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Women's Basketball To Meet #16/17 Virginia Tech In Pivotal BIG EAST Matchup

Jan. 25, 2002

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the second time in as many games, Notre Dame will battle a ranked BIG EAST Conference team when No. 16/17 Virginia Tech comes to the Joyce Center Saturday for a 6 p.m. (EST) contest. The matchup will be televised live as part of the BIG EAST television package and will air on Fox Sports Chicago, the Madison Square Garden Network and Fox 21/27 (WFXR/WJPR) in Roanoke, Va.

Notre Dame (10-7, 4-2 BIG EAST) faces a critical challenge as it looks to remain in the thick of the conference title chase. The Irish also will be looking to extend the nation’s longest homecourt winning streak, which currently stands at 46 games, and a 26-game home success string against BIG EAST opponents.

Virginia Tech (15-3, 6-1) had its 12-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night with a 75-59 loss at Syracuse. Senior swing player Sarah Hicks scored a game-high 18 points and sophomore center Ieva Kublina added 17 for the Hokies, who are tied for second place in the BIG EAST with Boston College, one game behind top-ranked Connecticut.

Kublina (13.6 ppg.) and Hicks (13.0 ppg.) are two of four Virginia Tech starters averaging in double figures. In fact, Kublina is one of three BIG EAST players to rank in the top 10 in the league in scoring, rebounding (7.6 rpg.), blocks (2.6 bpg.) and double-doubles (6). Junior swing player Chrystal Starling (13.1 ppg.) and senior post Nicole Jones (10.3 ppg.) round out a potent Hokie lineup.

Bonnie Henrickson is in her fifth season as the head coach at Virginia Tech, compiling an impressive 107-36 (.748) record during her tenure. However, she is 0-3 in her career against Notre Dame, dropping all three decisions last season.

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 420-164 (.719) overall record and 332-124 (.728) 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 (5.1 ppg., 4.5 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 beginning with the DePaul game. Junior guard Alicia Ratay (13.2 ppg., 5.3 rpg., .435 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 13th in the BIG EAST in scoring for all games, and 11th in conference games at 14.0 ppg.

Joining Ratay in the backcourt is sophomore Le’Tania Severe (7.0 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 4.9 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 eighth in the BIG EAST Conference in assists and 13th in steals (1.82 spg.). Severe has moved to a reserve role in four of the last five games, posting a 2.09 assist-to-turnover ratio in that time and dealing out a game-high seven assists Monday at top-ranked Connecticut. Also spending time at the point has been sophomore Jeneka Joyce (3.8 ppg., 1.7 rpg.), who has started eight times for the Irish this season. Joyce has made 13 three-point field goals, one of four Notre Dame players to have at least 10 treys this year. Junior Karen Swanson (1.0 ppg., 0.4 rpg.) and Jill Krause (0.3 ppg., 0.4 rpg.) provide McGraw with additional flexibility in her point guard rotation. Freshmen Allison Bustamante (4.7 ppg., 2.1 rpg.) and Kelsey Wicks (5.4 ppg., 3.2 rpg.) provide the Irish with solid ballhandling and perimeter shooting depth. Bustamante scored a career-high 12 points and grabbed five rebounds at Providence, while Wicks is shooting a team-high .563 three-point percentage in BIG EAST games and posted a career-best 16 points Monday at No. 1 Connecticut.

A pair of freshmen (and former Parade All-Americans) are making an immediate impact on the Notre Dame front line, as forward Jacqueline Batteast (14.4 ppg., 8.1 rpg.) and center Teresa Borton (6.9 ppg., 5.1 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 three players to rank in the top 10 in the BIG EAST in scoring (6th), rebounding (2nd), blocks (4th, 1.71) and double-doubles (2nd, 7), and she has claimed game-high scoring or rebounding honors seven times each. 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 seven games, averaging 9.7 ppg. while shooting 70.7 percent (29-41) from the field, including .714 (25-35) in conference games. She chalked up her first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds last Saturday at Providence.

Junior Amanda Barksdale (4.5 ppg., 2.9 rpg., 3.4 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 – those outings rank 1-2 in the BIG EAST this season and the Marquette performance ties for the fifth-best showing in the nation this season. She currently leads the BIG EAST and ranks fourth nationally in blocked shots after swatting six shots at UConn Monday afternoon. In addition, the lanky Barksdale is shooting a team-best .733 (11-15) from the field in conference games. Meanwhile, freshman Katy Flecky (3.7 ppg., 2.8 rpg.) was a two-time Miss Colorado Basketball and offers the Irish an physical presence in the post. She scored seven points in the win over Seton Hall on Jan. 9.

