March 6, 2001
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2001 BIG EAST Championship Final
No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (28-1, 15-1)
No. 2 Connecticut Huskies (27-2, 15-1)
The Date and Time: Tuesday, March 6, 2001, at 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Site: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion (10,027) in Storrs, Conn.
Television: ESPN2 national telecast with Robin Roberts (play-by-play), Doris Burke (analyst) and Paul Karlson (producer).
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.
The top-ranked and top-seeded Notre Dame women's basketball team meets second-ranked and second-seeded Connecticut for the second time this season in Tuesday's final of the BIG EAST women's basketball championship. The top-seeded Irish advanced to the their fourth title game in six years with a 67-49 win over fourth-seeded Virginia Tech on Monday. Notre Dame won the first meeting between the teams by 92-76 on Jan. 15, at the Joyce Center, the first Irish win over the Huskies in 12 games.
The Irish enter the BIG EAST championship game with a 28-1 record and claimed a share of their first BIG EAST regular-season title following their 82-63 win at Pittsburgh on Feb. 27 for a 15-1 league record. Notre Dame received the top seed at the championship on the basis of its 92-76 win over co-champion Connecticut on Jan. 15.
The 26-1 regular-season record marked the best in Notre Dame history and has guaranteed the Irish of finishing the 2000-01 season with their best record in the 24-year history of the program. The fewest losses in a season came in the first year (13-4 in 1977-78), while last year's team sported the best season winning percentage (27-5 for .843). Notre Dame regained the No. 1 ranking this week after being ranked second the last two weeks. The Irish were ranked first for four weeks before its only loss of the season on Feb. 17.
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 BIG EAST player-of-the-year Ruth Riley (17.6) leads the BIG EAST in scoring and was the only player in the top 20 of the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks (2nd at 3.1) and field-goal percentage (4th at .628) according to the most recent NCAA statistics. All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (12.2) stands 11th in the country in assists (6.9) and has scored or assisted on 40 percent of Notre Dame's 805 field goals. Sophomore shooting guard Alicia Ratay (13.0) leads the nation in three-point shooting (61-115, .526).
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 18 games this season. Siemon (10.9) stands second on the team and sixth in the BIG EAST in rebounding (7.2). 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 .494) and field-goal percentage defense (third at .334) according to the latest NCAA statistics, Notre Dame has a scoring margin of 22 points -- third best in the country -- and has outscored its opponents by an average of 15 points in the first half. The Irish have shot better than 50 percent from the field in 13 of 29 games (including a season-best 63.5 percent at Pittsburgh), better than 46 percent in 22 of 29 games and at least 40 percent in all but two games. Notre Dame's defense has held its opponents to under 40 percent in 24 of 29 games -- including 19 games under 35 percent.
The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (200 assists, 74 steals) and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch of Riley (91 blocks, 189-301 FG, .628) 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 FG percentage defense according to the latest NCAA statistics
The 2001 BIG EAST coach of the year, head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 316-116 (.731) record and in her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 404-157 (.720) 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.
IRISH IN POSTSEASON TOURNAMENTS
Notre Dame continues play in its sixth BIG EAST tournament on Wednesday and has compiled an 11-5 record in its six appearances. The Irish have reached at least the semifinals all six years and made the final in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000, falling to Connecticut in each of first three finals. Notre Dame won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference championship five times in its seven years in the league, with the last Irish conference tournament championship coming in 1994. Here's how the Irish have fared in the BIG EAST tournament:
|1996 -- Finalists (Storrs, Conn.)|| 1999 -- Finalists (Piscataway, N.J.)|
|Notre Dame 70, Syracuse 55 (quarterfinals) ||Notre Dame 83, Villanova 53 (quarterfinals)|
|Notre Dame 69, Seton Hall 58 (semifinals) ||Notre Dame 68, Rutgers 61 (semifinals)|
|Connecticut 71, Notre Dame 54 (final) ||Connecticut 96, Notre Dame 75 (final)|
|1997 -- Finalists (Storrs, Conn.) ||2000 -- Semifinalists (Storrs, Conn.)|
|Notre Dame 86, Rutgers 58 (quarterfinals) ||Notre Dame 67, Miami 52 (quarterfinals)|
|Notre Dame 83, Georgetown 43 (semifinals) ||Rutgers 81, Notre Dame 72 (OT) (semifinals)|
|Connecticut 86, Notre Dame 77 (final)|| |
|1998 -- Semifinalists (Piscataway, N.J.)|| |
|Notre Dame 94, St. John's 57 (first round)|| |
|Notre Dame 56, Villanova 48 (quarterfinals)|| |
|Connecticut 73, Notre Dame 53 (semifinals)|| |
IVEY TO PLAY IN FIRST BIG EAST FINAL
First-team all-BIG EAST selection Niele Ivey will be competing in her first BIG EAST championship game tonight. Ivey played just five games during her freshmen year and missed the 1997 title game, and helped the Irish reach the 1999 final with a standout game (16 points, five rebounds, six assists and five steals) when 10th-ranked Notre Dame beat seventh-ranked and host Rutgers in the semifinals. Ivey suffered her second season-ending injury midway with 14 minutes remaining in that game and missed the 1999 championship game.
