April 1, 2001
GAME: No. 3 Purdue (31-6) vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (33-2).
ROUND: National championship
TIME: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
SITE: The Savvis Center, St. Louis.
A pair of teams from Indiana will determine which is the best in the nation.
Looking for its first national title, Notre Dame will try to beat its second recent champion in three nights when it faces 1999 champ Purdue.
The Fighting Irish advanced to their first title game by beating 2000 champion Connecticut 90-75 on Friday night. Notre Dame erased a 15-point second-half deficit and showed the balance that had the Irish on top of the polls for part of the season.
Player of the year Ruth Riley scored 18 points, but it was the play of starting guards Niele Ivey and Alicia Ratay that sparked the Irish.
Ivey, a St. Louis native, scored 21 points for her second 20-point outing of the season. Ratay, the nation’s best 3-point shooter, was 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and finished with 20 points.
Riley had 16 points in the second half, continuing her trend of playing better after halftime. The 6-foot-5 center has averaged 16.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in the second half of Notre Dame’s last three games.
She will meet a formidable foe on Sunday in Purdue center Camille Cooper. Cooper is 6-4 and has played many times against Riley.
“Every time we’ve faced Purdue, it’s been a matchup between Camille and I,” Riley said. “She’s a great post player and you have to step your game up when you play against a player like that.
“I think we are kind of identical in the way we play our game, kind of old-school post. I think it will be a good matchup.”
Cooper has something Riley doesn’t – championship game experience. She was a starter on the 1999 team, along with All-American Katie Douglas, that won the title under Carolyn Peck.
The Boilermakers, who have won 12 of their last 13 NCAA tournament games, are trying to add another title under Kristy Curry.
Douglas was superb in Friday night’s 81-64 semifinal victory over Southwest Missouri State, scoring 25 points. Cooper added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
To pull the upset, Purdue likely will need to rebound like it did Friday night. The Boilermakers held a 47-29 rebounding advantage.
“I just know rebounds win championships,” Cooper said. “I wanted to give us second and third chances. I think everyone was crashing the boards.”
The teams met on Dec. 9, with Notre Dame winning 72-61. The Boilermakers lead the series 9-3 and the teams have split a pair of NCAA tournament games.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Purdue – F Douglas (15.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), F Shalicia Hurns (9.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg), C Cooper (14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), G Kelly Komara (9.5 ppg, 2.6 apg), G Shereka Wright (9.7 ppg, 1.8 apg). Notre Dame – F Kelley Siemon (11.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg), F Ericka Haney (10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg), C Ruth Riley (18.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg), G Niele Ivey (12.1 ppg, 6.9 apg), G Alicia Ratay (13.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Purdue – At-large bid, Big Ten, beat UC Santa Barbara 75-62, first round, beat LSU 73-70, second round, beat Texas Tech 74-72, Mideast Regional semifinal, beat Xavier 88-78, regional final, beat Southwest Missouri State 81-64, national semifinal. Notre Dame – At-large bid, Big East, beat Alcorn State 98-49, first round, beat Michigan 88-54, second round, beat Utah 69-54, Midwest Regional semifinal, beat Vanderbilt 72-64, regional final, beat Connecticut 90-75, national semifinal.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Purdue – 26-10, 12 years. Notre Dame – 15-7, 8 years