ND Women’s Basketball: Four score in double figures to beat CMU
Joe Meixell | Monday, November 13, 2006
Guard Charel Allen led the Irish to success from beginning to end Friday night, leading Notre Dame to an early 17-3 lead in the first half en route to an 88-66 win against Central Michigan.
Allen would finish the game with 15 points in the win – six of which came in the early stretch – but also helped the Irish effort with strong defense with a tough press.
“Charel got us off to a great start in the game,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “She made some shots and then got us started at the line.”
Notre Dame’s performance in the first half was characterized by tough defense as Central Michigan was held to only 22 first half points.
Allen was not alone in the Irish effort. Both Notre Dame centers – senior Melissa D’Amico and freshman Erica Williamson – contributed on both ends of the floor. Williamson was the defensive standout for the Irish, posting five blocks and eight boards, while D’Amico tallied 16 points and five rebounds in just 15 minutes.
“I was so pleased with her performance today. She rebounded better in the second half, she took good care of the ball, [and] she shot well,” McGraw said. “She played as a dominating presence inside. She took her shots down low. I thought both ends of the floor she played well.”
While D’Amico’s performance was key in the opening minutes of the game, Notre Dame pulled even farther away from the Chippewas following a 12-0 run led by Williamson. Williamson notched four early rebounds and two of her six points shortly after entering the game for D’Amico, who left due to foul trouble.
Williamson was important immediately after entering the game the second time, registering two blocks, one rebound and a steal after only a minute and a half.
Those two stretches with Williamson in were crucial to setting the defensive tone for the match according to McGraw.
Along with Williamson, freshman guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner also performed well in their college debuts, each notching seven points and 2 rebounds. More importantly, both participated in the offense effectively and joined in the defensive effort.
“I think all three [freshmen] are going to get a lot of minutes and are just going to keep getting better,” McGraw said. “When they figure out what we’re trying to do defensively when they start to understand the offense a little better.”
Another key to the Irish win was forward Chandrica Smith, who came off the bench to tally four rebounds and a career-high 11 points within nine minutes. Smith was able to crash the boards and dominate in the paint against Central Michigan, driving to the lane to net easy baskets for Notre Dame.
Smith was also a key part in Irish offense, as her ability to shoot well from the field (4-of-10) and from the line (3-4) helped the Irish extend their lead in the second half.
“Coach told me when I get the ball to look for my drive and try to fit myself into the offense,” Smith said.
But despite scoring more than 80 points for the third straight game, McGraw is still not pleased with her offense.
“We’re not close to where want to be offensively,” she said. “We’re going to get there though. I can see the potential, I can see the progress. We just need to tighten things up a little bit.”
Another problem for the Irish late in the game Friday was their three-point defense. Central Michigan was able to make 5-of-7 shots from behind the arc, four of which came from guard Candace Wilson, who led all scorers with 17 points.
The Chippewas’ three-point shooting helped bring them within 14 points with 6:22 to play, but D’Amico reentered the game and shut down Central Michigan with two early rebounds and four points.
The Irish face off against Bowling Green, another tough Mid-American Conference opponent, tonight at 7 p.m. in the JACC.
“I know [Bowling Green is] an excellent team – they were at Purdue with us at the subregional last year,” McGraw said. “They’ve got everybody back from a team that was something like 25 and four. They’re going to be a really big test for us.”
u The attendance for Friday’s game was 6,702 – the second highest opening day attendance in the program’s history. The only year with a larger season-opening attendance was Nov. 18, 2001 against Valparaiso, which was the day the 2001 National Championship banner was raised.