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    Fourth-Ranked Women's Basketball Hosts Purdue

    FIGHTING IRISH Alicia Ratay and the Irish host Purdue Saturday.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Alicia Ratay and the Irish host Purdue Saturday.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 8, 2000

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    SATURDAY'S GAME
    The fourth-ranked Notre Dame women's basketball team plays its second of three straight home games at the Joyce Center tonight and its final game before final examinations vs. sixth-ranked Purdue. The Irish enter the game at their highest-ever ranking at fourth for the second consecutive week and are off to their best start ever at 7-0. Notre Dame defeated Villanova 64-33 on Wednesday in the BIG EAST opener for each team. Tonight's game marks the 10th meeting between the teams, with Purdue having won seven of the previous nine meetings.

    Four of Notre Dame's five starters average double-figure scoring, while the Irish have outscored their seven opponents by an average of 19 points in the first half. Among the best players in the country at their three respective positions, sophomore shooting guard Alicia Ratay (15.9) leads the team in scoring and leads the BIG EAST three-point shooting (19-28, .679), fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (15.7) trails only Ratay among BIG EAST three-point shooters (17-30, .567) and leads the conference in assists (8.00/game) and steals (4.29/game) and senior All-America center Ruth Riley (13.6) had her first double-double of the season vs. Villanova with 14 points and 10 rebounds and averages a BIG EAST leading 2.71 blocks/game. Senior Kelley Siemon (10.9) had her first double-double of the season vs. Georgia (13 pts., 11 rebounds).

    The Irish enter the Purdue game with a 7-0 record -- their first 7-0 start in the history of the program after surpassing the previous 6-0 mark from 1998-99 with the win over Villanova. Notre Dame also brings a school-record 26-game home winning into the game.

    Notre Dame has won its first seven games by an average of 26.1 points and has shot better than 50.0 percent from the field in three of seven games. The Irish defense has held its opponents to under 40.0 in six of seven games -- including four games under 35.0 percent. The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (56 assists, 30 steals, 28 turnovers) and dominating presence and shooting touch of All-America center Ruth Riley (19 blocks, 38-62 FG, .613) have led the Irish to big early leads. Forwards Kelley Siemon (31-61 FG) and Ericka Haney (double-double vs. North Carolina with 14 points and 13 rebounds) have given the Irish timely contributions.

    Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 295-115 (.720) record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 382-156 (.710) 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.

    VILLANOVA REVIEW
    Senior All-America center Ruth Riley recorded her first double-double of the season as she scored a game-high 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds to pace Notre Dame to a 64-33 win over visiting Villanova in the BIG EAST opener for both teams. Senior point guard Niele Ivey also had a double-double -- third of the season and 10th of her career -- with 11 points and 10 assists. Notre Dame continued its season trend of building big early leads as they led 21-4 just nine minutes into the game and took a 32-19 lead at halftime. After jumping out a 15-0 lead to start the game, the Irish scored the first 10 points of the second half as well, and the Wildcats managed just five second-half field goals on 32 attempts and were 0-10 from three-point range. Villanova finished with just 13 field goals and six free throws for 33 points -- the second fewest points Notre Dame ever has allowed behind only the 25 scored by Grace the first year of Irish varsity women's basketball in 1977-78.

    NOTRE DAME-PURDUE SERIES
    The Irish and Boilermakers meet for the 12th time tonight with Purdue leading the series 9-2. Nearly three years ago on Dec. 10, 1997, Notre Dame beat Purdue 77-71 in the Boilers' last trip to the Joyce Center before losing in the 1998 NCAA regional semifinals and at Purdue on Dec. 8, 1999. The Boilermakers are the second Big 10 opponent of the season for the Irish, 83-56 winners at Wisconsin in their third game of the season. Fifth-year Niele Ivey has averaged 15 points on 62.5 percent shooting in three games vs. the Boilermakers. She led the Irish to their home win over Purdue in '97 with a 4-6 performance from the three-point line.

    CONFERENCE CALL
    Notre Dame raced through its first six games, beating opponents from five major conferences. The Irish have posted wins vs. the ACC (North Carolina), Atlantic 10 (Fordham), Big 10 (Wisconsin), Pacific-10 (Arizona) and SEC (Georgia). Notre Dame has non-conference games remaining vs. Purdue, Western Michigan, Marquette, USC and Rice.

    IRISH VS. TOP 10
    The Irish enter tonight's game vs. sixth-ranked Purdue having won five straight games vs. top-10 non-conference opponents (#6 Georgia on Nov. 24, #9 North Carolina in '99-'00, #6 UCLA and #6 Duke in '98-99, #6 Texas Tech in '97-98) and eight of their last 10 (also beating #8 Alabama, #8 North Carolina State and #6 Iowa in '96-97 and falling to Tennessee twice (ranked second and 10th in '96-97). Notre Dame has a 6-5 record vs. all top 10 teams (including 4-0 vs. non-conference opponents) since the start of the 1998-99 season.

    26 AND COUNTING
    Notre Dame extended its home winning streak to a school-record 26 straight wins with its victory over Villanova. The streak currently is the fifth longest active streak in the country, behind Grambling (66), Kent (33), Texas Tech (33), Louisiana Tech (30).

    SEEING DOUBLE
    Senior All-America center Ruth Riley (14 points, 10 rebounds) and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (11 points, 10 assists) both recorded double-doubles on Wednesday vs. Villanova, bringing the Irish total for double-doubles to seven in seven games by five different players. Other double-double performance for the Irish this season include Ericka Haney's vs. North Carolina, Ivey (vs. Valparasio and Arizona), Kelley Siemon (vs. Georgia) and Meaghan Leahy (vs. Fordham).

