February 17, 1999
By JR ROSS
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Muffet McGraw was looking for a little spark after Notre Dame’s 11-game winning streak was snapped over the weekend.
So Sheila McMillen lit up the sky.
McMillen scored 20 points and broke the school single-season record for 3-pointers as the No. 9 Irish beat Syracuse 82-60 Wednesday night to clinch a first-round bye in the Big East tournament.
“I never even really thought about it,” McMillen said, deflecting praise to her teammates. “I wasn’t shooting for it at the beginning of the season, even going into this game.”
Still, her shooting from the outside – 6-for-14 from 3-point range – helped compensate for the absence of second-leading scorer Danielle Green, out with a sprained shoulder. With Syracuse (10-14, 6-10 Big East) in a zone much of the game, McMillen was able to light them up from the outside.
“We were aware of her. We didn’t do a good job of covering her,” said Syracuse coach Marianna Freeman.
McMillen topped Beth Morgan’s record of 71 3s in a season on her third trey of the game. She trails Morgan’s career record of 231 3-pointers by five. More importantly, she held together the Irish offense, which played well only in spurts without Green.
Even so, Syracuse’s own mediocrity prevented the Orangewomen from making a serious run at the Irish.
The Orangewomen hit their first shot of the game, a 3-pointer by Jaime James, and then missed their next 17. At one point, they were 1-of-18 from the floor but 6-for-6 from the free throw line. The second field goal didn’t come until 12:38 into the half.
“I was pleased with our defense. We gave up a few offensive rebounds early, but I think we tightened up,” said McGraw, whose team outrebounded Syracuse 47-38. “We had a little bit of trouble in the back of the zone. We really miss Danielle Green.”
Notre Dame opened the game on an 18-3 run, thanks in part to Syracuse’s shooting problems. Beth Record cut the Irish lead to 32-19 with 4:26 left in the first half, but the Irish closed the period on a 14-4 run and were never threatened as they led by as many as 28 in the second half.
Niele Ivey scored 17 and had nine assists for the Irish, while Ruth Riley added 16.
Syracuse, which shot 32 percent from the floor for the game, was led by Leigh Aziz’s 16 points. James added 13, and Paula Moore had 12.
“We sent four players to the boards, leaving one back,” Freeman said. “They did a good job of turning the ball over and beating us back.”
The win puts the Irish back on track after losing to Rutgers 77-57 on Saturday. More importantly, the Irish are now assured a first-round bye going into next week’s Big East tournament and trail only Rutgers and Connecticut in the conference standings.
“Normally at this time, the team can beat itself,” McGraw said. “It won’t happen again going into the tournament.”