April 5, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On the heels of a senior year which saw her set Notre Dame and Atlantic Coast Conference single-season and career records for the most assists, Lindsay Allen claimed Most Valuable Player honors at the Irish women’s basketball team’s annual awards banquet, held on Wednesday night on the floor of Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Allen earned both the Monogram Club’s MVP award and the media’s Woody Miller Player of the Year prize. It is the second consecutive year for Allen to claim the Monogram Club MVP. Allen is the fourth repeat winner of the Monogram Club MVP award, joining two-time recipients Charel Allen (2007-08) and Melissa Lechlitner (2009-10) and four-year MVP Jacqueline Batteast (2002-05).
Junior Brianna Turner was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year for the third time in three seasons for the Irish. Sophomore Arike Ogunbowale was named the team’s Most Improved Player and senior Kristina Nelson picked up the team’s Spirit Award. In addition, sophomore Ali Patberg retained the Rockne Student-Athlete Award, presented by the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley, after also taking it as a freshman.
Allen earned her third consecutive finalist nod for the Nancy Lieberman Award and a spot on the Associated Press’ All-America third team after racking up 282 assists her senior year alone — setting school and ACC records. Allen also broke the Notre Dame and ACC career assist records, finishing with 841, a sum that stands 22nd in NCAA history. Allen led the ACC this year, and ranked second nationally, with both those 282 assists and her 3.57 assist-to-turnover ratio. Allen earned ACC Tournament MVP honors after recording a tournament record 33 assists over Notre Dame’s three-game run to the title, including a career-high 13 in the championship game win over Duke. Allen also added 83 steals on defense this year, ranking 36th nationally. She is seventh in school history with 229 career steals and has matched Devereaux Peters for 21st place on the Irish career scoring chart with 1,313 career points.
Allen will perhaps be best remembered for her remarkable durability. She started the first game of her freshman year and never missed one. Allen’s 149 consecutive starts are believed to be an NCAA record for the most consecutive starts. She logged a school-record 1,279 minutes of game time this season, ranking third nationally, including all 45 minutes of the overtime NCAA second round win over Purdue and nine 40-minute efforts. Allen’s 4,554 career minutes played are second in Notre Dame history behind only Skylar Diggins’ 4,639. Most notably, the Irish went 139-10 (.933) with Allen in the lineup, the 139 wins accumulated by her and fellow senior Diamond Thompson making them the third-winningest class in school history.
Named to multiple All-America teams, Turner, the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year, proved to be one of the nation’s top players at both ends of the court once again in 2016-17. At the defensive end, she ranked 18th nationally, and paced the ACC with her 86 blocked shots. The sum is sixth-best for a single season at Notre Dame and brought her career total to 263, standing second in Irish lore and ninth in ACC history. She blocked at least five shots in a game eight times, peaking at seven in the Senior Night win over Boston College (Feb. 23) where she only played 23 minutes. Meanwhile, Turner ranked eighth in the country with a .619 field goal percentage, the third time in her three years placing in the top 10 nationally. Turner will enter her final year of eligibility 16th in school history with 1,456 career points. Playing big when it counted most, five of Turner’s seven double-doubles this year either came against either a ranked team or during postseason play.
Ogunbowale picked up WBCA all-region honors and was one of the top 30 candidates for the Naismith Trophy. The sophomore earned MVP honors for both the NCAA Regional and the Preseason WNIT and picked up national player of the week accolades from espnW on Nov. 21 for her work in the Preseason WNIT. Ogunbowale started 36 games this year after not starting any as a freshman, and improved her scoring average by 4.5 points per game and rebound average by 1.4 boards per game. Her 3-point shooting percentage jumped from .391 (18-for-46) to .454 (64-for-141) and, with it, came several of the team’s top scoring performances of the season. Ogunbowale was Notre Dame’s leading scorer a team-high 17 times in 2016-17, peaking with a 32-point effort in the Sweet 16 win over Ohio State (March 24). She also scored 30 points in the season-opening win over Central Michigan (Nov. 11). Ogunbowale scored at least 20 points in a game seven times this season and recorded the first three double-doubles of her career.
Nelson proved to be an unending supporter of her teammates and optimistic presence at all times on and off of the court. She saw action in 34 games, averaging 11.4 minutes per game, scoring 119 points and snaring an even of 100 rebounds. Nelson scored a season-high 13 points in the win over Pittsburgh (Jan. 12) and proved critical in the post multiple times, most notably in her 21 minutes of action while the Irish dodged an upset at Clemson (Feb. 16) and also in the overtime win against Purdue (March 19) during the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Patberg is a finance major in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and boasts a 3.620 cumulative GPA. The sophomore fought both injury and illness to appear in 22 games this season. She scored a season-high six points in games at Boston College (Jan. 19) and North Carolina (Jan. 22) while making invaluable contributions over 11 minutes at No. 14 Miami (Jan. 8), helping the Irish overcome Allen’s foul trouble in a 67-55 ranked road conference win.
The annual celebration on Wednesday night commemorated a 2016-17 season which saw the Irish advance to the Elite Eight, racking up a record of 33-4 overall and 15-1 in ACC play. For the fifth consecutive year, the Irish won their regular season conference championship outright and also doubled it up with a conference tournament title. The Irish are the only team nationally to make this claim. Notre Dame joined Duke (2001-04) as the only teams to win four consecutive outright ACC regular season and tournament championship doubles. Notre Dame finished the year at No. 2 in the final AP poll (taken before the NCAA Championship) and No. 5 in the final WBCA coaches poll (taken after the tournament).
The 2016-17 Irish recorded the team’s seventh-consecutive 30-win season, a string topped nationally by just UConn. Notre Dame earned its 22nd consecutive NCAA tournament berth (the fourth-longest active streak in the country), advancing to its 15th Sweet 16 and eighth Elite Eight after receiving its sixth-consecutive No. 1-seed.
The Irish accomplished this feat with some particularly sharp shooting. Notre Dame finished the year ranked third in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (.395) and fourth in field goal percentage (.494), adding up to a team that placed 11th in the country in scoring offense at 80.1 points per game. Reflective of the Irish offense clicking, the team stood fourth in assists (696) and 20th in fewest turnovers per game (12.7) for a 1.48 assist-to-turnover ratio that stood fourth in the country this winter.
On the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame produced the 36th-most blocked shots (159) and 33rd-most steals (329) of any team with those 329 steals helping produce a +3.35 turnover margin that stood 39th nationally. The Irish also dominated the glass, ranking 15th in total rebounds (1,455) and 18th in rebounding margin (+7.4). Not surprisingly, the 2016-17 Irish went 25-0 when outrebounding their foe.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.