Women's Basketball Preps for Big East Championship First Round
No. 5 Irish face No. 12 St. John's Saturday
RECORDS: Notre Dame is 18-8 overall and 12-6 in the BIG EAST. Conference. St. Johnsm is 6-20 overall and 4-14 in the BIG EAST.
RADIO: All Notre Dame womens basketball games are broadcast on WHME-FM 103.1 with Bob Nagle handling all the play-by-play duties.
COACH McGRAW: Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw (St. Josephs 77) is 231-103 (.692) in her 11th season at Notre Dame and 319-144 (.689) in her 16th season overall.
SERIES: Notre Dame has won all five meetings between the two schools. This will be the first time the two teams have ever faced each other in the BIG EAST Tournament.
A Look at the Irish: Notre Dame heads into its third BIG EAST Tournament as the number-five seed. The Irish are 18-8 overall and finished the season with a 12-6 league record.
Notre Dame has advanced to the championship game each of the past two seasons. In both 1996 and 1997, the Irish received a first-round bye and played Connecticut in the tournaments championship game.
Coach Muffet McGraws squad meets 12th-seed St. Johns in the first round of the tournament. The Express enter the tournament having lost its final three regular season games and are 6-20 overall after finishing with a 4-14 league record. The two teams met twice during the regular season with the Irish winning both contests. Notre Dame earned a 20-point road decision over the Express on the road (77-57) and a 76-44 win at home on February 12.
Notre Dame won four of its final five regular season games. All four victories came at the Joyce Center where the Irish finished with a 12-1 record. The 12 wins represented the most by a Notre Dame womens basketball team in its 21seasons of playing at the Joyce Center.
The Irish finished the 1997-98 season with a 6-7 road record. Notre Dame has lost the last three road games it has played, dropping decisions to Villanova (70-54), Miami (77-76) and Connecticut (73-61).
McGraw's squad is coming off a 71-64 win against Rutgers in its regular season finale. The win snapped the Scarlet Knights 10-game win streak.
The Irish have won 15 of their last 19 games and 12 of their last 16 BIG EAST tests. Earlier this season, the Irish had an eight-game win streak which started with a victory at home against Purdue (77-71) and ended when Notre Dame dropped a 78-76 decision at Boston College in the waning seconds of the contest. Notre Dame has an 8-4 record in its last 12 games.
Notre Dame has had balanced scoring this season as four players are averaging in double figures. The Irish returned only one starter off of last year's 31-7 Final Four team senior guard Mollie Peirick. The Irish lost four senior starters from last year's record-setting campaign, including two of the most prolific players in Irish women's basketball history Beth Morgan and Katryna Gaither. During their four-year careers (1993-97), they combined for 4,448 points and 1,608 rebounds.
Peirick, a four-year starter, is the team's second-leading scorer (11.7 ppg.) and third leading rebounder (5.0 rpg.). She also leads the team with 155 assists in 26 games (6.0 aspg.). Peirick has been in double figure scoring in 17 games this season and has been the only player to start all 26 contests in 1997-98. She has 607 career assists and needs just seven points to become the 13th player in Notre Dame womens basketball history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
Junior guard Sheila McMillen, the top returning scorer from a year ago, leads the Irish in the scoring column. She is averaging 13.6 ppg. and has been in double figures in 18 games this season. McMillen was held scoreless in the Miami game on February 3 for only the second time in her career, but recently had a 21-point outing against Georgetown on February 18. She has netted 20-plus points four times this season.
Freshman Ruth Riley, a three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honoree, has started the last 20 games for the Irish and has proven to be one of the league's top first-year players. She has posted double-doubles in nine of Notre Dames last 14 outings and has scored in double figures in 14 games and grabbed 10-plus rebounds in 10 contests. Riley, who became the first Notre Dame women's basketball player to record five straight double-doubles earlier this season, has had double-doubles in four of the last five outings.
