March 18, 2001
By TOM COYNE
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The Michigan Wolverines face some numbers problems when they take on Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament on Monday night.
Numbers such as 63, the number of consecutive games the second-ranked Irish have won against unranked opponents. Numbers such as 37, the number of consecutive games the Irish have won at the Joyce Center.
And numbers such as 17.7, 7.5 and 63.4, the average number of points, rebounds and the shooting percentage of Irish All-American center Ruth Riley.
“I think they have some advantages,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “But I just know this team and we’ve played well in front of big, hostile crowds. I think we can use that to our advantage.”
Three weeks ago, playing in their final regular-season game at the Joyce Center, the Irish got caught up in the home crowd’s emotion and struggled before finally pulling out a 65-53 victory.
“I’ve had so much success here in the Joyce Center in a Notre Dame uniform that it’s kind of sad to see that it is my final time playing on the floor,” said guard Niele Ivey, who missed her first eight shots in the Georgetown game.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw said she’s not worried about another emotional game.
“I don’t think we can afford to be that emotional. I think right now we’re going to be focused on just playing in the tournament and not thinking about this being their last game at the Joyce Center.”
Two big challenges the Wolverines (19-11) face against the Irish (29-2) is getting off to a better start than they have and deciding how to defend against Notre Dame.
The Wolverines have trailed at halftime in their last six games, and trailed by as many as 17 points against Virginia on Saturday before finally beating the Cavaliers 81-71 in overtime.
Guevara said she stressed to her team during practice Sunday that they have to start quicker. She also stressed that they can’t wait until the second half to start driving to the basket.
To help open up the inside, Guevara said she may have her forwards move to the high post or even shoot some 3-pointers to force Riley outside.
“We want to bring that big girl (Riley) away from the basket,” she said.
On the other end, Guevara admits the Wolverines have a dilemma. They must choose between double teaming Riley or trying to stop Notre Dame’s outside game, where Alicia Ratay leads the nation by making 54.4 percent of her 3-pointers and Ivey makes 44.5 percent of her attempts.
“They’re very talented so you have to give up something. I know it’s going to be tough to take all their weapons away. We’ll make some adjustments based on who’s in the game,” she said.