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    Women's Basketball Prepares For Home Opener

    FIGHTING IRISH
    FIGHTING IRISH

    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 20, 2000

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    The Date and Time: Monday, Nov. 20, 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), Arizona (www.arizcats.com).

    TONIGHT'S GAME The Notre Dame women's basketball team face Arizona in its home opener after defeating Valparaiso on Friday 71-46 to open the season with a victory. Four players scored in double figures for the Irish, including a game-high 20 by sophomore Alicia Ratay. Fifth-year guard Niele Ivey had 12 points and 10 assists, while senior center Ruth Riley chipped in 13 points. The Irish return three starters from their 1999-2000 team that finished with a 27-5 record -- their seventh consecutive 20-win season -- and made their third appearance in the final 16 of the NCAA championships in the last four years. Notre Dame starts the season ranked sixth in Associated press poll and fifth in the ESPN/USA Today poll -- its highest rankings ever to begin a season -- after finishing last season 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 289-115 (.715) record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 377-156 (.707) mark. She has led the Irish to five straight NCAA tournament appearances and seven overall. McGraw 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 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 roles.

    Notre Dame's backcourt depth is strengthened 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.

    NOTRE DAME OPENS SEASON WITH WIN AT VALPARAISO The sixth-ranked Irish drained nine of 11 three pointers and used six steals and three blocked shots in the first half alone to build a 47-17 halftime lead on the way to their sixth consecutive season-opening win with a 71-46 victory at Valparaiso. Four players scored in double figures for the Irish, including a game-high 20 by sophomore Alicia Ratay. Fifth-year guard Niele Ivey had 12 points and 10 assists, while senior center Ruth Riley chipped in 13 points. Leading 7-4 nearly five minutes into the game, the Irish exploded for 40 points in the final 15:25 of the first half (a rate of 2.6 points per minute) to build their 30-point halftime advantage. Notre Dame made eight three-point shots during its run, including four by Ratay in a span of 3:47. Notre Dame's bench took over in the second half and played 52 minutes. Valparaiso twice pulled within 23 points but could not cut into the lead any further. The Irish improved to 14-0 all-time vs. the Crusaders and to 11-3 under Muffet McGraw in season openers.

    IRISH DOWN PREMIER ALL-STARS IN FIRST PRESEASON GAME... 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.

    ...AND DEFEAT TAPIOLAN HONKA IN SECOND EXHIBITION GAME Notre Dame wrapped up its preseason exhibition schedule with a 98-53 win over the Finnish team Tapiolan Honka on Tuesday at the Joyce Center. Five players scored in double figures for Notre Dame, including 15 from senior Meaghan Leahy and 14 from freshman Jeneka Joyce -- both reserves. Sophomore Alicia Ratay led the Irish with 17 points. Jamika Jones, a member of the WNBA?s Miami Sol, led all scorers with 22 points. Fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey helped the Irish build a 56-31 halftime lead with seven points, eight assists and nine rebounds in the first half. Joyce netted all 14 of her points in 14 minutes of action in the first half with four three-point shots and two free throws. Leahy poured in 10 points in the second half as the Irish pulled away from Tapiolan Honka.

    POLL POSITION 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 (now fifth) and fifth in the ESPN/USA Today polls. Notre Dame currently stands 11th in football (8-2 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.

    HEAD COACH McGRAW INKS FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT Muffet McGraw is in her 14th season with the Irish and 19th as a collegiate coach. She recently signed a five-year contract to continue as coach of the Fighting Irish women?s basketball program through the 2004-05 season. McGraw has guided Notre Dame to five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances 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. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, she spent five seasons at Lehigh where she compiled an 88-41 record for a .683 winning percentage. McGraw has been named a finalist for the Naismith Women's Basketball coach-of-the-year award in each of the last two seasons.

    SERIES RECORD VS. ARIZONA The Irish and Wildcats meet for just the second time tonight at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame won the only previous meeting 85-81 in overtime on Dec. 3, 1988, in Charlottesville, Va. The Irish trailed 73-69 before Karen Robinson made four free throws in the final 1:10 of regulation to force overtime. Robinson, third on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,590 points, scored seven more points in overtime as she finished with 22 points. Heidi Bunek led the Irish with 23 points, while Arizona's Amy Gamble scored a game-high 26 points. The Irish sport an all-time record of 7-12 vs. Pacific-10 teams. Sixth-year Irish assistant coach Carol Owens and ninth-year Arizona assistant coach Denise Dove Ianello were teammates at Northern Illinois. Owens captained the Huskies for four seasons before graduating in 1990, while Dove Ianello graduated in 1992.

    23 AND COUNTING Notre Dame will look to extend its school-record 23-game home winning streak when its welcomes Arizona to the Joyce Center tonight. The streak was the sixth longest active streak in the country entering the season, behind Grambling (66), Kent (31), Texas Tech (30), Louisiana Tech (27) and Old Dominion (24).

    NOTRE DAME IN OPENERS Notre Dame improved to 16-8 record in its 24 season-opening games and have won their last six openers. Notre Dame has an 11-3 record under Muffet McGraw in its first games of the season with the only losses coming to third-ranked Penn State in 1991, at Marquette in 1992 and the SHU loss in 1994.

    IVEY REACHES 1,000-POINT PLATEAU Fifth-year PG Niele Ivey scored five points in the first four minutes against Valparaiso to surpass the 1,000-point milestone in her career. She joined the list of 16 other Irish players (including Ruth Riley) who have scored at least 1,000 points. Ivey scored 15 points in five games as a freshman in 1996-97 before a knee injury ended her season. She then scored 254 points in '97-98, 369 in '98-99 and 358 in '99-'00 to reach 996 points entering the season. She finished with 12 points vs. Valparaiso to bring her career total to 1008.

    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.

    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.

    NOTRE DAME Notre Dame has won 106 games in its last four seasons, the sixth most wins of any school in the country. Here's where the Irish rank in terms of their wins over the last four seasons:

    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.

    EXCITEMENT BUILDS AS SEASON-TICKET SALES DOUBLE Season-ticket sales for the 2000-01 Irish home season have more than doubled from a year ago, going from 940 in 1999-2000 to more than 2,500 for the upcoming season. Notre Dame's average home attendance has jumped from a per-game figure of 1,747 in 1996-97 (the year the Irish played in the NCAA Final Four in Cincinnati) to 1,914 in 1997-98, then 2,996 in 1998-99 and finally to a 3,392 total in 1999-2000 to rank 26th nationally. Irish women's basketball season tickets remain on sale and can be purchased by contacting the Notre Dame ticket office at 219-631-7356.

    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.

     

     

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