Jan. 4, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With its slow early-season start beginning to look like a distant memory, Notre Dame now focuses on its BIG EAST Conference home opener Saturday at 1 p.m. (EST) against Providence. The Irish have been wildly successful against BIG EAST foes at the Joyce Center, going 49-3 against the conference at home since joining the loop in 1995-96.
Notre Dame (7-5, 1-0 BIG EAST) also will be seeking to continue its recent hot streak which has included wins in five of its last six games. Much of that success has come at home, where the Irish have held their last four visitors to an average of less than 44 points per game on the way to extending the nation’s longest active home winning streak, which currently stands at 44 games.
Providence (7-6, 1-1) comes to town on a high note, having snapped a three-game losing streak Wednesday night with a 59-55 BIG EAST win at home over Georgetown. Senior guard Chrissy Vozab and freshman forward/center Jessica Simmonds each scored 12 points to lead the Friars, while graduate student Dani Trippany charted her third double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
PC actually started the season well, winning six of its first eight games, including a 78-75 victory over Southeastern Conference stalwart Alabama on Dec. 2. However, one of the two losses in that stretch was a 10-point setback at BIG EAST foe Rutgers, which seemed to ignite the Friars’ current struggles.
Trippany is the only Providence player currently scoring in double figures at 10.5 points per game. She also is grabbing a team-high 6.3 rebounds per outing, good for 15th in the BIG EAST. Meanwhile, Vozab is capably running the Friar offense this season, ranking second on the club at 8.8 ppg., and leading the squad with 3.0 assists per game.
Jim Jabir is in his sixth season at PC with a record of 56-93, and an overall mark of 214-214 in 16 seasons as a college coach, which includes stops at Marquette (six years), Siena (three years) and Buffalo State (one year). He is 1-13 in his career against Notre Dame, and 0-7 since he came to Providence.
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 417-162 (.720) overall record and 329-122 (.729) 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 (5.4 ppg., 5.0 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 this week to help the Irish claim wins over DePaul and Miami. Junior guard Alicia Ratay (13.7 ppg., 5.3 rpg., .474 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 10th in the BIG EAST in scoring and second in three-point percentage after tossing in a season-high 23 points (including 7-9 three-pointers) Wednesday at Miami.
Joining Ratay in the backcourt is sophomore Le’Tania Severe (7.8 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 4.9 apg.), who was hampered by injuries last season, appearing in just 22 games, but has confidently taken control of the Irish offense this season. She scored a career-high 17 points against USC and matched her career best with eight assists against Western Michigan. She also ranks seventh in the BIG EAST Conference in assists and 11th in free throw percentage (.667). Junior Karen Swanson (1.0 ppg., 0.6 rpg.) and sophomore Jeneka Joyce (5.2 ppg., 2.1 rpg.) give McGraw tremendous flexibility in her guard rotation. Joyce ranks second on the team with a .467 field goal percentage and third with a .387 three-point percentage. She posted nine points, four rebounds and four assists in the BIG EAST opener at Miami. Additionally, freshmen Allison Bustamante (4.2 ppg., 2.0 rpg.) Jill Krause (0.0 ppg., 0.4 rpg.) and Kelsey Wicks (3.7 ppg., 2.7 rpg.) provide the Irish with solid ballhandling and perimeter shooting depth. Bustamante made a successful return to her hometown of Miami on Wednesday, scoring a career-high eight points (3-4 FG) and hitting two clutch three-point baskets.
A pair of freshmen (and former Parade All-Americans) are making an immediate impact on the Notre Dame front line, as forward Jacqueline Batteast (15.2 ppg., 9.3 rpg.) and center Teresa Borton (5.4 ppg., 5.3 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 three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week, Batteast is among the league leaders in scoring (4th), rebounding (2nd), field goal percentage (12th, .440), blocks (5th, 1.58) and double-doubles (tie-1st, 7), picking up her seventh double-dip Wednesday at Miami with 12 points and 13 rebounds. In her last five games, Batteast is averaging 18.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game while compiling five consecutive double-doubles. 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 two games, averaging 7.5 ppg. while shooting 75 percent (6-8) from the field.
Junior Amanda Barksdale (5.0 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 3.6 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 rank among the best single-game performances in the nation in 2001-02. However, her 3.6 bpg. average, which would lead the BIG EAST, does not appear in the conference rankings because she has yet to play in enough games to qualify. 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 Monday against DePaul.
