Jan. 31, 2007
PITTSBURGH -- Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) scored a game-high 17 points, including a three-pointer with 51 seconds left that pulled Notre Dame within three, but the Irish couldn't complete a stirring late-game comeback, falling at Pittsburgh, 71-62 in BIG EAST Conference action on Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center. Notre Dame had trailed by 10 points with less than four minutes to play and battled back to make it a one-possession game twice in the final minute, before ultimately seeing two potential game-tying three-point attempts go off the mark.
Playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends who made the 30-mile trek from her hometown, Allen was superb, finishing with seven rebounds, a career-high six assists and three steals in 38 minutes of work. Freshman center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg) chipped in with another solid effort, coming off the bench to pile up 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds for the Irish (13-8, 4-4 BIG EAST).
Shavonte Zellous led three Pittsburgh players in double figures with 17 points, while Marcedes Walker added 16 points and eight rebounds, and Danielle Taylor collected 16 points in a reserve role. The Panthers (16-5, 4-4), who dropped out of the national rankings this week after an eight-week run in the Top 25, held a 40-29 edge on the boards, and outscored Notre Dame by 10 points at the free throw line.
Both teams struggled to find a rhythm in the early going, with a snail's pace yielding just a 12-10 lead for the Irish by the second media timeout (11:43) of the first half. Coming out of the break, Notre Dame struck quickly with a 10-3 run, capped by a lay-up from freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) at the 5:51 mark. But, just as fast, Pittsburgh stormed back with a 9-0 run, in a two-minute span, with Selena Nwude squaring the score on her jumper in the paint with 3:11 remaining. The teams would stay virtually level the rest of the period, with a couple of late buckets by Williamson helping the Irish to a 28-26 halftime lead.
The first nine minutes of the second half were nightmarish for Notre Dame, as the Irish connected on only two field goals and saw the Panthers go on a 15-5 run, with Walker's spinning lay-up in the paint boosting the hosts' lead to 41-33 with 10:29 to go. Notre Dame trimmed the margin to five points on three occasions during the next four minutes, with Allen's pull-up jumper on the break resulting in a 50-45 Pitt edge at the 6:38 juncture. The Panthers then scored six of the next seven points and seemingly had matters under control with a game-high 10-point lead heading into the final media timeout (3:40).
At that point, Notre Dame began chipping away at the Pittsburgh lead, with Williamson hitting a bucket inside, followed by four points from junior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) and then five points from freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike). And, when Allen sank her trey with under a minute to play, the Panthers' advantage had shrunk to 63-60. Taylor then beat the Irish press for a fastbreak lay-up, but Lechlitner came back with her own lay-up off an Allen steal with 29.9 seconds to play to keep the margin at three points.
Pitt had trouble with the ensuing inbounds under its basket, and after a timeout, the Panthers still couldn't get the ball in safely and were whistled for a five-second violation. Now with a chance to tie the game, Lechlitner took the inbounds pass and fired up a 22-footer from the right wing that caromed off the back iron. Allen corralled the long offensive rebound, but her heavily contested three-point try was off-line as well and the ball went out of bounds back to Pittsburgh. Barlow then fouled Pitt guard Jania Sims on the next possession, but Sims (a 65-percent foul shooter) appeared to tweak her foot on the play and the officials allowed her to be replaced by Karlyle Lim (an 85-percent foul shooter), who promptly sank both charities. Taylor completed the scoring by intercepting a long baseball pass by the Irish and banking in a shot from 45 feet with under a second to play.
Notre Dame will open a season-long three-game BIG EAST homestand Sunday when it plays host to West Virginia at the Joyce Center. Tip time is set for 5:30 p.m. (ET) and the game will be broadcast live to a national television audience on ESPNU. Tickets for that game, and all remaining Irish women's basketball home contests, may be purchased by contacting the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), clicking here, or visiting the Joyce Center Gate 10 ticket windows on game day.
POST GAME NOTES: Pittsburgh earns its first victory in 17 all-time games against Notre Dame, making Providence the only BIG EAST opponent never to have defeated the Irish with a minimum of five series games played ... Notre Dame's 62 points were a series-low, topping the old mark set in a 67-53 win at Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, 2000 ... Pitt's 71 points were only three off its series high, set in an 81-74 loss to the Irish on Feb. 9, 2000 ... the loss was the first for Notre Dame in four games this season when playing after a double-digit loss in its previous contest ... the Irish lost for the first time in 10 games (and four BIG EAST contests) this season when leading at halftime (and it was just their fifth such loss in the past 51 outings) ... Notre Dame gave up a nine-point first-half lead vs. Pittsburgh, the largest margin the Irish have yielded in a loss this year -- the previous margin was eight vs. Indiana on Dec. 3 ... Pittsburgh's 45 second-half points were the most allowed by Notre Dame to a BIG EAST opponent this year ... Charel Allen now is averaging 16.3 ppg. in three career meetings with her hometown school (Pittsburgh) ... Allen's six assists were one more than her previous career best, set against Purdue on Dec. 6 ... Erica Williamson now has logged back-to-back double-digit scoring games for the first time in her career ... Tulyah Gaines dished out at least five assists for the fourth time in the past five games and the eighth time this season.