Nov. 19, 2007
#23/25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-1 / 0-0 BIG EAST) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-1 / 0-0 MAC West)
DATE: November 20, 2007
No. 23/25 Irish Back On The Road Tuesday At Central Michigan
Notre Dame suffered its first loss of the 2007-08 season last Friday night, coming out on the short end of a 75-59 decision at No. 3 Maryland in the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT. The Iriush stuck right with the Terrapins in the first half, leading by as many as five points and trailing by only six at halftime. However, Maryland used a 12-4 run early in the second half to finally pull clear of Notre Dame for good.
Senior guard Charel Allen became the third different player to lead the Irish in scoring this season, tossing in 16 points for the second consecutive game. Freshman forward Devereaux Peters added 12 points and six rebounds, while junior guard Lindsay Schrader notched 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds for Notre Dame, which set a school record in the loss with just three turnovers (and two of those occurred on offensive fouls).
A Quick Look At The Fighting Irish
Last year, the Irish learned quickly that respect is something that isn't handed to you, but rather earned on the court. It's also a quality that takes time to develop and doesn't come from trophy cases or record books. So although Notre Dame was tabbed fifth in the preseason BIG EAST Conference balloting, it's not a great concern to McGraw and her charges. Instead, they focus on the things they can control and prefer to let the outside world judge them when the season is over.
This year could prove to be unlike any in recent memory for Notre Dame. For one, the Irish will roll out some impressive depth, going virtually two-deep at every floor position. In addition, Notre Dame's new offensive system (a Princeton-based set with four guards and a post) continues to evolve, building upon last year's 70.1 point-per-game average that was its highest since the 2000-01 NCAA national championship season.
Senior guard Charel Allen is the top returning scorer and rebounder for the Irish, leading the team in both categories last year (17.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg.). She also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA honorable mention All-America selection, and was a finalist for the 2007 USA U21 World Championship Team that struck gold this past summer in Moscow.
Allen's backcourt partner and classmate is point guard Tulyah Gaines. Now in her second full season at the helm of the Notre Dame offense, the speedy Gaines averaged 9.6 points per game along with team highs of 3.9 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. She also is a two-year team captain who commands instant respect from teammates, coaches and opponents.
The Irish will benefit from the return of junior guard Lindsay Schrader, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Schrader, who retains three years of athletic eligibility, was Notre Dame's second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg.) and top rebounder (5.4 rpg.) as a rookie in 2005-06 and will look to regain that form this season.
Last year saw Notre Dame break new ground by becoming the first school ever to put three players on the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team. Guards Ashley Barlow (10.3 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Melissa Lechlitner (6.3 ppg., 2.7 apg.) will provide a superb complement to the veteran Allen-Gaines tandem, while center Erica Williamson (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) showed flashes of potential throughout her rookie season and is poised for increased development this year.
Headlining a three-player freshman class (ranked 11th nationally by Blue Star Basketball) is Devereaux Peters, a smooth 6-2 forward who was a consensus All-American as a senior last year at national powerhouse Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. Fellow post Becca Bruszewski (Valparaiso, Ind.) finished third in last season's Indiana Miss Basketball voting and was a perennial all-state pick. And, guard Brittany Mallory (Baltimore, Md.) offers a perimeter shooting threat, as well as a cerebral player who will mesh well in the Irish offensive system.
A Quick Look At Central Michigan
The Chippewas bring back eight letterwinners, including three starters from last year's club that posted an 11-19 record, but finished sixth in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 3-13 record. CMU looked sharp early on, going 9-5 through the season's first two months, but the Chippewas struggled down the stretch, losing 14 of their final 16 games, including eight defeats by 10 points or less.
While this season is only three games old, Central Michigan seems to have learned some lessons from last year's rough finish. CMU is 2-1 this season, with both wins coming at home by five points or less -- a 76-71 season-opening victory over Illinois-Chicago and a 69-68 comeback win over Chicago State this past Saturday. Those triumphs were sandwiched around an 83-45 loss at Temple on Nov. 12.
In the CSU contest, the Chippewas trailed by as many as 16 points with eight minutes to play. However, the CMU bench and a relentless full-court press sparked a huge rally, as the hosts went on a 25-7 run, taking a 68-67 lead on a layup by sophomore guard/forward Britni Houghton with 16 seconds left. After a Chicago State miss, junior guard Angel Chan hit one of two foul shots and the Chippewas dodged a huge bullet at the horn when CSU's Jasmin Dixon was fouled but missed the second of two free throws would have forced overtime.
Chan is Central Michigan's leading scorer thus far at 12.0 points per game, while also setting the pace with 2.0 assists per game and six three-pointers. Despite coming off the bench, junior guard Latisha Luckett has recorded two double-doubles in three games this season, including a career-high 21-point, 11-rebound day vs. Chicago State. Luckett is averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game with a team-best .464 field goal percentage.
As a team, CMU has forced more than 18 turnovers per game, but opponents are averaging 74.0 points per game with a .459 field goal percentage. The Chippewas are scoring 63.0 points per game with a .352 field goal percentage and are on the short end of a (-7.0) rebound margin to date.
