Seniors help Notre Dame avoid NCAA elimination
By KERRY SMITH
With the NCAA tournament posing a do-or-die situation for the Irish, seniors Danielle Green and Julie Henderson are playing every game like it's their last.
And that's precisely the reason why Sunday's Mideast Regional second round game against George Washington wasn't Notre Dame's final appearance on the court this season.
With Henderson and Green at the helm, the second seeded Irish knocked out the No. 7 seed Colonials from tournament action with a 95-60 routing at the Joyce Center.
"We knew it was our last game in the back of our minds," said Henderson. "When I got out there in the last three minutes I realized this was the last time on the Irish floor. It was a little emotional. I was happy our team played well."
Senior point guard Niele Ivey, who will return for the Irish next season, led the Notre Dame offense with 23 points as Henderson and Green combined for 30 and made key baskets in the first half to propel the Irish to an 18-point lead midway through the game.
"I came out really aggressive. I think that has been missing from me all season," said Green. "I am pleased that my teammates were looking for me. I finally had that energy, passion and enthusiasm. I just need to continue that and the team needs to continue that throughout the rest of the tournament."
The Irish struggled in the opening minutes of the contest, however. Taking the ball to the basket early, the Colonials earned a quick 8-5 edge on the Irish and forced center Ruth Riley to the bench with two personal fouls.
But the Colonials' performance went down hill from there as George Washington missed 16 consecutive shots and allowed Green to key a 14-0 run for the Irish.
"We started off well and when you play [the Irish] your main focus is to get Riley in foul trouble," said Colonials head coach Joe McKeown. "If you can do that, then you don't want to let their other players beat you and I thought Green destroyed us in the first half. She had 16 points and she got them at times when it really opened the game up."
The Colonials were unable to get their shooting back on track and finished shooting just 28.3 percent from the floor on the night.
"I think [Notre Dame] played well defensively," said Colonials guard Marlo Egleston. "We got a lot of good shots. As a team we make them all the time — sometimes they fall and sometimes they don't, that's part of the game. Tonight was not one of the good days for us."
Sloppy defense only exacerbated the underdog's poor shooting. The Colonials committed 30 fouls and sent the Irish to the free-throw line 45 times.
Ivey, who was only 5-8 from the floor, added 10 points from the Irish from charity stripe.
"Niele is the key to our team. She showed that tonight," said Irish head coach Muffet McGraw. "She did a great job of controlling the tempo. She knows when to slow down and pick up the pace. She knows when to shoot and when not to. She played a really intelligent floor game tonight."
The second half wasn't any nicer to the Colonials than the first. Able to produce enough offense for only one serious run midway in the second half, the Colonials went on an 11-4 run, but the Irish answered with an 18-5 run of their own and maintained a 30-point lead for the final minutes of the game.
Riley, who sat out most of the first half, played a big offensive role in the second half and finished with 14 points.
Guard Alicia Ratay, who went 3-6 from behind the arc, added 11 points, making for five Irish players in double figures. Henderson's 14 points marked a season high and matched her career high-scoring record.
With the win, the Irish travel to Memphis, Tenn. to take on No. 3 Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 this Saturday.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, March 21, 2000