Irish knock off Sooners 79-75 in OT

Wednesday, March 26th 2008, 12:00 am
By: News 9

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Notre Dame's Charel Allen saw the mismatch inside and didn't hesitate.

The fearless 5-foot-11 guard drove repeatedly to the basket, and right into the heart of Oklahoma's defense -- 6-4 Courtney Paris and 6-3 Ashley Paris -- Tuesday night. It was no contest.

Allen scored a career-high 35 points and made all the big plays to rally Notre Dame from a late-seven point deficit as the fifth-seeded Irish beat fourth-seeded Oklahoma 79-75 in overtime Tuesday night.

No, it wasn't exactly by design.

But Allen, who was in foul trouble during Sunday's first-round game, responded with the biggest performance of her career. She hit 10 of 21 shots, all 12 free throws and when the Irish needed her late, she did it all: force turnovers, score, draw fouls, even block shots.

It was just the kind of effort the Irish needed to reach the regional semifinals for the first time since 2004. They'll head to Oklahoma City on Sunday to face top-seeded Tennessee, a 78-52 winner in Tuesday night's other game.

Oddly enough, the Irish (25-8) struggled mightily to contain Courtney Paris, last year's national player of the year. She finished with 24 points -- all in the final 34 minutes after being shut out for nearly 12 -- and 16 rebounds.

The performance extended her incredible streak to 92 straight games with a double-double.

But even Paris' dominance inside, and the ability of her helpful teammates to hit critical shots, wasn't enough to thwart Allen and the Irish. Oklahoma (22-9) finished the season by losing four of five.

Notre Dame changed its philosophy after a strong inside game Sunday. Of course, the Paris twins have a way of doing that.

The Irish relied on Allen, who almost single-handedly erased a seven-point deficit with a little more than 8 minutes to go. Allen scored 10 points in the crucial 16-4 run, which gave Notre Dame a 65-60 lead with 2:02 left in regulation.

But the Sooners tied on Paris' post-up basket with 13.7 seconds to go.

Allen had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but the shot bounced on the rim three times before falling off.

In overtime, Allen again brought the Irish back after Oklahoma scored the first five points. This time, Allen hit a 3, stole the ball and made the outlet pass that led to Ashley Barlow's layup that tied it at 70. Barlow, who had 16 points, gave Notre Dame the lead with 1:49 left, and Barlow and Allen combined for 10 of Notre Dame's last 11 points to seal it.