Feb. 26, 2007
CHICAGO - Freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) matched her career high with 21 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, but Notre Dame ran into a hot-shooting DePaul squad and dropped an 87-73 decision to the Blue Demons in Monday night's regular-season finale. The Irish (19-10, 10-6) finish in a three-way tie for fifth place in the BIG EAST Conference standings (with Louisville and Pittsburgh), but due to tiebreak rules, Notre Dame will be seeded seventh for this weekend's BIG EAST Championship and will face DePaul again at 6 p.m. (ET) Saturday at the Hartford Civic Center in a game broadcast live on the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Network (RSN) package (check local listings).
Senior guard Breona Gray (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) scored 15 points, while junior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) added 14 points and five assists. Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) tallied 10 points in a foul-plagued 25 minutes, but did score her 1,000th career point in the second half, becoming the 23rd player in school history to reach that milestone.
As a team, the Irish shot 43.9 percent from the field, including 50 percent (6-of-12) from three-point range. However, Notre Dame also allowed 11 three-pointers and 87 points, with both marks tying for opponent season highs. DePaul (18-11, 8-8) shot an even 50 percent from beyond the arc and 45.6 percent overall, hitting at a .528 clip in the second half on the way to an opponent season-high 51 points. Caprice Smith led four Blue Demons in double figures with a game-best 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
The Irish came out strong in the first half, jumping to an 8-3 lead behind two early buckets from Gaines. DePaul then responded with a 12-4 run of its own, capped by Erin Cattell's baseline jumper at the 12:48 mark. Notre Dame steadied itself with eight of the next nine points, and rode that momentum out to a 30-23 lead when Gaines canned her own jumper on the baseline with 5:52 remaining in the half. The Irish then went cold, making only two baskets the rest of the period, while the Blue Demons continued to stroke from the perimeter, as Jenna Rubino punctuated a three-point flurry by putting the hosts back in front with 3:02 to go. The teams then traded markers in the waning moments, leaving DePaul in front, 36-35 at halftime.
The lead changed hands four times in the opening minute of the second half, with Barlow giving Notre Dame its last lead at 39-38 on a driving layup at the 19:17 mark. That lasted all of six seconds, before Allie Quigley converted an old-fashioned three-point play in transition, kicking off a 9-0 DePaul run over the next two minutes. The Irish battled back and got as close as 53-48 when Allen drilled a long jumper with 12:57 to play. But, Erin Carney hit a three-pointer from the top of the key 30 seconds later and Notre Dame couldn't trim the margin below seven points thereafter. Allen did reach the 1,000-point milestone on a jumper in the lane with 4:19 left, marking the 10th time in the past 13 seasons the Irish have had at least one player score her 1,000th career point during the campaign.
The BIG EAST Championship tiebreak procedure involving Notre Dame, Louisville and Pittsburgh placed all three teams into a "mini-conference" with records against the other two teams evaluated. All three teams went 1-1 against the others, moving the tiebreak to a second step where the records of the tied schools were compared against the highest finishing team in the conference standings (starting with Connecticut and continuing down the ladder). Louisville defeated Rutgers and Pittsburgh downed Marquette (RU and MU tied for second place), thus putting Notre Dame in the No. 7 position. UofL then was awarded the fifth seed by virtue of its head-to-head win over Pittsburgh this season.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season ... the back-and-forth nature of the series continues, with the teams trading wins in the past eight matchups (each successfully defending their home court four times) ... DePaul now leads the all-time series by a 16-11 count, with a 10-4 edge in Chicago, where the Blue Demons have won the past five series games ... Saturday's BIG EAST Championship opener will be just the second neutral-site contest in the series with DePaul, after the Blue Demons took a 77-69 win on March 24, 1989 at the old National Women's Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas ... in each of the past eight series meetings, the winning side has scored at least 75 points, although DePaul's 87 points are the most for either team since Jan. 16, 1995 (a 96-87 Blue Demon win in Chicago) ... despite the loss, Notre Dame ends the month of February with a 6-2 record, posting a winning mark in February for the 19th time in the 20-year Muffet McGraw era (the lone exception was a 4-4 record in 1988-89) ... for the seventh time in their last eight losses, the Irish either led or were within one possession during the second half or overtime ... the DePaul loss is just the second for Notre Dame this season in 11 games when fielding four or more double-figure scorers (the other setback came in overtime at South Florida on Jan. 13) ... the Irish hit six three-pointers, one off their season high set on Jan. 16 vs. St. John's ... Ashley Barlow previously scored 21 points vs. Prairie View A&M on Dec. 28; she is the third Notre Dame player this season with multiple 20-point games, following Charel Allen (10) and Tulyah Gaines (3) ... Breona Gray posted her second-highest scoring night of the season with 15 points, topped only by a career-high 22 points vs. No. 10/9 Purdue on Dec. 6 ... Gaines scored in double figures for the third consecutive game and 13th time this season and dished out at least five assists for the 12th time this year.