March 28, 2015
Stanford let University of Notre Dame point guard Lindsay Allen find an open shot early during Friday night's NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Sweet 16 game at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
A couple of possessions later, Stanford left Allen open again.
Stanford continued to let Allen get open shots in the first half.
It turned out to be the kind of mistake that had the Cardinal packing its bags to leave the tournament.
Allen matched her career-high 24 points - in the first half - and finished with 28 points to lead No. 1 seed Notre Dame to an 81-60 victory against No. 4 seed Stanford. Allen hit six of her first seven shots and ended up hitting nine of 17, including four of seven from three-point range.
Allen's inspiring performance, which included five rebounds and four assists, helped keep Notre Dame on track in its quest for a fifth consecutive NCAA Final Four appearance. Notre Dame (34-2) plays Baylor (33-3) at 8:30 p.m. EDT Sunday for the regional championship.
Notre Dame led Stanford 8-6 when Allen hit a jump shot. By the time two minutes and one second had ticked off the scoreboard clock after Allen's first basket, she had scored 12 points in a row and the Irish had a 20-13 lead.
When Stanford closed to 34-29, the Irish used a basket from Brianna Turner and then back-to-back threes by Allen to build a sudden 42-29 lead.
It was all too much for Stanford.
"She got going, and she got too many open looks," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said of Allen. "We were really concerned about obviously (Brianna) Turner inside and (Taya) Reimer inside, and they did really well. But we definitely gave Allen too much space."
Allen is a sophomore guard who is relied upon by the Irish to distribute the basketball. She averages 5.3 assists a game. But Allen can score. She averages 9.9 points a game.
Stanford found out that Allen can score ... and score ... and score.
"We came into the game working on the ball screen, and we felt that Lindsay was going to get a lot of free-throw jumpers," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said of Allen. "I didn't expect she was going to get so many threes. That really surprised me. She is somebody who's a very selective shooter, and I thought today she just felt it, she had the green light and she kept shooting. And then you saw in the second half she tried to get everybody else involved, and I think that's the true point guard coming out in her."
Allen credited her teammates for her offensive explosion.
"Our posts did a really great job of setting screens. We were just reading the defense really well and getting open shots for our offense," Allen said.
Jewell Loyd, the focus of Stanford's defense, wasn't surprised by Allen's scoring.
"I think just the ball screen was really effective for us," Loyd said. "We came out and got great screens from the post. Lindsay is a great guard. She realizes her shot is right there and she lit it up. It's another day in the office for Lindsay."
Reimer said Allen's ability to score when Stanford's defense is focused on Loyd reveals an Irish strength.
"I think that speaks to how great our team is, that Lindsay can step up and score like that," Reimer said. "Obviously, Jewell is an amazing player, but the fact is, we can still win big and be efficient even when she's getting hounded. The fact that we have people who can step into those positions and score and give us momentum, that's huge for us. Lindsay played amazing. She's been playing great all season.
"A lot of teams back off on Lindsay and give her space to shoot and don't respect her. This was a great opportunity for her to show, 'Hey, I can shoot just as well as anybody on our team.' A game like this is really good for her. We have so many weapons. That's what makes us so good. Scoring-wise, we have a lot of balance. No matter how people are guarding us, we can find somebody who can score."
Hannah Huffman, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, averages 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds, gave the Irish a tremendous spark with her intense play in the second half.
Huffman scored four points, had five rebounds and dished out three assists.
"The Sweet 16 is very exciting and I am just really happy that I was able to help out my team," Huffman said. "When you are feeding off that energy - when Lindsay is playing like she is playing, when Jewell is playing how she's playing, it's such a fun environment. As a basketball player these are moments that you live for, so I was just happy I was able to go out there and help out my team."
McGraw loved Huffman's contributions to the Irish attack.
"Hannah has done a great job all year of bringing us energy," McGraw said. "She comes in, she plays as many minutes as we allow her, and she is thankful and happy to have them. She always gives us 100 percent in practice, she came in today and she was a great spark. I thought with their lineup with the four guards that we wanted to keep her on the floor.
"I'm really, really pleased with her numbers," McGraw said of Huffman. "Statistically, she makes some great passes, she doesn't turn the ball over, she rebounds, she defends, she does everything we need her to do."
Madison Cable, a senior guard for the Irish, said Huffman played a critical role at a critical time in the game.
"Hannah knew she would probably get in because she brings great defensive pressure," Cable said. "She also came in and made an awesome lay-up, hit a jump shot ... she just had a great game. She was the player of the game."
Stanford's Erica Payne, a high school teammate of Huffman's in California, said she has seen Huffman take over games.
"I've played in a lot of games with Hannah Huffman, and I've seen her do that before," Payne said. "She's a great player, and I'm excited to see her finally get more of an opportunity to do a lot for her team. I know she's a great player, and I'm glad she is getting more recognition. I'm happy for her. I wish her team the best of luck."
Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick has gone the extra mile ... make that extra thousands of miles, showing his support for the Notre Dame men's and women's basketball teams as they paint the month of March blue and gold during the NCAA Championships.
Swarbrick was in Cleveland Thursday night to see the Fighting Irish men knock off Wichita State and advance to the NCAA Elite Eight. He was in Oklahoma City Friday night to watch the Notre Dame women's basketball team eliminate Stanford. As soon as the Fighting Irish women wrapped up their spot in the Elite Eight, Swarbrick was headed back to Cleveland. He was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland around 4 a.m.
After watching the Notre Dame men try Saturday night to earn a Final Four berth against No. 1 Kentucky, Swarbrick will drive four hours to South Bend. He will leave from there on a flight to Oklahoma City, to provide support for the Irish women as they try to reach the Final Four a fifth consecutive season.
It means a lot to the team, to the coaches, to see him at our game," Notre Dame senior associate athletics director Jill Bodensteiner said of Swarbrick. "He and Kimberly have been very supportive of us over the years. It's just fantastic that he makes the effort to get back and forth.
"He's also got important people who travel with him," Bodensteiner continued about Swarbrick. "He's got Dr. Mike Yergler, who supports both the men's and women's basketball teams as the orthopedic, Dolly Duffy (executive director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association), and Sara Liebscher (director of athletics advancement). It's great to see them all. We really appreciate it. It's important to our student-athletes."
Swarbrick traveled back and forth from Pittsburgh to South Bend during the first rounds of the NCAA Championship and was in Greensboro for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament for both the women and the men.
"All of the late games has added to the stress of their travel, so we really appreciate the effort," Bodensteiner said. "Jack is just great to have around. He's such a great leader and he really understands all sports, but has a great sense for basketball. I particularly am in better spirits sitting next to him."
Notre Dame started out with an intense attack, and the Irish finished with an intense attack. It was an energy level that Stanford's Taylor Greenfield noticed.
"Their energy felt a lot different than ours," Greenfield said of the Irish. "They seemed really confident. They didn't seem flustered ever. They seemed collected, like they'd been there before, that kind of thing. I know we don't really react to that, but I think that just continued to help them--and then they got a lot of motivation. Then they just were having fun and we were on the other end, I guess."
-- by Curt Rallo, special correspondent