Dec. 9, 2000
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Head Coach Muffet McGraw | Guard Niele Ivey | Center Ruth Riley
By TOM COYNE
Associated Press Writer
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – No. 4 Notre Dame smartened up quickly against Purdue.
After mental mistakes by Notre Dame (8-0) allowed Purdue to cut an eight-point lead to one in a span of just 1:44 at the end of the first half, the Irish made sure they didn’t make the same mistakes at the end of the second half.
Instead, the Irish played intelligently while the Boilermakers (8-2) made the mental errors.
The Irish turned a missed free throw by the Boilermakers into a quick fast-break basket by Ericka Haney, who scored 16, and hit 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch to clinch a 72-61 victory for only their third victory in 12 tries against the Boilermakers.
“That’s certainly not the best game we’ve played, but it may be the smartest at the end of the game,” said Ruth Riley, who had 15 points and seven rebounds.
What made it more surprising was that the Irish were able to do it with floor leader Niele Ivey sitting on the bench because of leg cramps.
“It’s great to have a game like this where you have that opportunity to face adversity and see how your team responds,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “When Niele went out there was no letdown on the floor.”
The Boilermakers had three straight possessions in the final five minutes where they missed a shot and failed to rebound. Riley then blocked shots on two of the next three possessions.
“I thought we took too many quick shots,” Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. “We were forcing things at the end. The last four minutes we just did a poor job of execution. We never really did anything we wanted to do.”
With No. 3 Duke losing to Clemson 93-75, the Irish are on the verge of their highest ranking.
“It really wasn’t anything we’re looking at because we’re happy to be where we are right now,” McGraw said.
The Irish also extended their home non-conference winning streak to 19. The Irish, who had never started the season with eight straight wins, last lost at home to a non-conference team against No. 19 Wisconsin on Dec. 9, 1996. They also have won six straight against top-10, non-conference opponents.
The crowd of 7,330 was the third largest for a Notre Dame women’s home game.
The 61 points were a season low for Purdue, which had scored 80 or more points in five games this season. The Boilermakers were hurt by poor free-throw shooting, making just 9-of-19. The Irish made 11-of-18.
Alicia Ratay scored 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers late in the second half to spark a decisive 14-5 run. With the Irish leading 58-56, Ratay hit a 3-pointer with 6:35 left. She missed her next 3-point attempt, but the Irish got the rebound and Ratay immediately hit another 3 to give Notre Dame a 64-57 lead.
“I’m sure they were keying on her,” McGraw said. “She got a lot of shots off broken plays. They were definitely guarding her, but she did a good job of using some screens.”
Kelley Siemon had 10 rebounds as the Irish had a 34-31 rebounding advantage.
Douglas led Purdue with 20 points, although she had eight turnovers. Camille Cooper had 11 points and eight rebounds, before fouling out with all five fouls coming in the second half.
“We came out strong in the second half and scored a couple of quick baskets, then we went away from what we were doing,” Douglas said. “They made it really difficult to get it inside.”
McGraw said the victory was big for the Irish.
“This one was kind of nice for recruiting,” she said. “We want to be the best team in Indiana.”