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Women’s Basketball: Allen thrives off bench one year after injury

Eric Retter | Friday, March 3, 2006

Her coach didn’t expect her to perform at the level she has this season.

Neither did conventional medical wisdom that said after an injury like the one sophomore guard Charel Allen suffered last March – a torn ACL – a player typically wouldn’t be a major contributor until one year later.

“We thought March,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said about Allen’s return before the team’s Feb. 19 game against Connecticut. “I didn’t really expect her to be playing [extended minutes] until January.”

When the Irish take on South Florida Saturday the Notre Dame guard will play in her 28th game this season, and she has logged meaningful minutes in every Irish contest of the 2005-06 slate.

“I’m pleased,” McGraw said. “She’s surprised us by coming back early.”

For her part, Allen, who averages 8.7 points and 24.4 minutes per game, has made her rehabilitation and return to the team a priority.

“At the beginning of this season, I was really focused on recovering and just getting into playing shape. And I say I’m about there – I’m about 100 percent,” she said.

Over the last month, Allen has improved the overall level of her game. This fact has shown mainly in her offensive output, as she has scored in double figures in six of the past seven games. During that time, she earned McGraw’s praises.

“I felt like in the last three games [before Connecticut] she’s looked like a different player,” McGraw said on Feb. 18. “I really think that she’s getting better every game.”

Allen, however, has shown scoring promise all season, and her 16 points Tuesday against Pittsburgh matched her total against Michigan Nov. 18 – the team’s first game of the season.

“My coach is telling me, encouraging me, to shoot more,” Allen said. “I guess she has faith in me and I have faith in myself, so right now I’m just looking for my shot a little more.”

Throughout the past seven games, a majority of Allen’s points have come in the second half. Often, the team has been down when Allen begins to score big. Against Villanova on Feb. 7, Allen led the team’s effort to claw back from a 21-point deficit to force overtime – scoring all of her 14 points in the second half behind 7-for-10 shooting.

“Maybe I should turn it on a little bit earlier, because I always turn it on at the end and we’re … losing,” she said.

Allen has also been a consistent force under the boards all season, ranking third on the team with 4.4 rebounds a game despite playing at guard and carrying a guard’s frame.

“I just go in there and try because people underestimate me because of my size,” Allen said. “They don’t really look to box me out so I try to grab every loose change that our forwards don’t pick up.”

In part because of that mentality, Allen’s 24.4 minutes per game ranks third on the Irish in the category. However, she still has barely cracked the starting lineup, having started just one of the team’s 27 games.

“I think we need a spark off the bench,” McGraw said. “I think that she gives that great lift coming in off the bench. She’s played well and we thought about starting her, but if we changed the lineup, I’m not sure who would give us that energy off the bench.”

Despite not being on the court to start games, Allen says she has felt no diminished value in coming off the bench.

“That’s all I wanna do is play, whether I start or whether I come off the bench,” she said. “Whatever coach feels like doing with me, I’ll do whatever she asks.”