VIRGINIA TECH REVIEW
After falling behind 6-4 four minutes into the game, top-seeded Notre Dame used a 26-3 run over the next 10:50 pull away from fourth-seeded Virginia Tech with a 30-9 lead. The win advanced the Irish to their fourth BIG EAST championship game in six years and first since losing to Connecticut in the 1999 title game. The Hokies, who lost to the Irish for the third time this season, pulled within 40-25 2:19 into the second half but Notre Dame scored 12 of the next 13 points to put the game away. Notre Dame's defense held Virginia Tech to 17.6 percent shooting in the first half and 26.6 percent in the game, while the Irish shot a season-low 36.4 percent but made 24 of 27 free throws. Senior Kelley Siemon and sophomore Alicia Ratay each led Notre Dame with 14 points, while junior Ericka Haney added 12 points.
NOTRE DAME IN FIRST NO. 1 VS. NO. 2
Not only will tonight's game feature the top two seeded teams in the BIG EAST championship, but it also will match the top two teams in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be the first for the Irish (Notre Dame was ranked third when it beat top-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 15) and the first involving two BIG EAST teams. The matchup between two conference opponents marks just the fifth all-time and the first since 1993. There have been four such games previously involving conference opponents (Tennessee and Vanderbilt in 1993, Virginia and Maryland in 1992 and Tennessee and Auburn twice in 1989). Only once was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game held in a conference championship game, when Tennessee defeated Auburn in the 1989 Southeastern Conference championship.
IRISH CLAIM SHARE OF BIG EAST TITLE
The win over Pittsburgh on Feb. 27 clinched a share of a first BIG EAST regular-season title for the Irish, who finished the 16-game conference schedule with a 15-1 record for the second consecutive year. Connecticut also shares the title with a 15-1 record. 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), 15-3 in 1998-99 (third) and 15-1 in 1999-2000 (second). Notre Dame won or shared five Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular-season crowns in its seven season in the MCC from 1988-1995.
RILEY SWEEPS BIG EAST AWARDS
Senior All-American Ruth Riley became the first player in league history to win BIG EAST player-of-the-year and defensive player-of-the-year honors and also to win the BIG EAST/Aeropostale female scholar athlete-of-the-year and women's basketball scholar athlete-of-the-year awards. Riley was a unanimous selection for player of the year -- the first for the Irish since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96 and the first conference player of the year since Karen Robinson won Midwestern Collegiate Conference player-of-the-year honors in 1990 and 1991.
Riley also was named to the all-BIG EAST first team for the consecutive year, while fifth-year Niele Ivey was voted to the first team for the first time after earning third-team honors in 1999 and second team in 2000. Senior Kelley Siemon was voted the BIG EAST most improved player and was an honorable mention all-BIG EAST pick. Sophomore Alicia Ratay, the 2000 BIG EAST rookie of the year, was named to the third team -- the only sophomore voted to the first, second or third all-BIG EAST teams.
McGRAW VOTED BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR
For the third time in her 14 seasons at Notre Dame, head coach Muffet McGraw has been voted conference coach of the year -- her third coaching honor by three different conferences. She was named the North Star Conference coach of the year in 1988 in her first year at Notre Dame and was MCC coach of the year in 1991. Her BIG EAST coach-of-the-year award marks her first since Notre Dame joined the conference in 1995-96.
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).
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 seasons at the Joyce Center on Feb. 24, vs. Georgetown. The Irish are 13-0 at the Joyce Center this year 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 103-21 (.831), topping the .797 winning percentage (106-27) of the class of 2000.
Among the other accomplishments of this group are:
A first-ever share of the BIG EAST regular-season title
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
RILEY, IVEY LEAVE MARK ON BIG EAST RECORD BOOK
Notre Dame seniors Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey closed their BIG EAST regular-season careers with their names well-represented in the conference record book. Riley played in all 68 BIG EAST games her four years (18 in '97-98 and '98-99 and 16 in '99-'00 and '00-01), while Ivey missed just one game.
