Jan. 8, 2001
(#3 AP/#3 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-0, 3-0)
The Date and Time: Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2001, at 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Site: Alumni Hall (6,008) in Jamaica, N.Y.
Radio: All Notre Dame games are broadcast on WHLY-AM (1620 in South Bend) with Sean Stires (play by play). This live broadcast also is available through the Notre Dame athletic department web site at www.und.com.
Websites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), St. John's (www.redstormsports.com).
TONIGHT'S GAME The third-ranked Notre Dame women's basketball team travels to St. John's for a BIG EAST matchup at Alumni Hall tonight as the Irish look to remain undefeated this season. The game will mark the 10th meeting between the teams, with the Irish having won all nine of the previous games in the series. Notre Dame is coming off a 67-46 win over ninth-ranked Rutgers on Saturday -- the third Irish victory over a top-10 opponent this season.
The Irish enter the game with their highest-ever ranking at third for the fifth consecutive week and are off to their best start ever at 14-0. With the win over the Scarlet Knights, Notre Dame improved to 3-0 in BIG EAST games.
All five of Notre Dame's starters average double-figure scoring, while the Irish have outscored their 14 opponents by an average of 16 points in the first half. Notre Dame is led by three of the best players in the country at their respective positions. Senior All-America center Ruth Riley (16.6) leads the team in scoring and is the only player in the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks and field-goal percentage (15th at 61.0 in the last rankings, currently 63.6). All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (14.0) leads the BIG EAST in steals (3.29/game) and assists (7.21/game). Sophomore shooting guard Alicia Ratay (14.0) leads the nation in three-point shooting (33-52, 63.5).
A large part of Notre Dame's fast start this season also is due to the play of its other two starters, senior Kelley Siemon and junior Ericka Haney. Siemon (10.1) leads the Irish in rebounding (7.2 ) and tops the BIG EAST in defensive rebounds. Haney (11.3) had a career-high 21 points in the win over Marquette, making her first 10 field goals before finishing 10-12, and had 18 points vs. Rice.
The Irish enter the St. John's game with a 14-0 record -- their first 14-0 start in the history of the program, far surpassing the previous best start of 6-0 from 1998-99 team. The 14-game winning streak currently stands tied for third longest in the country.
With the second-best shooting team in the BIG EAST (.504), Notre Dame has won its first 14 games by an average of 23 points and has shot better than 50 percent from the field in seven of 14 games, better than 46 percent in 12 of 14 games and better than 40 percent in all 14 games. The Irish defense leads the BIG EAST in opponent shooting (.334) and has held its opponents to under 40.0 in 11 of 14 games -- including nine games under 35.0 percent. The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (101 assists, 46 steals) and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch of Riley (39 blocks, 89-140 FG, .636) have led the Irish to big early leads. Forwards Siemon and Haney have given the Irish timely contributions. Notre Dame was one of only two teams (Auburn) ranked among the NCAA leaders in both field-goal percentage (fifth at 50.9) and field-goal percentage defense (12th at 34.2) according to the last NCAA statistics.
Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 302-115 (.724) record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 390-156 (.714) mark. She has led the Irish to five straight NCAA tournament appearances and seven overall. McGraw was named a finalist for the Naismith Women's Basketball and AP coach-of-the-year awards last year.
RUTGERS REVIEW Senior All-America center Ruth Riley had her second straight 20-point game to lead four Irish players in double-figure scoring as the third-ranked Irish handed ninth-ranked Rutgers its worst BIG EAST loss since the 1996-97 season with a 67-46 win on Saturday at the Joyce Center. Riley scored 22 points on 8-11 shooting, and All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey had 15 points and seven assists to lead the Irish, who shot 53.3 percent and held Rutgers to 31.5 percent shooting. The Irish jumped out a 26-6 lead as the Scarlet Knights struggled from the field. Notre Dame took a 33-21 lead into halftime, before sophomore Alicia Ratay's three pointer to open the second half followed by a layup by senior Kelley Siemon gave the Irish a 17-point lead. Rutgers would never get closer than 16 points the rest of the way in losing its third straight game.
ST. JOHN'S SERIES The Irish and Red Storm meet for the 10th time in a series that began when Notre Dame joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. The Irish have won all nine of the previous meetings, including all four games at Alumni Hall.
