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Women's Basketball Plays Host To Seton Hall Wednesday Night

Jan. 8, 2002

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After fighting off a stern challenge from Providence on Saturday, Notre Dame gets back on the Joyce Center hardwood Wednesday for a 7 p.m. (EST) contest against BIG EAST Conference foe Seton Hall. The Irish built up a 19-point lead in the first half against Providence, then stymied a furious rally by the Friars to post the 72-66 win. Notre Dame (8-5, 2-0 BIG EAST) came out victorious for the sixth time in the last seven games, thanks in large part to the play of its freshmen class, which accounted for 55 points in the win.

Like most conference teams this season, Seton Hall (8-5, 0-2) has been bitten by the injury bug. In this case, the victim was the Pirates’ leading scorer, junior forward Leslie Ardon, who went down for the season after suffering a torn ACL in her knee during a New Year’s Day practice. Prior to her injury, Ardon had led Seton Hall in scoring five times and was averaging 13.0 points per game.

The Pirates come to town following a 64-49 BIG EAST loss at Boston College on Saturday. Sophomore forward Charlene Thomas charted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and junior guard/forward Cecilia Lindqvist added 11 points in the loss, which snapped a two-game winning streak for Seton Hall. The Pirates actually trailed by one point at the half against BC (27-26), but shot only 30.8 percent in the second half and committed 25 turnovers in the game, which ultimately proved to be their undoing.

In Ardon’s absence, Thomas has taken over as Seton Hall’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 12.6 ppg. and 7.5 rpg. Lindqvist is logging 11.3 ppg. and is the Pirates’ top perimeter shooter, hitting 36 percent of her three-point attempts and knocking down a team-high 21 treys this season.

Phyllis Mangina is in her 17th year as the head coach at Seton Hall, sporting a 238-232 (.506) record as the Pirates’ skipper. She is 2-9 in her career against Notre Dame, including a 1-4 record at the Joyce Center.

SCOUTING THE IRISH – Notre Dame looks to write a new chapter in its rapidly-developing history as the Irish defend their first NCAA championship in 2001-02. Seven monogram winners, including two starters, return from last season’s title-winning squad, giving head coach Muffet McGraw a broad foundation from which to build this year. In addition, the Irish welcome six talented freshmen to the fold, a group heralded as perhaps the finest recruiting class in school history and ranked as high as third by several national publications.

McGraw is in her 20th season as a college coach (15th at Notre Dame) with a 418-162 (.721) overall record and 330-122 (.730) mark while under the shadow of the Golden Dome. She has led the Irish to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances and eight overall – Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen four times, the Final Four twice and won the 2001 NCAA title, all in the last five seasons under McGraw’s guidance. She was a near-unanimous choice as national coach of the year in 2000-01, winning top honors from the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Award), Associated Press, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), and Sports Illustrated for Women. She also was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year, marking the third different conference to recognize McGraw as its top skipper since she took the reins at Notre Dame in 1987.

Both of Notre Dame’s returning starters were honored by the BIG EAST coaches in their preseason balloting. Senior guard/forward Ericka Haney (5.3 ppg., 4.8 rpg.) was a second team preseason all-conference pick and brings explosive quickness and versatility to the Irish lineup, along with veteran leadership. As Notre Dame’s only captain, she is being called upon to assume a greater mantle of responsibility in ’01-02. After starting the first six games for the Irish, she moved into a reserve role for the next four games, picking up her first double-double of the year with season highs of 12 points and 10 rebounds against Western Michigan. She returned to the starting lineup last week to help the Irish claim wins over DePaul, Miami and Providence. Junior guard Alicia Ratay (13.1 ppg., 5.2 rpg., .443 3FG%) was a first team preseason all-BIG EAST choice and is one of 30 finalists for the Naismith Award after setting an NCAA record for three-point percentage (.547) by a sophomore last season. On Dec. 6 at Purdue, she became the 19th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. She ranks 12th in the BIG EAST in scoring and third in three-point percentage after tossing in a season-high 23 points (including 7-9 three-pointers) at Miami.

Joining Ratay in the backcourt is sophomore Jeneka Joyce (5.2 ppg., 2.1 rpg.), who made her first start at point guard Saturday against Providence. Joyce ranks third on the team with a .457 field goal percentage and .375 three-point percentage. She earned her place in the starting lineup after cming off the bench to post nine points, four rebounds and four assists in the BIG EAST opener at Miami. Also spending time at the point is sophomore Le’Tania Severe (7.6 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 5.0 apg.), who was hampered by injuries last season, appearing in just 22 games. However, she has confidently taken a larger role in the Irish offense this season, scoring a career-high 17 points against USC and matching her career best with eight assists against Western Michigan. She also ranks seventh in the BIG EAST Conference in assists and 15th in free throw percentage (.638). Junior Karen Swanson (1.0 ppg., 0.6 rpg.) and Jill Krause (0.0 ppg., 0.4 rpg.) give McGraw tremendous flexibility in her point guard rotation. Additionally, freshmen Allison Bustamante (3.6 ppg., 2.0 rpg.) and Kelsey Wicks (4.2 ppg., 2.6 rpg.) provide the Irish with solid ballhandling and perimeter shooting depth. Wicks tied her career high with nine points off the bench in Saturday’s win over Providence.

