Lindsay Schrader is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish.

Women's Basketball Opens Up BIG EAST Conference Play Against St. John's Wednesday

Jan. 3, 2006

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Notre Dame tips off BIG EAST Conference play Wednesday night at St. John’s. The Irish have the best winning percentage (.815) in BIG EAST regular-season games in league history.

Senior guard Megan Duffy needs eight points to become the 21st player in school history to register 1,000 career points.

After a solid non-conference season, the No. 12/11 Notre Dame women’s basketball team turns its attention to the more pressing matters of BIG EAST Conference play when it opens the 16-game league schedule at St John’s Wednesday at 7 p.m. (ET) at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, N.Y.

The Irish (9-2, 0-0) are coming off just their second loss of the season, a 62-51 setback at the hands of No. 1 Tennessee on New Year’s Eve at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame nearly came all the way back from a 22-point second-half deficit, getting as close as six points with two minutes left before the Lady Vols held on.

Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy sparked the Irish comeback vs. UT, scoring 14 of her game-high 19 points in the second half. Senior forward Courtney LaVere added 10 points and junior forward Crystal Erwin snared a team-best seven rebounds for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is ranked 12th in this week’s Associated Press poll and was 11th in last week’s ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll (new edition released Tuesday afternoon).

St. John’s is unranked.

Setting The Standard
Under the guidance of 19th-year head coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has evolved into one of the country’s leading women’s basketball powers. The Irish have appeared in 12 NCAA Tournaments (including the past 10 in a row) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine years. Notre Dame also has reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four twice, winning college basketball’s ultimate prize with the 2001 national championship.

In its history, Notre Dame has developed eight All-Americans, eight WNBA players (including five draft picks in the past five years) and four USA Basketball veterans (eight medals won). Now in their 29th season in 2005-06, the Irish own an all-time record of 584-256 (.695).

A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Entering the 2005-06 season, Notre Dame knew it would need a healthy dose of balance and chemistry in order to be successful. With the graduation losses of 2004-05 BIG EAST Player of the Year and All-America forward Jacqueline Batteast, as well as rugged and dependable center Teresa Borton, the Irish were missing two significant components from last year’s squad that posted a 27-6 record, rose as high as third in the national polls, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

During the non-conference portion of this season, Notre Dame has learned much about itself, working to sharpen the balance and chemistry that will be so critical during the BIG EAST campaign and the postseason. Led by gritty senior point guard and preseason All-American Megan Duffy (a co-captain on the gold medal-winning 2005 USA World University Games Team), the Irish have jumped out to a 9-2 start, picking up a pair of wins over ranked opponents (USC and Utah) along the way.

The Irish have received contributions from many different sources in the first two months of the season, with at least three double-figure scorers in nine of 11 games (including a season-high five vs. No. 22/21 Utah) and eight different players have scored in double digits at least once thus far. What’s more, eight players are averaging at least 17 minutes of action per night.

Duffy was a strong all-around contributor for Notre Dame during non-conference play. The veteran floor general is averaging a team-best 15.5 points, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game,with a 2.04 assist/turnover ratio, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in all four categories. In addition, she is first in the league and 21st in the nation in foul shooting (.917). She also has led the team in scoring seven times and in assists eight times this year. Duffy already has been tapped for the BIG EAST Conference Weekly Honor Roll three times this season, and she earned a spot on the Duel in the Desert All-Tournament Team after averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 assists in piloting the Irish to the tourney title.

Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico has proven to be a solid complement in the post to Duffy’s perimeter presence. D’Amico is second on the team in scoring (9.9 ppg.) and rebounding (5.8 rpg.), while setting the pace in both blocked shots (1.55 bpg., fourth in the BIG EAST) and field goal percentage (.558). The pre-Christmas Duel in the Desert may have been her breakout performance, as she averaged 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with an .824 field goal percentage (14-17) en route to tournament Most Valuable Player and BIG EAST Player of the Week honors.

Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader also has shown tremendous promise during the early portion of the season. The former McDonald’s All-American already has been named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week once (Nov. 21) after turning in an impressive 10-point, 14-rebound effort in her debut outing against Michigan, becoming just the second player in school history (first since 1979) to record a double-double in her first game. She also averaged 13.5 points per game and shot a blistering 80 percent from the field (12-of-15) in wins over Iona and Wisconsin, going 6-of-6 in the latter contest. Those marks earned Schrader a spot on the Dec. 5 BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll, the first freshman to appear on that list this season. She recently tacked on her second double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds in Notre Dame’s win over No. 22/21 Utah at the Duel in the Desert, before leading all players with 13 points and seven rebounds against Valparaiso. Schrader is third on the team in scoring (9.3 ppg.) and tops in rebounding (6.2 rpg.), as well as third in field goal percentage (.463).

Potent Notables About The Fighting Irish

  • Notre Dame’s No. 12 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll represents the 27th consecutive appearance for the Irish in that survey, dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. All told, Notre Dame has appeared in 136 Associated Press polls since the balloting debuted 30 years ago, with their first AP ranking (No. 25) coming on Dec. 31, 1990.
  • With its No. 10 AP ranking on Dec. 5, the Irish have appeared in the top 10 of the media balloting at some point in seven of the past 10 years (including three of the past four seasons). Notre Dame has spent a total of 73 weeks in the AP top 10 during the program’s 29-year history and owns a 110-21 (.840) record when it’s ranked in the top 10.
  • The Irish have won 57 of their last 61 non-conference home games, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Three of the losses in that span have come against Big Ten Conference opponents (Wisconsin in 1996, Purdue in 2003, Michigan State in 2004), with the other coming back on Dec. 31 vs. No. 1 Tennessee.
  • The Irish defense continues to be its calling card. In each of the past six seasons, Notre Dame has held its opponents to an average of less than 62 points per game, including a 56.8 ppg. mark last year, which ranked as the third-lowest opponent scoring average in school history and second-best of the Muffet McGraw era (55.8 ppg. in 2000-01). Thus far in 2005-06, the Irish are allowing opponents to score 59.0 ppg.
  • The Irish have posted 39 wins over Top 25 opponents in the past eight seasons (1998-99 to present), most recently knocking off No. 22/21 Utah, 68-55 on Dec. 18 in the championship game of the Duel in the Desert (Gray Division) out in Las Vegas. In each of the past two years, Notre Dame has set a school record with seven regular-season wins over ranked opponents. Furthermore, since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Irish are 11-3 (.786) at home against Top 25 competition.
  • Following Saturday’s game vs. #1 Tennessee, the Irish have welcomed crowds of 5,000 or more fans to 70 of their last 72 home games. The only two blemishes on that mark came in the semifinals and finals of last year’s Preseason WNIT, because tickets for those games could not be included in the Notre Dame season ticket package and had to be purchased separately.
  • The capacity crowd of 11,418 for the Dec. 31 home game vs. top-ranked Tennessee was the third sellout in program history and the 19-day advance sellout was the quickest in the 29-year history of Irish women’s basketball. As of Jan. 2, it also was the 13th-largest crowd in the nation. For the season, Notre Dame ranks eighth in the country in average home attendance with 7,016 fans per game.
  • Senior guard Megan Duffy was named a preseason All-American by three sources, has been cited on the preseason watch lists for both the State Farm/WBCA Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Women’s Award, and was tabbed as one of the top five point guards in the nation by Duffy also was a preseason all-BIG EAST Conference selection, following up her first-team all-league citation last year.
  • With a 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to reach the 500-win mark. She also is the 10th Division I coach to earn her 500th victory prior to age 50. McGraw reached another milestone on Nov. 29 vs. Iona with her 700th career game as a head coach (she was credited with the win despite missing the contest due to an acute illness).

A Quick Look At St. John’s
If one were looking for a blueprint on how to turn around the fortunes of a women’s college basketball program, they might be wise to look at the development of St. John’s during the past four seasons. In that short time, the Red Storm have evolved from a 3-24 team languishing at the bottom of the BIG EAST ladder to a 20-win team in 2004-05 and one which has received votes in the national polls the past two years.

SJU has all five starters and nine letterwinners back from last season’s 20-11 club that advanced to the second round of the postseason WNIT (the first 20-win season and postseason berth for the program in 17 years). It would appear the Red Storm are poised for even greater things, as they have jumped out to a 10-2 record (0-1 in the BIG EAST), highlighted by an impressive two-day run to the championship (minimum 30-point wins over Wake Forest and Northwestern) at the Roger and Mildred White Invitational, hosted by NU.

