

Junior guard Le’Tania Severe has evolved into a major contributor at both ends of the floor for Notre Dame this season. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., product leads the Irish and ranks among the leaders in the BIG EAST Conference in assists (13th, 3.61 apg.), steals (8th, 2.13 spg.), free throw percentage (8th, .825) and assist/turnover ratio (15th, 1.06). However, she also has displayed a nose for the basket, ranking fourth on the team with 8.3 points per game, nearly doubling her career scoring average of 4.6 ppg. entering this season. In addition, Severe has scored in double figures 10 times this year (including a career-high 21 points at West Virginia), after reaching double digits seven times in her first two seasons at Notre Dame.

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

Despite having to adjust to the faster college game, not to mention the unfamiliar winter weather of South Bend, freshman forward Courtney LaVere has made a significant impact in her first season at Notre Dame. The Ventura, Calif., native ranks second on the team in scoring (12.0 ppg.), field goal percentage (.495) and rebounding (6.2 rpg.), ranking 16th in the BIG EAST Conference in the latter category. In addition, she has five double-doubles to her credit, with three of her double-dips coming against ranked opponents (No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Purdue and No. 20 Villanova).

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

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

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

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

Senior guard Alicia Ratay reached a milestone at Valparaiso, becoming the 10th player in school history to start 100 career games. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native now ranks second in school annals, having started 120 of 121 games for Notre Dame (including the last 62 in a row), while yielding her starting spot to Imani Dunbar for Senior Night in 2001 (vs. Georgetown). Ratay is presently four starts away from the school record of 124, currently held by Ruth Riley. At her current pace, Ratay would tie Riley’s mark in Notre Dame’s regular-season finale at Syracuse on March 4, and would break it in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship on March 8.

Senior guard Alicia Ratay is on the threshold of several other career milestones in 2002-03. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native reached her first landmark at Valparaiso, becoming the fifth player in school history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in her career. She also is the second Irish player in three seasons to attain that feat, following Kelley Siemon, who completed the hat trick when she scored her 1,000th point in Notre Dame’s NCAA championship game win over Purdue in 2001. The others in this elite group are Beth Morgan (1993-97), current Irish assistant coach Letitia Bowen (1991-95) and Trena Keys (1982-86). Ratay currently has 1,643 points, 609 rebounds and 230 assists, becoming the sixth Irish player to score 1,500 points with 14 points at West Virginia Jan. 8.

Ratay also is four three-point field goals away from tying the Notre Dame career record of 249, currently held by Sheila McMillen (1995-99). With two treys at Boston College, Ratay moved past Morgan into second place on that list (now with 245 triples). Ratay averaged more than 70 three-pointers per season during her first three years at Notre Dame.

Some other milestones also are within Ratay’s reach. She ranks fourth on the Irish all-time scoring list with 1,643 points, passing Karen Robinson (1987-91) for the No. 4 spot with four points at Virginia Tech. In addition, Ratay has been one of the most durable players in school history, appearing in all 121 Irish games in her career and starting all but one (2001 Senior Night vs. Georgetown). She can break the Notre Dame career records for starts and games played with another five starts and 12 games played this season.

Ratay already holds the Irish career marks for free throw (.868) and three-point field goal (.481) percentages, records which would rank among the top 10 in NCAA history. In fact, if her career ended today, Ratay’s three-point percentage would stand as the best in women’s college basketball history, and her free throw ratio would be sixth in NCAA annals. For a complete rundown of Ratay’s place in the Notre Dame and national record books, please see the charts in the page 9 sidebar.

Notre Dame has won 175 games over the last seven seasons, which stands as the sixth-most wins of any school in the country during that time.

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

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

Over the last three seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 58-4 (.935) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign (11-3 this season) when they go into the dressing room with the lead.

Over the last eight seasons, Notre Dame has discovered that a solid defensive effort can almost certainly guarantee a victory. In fact, since the beginning of the 1995-96 season (Notre Dame’s first in the BIG EAST Conference), the Irish have an amazing 111-3 (.974) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. The only times that notion didn’t come to pass were on Feb. 17, 2001 (Rutgers 54-53), Feb. 26, 2002 (Villanova 48-45) and Feb. 9, 2003 (Virginia Tech 53-50). Notre Dame has added nine wins to that count this season with victories over USC, Arizona State, IPFW, Colorado State, West Virginia, St. John’s (twice), Villanova and Georgetown.

Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. Over the last eight seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 85-3 (.966) when they score at least 80 points in a game. The only blemishes on that record are a pair of overtime losses to Texas A&M (88-84) and Michigan State (87-83) in 1995 and a 106-81 loss to Connecticut in 1998. Notre Dame has added four wins to that total this year with its victories over Cleveland State, Arizona State, Temple and IPFW.

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

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

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

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

NOW THAT’S A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success has been its stellar play at home. In fact, the Irish have been virtually untouchable at home in recent years, winning 83 of their last 90 games at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including a school-record 51-game winning streak from 1998-2002. Notre Dame also has a 59-7 (.894) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game winning streak at home before it was snapped with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the 2002 home finale.

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

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

For the third consecutive season, Notre Dame is ranked among the top 10 in the nation in attendance, according to the latest unofficial rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office. The Irish have averaged 7,189 fans for 11 home games this season, placing them seventh in the country (through games of Feb. 16). Notre Dame also drew the fifth-largest crowd in school history on Jan. 4 for its nationally-televised game with Purdue, attracting 9,483 fans to the Joyce Center.

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

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

Historically, Notre Dame has always played a difficult schedule and 2002-03 is no exception. This year’s Irish docket is ranked as the 30th-hardest slate in the country, according to the Feb. 20 edition of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) RPI rankings, produced by Richie Summerville.

Upon closer examination, six Notre Dame opponents currently are ranked in one or both of the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls (No. 1/1 Connecticut, No. 3/3 Tennessee, No. 11/10 Purdue, No. 20/20 Villanova, No. 22/23 Rutgers and No. 24/22 Boston College). Two others < depaul=”” and=”” virginia=”” tech=””>< are=”” receiving=”” votes=”” in=”” one=”” or=”” both=”” major=”” polls=”” this=”” week.=””>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now in her 16th year with the Irish, McGraw has posted a stellar 357-135 (.726) record (445-176, .717 overall in 21 years), guiding Notre Dame to 13 20-win seasons, nine postseason appearances, seven NCAA Tournament berths, four Sweet Sixteen visits, two Final Fours and the 2001 NCAA title. The 2001 Naismith and AP National Coach of the Year, McGraw also is a member of the SJU Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame.

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

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

Tickets are now on sale for the 2003 Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Awards Banquet, which will be held Sunday, April 13 at the Joyce Center. The festivities will get underway at 12:15 p.m. (EST) with a player autograph session on the concourse at the Joyce Center. The banquet will begin at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on the arena floor, and will include award presentations, video highlights from the 2002-03 season and remarks by Notre Dame President Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., director of athletics Kevin White, head coach Muffet McGraw and senior honorees.

Tickets are $25 each and tables of eight are available. Proceeds from ticket sales go to benefit the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made payable to the University of Notre Dame and may be mailed to the Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Telephone reservations will not be accepted.

Reservation forms are available at all remaining home basketball games and at the Joyce Center second-floor ticket windows. The deadline for reservations is Friday, April 4. For more information, call (574) 631-5420.

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

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

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

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

Notre Dame returns home to the Joyce Center on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. (EST) matchup with Pittsburgh in the only meeting between the two clubs this season. The Panthers were 11-12 overall (3-9 in the BIG EAST) heading into Saturday’s game at Boston College. Pittsburgh is one of five teams jockeying for the final three spots in the upcoming 12-team BIG EAST Championship < the=”” panthers=”” currently=”” hold=”” down=”” the=”” no.=”” 11=”” position=”” with=”” two=”” weeks=”” remaining=”” in=”” the=”” regular=”” season.=””>

Pittsburgh is led by senior guard Laine Selwyn, who ranks among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (8th, 16.2 ppg.), rebounding (18th, 5.9 rpg.), field goal percentage (9th, .451), assists (3rd, 6.17 apg.), free throw percentage (7th, .826), steals (3rd, 2.87 spg.) and assist/turnover ratio (6th, 1.56). She has led the Panthers in scoring 15 times this season, including each of the last seven games.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Pittsburgh, 11-0, including a 5-0 mark at the Joyce Center. The Irish claimed their only contest with the Panthers last season, winning 68-56 in Pittsburgh behind 21 points from Alicia Ratay and double-doubles from Jacqueline Batteast (16 pts., 12 rebs.) and Teresa Borton (10 pts., 10 rebs.).

Here’s where the Irish players and team stand in the most recent NCAA (through games of Feb. 17, top 50 only) and BIG EAST Conference statistics reports (through games of Feb. 21):