Late show with Lindsay Allen lifts Notre Dame past Stanford

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Lindsay Allen picked the right time to have a career night for Notre Dame’s second-ranked women’s basketball team.

Allen, a quiet 5-7 sophomore point guard who usually plays third fiddle to her equally dangerous and well-known teammates Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, poured in 24 points in the first half – matching her season high alone in the first 20 minutes of play – and finished with a career-high 28 as Notre Dame disposed of stubborn Stanford, 81-60, late Friday night to reach the women's Oklahoma City Regional championship game.

The 20th straight victory by coach Muffet McGraw’s Irish, 34-2, puts them in Sunday’s regional championship game against Baylor for the second straight season. The No. 2 Bears (33-3) knocked off No. 3 seed Iowa earlier, 81-66, at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tipoff for the Irish and Bears Sunday is 8:30 p.m. ET with ESPN televising the game.

Notre Dame, which beat Baylor in last year’s South Bend Regional title game 88-69, will be seeking its fifth straight Women’s Final Four appearance.

"Lindsay Allen played a fantastic game,'' said McGraw. "She really calmed us down when we needed it.''

Allen, who entered the game averaging 9.9 points per game, matched her season high for points – 24 in a 89-79 victory at North Carolina back in January – by halftime thanks to 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 from beyond the 3-point line.

Her first-half effort more than picked up the slack from Loyd, who had just four points at halftime on 2-of-10 shooting. The Irish junior All-American got it going in the second half and finished with 21 hard-earned points on a 7-of-20 shooting night.

Turner finished with 12 points (6-of-10) and her frontcourt mate Taya Reimer scored 10 (5-of-7).

Additionally, the Irish got a huge second-half lift from junior guard Hannah Huffman, who hails from Diablo, Calif., about a 20-minute ride from the Stanford campus in northern California. Huffman had four points, five rebounds and three critical assists as Notre Dame finally put Stanford away.

"Hannah Huffman, in my eyes, was the player of the game,'' McGraw gushed.

Senior Bonnie Samuelson, who kept Stanford close in the first half by hitting 3-of-5 3-pointers, finished with a team-high 17 points for the 26-10 Cardinal. Erica McCall and Amber Orrange added 12 points each.

For the game, Notre Dame shot 49.2 percent (32 of 65) while limiting Stanford to just 35.4 percent (23 of 65). The teams were tied 6-6 at 15:24 to play in the first half, and four of those points came on Loyd’s two baskets.

Then it became the Late, Late Show with Lindsay Allen. She first fed Turner for a quick layup and an 8-6 lead and then poured in Notre Dame’s 12 points to propel the Irish to a 20-13 lead. A jumper in the key started it and then Allen made two free throws before hitting her first 3-pointer of the night. She next hit a floater in the lane and then finished off her run with another 3-pointer and Notre Dame led 20-13. It was 22-13 after Kathryn Westbeld canned a jumper from the side off a feed from Turner just before the second media timeout at 10:05.

Notre Dame maintained that nine-point margin to the third media timeout, leading 28-19 when freshman Kathryn Westbeld took a charge.

A pair of 12-footers by Reimer sandwiched another Allen floater in the lane on a fastbreak.

Allen took a breather and the Irish moved to a 32-23 lead with 4:35 remaining in the first half when she returned to can a 15-footer.

But the Cardinal went on a 6-2 run over the next 1:28, punctuated by Samuelson’s third 3-pointer of the half that made it 34-29, forcing McGraw to call a timeout with 3:07 left in the half.

To that point, the Irish were hitting 14 of 29 shots (48.3 percent) to Stanford’s 11 of 27 (40.7 percent). The Cardinal were staying close thanks to a 17-16 edge on the boards.

Allen got hot again after the timeout as Notre Dame went on an 8-0 run to force Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer to call a timeout with 1:31 left. Turner rebounded an Allen miss to get the Irish started and then kicked the ball out to Allen for a 3-pointer. Allen concluded the run with another 3-pointer and the Irish had their biggest lead of the half, 42-29, on way to their 42-31 halftime lead.

Loyd scored the first six points of the second half for Notre Dame but Stanford wasn’t going away. The Cardinal outscored Notre Dame 13-8 to close the gap to 50-44 at the first second-half media timeout with 14:03 left in regulation, and they were doing it by hitting the offensive boards. McCall, who had three of the baskets during the second-half surge, got the last one off an offensive rebound.

The Cardinal cut the Irish lead to five, 52-47, on Samuelson’s fifth 3-pointer of the game just before a media timeout with 11:48 to go in regulation.

But the Irish again took command out of the break when Loyd made two free throws, Reimer hit a 12-footer and then Loyd rebounded an Allen miss, scored, was fouled and hit the free throw for a 59-47 lead. Allen’s two free throws after a Stanford timeout with 10:02 remaining in the half made it 61-47 Irish.

Then Huffman, who grew up about 20 miles from the Stanford campus, began to assert her presence. She came up with a loose ball and drove three quarters of the court to score for a 63-52 Irish lead. Then she fed a wide-open Turner underneath for a 65-52 lead, and then finished off another Irish possession hitting a 15-footer for a 67-52 lead with 6:56 remaining.

VanDerveer called another timeout and the Irish fans behind the bench and the cheerleaders were cheering “Han-nah Huff-man” as the Irish enjoyed their biggest lead of the night.

Notre Dame then went on an 8-2 run with everyone getting into the act. Turner scored off an assist from Allen, who then hit a jumper for a 71-54 lead. Loyd followed with a basket and then made a beautiful touch pass to Reimer for a 75-54 lead with 4:39 to play.

From left, Notre Dame guard Hannah Huffman, guard Lindsay Allen, guard Jewell Loyd, and guard Michaela Mabrey (23) celebrate against Stanford during the second half of a women's college basketball regional semifinal game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 27, 2015, in Oklahoma City. Notre Dame won 81-60. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)