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    Fighting Irish

    March 17, 1998

    Ninth-Seeded Irish Play No. 4 Seed Purdue

    Teams Meet in Midewest Regional Semifinal Contest

    (9) Notre Dame Irish (22-9) vs.
    (4) No. -/22 Purdue Boilermakers (22-9)

    Hutchinson photo
    Notre Dame senior Kari Hutchinson

    '98 NCAA TOURNAMENT - MIDWEST REGIONAL, SEMIFINAL

    Date: Saturday, March 21, 1998

    Place: Lubbock Municipal Coliseum (8,174), Lubbock, Texas (Texas Tech University host)

    Time: 1:30 p.m. CST local/2:30 p.m. EST (Indiana)

    Television: Live on ESPN2. Dave Barnett (play-by-play), Nancy Liberman-Cline (color analysis), Bryan Carter (producer), John McDonough (director)

    Radio: All Notre Dame games are broadcast on WHME-FM (103.1 in South Bend). Bob Nagle will provide play-by-play for the games.

    Notre Dame (22-9) Plays No. -/22 Purdue (22-9) in NCAA Regional Semifinal:
    Ninth-seed Notre Dame (22-9), a 1997 Final Four participant and one of nine repeat Sweet 16 teams from last season, will take on Big 10 Conference tournament champion and fourth-seed No. -/22 Purdue (22-9) Saturday in Lubbock, Texas in a NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal game. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m. CST (2:30 p.m. EST/Indiana).

    Notre Dame, which as a sixth-seed last season was the lowest seeded team to advance to the NCAA Regionals, is tied with ninth-seed Arkansas (West Regional) as the lowest seeded teams to reach the Sweet 16 this season. The Lady Razorbacks and Irish are the lowest seeded squads in the regional semifinals since 1996 when Stephen F. Austin advanced as an 11th-seed and San Francisco advanced as a 12th-seed. Notre Dame is the only Sweet 16 team to advance by defeating two higher seeded teams.

    The Irish advance to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season following victories over eighth-seed Southwest Missouri State (78-64) and Midwest Region top-seed and host No. 6/5 Texas Tech (74-59). The fifth-ranked Lady Raiders are the highest ranked team the Irish have defeated in the 21-year history of the program. Notre Dame has won 19 of its last 24 games.

    Purdue advanced to the Midwest Regional semifinal game by defeating 13th-seed Washington and 12th-seed Colorado State (77-63) in West Lafayette, Ind.

    Notre Dame and Purdue will meet for the 10th time with the Boilermakers owning a 7-2 advantage. The Irish and Boilermakers, which have played the last seven seasons, met earlier this year at the Joyce Center in Notre Dame, Ind. with the Irish claiming a 77-71 victory on December 10. The state rivals also met in a 1996 NCAA first round game in Lubbock, Texas with Notre Dame claiming its first victory over the Boilermakers and first NCAA tournament win with a 73-60 decision on March 15, 1996.

    The winner takes on the winner of the Louisiana Tech-Alabama game in the Midwest Regional championship game on Monday at 6:30 p.m. CST (7:30EST/Indiana) to be televised on ESPN. A Notre Dame victory would make the ninth-seeded Irish the lowest seed ever to make the Elite Eight since the NCAA tournament went to 64 teams in 1994 (Arkansas is also a nine-seed playing in the Sweet 16).