RECAPPING CONNECTICUT – Sue Bird scored 19 points and Tamika Williams added 17 to lead top-ranked Connecticut to an 80-53 win over defending national champion Notre Dame Monday afternoon at the Hartford Civic Center. Williams led a dominating inside game with 11 rebounds to help the Huskies (21-0, 7-0 BIG EAST) remain unbeaten.

Notre Dame beat UConn 90-75 last season in the national semifinals. But it was a much different Irish team that returned to defend its title, losing three starters from the championship squad, including All-American center Ruth Riley.

The Huskies managed to build a 40-21 first-half lead without much offensive production from their leading scorers. Swin Cash was 0-for-6 and Diana Taurasi hit just 1-of-7 in the first half. A tenacious Notre Dame defense kept UConn from shifting into its up-tempo game with seven steals and five blocks in the first half.

But, the Irish (10-7, 4-2) had shooting woes of their own, hitting just 2-of-15 in the first 12 minutes. The Irish also turned the ball over 10 times in the opening period, including their first three possessions.

Notre Dame’s problems continued in the second half just as UConn was rediscovering its transition game. The Huskies opened the period with a 17-4 run as Williams had five points and two steals in the four-minute spurt. Cash added seven points in the run.

Last season, on Martin Luther King Day, the Irish beat UConn, 92-76 to knock the Huskies from the top spot. UConn beat Notre Dame, 78-76 at the buzzer for the Big East tournament title, but the Irish then rallied from a 16-point deficit to defeat the Huskies at the Final Four.

Cash, who was averaging 16 points a game, finished with 11 and had four blocks, while teammate Asjha Jones added 15. Taurasi, averaging 14 points per game entering Monday’s contest, was held to a season-low four points, but she and Bird led UConn with six assists apiece. As a team, the Huskies were held to 42.3 percent shooting, nearly 10 percent below their season average, and 80 points, more than 10 under their season ratio.

Freshman guard Kelsey Wicks led Notre Dame with a career-high 16 points. Sophomore guard Le’Tania Severe dished out a game-high seven assists in a reserve role, while junior center Amanda Barksdale led all players with six blocks. The Irish bench also held a 32-14 scoring edge over their UConn counterparts.

THE NOTRE DAME-VIRGINIA TECH SERIES – Notre Dame and Virginia Tech had never met prior to last season, when the Hokies joined the BIG EAST Conference following a successful five-year run in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Irish won all three meetings with their new BIG EAST sisters in 2000-01, claiming victories at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg (75-64), the Joyce Center (75-55) and the BIG EAST Tournament in Storrs, Conn. (67-49).

The first meeting proved to be the tightest of the three, as Virginia Tech rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to pull within 64-61 with 3:34 to play. But, Notre Dame went on an 11-3 run to end the game and preserve the victory. Ruth Riley piled up 27 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots to highlight the Irish effort.

In the return encounter, Alicia Ratay notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Ericka Haney added 17 points and six boards as Notre Dame raced out to a 19-4 lead and kept the visitors at arm’s length to remain unbeaten heading into its battle two days later with top-ranked Connecticut at the Joyce Center. However, the Irish did receive two major scares during the victory over the Hokies, as Riley went down with an ankle injury and Kelley Siemon suffered a broken hand. Both played against UConn, but Siemon missed the following three games as a result of her injury.

The two teams clashed for a third time in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Tournament, and unlike its first two games with Virginia Tech, Notre Dame struggled from the field, shooting 36.4 percent in the contest. However, the Irish defense stepped in to fill the void, limiting the Hokies to 17 first-half points and propelling Notre Dame into the conference championship game for the fourth time in six seasons. Ratay and Siemon each scored 14 points, while Haney added 12 for the Irish, who shot a season-best 88.9 percent (24-27) from the foul line in the win.

