Dec. 2, 2006
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - It had been quite a while since the Notre Dame women's basketball team won a game at Michigan's Crisler Arena. However, the nearly 24-year wait turned out to be worth it on Friday night, as the Irish put together one of the more memorable comebacks in the program's 30-year history.
Notre Dame went on a 10-2 run and forced three turnovers in the final 47.3 seconds to rally past Michigan, 61-58 before a noisy and hostile crowd of 3,817 in Ann Arbor. Junior guard Tulyah Gaines (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) canned both ends of a one-and-one free throw situation with 3.3 seconds to go, giving the Irish the lead, before junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) added two huge security foul shots in the final second to secure the win.
Allen finished with a game-high 15 points and three steals, while Gaines chipped in 11 points and three thefts. Freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) played a pivotal role off the bench once again, coming up with 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds, along with three steals. As a team, the Irish (5-2) struggled to find their shooting touch (.355 for the night), but were sharp at the foul line when it counted, going 10-of-13 (.769) in the second half.
Notre Dame's defense also turned out to be key on this night, as the Irish forced Michigan (5-3) into an opponent season-high 30 turnovers, with 15 of those coming on steals. The Irish also held the Wolverines to 58 points, their best defensive effort of the season. Janelle Cooper had 11 points and Krista Phillips added 10 points for UM, but Phillips, a 6-6 post, didn't score during the final 30:48 of the contest.
Notre Dame had found the going rough in its first two road games this season, but the Irish came out with guns blazing at Michigan, racing to an 8-1 lead with seniors Breona Gray (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) and Crystal Erwin (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./St. Paul) knocking down three-pointers in the first five minutes. The Wolverines slowly clawed back by scoring 14 of the next 20 points, taking their first lead on Cooper's trey at the 6:07 mark. The two sides then traded off setting the pace for the remainder of the first half, with Barlow hitting a late bucket, but UM's Carly Benson matched it by sinking two foul shots with 10.2 seconds to go, leaving things right back where they started in a 27-27 halftime draw.
The Irish tried to revert to their original formula in the second half, going on a 15-6 spurt and taking their largest lead of the evening (42-33) on an old-fashioned three-point play by Gaines with 13:34 to play. However, that margin evaporated during the next four minutes, with Michigan's Stephany Skrba pulling her team alongside Notre Dame at 46-46 on two foul shots just past the midpoint of the second stanza.
After going bucket for bucket, the Wolverines nosed back ahead with Kayln McPherson slashed in for a layup with 5:29 left. UM then backed the Irish into a corner when Jessica Minnfield and Benson hit bookend three-pointers around a layup by Notre Dame freshman center Erica Williamson (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg), leaving Michigan with a crowd-pleasing 56-51 edge at the final media timeout. The assembled multitude didn't know it at the time, but the Wolverines wouldn't score another basket the rest of the way.
Still trailing by five with 1:01 left, Allen fouled Phillips to put UM in the double bonus situation. The Wolverine center missed both of her charities, and Barlow drew Notre Dame within two on a right-wing three-pointer with 47.3 seconds to go. Allen then stole the Michigan in-bounds pass under the Irish basket, but her reverse layup attempt hung tantalizing on the rim before falling out and the Wolverines drew a held ball (and the resulting possession arrow) with 40.9 ticks remaining.
Following a Michigan timeout, Notre Dame fouled Cooper, who converted one of her two foul shots to keep the Irish within one possession. Yet, Notre Dame's fortunes seemed to dim when Gaines' driving layup try was blocked by Phillips and the Irish guard then fouled UM's Sireece Bass with 22.3 seconds left. Like Cooper, Bass made the front end of her two free throws, rebuilding a 58-54 Michigan lead.
Without a timeout, Gaines pushed into the front court and got the ball on the left wing to Allen, who buried a three-pointer with 10.9 seconds to go. Allen fouled Bass again on the inbounds (:07.5), but Bass missed both free throws, giving Notre Dame an opportunity. Gaines took advantage, navigating through the backtracking Michigan defense before Bass fouled her at the top of the key with 3.3 seconds to be played, putting the Wolverines over the limit and giving the Irish co-captain a one-and-one free throw possibility.
With the crowd reaching a fever pitch, Gaines coolly stepped to the foul line and found nothing but net on her first free throw. The bonus toss was a little more ticklish, hanging on the front lip of the rim for an instant before tipping softly into the twine. Michigan, which also had exhausted its prescribed number of timeouts, tried to advance the ball to midcourt, but Melinda Queen was called for traveling with two seconds left. Allen took the subsequent inbounds pass, was fouled and hit two free throws with a scant 0.7 seconds to go, leaving the Wolverines with a baseball pass down the floor, which was picked off as the horn sounded.
Notre Dame will tip off a three-game homestand Sunday at 2 p.m. (ET) against Indiana inside the Joyce Center. Approximately 1,500 tickets remain available for that game and may be purchased through the Irish Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), via the official Notre Dame athletics web site by clicking here or on game day at the Gate 10 ticket windows in the Joyce Center.
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame earned its first win over Michigan at Crisler Arena since Dec. 12, 1982, when the Irish earned a 62-58 victory behind 15 points from Trena Keys ... Notre Dame now leads the series with Michigan, 8-6, and has won four of the last five meetings, but the 14-game series' aggregate point total remains razor thin (ND 934, UM 932) ... of the eight Irish wins against Michigan, seven have come when Notre Dame held the Wolverines to less than 60 points ... Friday's margin was the closest in the series since UM took a 66-60 overtime win on Dec. 8, 1979 at the Joyce Center ... the Irish have won four of their last six games against Big Ten Conference opponents ... Notre Dame forced 30 Michigan turnovers, the most by an Irish opponent since Feb. 25, 2004, when Miami (Fla.) was charged with 37 turnovers in a 93-58 Notre Dame victory at the Joyce Center ... the Irish have hassled opponents into 20-plus turnovers in six of seven games this year ... Notre Dame also has recorded double-digit steals in six of seven games thus far, with the Michigan game marking the third 15-steal effort for the Irish defense this season, all in the past four outings (also 15 vs. Western Michigan and 16 at USC) ... conversely, Notre Dame had 17 turnovers, stretching its streak of games with fewer than 20 turnovers to 19 in a row ... only once this year has Notre Dame failed to have at least three double-digit scorers (two at USC), with Allen, Barlow and Gaines doing the honors on Friday night ... Allen has scored in double figures in all seven games this season and 15 of 19 contests, dating back to last year ... Notre Dame's second platoon, which consisted of three freshmen (Barlow, Williamson, Melissa Lechlitner), outscored Michigan's bench, 25-23, making it six times in seven games that the Irish reserves have outpointed the opposition (ND is 5-1 in those games).