    Probable Starters    
    No. Player (Career Games/Starts)    Pos. Ht.    Cl. PPG     RPG Other   Top Note:
    50  Kelley Siemon (31/29)           F   6-2     Fr. 8.2     4.9 1.3 apg 29 starts in rookie season
    00  Ruth Riley (31/25)              C   6-5     Fr. 11.5    7.4 2.2 bpg Nine double-doubles; 59.8 FG Pct.; 5 20+ gms.
    3   Mollie Peirick (127/117)        G   5-11    Sr. 11.0    5.0 6.2 apg 13th ND player to 1,000 pts.; 11 ast. vs. TT
    20  Sheila McMillen (99/37)         G   5-10    Jr. 13.4    2.7 1.4 apg BE Tourney & ND record 8 treys vs. SJ
    23  Niele Ivey (35/18)              G   5-8     So. 8.1     3.4 2.9 apg Team-high 75 steals; 10.1 ppg in last 7 gms.
    OFF THE BENCH    
    No. Player (Career Games/Starts)    Pos. Ht.    Cl. PPG     RPG Other   Top Note:   
    12  Danielle Green (56/14)          G   5-8     Jr. 10.3    4.9 1.3 apg 9 pts. and 9 rebs. vs. UConn on March 2
    42  Kari Hutchinson (95/7)          G   6-0     Sr. 3.2     2.7 1.5 apg Hit 9 of last 10 treys (90.0 pct.)
    40  Diana Braendly (61/0)           C   6-4     Jr. 3.8     2.3 0.9 apg Played nine or more minutes in 11 of last 12
    32  Julie Henderson (67/3)          F/C 6-3     So. 4.3     3.0 0.7 apg Career high 14 points, 8 rebs. vs. St. John's
    44  Meghan Leahy (22/0)             F   6-4     Fr. 1.9     1.8 0.3 spg Had 5 rebs vs. SJ, most since Jan. 31
    41  Imani Dunbar (21/0)             G   5-7     Fr. 1.0     0.3 0.3 spg Career high 5 points against St. John's
    25  Mary Leffers (13/0)             F   6-4     So. 1.5     0.8 0.2 bpg Has played in five of the last eight gms.
    COACHES AND SUPPORT STAFF
    Head Coach: Muffet McGraw (St. Joseph's '77); 235-104 in 11th season at Notre Dame; 323-145 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) 
    
    Peirick photo
    Irish senior Mollie Peirick.

    Notre Dame Looks For 400th School Victory:
    With a victory today, Notre Dame women's basketball can claim the 400th victory in just its 21st season. The Irish have compiled a 399-203 (66.3 percent) and have averaged 19 victories since the programs first season in 1977-78.

    First Round: (9) Notre Dame 78, (8) Southwest Missouri State 64:
    The Irish advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season with a 78-64 victory over eighth-seed Southwest Missouri State on Friday evening. The victory improved Notre Dame's NCAA tournament record in the state of Texas to 5-1 including four straight wins.

    Freshman center Ruth Riley posted game highs with 21 points and nine rebounds as the Irish shot 51.7 percent from the field in the victory. Junior guard Sheila McMillen scored 13 points on the strength of three-three-point goals, senior guard Mollie Peirick added 12 points and nine assists and freshman forward Kelley Siemon had 12 points and six rebounds as four Notre Dame starters scored in double figures. Sophomore guard Niele Ivey had nine points and seven steals, the second most thefts in an NCAA Midwest Sub-Regional game. The Irish held the Lady Bears to just 39.6 percent field goal shooting and forced 25 turnovers in advancing to the second round.

    Second Round: (9) Notre Dame 74, (1) Texas Tech 59:
    Notre Dame advanced to the sweet 16 by defeating the host school and Midwest Region top-seed No. 6/5 Texas Tech 74-59 on Sunday night in Lubbock, Texas.

    The Irish trailed 29-26 at intermission. But freshman center Ruth Riley, who picked up two fouls in the first 47 seconds of the game and sat on the bench the remainder of the first half, tallied 23 points and eight rebounds - all in the second half as Notre Dame rallied for a 15-point win. Notre Dame connected on 18-of-29 second half field goal attempts for 62.1 percent in outscoring the Lady Raiders 48-30 after intermission.

    Texas Tech led 36-30 after Julie Lake connected on a three-point goal with 17:04 left in regulation. The Irish responded with nine consecutive points - seven by Riley - to take a 39-36 lead.

    Notre Dame took the lead for good when junior guard Sheila McMillen connected on two free throws with 8:53 remaining to give the Irish a 45-44 advantage. That was a start of a 12-0 Irish spurt over the next 2:20 that gave Notre Dame a 55-44 lead. The Lady Raiders drew no closer than nine points the rest of the way.

    The victory over fifth-ranked Texas Tech marked the highest-ranked opponent Notre Dame has defeated in the 21-year history of the program and enabled Notre Dame to join a list of eight other teams that advanced to both the 1997 and 1998 Regional Semifinal.

