Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Women's Hoops Prepare For North Carolina At Honda Elite 4 Classic

Dec. 1, 2000

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Disney’s Wide World of Sports Fieldhouse in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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The fourth-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team takes on North Carolina today on ESPN2 in the first game of the Honda Elite 4 Classic at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Fieldhouse. The Irish enter the game at their highest-ever ranking at fourth following an 89-44 win over Fordham on Monday. The game will mark the second meeting between Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Irish won the first meeting between the teams by 99-86 score last year.

Four of Notre Dame’s five starters average double-figure scoring, while the Irish have outscored their five opponents by 97 points in the first half. Among the best players in the country at their three respective positions, sophomore shooting guard Alicia Ratay (17.4) leads the team in scoring and leads the BIG EAST three-point shooting (16-23, .696), while senior point guard Niele Ivey (16.2) trails only Ratay among BIG EAST three-point shooters (13-22, .591) and is second in assists (8.00/game) and steals (3.60/game). Senior All-America center Ruth Riley (12.8) both poured in a game-high 19 points in the victory over Georgia and averages a BIG EAST leading 3.00 blocks/game. Senior Kelley Siemon (12.8) had her first double-double of the season vs. Georgia (13 pts., 11 rebounds).

The Irish enter the North Carolina game with a 5-0 record and look for their second 6-0 start in the history of the program and second in the last three years. The 1998-99 Notre Dame team won its first six games before losing to top-ranked Connecticut — the best start in Irish history.

Notre Dame has won its first four games by an average of 25.8 points. The hot shooting of sophomore Alicia Ratay, strong point guard play of Niele Ivey (40 assists, 18 steals, 18 turnovers) and dominating presence and shooting touch of All-America center Ruth Riley (15 blocks, 26-42 FG) have led the Irish to big early leads. Forwards Kelley Siemon (25-40 FG) and Ericka Haney (14 points vs. Wisconsin) have given the Irish timely contributions.

Head coach Muffet McGraw is in her 14th year at Notre Dame with a 293-115 (.718) record and her 19th as a collegiate coach with a 381-156 (.709) mark. She has led the Irish to five straight NCAA tournament appearances and seven overall. McGraw was named a finalist for the Naismith Women’s Basketball and AP coach-of-the-year awards last year.

Seniors Meaghan Leahy turned in a career-best performance with 16 points and 14 rebounds and Alicia Ratay led all scorers with 17 points as Notre Dame won its fifth game of the season with an 89-44 win over visiting Fordham on Monday at the Joyce Center. The Irish led 47-26 at halftime on the strength of 15 first-half points from Ratay (6-7 FG, 3-3 3PT). Notre Dame’s defense limited Fordham to just four points in the first 11:05 of the second half as the Irish extended their lead. Niele Ivey finished with eight assists and four steals vs. just two turnovers, while Amanda Barksdale blocked a career-high six shots. The Irish shot better than 50 percent (53.4) for the third time and held its opponent to under 40 percent for the fourth time in five games.

The Irish and Tar Heels meet for just the second time on Sunday but the meeting marks the second consecutive season the teams have met at a neutral site on the first Sunday in December. Last year Notre Dame won 99-86 at the Wachovia Women’s Basketball Invitational in Richmond, Va., on the strength of a career-high 32 points from Alicia Ratay. The Irish have a 6-6 record vs. Atlantic Coast Conference teams and have won four of their last five games vs. the ACC.

Fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey was named the MVP of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge as she helped the Irish win the event with her play. She totaled 41 points on 14-21 shooting (7-9 3PT, 6-6 FT) in 71 minutes of action along with 13 rebounds, 11 assists and eight steals vs. just 10 assists. Ivey recorded game-high scoring vs. both Wisconsin (22) and Georgia (19). She was named BIG EAST player of the week for her efforts for the fourth time in her career.

Fifth-year point guard Niele Ivey entered the season with seven career double-doubles (four in ’99-’00 and three in ’98-’99) and had a pair of double-doubles in the first two games season. She scored 12 points and had 10 assists and five steals vs. Valparaiso in the season opener. Ivey then recorded 11 assists against just one turnover to go along with 14 points against Arizona. She was one rebound short of her third double-double vs. Wisconsin.

National player-of-the-year candidate Ruth Riley has been at her dominating best in the lane through five games this season. In addition to her offense efficiency (26-42 FG, .619), Riley leads the BIG EAST with 15 blocked shots, while committing just nine personal fouls. The two-time BIG EAST defensive player of the year is averaging one block shot every eight-plus minutes she plays.

