Dec. 29, 2000
The Date and Time:Sunday,Dec.31,2000,at 1:00 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),Rice (www.riceowls.com).
The third-ranked Notre Dame women's basketball team returns home for its final non-conference game of the regular season as the Irish welcome Rice to the Joyce Center for the first-ever meeting between the teams.The Irish are looking for the second unbeaten record vs.their non-conference regular-sea- son opponents in the last three years after an 8-0 mark vs.non-BIG EAST teams during the 1998-99 regular season.
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 11-0.Notre Dame defeated host USC 70-61 in its last outing on Thursday, Dec.28 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
All five of Notre Dame's starters average double-figure scoring,while the Irish have outscored their 11 opponents by an average of 16 points in the first half. Notre Dame is led by three of the best players in the country at their respective positions.Sophomore shoot- ing guard Alicia Ratay (15.7)leads the team in scor- ing,leads the nation three-point shooting (30-43,.698) and scored a game-high 21 points vs.Western Michi- gan --finishing the game with nine consecutive made field goals.All-America candidate and fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey (13.6)leads the BIG EAST in steals (3.73/game)and is second in assists (7.27/game). Senior All-America center Ruth Riley (15.1)is third in the nation in blocks (2.73/game)and the only player in the NCAA statistical rankings for blocks and field-goal percentage (15th at 61.0 entering last week,currently 61.8).
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 Ericka Haney.Siemon (10.5,16 points vs.Western Michigan)leads the Irish in rebounding (7.2)and is tied for fifth in the BIG EAST in rebounding.Haney (11.2)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 Rice game with an 11-0 record - -their first 11-0 start in the history of the program after surpassing the previous best start of 6-0 from 1998- 99 team.The 11-game winning streak currently stands tied for third longest in the country.
Notre Dame has won its first 11 games by an average of 22.9 points and has shot better than 50 percent from the field in five of 11 games,better than 46 percent in 10 of 11 games and better than 40 percent in all 11 games.The Irish defense has held its opponents to under 40.0 in nine of 11 games --including seven games under 35.0 percent.The hot shooting of Ratay ,strong point guard play of Ivey (80 assists,41 steals)and dominating defensive presence and shooting touch Riley (30 blocks,63-102 FG,.61.8)have led the Irish to big early leads. Forwards Siemon and Haney have given the Irish timely contributions.Notre Dame was 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 299-115 (.722)record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 386-156 (.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.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REVIEW
Senior All-America center Ruth Riley scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Irish to their 11th win in as many games this season with a 70-61 victory over Southern California.The Irish saw their 12- point halftime lead trimmed to three points with 13:59 remaining before rattling off 17 of the next 19 points to build a 61-43 lead just 4:26 later.Notre Dame then held off a deliberate attempted rally by the Trojans with Riley and seniors Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon having fouled out of the game.The teams each committed 27 personal fouls,while the Irish had 23 turnovers to 21 for USC.Notre Dame made 25 of 37 free throws --including nine of 11 for Riley --while the Trojans hit just 17 of 33.
28 AND COUNTING
Notre Dame extended its home winning streak to a school-record 28 straight wins with its victory over Western Michigan on Dec.18.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.
Notre Dame has raced through its first 11 games,beating opponents from six major conferences.The Irish have posted wins vs.the ACC (North Carolina),Atlantic 10 (Fordham),Big 10 (Purdue,Wiscon- sin),Conference USA (Marquette),Pacific-10 (Arizona,USC)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 44-9 (.830)overall record vs.non-conference teams in the last four-plus seasons and a 35-5 (.875)record in the regular season.Notre Dame also has a four-year old,20-game non-confer- ence 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 ONE WIN FROM 300TH AT NOTRE DAME
Muffet McGraw --in her 14th season at Notre Dame with a 299-115 (.722)--enters tonight's game just one win short of her 300th victory as head coach of the Irish.Her 299 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 14 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 Rice game with 295 steals in her career,just 12 from the record 307 steals by Washington from 1989-93.Ivey (560)recently moved ahead of Washington (554)for fourth place on the Irish career assist list.