Mar. 1, 1998
Irish Advance to Semis
ND Downs 'Nova in BIG EAST Quarters
IRISH ADVANCE TO THE SEMIS: Fifth-seeded Notre Dame won for the sixth time in seven games and advanced to the semifinal round of the BIG EAST tournament with a 56-48 victory over Villanova on Sunday.
The Irish will now face the tournament's top-seed, second-ranked Connecticut. The Huskies own a 7-0 series lead over the Irish and have defeated Notre Dame in the two previous conference championship games. Connecticut has defeated Notre Dame twice this season winning 78-59 at Notre Dame on December 6 and 73-61 in Storrs, Con. on February 21.
QUARTERFINAL RECAP: Freshman center Ruth Riley scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds and junior guard Danielle Green came off the bench to add 17 points as Notre Dame defeated fourth-seeded Villanova 56-48 on Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST tournament.
Notre Dame won its 20th game of the season marking the fifth consecutive year the Irish have won 20 games and the Irish have now won six of their last seven games.
Notre Dame led 20-17 at the half, but a 20-10 Villanova run to open the second half gave the Wildcats a 37-30 lead with 13:43 remaining. The Irish responded with a 15-0 run over the next five minutes. Green scored eight of her nine second half points during that stretch and gave the Irish the lead for good on a lay-up with 10:34 remaining in the contest.
The Irish used a strong defensive effort to key the victory. One day after allowing St. John's 57 points, Notre Dame held Villanova to 48 points and 32.7 percent field goal shooting.
FIRST ROUND RECAP: Notre Dame scored the first 14 points of the game and built a 27-point halftime advantage as the Irish defeated St. John's 94-57 in the first round of the BIG EAST tournament.
Irish junior guard Sheila McMillen set a school record and a BIG EAST Tournament record connecting on eight three-point goals in 12 attempts en route to a game-high 24 points. As a team, Notre Dame connected on 13 three-point goals to break both a school record and league tournament record.
Notre Dame senior guard Mollie Peirick had 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds and became the 13th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. A native of Eureka, Mo., Peirick achieved the milestone on a three-point basket in the first half and ended the contest with 1,004 career points.
Sophomore forward Julie Henderson was also in double figures for the Irish with a career high 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Notre Dame, which led by as many as 48 points in the second half, used a suffocating defense to limit the Express to just five first half field goals in racing to a 47-20 halftime advantage. After St. John's opened the second half with a three-point goal, the Irish responded with 17 straight points to push the lead to 41 points.
A Look at the Irish: Notre Dame, in its third BIG EAST Tournament, is the number-five seed. The Irish are 20-8 overall following the victory over the Wildcats 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 tournament's championship game.
Coach Muffet McGraw's squad meets top-seed Connecticut in the semifinal round of the tournament. The Huskies defeated the Irish twice this season winning at Notre Dame 78-59 on December 6 and in Storrs, Conn. 73-61 on February 21.
Notre Dame has won six of its last seven games, with four of those victories coming at the Joyce Center where the Irish finished with a 12-1 record. The 12 wins represented the most by a Notre Dame women's basketball team in its 21 seasons 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 ended the regular season with a 71-64 win against Rutgers. The win snapped the Scarlet Knights' 10-game win streak.
The Irish have won 17 of their last 21 games and 14 of their last 18 against BIG EAST foes. 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 a 10-4 record in its last 14 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 (11.5 ppg.) and third leading rebounder (5.1 rpg.). She also leads the team with 166 assists in 28 games (5.9 apg.). Peirick has been in double figure scoring in 18 games this season and has been the only player to start all 28 contests in 1997-98. She has 618 career assists and with a first half three-point basket against St. John's on Saturday, she become the 13th player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. She now has 1,009 career points.
Junior guard Sheila McMillen, the top returning scorer from a year ago, leads the Irish in the scoring column. She is averaging 13.7 ppg. and has been in double figures in 19 games this season. McMillen set a school record and a BIG EAST Tournament record with eight three-point goals against St. John's on Saturday. She connected on 8-of-12 from bonus distance en route to 24 points. She has netted 20-plus points five times this season.
Freshman Ruth Riley, a three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honoree, has started the last 22 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 Dame's last 16 outings and has scored in double figures in 15 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 seven 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 13 games she has played and 15 overall in the 27 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 8.0 ppg. and 3.5 rpg. and leads the team with 62 steals (2.3 per game).
Junior Danielle Green, who started the first 14 games of the season, has been coming off the bench in the last 11 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 10.6 ppg. and 4.9 rpg., respectively.
Freshman Kelley Siemon has started 26 games and along with Riley has appeared in all 28 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 8.0 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 2.0 rebounds per game.
