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Former Irish All-American Ruth Riley Named WNBA Finals MVP As Detroit Wins First League Title

Sept. 16, 2003

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Ruth Riley, who led Notre Dame to its first NCAA women’s basketball championship in 2001, added some more hardware to her ever-growing trophy case on Tuesday night, scoring a career-high 27 points to help lift the Detroit Shock to an 83-78 win over the Los Angeles Sparks in the deciding Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Riley was named the WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player after averaging 14 points and five rebounds per game during the league’s Championship Series.

With her MVP award, Riley becomes the first women’s basketball player and the first Notre Dame student-athlete in any sport ever to win Finals MVP honors in both the college and professional ranks. The Macy, Ind., product scored a game-high 28 points and hit the two game-winning free throws with 5.8 seconds left to help Notre Dame defeat Purdue, 68-66 in the 2001 NCAA championship game.

In addition, Riley becomes one of only eight players in women’s basketball history to win both a WNBA and NCAA championship. One of the other players in this elite club is current Irish assistant coach (and former Notre Dame point guard) Coquese Washington, who is the only person ever to hold WNBA and NCAA titles simultaneously. The Flint, Mich., native won the 2001 NCAA crown as an assistant at Notre Dame eight months after claiming the WNBA championship as a member of the Houston Comets. The others in that group are: Swin Cash (Connecticut ’00, 02; Detroit ’03), Cynthia Cooper (USC ’83-’84; Houston ’97-’00), Sonja Henning (Stanford ’90; Houston ’99), Pam McGee (USC ’83-’84; Detroit ’03 – assistant), Jennifer Rizzoti (Connecticut ’95; Houston ’00) and Sheryl Swoopes (Texas Tech ’93; Houston ’97-’00).

For more information on Riley’s WNBA Finals performance, visit the WNBA web site at

Detroit Shock players from left, Ruth Riley, Cheryl Ford, Swin Cash and guard Deanna Nolan celebrate their 83-78 win over the Los Angeles Sparks in game 3 of the WNBA Finals in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2003.