Nov. 14, 2000
The Notre Dame women's basketball team plays its second of two preseason exhibition games on Tuesday vs. the Finnish team Tapiolan Honka, which will be playing its final of 10 games versus American colleges. The Irish, ranked sixth in the Associated Press poll and fifth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, defeated the Premier All-Stars 91-56 in their first exhibition game and will open their season at Valparaiso on Fri., Nov. 17.
The Irish concluded the 1999-2000 season with a 27-5 record -- their seventh consecutive 20-win season -- and their third appearance in the final 16 of the NCAA championships in the last four years. Notre Dame finished with a final ranking of fifth in the Associated Press poll and ninth in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 288-115 (.715) record and 19th as a collegiate coach and has led the Irish to five straight NCAA tournament appearances and six overall. She was named a finalist for the Naismith Women's Basketball and AP coach-of-the-year awards last year.
Notre Dame's three returning starters are among the nation's best players at their respective positions. Senior All-America center Ruth Riley (16.2 ppg., 7.3 rpg.), regarded as the premier center in collegiate women's basketball, once again is a contender for national player-of-the-year honors. Fifth-year All-America candidate Niele Ivey (11.2 ppg., 6.1 apg.) is among the top 10 returning points guards in the country in terms of assists per game (6.1) last year. Sophomore and '99-'00 BIG EAST rookie-of-the-year Alicia Ratay (14.0 ppg., 5.0 rpg.) proved she already is one of the nations' top three-point shooters last year, finishing fourth in the nation in three-point field-goal percentage last year at .480 (73-152).
The Irish will look to replace forward Julie Henderson and guard Danielle Green with a number of talented returning players. Seniors Kelley Siemon (6.5 ppg., 5.0 rpg.) and Meaghan Leahy (2.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg.) bolster Notre Dame in the front court, while sophomore Amanda Barksdale (1.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg.) is expected to see more playing time this year. Junior Erika Haney (6.8 ppg., 3.7 rpg.) brings great athleticism and versatility to the lineup and is expected to take over one of the starting role.
Notre Dame's backcourt depth is strengthen by the return of senior Imani Dunbar (1.1 ppg., 1.9 apg.) and sophomores Monique Hernandez (2.4 ppg.) and walk-on Karen Swanson. In addition to these veterans, freshmen Jeneka Joyce and Le'Tania Severe, both ranked among the top 40 prep standouts a year ago, give the Irish great outside shooting ability as well as speed and quickness to improve Notre Dame's transition game.
Tapiolan Honka is comprised of players from the two best teams in the Helsinki area, Honka and KaPo. Honka finished first in the Finnish women's championship and KaPo was second. Tapiolan Honka has played and lost its nine previous games vs. Purdue, Wright State, Butler, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Ohio State and Dayton.
(#6 AP/#5 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Tapiolan Honka
The Date and Time: Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2000, at 7:00 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: Notre Dame (www.und.com).
IRISH DOWN PREMIER ALL-STARS
Six players scored in doubles figures, including all five starters, to pace the Irish to a 91-56 win over the Premier All-Stars in an exhibition game at the Joyce Center. Irish freshman Jeneka Joyce and All-Star Joni O'Connell led all scorers with 16 points. The Irish led 47-29 at halftime before opening the second half with a 22-9 run in the first seven minutes to build a 69-37 lead. The Premier All-Stars never got closer than 30 points in the loss. Senior All-America center Ruth Riley fueled the Irish second-half spurt with 10 of her 12 points during the run. Seniors Kelley Siemon (14) and Niele Ivey (12), junior Ericka Haney (15) and sophomore Alicia Ratay (10) also added double-figure scoring. Lisa Cline chipped in 15 for the All-Stars. The Irish built a 22-8 lead at 12:55 of the first half before the All-Stars pulled within four points at 24-20. Notre Dame then eased away once again to take a 47-20 halftime advantage.
The University of Notre Dame is the only Division I-A institution currently ranked among the top 20 teams in Associated Press standings in the sports of football, men's basketball and women's basketball. The Irish women's basketball team entered the season with its highest-ever preseason ranking at sixth in the AP and fifth in the coaches' poll. Notre Dame currently stands 11th in football (7-2 record), while also rating 16th in men's basketball in the latest AP poll in those two sports. It's the first time in Irish athletic history all three of those Notre Dame teams have been ranked in the top 20 in the same week.
