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Back on top, back to the final

Notre Dame advances to fourth Big East tourney final

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Posted: Monday March 05, 2001 9:20 PM
Updated: Tuesday March 06, 2001 2:14 AM

  Ruth Riley Ruth Riley was held to two points, but captured eight rebounds and swatted a game-high five shots. AP

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Virginia Tech had an answer for Ruth Riley. It was the rest of the Notre Dame players the Hokies couldn't control.

Alicia Ratay and Kelly Siemon scored 14 points each, and reserve center Amanda Barksdale had nine rebounds and three blocks as the Fighting Irish cruised to a 67-49 in the Big East tournament semifinal on Monday night.

Riley, the conference player of the year, finished with two free throws and was in foul trouble early.

"It was a bit of a rough offensive go for me," Riley said. "They did a good job of double-teaming me, which I have faced all year, but didn't do so well handling it tonight."

The Fighting Irish, which regained the No. 1 ranking Monday, advanced to their fourth championship game since joining the conference six years ago. They'll play Connecticut, a 94-66 winner against Rutgers in the other semifinal. The Irish (28-1) have lost all three finals to Connecticut, which moved up to No. 2.

The top-seeded Irish hit just two of their first 10 shots. Tere Williams put Virginia Tech (21-8) up quickly with six consecutive points and the Hokies led 6-2 with 15:56 left in the first half. It would be their last lead of the game.

Notre Dame then made its next four shots to start the run and had a 36-17 lead at the break.

"Offensively, I'm surprised we struggled so much," Tech head coach Bonnie Hendrickson said. "When your three leading scorers are 3-for-30 when you go into the locker room, it is a bad night."

Tech struggled against the Irish zone and were forced to hurry shots to beat the clock. The Hokies shot just 17 percent in the first half and finished with 17-of-64 shooting for 27 percent.

"We went to the zone to see how it looked and it looked good. We decided to stay with it," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "It has been our best defense all year long and we did a good job of doubling down."

Riley got in foul trouble early and sat out most of the second half. The Hokies closed within 15 at 40-15 with 18:18 left in the second half with 3-pointers from Lisa Guarneri and Sarah Hicks and a bucket from Williams. Riley picked up her third foul and the Hokies saw an opening.

The Irish countered with a 6-0 run, getting four points from Niele Ivey, and Barksdale rejected any notion of a comeback with two quick blocks. Siemon also had nine rebounds.

The Fighting Irish were coming off an 89-33 quarterfinal victory against Georgetown, which set a tournament record for largest margin of victory.

"Obviously the Big East [tournament] is something we hope to do well in and we are excited were are playing tomorrow," Siemon said.

Williams led Virginia Tech with 15 points and seven boards.

"We couldn't make shots and we were getting good looks," Williams said. "I just couldn't finish. I had good looks and even on Ruth and made a move on her, but couldn't finish the shot."

Related information
Notre Dame returns to No.1
No. 2 UConn routs No. 8 Rutgers in Big East semifinal
Virginia Tech-Notre Dame Game Summary
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