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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish embark on first regular season road trip

Samantha Zuba | Thursday, November 21, 2013

The No. 6 Irish travel Saturday to Penn for a game in the iconic Palestra gymnasium.

Notre Dame (3-0) rarely plays the Quakers (0-1), but Irish coach Muffet McGraw said Penn’s location and its famous gym are huge draws.

“We played them here [in South Bend] two years ago,” McGraw said. “We’re returning the team for the chance to go east close to where [junior guard] Madison Cable and [freshman guard] Lindsey Allen are from and for a chance to see the arena. It is such an iconic arena in basketball.”

The Palestra stands on Penn’s campus in Philadelphia and has hosted more college basketball games than any other gymnasium in the country since it opened in 1927. The Palestra frequently hosts NCAA tournament games, and a Greek professor at Penn named the arena after a Greek term for athletic spaces.

The Irish and Quakers last played on Dec. 2, 2011, a 69-38 Irish win at Purcell Pavilion.

“I thought it was a pretty good game,” McGraw said. “They gave us a really good game, and they’ve got some of those players back. They’ve got a veteran team and a lot of really good guards.”

One of those guards, senior Alyssa Baron, averaged 16.9 points per game as a sophomore in the 2011-12 season, but the Irish held her to seven points. The Quakers have only played one game this year, a 56-51 loss to St. Francis Brooklyn, and Baron scored nine points in that game.

Freshman center Sydney Stipanovich and junior forward Katy Allen provide size for Penn, and each scored 12 points in Penn’s season opener.

The road game is Notre Dame’s first of the season, and it will be the first regular season collegiate road trip for the freshmen.

“I think it’s always interesting to see how freshmen react to their first road game,” McGraw said. “The veterans have done it before, so we expect them to know.”

Though the Penn matchup is a non-conference affair, this season marks the first time the Irish travel for an ACC schedule. But McGraw said she does not anticipate drastic changes or new challenges due to travel.

“It’s almost identical to the Big East,” McGraw said. “For the Big East schools, it was about an hour-and-fifteen-minute flight to each school. In the ACC, we have to go to Florida State and Miami, so we have that one long trip, but the average is about [90 minutes]. It’s about the same travel time-wise.”

But there have been changes for the Irish. Allen has been asked to step up at point guard for Notre Dame and is one of the team’s vocal leaders in her freshman season. So far, Allen has shot 61.9 percent from the field and averaged 11.0 points per game. She has complemented her own scoring with nine assists, and McGraw said she sees only upside in the young guard.

“[She is] way ahead of schedule,” McGraw said. “She has exceeded my expectations already in terms of her ability to pick up the offense and understand the offense and be able to run the team. I think she’s doing a fantastic job. The upperclassmen help her a lot. It’s great having four starters out there that have experience. I’m really pleased with her shot selection, her defense and her leadership. … She gets better every game. I’m looking forward to seeing what she’ll do this season.”

Notre Dame and Penn take the court Saturday at 3 p.m. at The Palestra in Philadelphia.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu