Steady, sturdy Lindsay Allen makes Notre Dame women's basketball go

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – She shuns the spotlight, but the spotlight finds her.

She is durable, selfless and oh, so valuable.

She is Lindsay Allen, Notre Dame’s senior point guard, who builds upon a record or climbs nearer to more records every time she steps on the floor.

Allen is the Irish floor general. She is the guard who makes sure the offense is running the sets it should run. And Allen will be a key Wednesday night when the Irish meet Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Tipoff is at 9 p.m. and will be televised by the Big Ten Network as part of the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

An illness to sophomore Ali Patberg has resulted in Allen playing even more minutes than planned, including being on the floor for all 40 minutes of some games.

“I am lucky and blessed,” Allen said of her durability as she knocked on a wooden table nearby.

The nation has noticed her. On the watch list for the Lieberman Award, signifying the nation’s best point guard, Allen Wednesday will add to her record of starting 117 consecutive games for Notre Dame, the most of any player.

It has been an incredibly successful run for Allen and the Irish. She ranks second nationally with 47 assists and is fifth in the nation with 7.7 assists per game. Both of those numbers lead all guards in the ACC.

“Steady” is the word coach Muffet McGraw used to describe her in one word, but quickly added, “That is a tough one. She does so many things – all good for us.”

The No. 1 and 6-0 Irish will tangle with a young, but talented Hawkeye team that enters the game at 5-2. It will be the first true road test for the Irish.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder knows it will be a good game for her team.

“This is one of those games you don’t have to say a lot to get them excited,” she told Iowa media members Monday. “Keeping them calmer might be a better thing for the Notre Dame game; remind them we’re playing at home and that we have played against good opponents. We’re prepared for this — getting them to relax will be a key.”

Trying to stop the offensive barrage the Irish can muster will be a challenge for Iowa. Six Irish players average 8.5 points or more with sophomores Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey leading the way at 17.7 and 14.2 points a game, respectively. Junior Brianna is at 13.3.

Iowa is led by 6-foot senior Ally Disterhoff with her 18.1 scoring and 6.6 rebounding averages. Sophomore center Megan Gustafson is at 17.6 and 9.3.

“Iowa is a young team with really good post players,” McGraw said.

Iowa starts two freshmen and two sophomores.

“Their post player (Gustafson) is probably their best player,” she added, “but their young players are very talented. We have to take their best shot.”

With Allen at the helm, taking another team’s best shot comes a bit easier. Allen’s facial expressions rarely change – unless one of her teammates is out of position. She is the quiet leader, but clearly the leader.

“I am a chill person,” Allen, a management consulting major, said. “I would say I am shy — very much an introvert. I listen to music or watch movies with Kristina Nelson (her roommate).”

But don’t let the quiet exterior fool you. There is fire burning inside.

“I don’t ever want an opponent to know what I am thinking,” Allen said. “I try to keep the same demeanor during a game whether we are up by 20 or down by 20.”

McGraw knows she is using Allen too much.

“We obviously want to try to give Lindsay a rest so we are trying to figure out if Mychal (Johnson) and Marina can run the team.”

After the Iowa game, Notre Dame returns home to meet Valparaiso at 1 p.m. Sunday..

Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen (15) and Head Coach Muffet McGraw smile near the end of the fourth quarter of the Fighting Irish's 92-59 win over TCU, Saturday, November 26, 2016 in South Bend. Tribune Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ

WHO: No. 1 Notre Dame (6-0) vs. Iowa (5-2)

WHERE: Mediacom Court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,400) Iowa City, Iowa.

WHEN: Wednesday at 9 p.m.

TICKETS: Available

RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) in South Bend.

INTERNET: WatchESPN.COM

TELEVISION: Big Ten Network

GAME NOTES: Notre Dame sophomore point guard Ali Patberg has been diagnosed with walking pneumonia and is likely to miss another week or two of playing time. Patberg may travel with the team, but won’t suit up. ... Irish sophomore Arike Ogunbowale ranks third in the nation and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference with her 61.9 shooting percentage. ... Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw had a chance to renew old friendships Tuesday when Fran McCaffrey and his wife Margaret were in South Bend for the Iowa-Notre Dame men’s game Tuesday night. McGraw coached the women at Lehigh when McCaffrey coached the men there. His wife, the former Margaret Nowlin, played for Muffet early in her years at ND. McGraw introduced the two while McCaffrey was an assistant at Notre Dame.