March 12, 2001
2001 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship
Midwest Regional First Round
#1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (28-2) vs. #16 Alcorn State Lady Braves (21-10)
The Date and Time: Saturday, March 17, 2001, at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST.
The Site: Joyce Center (11,418) in Notre Dame, Ind.
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: Alcorn St.(www.alcorn.edu), Michigan (mgoblue.com), Notre Dame (www.und.com), Virginia (www.virginiasports.com).
TODAY'S GAME Seeded first in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament, the Notre Dame women's basketball team plays host to an NCAA subregional at the Joyce Center for the second consecutive season. The Irish will meet 16th-seeded Alcorn State in the first round on Sat., March 17, at 1:30 p.m., at the Joyce Center, where they have won a school-record 36 consecutive games. Eighth-seeded Michigan will take on ninth-seeded Virginia in an 11:00 a.m. first-round game to be televised by ESPN. First-round winners will meet in Monday's second-round game at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.
The first-round game will mark the first for the Irish against Alcorn State and the first versus a team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Notre Dame has split its 10 meetings with Michigan but the teams have not played since 1992 and have played twice since 1985. The Irish have lost both of their games vs. Virginia in 1981 and 1988.
Notre Dame enters the NCAA tournament with a 28-2 record after reaching its fourth BIG EAST championship game in six years in the conference. The Irish, BIG EAST regular-season co-champions with Connecticut with a 15-1 record, lost 78-76 to the host Huskies in the title game.
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 on March 5, after being ranked second the previous two weeks. The Irish were ranked first for four weeks before its first loss on Feb. 17.
Notre Dame's five starters average at least 11 points each, 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 (17.8) leads the BIG EAST in scoring and was the only player in the top 20 of the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks (2nd at 3.1) and field-goal percentage (4th at .627) 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 (7.0) and has scored or assisted on 40 percent of Notre Dame's 833 field goals. Sophomore guard Alicia Ratay (13.0) leads the nation in three-point shooting (64-119, .538).
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 (11.2) has scored in double figures in 18 games this season. Siemon (11.1) stands second on the team and fifth in the BIG EAST in rebounding (7.2). Playing with a broken left hand, Siemon scored 15 points and had eight rebounds vs. Connecticut on Jan. 15. 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 (fourth at .495) and field-goal percentage defense (third at .336) 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 14 points in the first half. The Irish have shot better than 50 percent from the field in 14 of 30 games (including a season-best 63.5 percent at Pittsburgh), better than 46 percent in 23 of 30 games and at least 40 percent in all but two games. Notre Dame's defense has held its opponents to under 40 percent in 25 of 30 games -- including 19 games under 35 percent.
The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (209 assists, 74 steals) and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch of Riley (94 blocks, 197-314 FG, .627) 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 316-117 (.730) record and in her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 404-158 (.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 six straight NCAA tournament appearances and eight overall. McGraw was named a finalist for the Naismith and AP coach-of-the-year awards last year and a Naismith finalist this year. She also has been selected as the Women's Basketball Coaches Association District 1 coach of the year and now is eligible for the WBCA national coach-of-the-year award.
IRISH IN NCAA TOURNAMENT
Notre Dame has earned an at-large bid into its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament and eighth overall. The Irish have compiled an 10-7 record in its seven previous appearances, highlighted by a Final Four appearance in 1997. Notre Dame also reached the regional semifinals in 2000 and 1998. Here's how the Irish have fared in the NCAA tournament (complete boxscores and recaps can be found at the end of the notes section):
1992 -- First Round 1998 -- Regional Semifinalists
1994 -- First Round 1999 -- Second Round
1996 -- Second Round 2000 -- Regional Semifinalists
1997 -- National Semifinalists
NCAA GAMES AT THE JOYCE CENTER The Midwest subregional marks the third time NCAA tournament games will be held at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame's second NCAA appearance in 1994 saw the seventh-seeded Irish play host to 10th-seeded Minnesota, with the Gophers winning that first round game 81-76. Notre Dame played host to its first subregional in 2000 when the second-seeded Irish welcomed 15th-seeded San Diego, seventh-seeded George Washington and 10th-seeded UCLA. Notre Dame defeated San Diego 87-61 in the first round and Georgetown Washington 95-60 in the second round.
