Feb. 4, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Despite near sub-zero temperatures in the South Bend area and an unorthodox start time necessitated by television that put the game almost directly up against the Super Bowl, Notre Dame led from the opening tip to the final horn in a 77-67 BIG EAST Conference victory over West Virginia on Sunday evening at the Joyce Center. The Irish led by as many as 24 points in the second half and held off a spirited Mountaineer rally with some sharp foul shooting to break a three-game losing streak.
Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) nearly registered her third double-double of the season, finishing with game highs of 26 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame (14-8, 5-4 BIG EAST). Freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) came off the bench to chalk up 17 points and eight rebounds, part of a solid performance by an Irish second unit that outscored its WVU counterpart, 29-10.
Chakhia Cole and Olayinka Sanni scored 16 points apiece for West Virginia (15-8, 6-4), which saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end. LaQuita Owens added 13 points and Sparkle Davis chipped in with 10 points for the Mountaineers.
The two deciding factors in the game would be rebounding and free throw shooting, with both areas tipping decidedly in Notre Dame's favor. The Irish doubled up WVU on the glass, 46-23, and connected on 33-of-39 foul shots (84.6 percent), including 9-of-10 in the final 51 seconds. Notre Dame came into the contest ranked seventh in the nation in free throw percentage at 77.7 percent, while its 33 charities made on Sunday tied a school and Joyce Center record for successful foul tosses.
In the first half, Notre Dame came up with its best 20-minute stretch of the year, holding West Virginia to 25.9 percent shooting (7-of-27) and an opponent season-low 17 points. The Irish used a 15-3 run midway through the period to roll out to a double-digit lead, a spread they would enjoy until the waning moments of the game. Barlow and fellow freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) combined for 10 points in the spurt, which saw WVU miss nine of 10 shots in a six-minute span. Another Irish rookie, forward Danielle Ben-Tsvulun (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding), sank a pair of baskets in the final minute to help Notre Dame take a 38-17 lead to the dressing room.
The Irish kept their lead between 20 and 24 points for the first 13 minutes of the second half, getting to the game-high 24-point gap on four occasions, the last at 62-38 on two Barlow free throws with 9:18 remaining. Notre Dame's lead was 64-42 when Allen canned a jumper at the 7:26 mark, but Davis answered back with a jumper on her team's next possession, as the Mountaineer offense began to heat up. Owens scored eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, during a 21-4 WVU charge, and Davis' trey with 1:11 to go pulled West Virginia within 68-63. However, the Irish sank nine consecutive foul shots down the stretch to preserve the win.
Notre Dame continues its season-long three-game BIG EAST homestand Wednesday when it welcomes No. 19/17 Louisville to the Joyce Center for a 7 p.m. (ET) tipoff. 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: Notre Dame snaps a season-long three-game losing streak, while picking up its fourth consecutive series win over West Virginia (and 15th in 16 all-time meetings, with an 8-0 record at home) ... the Irish have scored at least 70 points in 13 of 16 games vs. West Virginia, while the Mountaineers' 67 points are the most they have scored against Notre Dame since Jan. 7, 1999 (a 111-90 Irish win at the Joyce Center) ... the Irish held West Virginia to 17 first-half points, the fewest by a Notre Dame opponent in one half since March 1, 2005 (Seton Hall led 17-15 at the break in South Orange, N.J., before the Irish rallied to win 41-35) ... conversely, WVU's 50 second-half points were the most by a Notre Dame opponent this year (previous: 49 by Tennessee in the second half on Dec. 30) ... Notre Dame limited the Mountaineers to 23 rebounds, the fewest by an Irish opponent since Jan. 4, 2006, when St. John's had 21 boards in a 66-63 upset of Notre Dame in Queens ... the Irish tied the school and Joyce Center records for free throws made in a game (33), a mark last reached on March 19, 2000 vs. George Washington (45 attempts) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Joyce Center (a 95-60 Notre Dame win) ... the 39 free throw attempts were the most for the Irish since Dec. 4, 2002, when they tried 40 foul shots in a 74-68 win at Valparaiso ... Notre Dame is 7-4 this season in games decided by 10 points or less ... the Irish are shooting 77 percent (77-of-100) from the foul line in the final five minutes (and overtime) of games this year ... Charel Allen posted her fifth 20-point game of the season and set new personal highs by going 9-of-10 at the free throw stripe ... Ashley Barlow carded her 11th double-figure scoring game of the year ... Danielle Ben-Tsvulun scored a career-high four points, all in the final minute of the first half (she had previously scored three points vs. Richmond on Nov. 28 and Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28).