Feb. 26, 2001
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(#2 AP/#2 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-1, 14-1)
vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (9-17, 3-12)
The second-ranked Notre Dame women's basketball team plays for a share of its first BIG EAST regular-season title Tuesday against host Pittsburgh in a 7:00 p.m. game at Fitzgerald Field House. Notre Dame enters the game with a 25-1 record and 14-1 mark in the BIG EAST after beating Georgetown 65-53 on Saturday in the final regular season home game for the Irish. The Irish enter the week ranked second in both polls for the second consecutive week after the holding the top spot for four weeks prior to its first loss of the season on Feb. 17.
Tuesday's game will mark the 10th meeting between the teams in a series that began in 1996 when the Irish joined the BIG EAST. Notre Dame has won all nine of the previous games between the Irish and the Panthers, including an 72-58 win at the Joyce Center on Feb. 7, in the first meeting between the teams this season.
Notre Dame's five starters average double-figure scoring, and the Irish are led by three of the best players in the country at their respective positions. Senior All-America center and national player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley (18.8) leads the BIG EAST in scoring and was the only player in the top 20 of the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks (2nd at 3.2) and field-goal percentage (4th at .632) according to the most recent NCAA statistics. All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (12.2) stands 12th in the country in assists (7.0) and has scored or assisted on 41 percent of Notre Dame's 720 field goals. Sophomore shooting guard Alicia Ratay (12.9) leads the nation in three-point shooting (54-104, .519).
A large part of Notre Dame's success this season also is due to the play of its other two starters, junior Ericka Haney and senior Kelley Siemon, who returned to the lineup against Boston College after missing the three previous games. Haney (11.6) has scored in double figures in 16 games this season. Siemon (10.4) stands second on the team and seventh in the BIG EAST in rebounding (7.1). Playing with a broken left hand, Siemon scored 15 points and had eight rebounds vs. Connecticut. She had a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with 19 points vs. Rutgers.
Ranked among the top five both in field-goal percentage (fifth at .491) and field-goal percentage defense (third at .338) according to the latest NCAA statistics, Notre Dame has a scoring margin of 21 points -- third best in the country -- and has outscored its opponents by an average of 14 points in the first half. The Irish have shot better than 50 percent from the field in 11 of 26 games, better than 46 percent in 20 of 26 games and at least 40 percent in all but one game. Notre Dame's defense has held its opponents to under 40 percent in 21 of 26 games -- including 17 games under 35 percent.
The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (181 assists, 69 steals) and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch of Riley (84 blocks, 180-285 FG, .632) have led the Irish to early leads. Forwards Siemon and Haney have given the Irish timely contributions. Notre Dame stands as one of two teams ranked among the top five NCAA leaders in both field-goal percentage and field-goal percentage defense according to the latest NCAA statistics.
Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 313-116 (.730) record and in her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 401-157 (.719) mark. She led the Irish to the No. 1 ranking for the first time ever earlier this season, to eight consecutive 20-win seasons and 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 and a Naismith finalist this year.
Senior All-America center Ruth Riley scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Irish to their second consecutive undefeated regular season at the Joyce Center in front of their second home sellout. After a tearful senior ceremony, Riley and the four other Irish seniors -- Imani Dunbar, Meaghan Leahy, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon -- started the game slowly and trailed for over 10 minutes of the first half before taking a 29-24 halftime lead. The Irish built a seven-point lead 2:05 into the second half but the Hoyas used a 10-2 run to regain the advantage. Georgetown would lead by as many four points before an Ivey three-pointer ignited a 29-12 run for the Irish. Notre Dame held a 48-30 advantage in rebounding, while the Hoyas made just eight turnovers to 15 for the Irish. Notre Dame shot 41.8 from the field and held Georgetown to 31.6 shooting.
