Sept. 16, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame women's basketball program will be well-represented when the 2008 WNBA Playoffs get underway Thursday evening. Three Irish alums -- Ruth Riley ('01), Megan Duffy ('06) and Charel Allen ('08) -- helped their respective squads advance to the second season and will look to add another chapter in Notre Dame's growing reputation for producing champions at the college and professional level.
Riley and the San Antonio Silver Stars will open with a Western Conference semifinal series (best-of-three) against Allen and the Sacramento Monarchs on Thursday at 9 p.m. (ET) at Sacramento's ARCO Arena. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN2. Game two of that series will be played Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, also at 9 p.m. (ET), and will be broadcast live on NBA TV. If necessary, the third and deciding game will take place Monday, Sept. 22, in San Antonio, with the tip time and TV coverage to be announced. The Silver Stars won two of three meetings with the Monarchs this season, with each team successfully defending its home court.
Meanwhile, Duffy and the New York Liberty also will begin their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Thursday night, playing host to the Connecticut Sun at 7 p.m. (ET) inside New York's Madison Square Garden, with MSG TV and NBA TV carrying the game live. The series then shifts to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., for the final two series games, to be held at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday and Monday, Sept. 22 (if necessary). The second game can be seen on MSG+ TV and NBA TV, while the decisive third game would air on ESPN2. Connecticut took two of three from the Liberty this season, although the Sun's two victories came during the first two weeks of the season, before New York earned its win in a mid-July visit to Mohegan Sun.
Riley is set to make her seventh postseason appearance in a decorated eight-year WNBA career, and will suit up for her second playoff trip with San Antonio, which finished with a league-best 24-10 record to win the Western Conference regular-season title and lock up home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Last season, the Silver Stars defeated Sacramento in a tight three-game conference semifinal series before being swept by the eventual WNBA champion, Phoenix Mercury, in a pair of close matchups.
A former three-time All-America center at Notre Dame and the 2001 consensus national player of the year, Riley has been a starter for much of her WNBA career (earning an All-Star selection in 2005), but shifted to a reserve role with San Antonio this season, coming off the bench to average 5.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks (ninth in the league) in 19.3 minutes per game. Traditionally, she has been at her best in the postseason, averaging 8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 31 career games (all starts), helping the Detroit Shock to WNBA titles in 2003 and 2006 before her off-season trade to San Antonio prior to the '07 campaign.
Riley also made women's basketball history in '03 when she was named the WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player (after a career-high 27 points in the decisive third-game win over Los Angeles), becoming the first player ever to earn Finals MVP honors at both the college and WNBA levels (she was the 2001 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading the Irish to the national championship).
While Riley is no stranger to postseason action, Duffy and Allen are making their first-ever WNBA playoff appearances this season. A two-time honorable mention All-America point guard and the 2006 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award recipient while at Notre Dame, Duffy is in her third pro season and first with New York after spending two years with the Minnesota Lynx, who selected her in the third round of the 2006 WNBA Draft. This season, Duffy has appeared in six games for the Liberty, averaging 1.8 points and 0.5 assists per game, including a season-high five points in a mid-June home win over Sacramento. New York wound up third in the Eastern Conference with a 19-15 record, and is seeking to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2004, when Connecticut knocked the Liberty out of the postseason with a pair of wins.
Allen is capping off her rookie season in grand style, a year that began with her selection in the third round of the WNBA Draft. A two-time honorable mention All-America guard for the Irish, Allen has played in six games for Sacramento, averaging 2.7 points and 1.0 rebounds per game, including a season-high six points in each of the Monarchs' final two regular-season contests against San Antonio and Houston. Sacramento finished fourth in the Western Conference with an 18-16 record and is looking to rekindle the magic that led the franchise to the 2005 WNBA crown.
Notre Dame alums have won four WNBA titles since the league's inception in 1997, with Riley earning a pair of rings in Detroit, Jacqueline Batteast ('05) joining Riley for the 2006 championship in the Motor City, and Coquese Washington ('92) helping Houston to the 2000 WNBA title.