St. John’s opened conference play back in December with a 60-57 loss at BIG EAST newcomer Marquette. The Red Storm also are just back from a trip to San Diego for the Surf ‘N Slam Holiday Classic, where they split games with No. 2 Duke (L, 105-57) and Montana State (W, 87-71).

One of the focal points of SJU’s success thus far has been its power in the post. Junior forward Angela Clark (14.3 ppg., 10.1 rpg.) and senior forward Danielle Chambers (11.0 ppg., 10.3 rpg.) both are averaging double-doubles, with Clark’s seven double-dips ranking second in the league. As a team, the Red Storm are second in the BIG EAST in rebounding (44.5 rpg.) and fourth in rebound margin (+10.3 rpg.), paced by Clark and Chambers who are second and fourth in the loop in rebounding, respectively.

Not to be overlooked, junior playmaking guard Kia Wright (13.3 ppg., 4.3 apg., 2.5 spg.) has provided a strong perimeter complement for St. John’s. A second-team all-BIG EAST selection last year, Wright currently ranks among the top 20 in the conference in scoring, assists and steals. She should be no surprise to Irish followers, as she piled up 23 points and 10 rebounds in last season’s matchup with Notre Dame at the Joyce Center.

Kim Barnes Arico is in her fourth year as the head coach at St. John’s, sporting a 48-50 (.490) record. She previously spent time at Adelphi, New Jersey Tech and Fairleigh Dickinson-Madison, and owns a career record of 142-122 (.538) in her 10th season on the sidelines. She is 0-4 all-time against Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame-St. John’s Series
As has been the case with many of its BIG EAST opponents, Notre Dame did not begin playing St. John’s until the Irish joined the conference prior to the 1995-96 season. Since then, the teams have squared off 15 times on the hardwood, with Notre Dame winning each time by an average margin of 27 points per game.

During the course of their series, Notre Dame and St. John’s have played on each other home court seven times, with the remaining matchup taking place in the first round of the 1998 BIG EAST Championship at Piscataway, N.J.

This year is the third in a row in which the Irish and Red Storm will play just once. The teams have a pair of encounters in 1996, 2000 and 2003, with three series games in 1998.

Other Notre Dame-St. John’s Series Tidbits

  • St. John’s is one of three BIG EAST Conference opponents against whom Notre Dame has never lost, going 15-0 all-time. The others are Providence (13-0) and Pittsburgh (15-0), both of whom the Irish will play host to later this season.
  • St. John’s has scored more than 60 points once in its 15 series games against Notre Dame (the last time out, a 72-65 ND win). On the other hand, the Irish have never scored less than 66 points in any previous encounter with the Red Storm.
  • One game in the Notre Dame-St. John’s series has been decided by less than 13 points – the most recent game (ND 72-65).
  • The Irish have won all seven series games at Carnesecca Arena (formerly Alumni Hall) by an average spread of 24.4 points per game. The first five matchups in Queens resulted in at least 20-point wins for Notre Dame before a 69-56 Irish win on their last visit in 2004.
  • Notre Dame has shot better than 50 percent in eight of 15 games against SJU, including a high-water mark of .571 (36-63) in a 94-51 win at the Joyce Center on Feb. 12, 2000.
  • The 31 points allowed by Notre Dame vs. St. John’s on Feb. 13, 2002 at the Joyce Center represented the fourth-lowest opponent scoring total in school history, the second-lowest by a Division I opponent, and the lowest ever by a conference opponent (in any league – North Star, Midwestern Collegiate or BIG EAST).
  • Notre Dame is 36-2 (.947) all-time against New York schools, including a 17-2 record away from the Joyce Center, with an average winning margin against the Empire State of 24.9 points per game. The Irish are 1-0 against New York-based teams this season, having defeated Iona, 74-55 back on Nov. 29 at the Joyce Center.
  • Notre Dame has two New York natives on its 2005-06 roster. Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico is from Manorville and graduated from William Floyd High School in 2004. Meanwhile, freshman walk-on forward Christine Trezza is a Staten Island resident and matriculated from Notre Dame Academy High School. The Irish will add a former Empire State product to their lineup next season when 6-foot-4 center Erica Williamsonarrives on campus (Williamson spent her first three prep seasons at Honeoye Falls-Lima High School in Rochester, N.Y., before moving with her family to Charlotte, N.C. this past summer).