NOTRE DAME TO PLAY 300TH GAME AT JOYCE CENTER – Saturday’s game against No. 16/17 Virginia Tech represents a milestone in Notre Dame women’s basketball history. The Irish will be playing their 300th game at the Joyce Center, where they have amassed a 234-65 (.783) record since beginning play in 1977-78. The famed facility is currently the site of the nation’s longest homecourt winning streak (46 games) and never has seen the Irish post a losing record while playing on its hardwood. In addition, the Joyce Center was the scene for several memorable women’s basketball moments, including last year’s 92-76 win over then-No. 1 Connecticut before the first sellout crowd in school history (11,418). That nationally-televised game also represented the first win for Notre Dame over a top-ranked team and it vaulted the Irish to No. 1 in both major polls for the first time in school history.

THE REAL “MUST SEE TV” – The Virginia Tech game marks the sixth television appearance for Notre Dame this season. The Irish are 1-4 on the small screen in ’01-02, with three of those five games decided by four points or less. Two of those losses (Arizona and Villanova) were decided at the buzzer, while the Miami contest was tight throughout before Notre Dame held off the Hurricanes for the 69-65 victory.

THE BEASTS OF THE BIG EAST – Notre Dame is 93-17 (.845) 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 49 of their last 56 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 105-23 (.820) against league opponents – when factoring in these 18 postseason tilts, the Irish are 51-3 (.944) at home, 42-17 (.712) on the road and 12-6 (.667) at neutral sites all-time against BIG EAST foes.

ROOKIE RAMPAGE – Notre Dame fans have gotten a preview of things to come over the next four seasons in the last five games. The Irish freshman class has averaged 40.2 points and 17.6 rebounds, and is shooting 48.3 percent (73-151) from the field while leading their team to three wins in those five outings. During this three-week stretch, four of the six members of the Class of 2005 have made significant contributions to the Irish cause.

The latest standout performance from the Notre Dame rookie class came Monday in an 80-53 loss at No. 1 Connecticut. Freshman guard Kelsey Wicks came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points, hitting seven of 14 shots from the field in a career-best 27 minutes of action.

Two days earlier, a trio of freshmen keyed a 69-41 Notre Dame win at Providence. Forward Jacqueline Batteast finished with 14 points, while guard Allison Bustamante logged career highs of 12 points and five rebounds, and center Teresa Borton charted her first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against the Friars.

Notre Dame’s 79-45 win over Seton Hall on Jan. 9 at the Joyce Center was significant, as all six Irish rookies cracked the scoring column for the first time this season. The sextet teamed up for 46 points and shot 60.7 percent (17-28) from the floor in the victory. Borton and Bustamante led the way for the Notre Dame newcomers – Borton tied a BIG EAST Conference rookie record by going 7-for-7 from the field and scoring 15 points, while Bustamante scored 11 points and made all four of her field goal attempts (2-2 from three-point land) in just 11 minutes.

The recent Notre Dame rookie uprising started on Jan. 5 in Notre Dame’s 72-66 win over Providence. Batteast, Borton and Wicks proved to be a deadly combination, teaming up for 55 points in the victory, with all three posting (at the time) 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.

PINE TIME PLAYERS – One of the positives for Notre Dame this season has been its depth and the exceptional production it has received from its reserve unit this season. The Irish bench has averaged 22.9 points per game this year, accounting for 34.8 percent of Notre Dame’s offensive output this season. In fact, the Irish have won the “Battle of the Benches” 10 times this season, going 7-3 when their reserves outscore the opposition.

Notre Dame’s bench depth has been especially apparent since the start of BIG EAST Conference action earlier this month. The Irish second team has chalked up 31.8 points per game (compared to 19 ppg. for its opponents) and is logging 47.6 percent of Notre Dame’s offensive production during league play. The Irish are 3-1 when their bench holds the scoring advantage, including a season-high 47 points in wins over Seton Hall (Jan. 9) and at Providence (Jan. 19).

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.

LIGHTING THE WICKS – Freshman guard Kelsey Wicks quickly has developed into a valuable role player for Notre Dame. The Gillette, Wyo., product ranks fifth on the team in scoring (5.4 ppg.) and stands second on the squad with a .441 three-point percentage. She has been especially solid in BIG EAST Conference action, averaging 7.5 ppg. (fourth on the team) while shooting a team-best .563 from three-point range and .567 overall. Wicks turned in her best performance in an Irish uniform Monday afternoon at No. 1 Connecticut, scoring a career-high 16 points (7-14 FG) in a career-best 27 minutes.

