March 28, 2003

GAME: No. 11 Notre Dame (21-10) vs. No. 2 Purdue (28-5).
REGIONAL: East, semifinal.
TIME: Sunday, 2:30 p.m. EST.
SITE: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio.

Notre Dame has pulled off some of the biggest upsets in the NCAA tournament in recent years. Purdue doesn’t want to be on the wrong end of one a second time.

The No. 11 Irish try to continue their surprising tournament run when they face the in-state rival Boilermakers in a rematch of the 2001 national championship game.

As a No. 12 seed in 1996, the Irish upset the fifth-seeded Boilermakers 73-60 in the first round for their first NCAA tournament win. The Irish returned the next year and shocked third-seeded Texas en route the Final Four.

They had yet another upset as the No. 9 seed in 1998, knocking off top-seeded Texas Tech in a second-round matchup, and are still in this year’s tournament because they ousted two higher-seeded teams.

Notre Dame and Purdue are meeting in the tournament for the first time since the Irish edged the Boilermakers 68-66 for their lone national championship.

Though it has a 2-1 advantage in NCAA tournament games against the Boilermakers, Notre Dame is only 4-11 all-time against them, including a 71-54 home loss on Jan. 4.

The Irish have revived their season with a pair of surprising victories. They opened with a 59-47 victory over No. 6 Arizona, then stunned third-seeded Kansas State 59-53 on the Wildcats’ home floor to reach the round of 16 for the fifth time in seven years.

“It is so exciting to get to the Sweet 16,” Irish freshman Megan Duffy said. “We struggled a lot this season, but have a different mindset once the tournament started.”

Sophomore Jacqueline Batteast, Notre Dame’s leading scorer, has been limited to five points on 2-of-26 shooting in the two games. But Alicia Ratay, one of two Irish seniors, is averaging 16 points.

Shooting only 32 percent shooting in its two wins, Notre Dame has employed a matchup zone defense that has allowed 28 percent (36-for-130).

“We call it ‘The Storm’ because we put a lot of pressure on the ball and try to be real aggressive in it,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.

The Boilermakers have shot nearly 50 percent in beating Valparaiso and Virginia Tech.

Erika Valek scored 24 points against the Hokies on Tuesday and is averaging 23.5 points on 56 percent (19-for-34) in the tournament. Junior Shereka Wright, one of only two Boilermakers to play in the 2001 title game, has averaged 12 points.

Purdue, the 1999 national champion, is 20-7 against Big East opponents and would meet another one, either defending national champion Connecticut or Boston College, if it wins Sunday.

“We feel like we have a chance to get to another Final Four,” Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. “We’re two games away and anything can happen. Our will has got to be stronger than our skill and right now our team really understands that.”

PROBABLE STARTERS: Notre Dame – F Batteast, F Katy Flecky, C Teresa Borton, G Le’Tania Severe, G Ratay. Purdue – F Lindsey Hicks, F Wright, C Mary Jo Noon, G Beth Jones, G Valek.

TEAM LEADERS: Notre Dame – Batteast, 14.1 ppg and 8.2 rpg; Severe, 3.9 apg. Purdue – Wright, 18.9 ppg and 6.2 rpg; Valek, 5.0 apg.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Notre Dame – At-large bid, Big East; beat No. 6 Arizona 59-47, first round; beat No. 3 Kansas State 59-53, second round. Purdue – Automatic bid, Big Ten tournament champion; beat No. 15 Valparaiso 65-51, first round; beat No. 7 Virginia Tech 80-62, second round.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Notre Dame – 19-8, 10 years. Purdue – 29-12, 14 years.