March 27, 2001
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (32-2)
Connecticut Huskies (32-2)
Friday, March 30, 2001, at approximately 8:30 p.m. CST.
The Site: Savvis Center (22,000) in St. Louis, Mo.
Television: ESPN national telecast with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Ann Meyers (analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline), Pam Ward (sideline) and Tim Corrigan (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.
Websites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Connecticut (www.uconnhuskies.com).
Seeded first in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament, the Notre Dame women's basketball team advanced to its second NCAA Final Four in five years with a 72-64 victory over third-seeded Vanderbilt on Monday in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. The Irish improved to 2-0 in regional finals and will meet East Regional champion Connecticut for the third time this season in the second semifinal in a matchup of the only top-seeded teams to reach the Final Four.
The BIG EAST regular-season co-champions split a pair of meetings earlier in the season. Third-ranked Notre Dame defeated top-ranked and visiting Connecticut 92-76 on Jan. 15, in the first sellout for a women's basketball game at the Joyce Center. The next meeting pitted not only the top two teams in the BIG EAST but the No. 1 vs. the No. 2 teams in the country. The second-ranked, second-seeded and host Huskies won the second matchup in a 78-76 victory over the top-seeded and top-ranked Irish in the final of the BIG EAST championship. The BIG EAST is the first conference to have a different combination of two teams qualify for the Final Four in consecutive seasons. Connecticut and Rutgers advanced to the 2000 Final Four.
The Irish won a pair of games at the NCAA Midwest Regional on the strength of their defense and strong second-half performances from regional MVP Ruth Riley. Notre Dame held Utah to 36 percent shooting and limited Vanderbilt to 29 percent in the second half and 13 percent below its average. Two-time All-American Riley scored a BIG EAST season-high 32 points (22 of them in the second half) vs. Vanderbilt and scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half vs. Utah. Senior Kelley Siemon (11.0 pts., 6.5 rebounds) and sophomore Alicia Ratay (14.0 pts., 7.0 rebounds, 6-10 3PT) also were named to the all-tournament team.
Notre Dame enters the NCAA semifinals with a 32-2 record and has recorded the second 30-win season in school history, surpassing the 1997 Final Four team (31-7, lost to Tenn.) for the most wins in a season by an Irish women's basketball team. Notre Dame entered the NCAA tournament after reaching its fourth BIG EAST championship game in six years in the conference. The Irish earned a share of their first BIG EAST regular-season with a 15-1 record.
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.
All five of Notre Dame's starters average in double-figure scoring, and the Irish are led by three of the best players in the country at their respective positions. Senior two-time All-America center, BIG EAST player-of-the-year and Naismith player-of-the-year Ruth Riley (18.4) leads the BIG EAST in scoring and was the only player in the top 20 of the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks (2nd at 3.0) and field-goal percentage (4th at .632) according to the most recent NCAA statistics. All-America fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (11.8 ppg) stands 11th in the country in assists (7.1) and has scored or assisted on 40 percent of Notre Dame's 958 field goals. Sophomore guard Alicia Ratay (13.0) leads the nation in three-point shooting (76-139, .547).
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 (10.8) has scored in double figures in 20 games this season and brings a great defensive presence to the Irish lineup. Siemon (11.3) 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 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 .498) and field-goal percentage defense (third at .334) according to the latest NCAA statistics, Notre Dame has a scoring margin of 22.2 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 18 of 34 games (including a season-best 63.5 percent at Pittsburgh), better than 46 percent in 27 of 34 games and at least 40 percent in all but two games. Notre Dame's defense has held its opponents to under 40 percent in 28 of 34 games - including 21 games under 35 percent and eight games under 30 percent.
The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (240 assists, 83 steals) and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch of Riley (103 blocks, 230-364 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 FG percentage defense according to the latest NCAA statistics.
The 2001 BIG EAST coach of the year and Women's Basketball Coaches Association national coach of the year, head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 320-117 (.732) record and in her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 408-158 (.721) mark. She led the Irish to the No. 1 ranking for the first time ever earlier this season, to eight consecutive 20-win seasons, to six straight NCAA tournament appearances and to two Final Four appearances in eight overall NCAA tournament berths.
