Notre Dame's Allen plays her own game
SOUTH BEND — When she looks in the mirror, Lindsay Allen likes the face smiling back at her.
The Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s freshman point guard never tried to be the next Skylar Diggins.
Her only goal was to be the best possible Lindsay Allen.
“I have to make my own path; not worry about what (Diggins) did, what she accomplished,” said Allen. “Just play my game and play my role.”
“That was something we worried about early,” said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. “‘You don’t have to do anything out of your comfort zone.’”
Even though the 5-foot-7 product of Mitchellville, Md., was a McDonald’s All-American last year, considered one of the elite point guards in the country, it still took a measure of courage for McGraw to turn over the keys to her offense to a freshman.
High insurance rates happen because of young, inexperienced drivers. Yet, Allen handled the challenge well enough that Allstate would have been proud.
The Irish certainly have been in good hands.
Allen put together a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season, and her 122 assists through 32 starts — and victories — heading into Saturday’s NCAA Tournament debut against Robert Morris in Toledo (1:30 p.m.) is a school record for a freshman.
She passed Mary Gavin’s mark of 116 in 1984-85, long before Notre Dame basketball became the juggernaut it is today.
“At the end of the (regular season), I said (to Allen), ‘You just broke the freshman assist record,’” McGraw said. “Then I said, ‘Guess who didn’t have that (Diggins).’ It’s a 30-year-old record she broke. It was good for her to say, ‘I did do something Skylar didn’t do.’”
Of course, Diggins didn’t play point guard her freshman season.
Records aside, Allen’s contributions to this amazing season have been significant — though not flashy. Her 6.2 scoring average is quite pedestrian, but 42 steals can raise some eyebrows.
“Her defense has gotten a lot better since the start of the season,” said assistant coach Niele Ivey, who is in charge of the point guards. “I didn’t want her to have the pressure, but when you’re filling the role of somebody who has their name on a banner (Diggins), you’re not going to be exactly like Sky.
“You never want her to feel like, ‘You have to be like her.’ You’ve gotta be yourself. Now, she understands that. She has her own role. She knows what she’s good at. She’s so smart. She’s probably the best at coming out of a timeout with something coach McGraw tells her and carrying it out.
“That’s a quality a point guard has to have. For her to have it at such a young age...
“What we wanted out of her was defense. We wanted someone who could pick up the ball full-court and give us that extended pressure. She’s gotten a lot better with that.”
Saturday, when No. 16-seed Robert Morris makes a bid for one of the biggest upsets in women’s college basketball history, high on the game plan will likely be an order to put pressure on Notre Dame’s freshman point guard.
Logic says that’s what you do.
“A lot of times when we play teams outside the (ACC), we’ll trade scouting reports,” McGraw said. “One team we played said, ‘We were taking your freshman point guard out of the game. That was a game she had eight assists and two turnovers. That was a real bad idea.’
“It was good for us to see if someone was going to try something like that that it wasn’t going to be effective.”
“It’s nothing intimidating at all,” Allen said of being a target. “We’ve all got our roles. I’m the point guard. I bring the ball up. I call the plays. We accept the roles, but (the older players) help me out, that’s for sure.
“I’m not worried about (opponents) attacking me because we have so many other great players on this team that can handle the ball.”
Besides, this is a battle-tested point guard who has handled the wrath of Diggins, and lived to talk about it. When Skylar showed up at practice last October, she gave the youngster a full-speed look at what big-
time pressure is all about.
“It was definitely intense,” Allen said. “Whenever Skylar comes to practice, the intensity picks up. She taught me how to protect the ball; what to run at certain times. She was hard on me, but it helped in the long run.”
Even in the face of Hurricane Skylar, Allen refused to fluster.
“In the summer, she cemented her role in the foreign tour,” McGraw said. “When we came back, I always worry. Most freshmen have an up-and-down freshman year. That’s just the way it goes.
“For her, she’s just so steady. Her poise and her personality are the keys for her. She never let anything bother her.”
“She doesn’t let anything rattle her,” Ivey said. “She’s never too high or too low. She’s very poised. Having that demeanor is what we needed this year.”
The face in the mirror has a confident look about her.
That’s just who Allen is.
WHAT: NCAA Tournament, first round
WHO: No. 1 seed Notre Dame (32-0) vs. No. 16 Robert Morris (21-11)
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Toledo, Ohio
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9 FM, 92.1 FM)