IRISH AIM FOR SHARE OF BIG EAST TITLE
A win tonight over Pittsburgh would clinch at a least a share of a first BIG EAST regular-season title for the Irish, who enter the game with a 14-1 conference record and stand tied with Connecticut (who plays at Seton Hall) for first place in the conference standings. Notre Dame finished 15-1 in the conference last year and was second to 16-0 Connecticut. Other BIG EAST finishes for the Irish are: 15-3 in 1995-96 (second in BIG EAST 6 division), 17-1 in 1996-97 (second in BIG EAST 6 division), 12-6 in 1997-98 (tied for second in BIG EAST 6 division) and 15-3 in 1998-99 (third). Notre Dame won or shared five Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular-season crowns in its seven season in the MCC from 1988-1995.
RILEY, RATAY NAMED TO ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT TEAM
Senior All-America center Ruth Riley has been voted Verizon First Team Academic All-District, while sophomore Alicia Ratay has been named a second-team selection. Riley, enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters with a major in psychology, advances to the national All-America ballot where she is eligible to receive Academic All-America honors for the second consecutive year. The Macy, Ind., native became the first Irish women's basketball player to earn first-team Academic All-America honors last year. Ratay was voted the all-district team on her first opportunity as freshmen are not eligible for the award.
Notre Dame's senior class of Imani Dunbar, Niele Ivey, Meaghan Leahy, Ruth Riley and Kelley Siemon wrapped up the first back-to-back undefeated regular season at the Joyce Center on Saturday vs. Georgetown. The Irish are 13-0 at the Joyce Center and were 15-0 last year -- including a pair of wins in the NCAA tournament. The only other undefeated season at the Joyce Center came in 1978-79 (5-0). This group of seniors will leave Notre Dame with the best four-year winning percentage in school history with a current record of 100-21 (.826), topping the .797 winning percentage (106-27) of the class of 2000.
Among the other accomplishments of this group are:
A first-ever win over a top-ranked team
The first No. 1 and No. 2 rankings in the program's history this season
A school-record 23-game winning streak
A school-record 36-game active home winning streak
A record of 52-2 (.963) at the Joyce Center with the only losses coming to Connecticut
A 20-0 Joyce Center record vs. non-conference opponents
A school-record 12-game road winning streak
IRISH WELCOME RECORD CROWDS TO JOYCE CENTER
The Georgetown sellout marked the second this season and second all-time for a women's basketball game at the 11,418-seat Joyce Center. Notre Dame defeated top-ranked Connecticut in front of its first sellout crowd on Jan. 15, 2001. The Irish have drawn 77,4845 fans to their 13 home games, an average of 5,960 that stands 12th best in the country. Eight of the top 15 and five of the top eight crowds in Irish women's basketball history have flocked to the Joyce Center this season.
NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH SERIES
Tonight's game marks the 10th meeting between the teams with the Irish having won all nine of the previous meetings, including a 72-58 win on Feb. 7, at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame has a 4-0 record at Pittsburgh, including a 67-53 win on Jan. 18, 2000, in its last trip to Fitzgerald Field House.
ESPN EXPERTS PICK RUTH RILEY, NIELE IVEY FOR HONORS
ESPN's Nancy Lieberman-Cline has picked Ruth Riley as the national player of the year. A first-team Associated Press All-America pick last year, Riley leads the BIG EAST in scoring in all games (18.8) and conference games (21.3) and is fourth in country in field-goal percentage (.632) and second in blocks (3.2). ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel predicts Riley and Niele Ivey will be named to the Associated Press All-America first team. In addition the leadership she provides the team, Ivey ranks 12th in the country in assists (7.0) and is shooting .458 from three-point range.
RILEY, McGRAW NAMED NAISMITH FINALIST
With junior All-American Troy Murphy one of 15 men's finalists, Notre Dame was one of two schools (Duke) to have both a female and male finalist.
Riley was joined on the final ballot by three other BIG EAST players -- Connecticut's Svetlana Abrosimova, Sue Bird and Shea Ralph.