IRISH ON RECORD-SETTING DEFENSE PACE While Notre Dame boasts one of the country's most potent offensive attacks, the Irish defense enters the St. John's game on pace to break modern school records for fewest points allowed per game and the lowest opponent field-goal and three-point field-goal percentages. Notre Dame's defense has limited its opponents to 53.9 points per game on 33.4 FG percentage and 24.6 3PT FG percentage, currently better than the modern school records of 55.1 points per game in 1981-82, 35.5 FG percentage in 1999-2000 and 28.4 3PT FG percentage in 1996-97. Only three opponents have shot better than 40.0 percentage vs. the Irish -- Georgia (42.0), Purdue (46.2) and Virginia Tech (41.0).
THE RUTH IS ON FIRE Senior All-America center Ruth Riley turned in her second consecutive 20-point performance against Rutgers on Saturday with 22 points, three days after scoring a season-high 27 points at Virginia Tech. She has averaged 21.6 points in Notre Dame's last five victories. Riley was selected as the BIG EAST player of the week for the second consecutive week on Jan. 8. She scored 41 points and had 13 rebounds in a pair of Irish wins last week over USC and Rice. Against Southern California in the 70-61 victory, Riley led all scorers with a season-high 23 points, shooting 7-9 from the field and 9-11 from the free-throw line. She scored a game-high 18 points, going 7-11 from the field and 4-4 in free throws in the 80-40 win against the Owls.
30 AND COUNTING The Irish extended their home winning streak to a school-record 30 straight wins at the Joyce Center with the victory over Rutgers. The streak currently is the fourth longest active streak in the country, behind Grambling (66), Kent (37) and Texas Tech (38). The Irish have not lost at home in over two years since a loss to top-ranked UConn on Dec. 8, 1998. Notre Dame also has a 43-3 record in BIG EAST games at the Joyce Center, with Connecticut being the only BIG EAST team to beat the Irish at home.
CONFERENCE CALL Notre Dame raced through its first 12 games, beating opponents from seven major conferences. The Irish have posted wins vs. the ACC (North Carolina), Atlantic 10 (Fordham), Big 10 (Purdue, Wisconsin), Conference USA (Marquette), Pacific-10 (Arizona, USC), SEC (Georgia) and Western Athletic (Rice).
NON-CONFERENCE SUCCESS Life outside of the BIG EAST Conference has been good to Notre Dame over the past four years. The Irish sport a 45-9 (.833) overall record vs. non-conference teams in the last four-plus seasons and a 36-5 (.878) record in the regular season. The Irish finished the non-conference portion of their 2000-01 schedule with an 11-0 record -- their second unbeaten record vs. their non-conference regular-season opponents in the last three years after an 8-0 mark vs. non-BIG EAST teams during the 1998-99 regular season.
Notre Dame also has a four-year old, 21-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center -- a streak that includes wins over Purdue in 1997 and 2000 and a pair of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke) and 25th-ranked Illinois in 1998-99. Notre Dame's last non-conference loss at the Joyce Center came over four years ago when 19th-ranked Wisconsin beat the Irish on Dec. 9, 1996.
McGRAW WINS 300TH AT NOTRE DAME Notre Dame's win over Rice on Dec. 31, marked Muffet McGraw's 300th win at Notre Dame in her 14th season as head coach of the Irish. She has a 302-115 (.724) record at Notre Dame and a 390-156 career record (.714). Her 300 wins at Notre Dame equal nearly 65 percent of the total wins in the 23-plus seasons of varsity Irish women's basketball. McGraw also needs just 13 victories to reach the 400-win plateau in her 19-plus seasons as a head coach -- and to become the fourth BIG EAST coach and the third this season to reach 400 victories.
IVEY NEARS STEALS RECORD, CLIMBS ASSIST LEADERS Fifth-year point guard and All-America candidate Niele Ivey has herself ready to break current Irish assistant coach Coquese Washington's school record for career steals. Ivey enters the St. John's game with 300 steals in her career, just seven from the record 307 steals by Washington from 1989-93. Ivey (581) recently moved ahead of Washington (554) for fourth place on the Irish career assist list and moved into third place with seven assists vs. Rutgers.
