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Published: Sunday, 4/1/2001

Central grad Haney gives Irish big boost


ST. LOUIS - Notre Dame junior forward Ericka Haney understood the situation, but it irritated her.

There she was Friday night in the NCAA Women's Tournament semifinal against Connecticut with no one guarding her. Teammate Ruth Riley was getting all the attention.

As Haney put it, there were ``three on Ruth's lap.''

Not that Haney, had she been coaching the Huskies, wouldn't have made a concerted effort to stop Ruth Riley, the Irish's All-American center. But it would have been a nice ego boost to have someone worried about her, too.

``So I figured I would take the ball to the basket myself,'' said Haney, a graduate of Central Catholic High School.

Haney made the Huskies pay.

She scored 15 points, including seven in the first three minutes of the first half as Notre Dame made up a 12-point deficit to beat Connecticut 90-75, and was one of the major reasons the Irish advanced to tonight's title game against Purdue.

``It was definitely an emotional win, and it may have taken just a little bit out of us,'' Haney said. ``But I don't think that we're going to let up any more than normal. We know that we came here to win a national title, and that's all that will be on our minds.''

Haney has started all but one game this season, averaging 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. In the tournament, she has been even more of a force on the boards, increasing her average to 6.8. She has scored in double figures in 21 of 35 games.

With Connecticut grabbing 51 rebounds in the semifinal, Haney's rebounding skills were particularly important. She had a team-high 10.

``This has been one of my most perfect seasons,'' she said. ``It's the best season for me at any level. It's hard to put into words what I feel. I think we could be a team of destiny. Beating UConn twice in one season is something special.''

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