Sophomore Alicia Ratay has begun the year shooting better from three-point range (16 of 23 for .696) in terms of percentage than Notre Dame’s opponents have from the free throw line (48 of 73 for .658). Ratay had 11 three pointers in the first two games on just 15 attempts, a percentage of .733. In the season opener vs. Valparaiso, Ratay scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting (6-9 3PT) and nailed four three-pointers in a span of 3:47 late in the first half. She was a perfect 4-4 (3-3 3PT) in the first half of the Arizona game before finishing 8-10 FG, 5-6 3PT and 5-5 FT for 26 points. Ratay was 2-3 vs. Georgia and 3-3 vs. Fordham.

Senior Kelley Siemon sparked the Irish with 21 points vs. Wisconsin — including 15 in the second half. She continued her strong play with a double-double in the championship game vs. Georgia (13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds). Siemon had her fourth consecutive double-figure scoring vs. Fordham with 14 points

When the preseason women’s and men’s basketball polls were announced, the University of Notre Dame was the only Division I-A institution ranked among the top 20 teams in Associated Press standings in the sports of football, men?s basketball and women?s basketball. The Irish women’s basketball team entered the season with its highest-ever preseason ranking at sixth in the AP (now fifth) and fifth in the ESPN/USA Today polls and has moved up to its highest ranking ever at fourth. The Irish men’s basketball team was ranked 15th in the preseason AP rankings (now 11th). Notre Dame currently stands 11th in football (9-2 record). It’s the first time in Irish athletic history all three of those Notre Dame teams have been ranked in the top 20 in the same week.

The Irish are one of three BIG EAST women’s basketball teams currently ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll — a first for the conference. Connecticut leads the poll at No. 1, while the fourth-ranked Irish are trailed by fifth-ranked Rutgers — which meets seventh-ranked Georgia in the second game of the Honda Elite 4 Classic this afternoon.

Muffet McGraw is in her 14th season with the Irish and 19th as a collegiate coach. She recently signed a five-year contract to continue as coach of the Fighting Irish women?s basketball program through the 2004-05 season. McGraw has guided Notre Dame to five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and seven of the last nine. The last four years have comprised the most successful period in the history of the program, thanks to a combined 106-26 record. The Irish followed up their 1997 NCAA Final Four appearance and 31-7 record with an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in ’98. Then came 26-5 and 27-5 marks the last two years that represent the top two seasons ever at Notre Dame in terms of winning percentage. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, she spent five seasons at Lehigh where she compiled an 88-41 record for a .683 winning percentage. McGraw has been named a finalist for the Naismith Women’s Basketball coach-of-the-year award in each of the last two seasons.

Seniors Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey both scored a game-high 19 points and were named to the all-tournament team to the Irish to a 75-73 win over sixth-ranked Georgia in the championship game of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge on Nov. 24. The Bulldogs erased an early 11-point deficit before taking their first lead four minutes into the second half. Georgia built a six point with 9:29 before Ivey ignited a 11-0 run in a span of 2:21 for a 68-65 Irish lead. The Bulldogs scored six straight to lead 71-70 before Alicia Ratay gave Notre Dame a 72-70 lead. After a pair of Ivey free throws and a Georgia basket, Kelley Siemon made one of two free throws for the 75-73 final after the Bulldogs missed a desperation three pointer as time expired.

In the first game of the event vs. host Wisconsin, Ratay and Riley both were held to single-digit scoring in the same game for the first time, and Ivey and Siemon poured in a combined 43 points. Junior Ericka Haney added 14 points to lead fifth-ranked Notre Dame to an 83-56 win. The Irish built a 41-26 halftime lead on the strength of 17 first-half points from Ivey and pulled away from the Badgers with the help of 15 second-half points from Siemon.

The Irish have won five straight (#6 Georgia last week, # 9 North Carolina in ’99-’00, #6 UCLA and #6 Duke in ’98-99, #6 Texas Tech in ’97-98) and eight of their last 10 games vs. top-10 non-conference opponents (also beating #8 Alabama, #8 North Carolina State and #6 Iowa in ’96-97 and falling to Tennessee twice (ranked second and 10th in ’96-97). Notre Dame has a 6-5 record vs. all top 10 teams (including 4-0 vs. non-conference opponents) since the start of the 1998-99 season.

