March 26, 2001

By the Associated Press

GAME: No. 3 Vanderbilt (24-9) vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (31-2).
REGIONAL: Midwest, final.
TIME: Monday, 9:07 p.m. EST.
SITE: The Pepsi Center, Denver.

Second-team All-America center Chantelle Anderson has third-seeded Vanderbilt one game away from its first Final Four appearance since 1993.

Now all she has to do is carry them past first-team All-America center and Naismith Award winner Ruth Riley of top-seeded Notre Dame, in what should be a tremendous matchup between the nation’s two best big women in the Midwest Regional final.

Anderson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, scored 34 points and grabbed eight rebounds during Saturday’s 84-65 regional semifinal rout of Iowa State. She led the nation with a staggering 73 percent shooting from the field this season and made 16 of 23 shots against the Cyclones.

But Anderson would prefer not to be the center of attention during Saturday’s marquee matchup.

“This game isn’t about me vs. Ruth Riley,” Anderson said. “It’s about Vanderbilt vs. Notre Dame.”

Riley scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half and matched a season-high with 14 rebounds as the Fighting Irish roared past Utah 69-54 on Saturday.

Riley has led Notre Dame to a school record 31 victories and has them on the verge of their second Final Four appearance.

The 6-5 senior had nothing but praise to offer when asked about her adversary in the middle.

“She has great touch around the basket,” Riley said of Anderson. “It makes her very hard to defend. She does a great job of getting position in the lane, and that makes her able to just turn and shoot over (the defender).”

Anderson returned the favor.

“(Riley) pretty much does it all,” she said. “She’s one of the only centers that I’ve heard a lot about that I haven’t faced on any level. Having faced great post players in the SEC, I think I’m prepared. I just have to play my game.”

Vanderbilt coach Jim Foster did not hesitate to make historical references when asked about the matchup.

“Great players are measured by their performances against other great players,” he said. “Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. You need someone to challenge you, to take you to another dimension, to see if your greatness can surface.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity for two young women to compete against each other in a venue such as this with so much at stake.”

What’s “at stake” for Vanderbilt is its first trip to the Final Four in eight years. The Commodores suffered a 60-46 loss to Texas Tech in the national semifinals in 1993 and endured a 100-96 defeat at the hands of eventual champion Connecticut in their last regional final appearance in 1996.

The Fighting Irish beat George Washington in 1997 to earn their only other Final Four berth, but were sent home by Tennessee in the national semifinals.

These teams are meeting for just the third time. They split a home-and-home series during the 1989-90 season.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Vanderbilt – F Zuzi Klimesova (16.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg), F Jenni Benningfield (9.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg), C Anderson (21.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg), G Jillian Danker (13.0 ppg, 2.8 apg), G Ashley McElhney (9.4 ppg, 6.1 apg). Notre Dame – F Ericka Haney (11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), F Kelley Siemon (11.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg), C Ruth Riley (17.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg), G Niele Ivey (12.2 ppg, 7.0 apg), G Alicia Ratay (13.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Vanderbilt – At-large bid, Southeastern Conference, defeated Idaho State 83-57, first round, defeated Colorado 65-59, second round, defeated Iowa State 84-65, regional semifinal. Notre Dame – At-large bid, Big East Conference, defeated Alcorn State 98-49, first round, defeated Michigan 88-54, second round, defeated Utah 69-54, regional semifinal.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Vanderbilt – 22-13, 14 years. Notre Dame – 12-7, 7 years.