While in her first season at Central Michigan, head coach Sue Guevara has a wealth of experience at her fingertips, including a seven-year run as the head coach at Michigan (1996-2003). She has a career record of 125-83 (.601) that includes a 1-1 mark against Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series
Tuesday's game will be the first for Notre Dame at Central Michigan's Rose Arena.
The Last Time Notre Dame And Central Michigan Met
Four Notre Dame players scored in double figures on the afternoon, led by center Melissa D'Amico, who tossed in 16 points despite playing only 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Guard Charel Allen tallied 15 points, including 11 in the first half, while co-captain Breona Gray chipped in with 13 points.
The Irish (1-0) shot the ball well on Opening Night, connecting at a 48.3 percent clip (29-of-60) from the field and a sharp 83.9 percent (26-of-31) at the free throw line. Notre Dame also enjoyed a +10 edge on the glass, with center Erica Williamson collecting a game-high eight rebounds, not to mention a game-best five blocked shots.
Central Michigan's Candace Wilson led all scorers in the game with 17 points, with 12 of those coming in the second half on 4-of-4 three-pointers. Sharonda Hurd added 15 points and a team-best seven rebounds for the Chippewas (0-1), who bounced back from a .280 first-half field goal percentage with a .517 mark after the break.
The season-opening crowd of 6,702 fans were still settling into their seats as Notre Dame stormed from the gate, nailing eight of their first 11 shots from the floor and taking a 17-3 lead on two free throws by Allen with 14:55 left in the first half. The Irish kept their offensive flow going, as guard Ashley Barlow, Gray and Allen drilled three-pointers in succession to push the hosts' lead as high as 31-9 with only 9:54 gone in the season.
CMU made a late run in the first half, scoring six of the final eight points to trim the margin to 39-22 by the intermission. The Chippewas kept battling back in the opening moments of the second half, getting as close as 13 points on a couple of occasions, the last when Britni Houghton sank two foul shots with 14:50 remaining. However, Notre Dame doused any hopes for a record-setting comeback, using a 12-1 run just past the midway point of the second half to vault its lead back over 20 points and CMU would get no closer the rest of the way.
Other Notre Dame-Central Michigan Series Tidbits
Notre Dame vs. The Mid-American Conference
Notre Dame also has won its last 14 games against current MAC schools since an 87-64 loss at Northern Illinois on March 10, 1995 in the semifinals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament. Back on Nov. 9, the Irish opened the season with a 98-50 win over Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the Preseason WNIT at the Joyce Center.
Central Michigan is the second of three MAC opponents for Notre Dame this season, with a visit to Bowling Green (Dec. 5) on the slate next month. Tuesday's game at CMU will mark the first game for the Irish on a MAC campus in exactly two years -- Notre Dame pulled out a 71-68 win at Western Michigan on Nov. 20, 2005.
A November To Remember
Spreading The Wealth
Sophomore center Erica Williamson set the pace in the exhibition opener vs. Southern Indiana, before senior point guard Tulyah Gaines shouldered the scoring load in the second exhibition vs. Hillsdale. Junior 3-guard Lindsay Schrader claimed top scoring honors in the season opener against Miami (Ohio), while sophomore shooting guard Ashley Barlow was the leading scorer in the win over Western Kentucky. Most recently, senior shooting guard Charel Allen took her turn at the front of the Irish scoring train with 16 points at No. 3 Maryland last Friday night.
This trend also extends to the rebounding column, where four different Notre Dame players have led the club in rebounding thus far -- senior center Melissa D'Amico (USI), Peters (Hillsdale/WKU), Williamson (Miami) and Schrader (Maryland).
Protecting The Pill
With only three turnovers, it probably comes as no surprise that Maryland did not register a steal against Notre Dame. However, what is surprising is that it was the first time in the 31-year history of the Irish program that an opponent did not record a steal against Notre Dame. Several opponents had only one steal vs. the Irish, with the most recent being Boston College on March 19, 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (played at West Lafayette, Ind.).
No Easy Road
With the addition of third-ranked Maryland to the docket in last week's Preseason WNIT semifinals, the Irish now will face four of the top six teams (including the top three) in the Nov. 12 Associated Press poll. Still to come this season are No. 1 Tennessee (Jan. 5 at the Joyce Center), No. 2 Connecticut (Jan. 27 at the Joyce Center) and No. 6 Rutgers (Feb. 19 in Piscataway, N.J.). The top three teams in the poll have combined to win three of the past four national championships, with Tennessee currently holding the hardware.
Allen Named To Preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team
Guess Who's Back ... Back Again?
Irish Fans Crave A Big Mac Attack
Next Game: Boston College
Boston College is 1-1 this season, most recently dropping a 69-66 decision at Massachusetts on Nov. 14. Freshman center Carolyn Swords led the Eagles with 14 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore guard Ayla Brown added her first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. BC will visit Delaware Tuesday night before making its way to South Bend for the post-Thanksgiving matchup with Notre Dame.