Dec. 3, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- On a day where the temperature outside the Joyce Center struggled to get out of the 20s, Notre Dame found its shooting touch to be similarly icy, as the Irish dropped a 54-51 decision to Indiana on Sunday afternoon before a season-high crowd of 9,494 fans. It was just the fifth non-conference loss for Notre Dame in the past 13 seasons, with four of those setbacks coming at the hands of Big Ten Conference opponents.
The Irish (5-3) lost their first home game of the season, thanks in large part to a .345 field goal percentage, including a 1-of-14 (.071) mark from three-point range. Junior guard Charel Allen (Monessen, Pa./Monessen) scored a team-high 17 points and tied her career best with nine rebounds, while junior center Melissa D'Amico (Manorville, N.Y./William Floyd) recorded her second career double-double with 15 points and a career-high-tying 10 rebounds. Notre Dame's defense did play well for much of the day, forcing 21 Hoosier turnovers and decisively winning the battle on the boards, 41-27.
Nikki Smith scored a game-high 18 points and Kim Roberson chipped in with 12 points for Indiana (7-1), which defeated the Irish for the first time since 1990 and just the fourth time ever. Ironically, three of those four IU wins have come at the Joyce Center, where the series now is tied 3-3.
Sunday afternoon's game was particularly close, featuring six ties and 14 lead changes and seeing neither side lead by more than eight points. In the first half, it remained a one-possession game for a long stretch until Indiana scored five consecutive points to take a 25-19 lead with 6:11 remaining in the period. Notre Dame stayed within striking distance even though its offense went scoreless from the field during the final 9:09 of the first half, with D'Amico making three foul shots and freshman guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) adding two free throws in that span.
Trailing 27-22 at halftime, the Irish seemed to put its shooting struggles to rest early in the second period, making eight of their first 11 shots and using a 10-0 run to take their largest lead of the day at 41-33 on a Barlow jumper with 11:54 left. However, Indiana scored nine unanswered points in a two-minute span to go back in front and kick off a frantic stretch drive.
The teams traded the lead seven times during the next 5:30, with Notre Dame finally breaking the point exchange when freshman guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) hit a baseline jumper and Allen followed with an acrobatic reverse layup in transition with 4:11 to go. Allen then came up with a steal on the next IU possession, but moments later, Roberson got a steal of her own and converted a fast break layup to start a 6-0 game-ending rally for the visitors.
Leah Enterline gave Indiana the lead for good on a jumper with 2:47 to play, and Smith padded the margin with a jumper in the lane that rattled around the rim and fell with 35 ticks remaining. Following a timeout, Notre Dame drew up a potential game-tying play, but Allen's open three-point try from the right corner just missed with 13 seconds to go. The Irish got a reprieve when Enterline was called for traveling after coming down with the rebound, but after another timeout, Allen had her pocket picked by IU's Whitney Thomas with six seconds left. Roberson was fouled to put the Hoosiers in the bonus, but she missed her foul shot, giving Notre Dame one last chance, a half-court heave that was off the mark and did not beat the final horn.
Notre Dame continues its three-game homestand Wednesday at 7 p.m. (ET) when it plays host to ninth-ranked Purdue at the Joyce Center in a game that will be televised live regionally on Comcast Local (check local listing for availability). 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: All three Irish losses this season have come to teams that were receiving votes in both national polls at tipoff (Indiana was earning 14 votes in the AP poll and 15 votes in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll) ... Notre Dame had been averaging 86.8 points and shooting .496 from the floor in its first four home games ... the Irish held Indiana to an opponent season-low 54 points (previous: 58 by Michigan on Dec. 1) ... Notre Dame forced 20 IU turnovers, the seventh time in eight games this year the Irish defense has come up with 20 or more takeaways, although Notre Dame had a season-low eight steals on Sunday ... the Irish were tabbed with 21 turnovers, snapping a 19-game streak of games with less than 20 turnovers -- it was the most giveaways for Notre Dame since Jan. 24, 2006 (22 at Rutgers) ... the .345 field goal percentage for the Irish was their second-lowest of the seasons (.268 at Penn State) and their lowest at home (previous: .433 vs. Bowling Green) ... Notre Dame's rebounding margin (+14) was its best since Jan. 4, 2006 at St. John's, when they outrebounded the Red Storm by a 41-21 spread ... the Irish shot a season-best .909 from the foul line, their best mark since Nov. 30, 2004, when they set a school record by going 18-of-18 from the stripe at Valparaiso ... D'Amico's only other previous double-double came on Nov. 27, 2005 against USC at the Joyce Center (13 points, 10 rebounds); it's also the second double-double of the year for Notre Dame after Barlow's 19-point, 10-rebound effort vs. Bowling Green ... D'Amico also previously had 10 rebounds at Georgetown on Jan. 21, 2006 ... Allen grabbed a career-high nine rebounds for the fourth time in her tenure, most recently doing so against Utah on Dec. 18, 2005 at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas ... Allen has scored in double digits in all eight games this year and 16 of the past 20 ... Sunday marked just the second time all year the Irish didn't have at least three double-figure scorers (also at USC on Nov. 24) ... the crowd of 9,494 was the sixth-largest in program history and the 15th time Notre Dame has drawn a crowd of 8,000 fans or more.