Sophomore Niele Ivey returned to the starting lineup against Georgetown after missing the Pittsburgh game with a hip pointer sustained against St. John's on February 12. Ivey has started the last 11 games she has played and 13 overall in the 25 contests she has played. She returned this season after tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the fifth game of the '96-'97 season. She has been in double figures in nine games this season and scored a career-high 20 points against Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion on February 21. She is averaging 8.2 ppg. and 4.7 rpg. and leads the team with 60 steals (2.4 per game).
Junior Danielle Green, who started the first 14 games of the season, has been coming off the bench in the last nine games she has played. She had a career-high 22-point outing against Providence on January 31 as she connected on nine-of-16 shots from the field and was four-for-four from the free throw line. She is the fourth-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder averaging 10.5 ppg. and 5.2 rpg., respectively.
Freshman Kelley Siemon has started 24 games and along with Riley has appeared in all 26 contests. She has been in the starting lineup for all but two games (Wisconsin and Rutgers). Siemon had a career-high 20 points against UCLA on November 30. In the game, she was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line. She recorded her first career double-double against Georgetown as she scored 13 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. Siemon, who has netted double figures in nine games this season, is averaging 8.3 ppg. and 4.7 rpg.
Kari Hutchinson who started in place of Ivey against Pittsburgh, has seen action in every game this season and earned her first career start against Wisconsin. She also earned a start against Rutgers in the final regular season game at the Joyce Center. Hutchinson has been a factor for the Irish coming off the bench. She had the best game of her career against Villanova as she recorded personal bests of 12 points and eight rebounds and is averaging 3.5 ppg. and 2.9 rpg.
Diana Braendly also has played well off the bench and has seen action in all but one contest (Villanova). She is averaging 3.6 points per game and 2.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore center Julie Henderson was in the starting lineup for the first six games of the season. She has played in 24 contests and is averaging 4.3 ppg. and 3.1 rpg.
As a team, Notre Dame is shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three-point range. In their last 13 games, the Irish have shot 50 percent or better in nine of those contests. Notre Dame has hit better than 52 percent of its shots in four of the last seven games.
Head Coach Muffet McGraw: Muffet McGraw is in her 11th season along the Notre Dame sidelines and her 16th as a collegiate coach. Her career coaching ledger stands at 319-144 (.689) and she owns a 231-103 (.692) as head coach of the Irish. McGraw reached two milestones last season, earning her 200th win at Notre Dame with its 72-71 decision over Miami on January 29, 1997 and the 300th of her collegiate career with the 87-81 win over Alabama in its NCAA Tournament East Regional semifinal contest on March 22, 1997. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, she spent five seasons at Lehigh where she compiled a 138-69 (.667) record. Under McGraw, the Irish have posted eight 20-win seasons, including four straight (1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1997-98). As a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, her teams won five regular season championships and five tournament crowns. She also guided the Irish to their only three NCAA tournament appearances in school history in 1996, 1994 and 1992. During her tenure, McGraw's Irish teams have averaged 21.3 victories each season. Following the conclusion of the 1995-96 campaign, McGraw was named District II Coach of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).
Series Record vs. St. Johns: Notre Dame has won all five meetings between the two teams, including two victories this season. This is the first time the two schools have faced each other in the BIG EAST tournament and at a neutral site.
The Captains: The captains for this season are senior guard Mollie Peirick and junior guard Sheila McMillen. Peirick served as a tri-captain on Notre Dame's 1996-97 Final Four team which finished the season with a 31-7 mark.
BIG EAST Roll: Notre Dame has won 12 of its last 16 BIG EAST outings after dropping its first two league games against Rutgers and Connecticut. The back-to-back BIG EAST losses marked the first time since joining the league that the Irish had dropped consecutive league outings.
Late Season Favors Irish: The final regular-season scheduling favored the Irish as they played four of their five games at home. They were 4-1 in that stretch winning all four games at home.
BIG EAST Road Woes: Five of Notre Dame's six BIG EAST losses during the regular season came on the road. The Irish have lost four of their last six league road games, including three consecutive road games against Villanova, Miami and Connecticut.