THE RILEY REPORT National player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley has been at her dominating best this season -- making her presence felt on both ends of the court as the only player ranked among the NCAA leaders in both field-goal percentage and blocked shots in the most recent NCAA statistics. In addition to her offensive efficiency (89-140 FG, 63.6 percentage third in BIG EAST, 15th in NCAA), Riley leads the BIG EAST and is third in the country with 39 blocked shots (2.79/game), while committing just 34 personal fouls (2.43/game). The two-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year is averaging one blocked shot every nine-plus minutes she plays and just one foul every 11-plus minutes of action. Riley enters the St. John's game with 296 blocks in her career, just four blocks shorts of becoming just the 19th player in NCAA Division I history to reach 300 blocks in a career.
SEEING DOUBLE Junior forward Ericka Haney scored game-highs with 18 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Rice for her second double-double of the season. Notre Dame has totalled nine double-doubles in 12 games by five different players. Other double-double performances for the Irish this season include Ruth Riley (vs. Villanova and Marquette), Niele Ivey (vs. Valparaiso, Arizona and Villanova), Ericka Haney (vs. North Carolina), Kelley Siemon (vs. Georgia) and Meaghan Leahy (vs. Fordham).
DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR DOUBLE "3" Fifth-year point guard and All-America candidate Niele Ivey entered the season with seven career double-doubles (four in '99-'00 and three in '98-'99) and already has three in '00-01. She had a pair of double-doubles in the first two games of the season and a third vs. Villanova. Ivey scored 12 points and had 10 assists and five steals vs. Valparaiso in the season opener and then recorded 11 assists against just one turnover to go along with 14 points against Arizona. She had 11 points, 10 assists, six steals and six rebounds vs. just four turnovers vs. Villanova. Ivey has had four double-figure assist outings in Notre Dame's nine games.
RATAY TOPS NCAA THREE-POINT SHOOTERS Sophomore Alicia Ratay has established herself as the best three-point shooter in the country with her 63.5 three-point shooting percentage -- the highest percentage in the country. She has connected on 33 of her 52 attempts and her 63.5 percentage is higher than Irish opponents are hitting from the free-throw line (59.3), from the field (33.4) and from three-point range (24.6). Ratay had 11 three pointers in the first two games on just 15 attempts, a percentage of .733. In the season opener vs. Valparaiso, Ratay scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting (6-9 3PT) and nailed four three-pointers in a span of 3:47 late in the first half. She was a perfect 4-4 (3-3 3PT) in the first half of the Arizona game before finishing 8-10 FG, 5-6 3PT and 5-5 FT for 26 points. Ratay was 2-3 vs. Georgia, 3-3 vs. Fordham, 2-4 vs. North Carolina, 1-1 vs. Villanova, 5-8 vs. Purdue, 3-3 vs. Western Michigan, 2-3 vs. Marquette, 1-1 vs. USC, 1-3 vs. Virginia Tech and 2-3 vs. Purdue.
IRISH VS. TOP 10 Following the victory over sixth-ranked Purdue, the Irish have won six straight games vs. top-10 non-conference opponents (#6 Purdue on Dec. 9, #6 Georgia on Nov. 24, #9 North Carolina in '99-'00, #6 UCLA and #6 Duke in '98-99, #6 Texas Tech in '97-98) and nine of their last 11 (also beating #8 Alabama, #8 North Carolina State and #6 Iowa in '96-97 and falling to Tennessee twice (ranked second and 10th in '96-97). Notre Dame has an 8-5 record vs. all top 10 teams (including 5-0 vs. non-conference opponents) since the start of the 1998-99 season.
IRISH VS. UNRANKED OPPONENTS In addition to its success vs. top-10 teams, Notre Dame has won 49 consecutive games vs. unranked opponents, including a 24-0 mark last year. The last unranked team to defeat the Irish was Boston College on Dec. 30, 1998 (Notre Dame beat a ranked Eagle team later in the season).
SIEMON CONTINUES STRONG START Senior Kelley Siemon sparked the Irish with 21 points vs. Wisconsin -- including 15 in the second half. She continued her strong play with a double-double in the championship game vs. Georgia (13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds). Siemon had her fourth consecutive double-figure scoring vs. Fordham with 14 points. She also had 10 rebounds to go along with seven points vs. Purdue and 16 points against Western Michigan. She sat out the Marquette game -- the first game in her career in which she did not play -- with a knee injury before returning to the starting lineup vs. USC. She currently is averaging 10.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game -- the fifth-highest rebounding average in the BIG EAST.
