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ND Women’s Basketball Commentary: Not caught in the web

Eric Retter | Wednesday, November 29, 2006

While the game was still in the balance, Charel Allen carried the Irish.

The junior guard scored 22 points and added six rebounds as Notre Dame topped Richmond 87-66.

Allen started strong and was Notre Dame’s go-to presence in the first half, scoring 14 of 34 points for the Irish before the break behind 6-of-11 shooting.

During a nearly five-minute stretch early in the half, Allen personally outscored the Spiders 8-2 to put the Irish up 16-10 with 11 minutes left in the first half.

Allen’s 22-point finish marks the second time in six games this season that she has set a career high – topping her previous best of 21 that she tallied in an 85-81 overtime win over Bowling Green Nov. 13.

And she said she felt hot well before the opening tip-off.

“Before the game I warmed up very well,” she said. “I felt like my shot was going in.”

Irish coach Muffet McGraw had nothing but praise for Allen after the game.

“I thought Charel, start to finish, just had an outstanding game,” she said. “I think Charel carried us in the first half along with Mel[issa D’Amico], those two really did the bulk of the scoring in the first half.”

Despite Allen’s efforts, and shooting 51.7 percent as a team, the Irish only led by three points heading into intermission. For the first part of the second half, Allen continued to be Notre Dame’s leading weapon, scoring eight points in the first seven minutes of the half.

Her final bucket with 13:22 remaining gave the Irish a 53-44 lead. Three minutes later, freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner hit a 3-pointer that gave Notre Dame a 57-45 lead – its first 10-point advantage of the game – and Allen retired as a scoring factor as each basket only added to a large and growing lead.

Still, Allen’s – and to a lesser extent, D’Amico’s – presence on the floor and the subsequent attention it drew gave the Irish the opportunity to spread the ball around and ultimately put the game away.

“In the second half we wanted to get some other people involved,” McGraw said. “That’s really where we opened up the game, [when] they were starting to key in on those two [Allen and D’Amico].”

D’Amico, who was second on the team with 15 points, joined Allen as one of five Notre Dame players to finish the game in double figures. Tuesday’s performance was the second time in three games – and the second consecutive home game – that the five Irish players had 10 or more points. The team accomplished the feat Nov. 19 against Western Michigan. In part due to the more balanced attack, the Irish outscored the Spiders 53-35 in the second half.

“I think it’s important to have that kind of balance,” McGraw said.

It was Allen, however, who defined Notre Dame’s performance. Though she didn’t score after the 13:22 mark in the second half and sat down with 6:40 remaining in the game, Allen was the focal point of the Spider defense, and Richmond head coach Michael Shafer doubted his defense’s ability to stop her.

“We knew she was a very good basketball player, [and] we knew she could score over top of us,” he said. “I’m not sure we ever really affected her game – to her credit, she knocked down some big shots.”

Allen only hit those shots, though, when they mattered.

Contact Eric Retter at eretter@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.