The Last Time Notre Dame And St. John’s Met
St. John’s played Notre Dame tougher than ever. It still wasn’t enough.

Crystal Erwin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Megan Duffy added 14 points and 10 assists, leading the sixth-ranked Irish to a 72-65 victory over St. John’s on Jan. 26, 2005. The Irish improved to 15-0 all time against St. John’s (14-4, 3-4), but the seven-point margin of defeat was the closest ever for the Red Storm. Twice before they had lost by 13.

Jacqueline Batteast added 10 points and 10 rebounds, giving the Irish (17-3, 5-2 Big East) three players with double-doubles for the first time since they accomplished the feat against Michigan State in 1995.

Kia Wright led St. John’s with 23 points, including 17 in the first half, and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.

Tara Walker had 16 points for St. John’s and Greeba Barlow added 12.

The double-doubles were firsts for Erwin and Duffy, while Batteast moved alone into second place on Notre Dame’s career list with 37. Batteast also had four blocked shots. Teresa Borton added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Irish started the game with little intensity – just as they had before beating then-No. 6 Rutgers three days earlier – falling behind by eight points and trailing 35-31 at halftime.

Notre Dame came out more aggressive in the second half, using a 19-4 run early in the second half to take control.

Duffy started the run with a three-pointer, but the key was improved defense. The Irish held St. John’s to 2-of-19 shooting during the stretch, forcing one shot clock violation and four turnovers.

The Irish outplayed St. John’s inside in the second half, outscoring the Red Storm 22-14 and winning the rebounding battle 26-21.

Blowing The Lid Off The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 7-3 (.700) in BIG EAST Conference openers since it joined the league for the 1995-96 season. The Irish have won five of their last six BIG EAST lidlifters, including a 54-33 victory over Seton Hall to begin last year’s conference slate.

Wednesday’s game will mark the fifth time Notre Dame has opened BIG EAST play on the road, having split its previous four outings. The last time the Irish tipped off their conference season away from home was Jan. 7, 2004, when Georgetown rallied to down Notre Dame, 76-73 in Washington, D.C.

Ringing In The New Year
Notre Dame is 21-7 (.750) all-time in its first game of a new calendar year, with a 14-5 (.737)mark when that first January game takes place on the road. The Irish have celebrated the new year with a victory in 10 of their last 11 opportunities, including a 9-1 mark since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96. In that time, the only blemish on the Notre Dame record has been a 71-54 loss to No. 7/6 Purdue on Jan. 4, 2003 at the Joyce Center.

Beasts Of The BIG EAST
Notre Dame is 137-31 (.815) 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 93 of their last 114 regular-season conference games, have finished among the top three in the BIG EAST nine times in their 10-year membership, and claimed a share of their first-ever regular-season conference championship in 2001.

When including postseason competition (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments), Notre Dame is 151-41 (.786) against league opponents – factoring in 23 postseason tilts, the Irish are 76-8 (.905) at home, 61-26 (.701) on the road and 14-7 (.667) at neutral sites all-time vs. BIG EAST foes.

Duffy, LaVere Seeking A Cool Grand
Senior co-captains Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere both are on the verge of scoring the 1,000th point of their respective careers. Duffy has 992 points, putting her eight shy of the milestone, while LaVere is not far behind with 980 points (20 from the landmark).

Only four times in school history have teammates reached the 1,000-point plateau in the same season, with Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon the last to do so in 2000-01. Duffy and LaVere also could have the shortest span between hitting the mark – the current school record is eight games, the term between Mary Beth Schueth and Carrie Bates scoring their 1,000th point in 1984-85.

When The Game Is On The Line
The Irish have posted a .691 free throw percentage (38-of-55) inside the final two minutes of games this season. Leading the way is senior guard Megan Duffy, who has made 21 of her 22 foul shots (.955) in crunch time.

The Efficiency Expert
Sophomore center Melissa D’Amico pulled off a unique feat in Notre Dame’s 77-54 win over Arkansas State Dec. 17 at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas. D’Amico scored a career-high 20 points in only 18 minutes of court time, becoming the first Irish player to average better than a point per minute (min. 10 minutes) in a game since Dec. 21, 2002, when current senior Courtney LaVere had 20 points in 19 minutes vs. IPFW.

