Purdue unable to hold lead, falls in final
Updated: Monday April 02, 2001 8:27 AM
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- They are both All-Americans, and both had a shot at a national title.
Notre Dame's Ruth Riley made hers. Purdue's Katie Douglas missed.
Riley hit two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining, leaving the outcome of the NCAA women's championship game to her counterpart. Douglas' 18-foot shot at the buzzer hit the front of the rim and bounced against the backboard before falling away.
There would be no overtime, as Riley and Notre Dame beat Douglas and the Boilermakers 68-66 on Sunday night.
"Didn't run it as well as we wanted to. Didn't execute," Douglas said of the final play. "And, I don't know what really happened and took place. I just thought I kind of had a good look as the basket, and it just didn't go down for me."
The Boilermakers almost didn't need Douglas to make that last shot. Purdue succeeded -- at first -- in shutting down Alicia Ratay and Niele Ivey, two key players in the Irish's Final Four-record comeback against Connecticut in the semifinals.
But Ivey, the St. Louis-native who Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said was on a holy path to the Final Four in her hometown, came on after shooting 2-of-9 in the first half to score eight of her 12 points in the second half.
"We couldn't have played any worse the first half," Ivey said. "This is my team. I'm the captain. I'm the leader. This is my hometown and I was willing to do whatever I could for this team."
And Ratay, who sat on the bench for much of the game in foul trouble, hit a key 3-pointer with 4:01 left to tie it at 62. It was the only 3-pointer of the night for Notre Dame, which finished 1-of-10 from behind the arc.
"I was thinking 'Hallelujah,'" McGraw said of her team's lone 3-pointer. "But Alicia only had the one big field goal, but that was huge. It was such a big shot for her to make, and she shot it with a lot of confidence."
Douglas, who lost both parents to cancer during her playing days with the Boilermakers, finished 6-of-15 -- 3-of-6 from 3-point range -- for 18 points. The senior played all 40 minutes, touching the ball on 60 of the Boilermakers' 73 possessions, but had six turnovers to go with her five assists.
"That's a high percentage shot for her," Purdue head coach Kristy Curry said. "Believe me, she hit a lot of shots for us, and it's not going to focus on that last possession. We would have liked to have made the shot, but it didn't go down."
Riley, The AP's player of the year, ended up with a game-high 28 points along with seven blocks.
"She played a great game," Douglas said. "If she wasn't blocking a shot, she was altering a shot."
Purdue looked ready to hold on for the win against the charging Irish. The Boilermakers recovered from Notre Dame's 8-0 run to start the second half, retaking the lead 39-37 with 15:30 left on Camille Cooper's inside bucket.
On the Boilermakers' next possession, Kelly Komara's 3-pointer capped a 8-0 run and put Purdue up 42-37. Komera's coast-to-coast drive with 12:31 remaining increased the Boilermakers' lead to seven at 49-41.
But Douglas picked up her second foul with 7:55 left, sending Jeneka Joyce to the line. Joyce made both free throws to tie it at 55.
Neither team would lead by more than three the rest of the way.
Aside from the shot the tied the game late, Purdue completely shut down Ratay -- who entered the game as the nation's leading 3-point shooter at 56 percent. Ratay, who had 20 points against UConn including seven in a critical 24-7 second-half run, missed her first three attempts from behind the arc to finish 1-of-4.
"It was two great teams playing," Curry said. "It came down
to making shots."