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    No. 3 Women's Basketball Gears Up For Western Michigan

    FIGHTING IRISH National player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley has been at her dominating best this season, both offensively and defensively.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    National player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley has been at her dominating best this season, both offensively and defensively.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 16, 2000

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    (#3 AP/#3 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-0)
    vs.
    Western Michigan Broncos (1-4)

    The Date and Time: Monday, Dec. 18, 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), Western Michigan (www.wmubroncos.com).

    TODAY'S GAME
    The third-ranked Notre Dame women's basketball team returns to action following a nine-day break for final examinations with its third of three straight home games tonight at the Joyce Center vs. Western Michigan. The Irish enter the game with their highest-ever ranking at third for the second consecutive week and are off to their best start ever at 8-0. Notre Dame defeated sixth-ranked Purdue 72-61 in its las outing on Saturday, Dec. 9, in front of 7,330 fans at the Joyce Center.

    Tonight's game marks the sixth meeting between the teams but the first since 1987. The Irish have won all five previous meetings. Tonight's game marks a homecoming for Bronco assistant coach Sheila McMillen, who played for the Irish from 1995-99 and graduated sixth on the career scoring list with 1,439 points (now seventh behind Ruth Riley).

    All five of Notre Dame's starters average double-figure scoring, while the Irish have outscored their eight opponents by an average of 17 points in the first half. Among the best players in the country at their three respective positions, sophomore shooting guard Alicia Ratay (16.3) leads the team in scoring and leads the nation three-point shooting (24-36, .667), fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (14.6) leads the BIG EAST in assists (7.50/game) and steals (4.00/game) and is one of only two point guards in the county ranked in the top 10 in both assists and steals and senior All-America center Ruth Riley (13.8) is third in the nation in blocks (3.00/game) and the only player in the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks and field-goal percentage (24th at 60.6). Senior Kelley Siemon (10.9) had a double-double in the win over sixth-ranked Georgia (13 pts., 11 rebounds), while junior Erika Haney (10.0) poured in a season-high 16 points in the win over sixth-ranked Purdue.

    The Irish enter the Western Michigan game with an 8-0 record -- their first 8-0 start in the history of the program after surpassing the previous best start at 6-0 from 1998-99 team. Notre Dame also brings a school-record 27-game home winning streak into the game -- the fourth-longest active streak in the country. The eight-game winning streak currently stands tied for third longest in the country.

    Notre Dame has won its first eight games by an average of 24.3 points and has shot better than 50.0 percent from the field in three of eight games. The Irish defense has held its opponents to under 40.0 in six of eight games -- including four games under 35.0 percent. The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (60 assists, 32 steals) and dominating presence and shooting touch of All-America center Ruth Riley (24 blocks, 43-71 FG, .606) have led the Irish to big early leads. Forwards Siemon (33-65 FG) and Haney (double-double vs. North Carolina with 14 points and 13 rebounds) have given the Irish timely contributions. Notre Dame is one of only three teams (Auburn and North Texas) ranked among the NCAA leaders in both field-goal percentage (sixth at 50.4) and field-goal percentage defense (14th at 34.8).

    Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 296-115 (.720) record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 383-156 (.711) 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.

    WELCOME BACK SHE MAC
    Notre Dame welcomes former Irish all-BIG EAST guard Sheila McMillen back to the Joyce Center for tonight's game. Since graduating from Notre Dame in 1999, McMillen has served as an assistant coach Western Michigan. The native of Rochester, Ind., played in a school-record 131 games during her career and scored 1,439 points, currently seventh best on the Irish career scoring list. She also holds school records for three-point field goals made (249) and attempted (650).

    PURDUE REVIEW
    Sophomore Alicia Ratay nailed two of her five three pointers in the final seven minutes of the game to help the Irish pull away from sixth-ranked Purdue 72-61. Her fourth three-point FG of the game gave Notre Dame a five point lead at 6:32 and her fifth and final at 3:59 put the Irish ahead by eight at 64-56. She finished with a team-high 19 points. Junior Erika Haney had 16 points and senior All-America center Ruth Riley added 15 points. The Irish led by as many as 10 points in the first half and had an eight-point with one minute before halftime, but Purdue scored seven points in the final 57 seconds to pull within 34-33 at halftime. The Boilermakers took a five-point lead just 2:35 into the second half before Notre Dame went on a 20-9 run to take a 56-50 lead it would never relinquish at 8:53. The Irish held the Boilers to their lowest point total of the season and had 13 steals and eight blocked shots. The win marked the sixth straight for Notre Dame over a non-conference top-10 opponent. The crowd of 7,330 fans at the Joyce Center marked the third largest in Irish women's basketball history.