Sophomore center Julie Henderson was in the starting lineup for the first six games of the season. Henderson came off the bench to score a career high 14 points against St. John's on Saturday. She has played in 26 contests and is averaging 4.6 ppg. and 3.3 rpg.
As a team, Notre Dame is shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three-point range. In their last 15 games, the Irish have shot 50 percent or better in 10 of those contests. Notre Dame has hit better than 52 percent of its shots in four of the last nine games.
Probable Starters No. Player Pos. Ht. Cl. PPG RPG Other Top Note: 50 Kelley Siemon F 6-2 Fr. 8.0 4.7 1.3 apg 26 starts in rookie season 00 Ruth Riley C 6-5 Fr. 10.8 7.2 2.2 bpg Nine double-doubles; 58.5 FG Pct. 3 Mollie Peirick G 5-11 Sr. 11.5 5.1 5.9 apg 13th ND player to score 1,000 pts. 20 Sheila McMillen G 5-10 Jr. 13.7 2.7 1.5 apg BE Tourney & ND record 8 treys vs. SJ 23 Niele Ivey G 5-8 So. 8.0 3.5 2.9 apg ND leading scorer vs. UConn at 15.5 OFF THE BENCH No. Player Pos. Ht. Cl. PPG RPG Other Top Note: 12 Danielle Green G 5-8 Jr. 10.6 4.9 1.3 apg Hit 7-10 FGs for 17 pts vs. Villanova 42 Kari Hutchinson G 6-0 Fr. 3.5 2.9 1.6 apg Hit 8 of last 9 treys (88.9 pct.) 32 Julie Henderson F/C 6-3 So. 4.6 3.3 0.7 apg Career high 14 points vs. St. John's 40 Diana Braendly C 6-4 Jr. 3.6 2.0 1.0 apg Team-high 6.0 rpg vs. UConn in '97-98 41 Imani Dunbar G 5-7 Fr. 1.1 0.3 0.4 spg Career high 5 points against St. John's 44 Meghan Leahy F 6-4 Fr. 2.2 2.1 0.3 spg Had 5 rebs vs. SJ, most since Jan. 31 25 Mary Leffers F 6-4 So. 1.7 0.8 0.3 bpg Has played in four of the last seven gms.
COACHES AND SUPPORT STAFF
Head Coach: Muffet McGraw (St. Joseph's '77); 233-103 in 11th season at Notre Dame; 321-144 in 16th season overall
Assistant Coaches: Carol Owens (Northern Illinois '80), Kevin McGuff (St. Joseph's (IN) '92), Letitia Bowen (Notre Dame '95)
Trainer: Bill Cowgill (Arkansas '94) Manager: Christy Grady (Notre Dame '98)
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 321-144 (.690) and she owns a 233-103 (.693) 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 nine 20-win seasons, including five straight (1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97 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. CONNECTICUT: Connecticut has won all seven meetings with the Irish. The Huskies have defeated the Irish in the championship game of the conference tournament in each of the last two seasons. The Huskies won the 1996 league title game 71-54 and took the trophy home with an 86-77 victory in 1997. This season Connecticut has defeated Notre Dame twice. On December 6, the Huskies won 78-59 at Notre Dame and completed the regular season sweep with a 73-61 win on February 21 in Storrs, Conn.
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 14 of its last 18 games against BIG EAST competition 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 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 women's 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 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. She has scored in double figures in 15 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 (11.5 ppg.), third-leading rebounder (5.1 rpg.) and tops the team in assists (5.9 apg.), free throw percentage (83.8) and minutes played (31.4). Peirick is the only player to have started all 28 games this season and has netted double figures in all but ten contests. On Saturday, Peirick became the 13th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
Peirick Moves to Second on All-Time Assist List: Mollie Peirick is second on the all-time Notre Dame career assist list with 618. 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 11 games, she has dished off 70 assists and is averaging 6.3 per game. In four of the last 11 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 83.8 percent (62-74). In back-to-back contests against West Virginia and Boston College in January, Peirick was 17-18 (94.4) from the charity stripe.
Peirick SURPASSES 1,000: With 11 points against St. John's on Saturday, Mollie Peirick became the 13th player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to pass the 1,000 career points. With 321 points this season, Peirick now has 1,009 career points.
McMillen Back in Groove: Sheila McMillen, who was held scoreless for the second time in her career (90 games) against Miami on February 3, has scored in double figures in 20 games this season and leads the Irish in scoring with 13.7 ppg. The only other time McMillen was held without a point in a game was against Providence on January 14, 1996. Her 24-point outing against St. John's on Saturday marked the fifth 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 13 games and earned 15 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 8.0 points and lead the team with 62 steals (2.3 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 (10.6 ppg.) and is third on the team in rebounding (4.9 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 11 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 61 blocks (2.2 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 6-2 mark (75.0 percent) in BIG EAST tournament action for an overall record of 50-12 (80.6 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 four 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.