RECAPPING MIAMI – Junior guard Alicia Ratay scored a season-high 23 points and canned seven three-point field goals to spark a record-setting night for Notre Dame as the Irish held off Miami, 69-65, Wednesday night at the Knight Sports Complex in Coral Gables, Fla. It was the BIG EAST Conference opener for Notre Dame, which also picked up its first road win in six tries this season.
Ratay was 7-of-9 from three-point range, tying her career high for treys in a single game (at Rutgers, Feb. 19, 2000). As a team, the Irish knocked down a school-record 13 three-pointers on 24 attempts, breaking the previous mark of 12 set against St. John’s on Feb. 28, 1998. Notre Dame also shot a season-best 52.1 percent from the field, the second consecutive game in which the Irish have established a season-high field goal ratio.
Freshman forward Jacqueline Batteast continued her strong play, notching her seventh double-double of the season, and fifth in as many games with 12 points and 13 rebounds, to go along with a career-high six assists. Sophomore guard Jeneka Joyce came off the bench to score nine points and hand out a season-high four assists, while freshman guard Allison Bustamante, playing in her hometown before an enthusiastic band of supporters, scored a career-high eight points and made 3-of-4 field goals, including a pair of three-pointers.
Chanivia Broussard scored a team-high 22 points for Miami (8-4, 1-1 BIG EAST), which lost to Notre Dame for the sixth consecutive time and 12th time in 14 career meetings. Sheila James added 17 points and six steals for the Hurricanes, who amassed an opponent season-high 17 steals, but struggled from the three-point line, hitting just four of 22 attempts (.182) from long range.
Batteast opened the scoring with a three-pointer 44 seconds into the game, giving an indication of things that were to come for the Irish. Notre Dame built a trio of five-point leads in the first four minutes, but Miami rallied and took its first lead at 14-12 on a trey from James. However, Batteast countered with a triple of her own, igniting a 12-2 Irish run that gave the visitors a game-high eight-point lead with 9:41 left in the half.
The Hurricanes made another charge and fought back to take a 31-30 lead when Broussard made the first of two free throws at the 4:21 mark. Ratay and Broussard then traded three-pointers and Miami would end up preserving its edge at halftime, taking a 36-35 lead to the dressing room.
The hosts came out firing to start the second half, scoring six of the first eight points to open up their largest lead of the night (42-37) on a bucket by Meghan Saake with 16:53 remaining. After the two teams went scoreless for the next two and a half minutes, Ratay caught lightning in a bottle, hitting three consecutive three-pointers in a two-minute stretch to reverse the momentum and give the Irish a 46-44 lead with 12:10 to play.
Two possessions later, Bustamante buried a triple from the right wing to cap a 13-2 Notre Dame run and give the Irish a six-point edge with 10:44 to go. But, Miami would not go quietly, closing to within a basket four times over the next five minutes, the last coming at 58-56 on a Saake jumper. Ratay hit her seventh three-pointer with 2:21 left to bump the Notre Dame lead back to eight, but Broussard and Saake hit shots to pull the Hurricanes within 64-60 with 1:30 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Joyce was fouled but missed the front end of her one-and-one opportunity. Batteast was there to corral the offensive rebound and the Irish worked the ball to Bustamante, who drilled a critical three-pointer with 1:17 left to quash the final Miami comeback and give Notre Dame its 46th win in its last 51 BIG EAST games, dating back to the 1999-2000 season.
THE NOTRE DAME-PROVIDENCE SERIES – Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Providence, 8-0, in a rivalry that began only after the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 1995-96 season. Notre Dame is 4-0 against the Friars at the Joyce Center and is averaging nearly 90 points per game against PC.
In their only meeting last season, the Irish fought off a pesky Providence squad to post a 64-44 win on Jan. 31, 2001 at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame actually trailed by as many as seven points (18-11) with 6:15 left in the first half before rallying to take a 26-20 lead at halftime. The Friars closed the gap to two points early in the second stanza before the top-ranked Irish found the right combination and pulled clear of the visitors to post the win and remain unbeaten on the 2000-01 season. Ruth Riley collected a double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while this year’s lone senior, Ericka Haney, amassed 17 points and nine rebounds to pace the Notre Dame attack.
