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    No. 5 Notre Dame Gearing Up For No. 6 Georgia

    FIGHTING IRISH Ruth Riley and the Fighting Irish women's basketball team takes on Georgia for the Coaches vs. Cancer championship.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Ruth Riley and the Fighting Irish women's basketball team takes on Georgia for the Coaches vs. Cancer championship.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 23, 2000

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    The Date and Time: Friday, Nov. 24, 2000, at 3:00 p.m. CST.

    The Site: Kolh Center (17,142) in Madison, Wis.

    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. Television: The championship game of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge will be televised nationally by ESPN with Matt Devlin (play-by-play) and Doris Burke (color).

    TONIGHT'S GAME

    The fifth-ranked Notre Dame women's basketball team faces sixth-ranked Georgia in the championship game of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge on Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center. The Irish defeated 19th-ranked and host Wisconsin 83-56 on Wednesday, while the Bulldogs defeated 12th-ranked Oklahoma 94-70 to reach the championship game.

    The Irish enter the game with a 3-0 record following the win over Badgers, while the Bulldogs are 2-1. The teams have met twice times previously with Georgia winning both games.

    Notre Dame has won its first three games by an average of 27.3 points and have outscored Valparaiso, Arizona and 19th-ranked Wisconsin by a combined 73 points in the first half. The hot shooting of sophomore Alicia Ratay (11-17 3PT), strong point guard play of Niele Ivey (28 assists, 11 steals, 9 turnovers) and dominating presence and shooting touch of All-America center Ruth Riley (13 blocks, 17-26 FG) have led the Irish to big early leads. Forwards Kelley Siemon (21 points vs. Wisconsin) and Ericka Haney (14 points vs. Wisconsin) have given the Irish timely contributions.

    Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 291-115 (.717) record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 379-156 (.708) 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. Riley (16.2 ppg., 7.3 rpg. in '99-'00), 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 Ivey (11.2 ppg., 6.1 apg.) is among the top 10 returning point guards in the country in terms of assists per game (6.1) last year. Sophomore and '99-'00 BIG EAST rookie-of-the-year 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).

    Seniors 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 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.

    IRISH BEAT BADGERS TO REACH CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

    With sophomore Alicia Ratay and senior All-America center Ruth Riley both held to single-digit scoring in the same game for the first time, seniors Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon poured in a combined 43 points and junior Ericka Haney added 14 points to lead fifth-ranked Notre Dame to an 83-56 win over 19th-ranked Wisconsin on Wednesday. The Irish built a 41-26 halftime lead on the strength of 17 first-half points from Ivey and pulled away from the Badgers with the help of 15 second-half points from Siemon. Notre Dame shot better than 50 percent from the field for the third game this season (.543) and held its opponent to under 40 percent for the third straight game (.389). The Irish made 27 of 36 free throws (.750) and had 12 steals and four blocked shots.

    DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR DOUBLE "3"

    Fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey entered the season with seven career double-doubles (four in '99-'00 and three in '98-'99) and had a pair of double-doubles in the first two games season. She scored 12 points and had 10 assists and five steals vs. Valparaiso in the season opener. Ivey then recorded 11 assists against just one turnover to go along with 14 points against Arizona. She was one rebound short of her third double-double vs. Wisconsin.

    THE RILEY REPORT

    National player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley has been at her dominating best in the lane through three games this season. In addition to her offense efficiency (17-26 FG, .654), Riley has blocked 13 shots, while committing just four personal fouls. The two-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year is averaging one block shot every six minutes she plays.

    RATAY OFF TO FAST START

    Sophomore Alicia Ratay had 11 three pointers in the first two games on just 15 attempts, a percentage of .733 that topped the Irish opponents' free-throw percentage (.639). In the season opener vs. Valparaiso, Ratay scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting (6-9 3PT) and nailed four three-pointers in a span of 3:47 late in the first half. She was a perfect 4-4 (3-3 3PT) in the first half of the Arizona game before finished 8-10 FG, 5-6 3PT and 5-5 FT for 26 points.

    POLL POSITION

    When the preseason women's and men's basketball polls were announced, the University of Notre Dame were the only Division I-A institution 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, while the men's team was ranked 15th in the preseason AP rankings (now 14th). Notre Dame currently stands 11th in football (8-2 record). 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.

    IRISH VS. TOP 10

    Notre Dame has a 5-5 record vs. top 10 teams (including 3-0 vs. non-conference opponents) during the last two seasons. The Irish have wins over #6 UCLA, #6 Duke, #8 Rutgers, #9 Rutgers, #9 North Carolina and losses to #1 Connecticut (twice), #6 Connecticut, #8 Rutgers and #9 Rutgers. The Irish have won four straight and seven of their nine games vs. top-10 non-conference opponents, defeating #6 Texas Tech in '97-98, #8 Alabama, #8 North Carolina State and #6 Iowa in '96-97 and falling to Tennessee twice (ranked second and 10th) in '96-97.

    SERIES RECORD VS. GEORGIA

    The Irish and Bulldogs meet for third time Friday at the Kohl Center. Georgia handed visiting Notre Dame a 90-86 overtime loss on Dec. 8, 1991. The 20th-ranked Bulldogs won 90-86 over the host Irish on Dec. 21, 1992. Current Irish coordinator of basketball operations and former standout Letitia Bowen played a team-high 33 minutes in the last meeting, scoring 16 points and collecting a game-high 15 rebounds. Current Bulldog administrative assistant Kim Thompson also played in that contest and chipped in six points.

    24 AND COUNTING

    Notre Dame extended its school-record home winning streak to 24 wins with its home-opening victory over Arizona. 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).

    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, 14 vs. Arizona and 22 vs. Wisconsin to bring her career total to 1044 -- 16th most points in Irish history.

    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.

    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 team Georgia in the championship game (televised by 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.

    NOTRE DAME AMONG RECENTS WINS LEADERS

    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:

    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.

    NOTRE DAME IN OPENERS

    Notre Dame improved to 16-8 in its 24 season-opening games and have won their last six openers after the Valparaiso victory. 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.

     

     

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