Nov. 28, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Mixing its aggressive defense with an efficient offensive performance, the Notre Dame women's basketball team led virtually from the opening tip to the final horn in an 87-66 victory over Richmond on Tuesday night at the Joyce Center. The Irish (4-2) shot a season-high 54.4 percent from the floor (31-of-57) and had five players score in double figures while showing few ill effects from its cross-country Thanksgiving weekend trek to Los Angeles.
Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) set the pace for Notre Dame on Tuesday, scoring a career-high 22 points and adding six rebounds for good measure. Junior center Melissa D'Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd) ably complemented her classmate in the post, tallying 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) chipped in 11 points, while senior forward Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul) and freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) contributed 10 points apiece.
The outings by Barlow and Lechlitner were just part of perhaps the best combined effort of the season by the four-player Irish freshman class. Center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg) piled up nine points and a game-high seven rebounds in only 16 minutes of work, while forward Danielle Ben-Tsvulun (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding) etched her name in the scorebook for the first time as a collegian, knocking down three free throws and grabbing two rebounds in four minutes.
Johanna McKnight scored a team-high 14 points and Christina Campion tossed in 13 points for Richmond (2-5), which was playing the third of five consecutive road games. The Spiders took part in a tournament last weekend at Cancun, Mexico, and will head to New Orleans this weekend for another two-game tournament.
The first five minutes of Tuesday's game took on the appearance of two rivals circling each other, just waiting for an opening to strike. There were four ties in that span, with Richmond taking its one and only lead at 8-6 on a layup by Nikita Thomas at the 15:45 mark. D'Amico answered back 12 seconds later to knot the score and the Irish would never trail again. Yet, Notre Dame couldn't never quite shake the Spiders during the first half, getting up by as many as eight points twice before UR scratched back to within a point. Campion's late three-pointer helped the visitors make it a one-possession game (34-31) at halftime.
It took about five minutes in the second half before Notre Dame finally slammed on the accelerator, going on a 21-6 run to break on top by double figures and effectively quash any hopes Richmond had for a comeback. Barlow was a key figure in the run with seven points, while Williamson added four markers and Lechlitner canned a triple, as the Irish rookies looked like wily veterans in just their sixth college outing.
Notre Dame will play its final road game outside the state of Indiana prior to the Christmas holiday when it heads to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday for a 7 p.m. (ET) contest at Michigan. The Irish are set to make their first visit to UM's Crisler Arena since December 1991 and will be looking for their first win on Michigan's home floor since 1982.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame topped the 85-point mark for the fourth time in as many home games this season ... the Irish shot a season-best 54.4 percent from the floor, passing the .534 percentage they shot in their last home game (Nov. 19 vs. Western Michigan) ... Notre Dame had five double-digit scorers for the second consecutive home game and the third time in its last nine outings, dating back to last season (also March 4, 2006 vs. USF in the first round of the BIG EAST Conference Championship) ... the Irish forced 21 turnovers on Tuesday night, the fifth time in six games this season that Notre Dame has hassled its opponent into 20-or-more turnovers (the Irish had 19 takeaways in the other contest vs. Bowling Green) ... after shooting .083 from the three-point line and .412 from the foul line in its last game at USC, Notre Dame reversed course against Richmond with a .412 three-point ratio and an .818 free throw percentage (the fourth time this year the Irish have shot better than 80 percent at the stripe) ... Notre Dame scored a season-high 53 points in the second half, its second 50-point period of the season after scoring exactly a half-century in the final 20 minutes vs. Western Michigan ... the Irish improved to 112-10 (.918) when leading at the half since 2000-01, and 95-3 (.969) when scoring at least 80 points during the past 12 seasons ... Notre Dame's bench has outscored the opposition in five of six games this year and is averaging 26.3 points per game this season ... senior forward Crystal Erwin had not made a three-pointer in her career prior to this season (and had attempted only one), but has made four of six shots from downtown through her first six games this year, including a career-high two treys on Tuesday night ... prior to the game, Notre Dame announced only approximately 2,000 tickets remain for its Dec. 3 matchup with Indiana at the Joyce Center; during Tuesday's game with Richmond, an additional 400 tickets were sold.