A pair of freshmen (and former Parade All-Americans) are making an immediate impact on the Notre Dame front line, as forward Jacqueline Batteast (16.0 ppg., 9.2 rpg.) and center Teresa Borton (6.5 ppg., 5.0 rpg.) started the first six games for the Irish. Batteast was named the 2001-02 preseason BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and her combination of speed, athleticism and perimeter shooting ability already make her a valuable weapon in the Irish arsenal. Already a four-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week, Batteast is one of only two players to rank in the top five in the BIG EAST in scoring (4th), rebounding (2nd), blocks (5th, 1.54) and double-doubles (2nd, 7), picking up her seventh double-dip at Miami with 12 points and 13 rebounds. In her last six games, Batteast is averaging 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game while compiling five double-doubles. She also poured in a career-high 26 points Saturday against Providence. Meanwhile, at 6-3, Borton is a smooth and versatile post player with excellent mobility and a solid defensive presence. She has provided strong production off the bench in her last three games, averaging 11.7 ppg. while shooting 78.9 percent (15-19) from the field. She was virtually unstoppable against Providence, scoring a career-high 20 points while making nine of 11 shots from the field (including her first seven in a row).

Junior Amanda Barksdale (4.7 ppg., 3.3 rpg., 3.8 bpg.) was one of the nation’s top shot blockers last season and has recovered nicely after missing Notre Dame’s first four games with a stress reaction in her right leg. She notched seven blocks against USC and tied a school record with eight blocks against Marquette – both outings are tops in the BIG EAST this season and the Marquette performance ties for the fifth-best showing in the nation this season. However, Barksdale does not yet appear in the overall conference rankings because she has not played in enough games to qualify. Still, her 3.0 bpg. ratio in BIG EAST play is good for second in the league. Meanwhile, freshman Katy Flecky (4.0 ppg., 3.3 rpg.) was a two-time Miss Colorado Basketball and offers the Irish an physical presence in the post. She tied her career high with nine points and set a new career best with a team-high four assists last week against DePaul.

RECAPPING PROVIDENCE – If Saturday’s game between Notre Dame and Providence is any indication, the future of BIG EAST Conference women’s basketball certainly is bright.

Notre Dame’s freshman class combined for 55 points as the Irish raced out to a 19-point lead and then held off a furious Providence rally to post a 72-66 win before 7,804 fans at the Joyce Center. With the victory, Notre Dame extends its home winning streak to 45 games, preserving the longest active run in the nation. The Irish also improved to 50-3 all-time against BIG EAST opponents at the Joyce Center since joining the league in 1995.

Freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to pace the Notre Dame effort. Freshman center Teresa Borton came off the bench to tally a career-best 20 points, hitting nine-of-11 shots from the field, while freshman guard Kelsey Wicks matched her career high with nine points.

Notre Dame (8-5, 2-0 BIG EAST) logged its sixth win in the last seven games thanks to another solid shooting performance – the Irish connected on 48.9 percent of their shots, including a .586 ratio in the first half. In the last three games, Notre Dame is shooting at a 51 percent clip (79-of-155). The Irish also made a season-best 24-of-34 free throws (.706) in the win over Providence, topping the 70-percent mark from the line for the first time since Dec. 6 at Purdue.

The first half started as a nip-and-tuck affair, with four ties and four lead changes in the opening 11 minutes. Providence held the largest lead by either team during the first quarter of play, building a 16-10 edge on a three-pointer by Kilgore with 13:11 left in the first half. Notre Dame battled back with an 8-0 run, regaining the lead on a short jumper by Wicks at the 10:42 mark. However, that lead was short-lived, as the Friars snatched back a 21-20 advantage on a trey by Catrina Hawley-Stewart with nine minutes to go in the period.

From there, the Irish freshman corps went to work, as Batteast, Borton and Wicks combined to score 22 of the next 24 points in the game, giving Notre Dame a seemingly comfortable 42-23 lead with 2:36 remaining in the first half. The Friars then provided the crowd with a preview of things to come, scoring the final six points of the period to whittle its deficit down to 13 points at the half. Providence (7-7, 1-2) built on the mini-rally it started at the end of the first half, scoring seven of the first nine points in the period to pull within 44-36 less than three minutes into the stanza. Notre Dame worked the lead back up to 13 points twice over the next five minutes, owning a 54-41 edge with 13:42 to play.