HANEY HELPING OUT While Notre Dame has been led by its three All-America caliber players in Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Alicia Ratay, junior forward Ericka Haney has proven to play a large role in Notre Dame's successful start to the season. Among the team's most athletic and best defensive players, she enters tonight's game averaging 11.3 points -- markedly higher than her 6.8 average as a sophomore and 6.0 as a freshman. With Notre Dame's other starting forward Kelley Siemon out of the Marquette game lineup with an injury, Haney turned in the best offensive performance of her career. She made her first 10 field goals before missing her final two and made one of two free throws to finish with a career-high and game-high 21 points. Other strong offensive performances for Haney this season include double-doubles vs. Rice (18 points, 12 rebounds) and North Carolina (14 points, 13 rebounds) and 16 points vs. sixth-ranked Purdue. She has scored in double figures in nine of the last 12 games.
POLL POSITION The week of Dec. 3 began with the University of Notre Dame as the only Division I-A institution ranked among the top 10 teams in Associated Press standings in the sports of football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Notre Dame stood 10th in the final regular-season football poll (9-2 record), the first time since 1995 the Irish have finished the regular season ranked in the top 10. The Irish men's basketball team also broke into the top 10 that week for the first time since 1986. The Irish women's basketball team had its highest-ever ranking at fourth in the AP before moving up to third following the win over Purdue. It marked the first time in Irish athletic history all three of those Notre Dame teams have been ranked in the top 10 in the same week.
IVEY NAMED COACHES VS. CANCER MVP, BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK Fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey was named the MVP of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge as she helped the Irish win the event with her strong play. She totaled 41 points on 14-21 shooting (7-9 3PT, 6-6 FT) in 71 minutes of action along with 13 rebounds, 11 assists and eight steals vs. just 10 assists. Ivey recorded game-high scoring vs. both Wisconsin (22) and Georgia (19). She was named BIG EAST player of the week (Nov. 27) for her efforts for the fourth time in her career.
IVEY REACHES 1,000-POINT PLATEAU Fifth-year PG Niele Ivey scored five points in the first four minutes against Valparaiso to surpass the 1,000-point milestone in her career. She joined the list of 16 other Irish players (including Ruth Riley) who have scored at least 1,000 points. Ivey scored 15 points in five games as a freshman in 1996-97 before a knee injury ended her season. She then scored 254 points in '97-98, 369 in '98-99 and 358 in '99-'00 to reach 996 points entering the season.
HEAD COACH McGRAW INKS FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT Muffet McGraw is in her 14th season with the Irish and 19th as a collegiate coach. She recently signed a five-year contract to continue as coach of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program through the 2004-05 season. McGraw has guided Notre Dame to five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and seven of the last nine. The last four years have comprised the most successful period in the history of the program, thanks to a combined 106-26 record. The Irish followed up their 1997 NCAA Final Four appearance and 31-7 record with an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in '98. Then came 26-5 and 27-5 marks the last two years that represent the top two seasons ever at Notre Dame in terms of winning percentage. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, she spent five seasons at Lehigh where she compiled an 88-41 record for a .683 winning percentage. McGraw has been named a finalist for the Naismith Women's Basketball coach-of-the-year award in each of the last two seasons.
COACHES VS. CANCER RECAP Seniors Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey both scored a game-high 19 points and were named to the all-tournament team to the Irish to a 75-73 win over sixth-ranked Georgia in the championship game of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge on Nov. 24. The Bulldogs erased an early 11-point deficit before taking their first lead four minutes into the second half. Georgia built a six-point lead with 9:29 before Ivey ignited a 11-0 run in a span of 2:21 for a 68-65 Irish lead. The Bulldogs scored six straight to lead 71-70 before Alicia Ratay gave Notre Dame a 72-70 lead. After a pair of Ivey free throws and a Georgia basket, Kelley Siemon made one of two free throws for the 75-73 final after the Bulldogs missed a desperation three pointer as time expired.