IT’S BATTEAST, TO SAY THE LEAST – Although her college career is only 17 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 three players to rank in the top 10 in the conference in scoring (6th, 14.4 ppg.), rebounding (2nd, 8.1 rpg.), blocked shots (4th, 1.71 bpg.) and double-doubles (2nd, 7th). She also has registered game-high scoring or game-high rebounding honors seven times each.

HOW ABOUT THEM APPLES? – The state of Washington is famous for its apples. But in the eyes of Irish fans, the Evergreen State is becoming known for another export – freshman center Teresa Borton.

The Yakima, Wash., native has been a force in the last seven games, coming off the bench to average 9.7 points per game and an .707 field goal percentage (29-41) while sparking Notre Dame to a 5-2 record and four BIG EAST Conference triumphs. In fact, BIG EAST play certainly has agreed with Borton, who ranks third on the team with 10.0 ppg. in league games and is shooting 71.4 percent (25-35) from the field.

During her current power surge, Borton put together some of the finest games of her young career. She scored a career-high 20 points (9-11 FG) on Jan. 5 against Providence, then tied a BIG EAST rookie record by going 7-of-7 from the field and scoring 15 points four days later against Seton Hall. Then, she carded her first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds, not to mention a career-best four assists in a 69-41 win last Saturday at Providence.

And, in a interesting twist, Borton’s recent run of success has coincided exactly with her 19th birthday, which she celebrated seven games ago on Dec. 31 against DePaul!

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 with a .435 three-point percentage (30-69), a mark which would rank second in the BIG EAST and 24th in the nation, but she has not made enough three-point goals to qualify. Her current ratio does 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 approximately half of her long-distance attempts, hitting at a 49.9 percent clip (184-369) in her 85-game college career – that’s good enough to set a new NCAA record for career three-point percentage, passing the current mark of .467 held by Erin Maher of Harvard. She already ranks fourth on Notre Dame’s career three-point field goals made and attempted lists, and her career percentage is 75 points higher than her nearest challenger (Kari Hutchinson, .424, 1994-98).

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 BIG EAST Conference and ranks fourth nationally with 3.4 blocks per game (44 rejections). The Friendswood, Texas, native also is coming off one of her best performances of the season, tallying six blocks in Monday’s loss at No. 1 Connecticut. Those six rejections moved her into third place on Notre Dame’s career blocks list with 136, passing Shari Matvey’s total of 133 swats from 1979-83.

Barksdale was in peak form 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.

One of only five players in school history to reach the century mark in career rejections, Barksdale needs just five blocks to catch Katryna Gaither (141) for second place on Notre Dame’s career blocks chart. In addition, she is averaging 1.79 blocks per game in her 76-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.

A SEVERE DEVELOPMENT FOR THE IRISH – 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 17 games this season, Severe is third on the team with 7.0 points per game and leads the squad with 4.9 assists per game, ranking eighth 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, earning game-high assist honors in 12 games and dealing at least five assists nine times, including a career-high eight handouts against Purdue and Western Michigan and a game-best seven dimes Monday at No. 1 Connecticut. She also has proven to be a scoring threat when necessary, reaching double figures six times this season, including a career-high 17 points against USC.

Severe has been especially effective since she began coming off the bench for the Irish five games ago. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., product has come off the pine in four of those contests, averaging 5.8 assists per game with a 2.09 assist/turnover ratio (23:11) as a reserve.

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 7,407 fans for their eight home games, more than 1,000 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.

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 17 games of the 2001-02 campaign. Notre Dame’s freshmen have accounted for 49.8 percent of the points (558 of 1121), 48.1 percent of the rebounds (342 of 711) and 41.0 percent of the minutes (1395 of 3400) 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 five of the six Irish rookies are averaging at least 11 minutes per contest.

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 41.8 rebounds per game through 17 games in 2001-02, owning a +5.8 edge on the glass, which ranks third in the BIG EAST Conference and 35th in the nation this week.

Leading the charge on the boards for Notre Dame have been a pair of freshmen – forward Jacqueline Batteast is setting the pace at 8.1 rebounds per game (ranking second in the BIG EAST), while center Teresa Borton is third with 5.1 caroms per contest. Additionally, the Irish have been potent on the offensive glass, collecting 13.6 offensive rebounds per game. Batteast and Borton also are setting the pace in that category – Batteast has 45 offensive boards (2.65 orpg.), ranking ninth in the BIG EAST, while Borton has corralled 42 offensive caroms (2.47), placing 10th 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 95-1 (.990) 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 eight times during the 2001-02 season – Valparaiso (35 points), Army (57), USC (49), Western Michigan (48), Marquette (33), DePaul (50), Seton Hall (45) and Providence (41).