Viva Las Vegas
Notre Dame made the most of its first-ever visit to Las Vegas, coming away with the Duel in the Desert (Gray Division) title on the strength of wins over Arkansas State (77-54) and No. 22/21 Utah (68-55). The championship was the fifth in the last six opportunities for the Irish, who also have now won 12 of their last 13 regular-season tournament games.

The Duel in the Desert crown was even more rewarding when you consider Notre Dame trailed for a grand total of 15 seconds the entire weekend (a one-point deficit midway through the second half vs. Utah). The Irish defense also played a pivotal role, holding ASU and Utah to a .286 field goal percentage and 54.5 points per game.

Second-Half Sizzle
In six of their nine victories this season, Notre Dame has used a significant second-half run to take control of the contest. In four of those instances (Michigan, Indiana, USC, Utah), the Irish trailed at some point in the final 11 minutes, but on the strength of their second-half run, rallied to take the win.

Starting Strong
The Irish got off to a 6-0 start for the second time in as many seasons, marking the first time in the 29-year history of the program Notre Dame has put together back-to-back 6-0 starts (the Irish began last year with a 7-0 record).

All told, Notre Dame has won the first six games of the season only four times, all in the Muffet McGraw era (and all in the past eight seasons beginning in 1998-99). In the three previous 6-0 starts, the Irish went on to win at least 25 games and reach the NCAA Tournament every time.

In The Light Of Day
Notre Dame has enjoyed playing in the afternoon this season, posting a 6-1 record in games when the tip comes before 6 p.m. local time. Dating back to last year, the Irish are 15-3 in day games, with their only two losses in that span coming at Villanova (59-54 on Jan. 9, 2005) and at No. 10 Rutgers (59-48 on Feb. 19, 2005).

Game #11 Recap: Tennessee
The only thing normal about Tennessee’s victory over Notre Dame was the fact that the Lady Vols won.

Top-ranked Tennessee shot 33 percent from the field and was outscored in the second half, but beat No. 12 Notre Dame 62-51 on Saturday.

Tennessee (12-0), which entered the game averaging 83 points, won by outrebounding the Irish 50-35 and holding Notre Dame to 31 percent shooting.

“Our philosophy has always been you better pack your defense and your board work on the road,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said, “because those ugly nights and those poor shooting nights, you just have to grind games out. Today, we just had to grind it out.”

Alexis Hornbuckle had 15 points and eight rebounds, Nicky Anosike added nine points and freshman Candace Parker had eight points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Vols.

Senior guard Megan Duffy led Notre Dame (9-2) with 19 points, including eight points in the last four minutes.

Tennessee led 47-25 with 13:09 left, but Notre Dame went on a 16-4 run to cut the lead to 51-41 with 6:16 remaining. Duffy’s jumper trimmed the deficit to 57-51 with 2 minutes left, but Tennessee went 5-of-8 from the free-throw line to end the game.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw liked how hard her the Irish played before a crowd of 11,418, the third sellout in Joyce Center history.

“I was really proud of our effort,” McGraw said. “I felt we really battled. I thought we came out and we were a little nervous in the first half. We’re just trying so hard with the crowd.”

Tennessee’s Shanna Zolman, the Lady Vols’ top scorer with 17 points per game, was held to five on 1-of-7 shooting.

“I felt we did a nice job on Zolman, we did a pretty good job on Parker, then Hornbuckle steps up and has a great game,” McGraw said. “They just have so many weapons. We tried to limit a couple of them.”

Duffy struggled until late in the game. She shot 5-for-18 from the field and 3-for-10 from 3-point range, but scored 14 points in the second half.

“We talked about being aggressive and driving to the basket,” Duffy said. “Both teams were in the one-and-one, and we figured we could get some free throws and try to get some points that way. I just tried to look for my shot. We ran a couple of plays to get me free.”

Zolman said the Lady Vols let the pressure get to them when Notre Dame made its second-half run.

“I think we kind of took ourselves out of our offense,” she said. “After they scored a couple points, we just started rushing and trying to force things and not playing together as a team. They did a great job of stepping the intensity up on defense, I do give them that, but we were taking shots that we didn’t need to take.”

The Lady Vols forced 15 first-half turnovers to take a 29-14 lead. The Irish (9-2) barely avoided their lowest-scoring half thanks to a three-pointer by senior forward Courtney LaVere with 1:09 left before the break. LaVere had 10 points before fouling out.

