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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish shake up lineup, beat DePaul

Bill Brink | Monday, February 12, 2007

For the first time in 27 games this season, Notre Dame changed its starting lineup – inserting freshmen guard Ashley Barlow for center Melissa D’Amico.

The move proved effective, as the Irish beat DePaul 78-70 Sunday night at the Joyce center.

Notre Dame (16-8, 7-4 Big East) fell behind early, trailing by as many as six points four different times in the first half. Guard Allie Quigley scored the first 11 points for the Blue Demons and 17 points in the first half.

But with 7:28 remaining in the half, the Irish put together a nine-point run and took a 22-19 lead with under six minutes remaining. Notre Dame held the lead for the rest of the game.

Notre Dame started four guards to counter DePaul’s smaller, quicker lineup. D’Amico and center Erica Williamson saw just 24 minutes combined.

“We wanted to go small,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought in the Louisville game we had a stretch with Crystal [Erwin] at the side and our small team in and we looked pretty good and I thought defensively that would be a good thing to try. And I think it was pretty successful. I think Erica [Williamson] did a pretty good job when she was in there but the small team really helped.”

The Irish were more intense and physical in the second half, led by guard Charel Allen who finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds – her third double-double of the season.

“When the refs let us play, why not go after a loose ball, dive for a loose ball and go after the rebound?” Allen said. “And that’s what I did. They weren’t calling anything so you just have to go with the flow.”

Barlow had a rocky start, accumulating two fouls in the first six minutes of the game and scoring only one point in the first half.

“It was tough to come in there and get some quick fouls, but I had to just play through it and in the second half I think I showed improvement,” she said.

Barlow scored 12 points in the second half and played tight, aggressive defense. On one play, she ran the length of the court and broke up what looked like an easy fast break layup – knocking the ball out of bounds and flying into the cheerleaders in the process. That play resulted in a turnover on the inbounds pass and a Notre Dame fast break.

Barlow wasn’t fazed by her first start, even though the game was televised on ESPN2 and drew a crowd of 7,579, the second largest of the season.

Notre Dame’s quick lineup led to opportunities in transition, which also allowed the Irish to control the game.

“I thought that’s where we broke the game open,” McGraw said of the team’s transition play. “They looked a little tired after they ran us in the first half, and we were able to get some steals, force some turnovers, and that got our running game going.”

Notre Dame forced 23 turnovers while only turning the ball over themselves 17 times.

“Ashley got a couple of steals and we got our hands on the ball,” McGraw said. “We’re pretty good at turning the ball over. Most teams turn it over at least 20 times against our defense, and that really gets us going.”

The Irish defense was much tougher in the second half, holding Quigley to three points and one shot attempt.

“In the first half, the shots were coming easier,” Quigley said.

Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno felt that his team’s loss resulted not from lack of execution, but because of Notre Dame’s disruptive defense.

“Notre Dame did a great job of defending us and making us confused offensively,” he said. “That resulted in our turnovers in the first half. We really were hard-pressed all game to find a rhythm offensively and that’s to the Notre Dame defense’s credit.”

Allen’s 13 rebounds were a career high, surpassing her previous best of 10. This was her seventh game with 20 or more points, five of which have come in the past eight games. The win moves Notre Dame into three-way tie for fifth in the Big East conference.