McGRAW NAMED WBCA, NAISMITH NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw has been selected as both the Naismith Women's Coach of the Year and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Division I National Coach of the Year - both firsts for the 14th-year Irish head coach in her 19-year coaching career. McGraw and senior Naismith Women's Player-of-the-Year Ruth Riley will be honored at an April 7 banquet at the Atlanta Tipoff Club. McGraw and the WBCA winners from the other five divisions was presented to the WBCA membership at a banquet on Wed., March 28, in St. Louis in conjunction with the NCAA Final Four.
McGraw's 14th Notre Dame squad entered the season with high expectations with the return of senior All-American Riley, fifth-year point Niele Ivey and sophomore and 2000 BIG EAST rookie-of-the-year Alicia Ratay, and the Irish more than lived up to those expectations under McGraw's guidance. The Irish began the season with their highest preseason ranking ever at sixth and quickly began their climb to the top of the rankings. McGraw guided Notre Dame through an early-season schedule that featured a pair of top-10 opponents, including a victory over Georgia to win the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge and a home victory over Purdue. After an 11-0 record vs. its non-conference opponents, Notre Dame began its BIG EAST schedule with a 5-0 mark, including a 67-46 win over ninth-ranked Rutgers, to set a matchup with Connecticut in a game between the only undefeated teams in the country. In front of the first sellout crowd in school history, Notre Dame recorded its first win over Connecticut and a first over a top-ranked team with a 92-76 victory to take over the No. 1 ranking for the first time. The Irish winning streak improved to 23-0 to start the season before a 54-53 last minute loss at Rutgers. McGraw kept the team's focus as the squad had done all season long, and after three more BIG EAST victories, the Irish had clinched a share of their first BIG EAST regular-season title. A fourth trip to the BIG EAST tournament final in six years resulted in a last-second 78-76 loss at UConn. McGraw has led the Irish to their second Final Four appearance in five years and their second in overall NCAA appearances.
NOTRE DAME-ST. LOUIS AND MISSOURI CONNECTIONS
Fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (Cor Jesu High School) is one of five all-time Notre Dame women's basketball players who have resided in the state of Missouri, with the others including her predecessor at point guard-Mollie Peirick (Eureka/St. Joseph Academy). The women's basketball program's other Missouri native is Carrie Bates (Kansas City/Hickman HS, 1982-85) wile two others moved with their families to Missouri shortly before beginning their Notre Dame careers: current Notre Dame associate athletic director Missy Conboy attended high school in Leavenworth, Kansas, and overseas in Germany (her father was in the military) before settling for a couple of years in Columbia, Missouri, while starting her career at Notre Dame (1979-82), Beth Morrison (1985-87) joined the Irish program after moving to St. Louis, but she attended and graduated from St. Joseph (Mich.) High School (her family moved to St. Louis before her senior year of high school).
* Ivey is one of several noteworthy student-athletes on current Notre Dame teams who hail from St. Louis, with the others including University of St. Louis High School product Joe Thaman (currently the starting first baseman as a freshman on the ND baseball team), sophomore hockey center Connor Dunlop and freshman hockey defenseman Neil Komadoski, Jr. (their fathers Blake Dunlop and Neil Komadoski played for the St. Louis Blues, with the sons honing their craft as members of the St. Louis Junior Blues before attending Chaminade Prep and then training with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.), and volleyball freshman middle blockers Katie Neff (Cor Jesu Academy) and Kim Fletcher (Nerinx Hall HS). Senior football offensive lineman John Teasdale (Kansas City/Rockhurst, HS) is the only current member of the Notre Dame football team from the state of Missouri (he is one of some 33 players from Missouri who have earned varsity monograms with the Notre Dame football program, including 11 from St. Louis).
* More than 110 of Notre Dame's all-time varsity monogram winners hail from the state of Missouri, including Dick Rosenthal (St. Louis/Bishop McBride HS), who played for the Irish basketball and baseball teams in the early 1950s before serving as Notre Dame athletic director from 1987-95 (he was a 1954 basketball All-American). Other Notre Dame student-athletes from St. Louis have included women's soccer forward Michelle McCarthy (Visitation Academy), who helped lead Notre Dame to the 1995 NCAA title, and baseball pitcher Ed Reulbach (Manual Training HS), who went on to play in the World Series with the 1907 and '08 Chicago Cubs, while brothers Peter and William Heinbecker played for the Notre Dame tennis team in the late 1950s/early 1960s (Bill was a member of the 1959 NCAA championship team). St. Louis native Vince Fehlig earned All-America honors as a member of the 1933 Notre Dame men's golf team while the many Missouri natives to play for the Irish men's soccer program have included twin brothers Paul and Steve Lavigne (St. Louis University HS).