“I just think Tennessee is one of the elite teams in the country,” McGraw said. “They rebound better than any team we’ve ever seen. They just crushed us on the boards, and I think that was obviously the difference in the game.”

Noting The Tennessee Game

  • Notre Dame dropped just its second game of the season, with both losses coming at the hands of ranked opponents by 11 points each.
  • The Irish also suffered just their fourth non-conference home loss in the past 61 outings, a stretch that dates back to the 1994-95 season; it’s also the first home non-conference loss for Notre Dame to an opponent outside the Big Ten since Jan. 7, 1994 – when top-ranked Tennessee downed the Irish, 105-70 in the Lady Vols’ last visit to South Bend.
  • Notre Dame loses for just the third time in its last 14 home games against ranked opponents, extending back to the start of the 2003-04 season.
  • The Irish held UT to 62 points, the Lady Vols’ second-lowest scoring total of the year, highlighted by Tennessee’s season-worst .328 field goal percentage.
  • Notre Dame forced 18 turnovers, the second-most for Tennessee this season; conversely, the Irish had 17 giveaways, but just two in the second half.
  • The 62 points also matches the Lady Vols’ lowest scoring output in the series (62-57 on Nov. 24, 1984 in Knoxville); that game also marked the only prior time Notre Dame had limited Tennessee to less than 70 points.
  • The 11-point margin was the smallest in the series since Jan. 12, 1992, when Tennessee edged Notre Dame, 85-82 at the Joyce Center.
  • The Lady Vols were the fifth No. 1 team to play the Irish in South Bend, with Notre Dame now 1-4 against these top-ranked squads, although Saturday’s 11-point margin was the closest loss of those four.
  • The Irish welcomed their third sellout crowd (11,418) in school history, and first since Feb. 24, 2001 vs. Georgetown (Senior Day); the gathering also was (at the time) the 13th-largest crowd in the country this season.
  • Notre Dame did not have at least three double-digit scorers, and did not lead at halftime for only the second time all season (both times resulted in losses).
  • The Irish were held to 14 first-half points, their lowest scoring total in the opening 20 minutes since March 9, 2003, when they were deadlocked at 13-13 with Villanova in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Piscataway, N.J. (VU won 50-39 en route to the league title).
  • Tennessee’s 50 rebounds were the most for an Irish opponent since Jan. 2, 2005, when Seton Hall also had 50 boards (ND won 54-33 at the Joyce Center).
  • Senior All-America guard Megan Duffy led the Irish in scoring for the seventh time this year and took game-high scoring honors for the fifth time.
  • Senior forward Courtney LaVere notched her sixth double-figure scoring game of the year, highlighted by a career-best two three-pointers in three attempts.
  • Junior forward Crystal Erwin is averaging 7.0 rebounds in her last five games, including a team-high seven caroms vs. Tennessee.

Give Her Five (Hundred)
With Notre Dame’s 55-45 victory over Michigan on Nov. 18, head coach Muffet McGraw became the 27th women’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 500-win mark. McGraw now has a career record of 508-198 (.720) in 24 years of coaching, including 19 seasons at Notre Dame (420-157, .728).

Here’s a closer look at how that milestone victory breaks down for McGraw:

  • She is the 10th NCAA Division I women’s basketball coach to register her 500th victory before turning 50 (her birthday was Dec. 5).
  • McGraw is the fourth active coach in the BIG EAST Conference to reach the career 500-win mark, joining Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Villanova’s Harry Perretta.
  • She is the third BIG EAST coach in as many seasons to celebrate her 500th win. Auriemma hit the milestone late in the 2002-03 campaign, while Perretta joined the club with his landmark victory midway through last season.

Join The Club
The Irish women’s basketball team became the sixth Notre Dame squad this year to be ranked in the top 10 in its respective sport at some point during the season when it earned the No. 10 spot in the Dec. 5 AP poll. The other top-10 Irish teams include (highest rank listed): women’s cross country (3rd), football (5th AP), men’s cross country (5th), women’s soccer (5th) and volleyball (7th).

In addition, all six of Notre Dame’s fall sports teams advanced at least as far as the round of 16 (or its equivalent) in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish cross country teams both finished among the top 10 at the NCAA Championships (men – 3rd; women – 7th), while the women’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals (lost at eventual champion Portland), and the men’s soccer squad made its first-ever trip to the Sweet 16 before bowing by a 1-0 count at College Cup participant Clemson.

