February 28, 1999
By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) – The last time No. 10 Notre Dame played at Rutgers, they left the court to chants of “overrated,” so there is no doubt they wanted a rematch.
But if they were looking past Villanova in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference tournament, the Irish didn’t show it.
Niele Ivey scored 19 points and hit two consecutive 3-pointers to ignite an early 16-3 spurt that led Notre Dame to an 83-53 victory Sunday and the rematch it wanted.
“We took it pretty personal,” said Notre Dame center Ruth Riley, who only played 13 minutes in this blowout. “We weren’t looking past Villanova but we’re all real excited to be playing Rutgers again.
“We didn’t think we brought our game the first time,” she said of the 77-57 loss, the only one for Notre Dame in its last 16 games.
The third-seeded Irish (24-3) had their A game going against Villanova. They led by 19 points at halftime and poured it on in the second half in getting ready for Monday night’s semifinal against No. 7 Rutgers, which beat Miami 79-53.
No. 6 Connecticut (25-4) will play Georgetown (18-10) in the other semifinal.
“We used our special plays right at the beginning and missed four layups,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said after losing to the Irish for the third time this season. “We’re getting easy shots and we don’t make them. They adjusted and now we are not getting easy shots anymore.”
The Wildcats shot themselves out of the game in the first half, hitting six of 25, or 24 percent. They finished 18 of 52, or 35 percent.
Riley, the conference’s leading scorer at 16.7 points, finished with nine points. Reserve Sherisha Hills was the only other Irish player in double figures with 10, although guard Danielle Green almost had a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said beating Rutgers won’t be easy.
“Rutgers is very motivated right now,” she said. “They are playing at home which is a huge advantage. They are peaking and they have a good chance to host a first-round game, so they have a lot of things to motivate them.”
Jenea Skeeters had 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Villanova (14-14).
Ivey’s two straight 3-pointers gave Notre Dame a 15-7 lead and before the spurt was over Green added two layups and a free throw. Sheila McMillen’s 3-pointer capped the run and gave the Irish a 25-10 lead.
“I was pleased with the way we shot the ball today,” said McGraw, whose team hit 30 of 55 shots, or 55 percent. “Niele Ivey came out and really got us going early, especially when they were focusing on Ruth.”
Notre Dame’s biggest lead was 72-37 on a basket by Meaghan Leahy with 6:11 to play.