March 26, 2008
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Charel Allen scored a career-high 35 points, had six rebounds and made all the big plays late to help Notre Dame rally from a five-point overtime deficit and beat fourth-seeded Oklahoma 79-75 in overtime.
“I just had the mentality that we were not leaving here without a win because I have never been to the Sweet 16,” the senior said.
She is now.
The Irish (25-8) are headed to the regional semifinals in Oklahoma City, where they will face top-seeded Tennessee on Sunday at 9 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2. The Lady Vols routed Purdue 78-52 in Tuesday’s other game, coach Pat Summitt’s 100th career win in the NCAA tourney.
Allen’s outburst wasn’t exactly by design.
After spending the first half of Sunday’s game in foul trouble, Allen responded with the biggest performance of her life. She hit 10 of 21 shots, all three 3-pointers and all 12 free throws and when the Irish needed her late, she did it all: force turnovers, score, draw fouls, even block shots.
It was just the kind of effort the Irish needed to get back to the regional semis for the first time since 2004.
“We had a lot of respect for her before tonight,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “I don’t know that we expected her to go 3-of-3 from 3-point range and 12-of-12 from the line. That’s pretty much perfect, and she made some really, really tough plays at the end. She played well.”
Oddly enough, the Irish’s biggest advantage Sunday — inside play — was their biggest weakness Tuesday.
They struggled against Courtney Paris, last year’s national player of the year. She finished with 24 points — all in the final 34 minutes after being shut out for nearly 12 — and 16 rebounds. The performance extended her incredible streak to 92 straight games with a double-double.
Forward Amanda Thompson had 19 points, and guard Jenna Plumley finished with 18, all on 3s.
But even Paris’ dominance inside, and the ability of her helpful teammates to hit critical shots, wasn’t enough to thwart Allen and the Irish. Oklahoma (22-9) finished the season by losing four of five.
“I think it’s a shame anybody has to lose that game, but give credit to Notre Dame,” Coale said. “They were terrific from the line.”
Nobody was better than Allen, who almost single-handedly erased a seven-point deficit with a little more than 8 minutes to go in regulation. Allen scored 10 points in the crucial 16-4 run, which gave Notre Dame a 65-60 lead with 2:02 left in regulation.
But the Sooners tied it on Paris’ post-up basket with 13.7 seconds to go.
Allen had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but the shot bounced on the rim three times before falling off.
In overtime, Allen again brought the Irish back after Oklahoma scored the first five points. This time, Allen hit a 3, stole the ball and made the outlet pass that led to Ashley Barlow’s layup to tie it at 70.
The Irish finally regained the lead when Barlow and Tulyah Gaines combined to make 3 of 4 shots, and Barlow and Allen sealed it by making their last four free throws. Barlow finished with 16 points.
“I know points is the big thing, but as for overall games, I can’t think of a better game I’ve had,” Allen said.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame advances to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons (first since 2004), joining nine other schools who have accomplished that feat (Connecticut, Tennessee, Duke, Georgia, LSU, North Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Purdue and Rutgers) … Notre Dame continues its history of knocking off Big 12 Conference opponents in NCAA second-round action, moving to 4-1 all-time in such games (wins over Texas in 1997, Texas Tech in 1998 and Kansas State in 2003 as well as Tuesday night vs. Oklahoma) … in fact, Tuesday’s win came five years to the day after the Irish knocked off third-seeded K-State, 59-53 in Manhattan, Kan. … prior to this season, the Irish were 0-9 at Mackey Arena, but won all three games they played in Purdue’s building this season, including two in the past three days … Notre Dame posts its 25th win of the season, the sixth time in school history — all in the past 12 years — the Irish have reached that mark (and first since a 27-6 record in 2004-05) … Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time in overtime in the NCAA Tournament, having also defeated Southwest Missouri State, 69-65 in the opening round of the 2004 tournament at the Joyce Center … prior to this year’s championship, the Irish had not scored more than 70 points in an NCAA Tournament game since the 2001 Final Four (a 90-75 win over Connecticut in the national semifinals at St. Louis’ Savvis Center) … Notre Dame’s .917 free throw percentage (22-of-24) was its best-ever in NCAA Tournament play, topping the .880 mark registered in its first NCAA postseason contest (a 92-73 loss at UCLA on March 18, 1992) … the Irish shot .625 (5-of-8) from the three-point line vs. Oklahoma, their third-best mark from distance in NCAA postseason action and highest since the March 30, 2001 win over UConn at the Final Four … senior guard Charel Allen scored a career-high 35 points (previous: 31 vs. St. John’s on Jan. 16, 2007 at the Joyce Center), the second-most points scored by an Irish player in an NCAA Tournament game — Beth Morgan tallied an NCAA East Regional-record 36 points vs. Alabama in the regional semifinals on March 22, 1997 in Columbia, S.C. … Allen’s 35 points also mark the sixth-highest single-game scoring total in school history (for any game) and most since Feb. 22, 2000, when Ruth Riley scored 36 points in an 83-68 win over Miami (Fla.) at the Joyce Center … Allen set a program record for NCAA play by going 3-of-3 from the three-point line, passing Alicia Ratay’s .800 three-point percentage (4-of-5) against Connecticut in the 2001 Final Four.