RILEY, RATAY NAMED NAISMITH CANDIDATES
Senior All-America center Ruth Riley and sophomore guard Alicia Ratay are among the 30 preseason candidates listed for the 2000-01 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Riley was one of 15 finalists for the Naismith Award a year ago. The women's Naismith Award was first presented in 1983 and honors the outstanding college basketball player in the United States. The award program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.
McGRAW INKS FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT
Head coach Muffet McGraw has signed a five-year contract to continue as coach of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program through the 2004-05 season.
"Muffet has done a tremendous job of elevating the Notre Dame program to the point where we can expect to be rated among the top women's basketball teams in the country on a regular basis," says Irish athletics director Kevin White. "Coach McGraw has indeed demonstrated that Notre Dame can be a consistent player at the elite level of women's basketball and this contract represents our mutual interest in advancing this respective level of achievement."
McGraw has spent the last 13 seasons as Irish head coach (beginning with the 1987-88 season) ? and her teams have won 20 or more games in 11 of those seasons, advancing to the NCAA tournament five straight years and seven of the last nine. The last four years have comprised the most successful period in the history of the program, thanks to a combined 106-26 record. 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.
PRESEASON POLL WATCHING
In advance of the preseason Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls which have yet to be announced, here's where numerous publications have ranked the Irish:
Sports Illustrated For Women No. 3
Women's Basketball Journal No. 4
Athlon Sports No. 6
ESPN Magazine No. 6
Street & Smith No. 7
Slam No. 9
Lindy's College Basketball No. 13
Senior center Ruth Riley became Notre Dame's first AP first-team All-American in 2000 and is a preseason favorite to win All-America honors for the third time in her career (she also was second-team AP pick in 1999). She has been named to the preseason All-America teams in a variety of national publications. Here is a list of some of Riley's preseason honors:
Sports Illustrated For Women First Team
Women's Basketball Journal First Team
Lindy's All-American First Team
Athlon Sports Second Team
ESPN Magazine Preseason "PTPer"
Street & Smith High Honorable Mention
Beth Mowins, ESPN.com Among Top Five Centers In Country
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.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SCHEDULE
An ESPN nationally-televised home game against defending NCAA and BIG EAST champion Connecticut and nine games against teams from the 2000 NCAA women's basketball championship highlight the 2000-01 Irish schedule. The 27-game slate features 13 homes games and appearances in two national tournaments. In addition to the Jan. 15, contest against Connecticut, the Irish will welcome 2000 Final Four participant Rutgers, 1999 NCAA champion Purdue and Pacific-10 power Arizona to the Joyce Center. Notre Dame will travel to Wisconsin on Nov. 22 and 24, for the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge, facing the host Badgers in the opening round and NCAA tournament teams Georgia or Oklahoma in the championship or consolation game (the championship will be shown on ESPN). The Irish will play on ESPN2 when they travel to Orlando to take on North Carolina at Honda Elite Classic. The 16-game BIG EAST schedule features two games against conference newcomer Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Rutgers and one each with Villanova, St. John's, Connecticut, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Providence, Boston College, Syracuse, Miami and Georgetown. First-ever meetings with Fordham and Rice, the first game against USC in 15 years and a trip to Marquette round out the non-conference schedule.
IVEY NEARS 1,000-POINT PLATEAU
The fourth point by fifth-year Niele Ivey this season will mark the 1,000th of her career, joining the list of 16 other Irish players (including Ruth Riley with 1,400) who have scored at least 1,000 points.
IVEY AMONG BIG EAST ALL-STARS
Niele Ivey spent part of her summer with the BIG EAST Women's Basketball All-Stars, averaging 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds on the six-game competitive tour of Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. in June. The All-Stars, led by West Virginia head coach Alexis Basil, went 5-1 on the tour with wins over Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. Ivey scored in double figures in four of the six contests and registered a personal tour-high 17 points in the squad's first meeting with Simon Fraser. She scored a team-high 16 points in the All-Stars' final game.
23 AND COUNTING
Notre Dame will look for its school-record 24th consecutive home victory when its welcomes Arizona to the Joyce Center for its home opener on Mon., Nov. 20. The streak currently is the sixth longest active streak in the country, behind Grambling (66), Kent (31), Texas Tech (30), Louisiana Tech (27) and Old Dominion (24).