Chattanooga, TN — The No. 2 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish looked to stay on track to be a No. 1 seed come March as they faced a very competitive squad from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga tonight, Dec. 27. Notre Dame finished on top by a final score of 79-58 behind a triple-double from Lindsay Allen and 24 points, six blocks and five rebounds from Brianna Turner.
"It was definitely a special moment," Turner said after the game.
And while Turner was definitely special, it was their conductor that really stole the show, with her ability to control the game from so many different facets. Allen’s play was magical en route to her first career triple-double.
"I think it's definitely a special moment,” said Allen I think towards the end of the game they were telling me to look for your shot and that's when I kind of got the hint I was either going to get a double-double or a triple-double. I think it's just credit to my teammates. Brianna did a great job posting up today.
“We shared the ball really well. It's actually a special moment in my senior year."
To kick off the evening, Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale scored a quick basket, plus got fouled and then Kathryn Westbeld pitched in another two points on the block. Turner scored her first points of the night not long after off a pass from Marina Mabrey. Turner went on to finish an impressive 10-13 from the field.
“I think our offense looked really good,” Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw said.
Chattanooga got on the board with a shot and make by Queen Alford who played all but one minute and scored a team-high 24 points. Lakelyn Bouldin, who finished behind Alford with 11 points, sunk a three-pointer to pull the Lady Mocs within 11.
With the crowd on its feet, Chattanooga’s Sydney Vanlandingham drove to the basket with two seconds left on the clock to beat the buzzer. Despite ending the quarter on a high note, the Lady Mocs trailed 26-12 at the end of the first quarter.
But once again, Allen’s leadership and steady play kept Chattanooga at bay, as they were never able to really gain serious momentum, because of one player: Allen.
“Brianna was amazing,” said McGraw. “She proved why she's an all American and Lindsey Allen as well. These two really ran the team. They did everything they need to do to get the win."
Turnovers eventually began to catch up to Chattanooga as the Fighting Irish took advantage of any mental lapses to jump out to a 38-21 lead midway through the second quarter. At the end of two, Notre Dame led 44-29 after Turner connected for two on a fast-break layup at the buzzer.
After Chattanooga had shot attempts denied in back-to-back possession’s to open up the second half, Alford finally sunk a three for the Lady Mocs’ first three points of the third quarter to make the score 48-31. The momentum was short-lived for Chattanooga as they were whistled for a shot clock violation shortly after. With 4:17 to go in the third, the Fighting Irish led the Lady Mocs 56-35.
Two deep three’s for Chattanooga’s Chelsey Shumpert and Bouldin helped re-energize the Lady Mocs as they tried to crawl their way back into the game. However, after 30 minutes, Notre Dame still held on to a commanding lead and went into the final 10 minutes of action out in front be nearly 20 points, 64-46.
"We played that team seven times,” Chattanooga Head Coach Jim Foster said. “It might say Connecticut, Louisville, or Notre Dame, but they are all the same — big and strong. We have got to learn to play smart and aggressive."
Turner scored the opening basket of the fourth quarter to reach her 24 points, but the Lady Mocs never went away as Shumpert answered with her third three of the night. With under five minutes to go, Notre Dame looked to be in full control with a commanding 72-54 lead before eventually walking away with a 79-58 victory.