Notre Dame women's basketball: Allen setting tone

CURT RALLO
South Bend Tribune

One of the most important lessons that Notre Dame women’s basketball freshman point guard Lindsay Allen feels she has to learn is to set a tone from the opening tip.

Last Sunday against Central Michigan, Allen showed she’s learning her lesson well.

Allen dished out two assists and blocked a shot before three minutes had elapsed in the first half.

When Central Michigan closed within 10 points, 28-18, Allen hit Michaela Mabrey for a 3-pointer. The 5-foot-9 speedster then hit a jumper, stole a pass that led to two free throws, and assisted on a fastbreak layup by Ariel Braker to ignite an 11-2 run that had the Irish off and running to a 106-72 victory.

No. 2 Notre Dame (10-0) will be counting on Allen to set the tone again Sunday when the Fighting Irish play at Oregon State (8-3). Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. EST.

For Allen, setting the tone means lighting up the scoreboard on the first possession.

“We want to score on the tip and then play hard defense,” Allen said. “You have to set a tone right away to let the other team know they aren’t going to get any easy baskets. You have to let them know that we’re going to be tough. It’s really a matter of effort. You have to be determined that you want to be tough and aggressive.”

Allen said she has plenty of help.

“The seniors and Jewell (Loyd) are the ones to really set the tone,” Allen said. “They’re the leaders. What’s great about them is, they’re not the kind of leaders who are going to say, ‘You can’t do anything, because we’re the leaders, and we’re supposed to tell you what to do.’ They’re more like, ‘You set the tone. You get the ball out, you push the ball up the court, you be aggressive.’ Everybody feeds off of each other’s aggressiveness.”

Allen’s start to her freshman season has been remarkable. The native of Mitchellsville, Md., averages 8.9 points, 4.1 assists and only 1.8 turnovers a game. She is shooting .627 percent (32-of-51), which includes .571 percent from 3-point range (8-of-14).

“I’ve been so pleased with the way she’s shooting the ball,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of Allen. “She’s shooting nearly 60 percent, which for a point guard who takes a fair amount of threes, that’s a very high percentage. She’s a very good passer. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is outstanding for a freshman.

“She’s comfortable with the speed of the game. We’ve talked about the pace, on and off, in different games. We’ve talked about getting the pace up a little higher. That was one thing that initially may have been a challenge for her. It was a matter of hitting the wall in practice and being able to push through it. It’s a lot harder than high school, but, mentally, I think she’s made the jump.”

Allen has cultivated a talent for getting the ball to the open players and running Notre Dame’s lethal transition attack. She’s mastering the intricacies of the Princeton offense, working on the drag screens, along with getting to the top of the key and running the high-low. Containing the ball on defense is a priority.

“I’m a freshman,” Allen said. “I’m still learning. I need Natalie Achonwa’s help and I need Kayla McBride’s help to know what to run, what’s working, what’s not working, where they like the ball, things like that.”

Although scoring isn’t a priority, Allen has done it with an impressive proficiency.

“On a team with future All-Americans, like Kayla (McBride) and Jewell (Loyd), they’re getting the majority of the shots,” Allen said of hitting nearly 63 percent of her shots. “I just pick and choose where I can get my shot, because the defense is going to be focused heavily on Kayla and Jewell. If my shot is there, I take it.

Allen’s biggest challenge will be handling what can be a grueling marathon season for freshmen.

“Conditioning will be a key area for Lindsay,” McGraw said. “She has to be mentally strong when she’s tired. It affects her turnovers. In the Michigan game, she turned it over back-to-back. I think she was just tired. She sees the play, but was just a little late getting it in. That’s a common thing for freshmen. She’s in great shape, but to play 30 minutes at that pace, and to have to be sharp mentally, is tough.

“I think Lindsay is at the elite level as a freshman. She can really see things. She hasn’t gotten to the point where she will come in and say, ‘I see this, we need to do this,’ but I see that eventually. She’s still learning right now.”

WHO: No. 2 Notre Dame (10-0) vs. Oregon State (8-3)

WHERE: Gill Coliseum (9,604), Corvallis, Ore.

WHEN: Sunday, 5 p.m. EST

TV: None.

RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)

ONLINE: www.und.com

TICKETS: Available

WORTH NOTING: Notre Dame will be playing Oregon State for the first time. … Oregon State lost to Penn State 61-56, a team Notre Dame beat 76-66. … The Irish have won 33 consecutive regular-season games. … Notre Dame has won a school-record 25 consecutive regular season road games. … Notre Dame leads the nation in field-goal shooting (.522), 3-point shooting (.449), assists per game (23.8), and winning percentage (1.000, tied with six others). … Oregon State averages 16.8 assists and 17.5 turnovers a game. … Notre Dame averages 23.8 assists and 15.9 turnovers a game.