    Notre Dame Makes Third Straight NCAA Tourney Appearance/Fifth of the '90's:
    This is the third consecutive season the Irish have received an invitation to the NCAA tournament and the fifth time in seven years. The Irish have advanced to postseason play for the fifth straight season and this is the fourth straight year Notre Dame has traveled to the Lone Star State for postseason play.

    Notre Dame is one of 29 schools to appear in the 1996, '97 and '98 NCAA tournaments and the Irish are one of just nine schools to appear in the sweet 16 of both the 1997 and '98 NCAA tournaments.

    The Eyes of Texas are on the Irish:
    This is the fourth straight year Notre Dame has traveled to the state of Texas for postseason play and the second time in three years the Irish have traveled to Lubbock, Texas for postseason play.

    In 1995, Notre Dame played in the National Women's Invitation Tournament in Amarillo, Texas where the Irish went 2-1.

    In 1996, Notre Dame traveled to Lubbock for the NCAA tournament. Texas proved to be good luck for the Irish as Notre Dame won its first ever NCAA tournament game, upsetting fifth-seed Purdue 73-60 before falling to the host school and fourth-seed Texas Tech 82-67.

    Last season the Irish began their march to the NCAA national semifinals by defeating No. 11 seed Memphis 93-62 and upsetting the host school and sixth-seed Texas 86-83 in Austin, Texas.

    Last week, the luck of the Irish continued in the Lone Star State as Notre Dame defeated eighth-seed Southwest Missouri State (78-64) and top-seed and host school Texas Tech (74-59).

    Notre Dame now owns a 7-2 postseason record in Texas since 1995 including a 5-1 all-time NCAA mark in the state. Notre Dame has won four consecutive NCAA tournament games in Texas - three of which have come against higher-seeded teams.

    You Can't Spell Cinderella Without ND:
    One year after upsetting three higher seeds en route to the Final Four, Notre Dame is once again wearing the crown of Cinderella. As the ninth-seed, the Irish, along with Arkansas, are the lowest seeds still remaining in the field and Notre Dame is the only team that defeated two higher-seeded teams to advance to the sweet 16.

    For the second consecutive year Notre Dame advanced to the regional semifinals by winning a road game. Last season the Irish defeated third-seed Texas ( 86-83) in Austin joining Vanderbilt as the only teams not to host first/second round games and advance to the regionals. This season Notre Dame is joined by Arkansas, Kansas, and fellow BIG EAST member Rutgers as the only four schools to advance to the sweet 16 without playing an NCAA tournament home game. Notre Dame is the only team to pull the trick in both 1997 and '98.

    Last season, sixth-seeded Notre Dame became just the third team in the history of the NCAA tournament to advance to the national semifinals without a top four seed (sixth-seed Alabama in '94 and eight-seed Southwest Missouri State in '91). Notre Dame was the lowest seed ever to advance out of the East Regional.

    This year the Irish again look to make history. A victory in the regional semifinal would make ninth-seed Notre Dame the lowest seeded team to make the elite eight since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1994 (ninth-seed Arkansas has the same opportunity in the West Region semifinal).

    Notre Dame vs. Purdue:
    This is the 10th meeting between the intrastate rivals with Purdue leading the series 7-2. Notre Dame, which has played the Boilermakers in each of the last seven seasons (already counts the 1997-98 season), has won two of the last three meetings including a 77-71 victory earlier this season on December 10 at the Joyce Center (more information on that game to follow).

    Notre Dame and Purdue have met once in the postseason with the Irish claiming a 73-60 first round NCAA tournament victory over the Boilermakers on March 15, 1996 in Lubbock, Texas. The victory by the Irish was the first NCAA tournament victory for the program and the first win over Purdue. Katryna Gaither led three Notre Dame players in double figures as she scored a game-high 18 points and added 13 rebounds. Beth Morgan and Rosanne Bohman each added 16 points. (Full box score and summary of this game can be found in the NCAA tournament history section).

    Notre Dame led for much of the game and built a 10-point advantage in the first half on several occasions and had a 33-26 lead at intermission. Purdue got as close as two points (50-48) with 10:23 remaining, but the Irish outscored the Boilermakers 23-12 down the stretch.

