Jan. 10, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Junior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) poured in a career-high 27 points, including 17 in the second half, to help Notre Dame post an 81-70 BIG EAST Conference victory over Cincinnati on Wednesday night at the Joyce Center. Gaines also collected five assists and four steals for the Irish, who forced the visiting Bearcats into 25 turnovers and parlayed those takeaways into 31 points.
Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) gave Notre Dame a first-half boost with 15 of her 19 points in the period. Allen also shared team-high rebounding honors with freshman center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg), with both players grabbing seven caroms. As a team, the Irish shot 49.2 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the foul line en route to their eighth win in the past 10 games.
Treasure Humphries paced four UC players in double figures with 15 points, while Karen Twehues carded 14 points. Shelly Bellman flirted with a triple-double before ending the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Carla Jacobs matched Bellman with 13 points. The Bearcats also shot the ball well, hitting at a 47.2 percent rate, including an even 50 percent (10-of-20) from the three-point line, which helped keep Cincinnati within shouting distance for a good part of the night.
Coming off its third week-long break in the past month, Notre Dame (11-4, 2-0 BIG EAST) looked a bit rusty in the early going, turning the ball over twice and missing three of its first four shots. Humphries scored the first five points of the night, and as it turned out, those markers gave the Bearcats their largest lead less than a minute into the game. However, the Irish fired back with seven unanswered points, going in front on a three-pointer by senior forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul) at the 16:43 mark.
After UC scored six straight to regain an 11-7 lead, the Notre Dame offense kicked into gear on the back of a relentless defense that caused 17 Bearcat turnovers in the first half alone. The Irish went on an 11-2 run during the next five minutes, with Allen and Gaines accounting for all but two of the points in the spurt. Cincinnati (10-5, 2-2) got back to within 20-18 on Jacobs’ trey with 8:10 to go in the period, but again Notre Dame counterpunched, this time on a 7-0 spree in an 80-second span that cracked open the largest lead of the first half for the Irish.
The teams traded baskets for the balance of the opening 20 minutes before the Bearcats made a late run behind some defensive pressure of their own. The Irish turned the ball over five times in the closing four minutes and allowed Cincinnati to get as close as 33-32 on Humphries’ fast break layup with 2:12 to go. Notre Dame wobbled, but never surrendered the lead, eventually taking a 37-34 edge to the locker room.
The Irish regained their footing early in the second half, as junior center Melissa D’Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd) dropped in a pair of buckets to spark a 14-6 run by the hosts, pushing Notre Dame’s lead into double figures for the first time with little more than six minutes gone. The two sides then seemed content to trade baskets for the next four minutes as the lead hovered between eight and 12 points. The Irish then mounted an 11-3 charge, getting seven points from Gaines and running out to a 77-58 lead with 3:57 remaining. Cincinnati made a handful of late field goals against the Notre Dame second unit to trim the margin to 11 by the final horn.
The Irish head back out on the road Saturday for a noon (ET) game against South Florida at the Sun Dome in Tampa. It will be Notre Dame’s first visit to the Sunshine State in nearly three years and the game will be broadcast live as part of the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) Game of the Week television package. In South Bend, the contest will air live on SBT2 (Comcast Channel 16), with SportsNet New York, Fox Sports New England, Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast and Ohio News Network among those outlets also carrying the game live.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame’s 81 points were the most for the Irish against a BIG EAST opponent since Feb. 26, 2005, when they defeated West Virginia, 82-57 on Senior Day at the Joyce Center … Notre Dame also notched its sixth 80-point game of the season, the most for the Irish since they had 15 80-point nights en route to the NCAA national championship in 2000-01 … Notre Dame is unbeaten in three series games against Cincinnati, with Wednesday’s game the first between the Irish and Bearcats in South Bend since Feb. 13, 1982 (nearly 25 years ago) … Notre Dame now has won six of its last eight BIG EAST home openers … the Irish also won their 13th consecutive home game against an Ohio-based opponent, dating back to the 1992-93 season … Notre Dame just missed its best foul-shooting night of the year, with Wednesday’s 90-percent outing topped only by a 90.9-percent showing (10-of-11) vs. Indiana on Dec. 3 … the Irish defense forced 25 opponent turnovers for the fourth time this season and logged double-figure steals for the 11th time in the campaign … the last three Notre Dame games all have featured final rebounding margin of +1, with the Irish winning the first two board battles (at Tennessee and Seton Hall) before Cincinnati claimed Wednesday’s tally … Notre Dame is shooting better from the three-point line of late, going 10-of-24 (.417) from deep in its last three games … the Irish are 7-0 this season when leading at the half … Tulyah Gaines scored a career-high 27 points, the most by an Irish player this season, and two more than her previous best set against Bowling Green in an overtime win on Nov. 13 at the Joyce Center … Gaines also set personal bests for free throws made and attempted (tied) and was one steal off her career high (five vs. IUPUI on Dec. 16) … Crystal Erwin’s first-half three-pointer pushed her over the 500-point mark for her career.