March 26, 2001
By JOHN MOSSMAN
AP Sports Writer
DENVER – When her All-America counterpart headed to the bench with foul trouble, Notre Dame’s Ruth Riley turned ruthless.
Riley scored a season-high 32 points as top-seeded Notre Dame beat third-seeded Vanderbilt 72-64 Monday night to advance to the women’s Final Four.
Riley, a first-team All-America center, had 22 of her points in the second half as Vanderbilt’s Chantelle Anderson, a second-teamer, sat out much of the half in the Midwest Regional final.
Abandoning the sharp passing game she exhibited in a regional semifinal win over Utah, Riley was intent on scoring – and forcing Anderson into foul trouble in the process.
“My team always gets it to me,” Riley said, “Fortunately, I was able to connect tonight. I was a little frustrated in the way I played in the first half. I felt I needed to be more aggressive in the second half. I felt it was my job to step it up.
“Her (Anderson) not being on the floor makes them a lot shorter. They’re a different team without her.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Riley, the Naismith college player of the year, “was amazing for us.”
Vanderbilt coach Jim Foster called Riley “an absolutely terrific player and difficult to guard. She was dominant and played like the best player in the country. Her maturity as a player and her basketball IQ were significant tonight.”
Comparing Riley, a senior, to Anderson, a sophomore, Foster said, “She took advantage of us in the post. I think it was a good lesson for a young post player to learn, that you can’t commit a couple of fouls early that really aren’t necessary and be there at the end. Chantelle will learn from the experience.”
Anderson agreed. “For the first time in a long time, I acted young and immature,” Anderson said. “And Ruth Riley definitely took advantage of that. She is very strong, holds her position well and has a lot of post moves. Hopefully, I can be that strong and that mentally tough as I grow older.”
Anderson, saddled with four fouls for much of the second half, fouled out with 6:22 left and the third-seeded Commodores trailing 61-52. Vandy could get no closer than eight points after that.
“She’s a great player,” Riley said of Anderson, “and we knew that getting her out the game would be a benefit to us. The coaches told me to attack and go at her.”
Alicia Ratay had 17 points, and Kelley Siemon added 16 for Notre Dame (32-2), which set a school record for victories in a season.
Zuzana Klimesova led the Commodores (24-10) with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Anderson had 14 points, and guard Ashley McElhiney added 12.
Following a 40-40 halftime tie, the Fighting Irish outscored Vandy 32-24 in the second half, shooting 48 percent in the half compared to Vandy’s 29 percent.
Notre Dame, which battled for the nation’s No. 1 ranking all season before finishing second to Connecticut, shot 56 percent for the game while Vandy was at 42 percent.
The Irish will meet Connecticut in the national semifinals on Friday in St. Louis.
Ratay and Vanderbilt’s Jillian Danker traded 3-pointers to start the game.
With Anderson hitting two straight layups, Vanderbilt fashioned a 7-0 run to open up a 15-9 lead with 12:43 left in the half.
Over the next nine minutes, however, Notre Dame outscored Vanderbilt 27-14, producing a 36-29 lead with 3:34 to go.
Niele Ivey, initially given a 2-point basket, was awarded a 3-pointer after referees consulted video replay, and the Irish led 21-20 with 9:31 left.
Riley’s layup gave the Irish their seven-point lead, but Danker responded with a 3-pointer and the Commodores scored the last six points of the half, including a rebound layup and a hook shot by Klimesova, for a 40-40 halftime tie.
Anderson, who fouled out of her seventh game of the season, picked up her second foul with 8:52 left in the half and played only 15 minutes of the half.
Ratay and Klimesova each had 15 points in the half. Riley and Anderson each had 10.
Both coaches, determined to keep their standout centers in the game and avoid fouls, experimented with various defensive combinations. Riley and Anderson went head-to-head only sparingly in the first half.
In the second half, however, the centers dueled each other, with Riley getting the upper hand.
After Anderson exited with her fourth foul with 14:42 left, Riley hit three baskets, two of them over Klimesova. Riley’s three-point play made it 59-50 with 9:17 remaining.
Anderson returned but fouled out less than three minutes later while trying to stop Riley on an inside move, and Riley responded by scoring Notre Dame’s next 11 points.
Riley was voted the regional’s most outstanding player. Joining her on the all-region team were Anderson, Klimesova, Ratay and Siemon.