* Riley finished in the top 10 in the record book in six categories. She owns the best field-goal percentage in conference history with a 64.6 percentage (419-649), and her 419 field goals are tied for 13th best. Riley finished second to Connecticut's Rebecca Lobo (227 from 1991-95) in blocked shots with 193 and ranks fourth in free throws attempted (397) and made (297). Her 1,135 points are the eighth most, while her 544 rebounds place her 10th in BIG EAST history.
* Ivey recorded 394 assists in her 67 BIG EAST games -- fourth best in the 19 seasons of BIG EAST women's basketball. Her 167 steals also stand as eighth best in league history.
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 (17.6) and conference games (20.6) and is fourth in the country in field-goal percentage (.628) and second in blocks (3.1). ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel predicts Riley and Niele Ivey will be named to the Associated Press All-America first team. In addition to the leadership she provides the team, Ivey ranks 11th in the country in assists (6.9) and is shooting .462 from three-point range.
RILEY, McGRAW NAMED NAISMITH FINALIST
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.
* 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 Ñ Connecticut's Svetlana Abrosimova, Sue Bird and Shea Ralph.
IVEY FINALIST FOR LIEBERMAN-CLINE AWARD
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.
* Ivey was joined on the list by two other BIG EAST players Ñ Connecticut's Sue Bird, the inaugural winner last year, and Rutgers' Tasha Pointer.
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.
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.
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 77,485 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.
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 BIG EAST final with 328 career steals. Ivey (680) 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. With two assists vs. Virginia Tech in the semifinals to bring her season assist total to 200, Ivey joined Molly Gavin (1984-88) as the only Irish players to reach the 200-assist mark in a single season (Gavin had 200-plus assists in each of her final three seasons).
IRISH SET SCHOOL WINNING STREAKS
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 Prov. 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 '99-'00 Irish won 20 consecutive games from Dec. 11-Feb. 26.
* 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.
SIEMON IN STRONG SUPPORT
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.
The 2001 BIG EAST most improved player 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 10.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game -- the sixth-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 her first double-digit scoring game since the Connecticut game with 12 points vs. Syracuse. She added her second double-double of the season with a career-high 15 rebounds and a game-high 19 points against Rutgers. Siemon scored 13 points and had seven rebounds vs. Georgetown, before turning in a game-high 17-point performance vs. Pittsburgh. She had 14 points on 6-7 shooting vs. Georgetown in the BIG EAST quarterfinals and 14 points on 6-12 shooting in the semifinals vs. Virginia Tech. Siemon is averaging is 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in the last seven games after scoring just 11 points in her first two games back from her hand injury.
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 tonight'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. Va. Tech, 17 points vs. Providence, 16 points vs. sixth-ranked Purdue and Syracuse and 13 points and seven rebounds vs. UConn. She has scored in double figures in 18 games this season.
NOTRE DAME AT NO. 1
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.
* 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 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. The 2001 BIG EAST player of the year posted her 11th 20-point performance in the last 18 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 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 17.6) and rebounding (fourth at 7.5).
...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 805 field goals this season. The 2001 first-team all-BIG EAST selection stands fourth on the team with 125 field goals and has assisted on 200 field goals (11th in the NCAA at 6.9 assists/game) to account for 325 of the 805 Irish FGs (40 percent) this season. Of Ivey's 125 FGs, 48 have been three-point FGs (48-104 for 46.6 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 1,351 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 (43). 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 (Jan. 31).
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 54.1 points per game (fourth in the country) on 33.4 FG percentage (third in the country) and 25.1 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 29 opponents have shot better than 40 percentage vs. the Irish this season -- Georgia (42.0), Purdue (46.2), Va. Tech (41.0 on Jan. 3), 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 (189-301 FG, 62.8 percentage first in BIG EAST, fourth in NCAA), Riley leads the BIG EAST and is second in the country with 91 blocked shots (3.14/game), while committing just 71 personal fouls (2.45/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 11.4 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 BIG EAST final with 348 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 468 free throws in her career on 623 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 88.9 free-throw percentage (56-63), 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 29 games this season, Notre Dame has led for 1033 of 1160 minutes (89.1 percent), has been behind for 81 minutes (7.0 percent) and has been tied for 46 minutes (4.0 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.
Notre Dame's win over top-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 15, marked a number milestones for the Irish:
* 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.
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 316-116 (.731) record at Notre Dame and a 404-157 (.720). Her 316 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 29 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 52.6 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 61 of her 116 attempts and her 52.6 percentage is higher than Irish opponents are hitting from the field (33.4) and from three-point range (25.1). 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, 2-5 vs. Georgetown and Pittsburgh, 4-5 vs. Georgetown after missing her first attempt and 1-2 vs. Virginia Tech.
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 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.