At that point, the Friars rocked the Irish on their collective heels, going on a 18-6 run and getting within 60-59 on a three-pointer by Kristin Quinn with 6:24 still to play. However, Notre Dame steadied itself, getting a critical layup from Borton on the next possession to keep Providence at bay. Epstein hit a jumper to get the Friars back within 64-61 with 4:37 to go, but that would be as close as the visitors would get. The Irish held PC to two field goals over the final four minutes and made seven of 10 free throws in the last 62 seconds to seal the important conference victory.

THE NOTRE DAME-SETON HALL SERIES – Notre Dame holds a 9-2 series advantage over Seton Hall, having won all nine meetings with the Pirates since joining the BIG EAST Conference for the 1995-96 season. The Irish also are 4-1 against SHU at the Joyce Center, having rebounded from a loss in the Pirates’ first visit (62-55 on Dec. 11, 1993) with four consecutive home victories by an average of 31.5 points per game.

The last time Notre Dame battled Seton Hall, the Irish walked away with a 72-47 victory on Jan. 21, 2001, at Walsh Gymnasium. This contest might be best known as “The Game After” because it was the first time Notre Dame had played following its stirring 92-76 win over then-No. 1 Connecticut six days earlier in front of a sellout crowd at the Joyce Center and a national television audience. Rather than suffer a letdown after their landmark win, the unbeaten Irish pressured Seton Hall from the outset, bolting to a 15-2 lead nearly 11 minutes into the game and never looking back. Notre Dame also shot better than 50 percent for the sixth consecutive game, hitting at a 55.6 percent clip against the Pirates. Ericka Haney led four Irish players in double figures with 17 points and a game-high seven rebounds.

OTHER NOTRE DAME-SETON HALL SERIES TIDBITS – After winning two of its first three games against Notre Dame and averaging 67 points per game, Seton Hall has lost its last eight contests with the Irish and has averaged only 49.5 ppg. … The first three games in the series all were decided by nine points or less, with two contests going to overtime. Since then, no Notre Dame-Seton Hall game has been decided by less than 11 points, with the Irish winning all eight games by an average margin of 30.3 ppg. … Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, Notre Dame has never scored less than 69 points in a game against Seton Hall. Conversely, the Pirates have topped the mark just once, falling 88-79 in overtime to the Irish in their first conference matchup on Jan. 2, 1996 in South Orange. Seton Hall comes into Wednesday’s game averaging 62.2 ppg. … This is the first of two matchups this season between the Irish and Pirates. The two schools will meet again on Feb. 2 for a 2 p.m. (EST) battle at Seton Hall’s Walsh Gymnasium. The contest will be televised live on CN8, the Comcast Network, which serves homes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

NOTRE DAME-SETON HALL CONNECTION – Notre Dame senior guard/forward Ericka Haney and Seton Hall junior forward Leslie Ardon were teammates on the BIG EAST Conference All-Star Team which posted a 6-0 record during its tour of Europe last summer. Haney led the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game, with Ardon right behind her at 11.5 ppg. However, the pair will not reunite on the court this season – Ardon is out for the year after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee during practice on Jan. 1.

THE BEASTS OF THE BIG EAST – Notre Dame is 91-15 (.858) 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 47 of their last 52 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 103-21 (.831) against league opponents – when factoring in these 18 postseason tilts, the Irish are 50-3 (.943) at home, 41-15 (.732) on the road and 12-6 (.667) at neutral sites all-time against BIG EAST foes.

BATTEAST EARNS FOURTH BIG EAST ROOKIE OF THE WEEK AWARD – For the fourth time this season, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Rookie of the Week, the league office announced Monday. Batteast, who earned top freshman honors for three consecutive weeks earlier this season (Dec. 3, 10 & 17), is only the second player in school history to win four BIG EAST Rookie of the Week citations in a single campaign. Junior guard Alicia Ratay took home six rookie awards during the 1999-2000 season.

Batteast averaged 21.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game and notched two double-doubles as Notre Dame collected three consecutive wins last week, including BIG EAST triumphs over Miami and Providence. She opened the week by recording career highs of 25 points and 14 rebounds in a 79-50 Irish win over DePaul on New Year’s Eve. Two days later at Miami, Batteast registered her seventh double-double of the year (and fifth in as many games) with 12 points and 13 rebounds as Notre Dame posted a 69-65 win at Miami in their conference opener. On Saturday, Batteast narrowly missed her eighth double-double, pouring in a career-high 26 points (breaking the high-water mark she had set just six days earlier) and grabbing nine rebounds in Notre Dame’s 72-66 win over Providence. Against PC, Batteast also canned a career-high 11-of-12 free throws.

For the season, Batteast ranks fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring (16.0 ppg.), second in rebounding (9.2 rpg.), fifth in blocked shots (1.54 bpg.) and second in double-doubles (7), one of only two players to place in the top five in all four categories. She also is the only BIG EAST freshman to lead her team in both scoring and rebounding.

HOW ABOUT THEM APPLES? – Freshman forward Teresa Borton turned in the best performance of her young college career on Saturday against Providence, piling up a career-high 20 points in Notre Dame’s 72-66 win over the Friars. The Yakima, Wash., native came off the bench and promptly knocked down her first seven shots before finishing nine of 11 from the field in the contest. Her .818 field goal percentage stands as the best mark by any player in a BIG EAST Conference game this season.