Irish in the Joyce Center: Notre Dame finished its 21st season at the Joyce Center with a 12-1 mark and are 184-64 (.742) since 1977-78. For the third straight season, the Irish won 11 or more games as Notre Dame finished the 1997-98 campaign with a 12-1 mark at the Joyce Center. The 12 wins represent the most in a single season by any Irish womens basketball team. The previous record was 11 which was established on five different occasions. During the 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns, the Irish had back-to-back 11-1 marks at home. During the 1996-97 season, their only loss at home was to Wisconsin (81-69) and the only blemish on this year's home record is a 78-59 setback to Connecticut.
Riley Has nine Double-Doubles: Ruth Riley, who became the first player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to register five consecutive double-doubles, recorded her ninth of the season against Rutgers in the regular-season finale for both teams as she scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. It marked the third 20-point outing of the season for Riley who also scored 27 against West Virginia and 29 versus Syracuse, Currently, she is the team's third-leading scorer and top rebounder averaging 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. She has scored in double figures in 14 games this season and has grabbed 10-plus boards 10 times. Riley also has been honored as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Week three times.
Riley's Double-Doubles: Here's a look at Ruth Riley's nine double-double performances this season: vs. Miami (19 points, 11 rebounds)
vs. St. John's (10 points, 10 rebounds)
vs. West Virginia (27 points, 12 rebounds)
vs. Boston College (18 points, 11 rebounds)
vs. Syracuse (29 points, 13 rebounds)
vs. St. John's (13 points, 10 rebounds)
vs. Pittsburgh (10 points, 12 rebounds)
vs. Georgetown (11 points, 11 rebounds)
Peirick Steps Up: Senior guard Mollie Peirick turned in the top two performances of her career in back-to-back games against West Virginia and Boston College in January as she had consecutive 20-point outings. In the West Virginia contest, she netted 20-plus points for the third time in her career as she scored a then personal-best 23 points, while grabbing four rebounds and dishing off seven assists. She hit six-of-13 shots from the field and was a perfect nine-for-nine from the free throw line. Peirick came back three nights later against the Eagles and tossed in a career-high 26 points, while also grabbing six rebounds. She had her best performance against Boston College, despite playing on a sprained left ankle she suffered in practice two days prior to the game, as she tied the contest with 13 seconds left to play by making three free throws after attempting a three-point shot. Peirick attempted a career-high 23 shots against Boston College. She is the team's second-leading scorer (11.7 ppg.), third-leading rebounder (5.0 rpg.) and tops the team in assists (6.0 aspg.), free throw percentage (83.3) and minutes played (31.7). Peirick is the only player to have started all 26 games this season and has netted double figures in all but nine contests.
Peirick Moves to Second on All-Time Assist List: Mollie Peirick is second on the all-time Notre Dame career assist list with 607. Mary Gavin is Notre Dame's career assist leader with 778. Peirick had 10 assists against St. John's on February 12 which marked the second time this season she had 10 or more assists in a game. Over the last nine games, she has dished off 59 assists and is averaging 6.6 per game. In four of the last nine games, Peirick has had nine or more assists.
Peirick Connects From the Line: Mollie Peirick leads the team from the free throw line as she has connected on 83.3 percent (60-72). In back-to-back contests against West Virginia and Boston College in January, Peirick was 17-18 (94.4) from the charity stripe.
Peirick Approaches 1,000: Mollie Peirick currently has 993 points and needs just seven more to become the 13th player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
McMillen Back in Groove: Sheila McMillen, who was held scoreless for the second time in her career (89 games) against Miami on February 3, has scored in double figures in 19 games this season and leads the Irish in scoring with 13.6 ppg. The only other time McMillen was held without a point in a game was against Providence on January 14, 1996. Her 21-point outing against Georgetown marked the fourth 20-plus performance of the season.
