January 16, 1999
PITTSBURGH – Ruth Riley sat on the bench and watched. And watched. That’s all she could do.
The 6-foot-5 Riley played just the first four minutes in the first half, and had two quick fouls but was instrumental in the second half as ninth-ranked Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh 81-72 Saturday in the Big East.
Notre Dame (13-2, 5-2) led just 31-30 at halftime. Riley finished with 18 points, including 15 in the second half, and had eight rebounds as the Irish won their fourth consecutive game.
Riley and a strong zone defense shut down Pittsburgh center Nickeia Morris, who had 14 points and nine rebounds in the first half but just six points and one rebound after the break.
“It was just frustrating to sit there and not be able to do anything about it,” said Riley, who also blocked two shots. “I kept wishing I could go out there and give it a shot and stop her.”
Morris dominated the inside in the first half, shooting 6-of-9 from the field. She helped give Pitt its largest lead of the game, 29-23 with 5:47 to go in the first half, by scoring nine of the Panthers’ 10 points during a five-minute stretch.
“Morris had a great first half,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “That’s how they stayed in the game. She was outstanding.”
Sheila McMillen scored 14 in the second half and finished with 21 points for Notre Dame, winners of four straight.
The Panthers (7-8, 2-5) trailed 57-48 with 9:39 to go but got two 3-pointers from Monique Toney and a basket from Kortni Webb to trail 57-53 a minute later. Toney and Alecia Balich hit back-to-back 3-pointers to bring Pitt within two, 61-59, a minute later.
The Irish then went on an 8-1 run and led 69-60 with 4:52 to go.
“I’m so proud of my girls,” Pitt coach Traci Waites said. “I think they played the ninth-ranked team well enough to win. But when you play a ranked team, that comes with something extra. Notre Dame was able to pull away every time we thought we were coming back.”