Nov. 24, 2006
LOS ANGELES - Despite a game effort and a relentless defense that forced 27 turnovers, Notre Dame dropped a 69-58 decision at USC on Friday night at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The Irish played from behind virtually the entire evening, but stayed within striking distance for much of the contest, before an 8-0 Trojan run pushed the lead into double digits and Notre Dame was not able to get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) scored in double figures for the fifth time in as many games this season (and 13th time in the past 17 outings), tallying 13 points and a season-high eight rebounds. Freshman center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg) turned in a solid effort on the blocks with season bests of 12 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes of work.
Shay Murphy led a quartet of USC players in double digits, scoring 15 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Murphy's board work was the highlight of a 54-rebound evening for the Women of Troy, the most caroms by an Irish opponent since Louisville also had 54 last season (Jan. 14, 2006). Hailey Dunham, Jamie Hagiya and Chloe Kerr chipped in with 12 points apiece for USC (2-2), which snapped a seven-game losing streak to Notre Dame.
The Irish (3-2) drew first blood on a driving layup by junior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) 39 seconds into the game. However, that would be Notre Dame's only lead of the night, as USC answered with a 10-2 run, with Kerr hitting a pair of jumpers in the lane and Hagiya capping off the spurt with a three-pointer (the first of three she hit in the opening 20 minutes). The Irish got back within a point twice later in the period, the last when senior forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul) canned her second trey of the year from the left corner to make it 19-18 with 7:19 left in the half.
A 7-0 run by the Women of Troy ballooned their lead back to eight, but the Irish trimmed the margin to 28-24 when sophomore forward Chandrica Smith (Stone Mountain, Ga./Oak Hill Academy (Va.)) converted a fastbreak layup with 19 seconds remaining. But, Murphy took some of the luster off the late Notre Dame run by hitting a baseline jumper with two ticks to go before intermission.
The Irish clawed back to within 34-31 early in the second half, when Allen hit a jumper with 17:16 to play. That's when USC made its game-changing 8-0 run, going ahead 42-31 on the second of two foul shots by Aarika Hughes at the 14:28 mark. Again, Notre Dame didn't go quietly, as buckets by Allen and freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) made it a seven-point spread with still more than 11 minutes to play. However, USC kept the Irish at arm's length from that point on, hitting 11-of-14 free throws down the stretch to cement the win.
Notre Dame returns home for four of its next five games, beginning Tuesday with a 7 p.m. (ET) contest against Richmond inside the Joyce Center. Tickets remain available for that game (and all Notre Dame women's basketball games) and may be purchased through the Irish Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), via the official Notre Dame athletics web site at the following link or on game days at the Gate 10 ticket windows in the Joyce Center.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame's last (and only prior) loss to USC came on Jan. 2, 1985 in a 69-53 neutral site decision at Fullerton, Calif. ... that 1985 game also set the series standards for most points by USC (tied Friday) and fewest points by the Irish (Friday's total of 58 was second on the chart) ... Notre Dame lost for only the fourth time in its last 18 games against Pac-10 Conference opponents ... the Irish forced an opponent season-high 27 turnovers, the most for Notre Dame since Nov. 22, 2004, when Colorado State had 29 turnovers in a 69-47 Irish win at the Joyce Center... it's also the fourth time in five games this year Notre Dame has come up with 20-or-more takeaways ... in addition, the Irish recorded double-digit steals for the fifth time in as many games this season, with their 16 thefts the most by a Notre Dame club since March 21, 2005, when they had 17 steals in an NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Arizona State in Fresno, Calif. ... junior guard Ashley Barlow came up with five more steals against USC, following a six-steal effort against Western Michigan on Nov. 19 ... freshman center Erica Williamson became the ninth different Irish player to score in double figures this season; only Danielle Ben-Tsvulun and Amanda Tsipis have yet to crack double digits among the 11-player active roster ... Notre Dame had shot better than 80 percent from the foul line in three of its first four games this year before Friday's 7-of-17 (.412) showing ... the previous two times the Irish women's basketball team played at USC the night before schools met in football (2002 and 2004), the Notre Dame women won their game, but the Irish gridders lost their contest.