March 31, 2001
2001 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (33-2)
The Date and Time: Sunday, April 1, 2001, at 7:30 p.m. CST.
The Site: Savvis Center (20,000) 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.
NOTRE DAME'S PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP (NCAA tournament averages) No. Player Pos. Ht. Yr. PPG RPG Other Notes 50 Kelley Siemon F 6-2 Sr. 11.3 (12.4) 7.1 (6.4) 55.4 FG% Matched season-high 5 assists, 16 pts. in win over Mich. 3 Ericka Haney G/F 6-1 Jr. 10.9 (9.0) 5.7 (6.8) 46.8 FG% Has scored in double figures in 21 of 35 games 00 Ruth Riley C 6-5 Sr. 18.4 (22.2) 7.7 (8.2) 62.6 FG% 2,044 career points, needs 6 more reb. for 1,000 22 Alicia Ratay SG 5-11 So. 13.2 (14.4) 5.2 (6.6) 55.6 3PT% Has made 80 of 144 three-pointers to lead nation in % 33 Niele Ivey PG 5-8 Sr. 12.1 (11.2) 4.1 (3.4) 6.9 APG One of two Irish players with 200+ assists in a season
Notre Dame shot a school and Final Four record 8-11 (.778) from three-point range, including 4-5 in the second half, and limited Connecticut to under 40-percent shooting for the third time this season with a Husky season-low shooting of 26-77 (.338) in its semifinal win. All five of Notre Dame's starters scored in double figures for the second time this season after the Irish starting five all reached double figures in the first win over the Huskies. Notre Dame overcame a Final Four record 16-point deficit with a 53-26 scoring advantage in the second half. Senior All-American and St. Louis native Niele Ivey led all scorers with 21 points -- her second 20-point game of the season and first since the third game of the season (22 at Wisconsin). Sophomore Alicia Ratay made 4-5 three pointers to set the NCAA record for single-season three-point percentage (80-144 for .556).
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 Ratay (14.0 pts., 7.0 rebounds, 6-10 3PT) also were named to the all-tournament team.
Notre Dame enters the NCAA final with a 33-2 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 .626) according to the most recent NCAA statistics. All-America fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (12.1 ppg) stands 11th in the country in assists (6.9) and has scored or assisted on nearly 40 percent of Notre Dame's 985 field goals. Sophomore guard Alicia Ratay (13.2) leads the nation in three-point shooting (80-144, .556) and has made 24 of 35 (.688) since the start of the BIG EAST tournament.
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 (10.9) has scored in double figures in 21 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 (7.1). 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 .497) and field-goal percentage defense (third at .335) according to the latest NCAA statistics, Notre Dame has a scoring margin of 21.9 points - third best in the country - and has outscored its opponents by an average of 13 points in the first half. The Irish have shot better than 50 percent from the field in 18 of 35 games (including a season-best 63.5 percent at Pittsburgh), better than 46 percent in 28 of 35 games and at least 40 percent in all but two games. Notre Dame's defense has held its opponents to under 40 percent in 29 of 35 games - including 22 games under 35 percent and eight games under 30 percent.
The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (243 assists, 88 steals) and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch of Riley (108 blocks, 236-377 FG, .626) 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 321-117 (.733) record and in her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 409-158 (.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 berths.
IRISH, RILEY IN THE SECOND HALF
Associated Press and Naismith player-of-the-year Ruth Riley has averaged 16.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in the second half of Notre Dame's last four NCAA victories and 18.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in the last three.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME NOTES
IRISH IN NCAA TOURNAMENT
McGRAW NAMED WBCA, NAISMITH NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR
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
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 Uni. 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
IVEY WINS FRANCES NAISMITH POMEROY AWARD
McGRAW VOTED BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR
RILEY, IVEY NAMED AP ALL-AMERICANS
RILEY VOTED VERIZON ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN OF THE YEAR
MORE NCAA NOTES
IRISH PLAY INSIDE-OUTSIDE
RATAY HOLDS NCAA THREE-POINT RECORDS
RILEY APPROACHES REBOUND RECORD