Ivey Nets Career Best : Sophomore guard Niele Ivey returned to the starting lineup against Georgetown after missing the Pittsburgh game with a hip pointer sustained against St. John's on February 12. She has started the last 11 games and earned 13 starts overall this season. Ivey had her first 20-point performance of her career when she scored 20 points against Connecticut last Saturday. She is averaging 8.2 points and lead the team with 60 steals (2.4 per game). Ivey has been in double figures in nine games this season and was honored as the BIG EAST Player of the Week in mid-December.
Green Provides a Spark : Junior guard Danielle Green has been a spark in the Irish lineup this season. She missed all of last season with a torn achilles tendon which she suffered on the first day of practice (Oct. 15), but started the first 14 games of the 1997-98 campaign. Green missed the West Virginia and Seton Hall games, but has come off the bench in the last eight games. She is the team's fourth-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and second-leading rebounder (5.2 rpg.). Green had a career-high 22-point outing against Providence on January 24, which marked the first time in her career that she scored 20-plus points in a game. She recorded her first career double-double versus South Florida when she scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Notre Dame's 73-50 victory. She has been in double figures in 10 games this season.
Siemon In Double Figures: Freshman Kelley Siemon's 14-point outing against Miami on February 3 marked the ninth time this season she has been in double figures. In the game, she was seven-of-eight from the field and also grabbed five rebounds. Siemon recorded her first career double-double versus Georgetown on January 6 when she netted 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. She had a career-high 20 points in Notre Dame's double overtime win at UCLA in November.
Riley Rejections: Freshman Ruth Riley had a career-high seven blocks in the South Florida game, one shy of the school record. Riley leads the Irish in that category and is second in the BIG EAST this season with 59 blocks (2.3 per game).
WORKING OVERTIME: Notre Dame's double overtime victory over UCLA was the first for the Irish since January 9, 1992 when Notre Dame beat Dayton 76-70 at the Joyce Center. Coach Muffet McGraw's squad had not played an overtime game since an 88-79 win at Seton Hall on January 2, 1996.
Hills, Haney Sign With Irish: Irish head coach Muffet McGraw has signed two players to national letters of intent during the early signing period. Sherisha Hills, a 5-8 guard from Tampa, Fla., and Ericka Haney, a 6-1 forward from Toledo, Ohio, comprise Notre Dame's Class of 2002.
Hills, rated the third best player in the state of Florida, is 34th on Blue Star Basketball's list of top 60 seniors in 1997-98. A two-time Class 3A first-team all-state honoree, she was named to the 1997 AAU All-America team after leading her squad to a seventh-place finish at the national tournament.
A three-year starter at Academy of the Holy Names, she has scored 1,853 points during her career, averaging 19.5 ppg. as a junior and 22.0 ppg. as a sophomore.
Haney, rated the 49th best senior by Blue Star Basketball, led her Toledo Catholic Central squad in scoring (16.0 ppg.), rebounding (12.0 rpg.) and blocked shots (3.0 blks.) last season. She earned first-team all-state, all-city and all-district honors as a junior.
An AAU All-American, she is a track standout and high school All-American in the 100-meter hurdles.
Helping to Put the BIG in the BIG EAST: In just its third season as a member of the BIG EAST, Notre Dame has proven to be one of the most dominant teams in the league. The Irish have a 44-10 (81.4 percent) record in regular season games and 4-2 mark (66.7 percent) in BIG EAST tournament action for an overall record of 48-12 (80.0 percent) against league opponents. Of Notre Dame's 12 league losses, seven have come against Connecticut, when the Huskies were ranked in the top three nationally. The Irish have lost to only two other teams in the BIG EAST Rutgers (twice), Boston College, Villanova and Miami.
Hutchinson Has Big Night Against Villanova: Senior guard Kari Hutchinson was one of the only brights in Notre Dame's loss at Villanova. She played a season-high 31 minutes in the contest, while also registering career-highs of 12 points and eight rebounds. Hutchinson was four-of-seven from the field and two-of-two from three-point range. She has started two games this season against Wisconsin and Pittsburgh.
