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ND Women’s Basketball: After slow start, Irish rebound to drub Northwood

Joe Meixell | Monday, November 6, 2006

Notre Dame allowed Division-II Northwood University to take a 16-13 lead 12 minutes into Sunday’s game at the Joyce Center, but the Irish exploded for a 9-0 run during the next two minutes and rolled to a 82-35 win.

“That was a great game for us to be able to be down three in the first half,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We haven’t had that opportunity yet this year, and I think we handled that really well.”

Irish guard Charel Allen willed her team ahead of Northwood, putting up eight points during Notre Dame’s run.

“[Allen] wanted to be the one to score,” McGraw said. “She got some nice looks, she didn’t settle for the jumper all the time – she really tried to get inside.”

Notre Dame continued to dominate as the first half ended, going in to the locker room up 33-21. Notre Dame, however, struggled in several aspects of its game in the first 20 minutes, trailing Northwood 11-8 in rebounds and turning over the ball 13 times.

“[At halftime] we just talked about a couple of things we could do better offensively,” McGraw said. “Things that they were giving us that we weren’t taking advantage of, and then we talked about the rebounding.”

McGraw’s adjustments worked as the Irish started the second half with intensity and an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 40-21. In the second half, Notre Dame had runs of 13, 12 and 11 unanswered points.

Freshman guard Ashley Barlow, who put up her first collegiate double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, was integral to the second-half dominance.

“[Barlow is] going to contribute in all areas,” McGraw said. “If we look down the bench and say, ‘We need to score, we need this person, we need to defend, we need that person, we need to rebound,’ she can do it all.

“When she comes in the game, the level of play goes up and I think that’s just a great achievement for her.”

Barlow did not have the only great performance for Notre Dame off the bench. Irish substitutes combined for 44 points against Northwood’s 14 bench points. Sophomore forward Chandrica Smith (eight points, six rebounds), freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner (eight points) and freshman center Erica Williamson (nine points) were Notre Dame’s leading reserves.

Williamson and junior center Melissa D’Amico provided a great inside presence against the Timberwolves throughout the game. D’Amico added nine points of her own on the post, while helping set up the Irish guards.

“I thought Mel [D’Amico] just started out the second half really well,” McGraw said. “We were more determined to get her the ball, and I think both her and Erica [Williamson] worked well on the post and that’s something that we’ve got to have.”

The post play was crucial for the Irish, whose goal in the Northwood game was to rebound more effectively – and they did, 46-28.

“They were out-rebounding us in the first half and we out-rebounded them 26-8 in the second half,” McGraw said. “Those were the most important numbers we were looking at.”

Overall, McGraw has figured out where her team stands after the preseason and knows what it needs to work on for its first matchup Nov. 10 with a Division-I school – Central Michigan.

“I think we’re where we want to be defensively,” she said. “I don’t think we’re where we want to be offensively yet. We didn’t shoot well from the line.”