    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 already has three in '00-01 through just seven games. She had a pair of double-doubles in the first two games season and a third vs. Villanova. Ivey scored 12 points and had 10 assists and five steals vs. Valparaiso in the season opener and then recorded 11 assists against just one turnover to go along with 14 points against Arizona. She had 11 points, 10 assists, six steals and six rebounds vs. just four turnovers vs. Villanova.

    IVEY NAMED COACHES VS. CANCER MVP, BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK
    Fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey was named the MVP of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge as she helped the Irish win the event with her strong play. She totaled 41 points on 14-21 shooting (7-9 3PT, 6-6 FT) in 71 minutes of action along with 13 rebounds, 11 assists and eight steals vs. just 10 assists. Ivey recorded game-high scoring vs. both Wisconsin (22) and Georgia (19). She was named BIG EAST player of the week (Nov. 27) for her efforts for the fourth time in her career. She currently is second on the team in scoring (15.7) and leads the BIG EAST in assists (8.00), steals (4.29) and is fourth in field goal percentage (42-71 for .592).

    THE RILEY REPORT
    National player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley has been at her dominating best in the lane this season. In addition to her offensive efficiency (38-62 FG, .613 percentage third in BIG EAST), Riley leads the BIG EAST with 19 blocked shots (2.71/game), while committing just 11 personal fouls. The two-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year is averaging one block shot every nine-plus minutes she plays and just one foul every 16 minutes of action.

    RATAY OFF TO FAST START
    Sophomore Alicia Ratay has begun the year shooting better from three-point range (19 of 28 for .679) in terms of percentage than Notre Dame's opponents have from the free throw line (59 of 95 for .621). Ratay had 11 three pointers in the first two games on just 15 attempts, a percentage of .733. 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 finishing 8-10 FG, 5-6 3PT and 5-5 FT for 26 points. Ratay was 2-3 vs. Georgia, 3-3 vs. Fordham, 2-4 vs. North Carolina and 1-1 vs. Villanova.

    SIEMON STARS IN MADISON
    Senior Kelley Siemon sparked the Irish with 21 points vs. Wisconsin -- including 15 in the second half. She continued her strong play with a double-double in the championship game vs. Georgia (13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds). Siemon had her fourth consecutive double-figure scoring vs. Fordham with 14 points

    POLL POSITION
    The week of Dec. 3 began with the University of Notre Dame as the only Division I-A institution ranked among the top 10 teams in Associated Press standings in the sports of football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Notre Dame stood 10th in the final regular-season football poll (9-2 record), the first time since 1995 the Irish have finished the regular season ranked in the top 10. The Irish men's basketball also broke into the top 10 that week for the first time since 1986. The Irish women's basketball team had its highest-ever ranking at fourth in the AP. It marked the first time in Irish athletic history all three of those Notre Dame teams have been ranked in the top 10 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.

    COACHES VS. CANCER RECAP
    Seniors Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey both scored a game-high 19 points and were named to the all-tournament team to the Irish to a 75-73 win over sixth-ranked Georgia in the championship game of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge on Nov. 24. The Bulldogs erased an early 11-point deficit before taking their first lead four minutes into the second half. Georgia built a six point with 9:29 before Ivey ignited a 11-0 run in a span of 2:21 for a 68-65 Irish lead. The Bulldogs scored six straight to lead 71-70 before Alicia Ratay gave Notre Dame a 72-70 lead. After a pair of Ivey free throws and a Georgia basket, Kelley Siemon made one of two free throws for the 75-73 final after the Bulldogs missed a desperation three pointer as time expired.

    In the first game of the event vs. host Wisconsin, Ratay and Riley both were held to single-digit scoring in the same game for the first time, and Ivey and Siemon poured in a combined 43 points. Junior Ericka Haney added 14 points to lead fifth-ranked Notre Dame to an 83-56 win. 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.

    IRISH IN BIG EAST OPENERS
    Following the win over Villanova, the Irish have a 4-2 record in BIG EAST season-opening games in their sixth season in the conference, including a 4-2 mark in conference home openers. Connecticut defeated the Irish their conference home openers in 1997 and 1998, while a loss at Rutgers in 1997 marked the only time Notre Dame began BIG EAST play on the road.

    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.

    Alicia Ratay's six three pointers vs. Valparaiso in the season opener is tied for the most by a BIG EAST player in a single game this season. Ratay also has the two best three-point shooting games by a BIG EAST player with her 5-6 (.833) vs. Arizona and 6-9 (.667) vs. Valparaiso. Meaghan Leahy's 12 free throws vs. Fordham are the most in the league, while her 14 attempts are tied for second most. Niele Ivey's six steals vs. North Carolina are tied for second most in a single game. Amanda Barksdale's six blocks vs. Fordham are the most, while Ruth Riley's five vs. Valpariaso are second.

    As a team, the Irish also shot 62.3 percent (38-61) vs. Arizona for the best shooting game of the season by a BIG EAST team. Their 38 field goals in that game are tied for the most of the season. The 11 three-point shots made vs. Valparaiso and the 27 free throws made vs. Wisconsin both are second most. Notre Dame's 31 assists vs. Arizona are the most in a single game by a BIG EAST team, while its 10 blocks vs. both Arizona and Fordham are the top two games.

    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.

    EVERYBODY'S ALL-AMERICAN
    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 WomenFirst Team
    Women's Basketball JournalFirst Team
    Lindy's All-AmericanFirst Team
    Athlon SportsSecond Team
    ESPN MagazinePreseason "PTPer"
    Street & SmithHigh Honorable Mention
    Beth Mowins, ESPN.comAmong 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.

    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 2,600 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.

    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.

    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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