In the first game of the event vs. host Wisconsin, Ratay and Riley both were held to single-digit scoring in the same game for the first time, and Ivey and Siemon poured in a combined 43 points. Junior Ericka Haney added 14 points to lead fifth-ranked Notre Dame to an 83-56 win. The Irish built a 41-26 halftime lead on the strength of 17 first-half points from Ivey and pulled away from the Badgers with the help of 15 second-half points from Siemon.
In overall games, Alicia Ratay's six three pointers vs. Valparaiso in the season opener are tied for the most by a BIG EAST player in a single game this season. Ratay also has the second best three-point shooting game by a BIG EAST player with her 5-6 (.833) vs. Arizona. Ruth Riley's 11 field goals vs. Virginia Tech stand tied for the most by a BIG EAST player. Meaghan Leahy's 12 free throws vs. Fordham are tied for the most in the league, while her 14 attempts are tied for third most. Niele Ivey's six steals vs. both North Carolina and Villanova are tied for second most in a single game. Amanda Barksdale's six blocks vs. Fordham and Riley's six vs. Virginia Tech and are the two best blocks games.
As a team, the Irish also shot 62.3 percent (38-61) vs. Arizona for the best shooting game of the season by a BIG EAST team. Their 38 field goals in that game are tied for the most of the season. The 27 free throws made vs. Wisconsin both are second most. The Irish shot .750 (6-8) from three-point range for the best three-point shooting percentage in a game. The 16-18 performance from the free throw line stands tied as the best percentage (.889). Notre Dame's 31 assists vs. Arizona are the most in a single game by a BIG EAST team, while its nine blocks vs. both Arizona and Fordham are third best.
RILEY, RATAY NAMED NAISMITH CANDIDATES Senior All-America center Ruth Riley and sophomore guard Alicia Ratay are among the 30 preseason candidates listed for the 2000-01 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Riley was one of 15 finalists for the Naismith Award a year ago. The women's Naismith Award was first presented in 1983 and honors the outstanding college basketball player in the United States. The award program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.
OTHER IRISH HONORS In addition to Riley's accolades, senior point guard Niele Ivey has been named by Beth Mowins of ESPN.com one of the top five point guards in the country, while Mowins also has rated the Irish backcourt as one of best in the country. Sophomore guard Alicia Ratay has been named preseason All-America by Women's Basketball Journal as a sixth-team pick. She is one of only three sophomores on the six-team, 30-player list. Freshman Jeneka Joyce has been listed as one of the top freshmen according to Athlon Sports.
EXCITEMENT BUILDS AS SEASON-TICKET SALES DOUBLE Season-ticket sales for the 2000-01 Irish home season have more than doubled from a year ago, going from 940 in 1999-2000 to more than 2,600 for the upcoming season. Notre Dame's average home attendance has jumped from a per-game figure of 1,747 in 1996-97 (the year the Irish played in the NCAA Final Four in Cincinnati) to 1,914 in 1997-98, then 2,996 in 1998-99 and finally to a 3,392 total in 1999-2000 to rank 26th nationally. Irish women's basketball season tickets remain on sale and can be purchased by contacting the Notre Dame ticket office at 219-631-7356. Fans are encourage to purchase single-game tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line on gameday.
NOTRE DAME IN OPENERS Notre Dame improved to 16-8 in its 24 season-opening games and have won their last six openers after the Valparaiso victory. Notre Dame has an 11-3 record under Muffet McGraw in its first games of the season with the only losses coming to third-ranked Penn State in 1991, at Marquette in 1992 and the SHU loss in 1994.
IVEY AMONG BIG EAST ALL-STARS Niele Ivey spent part of her summer with the BIG EAST Women's Basketball All-Stars, averaging 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds on the six-game competitive tour of Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. in June. The All-Stars, led by West Virginia head coach Alexis Basil, went 5-1 on the tour with wins over Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. Ivey scored in double figures in four of the six contests and registered a personal tour-high 17 points in the squad's first meeting with Simon Fraser. She scored a team-high 16 points in the All-Stars' final game.
IRISH IN BIG EAST OPENERS
Following the win over Villanova, the Irish have a 4-2 record in BIG EAST season-opening games in their sixth season in the conference, including a 4-2 mark in conference home openers. Connecticut defeated the Irish in their conference home openers in 1997 and 1998, while a loss at Rutgers in 1997 marked the only time Notre Dame began BIG EAST play on the road.