ROOKIE RAMPAGE – Notre Dame fans got a preview of things to come over the next four seasons in Saturday’s 72-66 win over Providence. The Irish freshman class, namely forward Jacqueline Batteast, center Teresa Borton and guard Kelsey Wicks, combined for 55 points in the victory, with all three posting career-high point totals – Batteast had 26 points, while Borton tossed in 20 markers and Wicks added nine points. The trio also scored 44 of Notre Dame’s first 46 points (including 41 in a row at one stretch), and single-handedly sparked a 22-2 run over a 7:36 span which gave the Irish a 42-23 lead late in the first half.

THE 45-PERCENT SOLUTION – The Irish appear to have found their shooting eye of late, connecting at a 51 percent rate from the field (79-155) over their last three games. In its first 10 games, Notre Dame had shot better than 45 percent just once and owned a .409 field goal percentage. However, in their last three contests, the Irish have topped the 45-percent mark each time, including a season-high .521 field goal percentage (25-48) Jan. 2 at Miami. Notre Dame is 4-0 when it shoots over 45 percent from the field and 8-3 when it owns a higher field goal percentage than its opponent.

IRISH BREAK OUT LONG-RANGE ARTILLERY AT MIAMI – Notre Dame put together a record-setting performance from the three-point line in its Jan. 2 win at Miami. The Irish connected on 13-of-24 (.542) three-point attempts in the game, setting a school record for the most triples in one game. The old mark was 12 against St. John’s on Feb. 28, 1998 in the first round of the BIG EAST Conference Championship at Piscataway, N.J.

FOR ALL LONG DISTANCE CALLS, DIAL “22” – On Jan. 2 at Miami, junior guard Alicia Ratay showed why she is still one of the nation’s premier sharpshooters and has earned the nickname “Dead Eye Ratay.” The Lake Zurich, Ill., native canned seven of nine three-point field goal attempts (a sharp .778 percentage) and finished with a season-high 23 points to lead the Irish to a victory in their BIG EAST Conference opener. The seven treys tied Ratay’s career high – she went seven for seven from beyond the arc on Feb. 19, 2000 at Rutgers, a memorable game in which she nailed two threes in the final 25 seconds of regulation to force overtime, where Notre Dame prevailed, 78-74.

Ratay leads the Irish, ranks third in the BIG EAST and 24th in the nation with a .443 three-point percentage (27-of-61). Her current ratio also puts her within striking distance of the NCAA record for three-point efficiency by a junior – Cara Frey of Harvard currently holds that mark with a .515 percentage in 1993. All of this comes on the heels of Ratay’s effort last season, when she nailed 54.7 percent of her three-point tries, breaking the NCAA record for long-range efficiency by a sophomore.

In her career, Ratay is making better than half of her long-distance attempts, hitting at a 50.1 percent clip (181-of-361) in her 81-game college career – that is good enough to set a new NCAA record for career three-point percentage, passing the current standard of .467 held by Erin Maher of Harvard. She already ranks fourth in Notre Dame’s career three-point field goals made and attempted lists, and her career percentage is nearly 80 points higher than her nearest challenger (Kari Hutchinson, .424, 1994-98).

TAKING A DEFENSIVE STANCE – One of the trademarks of Notre Dame’s recent success has been its suffocating defense. In fact, over the course of three consecutive home games in December, the Irish put together three dominating defensive performances which rank among the best in recent memory.

Against Western Michigan, Notre Dame held the Broncos to a season-low 12 points, the fewest first-half markers by an Irish opponent since Georgetown scored 10 points in the 2001 BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinals. Then, against Marquette, the Irish held the Golden Eagles to a season-low 33 points and 18.5 percent shooting from the field (10-of-54), marking Notre Dame’s best defensive field goal percentage since it held Butler to a school-record .149 ratio (9-of-61) on Jan. 30, 1984. Finally, against DePaul, the Irish limited the Blue Demons to 3-of-26 (.115) shooting and just 17 points in the first half. Additionally, in both the Marquette and DePaul games, Notre Dame held its Conference USA opponent without a field goal for the first 11 minutes of the contest.

IT’S BATTEAST, TO SAY THE LEAST – Although her college career is only 13 games old, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast already is showing much of the potential which led the BIG EAST Conference coaches to vote her as the league’s preseason Rookie of the Year. The South Bend, Ind., resident is a four-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week selection and is one of only two players to rank in the top five in the conference in scoring (4th, 16.0 ppg.), rebounding (2nd, 9.2 rpg.), blocked shots (5th, 1.54 bpg.) and double-doubles (2nd, 7th). She also is the only BIG EAST rookie to lead her team in both scoring and rebounding.