IRISH ON SAINT PATRICK'S DAY Notre Dame will be playing on Saint Patrick's Day for the fourth time and for the second consecutive year. The Irish have a 2-1 record on March 17, losing at Texas Tech 82-67 in 1996 NCAA second round, defeating host Texas 86-83 in the 1997 NCAA second round and beating San Diego 87-61 in the 2000 NCAA first round at the Joyce Center.
MORE NCAA NOTES
The Irish played 11 of their 30 games vs. the other 63 teams in the NCAA field and compiled a 9-2 record against those teams. Notre Dame has posted wins vs. top-seeded Connecticut, second-seeded Georgia, third-seeded Purdue, fourth-seeded Rutgers, fifth-seeded Villanova, seventh-seeded Wisconsin and three wins vs. seventh-seeded Virginia Tech. The two Irish losses came at Rutgers and Connecticut by a combined three points.
BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW
Notre Dame reached its fourth BIG EAST championship game in its six years in the conference and lost to Connecticut for the fourth time. The Irish reached the title game with a BIG EAST-record 89-33 win over Georgetown in the quarterfinals, as the 56-point margin of victory marked the most in a BIG EAST tournament game. First-team all-BIG EAST selection Niele Ivey led Notre Dame with 16 points and eight assists, while sophomore Amanda Barksdale grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.
In the semifinals vs. fourth-seeded Virginia Tech, top-seeded Notre Dame used a 26-3 run in the first half to pull away from the Hokies with a 30-9 lead. 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. Senior Kelley Siemon and sophomore Alicia Ratay each led Notre Dame with 14 points, while junior Ericka Haney added 12 points.
The championship matched not only the top two teams in the BIG EAST but the top two teams in the country as top-ranked and top-seeded Notre Dame met second-ranked and second-seeded Connecticut in Storrs., Conn., for the 2001 BIG EAST title. The Irish 6-0 early in the game before the Huskies scored 12 straight for a 12-6 lead. The fast-paced first half would follow that pattern as Connecticut would build a six or seven point lead only to see Notre Dame pull within one or two points. The Huskies again built a seven-point lead 71-64 at 7:34 but the Irish managed their first tie of the second half at 73-73 with 3:51 remaining. The score would remain tied until a Connecticut three-pointer put the Huskies ahead 76-73 with 49 seconds left. A Ruth Riley basketball with 39 seconds left and a free throw with five seconds left tied the game before Connecticut drove the length of a floor for a buzzer-beating shot in the 78-76 final.
The Irish shot 51 percent from the field in the game and held the Huskies to 39 percent shooting but Connecticut took 24 more shots than Notre Dame thanks to 19 offensive rebounds and seven fewer turnovers. Riley finished with game-highs of nine rebounds and 23 points, her second 20-point game vs. the Huskies this season. Riley, Siemon and Ratay was named to the all-tournament team.
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, WBCA DISTRICT 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.
McGraw also has been selected as the Women's Basketball Coaches Association District 1 coach of the year. McGraw joins the seven other district coaches of the year as finalists for the 2001 Russell Athletic/WBCA Division I National Coach-of-the-Year Award, which will be announced at a banquet on March 28, in St. Louis in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Final Four. McGraw was named WBCA District 2 coach of the year in 1995-96 when she led the Irish to a 23-8 record and the NCAA second round.
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 103-22 (.824), topping the .797 winning percentage (106-27) of the class of 2000.
Among the other accomplishments of this group are:
IRISH VS. TOP 10
Following the victory over top-ranked Connecticut on Jan. 15, the Irish improved to 4-0 this season vs. top-10 opponents and fell to 4-1 after losing to the Huskies in the BIG EAST final. Notre Dame has a 9-6 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).
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.