THE BEASTS OF THE BIG EAST – Notre Dame is 90-15 (.857) 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 46 of their last 51 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 102-21 (.829) against league opponents – when factoring in these 18 postseason tilts, the Irish are 49-3 (.942) at home, 41-15 (.732) on the road and 12-6 (.667) at neutral sites all-time against BIG EAST foes.
BLOWING THE LID OFF THE BIG EAST – Notre Dame is 4-2 (.667) in BIG EAST Conference home openers since it joined the league prior to the 1995-96 season. The Irish have won their last two BIG EAST lidlifters at the Joyce Center, including last season’s 64-33 victory over Villanova on Dec. 6.
IRISH BREAK OUT LONG-RANGE ARTILLERY AT MIAMI – Notre Dame put together a record-setting performance from the three-point line in Wednesday’s win over 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 Wednesday night 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 and ranks second in the BIG EAST with a .474 three-point percentage (27-of-57). 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 percentage by a sophomore.
In her career, Ratay is making better than half of her long-distance attempts, hitting at a 50.7 percent clip (181-of-357) in her 80-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 more than 80 points more than her nearest challenger (Kari Hutchinson, .424, 1994-98).
FIRST HALF FRENZY – In its last three home games, Notre Dame has used some dominating first-half performances to take control early and keep Western Michigan, Marquette and DePaul off balance. The Irish outscored all three foes by a combined score of 107-42 while shooting 55 percent (44-of-80) during that span. Conversely, WMU, Marquette and DePaul shot a combined 14.5 percent (11-for-76) in the first half and all three teams scored 17 points or less in the opening 20 minutes.
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 performance since it held Butler to a school-record .149 field goal percentage (9-of-61) on Jan. 30, 1984. Finally, against DePaul, the Irish held the Blue Demons to 3-of-26 (.115) shooting 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.
WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH? – After playing just two games in a 16-day span from Dec. 13-28, Notre Dame is now making up for lost time, playing five games in a 13-day window from Dec. 31-Jan. 12 – an average of one game every 2.6 days. That run began Monday against DePaul and continued Wednesday with the BIG EAST Conference opener at Miami. The Irish will kick off the home portion of their BIG EAST schedule Saturday against Providence and also will entertain Seton Hall on Jan. 9 at the Joyce Center before ending up the five-game blitz Jan. 12 at Villanova.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE – Notre Dame has turned up the defense in its last six games, holding its opponents to an average of 52.8 points per game while limiting them to a combined .298 field goal percentage (108-for-362). In addition, the Irish blocked a season-high 13 shots in the win over Marquette (including a school-record eight rejections by Amanda Barksdale), and averaged 46.7 rebounds in those six contests, highlighted by 56 rebounds against WMU, the second-highest total for the Irish this season.
Notre Dame also has extended its defensive clamps to the three-point line, where opponents are now 27-of-124 (.218) over the last seven games, including a 1-of-13 (.077) performance by seventh-ranked Purdue on Dec. 6.
For the season, the Irish rank among the BIG EAST leaders in team defense, giving up 58.4 points per game (fifth in the league), while allowing opponents to shoot just 34 percent from the field (third in the BIG EAST) and 25.5 percent from the three-point arc (second in the loop).
IT’S BATTEAST, TO SAY THE LEAST – Although her college career is only 12 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 three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week selection and is tied with Connecticut’s Swin Cash for the league lead with seven double-doubles this season (Colorado State, Army, Western Michigan, Marquette, Rice, DePaul and Miami), including double-dips in each of her last five games. In addition, she has scored in double figures in 11 of Notre Dame’s 12 games.
Batteast has been especially strong in her last five games, averaging 18.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game while compiling five consecutive double-doubles and three 20-point performances.
This season, Batteast leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game (fourth in the BIG EAST) and rebounding at 9.3 boards per outing, good for second in the BIG EAST. She also is ranked among the league leaders in defensive rebounds (first, 6.17 drpg.), field goal percentage (12th, .440) and blocked shots (5th, 1.58 bpg.).
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 3.6 blocks per game (29 rejections). In fact, she would lead the BIG EAST Conference in that category by nearly 1.5 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 among the top five outings in the country this season.
In her career, Barksdale has 121 career blocks, making her only the fifth player in school history to reach the century mark in career rejections. She also needs just three blocks to tie Trena Keys for fourth place on Notre Dame’s career blocks list. In addition, she is averaging 1.7 blocks per game in her 71-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.