Batteast has been especially strong in her last six games, averaging 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game while compiling five double-doubles and four 20-point performances. In her last outing Saturday afternoon against Providence, Batteast tossed in a career-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Irish opened their BIG EAST home slate with a win over the Friars.

BARKSDALE’S BLOCK PARTY – Junior center Amanda Barksdale has forced opponents to deal with rejection quite often this season. Although she missed Notre Dame’s first four games with a stress reaction in her leg, she still leads the Irish with 3.8 blocks per game (34 rejections). In fact, she would lead the BIG EAST Conference in that category by nearly 1.4 blocks per game, but she has yet to play in enough games to qualify for the conference rankings. Nevertheless, she was at her best last month, when she rang up a school-record eight blocks against Marquette on Dec. 22 and added seven rejections against USC on Dec. 9. Those single-game performances rank first and second in the BIG EAST and the Marquette outing is tied for the fifth-best total in the nation this season.

In her career, Barksdale has 126 career blocks, making her only the fifth player in school history to reach the century mark in career rejections. With her five blocks Saturday against Providence, she passed Trena Keys (124) for fourth place on Notre Dame’s career blocks list. In addition, she is averaging 1.75 blocks per game in her 72-game career, which is second in Irish history behind only 2001 consensus national player of the year, Ruth Riley, who averaged 2.82 swats per game from 1997-2001.

CHARITY BEGINS AT THE STRIPE FOR RATAY – Junior guard Alicia Ratay leads the Irish with a sparkling .844 free throw percentage, having connected on 27-of-32 charities this season. That continues a recent trend of success at the foul line for the Notre Dame sharpshooter. Since the start of last season, the Lake Zurich, Ill., native has made 87.6 percent of her foul shots (92-of-105).

Ratay is Notre Dame’s career free throw percentage leader by a sizeable margin, connecting on 85.4 percent of her charities (176-of-206) in her three-year tenure with the Irish. Mollie Peirick (1994-98) is a distant second on the career free throw percentage list with an .819 ratio.

NOTRE DAME AMONG NATIONAL ATTENDANCE LEADERS – Notre Dame is ranked seventh in the nation, according to the latest unofficial attendance figures released Monday by the University of Wisconsin Sports Information Department. The Irish have averaged 7,468 fans for their seven home games, nearly 1,100 ahead of last season’s figures, when Notre Dame was ranked ninth in the country in attendance with an average of 6,376 fans per game.

IRISH COMPLETE FAMILIAR BASIC TRAINING – For the sixth time in the last eight seasons, Notre Dame played three ranked opponents in its first seven games, going 0-3 against Colorado State, Michigan and Purdue (all away from home). However, recent history has shown that these early-season tests have proven invaluable later in the year – during this stretch, the Irish have gone on to make six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching the Sweet Sixteen four times and the Final Four twice, including the 2001 national championship. Additionally, in the previous seven seasons (1995-2001), Notre Dame has gone on to win 20 games each year, carding four 25-win campaigns and two 30-win seasons.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK – With six freshmen making up half of this year’s roster, Notre Dame is certainly going through some growing pains. However, the Irish rookies are getting a great deal of college experience this season, as evidenced by their production through 13 games of the 2001-02 campaign. Notre Dame’s freshmen have accounted for 47.9 percent of the points (412 of 861), 47.8 percent of the rebounds (268 of 561) and 39.1 percent of the minutes (1017 of 2600) recorded by the Irish this season. Additionally, Notre Dame started two freshmen (Jacqueline Batteast and Teresa Borton) in its first six games this year, and four of the six Irish rookies are averaging at least 11 minutes per contest.

A SEVERE DEVELOPMENT – Sophomore guard Le’Tania Severe has quickly adapted to her new role as a primary point guard for the Irish, filling the large shoes of All-American Niele Ivey. Through 13 games this season, Severe is third on the team with 7.6 points per game and leads the squad with 5.0 assists per game, ranking seventh in the BIG EAST Conference in the latter category. Entering the 2001-02 campaign, her career highs were seven points and two assists and she had played in just 22 games due to injury.

Severe has been adept at distributing the ball to her teammates, leading the team in assists in 11 games and dealing at least five assists seven times, including a career-high eight handouts against Purdue and Western Michigan. She also has proven to be a scoring threat when necessary, pouring in a career-high 17 points against USC and reaching double figures five times this season.

CRASHING THE BOARDS – Despite losing its top two rebounders from last year (Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon), Notre Dame doesn’t appear to have broken stride in the rebounding department this season. The Irish have averaged 43.2 rebounds per game through 13 games in 2001-02, owning a +7.0 edge on the glass, which ranks among the top 30 in the nation according to the latest NCAA statistical reports.

Leading the charge on the boards for Notre Dame have been a pair of freshmen – forward Jacqueline Batteast is setting the pace at 9.2 rebounds per game (ranking second in the BIG EAST Conference), while center Teresa Borton is third with 5.0 caroms per contest. Additionally, the Irish have been potent on the offensive glass, collecting 14.3 offensive rebounds per game. Batteast and Borton also are setting the pace in that category – Batteast has 40 offensive boards (3.08 orpg.), ranking seventh in the BIG EAST, while Borton has corralled 32 offensive caroms (2.46), tying for 15th in the conference.

THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE … – Over the last five-plus 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 93-1 (.989) record when they hold their opponents to less than 60 points in a game. Curiously, the only time that notion didn’t come to pass was last season, when Rutgers handed Notre Dame a 54-53 loss, one of only two setbacks the Irish suffered en route to the 2001 national championship.

The Irish already have added to this total six times during the 2001-02 season – Valparaiso (35 points), Army (57), USC (49), Western Michigan (48), Marquette (33) and DePaul (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. Over the last five-plus seasons (1995-96 to present), the Irish are 80-3 (.964) 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 contributed another win to that growing record when it rang up 89 points in a win over Army on Nov. 26.

NOTRE DAME MAKING A LIVING BEYOND THE ARC – The season-opening win over Valparaiso produced an offensive anomaly for Notre Dame. The Irish were held without a three-point field goal, breaking a streak of 50 consecutive games in which they had made at least one trey. Prior to that game, the last time Notre Dame had gone dry from beyond the arc was Jan. 26, 2000, at St. John’s.

Notre Dame didn’t waste time in starting up a new three-point streak, canning 74 triples in their last 12 games (6.2 per game), including a school-record 13 treys at Miami on Jan. 2. The Irish have now made at least one three-pointer in 158 of their last 160 games, a streak which stretches back more than four seasons.

FRESH FACES IN THE IRISH LINEUP – Notre Dame had a decidedly youthful look in its starting lineup when it opened the season Nov. 18 against Valparaiso, as freshmen Jacqueline Batteast and Teresa Borton got the nod at forward and center, respectively. In doing so, the pair were first rookie tandem in 20 years to start a season opener for the Irish – Ruth Kaiser and Mary Beth Schueth cracked the starting five in a 78-44 win over St. Joseph’s (Ind.) on Dec. 2, 1981. Borton paced the Irish with 14 points and nine rebounds against Valparaiso, while Batteast scored two points and grabbed five boards against the Crusaders.

McGRAW REACHES COACHING MILESTONE AGAINST DEPAUL – Muffet McGraw coached her 450th game at Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve against DePaul. She owns a 330-122 (.730) record in her 15th season with the Irish, making her the winningest coach in school history and fourth on the BIG EAST Conference career wins list behind Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (441), Rutgers’ Theresa Grentz (434) and Villanova’s Harry Perretta (425).

In addition, McGraw is the sixth coach to work 450 games at a BIG EAST Conference school. Three of those coaches are still active in the league – Perretta (674), Auriemma (539) and Seton Hall’s Phyllis Mangina (470). Grentz (584) and Virginia Tech’s Carol Alfano (540) are the other BIG EAST mentors who reached that milestone.

THE END OF ONE STREAK … – For the first time since the end of the 1997-98 season, Notre Dame was not ranked in either of the major national polls on Dec. 3. The exclusion snapped a 60-week run in the ESPN/USA Today poll and a 56-week stretch in the AP rankings. This week, the Irish earned 11 points in the Associated Press poll and three points in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

… BUT THE CONTINUATION OF ANOTHER – Thanks to Kent State’s loss at home to Rhode Island on Dec. 1, Notre Dame now owns the longest active home winning streak in the nation at 45 games. The Irish have not lost a game at the Joyce Center since Dec. 8, 1998, when Connecticut logged a 106-81 victory. Notre Dame’s home winning streak next will be put to the test Wednesday night when the Irish entertain BIG EAST member Seton Hall to the Joyce Center.

RATAY NAMED NAISMITH CANDIDATE FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR – Notre Dame junior guard Alicia Ratay has been selected as a preseason candidate for the 2001-02 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award. It marks the second time in as many seasons that Ratay has been named to the 30-player preseason Naismith watch list.

Ratay averaged 12.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season, and set an NCAA record for three-point percentage (54.7 percent) by a sophomore on the way to third-team all-BIG EAST Conference honors – she was the only sophomore to make any of the three all-league squads. Ratay also is a former BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and was named an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press in 2000. She will be looking to follow in the footsteps of her former teammate, Ruth Riley, who won the 2000-01 Naismith Award, becoming the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to be so recognized.

The Naismith Awards, in their 34th year, are given in honor of the inventor of the game of basketball – Dr. James Naismith. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The Awards, including Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year, Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year, Male and Female Prep Player of the Year and Men’s and Women’s Official of the Year, are determined by a vote of the Naismith Board of Selectors. In addition, the Board of Selectors, comprised of a select group of leading basketball coaches, journalists and administrators, honors a Men’s and Women’s Outstanding Contributor to Basketball. The 2001-02 Naismith Award will presented April 5, 2002 in Atlanta.

