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    April 1, 2001

    By TOM COYNE
    Associated Press Writer

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame fans sang and leaped with joy as the Irish claimed their first national basketball title.

    In another Indiana college town to the southwest, Purdue fans sat in stunned silence as the Boilermakers' last shot missed.

    The cheering continued for more than a minute. It didn't subside until students saw University president Rev. Edward A. Malloy hug coach Muffet McGraw. Soon the whole crowd was singing the Notre Dame anthem.

    "This is great. This is awesome," said Mark Jarotkiewicz, an engineering freshman from Chicago who was wearing a "Beat Purdue" T-shirt he had made for the regular-season game. "It was great having everybody together like this."

    More than 200 people packed a large room at the Notre Dame student union to watch the game on two big-screen TVs. A similar-sized crowd watched in a room upstairs.

    When Alicia Ratay hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 62, the stomping of feet could be heard on the first floor. And when All-American center Ruth Riley hit a free throw with 5.8 seconds left, the crowd roared and chanted, "The Ruth, The Ruth, The Ruth is on fire."

    There were whoops and cheers after the game, but the celebration was peaceful.

    The quiet was too much for one Irish student who yelled out, "We won! Where is everybody?"

    It was the first celebration of a national championship in a high-profile sport for Notre Dame since the football team went undefeated in 1988 under Lou Holtz. The 12-year drought is the second longest ever for the Irish, but no one was thinking football on Sunday.

    Notre Dame was transformed into a basketball school this season - a women's basketball school.

    A crowd of fans was expected to greet the team bus in front of Notre Dame's famed Golden Dome as a celebration was planned for the wee hours Monday morning as the Irish returned from St. Louis.

    "It's just amazing they can do it for the program and for themselves," said Jim Madden, and engineering sophomore from New Bedford, Mass. "They showed they deserved a national championship.

     

     

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