March 1, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Charel Allen scored 22 points and No. 14 Notre Dame made all eight of its free throws in the final 1:25 to beat Seton Hall 70-55 on Saturday.
The Fighting Irish (23-6, 11-4) clinched a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament with the victory. The loss knocked the Pirates (13-14, 3-12), losers of nine straight, out of the tournament. Seton Hall fell to 8-104 all-time against ranked opponents.
But the Pirates, who had lost two straight by at least 28 points, managed to put a bit of a scare into the Irish.
Notre Dame led by as many as 14 in the first half, but the Pirates closed to 36-27 at halftime when Ebonie Williams hit a 15-foot jumper with a second left. Then Nicole Emery hit a pair of 3-pointers for the Pirates to start the second half and cut the lead to 36-33.
The Irish extended the lead back to seven later when Melissa Lechlitner hit a 3, but Emery answered with another 3 to cut Notre Dame's lead to 46-42.
The Irish regained control with a 12-2 run. Lechlitner started it with a drive inside, followed by a 16-foot jumper, and capped it with a long pass to Tulyah Gaines for a fastbreak layup to give Notre Dame a 58-44 lead.
The Pirates closed to 62-54 on a three-point play by Emery and another free throw by her with 1:26 left. But the Irish went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line while Seton Hall went 1-of-4 and failed to make another basket.
Lechlitner finished with 11 points, six assists, five rebounds and came up with some big plays. Lindsay Schrader added 10 points for the Irish.
Emery led the Pirates with a career-high 23 points, 11 more than her previous high of 12 points against Georgetown last season. Ebonie Williams finished with 20 points.
The Irish outrebounded Seton Hall 39-30 and outshot the Pirates 48 percent to 34 percent, helping to overcome 19 turnovers.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame locks up a first-round bye in the BIG EAST Championship for the first time since 2005, when they defeated West Virginia in the quarterfinals (70-59) before losing to Connecticut in the semifinals (67-54) ... the Irish also are assured of being the No. 4 seed for the BIG EAST Championship by virtue of West Virginia's win over Louisville on Saturday; thus, Notre Dame will play its BIG EAST quarterfinal game (against the winner of the first-round game between the #5 and #12 seeds) on Sunday, March 9 at noon (ET) at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.; the tournament quarterfinals and semifinals will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPNU ... the Irish now have won 18 of their last 20 Senior Day games and are 25-6 (.806) all-time in their regular-season home finale ... Notre Dame improves to 16-4 against Seton Hall, scoring at least 70 points against the Pirates for the first time since Jan. 9, 2002 (a 79-45 win at the Joyce Center); it's only the second time in the past eight series games that either team has hit the 70-point mark ... the 15-point margin was the largest for either side in the series since Jan. 2, 2005, when Notre Dame posted a 54-33 win at the Joyce Center ... senior guard Charel Allen became the first player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in her career, hitting the final mark with three steals vs. Seton Hall ... Allen jumped into ninth place on the school's career steals list with exactly 200 thefts, passing Beth Morgan (198 from 1993-97) and Letitia Bowen (199 from 1991-95) ... Allen also moved into eighth place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,473 points, passing Sandy Botham (1,460 from 1984-88) ... Allen posted her third 20-point game of the season and 14th of her career ... in addition, Allen logged her 77th double-digit scoring game, breaking a tie with current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey for eighth in school history ... senior guard Tulyah Gaines moved into 10th place on Notre Dame's career assists chart with 314 handouts, passing Sara Liebscher, who had 312 assists from 1987-91 ... sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner posted her eighth double-figure scoring game of the season, and her game-high six assists were one off her season-best total (seven vs. Valparaiso on Dec. 12) ... sophomore center Erica Williamson tied her season high with three blocks (also vs. Saint Francis-Pa. on Dec. 29 and Marquette on Feb. 13) ... senior guard Amanda Tsipis earned her first career start Saturday, becoming the ninth different player to start a game for the Irish this season; only freshmen Becca Bruszewski and Brittany Mallory have yet to crack the lineup ... Notre Dame set a school record for total home attendance with 112,253 fans this season, breaking the old mark of 109,549 set in 2001-02 ... the Irish also wound up averaging 7,016 fans for their 16 games at the Joyce Center this season, posting their highest average attendance since 2002-03, when they averaged 7,132 fans per night (the school record for average attendance is 7,825 in 2001-02).