March 5, 2000
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Ruth Riley expected a crowd, and got it.
The Notre Dame center fought through double and triple teams Sunday and came up with 18 points and 14 rebounds as the sixth-ranked Irish beat Miami 67-52 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
"When they double- and triple-team you, there's got to be other people open," said Riley. "You just hope to hit them."
She was the biggest target all night for her teammates and scored eight points in the final 12 minutes to seal the win.
"Ruth Riley is probably the best center in the nation," said Miami coach Fern Labati, whose team had few answers for the 6-foot-5 junior.
Notre Dame (25-3) will play either No. 8 Rutgers or Villanova in the semifinals.
The Irish, playing for the first time since losing to top-ranked Connecticut last Saturday, struggled early with 14 first-half turnovers and 37 percent shooting from the floor.
"We took three days off (after Connecticut)," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "Practice went really well this week. I'm pleased with the outcome."
Dalia Clarke and Alicia Hartlaub combined for the first nine Hurricane points and 9-8 lead in the first seven minutes. With 13:05 left in the first half, Niele Ivey's 3-pointer kicked off an 11-4 Irish run to put Notre Dame up 19-13.
The Canes (14-15) would get to 21-19 on Gina Graziani's layup with 5:05 left. Miami matched the Irish down the stretch to trail, 32-25, at the break.
Danielle Green gave the Irish some breathing room, scoring five points in a 7-2 run to open the second half with a 39-27 lead.
Clarke kept the seventh-seeded Canes close with nine points in the first
seven minutes of the second half. Her jumper with 12:48 left cut the Irish lead
to 44-39, but the Canes would get no closer than five the rest of the way.
Riley converted a three-point play and the second-seeded Irish hit 7 of 12 from the foul line to seal the win. Ivey had 13 points for Notre Dame.
Clarke led Miami with 16 and Sheila James had 14 for the Hurricanes.
"We wanted to come out and play hard," James said. "We knew we were the underdog. We played like it was our last game."