    The Earlier Meeting: Notre Dame 77, Purdue 71 (December 10, 1997)
    Notre Dame sank 10 straight free throws in the final 3:13 of the contest as the Irish rallied in the second half to defeat Purdue 77-71.

    The Irish were led by sophomore guard Niele Ivey with 16 points and freshman center Ruth Riley added 13 points as Notre Dame erased a five-point deficit with 7:32 left to play in the contest.

    Notre Dame tied the game at 58 with 5:20 remaining when Ivey connected on her fourth three-point goal of the game. The Irish took the lead when freshman forward Kelley Siemon scored on a put-back basket with 4:31 left to give Notre Dame a 60-58 lead.

    Purdue regained the lead at 63-62 before Ivey connected on a jumper and two free throws to put Notre Dame on top to stay.

    The Irish connected on 32-of-40 (80.0 percent) free throw attempts in the contest. (Full box score of the game can be found later in this packet).

    Notre Dame vs. Big 10 Conference:
    Notre Dame has compiled a 14-29 mark against current members of the Big Ten conference, including a 1-1 record this year. The Irish are: 1-0 vs. Iowa, 2-1 vs. Northwestern, 2-2 vs. Wisconsin, 5-5 vs. Michigan, 2-6 vs. Michigan State, 2-7 vs. Purdue, 0-1 vs. Minnesota, 0-1 vs. Ohio State and 0-3 vs. Illinois. The Irish have never faced Indiana in women's basketball.

    Earlier this season Notre Dame lost at Wisconsin 89-77 on December 8 and defeated Purdue 77-71 at home on December 10.

    Brief Look at Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament:
    Notre Dame is in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season and for the fifth time in seven years. The Irish received an at-large berth and a No. 9 seed in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament.

    In 1992, Notre Dame made its first ever NCAA appearance as the No. 12 seed. The Irish played at Pauley Pavilion vs. fifth-seeded UCLA in the first round on March 18. The Bruins, behind 22 points and 15 rebounds from Natalie Williams defeated the Irish 93-72. Notre Dame was led by Michelle Marciniak who came off the bench to score 21 points. Current Irish assistant coach Letitia Bowen scored 18 points while adding a team-high 12 rebounds. UCLA outrebounded Notre Dame 64-37 in the contest. UCLA lost in the regional semifinal to Final Four bound Southwest Missouri State 83-57.

    In 1994, the Irish played host to the NCAA tournament drawing the No. 7 seed and entertaining 10th-seeded Minnesota. The Gophers led by a point at the half and shot 65.0 percent from the field in the second half to upset the Irish 81-76 at the Joyce Center on March 16. Minnesota was led by Carol Ann Shudick who scored 19 points, connecting on 7-of-12 shots from the floor. Beth Morgan paced the Irish with 26 points while Kara Leary added 10 points.

    In 1996, Notre Dame made some noise as the No. 12 seed. In Lubbock, Texas, the Irish upset fifth-seeded Purdue 73-60 on March 17. The Irish made 25-of-32 free throw attempts compared to 9-of-13 for the Boilermakers. Katryna Gaither led the way with 18 points and 13 rebounds while Beth Morgan and Rosanne Bohman added 16 points apiece. Stacey Lovelace led Purdue with 17 points and 15 rebounds. No. 4 seed Texas Tech ended the Irish run with an 82-67 victory in the second round of the tournament.

    Last season, Notre Dame advanced to the national semifinals as a No. 6 seed in the East Regional. The Irish opened the tournament with victories over No. 11 seed Memphis 93-62 and No. 3 seed Texas 86-83 in Austin, Texas. Notre Dame advanced to the East Regional finals in Columbia, S.C. where the Irish disposed of No. 2 seed Alabama 87-71 and No. 5 seed George Washington 65-52 to claim the regional championship. The Irish were eliminated in the national semifinal by eventual national champion Tennessee 80-66. Notre Dame was paced in the tournament by Katryna Gaither who averaged a tournament high 26.4 points and 12.2 rebounds, and Beth Morgan who posted 22.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per tournament contest.

    Quick Player Sketches:

    * - Mollie Peirick, the only returning starter off of last year's Final Four team, is the only Irish player to have started all 31 games this season. She is the team's third-leading scorer (11.0 ppg.) and second-leading rebounder (5.0 rpg.). Peirick tops the team in assists (6.2), minutes played (31.5) and free throw percentage (83.8). A third-team all-BIG EAST selection, she scored in double figures in 19 games this season.

