Female Senior Athlete: Allen saves best for last in NCAA Tournament
Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Charel Allen saved the biggest game of her career until her time at Notre Dame was almost over.
The senior shooting guard dropped a career-high 35 points along with six rebounds and three assists against Oklahoma during Notre Dame’s 79-75 overtime win in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. She led the Irish to victory with clutch shots late in the second half and during the extra period.
“She willed us to victory in that Oklahoma game,” coach Muffet McGraw said. “She took the ball and just said ‘We are not losing this game.'”
The thing about that game is that it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Allen has been Notre Dame’s go-to player late in games for the last four years, nailing key shots in the final minutes throughout her career.
“What she has done in her whole career is make big shots, play with poise under pressure. She has made the big play countless times, even this year,” McGraw said. “So many times this year when we needed a basket, had to score on this possession, and she was the one that always put the dagger in the other team’s heart.”
Allen’s first clutch performance was during her freshman season at one of the biggest stages in women’s college basketball – against Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.
Going into the game against the Lady Huskies on Jan. 30, 2005 Connecticut had won 112 straight home games. Allen came off the bench to score 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting – including two shots to help ice the victory.
The Lady Huskies had cut the score to 52-51 when Allen nailed back-to-back jumpers, including her only 3-pointer of the game, to help push the lead back to six.
“She’s coming off a bench as a freshman and she’s still the one making the big shots,” McGraw said. “So I think we knew right away that she had that kind of poise.”
While Allen continued with those kind of performances throughout her Notre Dame career, she was also one of the most consistent players in the program’s history. She leaves the Irish as the only player ever to record over 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals. Additionally, her 1,566 points rank eighth all-time in Notre Dame history.
This season, Allen was named first team all-Big East for the second straight year.
She was also named one of the team’s tri-captains, along with classmates Tulyah Gaines and Amanda Tsipis.
Gaines was the most vocal of the three captains and Tsipis did the little things to help keep the team in line. But Allen was more of a “lead by example” senior, McGraw said.
“Charel’s job was sort of to lead by example, like ‘I’m going to show you how to play under pressure, I’m going to show you how to win. Follow my lead,'” McGraw said.
McGraw said that while other players on the roster, including rising senior Lindsay Schrader and rising junior Ashley Barlow could help fill the scoring void Allen left, no one can fill the void Allen leaves in the program.
“I think she’s going to leave a big hole,” she said. “You don’t lose a player of that magnitude and not have some growing pains the next year.”
Looking back at Allen’s four years at Notre Dame, McGraw said Allen is right at the top of the list of the best players she has coached in her 21 years with the program.
“[She is] easily in the top five,” McGraw said. “Really, she’s right up there with the best players that have ever played here. She has definitely left a huge mark on our program.”