* Notre Dame sports information director John Heisler is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism while former Irish defensive back Todd Lyght (1987-90) has spent his entire NFL career with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams.
RILEY WINS NAISMITH AWARD
Senior All-America center Riley Ruth has been named the recipient of the Naismith Player of the Year award - a first for the Notre Dame women's basketball program. Riley was selected as one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Women's College Player of the Year and one of the 15 finalists for the award. The two-time first-team Associated Press All-American becomes the second BIG EAST player to be named the Naismith Women's College of the Player Year, joining Connecticut's Rebecca Lobo, the 1995 recipient. Riley will be honored at an April 7 banquet at the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
IVEY WINS FRANCES NAISMITH POMEROY AWARD
All-America point guard Niele Ivey has been named the recipient of the 18th annual Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to the nation's outstanding female collegian 5-feet-8 and under who has excelled athletically and academically. Ivey, the first Irish player to receive and first from the BIG EAST since UConn's Jennifer Rizzotti in 1996, will receive her award on Fri., March 30 at the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Player-of-the-Year luncheon at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis. The Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, named in honor of James Naismith's daughter-in-law, is presented to the player who best demonstrates leadership, character, loyalty, all-around basketball ability and excellence in the classroom.
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.
RILEY, IVEY NAMED AP ALL-AMERICANS
Senior center Ruth Riley has earned first-team All-America honors by the Associated Press for the second consecutive year, while fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey earns All-America honors for the first time in her career as a third team pick. Riley was the only unanimous selection, as all 39 voters placed her on their first-team ballots.
* Ivey becomes Notre Dame's first All-America point guard and the fifth Irish player to earn AP All-America honors but just the second to be named to one of the three teams (Beth Morgan and Kathryna Gaither were honorable mention picks in both 1996 and 1997 and Alicia Ratay in 2000).
* Notre Dame and Connecticut - with Svetlana Abrosimova on the second team and Sue Bird on the third team - stand as the only schools with more than one player voted to the 15-player three teams.
RILEY VOTED VERIZON ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN OF THE YEAR
Senior All-America center Ruth Riley has been voted the Verizon Women's Basketball Academic All-American of the Year from among the five first-team Verizon Academic All-Americans. The psychology major and Naismith Women's College Player of the Year boasts a 3.64 cumulative grade-point average and became the first Irish women's basketball player to earn first-team Academic All-America honors last year. Riley advanced to the national ballot as a first-team all-district selection, while sophomore Alicia Ratay was a second-team pick.
MORE NCAA NOTES
The Irish played 11 of their first 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.
* The Irish were one of a record five BIG EAST teams to receive bids into the 64-team field. No BIG EAST team earned a seeding lower than seventh and all five advanced to the second round.
* The BIG EAST grabbed two of the four No. 1 seeds - with Notre Dame leading the Midwest Regional and Connecticut seeded first in the East - and three of the 16 subregionals.
IRISH PLAY INSIDE-OUTSIDE
A large portion of Notre Dame's success this season is due to its potent inside-outside game. The Irish boast their best center ever in Naismith Player-of-the-Year Ruth Riley and the two best three-point shooters in school history in fifth-year Niele Ivey and sophomore Alicia Ratay.
* Riley reached the 2,000-point plateau in the win over Vanderbilt and is one of just three Notre Dame players ever to reach 2,000 points. She is set to leave Notre Dame with school records in field-goal percentage (.635), free throws made (502) and blocked shots (358).
* Among players with at least 40 three-point field goals, Ratay (143-281, .509) and Ivey (183-453, .404) boast the best three-point field-percentages in Irish history and stand third and fourth in all-time three-point field goals.