    The 13th player in the program's history to score more than 1,000 points (1,029 career points), Peirick is second on the all-time career assist list with 643 assists. She has dished off eight or more assists in 11 games this season.

    Playing in her third NCAA tournament, she has started all nine games and has averaged 5.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists. Peirick has also connected on 90.9 percent of her free throws (20-of-22).

    * - Sheila McMillen, the top returning scorer from a year ago, leads the team in scoring with 13.4 ppg. and has been in double figures in 22 games. McMillen had a season-high 24 points in Notre Dame's BIG EAST tournament first round win over St. John's, her fifth 20-point outing of the season. In the game, she scored all of her 24 points on three-pointers as she connected on eight-of-13 from beyond the arc. Her eight three pointers established a BIG EAST tournament and Notre Dame school record.

    McMillen is playing in her third NCAA tournament and has averaged 27.1 minutes in nine games. In the nine tournament games for Notre Dame over the past three seasons, she is averaging 8.6 ppg. while connecting on 17-of-36 (47.2 percent) of her three-point field goal attempts.

    * - Ruth Riley was named to the BIG EAST All-Rookie team and was a three-time BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honoree during 1997-98. She is the team's leading rebounder (7.4 rpg.) and shot blocker (2.2 bpg.) and is second in the scoring column (11.5). Riley, who has played in all 31 games and started the last 25, has registered nine double-doubles (including a Notre Dame record five straight in mid-January). She has been in double figures in 18 games and has grabbed 10 or more boards in 10 games.

    * - Niele Ivey earned the starting job in January and has started all 18 of the 30 games she has played this season, which includes 16 consecutive starts. She missed the Pittsburgh game on February 15 after suffering a hip pointer against St. John's. Ivey returned to the lineup this season after tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the fifth game of the 1996-97 campaign. She is averaging 8. 1 ppg. and 3.4 rpg., while leading the team with 75 steals (2.5 per game). Ivey has been in double figure scoring in 10 games this season and netted a career-high 20 points in a loss to Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion on February 21.

    In her two NCAA tournament games this season, Ivey has averaged 8.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 6.0 steals.

    * - Kelley Siemon has been the only freshman along with Ruth Riley to play in all 31 games and has been a starter in all but two contests (Wisconsin and Rutgers). Siemon is averaging 8.2 ppg. and 4.9 rpg. and has netted double figure scoring in 11 contests.

    She scored a career-high 20 points in Notre Dame's double overtime victory at UCLA hitting four-of-seven from the field. Siemon also was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line in the contest. She had her only double-double of the season when she registered 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds in Notre Dame's win at Georgetown.

    * - Danielle Green is the team's fourth-leading scorer averaging 10.3 ppg. and is third in the rebounding column with a 4.9 average. She started the first 14 games of the season and has played in 29 contests. Green has come off the bench in the last 15 contests she has played.

    Green missed the entire 1996-97 season after tearing her right achilles tendon on the first day of practice (October 15, 1996). She has scored in double figures in 11 games and registered a career-high 22 points in a win over Providence. Green had her only career double-double when she scored 18 points and grabbed a personal best 12 rebounds against South Florida.

    * - Kari Hutchinson has started three games (Wisconsin, Pittsburgh and Rutgers) and has played in all 31 contests. She is averaging 3.2 ppg. and 2.7 rpg. Hutchinson had the best game of her career in Notre Dame's loss at Villanova as she played a season-high 31 minutes, scored a career-high 12 points and grabbed a personal best eight rebounds.

    Hutchinson played in all five of Notre Dame's NCAA tournament games a year ago.

    * - Julie Henderson started the first six games of the season and has played in 29 games this season. She is averaging 4.3 ppg. and 3.0 rpg. and has posted double figures in scoring in three games. Henderson was impressive in Notre Dame's first round BIG EAST tournament game against St. John's as she netted a career-high 14 points and tied her season-high with nine rebounds.

    She saw action in all five of Notre Dame's NCAA tournament games in '97 averaging 2.8 ppg. and 1.8 rpg.