The Irish volleyball team reached the round of 16 for the first time since 1997, falling to Wisconsin in five games down in College Station, Texas.

Meanwhile, the Notre Dame football team advanced to its first Bowl Championship Series game since 2000, dropping a 34-20 decision to No. 4 Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

On the strength of their fall success to date, the Irish were first in the latest NACDA/USSA Directors’ Cup standings (released Dec. 29) with 355 points, outpacing Stanford (282) and Duke (280). The results from football (final result determined by ranking in ESPN/USA Today poll) and volleyball are yet to come, with the next ranking set to come out on Jan. 10.

Half And Half
During the past six seasons, Notre Dame has been nearly unbeatable when it has the lead at halftime. The Irish are 105-8 (.929) since the start of the 2000-01 campaign when they go into the dressing room with the lead, including wins in 33 of their last 35 such contests. Notre Dame has opened this season by winning seven games after it led at the break (the Irish were tied at halftime of their win over USC).

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense
During the past 11 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 155-9 (.945) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Notre Dame had added five more tallies to this ledger with wins over Michigan (55-45), Iona (74-55), Arkansas State (77-54), Utah (68-55) and Valparaiso (58-50).

But Sometimes You Have To Score If You Want To Win
Not resting solely on its defensive laurels, Notre Dame also seemingly has found the magic mark when it comes to outscoring its opponents. During the past decade (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 91-3 (.968) 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.

Sweet Success
Notre Dame is one of only nine schools in the country to have appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16 six times in the past nine seasons (1997-2005). The others are Connecticut and Tennessee (nine times), Duke (eight times), Louisiana Tech (seven times), and Georgia, LSU, North Carolina and Texas Tech (six times).

The Gold Standard
The Irish are one of six teams nationwide to have an active streak of 12 consecutive 20-win seasons. The others in this club are Tennessee (29), Texas Tech (16), Louisiana Tech (14), Old Dominion (14) and Connecticut (12).

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 131 of their last 143 games (.916) at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center, including winning streaks of 51 and 25 games in that span. Notre Dame also has a 76-8 (.905) record in BIG EAST Conference play at the Joyce Center, sporting a 31-game league winning streak at home before it ended with a 48-45 loss to Villanova in the ’02 home finale.

The Irish have been particularly strongwhen it comes to non-conference games at home, winning 57 of their last 61 non-BIG EAST contests (.934) at the Joyce Center, dating back to the 1994-95 season. The only three losses in that span all came at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents – Wisconsin in 1996 (81-69), Purdue in 2003 (71-54) and Michigan State in 2004 (82-73 OT). 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 281-73 (.794) record at the venerable facility. In three of the previous six seasons (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04), the Irish were a perfect 15-0 at home, setting a school record for home wins in a season.

Jammin’ The Joyce
Beginning with its national championship season of 2000-01, Notre Dame has ranked among the top 20 in the nation in attendance each of the past five years, including a No. 16 rating in 2004-05 (5,830 fans per game). Notre Dame has averaged 7,016 fans in its five home games this season, and is eighth in the latest unofficial national attendance rankings, released each Monday by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Office.

What’s more, each of the top 20 women’s basketball crowds in Joyce Center history have occurred during the 19-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw (1987-present), with 19 of those 20 occurring in the past six seasons (2000-01 to present). Lastly, the Irish have attracted at least 5,000 fans to 70 of their last 72 home games, including 13 contests with at least 8,000 fans and the first three sellouts in the program’s history.

The most recent sellout in Notre Dame women’s basketball history took place on Dec 31, when 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center for the Irish matchup with No. 1 Tennessee. The game sold out 19 days in advance, making its the fastest sellout in the 29-year history of the program.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Notre Dame’s two seniors – guard Megan Duffy and forward Courtney LaVere – will serve as team captains for the 2005-06 season. Duffy is in her second year as a captain (making her the 16th two-time captain in school history, and 12th in the Muffet McGraw era), while LaVere is a first-time captain. Both players received the captain’s honor following a vote of their teammates prior to the season.

Notre Dame On The Small Screen
Notre Dame will have nine of its regular-season games televised during the 2005-06 season. Highlighting this year’s television docket are six nationally-televised Irish women’s basketball contests, including three consecutive games on the ESPN family of networks during a 12-day span in mid-February.