RATAY NEARS NCAA THREE-POINT RECORDS
Sophomore Alicia Ratay, currently 76 of 139 for 54.7 percent, needs just four more three-point field goals to break the NCAA single-season mark for three-point field-goal percentage (min. 80 made) set by Mary Just (87 of 174 for 50 percent) of Loyola (Ill.) in 1988. She also could set the NCAA sophomore record, held by Valparaiso's Sarah Lenschow (52.8 in 1998).
RILEY APPROACHES REBOUND RECORD
Senior All-American Ruth Riley (987) needs 12 rebounds to match the Irish career rebounds mark of 999 set by current director of basketball operations Letitia Bowen (1991-95). With 13 rebounds, Riley would become the first Irish player to reach 1,000 rebounds.
THE RILEY REPORT
Naismith women's college player-of-the-year 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 (230-364 FG, 63.2 percentage first in BIG EAST, fourth in NCAA), Riley leads the BIG EAST and is second in the country with 101 blocked shots (2.97/game), while committing just 80 personal fouls (2.35/game, just two games fouled out). The three-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year is averaging one blocked shot every 9.5 minutes she plays and just one foul every 12.0 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 NCAA semifinals with 358 blocked shots - eighth best in NCAA history and one short of seventh place.
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 team 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 11.3 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 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in the last 12 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 the Final Four averaging 10.8 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, 14 points and six rebounds vs. Alcorn State and 13 points and seven rebounds vs. UConn. She has scored in double figures in 20 games this season.
RATAY TOPS NCAA THREE-POINT SHOOTERS
Sophomore Alicia Ratay has established herself as the best three-point shooter in the country with her 54.7 three-point shooting percentage - the highest percentage in the country. Ratay has connected on 76 of her 139 attempts and her 54.7 percentage is more than 20 percentage points higher than Irish opponents are hitting from the field (33.4) and is more than double their three-point shooting (24.9). 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. Va. Tech, 3-3 vs. Connecticut in the BIG EAST final, 3-4 vs. Alcorn State in the NCAA first round and 3-6 vs. Michigan in the NCAA second round. She made six of 10 three-point shots last week in Denver (3-6 vs. Utah, 3-4 vs. Vanderbilt).
IRISH ON SAINT PATRICK'S DAY
Notre Dame won on Saint Patrick's Day for the third time and for the second consecutive year. The Irish have a 3-1 record on March 17, losing at Texas Tech 82-67 in the 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 before also beating Alcorn State in the 2001 first round.
38 AND COUNTING
The Irish extended their home winning streak to a school-record 38 straight wins at the Joyce Center with the victory over Michigan in the NCAA second round. 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 the only BIG EAST team to beat the Irish at home.
Notre Dame sports a four-year old, 23-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center -- a streak that includes wins over Purdue in 1997 and 2000 and victories over 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. Overall, the Irish are 63-2 (.969) at the Joyce Center in their last 65 home games, with the only losses coming to Connecticut.
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 shared 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 seasons in the MCC from 1988-1995.
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.
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 led 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 bucket with 39 seconds left and a free throw with five seconds left tied the game before Connecticut drove the length of the 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 UConn 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 were named to the all-tournament team.
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 program's 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 third 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.
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 seasons at the Joyce Center with the second-round win over Michigan. The Irish were 15-0 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 107-22 (.830), 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 54-2 (.964) at the Joyce Center with the only losses coming to Connecticut
* A 22-0 Joyce Center record vs. non-conference opponents
* A school-record 12-game road winning streak
NCAA GAMES AT THE JOYCE CENTER
The Midwest subregional marked the third time NCAA tournament games were 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 George Washington 95-60 in the second round.
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 (then 5-1 after the win over Vanderbilt). Notre Dame has a 10-6 record vs. all top 10 teams (including 6-0 vs. non-conference opponents) since the start of the 1998-99 season. The Irish have won seven straight games vs. top-10 non-conference opponents (#10 Vanderbilt on March 26, #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.
* 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.
IVEY FINALIST FOR LIEBERMAN-CLINE AWARD
Irish fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey has been named one of four 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 initial list of 10 finalists by two other BIG EAST players -- 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.