    * - Diana Braendly has played in 30 games and is averaging 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds. She averaged 17.0 minutes in Notre Dame's two NCAA tournament games last weekend as she tied her season-high with nine points while grabbing a season-best seven rebounds in the Irish upset over Texas Tech.

    Notre Dame Makes Another Run Into March Madness:
    Under Muffet McGraw, the Irish have made a habit out of finishing the season strong. Since McGraw's first season in 1987-88, Notre Dame has compiled a 38-19 (66.7 percent) mark in March including an incredible 25-7 (78.1 percent) regular season March record. In addition, in each of McGraw's 11 seasons, Notre Dame has ended the season on a roll. Below is a look at Notre Dame's March record in the McGraw era as well as the way the Irish ended the season.

        Season  W-L Down The Stretch
        1987-88 2-1 Won eight of final 10 games
        1988-89 5-2 Won six of final eight games
        1989-90 4-0 Won final  12 games
        1990-91 3-3 Won 22 of final 28 games
        1991-92 3-3 Won eight of final 11 games
        1992-93 2-2 Won eight of final 11 games
        1993-94 3-1 Won 11 of final 13 games
        1994-95 4-2 Won 15 of final 18 games
        1995-96 3-2 Won nine of final 12 games
        1996-97 6-2 Won 21 of final 24 games
        1997-98 3-1 Won 19 of final 24 games
        Total   38-19

    The BIG EAST Tournament in Review:

    Semifinals: Notre Dame lost to Connecticut for the eighth straight time as the Irish were beaten 73-53 by the Huskies and eliminated from the BIG EAST Tournament. Connecticut jumped out to a 17-2 advantage to start the game and forced 21 first-half Irish turnovers and held the Irish to under 40-percent shooting (36.6 percent) for the third time this season.

    Connecticut, which had three players in double figures, shot 51.8 percent for the game, and knocked down 15-of-25 shots in the second half (60.0 percent).

    The game marked the third consecutive year the teams met in the conference championship. In each of Notre Dame's first two seasons (1996 and 1997), the two teams met in the championship game.

    Quarterfinals: 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: 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.

    Four BIG EAST Teams in NCAA Tournament:
    For the first time in BIG EAST Conference history, four teams are playing in the NCAA tournament. In addition to the Irish, who are making their third straight appearance and fifth in the 21-year history of the program, Connecticut, Rutgers and Miami also are representing the league in the field of 6 teams. The Huskies are making their 10th consecutive appearance, while Rutgers is playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994 after earning berths nine straight years from 1986-94. This is Miami's third NCAA appearance as the Hurricanes received the Conference's automatic bids in both 1993 and 1992.

    Notre Dame, Connecticut and Rutgers remain in the NCAA field marking the first time in Conference history in which the league has had three teams advance to the Sweet 16.

    This is the first year since 1993 that the BIG EAST has had more than three teams in the tournament. Four times (1993, 1992, 1989 and 1988), three BIG EAST squads earned NCAA berths.

    The Conference has had a team in the Final Four each of the past three seasons -- Notre Dame in 1997 and Connecticut in 1996 and 1995. Over the last four years, the BIG EAST has posted a 24-7 mark in NCAA play. Since the league sent a team to NCAA Women's Basketball Championship in 1983, BIG EAST teams have compiled a 36-29 mark. Since 1990-91, the BIG EAST has gone 33-15 in NCAA action after registering just a 3-14 mark from 1983-90.

    Following first and second round action: Connecticut is 22-8 in NCAA tournament games, while Notre Dame is 7-4 overall and 7-2 as a member of the BIG EAST, Miami is 2-4 in the tournament, while Rutgers is 11-9 overall, but this is the first time they are playing as members of the league.

    Peirick, Riley Claim BIG EAST Honors:
    Senior guard Mollie Peirick was a third-team all-BIG EAST honoree, while freshman Ruth Riley was named to the league's all-rookie team. Peirick became became third Notre Dame player in as many seasons to earn a spot on one of the leagues three all-conference teams. Riley is the first Notre Dame player be named to the all-rookie team. During the 1996-96 and 1996-97 campaigns, Beth Morgan and Katryna Gaither were each selected for first-team all-BIG EAST honors.

