March 6, 2001
AP-Notre Dame finally got a victory over Connecticut during the regular
Now the Fighting Irish will try to break through in the Big East tournament.
The No. 1 spot in the country will be on the line when the top-ranked
Fighting Irish and No. 2 Huskies meet Tuesday night in the Big East
championship game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
Notre Dame (28-1) was 0-for-11 against Connecticut (27-2) before its
victory on Jan. 15. That gave the Irish the head-to-head tiebreaker and made
them the top seed for the Big East tournament after the teams tied for the
But the Irish still have to find a way to beat the Huskies in the
tournament. UConn defeated Notre Dame in the 1996, '97 and '99 championship
games, and ousted the Irish in the '98 semifinals.
Of course, Notre Dame isn't the only team that hasn't defeated UConn in
Big East tournament. The Huskies have won the last seven titles and haven't
lost a game in the tourney since falling to Providence in the 1993
The Huskies advanced to this year's championship game with a 94-66
over No. 8 Rutgers on Monday night. Swin Cash scored 20 points and freshman
Diana Taurasi added 17 for UConn, which had to overcome a 90-minute delay
the roof began to leak late in the first half.
"We played really good," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I was telling
my players, that's probably the best we've played in the whole 40 minutes in
Now the Huskies will try to make amends for what they felt was one of
worst performances. UConn allowed Notre Dame to shoot 56.9 percent in the
regular-season meeting and had no answer for Irish center Ruth Riley, who
29 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
"Last time we played them was definitely one of the most disappointing
losses," senior Shea Ralph said. "We competed in a disappointing way. We
learned and became tougher and stronger every day."
Notre Dame hasn't even needed Riley, the Big East Player of the Year,
first two games. She has totaled just 11 points and 15 rebounds while
under 20 minutes per game, but the Irish have won the two games by a
The Irish posted a 67-49 victory over Virginia Tech in the other
Alicia Ratay and Kelley Simeon scored 14 points apiece for Notre Dame, which
used a strong defense to key the victory.
Notre Dame held Virginia Tech to 27 percent shooting from the field,
compensating for Riley being held to two points as she battled foul trouble
throughout the game.
"We went to the zone to see how it looked and it looked good. We
stay with it," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "It has been our best
defense all year long and we did a good job of doubling down."
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, whose team handed Notre Dame its only
loss, thinks UConn will end up with another Big East title.
"It will be close, but I think Connecticut will be able to win because
can go any way they want it to," she said. "They can slow it down or hit you
with a flurry of 3s."