March 24, 2001
By JOHN MOSSMAN
AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) – Top-seeded Notre Dame and No. 5 Utah had barely arrived at practice Friday for the NCAA women’s Midwest Regional when the coaches disagreed on how many points might be scored.
Their game Saturday night matches two of the best defensive teams. Utah led the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 49.7 points per game, and Notre Dame was fourth. Notre Dame was first and Utah second in opponent’s field-goal percentage, both at 33.6.
“I think it’s going to be, unfortunately, a defensive game,” said Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw. “I would prefer it would be an offensive game, but I don’t think I’m going to get my wish.”
But Utah’s Elaine Elliott thinks the teams have too much balance to play a one-dimensional game.
“This game isn’t going to be in the 50s,” she said. “This is the best team we’ve faced all year, and we’re going to have to score. It’s not a game we can win with our defense. We’re going to have to play an all-around game.”
Informed of Elliott’s prediction, McGraw said, “I disagree. I think it’s going to be a pretty good defensive game. I think both teams have great attacks offensively, but I think the battle is going to be whose team is able to hold the other team down. And I think they’ve got the edge there.”
McGraw seemed genuinely in awe of Utah’s defensive statistics. She said Utah’s average point yield “has got to be an NCAA record. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team play defense as well as they do.”
Irish All-America center Ruth Riley said her team, which battled for the nation’s No. 1 ranking all season before winding up second to Connecticut, didn’t see Utah play this season but was aware of the numbers.
“You hear a lot about Utah and their defense,” said the 6-foot-5 Riley. “That’s one of the things that stands out the most, how aggressive and hard they play. It’s going to be a good matchup.”
Iowa State, the No. 2 seed, and Vanderbilt, the No. 3 seed, meet in the other semifinal Saturday night.
Notre Dame (30-2) reached the round of 16 with an 88-54 thumping of Michigan on Monday night. Utah (28-3) upset Iowa 78-69.
The regional has a lock on the nation’s best centers. First-team All-American Riley is joined by second-teamer Chantelle Anderson of Vanderbilt and third-teamer Angie Welle of Iowa State.
“I’ve heard a lot about Angie Welle,” the 6-6 Anderson said. “I know she runs the floor well and that she’s left-handed. I know she’s very talented. Besides that, I don’t know much. We’ll watch film, and I’ll definitely be ready for her by gametime.”
Iowa State guard Megan Taylor noted that Anderson averaged 21 points on 73-percent shooting this season.
“Obviously, we’re concerned about her,” Taylor said. “We’ll try to do a couple of things with her. All their guards can shoot the 3-pointer as well. They have both a good inside and outside game.”
Iowa State (27-5) has used the same starting five all season, led by Welle, who averaged 18.3 points and 10.1 rebounds. The Cyclones led the nation in 3-pointers made per game (9.1).
ISU reached the round of 16 by beating Florida State 85-70 Sunday.
Vanderbilt (23-9) knocked off Colorado 65-59 Monday as Anderson and Zuzi Klimesova combined for 42 points and 20 rebounds.