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 has posted 20-plus points in 15 of the last 24 games, including the last three NCAA games vs. Michigan (21), Utah (24) and Vanderbilt (32). She also scored 23 points vs. Connecticut in the BIG EAST final, 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 17.8) and rebounding (fourth at 7.5).
...WITH IVEY PROVIDING THE SPARK
All-America fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey has had a hand in nearly half of Notre Dame's 958 field goals this season. The 2001 first-team all-BIG EAST selection stands fifth on the team with 139 field goals and has assisted on 240 field goals (11th in the NCAA at 7.06 assists/game) to account for 379 of the 958 Irish FGs (40 percent) this season. Of Ivey's 139 FGs, 54 have been three-point FGs (54-120 for 45.0 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 1,397 points. Ivey is the only Notre Dame player ever to score over 1,300 points and record over 700 assists. She also has more than 300 steals and 400 rebounds in her Irish career.
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 (fourth in the country) on 33.4 FG percentage (first in the country) and 24.9 three-point 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 three-point FG percentage in 1996-97. Notre Dame's opponents have shot better than 40 percent in only six of 34 games this season - Georgia (42.0), Purdue (46.2), Virginia Tech (41.0 on Jan. 3), Boston College (44.6), Syracuse (43.1) and Vanderbilt (41.7).
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. UConn fell one spot to second, 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.
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 drew 95,635 fans to their 15 home games, an average of 6,376 that stands 10th best in the country. Nine of the top 15 and seven of the top 10 crowds in Irish women's basketball history have flocked to the Joyce Center this season.
IVEY SETS STEALS RECORD
All-American 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 semifinals with 337 career steals. Ivey (720) 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 fellow Missouri native 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, Ivey now has 240).
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 straight 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.
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 tries, 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.
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 34 games this season, Notre Dame has led for 1176 of 1360 minutes (86.5 percent), has been behind for 127 minutes (9.3 percent) and has been tied for 57 minutes (4.2 percent).
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 502 free throws in her career on 663 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 88.4 free-throw percentage (61-69), better than the single-season record 87.1 free-throw percentage set by Sheila McMillen in 1998-99.
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 320-117 (.732) record at Notre Dame and a 408-158 (.721). Her 320 wins at Notre Dame equal more than 65 percent of the total wins in the 23-plus seasons of varsity Irish women's basketball.
Sophomore Amanda Barksdale scored career-highs for points (10) and rebounds (11) to record her first career double-double vs. Alcorn State in the NCAA first round. She also added five blocked shots in the win. Notre Dame has totalled 21 double-doubles in 34 games by seven different players. Other double-double performances for the Irish this season include nine by Ruth Riley (vs. Villanova, Marquette, St. John's, Connecticut, Providence, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and vs. Utah in the NCAAs-with 24 pts, 14 rbs,) four by Niele Ivey (vs. Valparaiso, Arizona, Villanova and Connecticut), one from Alicia Ratay (vs. Va. Tech), three by Ericka Haney (vs. North Carolina, Rice and Rutgers), two from Kelley Siemon (vs. Georgia and Rutgers) and Meaghan Leahy (vs. Fordham).
DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR DOUBLE "3"
Fifth-year point guard and third-team Associated Press All-American 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 then scored 14 points and had her fifth double-figure assist game vs. Connecticut against just five turnovers.
IRISH VS. UNRANKED OPPONENTS
In addition to its success vs. top-10 teams, Notre Dame has won 64 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).
NCAA AND BIG EAST LEADERS
Here's where Irish players and the team stood in the latest NCAA national statistics (as of March 13) and BIG EAST statistics in BIG EAST games and all games (as of March 27). The numbers in the far right column indicate updated 34-game statistics.
In overall games, Ruth Riley's 32-point performance is tied for best and her 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 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 Georgetown and Riley's six vs. Virginia Tech are the BIG EAST's 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. 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 the BIG EAST's second-most in all games this season.
Notre Dame raced through its 11 regular-season 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). Notre Dame's four NCAA tournament wins have added victories vs. teams from the Big 10 (Michigan) and the SEC (Vanderbilt).
Life outside of the BIG EAST Conference has been good to Notre Dame over the past four years. The Irish sport a 49-9 (.844) overall record vs. non-conference teams in the last four-plus seasons, including 36-5 (.878) 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.
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.