… 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 hasn’t wasted any time in starting up a new three-point streak, canning 92 triples in its last 16 games (5.8 per game), including a school-record 13 treys at Miami on Jan. 2. The Irish have now made at least one three-pointer in 162 of their last 164 games, a streak dating back over 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 332-124 (.728) 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 (446), Rutgers’ Theresa Grentz (434) and Villanova’s Harry Perretta (427).

In addition, McGraw is the sixth coach to work 450 games at a BIG EAST Conference school. Besides the Notre Dame mentor, three of those coaches are still active in the league – Perretta (679), Auriemma (544) and Seton Hall’s Phyllis Mangina (475). Grentz (584) and Virginia Tech’s Carol Alfano (540) are the other BIG EAST skippers 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 coaches’ poll and a 56-week stretch in the AP rankings. This week, the Irish earned five points in the Associated Press poll and four points in the ESPN/USA Today balloting.

… 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 46 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 Saturday when the Irish play host to No. 16/17 Virginia Tech in a 6 p.m. (EST) contest at 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 12 players on this season’s Notre Dame roster hail from nine different states, including two each from Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Other states represented on the Irish roster include Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, 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 46 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 51-3 (.944) record (including a current 26-game winning streak) in BIG EAST play 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 stretch 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 234-65 (.783) 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 84-4 (.955) 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 eight of Notre Dame’s home games in 2001-02 have attracted more than 6,900 fans, placing them among the top 20 crowds in school history. 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 2001 NCAA Tournament squads and five teams (Connecticut – 1/1, Purdue – 10/11, Virginia Tech – 16/17, Colorado State – 19/21 and Boston College – 24/23) which are ranked in the Top 25 in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls. In addition, three other Irish opponents (DePaul, Michigan 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) both committed 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.

RILEY RECEIVES NCAA TODAY’S TOP VIII AWARD – Former Notre Dame All-American and Academic All-American Ruth Riley, the consensus national player of the year in women’s basketball in 2001 and already winner of an NCAA postgraduate scholarship, was named a recipient of the NCAA Today’s Top VIII Award on Dec. 13. The Today’s Top VIII Award winners are a group of distinguished student-athletes from the 2001 calendar year who were recognized for athletics, academic achievement, character and leadership at the 37th annual NCAA Honors Dinner Jan. 13 in Indianapolis.

In addition to their athletics accomplishments, the NCAA Today’s Top VIII recipients earned numerous academic honors, volunteered countless hours to community projects and served as role models for their academic institutions and to their peers.

A two-time Associated Press first team All-American, Riley was selected as the 2001 BIG EAST Player of the Year and the AP and Naismith Women’s College Player of the Year after helping lead Notre Dame to its first national title last spring. Off the court, Riley was selected as the Verizon Academic All-America? Team Member of the Year after being named first team Academic All-American for two consecutive years.

Riley averaged 19 points and eight rebounds a game, leading Notre Dame to a 34-2 record. The former Irish center is the only player in Notre Dame history to score more than 2,000 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds.

An eight-time Dean’s List selection at Notre Dame, Riley graduated in May 2001 with a 3.64 grade-point average in psychology and sociology. She was also selected as the BIG EAST women’s basketball scholar-athlete of the year and the BIG EAST women’s scholar-athlete of the year for all sports. Riley received the university’s highest scholar-athlete honor when she was awarded the Byron V. Kanaley Award at the 2001 Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet.

Last April, she was chosen in the first round of the 2001 WNBA Draft, going fifth overall to the Miami Sol. In her inaugural professional season in south Florida, Riley averaged 6.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.44 blocks per game (ninth in the league) while helping Miami, a second-year expansion franchise, qualify for the WNBA playoffs.

REMINDER – SOUTH BEND AREA CODE CHANGE – The area code for north central Indiana, including South Bend, Elkhart and Mishawaka, has changed from 219 to 574, effective Jan. 15. Please be aware that all University of Notre Dame athletic department phones also have switched over to this new area code. The 219 area code still will be active through June 15, although callers will be reminded of the change to the new 574 area code.

– ND –