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ND Women’s Basketball

Hot-shooting guards guide Irish past Stanford, into Elite Eight

| Saturday, March 28, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY — Lindsay Allen and Jewell Loyd had been relatively quiet in Notre Dame’s first two wins in the NCAA tournament, so Stanford developed its game plan in the Sweet 16 to protect the paint.

Unfortuantely for the No. 4 seed Cardinal, the Irish guards awoke with a jolt Friday night, combining for 49 points to pace No. 1-seeded Notre Dame to an 81-60 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

Allen kick-started the scoring effort for the Irish (34-2, 15-1 ACC) in the first half, hitting eight of her 12 attempts from the field, including four from behind the arc. The sophomore piled up 24 points through the game’s first 20 minutes, tying a 40-minute career high.

“She got going, and she got too many open looks,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said of Allen. “We were really concerned about obviously [freshman forward Brianna] Turner inside and [sophomore forward Taya] Reimer inside, and they did really well. But we definitely gave Allen too much space.”

Lindsay AllenJodi Lo | The Observer

Lindsay Allen

The Cardinal (26-10, 13-5 Pac-12) were successful in limiting Turner and Reimer, who combined for just 10 points in the first half.

However, Loyd said their play was crucial to give Allen open looks from downtown and snowballing the Irish lead.

“I think just the ball screen was really effective for us. We came out and got great screens from the post,” Loyd said. “Lindsay is a great guard. She realizes her shot is right there, and she lit up.

“It’s another day in the office for Lindsay.”

Guard play again paced the Irish in the second half, but this time, most of the contributions came from Loyd.

The junior guard had collected Notre Dame’s first two buckets of the game but went cold the rest of the first half, shooting 0-of-8 after that point.

It was Loyd again who kicked off the second stanza, but she was able to keep the momentum going after that. She picked up 17 of her 21 points after the break, including a perfect 7-of-7 mark from the charity stripe.

“I think they’re a really talented team,” VanDerveer said of the Irish. “Jewell Loyd is probably the player of the year. We were just dodging some bullets in the first half, and she picked it up in the second half.”

Jewell LoydJodi Lo | The Observer

Jewell Loyd

Though Allen added just four points after the break to bring her new career-high to 28, McGraw said she was as pleased with the second half as the first.

“She is somebody that’s a very selective shooter, and I thought today, she just felt it, and she had the green light, and she kept shooting,” McGraw said. “And then you saw in the second half, she tried to get everybody else involved, and I think that’s the true point guard coming out in her.”

Stanford never led in the game, but it made runs in the second half to chip away at Notre Dame’s 11-point halftime advantage.

About five minutes into the second half, the Irish had missed three of four shots and allowed Stanford to whittle its deficit down to six points after two Cardinal jumpers and a layup.

A media timeout came at just the right time for Notre Dame, which used the breather to refocus itself, Loyd said.

“We knew that we’ve been in situations like that before,” she said. “So we had great leadership from Lindsay and just everyone else was communicating — ‘It’s not over, keep fighting, keep your heads up and get it done.’ It was very effective.”

The Irish advantage was again cut to single digits with less than nine minutes left when Allen fired an errant pass to Loyd that flew out of bounds. On the next play, the sophomore then fouled Cardinal senior forward Taylor Greenfield, who completed a three-point play to make the score 61-52.

Cue Irish junior guard Hannah Huffman, who tallied a steal, layup, assist, midrange jumper and defensive rebound in the next two minutes to help put the lead back at 17. Huffman’s quick play all over the court warranted cheers from the Notre Dame bench and a timeout from VanDerveer after the jumper.

Hannah HuffmanJodi Lo | The Observer

Hannah Huffman

“When you are feeding off that energy — when Lindsay is playing like she is playing, when Jewell is playing like how she’s playing, it’s such a fun environment,” Huffman said. “As a basketball player, these are moments that you live for, so I was just happy I was able to go out there and help my team.”

Notre Dame now advances to the Elite Eight, where it will face No. 2 seed Baylor in Sunday’s region final, with a trip to the Final Four in Tampa, Florida, on the line. Tipoff will be at 8:30 p.m. at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

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Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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