NOTRE DAME PICKED SECOND IN BIG EAST PRESEASON BALLOTING – Fresh off a share of their first-ever BIG EAST championship last season, the Irish have been picked to finish second in 2001-02 according to a preseason poll of the league’s coaches which was released at BIG EAST Media Day on Oct. 25. Notre Dame claimed two first-place votes and 155 points overall, trailing only Connecticut (11 first-place votes, 167 points). Rutgers, Boston College and Villanova round out the top five, with VU picking up the remaining first-place vote.

Individually, junior guard Alicia Ratay was a first team preseason all-BIG EAST selection after earning third-team honors last year. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native set an NCAA record for three-point percentage by a sophomore last season (.547) and is the top returning scorer for the Irish in 2001-02 after charting 12.9 points per game a year ago.

Senior guard/forward Ericka Haney also was recognized by the conference coaches, earning second team preseason all-BIG EAST laurels. She joins Ratay as one of two starters back from last year’s NCAA championship squad and averaged 11 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. during the ’00-01 campaign.

In addition, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast was chosen as the preseason BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. It was one in a series of early-season honors for the South Bend, Ind., product, who also was named a first team freshman All-American by the Women’s Basketball News Service and was tabbed as one of the Top 21 “New Players of Impact” by Women’s College

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN – This season, for only the fourth time in school history, Notre Dame has just one captain – senior guard/forward Ericka Haney. She is the first solo captain for the Irish since Sheila McMillen in 1998-99 and the second in head coach Muffet McGraw’s 15-year tenure.

IRISH HAIL FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA – The 13 players on this season’s Notre Dame roster hail from 10 different states, including two each from Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. The all-time Notre Dame women’s basketball 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 on this season’s roster.

FUN WITH NUMBERS – This season, Notre Dame fans are seeing a pair of jersey numbers on the floor that haven’t made an appearance in quite some time. Freshman guard Kelsey Wicks has chosen to wear No. 24, becoming the first Irish player since Andrea Alexander (1990-94) to sport those digits. In addition, freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast is wearing No. 21 this season, a number which has not been modeled by an Irish player since All-American Beth Morgan wore the same jersey from 1993-97. Prior to Morgan, the last Notre Dame player to wear No. 21 was current Irish assistant coach Coquese Washington, who had the number from 1989-93.

NOW THAT’S A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE – Notre Dame is looking to continue some impressive streaks in 2001-02. The Irish have won a school-record 45 consecutive games at home, which became the longest active streak in the nation when Kent State’s 43-game run came to an end Dec. 1 with a loss to Rhode Island. The Irish have not lost at home in more than three years, dating back to a defeat at the hands of top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 8, 1998. Notre Dame also has a 50-3 (.943) record in BIG EAST games at the Joyce Center, with Connecticut the only league team to solve the Irish at home.

In addition, Notre Dame sports a five-year, 29-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center – a streak that includes victories over a trio of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke in 1998-99 and Purdue in 2000-01), as well as 25th-ranked Illinois in ’98-99. Notre Dame’s last non-conference loss at the Joyce Center came way back on Dec. 9, 1996, when 19th-ranked Wisconsin toppled the Irish, 81-69. Overall, the Irish are 70-2 (.972) at the Joyce Center in their last 72 home games, with the only losses coming to Connecticut.

Since its inaugural season in 1977-78, Notre Dame has played all of its games at the Joyce Center, sporting a 233-65 (.782) mark at the venerable facility. Last season, the Irish were a perfect 15-0 for the second year in a row. The 15 victories are a school record for home wins in a season and the first time Notre Dame teams have been undefeated at home during the regular season. Also, since joining the BIG EAST Conference in time for the 1995-96 season, Muffet McGraw’s squad is 83-4 (.954) at the Joyce Center.

SEASON TICKET SALES REACH ALL-TIME HIGH FOR IRISH – Attendance at Notre Dame women’s basketball games in 2000-01 increased nearly 88 percent compared to the previous season – and indications suggest another significant jump is underway for the 2001-02 campaign. Coming off the 2001 NCAA championship, there have been more than 6,700 season tickets sold to the general public and University faculty and staff for the ’01-’02 women’s basketball season. That’s compared to 2,700 a year ago and 940 in 1999-2000- a jump of nearly 150 percent over last season, and a whopping 700 percent rise in just two years.

The sale of season tickets for the ’01-02 campaign actually began midway through Notre Dame’s 2001 championship season. All seats are reserved for Irish women’s games for the first time this season – all seating in previous years had been general admission.

The Irish ranked ninth nationally in attendance last year at 6,376 fans per game, compared to 3,392 in 1999-2000. Notre Dame also recorded the first two women’s basketball sellouts in school history, as 11,418 fans packed the Joyce Center for victories over top-ranked Connecticut and Georgetown.

All seven of Notre Dame’s home games in 2001-02 have attracted more than 7,100 fans, placing them among the top 15 crowds in school history (see chart on page 9). In fact, all of the top 20 crowds in the Notre Dame record book have occurred during the 15-year tenure of head coach Muffet McGraw.

