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No. 5 Notre Dame Survives Pittsburgh, 81-74

Feb. 9, 2000

Postgame Audio

  • Coach McGraw

Box Score

Associated Press Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – After the Irish beat Boston College last weekend, Muffett McGraw figured it was a perfect time to give the team a couple extra days off.

She promises that’s the last time she makes that mistake.

Notre Dame survived an inconsistent performance thanks to 20 points from Alicia Ratay and 19 from Ruth Riley to beat Pittsburgh 81-74 on Wednesday, extending its school-record winning streak to 16.

“I can’t wait to get to practice tomorrow,” McGraw said. “I think we’ve got a lot of great ideas on how we can fix what happened tonight.

“I have a feeling that tomorrow’s practice will be more eye-opening than today’s game.”

The Irish (20-2, 11-0 Big East) had problems from the start, missing 13 of their first 18 shots, although still managing a double-digit first-half lead.

The Panthers (13-9, 4-7) cut it to 35-34 early in the second half and began to hang with Notre Dame before the Irish finally seemed to wake up.

An 18-7 run – including eight points from Riley – built Notre Dame’s lead to 13, Ratay’s 3-pointer with 10:53 left increasing the lead to 59-46. A 14-3 run – including Danielle Green’s 1,000 career point – over six minutes put the Irish up 73-51 with 4:18 left, the biggest lead of the game, and things seemed in hand.

With most of the starters on the bench, the Irish fell to pieces as Pittsburgh closed the gap to 77-71 before missing several frantic shots over the final 45 seconds.

“When it looked like the lights were out and nobody was home, they came back and played really, really hard,” Pittsburgh coach Traci Waites said.

Although Riley, Julie Henderson and Kelly Siemon are taller than Pittsburgh’s tallest player, the Irish continually had problems lobbing the ball inside, contributing to their 27 turnovers. Mandy Wittenmeyer, three inches shorter but quicker than the 6-foot-5 Riley, contested almost every Irish pass inside.

The Irish also repeatedly missed layups and putbacks in the first half, when they were 6-of-20 from inside 12 feet.

“We didn’t respond to that well,” Riley said. “A lot of people gave up looking for their shot after missing a few, and that hurt us offensively.”

The Irish made up for ballhandling problems by shooting 18-of-26 in the second half and were 6-of-11 from 3-point range for the game.

“We had a second person helping out,” Waites said. “All we try to do is just make it difficult for her (Riley) to catch it and score. We knew she was going to get her points.”

The Irish looked night-and-day different from the team that beat then-No. 18 Boston College by 13 points on Saturday, their first game against a ranked opponent in almost two months.

Even defense left the Irish down, allowing more than 65 points for the first time since a 71-61 loss to Purdue on Dec. 8.

Wittenmeyer and Brooke Stewart led the Panthers with 15 points apiece.

“We had a lot of problems,” McGraw said. “It’s hard to pinpoint what they were, but definitely the mental part, the lack of focus, the lack of intensity, the lack of pride and the lack of any basketball knowledge whatsoever were all key factors.

“I think we’ll just bring our track shoes tomorrow and get the kinks out that way.”