Irish Tough At Home Against BIG EAST Foes: Notre Dame is 26-2 (.929) against BIG EAST opponents at the Joyce Center since joining the league in 1995-96. The only two Irish losses are to Connecticut. Notre Dame was a perfect 9-0 at home in league action during the 1996-97 season.
Irish Versus Ranked Opponents: Notre Dame is 0-4 against ranked foes this season with losses to Duke, Connecticut (twice) and Wisconsin.
Big Ten Bonanza: Notre Dame posted a 1-1 mark versus Big Ten foes this season as the Irish had back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Purdue. Last year, Notre Dame was 1-3 against the league, losing to Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State, while posting its lone win against Indiana.
Tough Defense: Prior to giving up 78 points in both the West Virginia and Boston College games in January, the Irish had held four straight opponents to under 60 points. In that stretch, Notre Dame held its opponent to under 50 points in four consecutive games versus San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Miami. It marked a first in the program's history that an Irish team held four straight opponents to under 50 points. Notre Dame gave up a season-low 35 points against Seton Hall and posted its biggest margin of victory (56 points) in the win over the Pirates. The 35 points scored in the game were the second fewest allowed by a Notre Dame team and second fewest scored by an opposing team at the Joyce Center.
Over the Century Mark: Notre Dame's 109-60 victory against Providence marked the seventh time an Irish team scored 100-plus points. Under McGraw, five Notre Dame teams have reached the 100-point plateau. The 109 points were the second highest in school history, four shy of the mark of 113. The last time an Irish team scored 100 points was against West Virginia in a 103-58 victory on January 7, 1997.
Leffers Joins Team: Sophomore Mary Leffers who helped the Irish women's volleyball team to the round of 16 in the 1997 NCAA Volleyball Championship, has joined the Notre Dame team as a walk-on. Leffers, the starting middle blocker, has played in 11 Irish contests. A native of Tampa, Fla., she played high school basketball at Berkeley Prep.
Riley Makes the Grade: Freshman Ruth Riley was named to the Dean's List after earning a 3.80 grade point average in her first semester. Riley is enrolled in the First Year of Studies.
Irish in the National Statistics: Freshman Ruth Riley is 15th nationally in blocked shots, while Notre Dame as a team is 18th in field goal percentage and 17th in three-point field goal percentage.
Irish Individual Game Highs
Points 29 Sheila McMillen vs. UCLA, 11-30
Field Goals 13 Ruth Riley vs. Syracuse, 1-21
Field Goal Attempts 23 Mollie Peirick vs. Boston College, 1-17
Niele Ivey vs. Connecticut, 2-21
Best FG% 86.7 (13-15) Ruth Riley vs. Syracuse, 1-21
Three-Point FGs 6 Sheila McMillen vs. UCLA, 11-30
Mollie Peirick vs. Miami, 1-8
3-PT FG Attempts 11 Mollie Peirick vs. South Florida, 12-13
Best 3-PT% 85.7 (6-7) Sheila McMillen vs. UCLA, 11-30
