Women's Basketball: Siemon leads Notre Dame to 82-63 victory
By NOAH AMSTADTER
Assistant Sports Editor
Once again, Kelley Siemon has proven that she has unparalleled toughness.
The senior power forward — already playing with a brace on her fractured hand — didn't even get in to Pittsburgh until Tuesday afternoon.
Just 24 hours after she lay in bed at the infirmary with an upset stomach, Siemon led the Irish to victory. Despite still feeling nauseous at tip-off, Siemon scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds in No. 2 Notre Dame's 82-63 win over Pittsburgh.
"She was a real catalyst getting the break going for us," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said of Siemon. "She got in today and really wasn't feeling well even at game time. I'm so impressed with her."
That Siemon had the strength to play 30 minutes was nothing short of a miracle. The senior ate nothing but soup before the game.
"I couldn't keep anything down," Siemon told the Associated Press after the game.
The victory sent Notre Dame (26-1, 15-1 in the Big East) into the Big East Tournament this weekend as the No. 1 seed for the first time ever. The loss ended the season for the Panthers (9-18, 3-13), as they failed to qualify for the tournament.
The Irish have a bye for first-round action and take on the winner of the Saturday contest between the No. 8 and No. 9 teams Sunday afternoon. Two teams out of a pool of Georgetown, Syracuse and Miami will take part in that game.
"It's a great tribute to the seniors, they've had a lot of firsts this year in a lot of different things," McGraw said. "I'm just so happy for them, they've done so much for this program."
Tuesday night was no exception. Siemon's efforts were backed up by classmates Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey. Riley contributed 10 points and two blocks in only 20 minutes.
Ivey scored 15 points, dished out nine assists and was credited with two steals. McGraw felt her fifth-year point guard had more.
"The statistic sheet only had her for two steals," McGraw said. "It seemed to me that she had an awful lot more than that."
After starting off slow in their last several games, the Irish dominated the Panthers from start to finish. Three consecutive lay-ups keyed a 10-0 run that helped the Irish build a 36-18 halftime lead.
"We can't spot the No. 2, or No. 3, or anyone else in the country that many points and expect to recover," Pittsburgh coach Traci Waites told the Associated Press.
McGraw credits her team's shooting; the Irish connected on 59.3 percent of their field goal attempts in the opening half.
"We shot the ball extremely well and that was key for us," McGraw said. "I think it's going to give us a lot of confidence heading in to the Big East tournament."
The other Irish player to score in double-figures was guard Alicia Ratay. The guard totaled 14 points, including two three-point field goals. Freshman Jeneka Joyce hit two more treys off the bench, finishing with eight.
The Irish bench made significant contributions for the second time in a week.
After seeing every player on the roster score against Miami last Tuesday, every player other than senior center Meaghan Leahy hit the scoring column.
"It's good to get a lot of people in the scoring column." McGraw said. "We're going to need that coming in to the Big East tournament."
The reserves will be counted on to play key minutes as the Irish will play three games in three days, should they make the championship game.
"I think the bench is playing a lot better right now," McGraw said. "They're playing with some confidence. "
Sophomore center Amanda Barksdale contributed six rebounds and three blocked shots in 14 minutes, as Riley rested much of the second half.
"I thought Mandy Barksdale gave us a huge lift off the bench," McGraw said.
The game was bittersweet for the Pittsburgh seniors, who were honored for Senior Night before the game. Guard Monique Toney scored 13 points in the final game of her career.
"She's a good player and a good defender as well," McGraw said. "She had a pretty good game for them."
The team was pleased to dominate the Panthers, who came in to the Joyce Center on Feb. 7 and stayed within 10 points most of the game. Guard Laine Selwyn led the Panthers with 23 points in that game. She was limited to 15 on six-of-17 shooting Tuesday.
"We came in making sure that we knew who their shooters were and to get out on them because they did have such a great game at the Joyce Center," Ivey told the Notre Dame radio network.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, February 28, 2001