Jan. 2, 2007
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) posted game highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double, leading Notre Dame to a 64-61 win over Seton Hall in its BIG EAST Conference opener on Tuesday night at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J. Senior guard Breona Gray (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) chipped in with 14 points on her 22nd birthday, as the Irish logged their seventh win in the past nine games.
Notre Dame (10-4, 1-0) led virtually the entire second half, but never by more than seven points. The Irish then fell behind by a bucket twice in the final six minutes, but used an 8-2 run down the stretch to pull out the victory. Allen played a critical role in the game-changing spurt, canning the go-ahead foul line jumper with 3:09 left, then sinking an insurance basket with 1:55 remaining.
Gray added a pair of clutch free throws, converting both ends of a one-and-one with 17.4 seconds to play. Heta Korpivaara got SHU back within three points on a layup moments later, and the Pirates had a look at a game-tying shot after a missed Irish foul shot, but Jadis Rhoden’s desperation try was well off the mark.
Korpivaara and Monique Blake scored 14 points apiece to lead Seton Hall (9-4, 1-1), although Blake missed the critical final three minutes with a knee injury. Ashley Booker added 10 points for the Pirates, with eight of her markers coming in the first half.
The opening 20 minutes were a study in momentum, with four ties in the first 5:20 of action. SHU broke free with 10 consecutive points, including back-to-back field goals from Amber Harris, to grab an 18-8 lead at the 11:13 mark. However, almost as quickly, Notre Dame rallied back with a 10-0 run of its own, knotting matters on Allen’s transition layup at the 6:58 junction. The Pirates rebuilt a six-point lead, but the Irish once again came back to even matters, doing so in a most dramatic way.
Trailing 30-27 with 0.4 seconds left in the period, Gray took an inbounds pass from freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) and calmly banked in a left-handed shot (using her off hand) from just in front of the midcourt to deadlock the score at the intermission. It was the first successful shot from the center stripe for Notre Dame since Jan. 26, 2002, when Alicia Ratay flung one in from approximately 55 feet at the halftime horn in a 64-57 victory over No. 16/17 Virginia Tech at the Joyce Center.
The Irish used the emotional boost from Gray’s heroics to charge into the lead early in the second half, going on a 14-7 run out of the gate in the first five minutes. Seton Hall then gave Notre Dame some of its own medicine, reeling in the Irish with a successful comeback by scoring nine of the next 13 points and getting within 48-46 on Noteisha Womack’s layup with 11:06 to play.
After trading baskets during the next four minutes, the Pirates finally regained the lead when Blake nailed two foul shots for a 54-52 lead at the 5:48 mark. Another bucket exchange ensured, with Barlow drilling a left-wing three-pointer that briefly put the Irish ahead with 4:25 to go. Less than 35 seconds later, Korpivaara scored on an offensive rebound, but it would be the hosts’ last lead of the night. Allen put Notre Dame in front for good on her jumper just after the media timeout and the Irish defense forced the Pirates into four missed shots (on six tries) with the game in the balance.
Notre Dame will take the next week off before opening the home portion of its BIG EAST schedule on Wednesday, Jan. 10 when it plays host to Cincinnati at 7 p.m. (ET) at the Joyce Center. Tickets remain available for that game and may be purchased through the Irish Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), via the official Notre Dame athletics web site by clicking here or on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows in the Joyce Center.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame tips off the BIG EAST season with a win for the eighth time in its 12-year conference membership … the Irish improve to 15-4 all-time against Seton Hall, including a 7-2 record at Walsh Gym … the past four series games played at Seton Hall have been decided by an average of five points per game … the 64 points scored by Notre Dame were the most they have registered against the Pirates since Feb. 2, 2002, when they won 65-60 in South Orange … Notre Dame continues its recent success in close games, moving to 4-1 this season in games decided by five points or less (12-5 in such contests dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season) … since a minus-12 rebound margin at Michigan on Dec. 1, the Irish now have outrebounded six of their last seven opponents (lone exception: minus-3 vs. IUPUI on Dec. 16) … Notre Dame erased a 10-point first-half deficit, marking the third time this season the Irish have climbed out of a double-figure hole to win (also Bowling Green and Purdue) … Notre Dame notched double-digit steals for the 10th time this season … Charel Allen’s first-ever double-double was aided by a career-high 10 rebounds, one more than her previous best that had been set four times (most recently vs. Indiana on Dec. 3) … Breona Gray tied her career high with three steals … Gray had struggled on the road this season, going 3-of-16 from three-point range going into the Seton Hall game (she was 2-of-3 vs. the Pirates).