Jan. 15, 2001
Photo Gallery (AP) | Photo Gallery (ND)
By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
AP Sports Writer
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Another basketball winning streak came crashing down
at Notre Dame, this time on the women's side.
Responding to the largest home crowd in school history, No. 3 Notre Dame
beat No. 1 Connecticut 92-76 Monday to end the Huskies' 30-game winning streak
and hand UConn its worst loss in more than seven years.
The Irish played almost perfectly on a momentous day in the same building
where the Notre Dame men ended UCLA's 88-game winning streak with a 71-70
victory on Jan. 19, 1974.
"I'm still kind of shocked," said Notre Dame guard Niele Ivey. "I think
someone hit me upside my head or something. It's just a great feeling. UConn's
a great team and to come out there and have a total team effort is just
In a showdown between the nation's only unbeaten Division I teams, the Irish
ended an 0-for-9 drought against top-ranked teams and defeated Connecticut for
the first time in 12 tries.
Ruth Riley, showing no ill effects from a sprained ankle two days earlier
against Virginia Tech, had 29 points and 12 rebounds for Notre Dame (17-0, 6-0
Connecticut (13-1, 4-1) missed six of its first seven shots and never led in
losing for the first time since Feb. 2, 2000 - 72-71 against Tennessee. It was
their first Big East loss since Boston College beat them on Jan. 23, 1999.
When Notre Dame's Imani Dunbar hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, fans rushed
from the stands to join the players and cheerleaders celebrating at midcourt as
the UConn players trudged dejectedly off the floor.
"I'm embarrassed personally," said Connecticut's Sue Bird. "A lot of
people did come out to play on our team, but collectively, no way. We just
didn't play the way we normally can, for whatever reason."
A sellout crowd of 11,418 saw Notre Dame win for the 32nd straight time at
the Joyce Center. The largest crowd previously for a women's game at Notre Dame
was 8,134 for Tennessee on Jan. 12, 1992.
Notre Dame, which used only six players until the final 19.5 seconds, did
everything it needed to win. The Irish handled Connecticut's press, shot 57
percent, stayed out of foul trouble and got inspired play from Riley and their
other injured starter, Kelley Siemon.
Riley made 8-of-11 shots, sank all 13 of her free throws, blocked five shots
and frustrated Connecticut's double teams with alert passing in finishing with
"She was better than Bill Walton today," said Notre Dame coach Muffet
McGraw. "She was outstanding. I think she was the best player in the country
Siemon, who broke her left hand against Virginia Tech, played with a
protective wrap on her left hand. She made her first shot with the injured hand
and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
"Kelley was the catalyst for the team," McGraw said. "She really set the
tone for the game. She just said, `I don't care what's wrong with my hand, I'm
playing.' She gave us an outstanding effort."
Ivey had the job of breaking Connecticut's press and did it well while
scoring 14 points, handing out 10 assists and making all three of her 3-points
Svetlana Abrosimova led Connecticut with 20 points and Bird had 17, but
starter Swin Cash had only three and Shea Ralph just two. The Huskies got
plenty of shots against Notre Dame's 2-3 zone, 79, but made only 29 for 37
It was the biggest margin of defeat for Connecticut since a 94-75 loss to
Stanford on Dec. 28, 1993.
"I thought right from the opening tip, Notre Dame was better," said
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma. "In all the areas you need to play well to
win the game, I thought they outplayed us."
Notre Dame led by nine points at halftime, then fought off the Huskies after
they cut the lead to 52-46 on Tamika Williams' putback with 12:39 left. The
Irish answered quickly, going on a 16-4 run that included seven points by Riley
to open a 68-50 lead.
Siemon started it with two free throws, then got the crowd roaring when she
bobbled the ball on a breakaway to the left of the basket, threw the ball at
the rim as she was stumbling out of bounds and banked it in.
Notre Dame was in control the rest of the way. UConn got the lead down to
85-76 in the final minute. But layups by Alicia Ratay and Erica Haney finished
it off for the Irish.
"I think our team is surprised when somebody plays well against us,"
Auriemma said. "That's how immature some of our players are. They would like
to phone ahead and say, `By the way, here we come, we would like the score to
be 52-30 at halftime, so could you please go along with that.'
"And when it doesn't go like that, we're not quite sure how to deal with it