    NOTRE DAME-WESTERN MICHIGAN SERIES
    The Irish and Broncos meet for the sixth time tonight with Notre Dame having won all five previous meetings by an average of 18.6 points. The teams met five straight seasons from 1982-87 but have not played since Feb. 3, 1987 -- the final season for the Irish under seven-year head coach Mary DiStanislao before Muffet Graw's arrival.

    NON-CONFERENCE SUCCESS
    Life outside of the BIG EAST Conference has been good to Notre Dame over the past four years. The Irish bring a four-year old, 19-game non-conference Joyce Center winning into tonight's game -- a streak that includes wins over Purdue in 1997 and 2000 and a pair of sixth-ranked teams (UCLA and Duke) and 25th-ranked Illinois in 1998-99. Notre Dame's last non-conference loss at the Joyce Center came over four years ago when 19th-ranked Wisconsin beat the Irish on Dec. 9, 1996. The Irish also have a 41-9 (.820) overall record vs. non-conference teams in the last four-plus seasons and a 32-5 record in the regular season (.865).

    IRISH VS. TOP 10
    Following the victory over sixth-ranked Purdue, the Irish have won six straight games vs. top-10 non-conference opponents (#6 Purdue on Dec. 9, #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 nine of their last 11 (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 7-5 record vs. all top 10 teams (including 5-0 vs. non-conference opponents) since the start of the 1998-99 season.

    27 AND COUNTING
    Notre Dame extended its home winning streak to a school-record 27 straight wins with its victory over Purdue. The streak currently is the fourth longest active streak in the country, behind Grambling (66), Kent (34) and Texas Tech (33).

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

    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 vs. Villanova. Notre Dame has totalled seven double-doubles in eight games by five different players. Other double-double performance for the Irish this season include Ericka Haney's vs. North Carolina, Ivey (vs. Valparaiso 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 eight games. She had a pair of double-doubles in the first two games of the 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.

    THE RILEY REPORT
    National player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley has been at her dominating best this season -- making her presence felt on both ends of the court as the only player ranked among the NCAA leaders in both field-goal percentage and blocked shots. In addition to her offensive efficiency (43-71 FG, .606 percentage third in BIG EAST, 24th in NCAA), Riley leads the BIG EAST and is third in the country with 24 blocked shots (3.00/game), while committing just 15 personal fouls (1.89/game). The two-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year is averaging one block shot every eight-plus minutes she plays and just one foul every 13-plus minutes of action.

    RATAY TOPS NCAA THREE-POINT SHOOTERS
    Sophomore Alicia Ratay has established herself as the best three-point shooter in the country with her 66.7 three-point shooting percentage -- the highest percentage in the country. She has connected on 24 of her 36 attempts and her 24 three-point field goals this season are just three fewer than the 27 Notre Dame's opponents have made. Her 66.7 percentage is higher than Irish opponents are hitting from the free-throw line (.596), from the field (.348) and from three-point range (.243). 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, 1-1 vs. Villanova and 5-8 vs. Purdue.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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 before moving up to third following the win over Purdue. 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.

    NCAA AND BIG EAST LEADERS
    Here's where Irish players and the team stand in the latest NCAA national statistics (as of Dec. 13) and BIG EAST statistics in BIG EAST games and all games (as of Dec. 15).

    Team RankingsNCAA
    Conference
    Games
    All Games
    Scoring Offense2nd at 78.4
    Scoring Defense13th at 54.12nd at 54.1
    Scoring Margin10th at +24.32nd at +24.2
    Free Throw Percentage8th at .661
    Field Goal Percentage6th at 50.42nd at .504
    Field Goal Percentage Defense14th at 34.81st at .348
    Three-Point FG Percentage1st at 56.81st at .568
    Three-Point FG Defense3rd at .243
    Rebounding8th at 38.6
    Rebounding Defensenot kept5th at 34.6
    Rebounding Margin5th at +4.0
    Blocked Shotsnot kept1st at 6.38
    Assistsnot kept2nd at 20.00
    Stealsnot kept4th at 11.75
    Turnover Marginnot kept4th at +3.25
    Assist/Turnover Rationot kept3rd at 1.11
    Won-Lost PercentageT1st at 1.000

    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 third 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. Valparaiso and Purdue 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.

    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.

    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.

    NOTRE DAME AMONG RECENT 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:

    TEAM'96-'97'97-'98'98-'99'99-'00Total
    1.Tennessee29393130129
    2.Connecticut33342936134
    3.Louisiana Tech31313030122
    4.Old Dominion34292829120
    5.UC Santa Barbara24272630107
    6.Notre Dame31222627106

    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. Fans are encourage to purchase single-game tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line on gameday.

    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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