One of 30 preseason candidates listed for the 2000-01 Atlanta Tipoff Club Naismith College Basketball Player-of-the-Year Award, senior All-American Ruth Riley has been named one of 15 finalists for the award. The Naismith Board of Selectors, which includes some of the country's leading basketball coaches, journalists, administrators, began the selection process in the fall. Head coach Muffet McGraw has been named one of 20 finalists for the Naismith College Basketball Coach of the Year Award for the second consecutive year. The winners of the Naismith Awards, the most prestigious honor in college basketball, will be honored on April 7, in Atlanta.
IVEY FINALIST FOR LIEBERMAN-CLINE AWARD
Ivey was joined on the list by two other BIG EAST players -- Connecticut's Sue Bird, the inaugural winner last year, and Rutgers' Tasha Pointer.
Irish fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey has been named one of 10 finalists for the Conseco Nancy Lieberman-Cline Step Up Award, which honors the nation's top collegiate point guard in NCAA Division I women's basketball. The award is a national project of the Rotary Club of Detroit and is presented to the player whose floor leadership, play-making and ball handling skills best personified Lieberman-Cline during her career. Associated Press sportswriters from across the country nominated the 10 finalists and will choose the eventual winner, who will be honored at a noon on April 7, in a luncheon at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center.
RILEY, McGRAW HONORED BY SI FOR WOMEN
The March/April edition of Sports Illustrated For Women has honored senior All-America center Ruth Riley and head coach Muffet McGraw as its player of the year and coach of the year. The magazine also named Riley to its All-America first team.
IRISH SET SCHOOL WINNING STREAKS The 23-game winning streak stands tied for 23rd on the all-time NCAA Division I list of longest winning streaks.
The Boston College victory also marked Notre Dame's 11th consecutive road win, breaking the previous school record of 10 straight wins away from the Joyce Center set during the 1993-94 season. The win over Syracuse marked the 12th straight road victory.
The Providence win marked Notre Dame's third consecutive January (1999, 2000, 2001) without a loss -- a streak that stands at 25 and dates back to Jan. 31, 1998.
Notre Dame has become the first team since both Stanford and Connecticut (1995-96 and 1996-97) and just the seventh in NCAA history to string together consecutive seasons with a pair of winning streaks of at least 20 games.
Notre Dame's victory over Boston College marked its 21st straight win, breaking the school record for consecutive wins -- a record that grew to 23 wins before the loss on Feb. 17. The win over Providence on Jan. 31, matched the school-record 20-game winning streak set just last year -- after the previous 15-game mark stood for nine years. The 1999-2000 Irish won 20 consecutive games from Dec. 11-Feb. 26.
IVEY SETS STEALS RECORD
All-America candidate Niele Ivey had four steals against Providence to bring her career total to 309, breaking current Irish assistant coach Coquese Washington's Notre Dame career steals record of 307. She enters the Pittsburgh game with 323 career steals. Ivey (661) moved ahead of Washington (554) for fourth place on the Irish career assist list and moved into third place with seven assists vs. Rutgers on Jan. 6. Ivey surpassed Mollie Peirick's 651 assists from 1994-97 for second place on the all-time Irish assist list with six assists vs. Miami.
SIEMON STARTS STRONG
Playing with a broken left hand suffered two days earlier vs. Virginia Tech, senior Kelley Siemon sparked the Irish in their win over Connecticut by scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds -- her fourth-highest point total of the season. She had a season-high 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 10.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game -- the seventh-highest rebounding average in the BIG EAST -- but missed the Seton Hall, West Virginia and Providence games due to her injured left hand. She returned to the starting lineup against Boston College and had first double-digit scoring game vs. Syracuse (12 points) since the Connecticut game and had 13 points and seven rebounds vs. Georgetown. She added her second double-double of the season with a career-high 15 rebounds and a game-high 19 points against Rutgers.