Free Throws 12 Kelley Siemon vs, UCLA, 11-30
Free Throw Attempts 13 Sheila McMillen vs. UCSB, 11-28
Best FT% 100.0 (12-12) Kelley Siemon vs. UCLA, 11-30
Rebounds 13 Ruth Riley vs. Syracuse, 1-21
Assists 11 Mollie Peirick vs. UCLA 11-30
Blocks 7 Ruth Riley vs. South Florida, 12-13
Steals 7 Niele Ivey vs. South Florida, 12-13
Mollie Peirick vs. South Florida, 12-13
Opponent Individual Game Highs
Points 30 Melanie Pearson, UCLA, 11-30
Jen Beisel, Villanova, 1-28
Field Goals 14 Jen Beisel, Villanova, 1-28
Field Goal Attempts 25 Jen Beisel, Villanova, 1-28
Best FG% 100.0 (10-10) Nykesha Sales, UConn, 12-6
Three-Point FGs 6 Nicole Erickson, Duke, 11-22
3-PT FG Attempts 9 Katie Voigt, Wisconsin, 12-8
Best 3-PT% 100.0 (6-6) Nicole Erickson, Duke, 11-22
Free Throws 10 Jennifer Marlow, Butler, 11-18
Nykesha Sales, Connecticut, 2-21
Free Throw Attempts 11 Jennifer Marlow, Butler, 11-18
Maylana Martin, UCLA, 11-30
LaTonya Greer, South Florida, 12-13
Best FT% 100.0 (10-10) Nykesha Sales, Connecticut, 2-21
Rebounds 15 Svetlana Abromismova, UConn, 2-21
Assists 11 Natasha Pointer, Rutgers, 12-3
Blocks 7 Nickeia Morris, Pittsburgh, 2-15
Steals 7 Natasha Pointer, Rutgers, 12-3
Dee Dee Pate, Wisconsin, 12-8
Irish Team Highs and Lows
Points 108 vs. Providence 54 at Villanova
Pts.- First Half 51 vs. Providence 21 at Pittsburgh
Pts. - Second Half 58 vs. Providence 26 at Villanova
Field Goals 38 vs. Providence 18 at Rutgers, at Villanova
Field Goal Atts. 70 vs. Providence 43 vs. Rutgers
Best FG% 58.0 at Miami 30.8 at Connecticut
Three-Point FGs 11 vs. Miami 3 at Duke, at Syracuse
3-PT FG Atts. 20 vs. Miami, at UConn 7 at Miami
Best 3-PT% 66.7 (8-12) vs. Providence 22.2 vs. West Virginia
Free Throws 32 vs. Purdue 4 vs. San Francisco
Free Throw Atts. 43 vs. Georgetown 8 vs. San Francisco
Best FT% 88.5 (23-26) at UCLA 50.0 (13-26) at Duke
50.0 (4-8) vs. San Francisco
Rebounds 50 vs. Providence 31 at UCLA
Fouls 32 at Wisconsin 9 vs. Rutgers
Assists 31 vs. Seton Hall 7 at Villanova
Turnovers 32 at Rutgers 12 vs. Providence
Blocked Shots 11 vs. South Florida, vs. SJU 2 vs. four teams
Steals 22 vs. South Florida 5 vs. Butler, at Duke
Opponent Team Highs and Lows
Points 91 UCLA (A) 35 Seton Hall (H)
Pts.- First Half 48 Wisconsin (A) 15 South Florida (H)
Pts. - Second Half 49 Rutgers (A) 13 Seton Hall (H)
Field Goals 32 UCLA (A) 12 Seton Hall (H)
Field Goal Atts. 73 Rutgers (H) 43 vs. San Francisco (H)
Best FG% 49.0 Connecticut (H) 19.4 Seton Hall (H)
Three-Point FGs 8 West Virginia (H), Villanova (A) 0 Georgetown (H)
3-PT FG Atts. 20 Villanova (A) 2 St. Johns (A)
Best 3-PT% 100.0 (3-3) Pitt (H) 00.0 (0-17) Georgetown (H)
Free Throws 30 Wisconisn (A) 7 Miami (H), Seton Hall (H)
Free Throw Atts. 39 Wisconsin (A) 10 Miami (H)
Best FT% 95.2 (20-21) WVU (H) 52.6 (10-19) San Francisco (H)
Rebounds 46 Connecticut (A) 27 Villanova (A)
Fouls 30 vs. Georgetown (H) 11 Villanova (A)
Assists 23 Rutgers (A) 7 Georgetown (A), Seton Hall (A)
Turnovers 35 South Florida (H) 11 Boston College (A), Villanova (A)
Blocked Shots 9 Pittsburgh (H) 0, two teams
Steals 18 Wisconsin (A) 3 Seton Hall (H)