Feb. 28, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - On a night where the Notre Dame women's basketball program took time to honor its seniors, it was the young guns that helped the Irish come away with a victory.
Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) chipped in with 16 points, as Notre Dame rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to knock off Pittsburgh, 72-65 on Tuesday evening before a crowd of 5,632 fans at the Joyce Center. It was the largest comeback win of the season for the Irish and the second-largest in Notre Dame history, topped only by a 16-point rally to defeat Connecticut on March 30, 2001 at the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis.
Following the game, the Irish (17-10, 8-8 BIG EAST) learned they will be seeded 10th and play No. 7 seed South Florida (19-10, 9-7) in the first round of the BIG EAST Conference Championship Saturday at 6 p.m. (ET) inside the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center. USF defeated Notre Dame, 68-64 in overtime back on Jan. 28 in South Bend.
Playing in their final home games for the Irish Tuesday night, senior co-captains Courtney LaVere (Ventura, Calif./Buena) and Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne) certainly didn't have their best outings of the year, but did contribute to the win. LaVere finished with 14 points, five rebounds and a career-high-tying five blocks, while Duffy added 11 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Maddy Brown came off the bench to lead Pittsburgh in scoring with 13 points, knocking down 4-of-7 three-pointers in the contest. Fellow reserve Danielle Taylor collected 10 points, while center Marcedes Walker tallied a double-double with 12 points and 18 rebounds, despite shooting 2-of-12 from the floor.
Notre Dame held the lead for the first six minutes of action, before Pittsburgh came alive with an 8-0 run to move ahead, a position it would maintain for the rest of the half. The Irish got back within 16-15 on a layup by sophomore center Melissa D'Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd), but the Panthers then countered with 13 of the next 15 points, moving out to a 12-point lead on a layup by Xenia Stewart at the 6:41 mark.
Following a timeout, Notre Dame scored six consecutive points, four coming on jumpers by Allen. However, that was quickly erased when Pittsburgh used its third large run of the first half, a 9-0 spurt, to take its largest lead of the night at 38-23 on Brown's third three-pointer of the period with 2:26 to go. The Irish trimmed a bit off the margin with some late buckets, but still found themselves on the short end of a 41-31 score at the intermission.
Cheron Taylor's layup and Brown's free throw, offsetting a jumper by Schrader, boosted Pitt's lead to 44-33 a minute into the second half. From there, Notre Dame put together a 13-1 run covering the next six minutes, taking their first lead since the opening moments of the first half on LaVere's putback with 13:49 remaining. The Panthers, who had shot 55.2 percent in the first 20 minutes and had an assist for each of their 16 field goals, went without a basket for 7:28 before Stewart tied the game at 48-all with 11:57 left.
The lead changed hands seven times during the ensuing three-plus minutes before Schrader put her team in front to stay on an old-fashioned three-point play at the 8:47 mark. After a triple by Allen, Walker pulled Pittsburgh back to 60-59 with five minutes still to go, hitting a layup and two foul shots in the process. That's when the Notre Dame defense rose up and slammed the door on the Panthers, holding the visitors to one field goal down the stretch and canning 7-of-10 free throws to preserve the third consecutive victory for the Irish.
Single-game tickets for the 2006 BIG EAST Championship, presented by Aeropostale, will go on sale Wednesday, March 1 at 10 a.m. (ET) at a cost of $20 each for Session 1 (Saturday afternoon doubleheader) and Session 2 (Saturday evening doubleheader, includes the Notre Dame-South Florida game). Quarterfinal session tickets on Sunday are available for $25 apiece, while admission to Monday's semifinal doubleheader and Tuesday's title game are $30 each. In addition, ticket packages for 11 games of the conference championship may still be purchased at a cost of $99.
Tickets can be obtained through all Ticketmaster outlets, as well as online through the Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com) or the Hartford Civic Center (www.hartfordciviccenter.com) web sites. The Civic Center box office also will be open weekdays from noon-5 p.m. (ET) and four hours prior to weekend events to offer additional ticket purchase options. All tickets are subject to additional convenience fees.
POST GAME NOTES: The Irish continue to experience uncanny success on Senior Night, improving to 24-5 (.828) all-time in their final regular-season home game, including a 17-2 (.895) mark in the Muffet McGraw era ... Notre Dame posts its first three-game winning streak since Dec. 17-28 (Arkansas State, Utah, Valparaiso) ... it may have taken a while, but the Irish solidified their 11th consecutive non-losing BIG EAST season, ending this year's league campaign at 8-8 ... Notre Dame's 15-point comeback win vs. Pittsburgh was its largest since a similar 15-point rally on Feb. 15, 2005 at Boston College ... the Irish now have posted significant second-half rallies in 14 games this season and for the seventh time this year, Notre Dame came back to win after being tied or trailing in the final 11 minutes ... the 10-point halftime deficit was the largest Notre Dame has erased this season and widest since they trailed by 11 in last year's rally at Boston College (2/15/05) ...the Irish now are 16-0 all-time against Pittsburgh (7-0 at the Joyce Center), the best unblemished record against a BIG EAST opponent in program history (ND is 14-0 vs. Providence) ...Notre Dame has scored 65 or more points in each of its 16 meetings with Pitt, topping the 70-point mark in the past five outings; conversely, the Panthers have scored at least 65 points six times in 16 games against the Irish ... Notre Dame has surpassed 70 points in each of its last three games after doing so just once in a 16-game stretch from Dec. 18-Feb. 19 (a 78-75 win over No. 10 DePaul on Jan. 17) ... the Irish registered their ninth consecutive game with at least three double-digit scorers and their 21st in 27 games this season; what's more, this was the ninth time four Notre Dame players have cracked double figures (6-2 record) ... the Irish were charged with less than 10 turnovers for the third time this season, and for the eighth time in nine games, they had less than 15 turnovers (two in the second half vs. Pitt) ... Notre Dame was credited with a season-high eight blocks, including a career-high-tying five rejections by senior forward Courtney LaVere, who also had five at Marquette on Dec. 31, 2002; LaVere has become a shot-blocking machine of late, averaging 3.0 blocks in her last five games ... freshman guard Lindsay Schrader collected her second 20-point game of the season and came within one rebound of her third double-double this year ... sophomore guard Tulyah Gaines had another stellar performance with nine points, six rebounds and a career-high eight assists without a single turnover in 31 minutes; Gaines is averaging 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists with a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio in the past three games (all wins) ... sophomore guard Charel Allen matched her season high with 16 points, tying the mark she set in the season opener vs. Michigan on Nov. 18; Allen has scored in double figures seven times in the past nine games and is averaging 10.9 ppg. in that span ... senior All-America guard Megan Duffy extended her current streak of double-digit scoring games to 12 in a row, matching the 12-game run by Jacqueline Batteast from Nov. 21, 2001-Jan. 5, 2002 ...Duffy also moved up another rung into 13th place on the Notre Dame career scoring ladder with 1,239 points, passing Mary Beth Schueth, who scored 1,233 points from 1981-85.