February 10, 1999
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) – No. 6 Notre Dame has been dominating opponents for the last seven games. It took Ruth Riley in the second half for the Irish to take control of Villanova.
After defeating the Wildcats 74-52 Wednesday night, the Irish have won six of their last seven games by more than 20 points and outscored their opponents by an average of 30 points per game.
The victory was the 11th straight for Notre Dame, the longest winning streak for the Irish since they won a school-record 15 straight during the 1990-91 season.
“We’re really playing well offensively and we have started to take a lot of pride in our defense,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “I’m very pleased at where we are right now. We’ve worked very hard to be here.”
Riley had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead Notre Dame (20-2 overall, 12-2 Big East). Danielle Green added 17 points for Notre Dame.
Jenea Skeeters scored eight of her 12 points from the free-throw line to pace Villanova (11-11, 7-7), while Jenn Sliwa had 10.
Riley scored her final nine points, six from the free-throw line, during a 14-3 Notre Dame run at the beginning of the second half that gave the Irish a 47-33 lead with 15:31 remaining. Riley, who leads the nation in field goal percentage, made 7 of 9 shots and 9 of 13 from the free-throw line.
Villanova coach Harry Perretta felt that his young inside duo of freshman Stephanie Baker and sophomore Brandi Barnes were too inexperienced to handle the talented Notre Dame center.
“We handled her at Notre Dame, but we played a lot smarter there, and Baker and Barnes are just not ready yet,” Perretta said. “We just didn’t play very intelligently tonight.”
Skeeters pulled the Wildcats within nine points when her three-point play cut the lead to 51-42 with 12:22 left, but Villanova never got any closer.
Notre Dame scored 11 of the final 13 first-half points to take a 31-28 lead into halftime. Ericka Haney gave the Irish an 18-12 lead, its biggest to that point, with 9:39 left in the half.
But Villanova answered with a 13-2 run over the next 6:27, capped by Brandi Barnes’ driving layup with 3:12 left in the half, to take its largest lead of the game, 25-20.
Riley made five of her six attempts in the first half for 12 points. She also grabbed five rebounds. The Irish outrebounded the Wildcats 18-9 in the opening period, but Villanova stayed in the game by shooting 54.5 percent (12-22) from the field. Villanova made just 8 of 26 attempts in the second half though to finish at 41.7 percent for the game.