    Peirick averaged 11.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and led the team with 6.2 assists in 18 league games as the Irish finished with a 12-6 conference record.

    Riley was the team's second-leading scorer in BIG EAST games with a 12.4 ppg. average. She led the team in rebounding and was second in the conference with 40 blocks. Riley also was named the league's rookie of the week three consecutive weeks in January.

    Irish Post Fifth Straight 20-Win Season/Ninth 20-Win Campaign Under McGraw:
    Notre Dame's 22-9 record marks the fifth consecutive year and the ninth time under Irish head coach Muffet McGraw that the Irish have reached the 20-win plateau. It also marks the 13th time in the 21 seasons of women's basketball at Notre Dame that the Irish have won 20 or more games. Notre Dame has a 399-203 (66.3 percent) record since the 1977-78 inaugural season. Since the 1989-90 campaign, Irish teams have averaged 21 victories a season.

    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 323-145 (.690) and she owns a 235-104 (.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. During her tenure, McGraw's Irish teams have averaged 21.4 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).

    Peirick Reaches 1,000-Point Plateau:
    Against St. John's, in the first round of the BIG EAST tournament, Mollie Peirick became the 13th player in Notre Dame women's basketball history to reach the 1000-point mark. She currently has 1,029 career points for an 8.1 career average. Already this season, Peirick has eclipsed her previous single-season scoring best with 341 points for an 11.0 ppg. (third best on the team.).

    BIG EAST Roll:
    Notre Dame won 14 of its last 19 games against BIG EAST competition after dropping its first two league games against Rutgers and Connecticut in early December. 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 Favored Irish:
    The final regular-season scheduling certainly favored the Irish as they played four of their five contests 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 on February 24 for both teams as she scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Riley who also scored 27 against West Virginia and 29 versus Syracuse and 20 points versus Rutgers, recorded her fourth 20+ scoring game with 21 points against Southwest Missouri State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Currently, she is the team's second-leading scorer and top rebounder averaging 11.5 points and 7.4 rebounds. She has scored in double figures in 18 games this season and has grabbed 10-plus boards 10 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)
        vs. Rutgers (23 points, 12 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 third-leading scorer (11.0 ppg.), third-leading rebounder (5.0 rpg.) and tops the team in assists (6.2 apg.), free throw percentage (83.8) and minutes played (31.5). Peirick is the only player to have started all 31 games this season and has netted double figures in all but 12 contests.

    Peirick Moves to Second on All-Time Assist List:
    Mollie Peirick is second on the all-time Notre Dame career assist list with 643. Mary Gavin is Notre Dame's career assist leader with 778. Peirick had 11 assists against Texas Tech in the second round of the NCAA tournament marking the third time this season she had 10 or more assists in a game. Over the last 14 games, she has dished off 95 assists and is averaging 6.8 per game. In six of the last 14 games, Peirick has had nine or more assists.

    Ironwoman:
    Mollie Peirick ranks second all-time in the number of career games she has played in with 127 and she will tie Katryna Gaither for the school record with her 128th game played against Purdue. She has started 117 contests throughout her career.

    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.

    McMillen in the Groove:
    Sheila McMillen, who was held scoreless for the second time in her career (99 games) against Miami on February 3, has scored in double figures in 22 games this season and leads the Irish in scoring with 13.4 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 in the first round of the BIG EAST tournament marked the fifth 20-plus performance of the season.

    Ivey Nets Career Best:
    Sophomore guard Niele Ivey returned to the starting lineup against Georgetown on February 18 after missing the Pittsburgh game with a hip pointer she sustained against St. John's on February 12. She has started the last 16 games she has played in and has made 18 starts overall this season. Ivey had her first 20-point performance of her career when she scored 20 points against Connecticut on February 21. She is averaging 8.1 points and leads the team with 75 steals (2.5 per game). Friday against Southwest Missouri State, Ivey recorded seven steals tying her career high, the second highest single game total in NCAA Midwest subregional history. She has been in double figures in 10 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 11 games. She is the team's fourth-leading scorer (10.3 ppg.) and is fourth 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 10-point outing against Texas Tech in the second round of the NCAA tournament marked the 11th time this season she has been in double figures. In the game, she was four-of-seven from the field and also grabbed seven 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 with 67 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 6-3 mark (66.7 percent) in BIG EAST tournament action for an overall record of 50-13 (79.3 percent) against league opponents. Of Notre Dame's 13 league losses, eight 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.

