u Riley's 29 leads Irish past young Panther squad
By LIA GARCIA MILHOAN
The Pittsburgh Panthers lived up to their motto "40 minutes of fire" on Wednesday night, refusing to give up as the No.1 Irish prevailed 72-58.
When Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was asked how her team was handling their top ranking, she responded, "Obviously not very well."
That was the story Wednesday night. The Panthers played with fire and the Irish fought to stay unbeaten.
The first half was marred by turnovers and sloppy passing. The nine first-half Irish turnovers matched their game total from the Boston College game.
"We just made so many mistakes, we played like freshmen out there," said McGraw.
Pittsburgh came out in the second half and continued to penetrate the Notre Dame defense. The lack of a defensive presence by the Irish was especially upsetting to forward Kelley Siemon.
"I don't think any of us can pinpoint right now what's wrong, or what we haven't been doing recently," Siemon said. "We're not shutting down teams with defense like we have been. I think we should have the kind of pride where teams should come in here and not even be able to score 50."
Laine Selwyn led the Panther charge with 23 points including 4 of 6 from behind the arc.
"Defensively we had a lot of breakdowns," said McGraw. "We couldn't find their shooters. We went zone, they had one shooter in the game, and we couldn't find that one shooter. [Selwyn]was driving left every doggone time and nobody stepped over to help."
McGraw was also quick to recognize the effort of the Panthers. "They played hard, they didn't quit," she said. "We get up big, we just expect that teams are going to quit this season. They're still fighting out there trying to make it close."
One bright spot for the Irish was the play of Ruth Riley. The national player of the year candidate recorded a double-double finishing with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
Towards the end of the first half Notre Dame steadied enough to take a 10 point advantage into the locker room. More importantly, the Irish did it with center Ruth Riley on the bench saddled with two fouls.
The Pittsburgh defense held Riley in check for most of the first half, but could not stop her in the second.
"I think the only place Notre Dame hurt us in my opinion is on the boards," said Panthers' coach Traci Waites. "I thought we played pretty tough defense and we got great shots. They didn't go in."
As for Riley, Waites said, "We tried to 3/4 [pressure] and break somebody over.We did a better job in the first half."
Early in the second half, when Riley was starting to heat up, she was charged with her third foul. McGraw chose to leave her star center in the game.
"I wasn't going to take her out. She was really the only one playing well at that time offensively," McGraw said. "She was our offense. She was the only one that shot the ball well today."
The Panther inside defense was unable to sustain its defense on Riley for 40 minutes.
"I thought we contained her pretty well in the first half. The help wasn't there in the second half," Selwyn said. "We had some breakdowns. We almost got her in foul trouble early and we're going to try to do that again."
Although she played well individually, Riley was not at all satisfied with the team's performance. "Anytime we don't play as well as we're capable of playing, you don't want to play like that — especially not at the end of the season," Riley said.
Riley knows that the end of the season is fast approaching, as is the end of her collegiate career. "I don't think we're thinking about the win streak. I think we're thinking about how we want to finish the season," said Riley. "For us three up here [Riley, Siemon, Ivey], it's just the last seven or eight games that we're going to play."
Ivey reiterated those thoughts. "Its frustrating to see how much talent we have and not show it. Every game's important for us," she said. "We just don't want to look back and regret anything that we did."
The Irish held a 42-33 advatage on the boards, but the Panthers outscored the Irish on second chance points 20-17.
Although the Irish have a week off until their next game, the team is ready to play and show their potential. "I think if we played tomorrow, we'd kill a team by 70. That's how mad I feel," Siemon said.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, February 8, 2001