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Notre Dame

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Notre Dame
vs. Robert Morris
What: NCAA women’s tournament, first round
Where: Toledo
When: 1:30 p.m. today
TV: ESPN
Associated Press
Notre Dame freshman point guard Lindsay Allen averaged 6.4 points, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals this year.

No point in panicking for Irish

Lindsay Allen had to calm the nerves of her coach and teammates quickly at Notre Dame.

The freshman had the credentials to take over at point guard for an Irish team that went to three straight NCAA women’s tournament Final Fours and reached the championship game in 2011 and 2012.

But the 2013 USA Today All-USA first team selection was being asked to fill the spot vacated by Skylar Diggins, who graduated as the program’s all-time leader in points (2,357) and steals (381).

And she was being put into a starting lineup that included seniors Natalie Achonwa, Kayla McBride and Ariel Braker and sophomore Jewell Loyd.

“Coming into the season there was one big question mark, and that was at the point,” coach Muffet McGraw said Monday after the No. 1 seed Irish (32-0) found out they would face No. 16 seed Robert Morris (21-11) today in Toledo to open the NCAA tournament.

“You look at a veteran team coming back with great leadership, but you’ve got a freshman point guard, potentially.”

Allen quickly put any fears to rest about using a first-year player to run the team.

Achonwa said she knew the 5-foot-7 Mitchellville, Md., native could handle the team from the moment they met.

“She’s so mellow, and her emotion is so stale that it is actually great,” Achonwa said. “She doesn’t get too high, she doesn’t get too low. I think she is a great calming factor.”

McGraw needed a little more time to be at ease with Allen running the point. But the freshman won her coach during over the team’s European Tour before the season, averaging 10.3 points, 6.7 assists and 3 steals in three games.

“The Europe trip really kind of cemented her spot for me,” McGraw said. “We knew Kayla McBride would be a capable backup. We had other backups on the bench, but as the games went, we felt like if we don’t use her early in the season she won’t be ready for conference play. We really felt like she was the one we were going to go with throughout the year, and she never gave us a moment of doubt.”

Allen started all 32 games, averaging 6.4 points, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals as she became one of two freshmen to be named candidates for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which goes to the nation’s top point guard.

“She’s a great point guard,” Loyd said. “She’s a true point guard. She sees the floor really well. She understands the offense really well. You can tell her stuff, and she will pick it up right away. She puts in so much work.”

Allen didn’t hesitate to ask questions as she figured out what plays to run and when and became more accustomed to knowing foul and timeout situations. It also didn’t hurt having plenty of experienced players with her on the court.

“It is definitely a lot easier when we have three senior starters and we have Jewel, who started most of the games last year,” Allen said.

“They know what to run. They know what it’s like. They’ve been through the grind of the season, Final Fours, championships. They’ve been through everything that you can go through here at Notre Dame. It was definitely a lot of help that they gave to me.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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