ALICIA ALMOST AUTOMATIC FROM THE LINE – Junior guard Alicia Ratay has been nearly perfect from the free throw line this season, making 23 of 26 charity tosses for a sparkling .885 free throw percentage – that figure would rank third in the BIG EAST Conference if she had enough attempts to qualify. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native also had made 13 consecutive free throws before missing her first attempt Monday against DePaul. Nevertheless, since the start of last season, she has made 88.9 percent of her foul shots (88-of-99).
Ratay is Notre Dame’s career free throw percentage leader by a wide margin, connecting on 86.0 percent of her charities (172-of-200) 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 7,412 fans for their six 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.
IRISH HOPING TO ENJOY ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME – After a rugged first month of the season that saw Notre Dame face three ranked opponents and play four of its first six games away from home, the schedule appears to have balanced out. The Irish currently are in the midst of a stretch where they play six of eight games at the Joyce Center, including a successful three-game, 13-day homestand which wrapped up Dec. 22 with a win over Marquette. After opening BIG EAST Conference play Wednesday night at Miami, Notre Dame closes out this favorable stretch in the schedule Saturday against Providence and Jan. 9 against Seton Hall, with both games destined for the Joyce Center.
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 on 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 12 games of the 2001-02 campaign. Notre Dame’s freshmen have accounted for 45.2 percent of the points (357 of 789), 47.7 percent of the rebounds (254 of 533) and 38.9 percent of the minutes (934 of 2400) 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 the starting point guard for the Irish, filling the large shoes of All-American Niele Ivey. Through 12 games this season, Severe is third on the team with 7.8 points per game and leads the squad with 4.9 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 10 games and dealing at least five assists six 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 44.4 rebounds per game through 12 games in 2001-02, owning a +8.2 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 9.3 rebounds per game (ranking second in the BIG EAST Conference), while center Teresa Borton is tied for second with 5.3 caroms per contest. Additionally, the Irish have been potent on the offensive glass, collecting 15 offensive rebounds per game. Batteast and Borton also are setting the pace in that category – Batteast has 37 offensive boards (3.08 orpg.), ranking seventh in the BIG EAST, while Borton has corralled 31 offensive caroms (2.58), tying for 11th 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, turning the trick in all six of their home games – 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 72 triples in their last 11 games (6.5 per game), including a school-record 13 treys at Miami on Wednesday night. The Irish have now made at least one three-pointer in 157 of their last 159 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 Monday afternoon against DePaul. She owns a 329-122 (.729) 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 (440), Rutgers’ Theresa Grentz (434) and Villanova’s Harry Perretta (424).
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 (538) and Seton Hall’s Phyllis Mangina (469). 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 one point in the Associated Press poll and 11 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 44 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 on Saturday afternoon when the Irish open their BIG EAST home schedule against Providence 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 Hoops.com.
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 44 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 49-3 (.942) 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 69-2 (.972) at the Joyce Center in their last 71 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 232-65 (.781) 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 82-4 (.953) 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 six of Notre Dame’s home games in 2001-02 have attracted more than 7,100 fans, placing them among the top 13 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 – 10/9, Michigan – 18/17 and Colorado State – 20/19) which are ranked in the Top 25 in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. In addition, four Irish opponents (Boston College, DePaul, Syracuse and Virginia Tech) are receiving votes in one or both of the major rankings 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 one recruiting outlet. The Blue Star Index has ranked the latest group of Irish signees sixth 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.
REMEMBER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON WITH “NICE GIRLS FINISH FIRST” – Fans of Notre Dame women’s basketball will be able to relive the 2000-01 NCAA championship season in a new book by Mark Bradford entitled “Nice Girls Finish First.” The book is the story of how the Irish and head coach Muffet McGraw put together a squad of truly remarkable young women, some of whom overcame great odds, to win the national championship last April. Included in the book are in-depth interviews with members of the Notre Dame senior class and starting lineup, giving an unique perspective on what goes into putting together a championship team.
Bradford is a sportswriter for the South Bend Tribune, and also has done free-lance work for the Associated Press and Indianapolis Star. The Mishawaka, Ind., resident has covered Notre Dame football and men’s and women’s basketball for the last seven years.
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, www.und.com. 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 –