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 success this season. Among the team's most athletic and best defensive players, she enters today's game averaging 11.6 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. Against Seton Hall with Siemon out of the lineup again, Haney scored 15 first-half points on her way to a game-high 17 points. Haney came within one point of her third double-double of the season with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds vs. Georgetown. Other strong offensive performances for Haney this season include double-doubles vs. Rice (18 points, 12 rebounds), North Carolina (14 points, 13 rebounds) and Rutgers (12 points, 10 rebounds), game-high 17 points vs. Virginia Tech, 17 points vs. Providence, 16 points vs. sixth-ranked Purdue and Syracuse and 13 points and seven rebounds vs. Connecticut. She has scored in double figures in 16 games this season.
NOTRE DAME AT NO. 1
Notre Dame became the 19th school to hold the No. 1 ranking in the 25-year history of the AP poll. Connecticut fell one spot to second, marking the first time in seven seasons one conference held the top two spots.
The Irish women's basketball team became the second Notre Dame team to hold the No. 1 ranking in 2000-01. The Irish women's soccer squad took over the No. 1 ranking on Sept. 18, and held the top spot for 11 weeks, finishing the regular season unbeaten and ranked first with a 20-0-1 record.
The BIG EAST Conference became just the third conference -- joining the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences -- to boast a pair of No. 1 teams in the same season. Two top-ranked conference teams in the same year had happened in just four previous seasons with Auburn and Tennessee in both '87-88 and '88-89, Maryland and Virginia in '91-92 and Tennessee and Vanderbilt in '92-93. Tennessee and Vanderbilt were ranked first and second, respectively, on Nov. 16, 1993, the last time two conference teams were one-two in the AP poll.
In addition to the Irish and Huskies holding the top two spots in women's basketball, Georgetown and St. John's were the first BIG EAST men's basketball teams to be ranked first and second. Fifteen years ago both were ranked first during the season and spent a large part of the 1984-85 season holding the top two spots in the polls.
The 92-76 Irish win over previously top-ranked and undefeated Connecticut on Jan. 15, left Notre Dame as the only unbeaten team in the country -- positioning the Irish for their ascension to the No. 1 ranking in the Jan. 22 polls for the first time in the 24-year history of Notre Dame women's basketball. The Irish had been ranked third for six consecutive weeks, the highest-ever ranking for Notre Dame before taking over the top spot.
THE RUTH IS ON FIRE...
Senior All-America center Ruth Riley matched her season-high performance of 29 points vs. Connecticut when she also scored 29 points vs. Pitt. She posted her 11th 20-point performance in the last 16 games with 21 vs. Georgetown. She also had 20 points vs. Miami, 24 points vs. Boston College and Syracuse, 28 points vs. West Virginia, 23 points vs. St. John's, 22 points vs. Rutgers and 27 points at Va. Tech (Jan. 3). The BIG EAST's leading scorer has averaged 23 points in Notre Dame's last 13 games and was selected as the BIG EAST player of the week for the fourth time this season on Feb. 12. Riley ranks among the BIG EAST top four in both conference scoring (first at 18.8) and rebounding (fourth at 7.7).
...WITH IVEY PROVIDING THE SPARK
All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey has had a hand in nearly half of Notre Dame's 720 field goals this season. She stands fourth on the team with 112 field goals and has assisted on 181 field goals (12th in the NCAA at 7.0 assists/game) to account for 293 of the 720 Irish FGs (41 percent) this season. Of Ivey's 112 FGs, 44 have been three-point FGs (44-96 for 45.8 percent). Also, the school recordholder for career steals, Ivey moved into Notre Dame's top-10 career scoring list during the Seton Hall game and currently has 1,318 points. Ivey is the only Notre Dame player ever to score over 1,300 points and record over 600 assists. Ivey also has more than 300 steals and 400 rebounds in her Irish career.
36 AND COUNTING
The Irish extended their home winning streak to a school-record 36 straight wins at the Joyce Center with the victory over Georgetown. The streak currently is the second longest active streak in the country, behind Kent (42). The Irish have not lost at home in over two years since a loss to top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 8, 1998. Notre Dame also has a 49-3 (.942) record in BIG EAST games at the Joyce Center, with Connecticut being the only BIG EAST team to beat the Irish at home.
