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    No. 3 Women's Basketball Travels West, Battles USC

    FIGHTING IRISH Ruth Riley scored 14 points against the Trojans in last year's 74-59 win at Joyce Center.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Ruth Riley scored 14 points against the Trojans in last year's 74-59 win at Joyce Center.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 27, 2000

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    (#3 AP/#3 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0)
    vs.
    Southern California Women of Troy (5-4)


    The Date and Time: Thursday, Dec. 28, 2000, at 7:00 p.m. PST.

    The Site: Los Angeles Sports Arena (15,509) in Los Angeles, Calif.

    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), Southern California (www.usctrojans.com).

    TONIGHT'S GAME
    The third-ranked Notre Dame women's basketball team returns to action following a four-day break for Christmas as the Irish make their first-ever trip to the Los Angeles Sports Arena to take on Southern California tonight at 7:00 p.m. PST. The Irish enter the game with their highest-ever ranking at third for the third consecutive week and are off to their best start ever at 10-0. Notre Dame defeated host Marquette 75-56 in its last outing on Thursday, Dec. 21 at U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee.

    Tonight's game marks the third meeting between the teams with both teams owning a win in the series. USC won the first game 69-53 on Jan, 2, 1985, in a game played at Cal State Fullerton. That game stood as the only meeting between the teams for nearly 15 years until the Irish won 74-59 at the Joyce Center on Dec. 27, 1999.

    All five of Notre Dame's starters average double-figure scoring, while the Irish have outscored their 10 opponents by an average of nearly 17 points in the first half. Notre Dame is led by three of the best players in the country at their respective positions. Sophomore shooting guard Alicia Ratay (16.1) leads the team in scoring, leads the nation three-point shooting (29-42, .690) and scored a game-high 21 points vs. Western Michigan -- finishing the game with nine consecutive made field goals. All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (14.3) leads the BIG EAST in assists (7.60/game) and steals (3.60/game) and is one of only two point guards in the county ranked in the top 15 in both assists and steals. Senior All-America center Ruth Riley (14.3) is third in the nation in blocks (2.90/game) and the only player in the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks and field-goal percentage (15th at 61.0 entering last week, currently 60.2).

    A large part of Notre Dame's fast start this season also is due to the play of its other two starters, senior Kelley Siemon and junior Erika Haney. Siemon (11.0, 16 points vs. Western Michigan) leads the Irish in rebounding (7.0) and is sixth in the BIG EAST in rebounding. Haney (11.1) had a career-high 21 points in the win over Marquette, making her first 10 field goals before finishing 10-12.

    The Irish enter the USC game with a 10-0 record -- their first 10-0 start in the history of the program after surpassing the previous best start of 6-0 from 1998-99 team. The 10-game winning streak currently stands tied for third longest in the country.

    Notre Dame has won its first 10 games by an average of 24.3 points and has shot better than 50 percent from the field in four of 10 games, better than 46 percent in nine of 10 games and better than 40 percent in all 10 games. The Irish defense has held its opponents to under 40.0 in eight of 10 games -- including six games under 35.0 percent. The hot shooting of Ratay, strong point guard play of Ivey (76 assists, 36 steals) and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch Riley (29 blocks, 56-93 FG, .60.2) have led the Irish to big early leads. Forwards Siemon and Haney have given the Irish timely contributions. Notre Dame is one of only two teams (Auburn) ranked among the NCAA leaders in both field-goal percentage (fifth at 50.9) and field-goal percentage defense (12th at 34.2) according to last week's NCAA statistics.

    Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 298-115 (.722) record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 385-156 (.712) 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.

    MARQUETTE REVIEW
    Junior Ericka Haney scored a career-high and game-high 21 points on 10-12 shooting and senior All-America center Ruth Riley had her second double-double of the season (18 points, 10 rebounds) to lead third-ranked Notre Dame to a 75-56 win at Marquette. The Irish jumped out to leads of 9-0 and 19-2 before the Golden Eagles pulled within 10 points in the first half. The Irish scored 18 points in the final six minutes of the first half to take a 47-32 halftime lead and used a 23-11 advantage to build a 30-point lead with 7:36 remaining in the game. Senior forward Kelley Siemon missed the first game of her career (sprained knee) after playing in all previous of the 104 games since her arrival at Notre Dame in 1997. All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey chipped in 18 points (4-5 3P FG) and had six assists. Notre Dame finished 28-59 (47.5) from the field, while the Irish defense held Marquette to just 31.7 percent and held the Golden Eagle starters to 3-21 (14.3).

