Jay Fitzpatrick | Monday, March 5, 2007
HARTFORD, Conn. – With 5.5 seconds remaining and DePaul leading by three, Blue Demons guard Allie Quigley sank a pair of free throws to ice a 76-71 win Saturday over Notre Dame in the first round of the Big East tournament.
Down the stretch, Quigley hit several key shots for DePaul, scoring her team’s last eight points. She finished with 28 points on 7-of-14 shooting and made all 12 free throws she attempted.
“Taking it to the basket, I felt confident knowing that my teammates were going to be there to get the rebound and move the ball around,” Quigley said of her play at the end of Saturday’s game.
Despite the close finish, the Irish couldn’t hang with DePaul for the entire game. Early in the second half, the Blue Demons dominated play, outscoring Notre Dame 20-4 over a seven-minute span. DePaul spread the ball around during the run with five different players scoring points.
Blue Demons guard China Threatt led the offense during this stretch, knocking down both of her 3-point attempts. Threatt delayed any Irish comeback attempts with her threes. Her second triple extended the Blue Demon lead to 10 points as DePaul appeared in complete control of the game.
But even though the Irish were floundering, they did not sink.
Notre Dame responded to DePaul’s run with one of its own, scoring 10 straight points over the next two minutes, led by freshman Ashley Barlow and junior Charel Allen.
“I thought Charel came through for us at that point,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “Ashley Barlow got a couple of rebounds. I thought it was mostly rebounding.”
Barlow made the most of her 5-foot-9 frame, fighting for rebounds during the Irish run in order to get put-back layups. Barlow finished with nine points and seven rebounds, but entered the locker room at halftime scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting.
“I think she prefers to come off the bench,” McGraw said. “In the first half she was really out of sync and I thought in the second half she played more like she’s played all season long.”
At the tail end of Notre Dame’s 10-0 run, the Irish failed to convert on two chances to swing momentum in their favor. Allen was sent to the line twice for the Irish – once with a chance to take the lead and once to tie – but made only one of the two foul shots.
“I was disappointed, and I thought if we had gotten the lead it would have been a much different game,” McGraw said. “It would have put more pressure on them, but when it’s a tie game you don’t have that same pressure.”
The Irish played a tough man-to-man defense, led by guard Breona Gray. Gray has been Notre Dame’s top defensive player all season, and tracked down loose balls and forced turnovers throughout Saturday’s game.
“The biggest part of our defense was to continue playing hard. We never wanted to give up,” Gray said. “Wherever the ball was, I was there and so were the rest of my teammates.”
Although Notre Dame forced 19 turnovers, at times it played too aggressively and was in foul trouble throughout the game. Notre Dame finished with 21 team fouls and had both of its point guards – senior Tulyah Gaines and freshman Melissa Lechlitner – foul out late in the second half.
With the loss, the Irish are eliminated from the Big East tournament and now await the NCAA Selection Committee’s decision March 12 on whether they will be in the Tournament.
DePaul currently finds itself in a similar position to the Irish on the bubble for the NCAA Tourney. The Blue Demons lost 63-55 to Rutgers in the second round Sunday night, hurting their chances of impressing the committee enough to secure a spot in the bracket. Both teams will have to wait until next Monday before they learn their postseason fates.
u Allen was named to the all-Big East first team this weekend. She was Notre Dame’s only player selected to the team.
Center Erica Williamson and guards Barlow and Lechlitner were all named to the Big East all-freshman team.