Irish prepare to take on No. 10 Tar Heels in tourney
By KERRY SMITH
The Irish will have their hands full when they travel to Virginia to take on the Tar Heels of North Carolina Saturday in the first round of the Wachovia's Women Invitational Tournament in women's basketball action.
At 4-1 this season, the No. 10 Tar Heels will pose a formidable challenge as the Irish will try to capture the championship title in the four-team tournament.
"They're a tough team and they're really athletic," said freshman guard Alicia Ratay. "We're going to have to come out strong and keep our intensity up to win."
The Irish are coming off a 77-57 routing of Butler in Notre Dame's home opener on Thursday. Led by center Ruth Riley and Ratay, the Irish took control of the front and back courts from the outset of the game.
Ratay came up within 16 points to lead the offense, while Riley was big on defense, tallying seven blocked shots in just 19 minutes.
"I was forcing shots in our loss to Illinois," said Ratay. "The difference in the game against Butler was that I was just letting the shots happen. We kept giving the ball to Ruth because she was having an awesome game."
Guard Niele Ivey added 13 points in the victory.
The Irish (2-1) struggled in their second game to put an effective defense on the court, but showed no signs of weakness Thursday, as they went on a 16-0 run midway through the first half to break open the game.
The Irish will look to continue their strong play against the Tar Heels.
"We're trying to focus on rebounding against North Carolina," said Ratay. "They crash the boards really well and so we're going to need to work to stop them."
The Tar Heels enter the tournament after a close win over the Sun Devils of Arizona State. In a game that was decided by a basket at the buzzer, the Tar Heels had trouble putting the unranked Sun Devils away early.
In order to beat the Tar Heels, the Irish will have to contain potentially-explosive forward LaQuanda Barskdale. Barksdale scored a game-high 24 points against the Sun Devils and has proved to be a force both offensively and defensively throughout the entire season.
This is the first meeting between the Irish and the Tar Heels. The winner of the Notre Dame-North Carolina matchup will face either Liberty or Richmond in the final round on Sunday. The Irish met the Flames and the Spiders once each and were victorious in both games.
All Sports Stories for Friday, December 3, 1999