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 (17.8) and conference games (20.6) and is fourth in the country in field-goal percentage (.627) 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 (7.0) and is shooting .453 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.
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.
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.
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. Pittsburgh. The 2001 BIG EAST player of the year posted her 12th 20-point performance in the last 20 games with 23 vs. Connecticut in the BIG EAST final. She also had 21 points vs. Georgetown, 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 7.6).
...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 833 field goals this season. The 2001 first-team all-BIG EAST selection stands fourth on the team with 128 field goals and has assisted on 209 field goals (11th in the NCAA at 7.0 assists/game) to account for 337 of the 833 Irish FGs (40 percent) this season. Of Ivey's 128 FGs, 48 have been three-point FGs (48-106 for 45.3 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 in their final regular-season home game. 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.
20-WIN SEASONS 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 54.9 points per game (second in the country) on 33.6 FG percentage (third in the country) and 25.7 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 30 opponents have shot better than 40 percentage vs. the Irish this season -- Georgia (42.0), Purdue (46.2), Virginia 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 (197-314 FG, 62.7 percentage first in BIG EAST, fourth in NCAA), Riley leads the BIG EAST and is second in the country with 94 blocked shots (3.13/game), while committing just 75 personal fouls (2.50/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 11.2 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 351 blocked shots -- ninth best in NCAA history.
SIEMON SHINES IN RETURN TO STARTING ROLE 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, a reserve last year after starting as a freshman and sophomore, was named to the BIG EAST all-tournament as she led the Irish in scoring (14.2) in their three games.
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 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game -- the fifth-highest rebounding average in the BIG EAST -- but missed the Seton Hall, West Virginia and Providence games due to her injured left hand. She recorded her second double-double of the season with a career-high 15 rebounds and a game-high 19 points against Rutgers. Siemon turned in a game-high 17-point performance vs. Pittsburgh when the Irish clinched a share of the BIG EAST regular-season title. Siemon is averaging is 13.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in the last eight 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 today's game averaging 11.2 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.
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 NCAA first round 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 BIG EAST semifinals which brought 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 first loss. 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 '99-'00 Irish won 20 consecutive games from Dec. 11-Feb. 26.
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 475 free throws in her career on 633 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 87.7 free-throw percentage (57-65), 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 before also trailing vs. Connecticut in the BIG EAST final. Georgia and Rutgers also held leads on the Irish in the second half, with Notre Dame holding on to defeat Georgia. Overall in its 30 games this season, Notre Dame has led for 1035 of 1200 minutes (86.3 percent), has been behind for 115 minutes (9.5 percent) and has been tied for 50 minutes (4.2 percent).
CONFERENCE CALL Notre Dame raced through its 11 non-conference 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.
RECORD-SETTING DAY 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 316-117 (.730) record at Notre Dame and a 404-158 (.719). 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.
SEEING DOUBLE 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 30 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 53.8 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 64 of her 119 attempts and her 53.8 percentage is higher than Irish opponents are hitting from the field (33.4) and from three-point range (25.7). 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, 1-2 vs. Virginia Tech and 3-3 vs. Connecticut in the BIG EAST final.
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.
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.
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. Va. Tech are the second best blocks games.
As a team, the Irish shot 63.5 percent (33-52) vs. Pittsburgh 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. The 31 assists vs. Arizona stand tied for second most in all games this season.
IRISH VS. UNRANKED OPPONENTS In addition to its success vs. top-10 teams, Notre Dame has won 62 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).
NOTRE DAME AMONG RECENT WINS LEADERS Notre Dame has won 134 games in its last four-plus seasons, the fifth most wins of any school in the country. Here's where the Irish rank in terms of their wins over the last four-plus seasons:
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.
SEASON-TICKET SALES AT ALL-TIME HIGH
Season-ticket sales for the '00-01 Irish home season 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 jumped from a per-game figure of 1,747 in 1996-97 (the year the Irish played in the NCAA Final Four) 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 averaged 5,960 fans its 13 home games this season -- 12th best nationally.