    Henderson a Spark in Win Over St. John's
    Sophomore Julie Henderson had her best game of the season against St. John's in the first round of the BIG EAST tournament as she scored a career-high 14 points and tying her season best with eight boards. Henderson played 25 minutes in the game, the most minutes since the season opener against Butler when she logged 28.

    Irish Tough at Home Against BIG EAST Foes:
    Notre Dame has compiled a 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 1-5 against ranked foes this season following a 74-59 win over No. 6/5 Texas Tech. At No. 5, the Red Raiders are the highest ranked team the Irish have defeated in the history of the program. Earlier this season Notre Dame lost to Duke, Connecticut (three times) 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 13 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.

    Tidbits on '97 Final Four Run:
    Last year, playing as the No. 6 seed in the East Region, its highest seed ever, the Irish advanced to their first-ever Final Four appearance. Notre Dame beat three ranked opponents en route to the East Regional championship. The Irish were just the third team in the 16-year history of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship to advance to the Final Four without a top four seed. Notre Dame, which had not advanced past the second round prior to the 1997 season, was the lowest seeded team ever to win the East Regional and the first team to make its Final Four debut since Alabama, North Carolina and Purdue all made their first appearances in 1994.

    Notre Dame played in Austin, Tex. for the first two rounds, beating 11th-seeded Memphis 93-62 in first round and then upsetting third-seeded and 14th-ranked Texas on its home floor 86-83. Notre Dame then beat second-seeded and eighth-ranked Alabama 87-71 as the Irish used a 22-0 spurt over a 6:03 stretch in the second half to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit. Beth Morgan scored a career-high 36 points to set an East Regional scoring record. She connected on six three-pointers in the contest, a mark which also established a new East Regional mark.

    Notre Dame earned the East Regional crown and its first-ever Final Four apperance with a 62-52 victory over 16th-ranked George Washington in the regional final behind 25 points and 16 rebounds from East Regional Tournament MVP Katryna Gaither.

    Irish Have NCAA Tournament Experience:
    Entering the '98 NCAA tournament, six of the 12 players on the Notre Dame roster had been part of at least one Notre Dame team that has advanced to the NCAA tournament. Senior Mollie Peirick and junior Sheila McMillen are the two players with the most tournament experience. Both are playing in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year and each has played in all nine games the Irish have been involved in. Peirick has started all nine NCAA contests over the past three years and is averaging 5.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists. McMillen has played in all nine games and is averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds.

    Senior Kari Hutchinson was a member of last year's Final Four squad in her first-ever NCAA tournament experience. Also appearing in the NCAA tournament for the second time are juniors Danielle Green and Diana Braendly and sophomore Julie Henderson. Green and Braendly played in the 1996 tournament as freshmen, but did not participate in the '97 NCAA tournament, while Henderson saw action in all five games a year ago, averaging 2.6 ppg.

    Making their first-ever NCAA tournament appearances will be sophomores Niele Ivey and walk-on Mary Leffers and freshmen Imani Dunbar, Meghan Leahy, Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon.

    The 1998 Senior Class
    Here is some of what the Irish senior class - Kari Hutchinson and Mollie Peirick - have accomplished the last four seasons at Notre Dame.

    CLASS ACCOMPLISHMENTS

    - Four-year record of: 97-34 (74.0 percent), tied for the most victories by any Notre Dame class

    - Three NCAA tournament appearances ('96, '97, '98) and four postseason tournament appearances

    - Four seasons with at least 21 victories including school-record 31-win campaign (1997)

    - MCC regular season championship (1995)

    - Four-year home record of 43-5 (89.6 percent)

    - Four-year record of 54-29 (65.1 percent) away from home

    - Four-year conference record of: 59-11 (84.3 percent)

    - Three-year BIG EAST record of 29-7 (80.6 percent)

    - One-year MCC record of 15-1 (93.8 percent)

    - 10-game win streak (1997), nine-game win streak (1995), eight-game win streak (1998)



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