Notre Dame's win over Providence on Jan. 31, brought its record to 20-0 -- marking the eighth consecutive year the Irish have had a 20-win season and the 12th in 14 seasons under head coach Muffet McGraw. The 2000-01 Irish have been the quickest to 20 wins in terms of both the number of games needed to reach 20 wins and the calendar date.
IRISH ON RECORD-SETTING DEFENSIVE PACE
While Notre Dame has boasted one of the country's most potent offensive attacks over the past few seasons, the Irish defense remains 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 54.7 points per game (fourth in the country) on 33.8 FG percentage (third in the country) and 26.0 3PT FG percentage, all 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 five of 26 opponents have shot better than 40 percentage vs. the Irish this season -- Georgia (42.0), Purdue (46.2), Virginia Tech in the first meeting (41.0), Boston College (44.6) and Syracuse (43.1).
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 top 20 NCAA leaders in both field-goal percentage and blocked shots. In addition to her offensive efficiency (180-285 FG, 63.2 percentage first in BIG EAST, fourth in NCAA), Riley leads the BIG EAST and is second in the country with 84 blocked shots (3.23/game), while committing just 67 personal fouls (2.58/game). The two-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year is averaging one blocked shot every 8.9 minutes she plays and just one foul every 11.1 minutes of action. Riley had five blocks vs. St. John's to become just the 19th player in NCAA Division I history to break the 300 blocked-shot milestone. She enters the Pittsburgh game with 341 blocked shots -- ninth best in NCAA history.
RILEY SETS FREE THROW RECORD, RATAY ON RECORD PACE
Senior All-America center Ruth Riley made eight free throws vs. Syracuse to break the Notre Dame record for career free throws made, while sophomore guard Alicia Ratay remains on pace to break another Notre Dame free throw record. Riley has made 465 free throws in her career on 619 attempts (also a school record), surpassing the school record 447 free throws made by Beth Morgan from 1993-97 on 549 attempts. Ratay currently sports an 89.1 free-throw percentage (49-55), better than the single-season record 87.1 free-throw percentage set by Sheila McMillen in 1998-99.
IRISH FACE RARE DEFICIT
When Georgetown held a four-point lead with 12:48 left in the game, Notre Dame found itself trailing in the second half for just the third time all season. Georgia and Rutgers also held leads on the Irish in the second, with Notre Dame holding on to defeat Georgia. Overall in its 26 games this season, Notre Dame has led for 923 of 1040 minutes (88.8 percent), has been behind for 78 minutes (7.5 percent) and has been tied for 39 minutes (3.8 percent).
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 (Ga.) and Western Athletic (Rice).
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.
The Irish posted their first win over Connecticut in 12 meetings.
Notre Dame defeated a top-ranked team for the first time in 10 games, including its first in four games at the Joyce Center.
The crowd of 11,418 marked the first Joyce Center sellout for a women's basketball game and the largest crowd in school history, surpassing the 8,134 fans at the 1992 Tennessee game.
Ruth Riley went 13-13 from the free throw line for the best single-game performance in Irish history and the sixth-best in the country this season.
The 46 free throws Notre Dame attempted tied the school record, while Connecticut's 33 three-point attempts stand as the most ever by an Irish opponent.
Notre Dame's win over top-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 15, marked a number milestones for the Irish:
McGRAW WINS 300TH AT NOTRE DAME, 400TH CAREER WIN
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, while the win over Miami on Feb. 20, marked the 400th win in her coaching career. She has a 313-116 (.730) record at Notre Dame and a 401-157 (.719). Her 313 wins at Notre Dame equal more than 65 percent of the total wins in the 23-plus seasons of varsity Irish women's basketball.
Senior Kelley Siemon (19 points, career-high 15 rebounds) and junior Ericka Haney (12 points, 10 rebounds) each posted double-doubles vs. Rutgers -- marking the second time this season the Irish have had a pair of double-doubles in a game. Notre Dame has totalled 19 double-doubles in 26 games by six different players. Other double-double performances for the Irish this season include Ruth Riley (vs. Villanova, Marquette, St. John's, Connecticut, Providence, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse), Niele Ivey (vs. Valparaiso, Arizona, Villanova and Connecticut), Alicia Ratay (vs. Va. Tech) Ericka Haney (vs. North Carolina and Rice), 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 has four 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 scored 14 points and had her fifth double-figure assist game vs. Connecticut against just five turnovers.
