Nov. 18, 1999
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- TONIGHT'S GAME -- This evening's contest marks the season opener for the Irish who return four starters and four of the team's top five scorers from last year's team which finished with a 26-5 record (its sixth straight 20-win season) and earned an NCAA tournament berth for the fourth straight year. Notre Dame was ranked a school-record 16 consecutive weeks in the top 10, and started the 1999-2000 campaign ranked in the top 10 for the first time in school history.
Currently seventh in the Associated Press Poll, the Irish started the preseason eighth in that ranking and are ninth in the preseason ESPN/USA Today top 25. Notre Dame won 17 of their last 20 games a year ago en route to the second most wins in school history and the best winning percentage (.839) in the 22-year history of the program.
Junior All-America center Ruth Riley, one of the finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award, led the Irish in both scoring and rebounding as she averaged 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds. Riley set a school record with 101 blocked shots and also established the single-season field-goal percentage mark hitting 68.3 percent of her shots from the field. That figure led the nation in that statistical category, while her 3.3 blocked shots ranked her third among all Division I players.
Senior point guard Niele Ivey, who tore her left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the semifinals of the BIG EAST tournament and missed the postseason, is one of the nation's best at her position. She was the team's fourth leading scorer and led the team in assists (181) and steals (74). Ivey finished among the nation's leaders in three statistical categories last season as she was eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.448), tied for ninth in free throw percentage (.870) and was 13th in assists (6.5 per game).
Senior guard Danielle Green, one of the team's top defensive players, is back, as is junior forward Kelley Siemon. Both have been in the starting lineup the last two seasons. Green averaged 14.4 points (third best on the team) and was the team's second-leading rebounder as she averaged 7.2 rebounds per game. Siemon averaged 5.8 points and 5.0 rebounds as a sophomore.
Sophomore Ericka Haney, a native of Toledo, celebrates her homecoming this evening. The 1998 graduate of Central Catholic, will be an integral part of the Irish lineup this season after playing in 31 contests and averaging 6.0 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Notre Dame's freshman class of guards Alicia Ratay and Monique Hernandez and forward Amanda Barksdale, is one of the most talented in school history. Ratay has been extremely productive in the first two exhibition games for the Irish and will likely be in the Irish starting rotation. Hernandez and Barksdale will see considerable playing, especially as the season progresses. coming off the bench. Notre Dame also has added freshman walk-on guard Karen Swanson to its roster.
EXHIBITION RECAPS - Premier All-Stars: Alicia Ratay and Ericka Haney combined for 42 points as all five Irish starters scored in double figures as Notre Dame earned a come-from-behind victory. Ratay game-highs of 22 points and nine rebounds to go along with six assists and five steals in 36 minutes. Haney chipped in 20 points. Ruth Riley had 18 points and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line. In addition, she had six boards and six blocked shots. Kelley Siemon and Niele Ivey, making her return to the court since the ACL injury, each had 10 points, while Ivey dished off 10 assists. Notre Dame finished the game hitting 47.9 percent from the field and 80.0 percent from the free throw line. EOS Malbas: Freshman Alicia Ratay was once again Notre Dame's leading scorer as she netted a game-high 25 points to lead three players in double figures as the Irish cruised to a 76-51 win in its final exhibition tuneup. She was seven-of-12 from the field, including a five-for-seven performance from three-point range. The freshman standnout also was a perfect eight-for-eight from the free throw line. Ratay was joined in double figures by Niele Ivey who had 15 points, six assists and four steals and sophomore Ericka Haney who finished with 10 points.
POLL WATCHING- Notre Dame is ranked seventh in the Associated Press and ninth USA Today/ESPN polls. The Irish have been ranked in the top 10 for a school-record 17 consecutive weeks in the AP Poll and 21 straight weeks overall in which they have earned a ranking. The school mark for consecutive weeks ranked is 24 which the Irish set from February 5, 1996 thru March 10, 1997.
HEAD COACH MUFFET McGRAW - Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 13th season with the Irish and 17th as a collegiate coach. She has guided Notre Dame to four straight NCAA tournament appearances and six overall. McGraw led the Irish to the 1997 Final Four as her team claimed the East Regional championship. In 1998, McGraw's squad finished with a 22-10 mark and advanced to the Sweet 16. In 12 seasons at Notre Dame, she has a record of 261-110 (.704), and in 17 campaigns overall, her teams have registered a 349-151 (.698) ledger. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, she spent five seasons at Lehigh where she compiled an 88-41 record for a .683 winning percentage. Last season, McGraw, after guiding the Irish to their sixth consecutive 20-win season, was named finalists for the Naismith Women's Basketball and Associated Press coach-of-the-year awards.
