Jan. 11, 2000
By JR ROSS
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame’s offense is no secret.
Pound the ball inside to 6-foot-5 center Ruth Riley and then pop it outside to whichever guard is hot.
Stopping it is another matter.
Riley had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Niele Ivey added 14 points and 10 assists as the No. 6 Irish beat Seton Hall 80-52 on Tuesday night.
Riley added seven blocks, one short of a school record, as Notre Dame (12-2, 3-0 Big East) won its 15th straight at home, tying a school record.
“Ruth and Niele are both playing like All-Americans right now,” coach Muffett McGraw said. “Niele is the best point guard in the league if not in the country.”
Even so, the Irish were sluggish at times and had problems with the press Seton Hall (6-7, 0-3) went to after realizing it was being hurt by letting Riley set up in the middle.
Trailing 48-28 early in the second half, Seton Hall was able to utilize the press to force Notre Dame into three straight turnovers. That allowed the Pirates within 49-37 with 13:15 left, their smallest deficit since midway through the first half.
The Irish responded with an 11-0 run that began and ended with 3-pointers by Alicia Ratay. Seton Hall didn’t seriously challenge again.
Ratay finished with 14.
“We decided we couldn’t guard Ruth, so we might as well go small and try to make it more of an open court,” Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina said. “We got some turnovers. We just didn’t capitalize. Then they came right back and killed us.”
Playing without 6-foot-2 forward Leslie Ardon, out with a broken hand, the Pirates couldn’t match Riley inside. But the Irish also had problems getting Riley the ball, forcing lob passes into the paint. Combined with their problems with the press, the Irish committed 25 turnovers.
“It concerns me a great deal. We gave them too many easy opportunities,” McGraw said. “A lot of the turnovers weren’t forced. We were trying to make an extra pass. We didn’t put any zip on it and just left it out there.”
Still, Seton Hall’s 52 points matched the lowest offensive output of any Notre Dame opponent this season. The Pirates shot 21-of-70 from the field – just 1-of-11 from 3-point range – and had 23 turnovers.
Starr Fuller scored 13 points to lead the Pirates.
“Playing against teams at that next level, the top 10, they capitalize on those things,” said Mangina, whose three Big East losses this season are to No. 1 Connecticut, No. 9 Rutgers and the Irish. “I don’t know anyone else in the country that’s just played No. 1, No. 6 and No. 9. That’s a tough way to start the league.”