RATAY TOPS NCAA THREE-POINT SHOOTERS
Sophomore Alicia Ratay has established herself as the best three-point shooter in the country with her 51.9 three-point shooting percentage -- the highest percentage in the country. Niele Ivey had stood second in the country behind Ratay earlier in the season but does not meet the minimum requirements (2.0/game) to be included in the NCAA rankings. Ratay has connected on 53 of her 104 attempts and her 51.9 percentage is higher than Irish opponents are hitting from the field (33.8) and from three-point range (26.0). 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 Mich., 2-3 vs. Marquette, 1-1 vs. USC, 1-3 vs. Va. Tech, 2-3 vs. Rutgers, 3-7 vs. St. John's, 3-4 vs. Va. Tech, 2-4 vs. Conn., 3-6 vs. Seton Hall, 2-4 vs. West Va., 1-4 vs. Providence and Boston College, 1-3 vs. Pittsburgh, 2-6 vs. Miami and 2-5 vs. Georgetown.
IRISH VS. TOP 10
Following the victory over top-ranked Connecticut, the Irish improved to 4-0 this season vs. top-10 opponents. Notre Dame has a 9-5 record vs. all top 10 teams (including 5-0 vs. non-conference opponents) since the start of the 1998-99 season. 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).
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.
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 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 in leading 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, Ruth Riley's 29 points vs. Connecticut and Pittsburgh stand as the third-highest point total in overall and BIG EAST games, while her 11 field goals vs. both Virginia Tech and St. John's are tied for fourth in overall and BIG EAST games. Riley's 13-13 free-throw performance vs. Connecticut is tops in overall and BIG EAST 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 Meaghan Leahy's 12 free throws vs. Fordham are tied for second most in the league. Niele Ivey's six steals vs. both North Carolina and Villanova are tied for fourth most in a single game. Riley's seven blocks vs. Pittsburgh are the most in overall and BIG EAST games, while Amanda Barksdale's six blocks vs. Fordham and Riley's six vs. Virginia Tech are the second best blocks games.
As a team, the Irish also shot 62.3 percent (38-61) vs. Arizona for the second best shooting game of the season by a BIG EAST team. Their 38 field goals in that game are tied for fourth most of the season. The Irish shot .750 (6-8) from three-point range vs. Marquette for the best three-point shooting percentage in a game. Notre Dame's 31 assists vs. Arizona are second most in a single game by a BIG EAST team, and its 13 blocks vs. St. John's are the most in a game.
IRISH VS. UNRANKED OPPONENTS
In addition to its success vs. top-10 teams, Notre Dame has won 59 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 that season).
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.
Senior center Ruth Riley became Notre Dame's first AP first-team All-American in 2000 and is a preseason favorite to win All-America honors for the third time in her career (she also was second-team AP pick in 1999). She has been named to the preseason All-America teams in a variety of national publications. Here is a list of some of Riley's preseason honors:
|Sports Illustrated For Women|| First Team|
|Women's Basketball Journal ||First Team|
|Lindy's All-American ||First Team|
|Athlon Sports||Second Team|
|ESPN MagazinePreseason ||"PTPer"|
|Street & Smith ||High Honorable Mention|
|Beth Mowins, ESPN.com ||Among Top Five Centers In Country|
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.
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.
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.
EXCITEMENT, SEASON-TICKET SALES AT ALL-TIME HIGH
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 2,700 for the 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. Notre Dame is averaging 5,506 fans through its 12 home games this season -- 12th best nationally. Irish women's basketball tickets remain on sale for the Miami game (Feb. 20) and while tickets for potential NCAA first- and second-round games can be purchased beginning Feb. 19 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.