This year’s TV slate continues a recent trend that has seen the Irish become a regular fixture on television. Beginning with the NCAA championship season of 2000-01 (and including games to date this year), Notre Dame has played in 63 televised games, including 38 that were broadcast nationally. Last year, the Irish had 17 games televised, with 10 being national broadcasts.

Notre Dame is 2-1 in televised games this season. The Irish defeated both Western Michigan (71-68 on Nov. 20) and No. 24/21 USC (73-62 on Nov. 27) in contests broadcast live to a regional audience by Comcast Local (based in Detroit). Most recently, Notre Dame fell to No. 1 Tennessee (62-51 on Dec. 31) in a game aired nationally by College Sports Television (CSTV).

Five of the remaining six televised games on the ’05-06 Notre Dame schedule also are slated for national broadcasts. The final two of three Irish appearances on CSTV will be part of the BIG EAST/CSTV Tuesday Game of the Week package. The Irish will welcome DePaul to the Joyce Center on Jan. 17, before visiting Rutgers on Jan. 24, and both games will tip off at 7:30 p.m. (ET). CSTV has aired nine Notre Dame women’s basketball games during the past four seasons (2002-03 to present), with the first being that network’s inaugural broadcast of any sport (a Feb. 2003 game at Connecticut).

The Irish then make three consecutive appearances on the ESPN family of networks, beginning with a Feb. 7 home game against Villanova that will be broadcast live on ESPNU. That game now will tip off at 6 p.m. (ET), one hour earlier than previously listed on some schedules. The following Sunday (Feb. 12), Notre Dame will travel to DePaul for a 4 p.m. CT (5 p.m. ET) game that will air on ESPN2 as part of that network’s “February Frenzy” split-national coverage designed to preview a similar coverage pattern for the NCAA Tournament. The Irish are back on ESPN2 on Feb. 19, when they play host to Connecticut in a 7 p.m. (ET) prime-time BIG EAST showdown at the Joyce Center. During the past five seasons, Notre Dame has appeared on the ESPN family of networks 24 times, averaging nearly five telecasts per year on “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”.

Notre Dame will make its final regular-season television appearance on Feb. 25, when it travels to new conference member Cincinnati for a 2 p.m. (ET) game that will air as part of the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) package. Among the outlets scheduled to televise the game live are WHME-TV (Channel 46 in South Bend), Comcast Chicago, Comcast Local, Comcast Philadelphia and Madison Square Garden Network.

Notre Dame On The Airwaves
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 1580) and WNDV-AM (1490) in South Bend. Veteran broadcaster and AMP sports director Sean Stires is now in his sixth season handling the play-by-play for Notre Dame. The Irish also can be heard on the Internet at Notre Dame’s official athletics web site ( by subscribing to Fighting Irish All-Access, which gives listeners full multimedia access to a variety of Irish athletics events for only $6.95 per month.

Promotional Corner
Here’s a rundown of some upcoming promotions and giveaways at future Notre Dame women’s basketball games this season. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Irish athletics ticket office (second floor of the Joyce Center through Gate 1; 574-631-7356) or on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows of the Joyce Center. Please note – additional promotions and giveaways may be added at a later date, so consult the Notre Dame promotions web site ( for the latest information:

  • Jan. 7 vs. Seton Hall – Giveaway Mania (airline tickets, restaurant gift certificates and more to be given away throughout the game) … Berrien County Night (residents of Michigan county admitted at half price with ID) … Clancy’s Kids Club members and three guests admitted free when redeeming postcard mailed to them upon registration … Hoop tumbler cups to first 1,000 fans … post-game autographs with selected Irish players.
  • Jan. 10 vs. Marquette – Oldies But Goodies Night … Golden Domer Night (buy one senior ticket and get a second free) … Tote bags to first 1,000 fans … post-game autographs with selected Irish players.

Next Game: Seton Hall
Notre Dame opens the home portion of its 2005-06 BIG EAST Conference schedule Saturday with a 1 p.m. (ET) game against Seton Hall at the Joyce Center. The Irish hold a 14-3 series lead on the Pirates and have won seven of eight prior meetings in South Bend, including a 54-33 victory last season.

Like Notre Dame, SHU (3-8, 0-0) will open its BIG EAST schedule this week, playing host to West Virginia Tuesday afternoon in South Orange, N.J.