NOTRE DAME FACES TOUGH SCHEDULE IN 2001-02 – Notre Dame is slated to play 10 teams which reached the postseason as part of a rugged schedule this year. On the docket are seven NCAA Tournament squads, including four (Connecticut – 1/1, Purdue – 13/14, Michigan – 22/20 and Colorado State – 23/23) which are ranked in the Top 25 in both the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. In addition, the BIG EAST Conference holds down the No. 24 ranking in both surveys – Boston College has the spot in the AP poll and is receiving votes in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, while Virginia Tech got the nod in the coaches’ balloting and is earning votes in the AP ranking. Furthermore, three other Irish opponents (DePaul, Miami and USC) are receiving votes in one or both of the major polls this week.

IRISH ON THE SMALL SCREEN – Notre Dame is getting a good deal of face time in 2001-02, playing on television at least eight times, including a pair of nationally-televised contests – Nov. 21 at Arizona (Fox Sports Net) and Jan. 21 at Connecticut (ESPN). The Irish also will make two regional television appearances this season – Jan. 2 at Miami (Fox Sports Florida) and Feb. 2 at Seton Hall (CN8, The Comcast Network).

In addition, Notre Dame will appear three times as part of the BIG EAST regular-season television package, playing host to Virginia Tech (Jan. 26) and traveling to Villanova (Jan. 12) and Rutgers (Feb. 16). All three of those games will be telecast live on Fox Sports Chicago as part of the league’s TV deal. The BIG EAST Championship semifinals on March 4 also will be aired on the BIG EAST TV package, while the conference title game on March 5 will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

Additionally, the Dec. 6 rematch of the 2001 NCAA championship game between Notre Dame and Purdue was televised live statewide by LeSea Broadcasting, which includes WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend and WHMB-TV (Channel 40) in Indianapolis.

NOTRE DAME RECEIVES COMMITMENTS FROM PAIR OF TOP 25 PROSPECTS – Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw announced Nov. 15 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 2002. Megan Duffy (Dayton, OH/Chaminade-Julienne HS) and Courtney LaVere (Ventura, CA/Buena HS) are the first players to commit to the Irish during the early signing period.

Duffy, a 5-7 guard, averaged 17 points per game last season for Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio. She was a 2001 first-team Division I all-state selection and earned honorable mention All-America accolades from Street & Smith’s. Additionally, Student Sports tabbed her as a junior All-America selection. She was rated as high as No. 24 in the country by the All-Star Girls Report (ASGR) and No. 29 by School Sports.

LaVere, a 6-3 forward, tallied 13.8 points and eight rebounds per game last season for Buena High School in Ventura, Calif. She also shot 54 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free throw line for BHS, which was ranked in the top 10 nationally throughout the 2000-01 season by USA Today. In addition, LaVere was an All-America honoree by both USA Today and Street & Smith’s last year, and she already has been selected as a preseason third-team All-American for the ’01-02 campaign by School Sports. Like Duffy, LaVere also was a first-team all-state selection last season. She is a consensus top-15 player according to all of the major recruiting services – No. 10 by the Blue Star Index, No. 13 by School Sports and No. 15 by ASGR.

The additions of Duffy and LaVere have given Notre Dame one of this year’s top 10 recruiting classes, according to at least two major recruiting outlets. The Women’s Basketball Journal, in conjunction with ASGR, has pegged the Irish Class of 2006 at No. 5 in the nation. Meanwhile, the Blue Star Index ranked the latest group of Irish signees eighth in the nation, marking the sixth consecutive year in which Blue Star has placed Notre Dame’s recruiting class among the Top 20 in the country.

KRAUSE FEATURED IN “CONFESSIONS OF A FRESHMAN” – Freshman guard Jill Krause is giving fans an inside look at the 2001-02 Irish women’s basketball team through regular diary entries on the Notre Dame athletic website, Entitled “Confessions of a Freshman,” the Glenview, Ill., native is detailing her journey as a first-year player on the defending NCAA championship squad. Her diary entries may be accessed either from the front page or the women’s basketball page on the Notre Dame website.

HANEY SHINES ON BIG EAST ALL-STAR TEAM – For the second time in as many years, Notre Dame sent a player with the BIG EAST Women’s Basketball All-Star Team, as guard/forward Ericka Haney joined the squad for its six-game swing of Germany last summer. Haney followed in the footsteps of Niele Ivey, who helped lead the BIG EAST All-Stars to a 5-1 record during a junket through Canada in the summer of 2000.

Haney paced the BIG EAST squad, which was led by Syracuse head coach Marianna Freeman, to an unbeaten 6-0 record during its tour, scoring a team-high 18 points in a 103-57 win over Ludwigsburg/Malmsheim in the final game of the trip.

Haney finished with a team-high 13.0 points per game and collected 4.5 rebounds per game during her European vacation. She also scored in double figures in five of the All-Stars’ six wins.

– ND –