Irish outpace Bulldogs behind Ratay, Riley
By KEVIN BERCHOU
The Notre Dame women's basketball team is clearly ecstatic to be home.
Playing in the friendly confines of the Joyce Center for the first time this season, the Fighting Irish scored an impressive win, caging the Butler Bulldogs 77-57.
The Irish women bounced back from last week's loss to the Fighting Illini by mounting a first-half charge which saw them lead by as many as 24 points.
Led by junior All-American Ruth Riley, who tallied 14 points in the first half, and sharp-shooting freshman Alicia Ratay, who added 16, the Irish had little trouble improving their record to 2-1.
Motivated by their poor play against Illinois, the Irish came out extremely sharp and pounced on the Bulldogs from the opening tip.
The Irish bolted to a 26-9 advantage behind the strength of Riley's solid two-way play. After notching six of her team's first 10 points, the Irish center turned to her defense, blocking three Bulldog shots in just more than a minute. Flustered by Riley's imposing play, Butler struggled to mount a first-half attack.
"I think the effort was outstanding tonight," said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. "We knew we played poorly against Illinois, and we just wanted to get back out there and play somebody. I thought we came out very sharp and focused."
Guard Niele Ivey also showed glimpses of brilliance, dishing out five assists and drilling three first-half treys en route to scoring 13 on the night.
"I thought Ruth Riley and Niele Ivey played particularly well tonight. Both of them shot the ball well," said McGraw.
Ratay, who appears already to have found a comfort zone in just her third collegiate game, looked confident on both ends of the floor, and for the second time this season led the team in scoring.
"I really don't feel any pressure," Ratay said. "I just try go out there and play well."
A 46-22 halftime advantage proved beneficial for McGraw, who was able to rest her starters and get her young bench some important game action. Riley played sparingly in the game's second half as she rested a nagging ankle injury.
"Ruth said at halftime that her ankle was really bothering her," said McGraw. "With a big game against North Carolina coming up this weekend, it's important that we have our starters rested."
McGraw has been especially enamored with the play of her bench.
"I'm really happy with this year's freshmen class," noted the Irish coach. "I think Monique Hernandez has really sparked us."
The Bulldogs saw their record fall to 3-2, but they did get a game-high 17 points from forward Kelly Kuhn.
The Irish will enter a weekend tilt against the North Carolina Tarheels on a high, coming off of what was easily their sharpest game of the season.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, December 2, 1999