    NOTRE DAME-SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SERIES
    While the Irish and Trojans have a long and storied rivalry in football, the teams have met just twice previously in women's basketball and just once in the last 14 years. USC won the first game on Jan. 2, 1985 in Fullerton, Calif. The teams would not meet again for nearly 15 years until the Irish won 74-59 at the Joyce Center on Dec. 27, 1999. Alicia Ratay led all scorers in that game with 19 points.

    Notre Dame enters tonight's game looking for its sixth consecutive victory versus a Pacific-10 team. Since losing to UCLA in their first NCAA tournament game in 1992, the Irish have posted wins over Washington (80-67 in '95), UCLA (93-91 in double overtime in 1997 and 99-82 in 1998), USC (74-59 last year) and Arizona (95-65 on Nov. 20, 2000).

    28 AND COUNTING
    Notre Dame extended its home winning streak to a school-record 28 straight wins with its victory over Western Michigan. The streak currently is the fourth longest active streak in the country, behind Grambling (66), Kent (35) and Texas Tech (34). The Irish have not lost at home in over two years since a loss to top-ranked UConn on Dec. 8, 1998.

    CONFERENCE CALL
    Notre Dame has raced through its first 10 games, beating opponents from six major conferences. The Irish have posted wins vs. the ACC (North Carolina), Atlantic 10 (Fordham), Big 10 (Purdue, Wisconsin), Conference USA (Marquette), Pacific-10 (Arizona) and SEC (Georgia). Notre Dame has non-conference games remaining vs. USC (Pacific-10) and Rice (Western Athletic). The Irish are looking for the second unbeaten record vs. their non-conference regular-season opponents in the last three years after an 8-0 mark vs. non-BIG EAST teams during the 1998-99 regular season.

    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 43-9 (.827) overall record vs. non-conference teams in the last four-plus seasons and a 34-5 (.872) record in the regular season. Notre Dame also has a four-year old, 20-game non-conference winning streak at the Joyce Center -- 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.

    McGRAW APPROACHES 300TH WIN AT NOTRE DAME
    Muffet McGraw -- in her 14th season at Notre Dame with a 298-115 (.722) -- enters tonight's game just two short of her 300th victory as head coach of the Irish. Her 298 wins at Notre Dame equal nearly 65 percent of the total wins in the 23-plus seasons of varsity Irish women's basketball. McGraw also needs just 15 victories to reach the 400-win plateau in her 19-plus seasons as a head coach -- and to become the fourth BIG EAST coach and the third this season to reach 400 victories.

    IVEY NEARS STEALS RECORD, CLIMBS ASSIST LEADERS
    Fifth-year point guard and All-America candidate Niele Ivey has herself ready to break current Irish assistant coach Coquese Washington's school record for career steals. Ivey enters the USC game with 290 steals in her career, just 17 from the record 307 steals by Washington from 1989-93. Ivey (556) also moved ahead of Washington (554) for fourth place on the Irish career assist list.

    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 (56-93 FG, .60.2 percentage fourth in BIG EAST, 15th in NCAA), Riley leads the BIG EAST and is third in the country with 29 blocked shots (2.90/game), while committing just 20 personal fouls (2.00/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 12-plus minutes of action.

    SEEING DOUBLE
    Senior All-America center Ruth Riley (18 points, 10 rebounds) recorded her second double-double of the season vs. Marquette. Notre Dame has totalled eight double-doubles in 10 games by five different players. Other double-double performance for the Irish this season include Riley vs. Villanova, Niele Ivey (vs. Valparaiso, Arizona and Villanova), Ericka Haney (vs. North Carolina), Kelley Siemon (vs. Georgia) and Meaghan Leahy (vs. Fordham).

    DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR DOUBLE "3"
    Fifth-year point guard and All-America candidate 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. 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. Ivey has had four double-figure assist outings in Notre Dame's nine games.

    RATAY TOPS NCAA THREE-POINT SHOOTERS
    Sophomore Alicia Ratay has established herself as the best three-point shooter in the country with her 69.0 three-point shooting percentage -- the highest percentage in the country for the second consecutive week. She has connected on 29 of her 42 attempts and her 29 three-point field goals this season are just five fewer than the 34 Notre Dame's opponents have made. Her 69.0 percentage is higher than Irish opponents are hitting from the free-throw line (61.7), from the field (34.0) and from three-point range (23.6). 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, 5-8 vs. Purdue, 3-3 vs. Western Michigan and 2-3 vs. Marquette.

    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.

    IRISH VS. UNRANKED OPPONENTS
    In addition to its success vs. top-10 teams, Notre Dame has won 46 consecutive games vs. unranked opponents, including a 24-0 mark last year. The last unranked team to defeat the Irish was Boston College on Dec. 30, 1998 (Notre Dame beat a ranked Eagle team later in the season).

    SIEMON STARTS STRONG
    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. She also had 10 rebounds to go along with seven points vs. Purdue and 16 points against Western Michigan before sitting out the Marquette game with a knee injury. She currently is averaging 11.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

    HANEY HELPING OUT
    While Notre Dame has been led by its three All-America caliber players in Ruth Riley, Niele Ivey and Alicia Ratay, junior forward Ericka Haney has proven to play a large role in Notre Dame's successful start to the season. Among the team's most athletic and best defensive players, she enters tonight's game averaging 11.1 points -- markedly higher than her 6.8 average as a sophomore and 6.0 as a freshman. With Notre Dame's other starting forward Kelley Siemon out of the Marquette game lineup with an injury, Haney turned in the best offensive performance of her career. She made her first 10 field goals before missing her final two and made one of two free throws to finish with a career-high and game-high 21 points. Other strong offensive performances for Haney this season include 16 vs. sixth-ranked Purdue and a double-double vs. North Carolina (14 points, 13 rebounds). She has scored in double figures in six of the last eight games.

    NCAA AND BIG EAST LEADERS
    Here's where Irish players and the team stand in the latest NCAA national statistics (as of Dec. 19) and BIG EAST statistics in BIG EAST games and all games (as of Dec. 22).

    Team RankingsNCAAConference GamesAll Games
    Scoring Offense2nd at 78.6
    Scoring Defense8th at 54.12nd at 54.3
    Scoring Margin7th at +24.92nd at +24.3
    Free Throw Percentage8th at .668
    Field Goal Percentage5th at 50.92nd at .506
    Field Goal Percentage Defense12th at 34.21st at .340
    Three-Point FG Percentage1st at 56.41st at .578
    Three-Point FG Defensenot kept3rd at .236
    Rebounding7th at 39.1
    Rebounding Defensenot kept6th at 35.1
    Rebounding Margin4th at +4.0
    Blocked Shotsnot kept1st at 6.50
    Assistsnot kept2nd at 19.60
    Stealsnot kept4th at 11.20
    Turnover Marginnot kept5th at +3.10
    Assist/Turnover Rationot kept3rd at 1.14
    Won-Lost PercentageT1st at 1.000

    Alicia Ratay's six three pointers vs. Valparaiso in the season opener are tied for the most by a BIG EAST player in a single game this season. Ratay also has the best three-point shooting game by a BIG EAST player with her 5-6 (.833) vs. Arizona. Meaghan Leahy's 12 free throws vs. Fordham are tied for the most in the league, while her 14 attempts are tied for third most. Ericka Haney's 10 field goals vs. Marquette are tied for second most. Niele Ivey's six steals vs. both North Carolina and Villanova 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 and Barksdale's five vs. Western Michigan all are tied for 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. The Irish shot .750 (6-8) from three-point range for the best three-point shooting percentage in a game. Notre Dame's 31 assists vs. Arizona are the most in a single game by a BIG EAST team, while its nine blocks vs. both Arizona and Fordham are second best.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

     

     

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