ND Women’s Basketball: Tip-off Tuesday
Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, November 1, 2006
A little over two minutes into the second half, Irish guard Tulyah Gaines received a long pass and immediately found Charel Allen cutting to the basket, who sank the layup. Gaines’ pass made the crowd erupt, and even earned her a high-five from coach Muffet McGraw in the 82-55 Irish win over Division-II Lake Superior State.
“It was really just such a great pass,” McGraw said. “I just think Tulyah is really playing well. She gets me excited when she attacks the basket.”
The Irish offense looked slow early, and the Irish and Lakers traded baskets to open up the game. A three-pointer by Lakers guard Shalyn Beauchamp put Lake Superior State ahead 6-5.
It was the last time the Lakers would hold the lead.
Gaines responded on Notre Dame’s next possession to regain the lead, and a 17-5 run over the next six minutes destroyed any Lake State hopes. Notre Dame went into the locker room at halftime up 44-27.
“[Our offensive production] was a little better than I expected,” McGraw said. “I thought we’d probably hit the 70’s, get pretty good performances from a lot of different people.”
Notre Dame kept their offense intensity high in the second half, scoring eight straight points after Jaclyn Armstrong sank a lay-up for the Lakers. This run cemented Notre Dame’s lead, which grew steadily throughout the game.
Leading the Irish effort was junior guard Allen, who was 8-of-13 from the floor with 20 points – the best exhibition game of her career. Guard Breona Gray (10 points) and center Melissa D’Amico (11 points) each hit double digits for Notre Dame, while Gaines was not far behind with nine.
Even though 10 out of the 11 Irish players in the game scored, McGraw still thought the players could each have contributed more overall – especially on the glass. Notre Dame out-rebounded Lake Superior State 51-42.
Allen led the charge with 10 boards, and had the only Irish double-double of the game. But the two Irish centers – D’Amico and freshman Erica Williamson – were boxed out all night, and combined for nine boards.
The Irish limited the Lakers on the defensive end. Lake Superior State shot 29 percent from the field (28 percent from 3-point range).
“Our three-point defense was good; our field goal defense was good – we fouled way too much,” McGraw said. “If you’re going to be aggressive, you’re going to foul, and that’s one of the things we can fix.”
Notre Dame also forced 32 turnovers, mainly due to tight defense played by Gaines and Gray.
“I thought for 40 minutes it was a great effort and a lot of that has to do with [Gaines] and [Gray],” McGraw said. “When they get going and get up on the ball, it makes everybody else run and get up and guard people too.”
Another key aspect of the Irish victory was the performance of their three freshmen – Williamson and guards Ashley Barlow and Melissa Lechlitner.
Despite the low rebound total, Williamson still filled in well for the veteran D’Amico, posting six points and one block in 13 minutes.
“I think coming into the game, you could probably tell by the way I played,” Williamson said. “I just love the atmosphere here. The first time I went in and I heard my name, the crowd just went crazy … It was nice to have that.”
Barlow and Lechlitner each played well in their first college appearances, scoring seven and eight points, respectively, while spending time as the point and shooting guard. Barlow’s performance was cut short, however, when she fell hard to the ground eight minutes into the game and left the game for further tests.
Overall, the Irish felt they succeeded in their first test against college opposition on both sides of the ball.
“I thought there were some good things,” McGraw said. “I think you can see the contributions from three of our freshmen will be making and I think they have great potential.”
uThe game was played under new experimental rules for women’s basketball. The rule changes added a 10-second backcourt violation – which was never called – and moved the three-point line back from 19-feet-9 to 20-feet-6.
“When you’re out there shooting you don’t think about where the line is,” Gray said about the new three-point arch.