Feb. 17, 2001
By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Scratch off the last unbeaten team in women's Division I basketball, and put Rutgers back in the mix of teams that have a chance to go all the way.
Tammy Sutton-Brown converted a three-point play with 28.1 seconds remaining and blocked a last-second shot as No. 11 Rutgers beat No. 1 Notre Dame 54-53 on Saturday night.
"Notre Dame is a great team, they are still No. 1," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said after the Scarlet Knights (18-6, 10-3 Big East) beat a ranked team for the first time in six games this season. "We were just very lucky and we are very happy."
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw saw nothing positive in a loss by the Irish (23-1, 12-1) before the postseason tournaments.
"There was absolutely no burden at all," McGraw said. "We wanted to go through the whole year undefeated. Everyone kept telling me a loss would be good for us. I don't see it that way. I think this was a great opportunity for us to get a big win on the road and we missed our opportunities at the end."
Notre Dame had one chance to win the game after Sutton-Brown's layup and foul shot, which not only gave the Scarlet Knights the lead, but also sent Irish center Ruth Riley to the bench with five fouls.
The Scarlet Knights made the Irish work almost 15 seconds to get the ball up court and Niele Ivey didn't have an open lane when she drove to the basket.
Sutton-Brown stepped up and easily swatted the point guard's shot, catching the ball as it came down with less than two seconds remaining.
The clock ran out and fans ran on the court to congratulate the Rutgers players, who just a couple of days earlier had been embarrassed by No. 3 Connecticut in a 70-45 loss.
This one made up for it.
"This win did as much for our confidence as the losses did to break our confidence," said Stringer, who returned four starters from last year's Final Four team.
McGraw said the Irish didn't attack on offense on their final possession.
"We've not been in that position much, so it was a great learning experience for us," she said.
Sutton-Brown led the Scarlet Knights with 12 points and Dana Boonen, who started in place of Sutton-Brown at center, had a career-high 10 points. Tasha Pointer added 10 assists.
Kelley Siemon had 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for the Irish. Riley, who was limited to 25 minutes by foul problems, had 12 points. Ericka Haney also had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Notre Dame, which trailed at halftime for the first time this season, faced a 45-39 deficit with 8:25 to play.
The Irish rallied and took a 52-51 lead with 1:26 to play when Alicia Ratay hit an off-balance 3-pointer.
Riley, who had eight of her 12 points in the closing minutes, then blocked a shot by Davalyn Cunningham and was fouled with one minute remaining.
Riley missed both free throws, but Haney got the rebound. The Irish milked the clock and Riley found Siemon cutting down the middle. Siemon was fouled on the play.
Siemon, who made 7 of 14 shots from the line, converted the first but missed the second with 40.3 seconds left.
Rutgers moved up the court and got the ball in the left blocks to Sutton-Brown, who powered by Riley for a basket and was fouled on the play.
Seconds after Riley marched off the court to chants of "Left, Right," Sutton-Brown made the free throw.
"I knew she had four fouls so I knew I was either going to get the foul or something was going to happen," Sutton-Brown said.
"She's the hero of the game," McGraw said of Sutton-Brown. "She didn't play as well as she did in South Bend, but in the end they wanted to go to her, so they went to her and she scored. That was a great play by her."
Sutton-Brown's game-winner capped a frustrating night for Riley, who picked up two fouls in the first eight minutes and never got going until the closing minutes.
"I don't think I was in the game at all," said Riley, who had double-doubles in each of her last four games. "I got two early fouls that weren't smart and came back in the second half and shot the ball poorly."
The point total was a season-low for Notre Dame, which won its first 23 games by an average of 22 points.
The Irish, who beat Rutgers 67-46 earlier this season at Notre Dame and had trailed in the second half only once this season, used a 9-0 run at the start of the second half to take a 33-30 lead on a 3-pointer by Ivey with 15:48 to play.
Boonen, who was making her first start in 14 games, scored four of the next six points in an 11-2 spurt that put the Scarlet Knights up 41-35 with 0:56 to play.
The lead was still 45-39 after a layup by Sutton-Brown with 8:11 left when the Irish finally got their offense going.
Siemon hit a free throw and Riley, who was averaging 19 points and was coming off four consecutive double-doubles, made two layups to narrow Notre Dame's deficit to one.
Siemon eventually made a free throw with 3:59 to play to tie the game.
Rutgers took the lead three times on a layup by Sutton-Brown with 3:32 to play, a short jumper by Cunningham with 2:42 left and two more free throws by Cunningham with 1:57 left.
Riley, who was 6 of 14 from the field, twice hit shots in the lane to tie the game, and then Ratay hit her 3-pointer, setting the stage for the wild ending.