Lindsay Allen, Notre Dame women's basketball reaching goals

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

Teams that play well in March and into April usually play well in February, and the fourth-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team, which concludes its Atlantic Coast Conference regular season today with a 2 p.m. tipoff at North Carolina State in Raleigh, is certainly no exception. 

Thursday’s 87-59 victory over Pittsburgh on Senior Night not only clinched for the Irish a second straight ACC regular-season title but the No. 1 seed and the “double bye” to the quarterfinals later this week. It also concluded a 7-0 run in the 28 days of February for Notre Dame, now 27-2 overall and 14-1 in the ACC. 

Indeed, Notre Dame has a long history of doing well in the year’s shortest month. In 2013-14, the Irish were 8-0 during a 37-0 run to the NCAA championship game. In 2012-13, the Irish were 7-0 during a 35-2 season that ended in the NCAA semifinals. 

You have to go all the way back to Feb. 12, 2012 to find a loss in the month by Notre Dame, a 65-63 loss to visiting West Virginia, in the groundhog month and the Irish followed that with four straight victories. So if you are counting, that’s 27 straight February victories and three Women’s Final Fours ago. 

“It’s about taking care of the little things to get better,” sophomore point guard Lindsay Allen said after ending February with a personal exclamation mark – 13 points (thanks to 6-of-8 shooting), eight assists and a steal against the Panthers. 

Allen started the month well, scoring 18 points and dishing out eight assists in a 92-63 victory over Wake Forest Feb. 1 and following with 12 points and four assists in a 75-54 victory over Virginia Feb. 5. Those were, however, her last double-digit scoring efforts until Thursday, though Allen did score nine points each in Notre Dame’s victories over Boston College (89-56, Feb. 8) and Louisville (68-52, Feb. 23). 

The point production, something the Notre Dame coaching staff has wanted Allen to increase, just hasn’t been there, but not for lack of trying on Allen’s part. 

“I’ve not worried about struggling with my shot because we have others who can score,” Allen continued. “I was more worried about getting into our sets, running the offense, looking for my spots and taking good shots. Yeah, I’ve taken some off-balance shots and not taken my time on layups. Those are things I can do better.” 

If you compare Allen’s February statistics against her season statistics, you will find she’s right about there: Scoring (10.3 points per game for February, 10.3 ppg season); shooting (52.8 percent, 55.6 percent); 3-point shooting (44.4 percent, 42.9 percent); free-throw shooting (70.6 percent, 83.6 percent); rebounds per game (2.3, 3.2); assists per game (6.0, 5.2); and assists-to-turnovers ratio (2.47, 2.16). 

And when you compare where Allen is this season as to where she finished last season, it’s like day and night. Last season, Allen averaged 6.2 points on 49.7-percent shooting (35.7 percent on 3-pointers), 2.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists. 

“We’re winning games,” Allen said.

The Irish are right where they want to be heading into the post-season, even though head coach Muffet McGraw is not satisfied with clinching a second straight ACC regular-season title. A Notre Dame loss today at North Carolina State coupled with a Florida State victory over Miami would leave the Irish and Seminoles tied at 14-2 and co-champions of the regular season. Notre Dame’s 74-68 victory over Florida State on Jan. 2 gives Notre Dame the tiebreaker and thus the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament that begins Wednesday at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum. 

“We haven’t won it yet,” said McGraw, exhibiting her Philadelphia “win it all” mentality. “We’ll see what happens Sunday. That was our goal – to win the regular season – and hopefully we can finish strong.” 

Well, Notre Dame is doing just that. In its past nine games, Notre Dame has limited the opposition to just 53.4 points per game, forced 18 turnovers, been +9.0 rebounding and averaged five blocked shots a game. Opponents are converting on just 22.9 percent of their 3-point shots, and against Virginia, Duke and Louisville, the 3-point conversion rate is 16.7 percent. Duke went 0-of-12 against Notre Dame. 

The Wolfpack (16-12, 7-8 ACC) have been plagued by the injury bug this season. Nevertheless, coach Wes Moore, whose next victory will be the 600th in a 26-year career, has kept it competitive as recent victories over Duke (72-59, Feb. 22) and Miami (68-65, Feb. 19) will attest. 

Following the game, Notre Dame charters back to South Bend to take care of classroom needs and preparations for the tournament. The Irish will fly back to North Carolina Wednesday and practice in Greensboro but won’t know their opponent until after Thursday’s second round games. They will play Friday, March 6 at 1 p.m. against the winner of a Thursday game pitting the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds.

WORTH NOTING:  With a victory, Notre Dame, which has secured the No. 1 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., will capture its second straight ACC outright regular-season title and its fourth straight outright regular-season title (to go with two as members of the Big East Conference). … Notre Dame is 25-2 all-time against North Carolina-based schools (3-0 versus N.C. State, including 84-60 last March 2 in the regular-season finale in Raleigh and 83-48 six days later in the ACC Tourney in Greensboro) and 8-1 in true road games. … This is Senior Day for N.C. State, which will honor starting guard Len’Nique Brown-Hoskin and reserve guard Krystal Barrett, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL prior to Christmas. … Because of injuries, N.C. State is down to seven scholarship players and nine total since Feb. 8. … Remarkably, the Wolfpack have won four of their last six since a four-game losing streak; the recent surge includes back-to-back home victories over Miami (68-65, Feb. 19) and No. 10 Duke (72-59, Feb. 22) before a 72-52 setback at No. 9 Florida State last Thursday. … N.C. State starts three guards – Dominique Wilson (14.1 points per game), sophomore Miah Spencer (13.5 ppg) and Brown-Hoskin (10.3). … A victory today for N.C. State would be the 600th in the coaching career for Wes Moore. … The Irish enter the game riding a 13-game winning streak ... Notre Dame enters the game No. 1 in the latest NCAA RPI rankings and N.C. State is No. 69. … Loyd continues to pace the ACC in scoring with her 20.9-ppg average (19th NCAA) and Turner’s 67.6 shooting percentage leads not only the ACC but the NCAA. … Sophomore point guard Lindsay Allen is first in the ACC (30th NCAA) in assists per game at 5.2. 

Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen, right, competes for the ball with Louisville’s Shawnta' Dyer during the Notre Dame-Louisville women's basketball game on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen fires up a three during the Notre Dame-Louisville women's basketball game on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN

WHO: No. 4/4 Notre Dame (27-2 overall, 14-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. North Carolina State (16-12 overall, 7-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) 

WHERE: Reynolds Coliseum (8,560), Raleigh, N.C.

WHEN: Sunday at 2 p.m.

TICKETS: Available

TV: None, but game can be seen on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN with app

RADIO: WHPZ-FM (96.9), WHPD-FM (92.1), WatchND.tv