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER MAGAZINE TO FOLLOW IRISH ALL SEASON - Annette John-Hall, a feature writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer will be following head coach Muffet McGraw, a native of Pottsville, Pa., and the Irish all season long and feature them in the magazine section of that publication. She will file stories throughout the season on McGraw and her squad. Hall has already written two features introducing the team to the readership.
SERIES RECORD VERSUS TOLEDO - The series between the two teams is tied at 2-2. Notre Dame is 2-0 at home against the Rockets, but 0-1 in games played at Toledo. The last time the Irish played at Toledo they dropped a 70-69 decision was on January 6, 1990. The two schools played each other a year ago at the Joyce Center with the Irish earning an 82-64 triumph.
NOTRE DAME IN SEASON OPENERS - Notre Dame is 14-8 in 22 season openers. This is first time since the start of the 1995-96 campaign that the Irish have opened up the season on the road (an 82-73 victory over Indiana). The last time Notre Dame dropped a season opener was on November 26, 1994 as the Irish lost a 60-55 overtime decision at Seton Hall.
RILEY NAMED FINALIST FOR NAISMITH PLAYER OF THE YEAR - On everyone's preseason All-America teams, Ruth Riley, a third-team Associated Press All-America selection in 1999, is one of 10 finalists for the 1999-2000 Naismith Women's Basketball Player of the Year Award which is presented by the Atlanta Tip-off Club. Riley and the nine other candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading college basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts. She is the first Notre Dame women's basketball player to be named a finalist for the awardl, which was first presented in 1983. The nine other finalists include: Svetlana Abrosimova (Connecticut), Edwina Brown (Texas), Tamika Catchings (Tennessee), Tamicha Jackson (Louisiana Tech), Maylana Martin (UCLA), Kelly Miller (Georgia), Lynn Pride (Kansas), Semeka Randall (Tennessee) and Nikki Teasley (North Carolina).
TWO MORE READY TO JOIN 1,000-POINT CLUB - Senior Danielle Green and junior Ruth Riley will likely join 14 former Notre Dame women's basketball players who have reached the 1,000-point mark in their careers. Riley heads into the 1999-2000 campaign with 882 points and a 14.0 career scoring average. She topped the 500-point mark a year ago as she scored 514 points for a 16.6 point-per-game scoring average. Green, who was granted a fifth year after sitting out the entire 1996-97 season with a torn Achilles' tendon, has 768 points entering the season. She scored just 30 points in 27 games during her freshman year in 1995-96, but has come back each of the last two seasons to average in double figures. Green scored 306 points for a 10.2 scoring average in 1997-98 and tossed in 432 points for a 14.4 points-per-game average a year ago.
NOTRE DAME TO TAKE ON 10 NCAA TOURNAMENT FOES - The 1999-2000 Notre Dame women's basketball schedule features 10 teams who participated in the 1999 NCAA tournament. The 10 teams from the '99 64-team field include: Boston College (Feb. 5), Connecticut (Feb. 26), Florida International (Dec. 19), Illinois (Nov. 27), Liberty (Dec. 5 - possible second round opponent at Wachovia Women's Invitational Tournament), Marquette (Jan. 2), North Carolina (Dec. 4), Purdue (Dec. 8), Rutgers (Feb. 19) and Toledo (Nov. 20).
BIG EAST DEBUTS 16-GAME SLATE - The BIG EAST Conference will begin its 16-game league schedule this season. That's a change from the 18-game format which had been in its existence since the league expanded to 13 games in 1995-96. In 1999-2000, Notre Dame will play Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Miami and St. John's twice and has single games against West Virginia, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Providence, Villanova, Rutgers and Connecticut.