Notre Dame extended its school-record home winning streak to 25 wins with its victory over Fordham. The streak was the sixth longest active streak in the country entering the season, behind Grambling (66), Kent (31), Texas Tech (30), Louisiana Tech (27) and Old Dominion (24).

Fifth-year PG Niele Ivey scored five points in the first four minutes against Valparaiso to surpass the 1,000-point milestone in her career. She joined the list of 16 other Irish players (including Ruth Riley) who have scored at least 1,000 points. Ivey scored 15 points in five games as a freshman in 1996-97 before a knee injury ended her season. She then scored 254 points in ’97-98, 369 in ’98-99 and 358 in ’99-’00 to reach 996 points entering the season. She finished with 12 points vs. Valparaiso, 14 vs. Arizona and 22 vs. Wisconsin to bring her career total to 1044 — 16th most points in Irish history.

Senior All-America center Ruth Riley and sophomore guard Alicia Ratay are among the 30 preseason candidates listed for the 2000-01 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Riley was one of 15 finalists for the Naismith Award a year ago. The women’s Naismith Award was first presented in 1983 and honors the outstanding college basketball player in the United States. The award program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball. The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts.

Senior center Ruth Riley became Notre Dame’s first AP first-team All-American in 2000 and is a preseason favorite to win All-America honors for the third time in her career (she also was second-team AP pick in 1999). She has been named to the preseason All-America teams in a variety of national publications. Here is a list of some of Riley’s preseason honors:
Sports Illustrated For Women First Team
Women’s Basketball Journal First Team
Lindy’s All-American First Team
Athlon Sports Second Team
ESPN Magazine Preseason “PTPer”
Street & Smith High Honorable Mention
Beth Mowins, Among Top Five Centers In Country

In addition to Riley’s accolades, senior point guard Niele Ivey has been named by Beth Mowins of one of the top five point guards in the country, while Mowins also has rated the Irish backcourt as one of best in the country. Sophomore guard Alicia Ratay has been named preseason All-America by Women’s Basketball Journal as a sixth-team pick. She is one of only three sophomores on the six-team, 30-player list. Freshman Jeneka Joyce has been listed as one of the top freshmen according to Athlon Sports.

An ESPN nationally-televised home game against defending NCAA and BIG EAST champion Connecticut and nine games against teams from the 2000 NCAA women’s basketball championship highlight the 2000-01 Irish schedule. The 27-game slate features 13 homes games and appearances in two national tournaments. In addition to the Jan. 15, contest against Connecticut, the Irish will welcome 2000 Final Four participant Rutgers, 1999 NCAA champion Purdue and Pacific-10 power Arizona to the Joyce Center. Notre Dame will travel to Wisconsin on Nov. 22 and 24, for the Coaches Vs. Cancer Challenge, facing the host Badgers in the opening round and NCAA tournament team Georgia in the championship game (televised by ESPN). The Irish will play on ESPN2 when they travel to Orlando to take on North Carolina at Honda Elite Classic. The 16-game BIG EAST schedule features two games against conference newcomer Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Rutgers and one each with Villanova, St. John’s, Connecticut, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Providence, Boston College, Syracuse, Miami and Georgetown. First-ever meetings with Fordham and Rice, the first game against USC in 15 years and a trip to Marquette round out the non-conference schedule.

Season-ticket sales for the 2000-01 Irish home season have more than doubled from a year ago, going from 940 in 1999-2000 to more than 2,600 for the upcoming season. Notre Dame’s average home attendance has jumped from a per-game figure of 1,747 in 1996-97 (the year the Irish played in the NCAA Final Four in Cincinnati) to 1,914 in 1997-98, then 2,996 in 1998-99 and finally to a 3,392 total in 1999-2000 to rank 26th nationally. Irish women’s basketball season tickets remain on sale and can be purchased by contacting the Notre Dame ticket office at 219-631-7356.

Niele Ivey spent part of her summer with the BIG EAST Women’s Basketball All-Stars, averaging 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds on the six-game competitive tour of Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. in June. The All-Stars, led by West Virginia head coach Alexis Basil, went 5-1 on the tour with wins over Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. Ivey scored in double figures in four of the six contests and registered a personal tour-high 17 points in the squad’s first meeting with Simon Fraser. She scored a team-high 16 points in the All-Stars’ final game.

Notre Dame improved to 16-8 in its 24 season-opening games and have won their last six openers after the Valparaiso victory. Notre Dame has an 11-3 record under Muffet McGraw in its first games of the season with the only losses coming to third-ranked Penn State in 1991, at Marquette in 1992 and the SHU loss in 1994.