RILEY HELPS USA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CAPTURE SILVER MEDAL - Ruth Riley was one of 12 players selected to the 1999 World University Games Team. She and 1999 graduate Sheila McMillen (now an assistant coach at Western Michigan) were among the 44 players invited to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the five-day tryout. The team, coached by Penn State's Rene Portland, took home the silver medal after posting a 4-2 mark in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, site of the basketball competition. Riley appeared in all nine games with the USA and started five of those contests and was the team's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder as she averaged 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds, with a .630 field-goal percentage. At a tournament in Madrid Spain prior to the start of the World University Games, the USA Women's Basketball squad posted a 3-0 mark and captured first-place. During those three games, she averaged 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. This was Riley's second stint with the USA Women's basketball program. In the summer of 1998, she was a member of the USA Women's Basketball Select Team.
SIEMON TOURS WITH BIG EAST TEAM - Junior Kelley Siemon averaged 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in helping the BIG EAST/Nike Women's Basketball All-Stars to a 4-1 record in a '99 summer tour of Belgium and Germany. Siemon scored 14 points in the win over Aalst (Division) and had seven points and eight rebounds in a win over the Belgian Junior National Team. The team was coached by Boston College's Cathy Inglese.
NOTRE DAME UNDEFEATED AGAINST NON-LEAGUE FOES - Notre Dame finished with a perfect 8-0 mark against non-league foes last season as it faced teams from seven different conferences. The Irish played two teams from the Big Ten (Illinois and Michigan State) and then had games against six other conference teams - Pac-10 (UCLA), Midwestern Collegiate (Butler), Atlantic Coast (Duke), West Coast (San Francisco), Mid-American (Toledo) and Conference USA (South Florida).
THERE'S A NEW KID ON THE BLOCK - Coquese Washington, who played for Notre Dame from 1989-93, has joined head coach Muffet McGraw's coaching staff this season as an assistant coach. She replaces Letitia Bowen who has become the administrative assistant to the women's basketball program while attending graduate school. Washington, the Notre Dame record holder for steals (307) and steals average (2.7), has played professionally the last three years. During the summers of 1998 and 1999, she has been a member of the Women's National Basketball Association's (WNBA) New York Liberty. This past season, her Liberty advanced to the finals of the WNBA Championship. The 5-6 guard, who led the Irish in steals all four seasons she was at Notre Dame, spent the 1996-97 season on the roster of the Portland Power franchise of the now defunct American Basketball League (ABL).
IRISH SIGN TWO - Notre Dame signed two players listed among the top 40 prep players in the country during the early signing period. Jeneka Joyce, a 5-9 shooting guard from Topeka, Kan., and Le'Tania Severe, a 5-9 point guard from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., were rated 26th and 40th, respectively, by Blue Star Basketball.
PRESEASON HONORS FOR RILEY - The name Ruth Riley appears on preseason All-America teams of several publications. Notre Dame also is ranked in the polls of every preseason publication.
Street & Smith's: Ruth Riley - High Honorable, Notre Dame Mention, Notre Dame - 7th
Athlon College Basketball: Notre Dame - 8th
Basketball News: Notre Dame - 8th
Women's Basketball News Service: Ruth Riley - Second Team, Alicia Ratay - All-
Freshman Third Team, Notre Dame - 9th
Women's Basketball Journal: Ruth Riley - Second Team, Notre Dame - 25th
Notre Dame Probable Starting Lineup
Off The Bench
* Indicates monograms won
(Week of Nov. 15)
Irish All-Time vs. 1999-2000 Opponents
NOTRE DAME POLL WATCHING
(Week By Week)
Current Win Streak: Notre Dame, 1 game
McGraw vs. Toledo: 2-2
ND Biggest Win: 18 (82-64 on 12-2-98)
UT Biggest Win: 23 (62-85 on 3-23-89)
ND Longest Win Streak: 1 (twice)
UT Longest Win Streak: 1 (from 1989-90)
1999-2000 BIG EAST Coaches'
Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team: Svetlana Abrosimova (Connecticut), Tasha Pointer (Rutgers), Shea Ralph (Connecticut), Ruth Riley (Notre Dame), Shawnetta Stewart (Rutgers)
Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team: Niele Ivey (Notre Dame), Alissa Murphy (Boston College), Katie Smrcka-Duffy (Georgetown), Tammy Sutton-Brown (Rutgers), Tamika Williams (Connecticut)
BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year: Svetlana Abrosimova (Connecticut)
BIG EASTPreseason Player of the Year: Kennitra Johnson (Connecticut)