The Norman Transcript

Sports

April 3, 2013

Diggins lifts Irish over Blue Devils

NORFOLK, Va. — Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame are headed back to the Final Four for another rematch with Connecticut.

Before looking ahead, though, they wanted to soak in their third consecutive trip to the national semifinals.

“We’re enjoying the moment right now,” Diggins said when asked about UConn. “We’ll talk about that later.”

The flashy left-hander shook off early foul trouble to score 24 points and the Fighting Irish rallied to beat Duke 87-76 on Tuesday night to earn their third straight trip to the Final Four. The Irish have lost in the past two national championship games.

“I want to win a championship for coach (Muffet) McGraw bad,” Diggins, one of just two seniors on the Notre Dame roster, said. “When you have a coach who believes in you so much, I’d do anything for her.”

Kayla McBride added 18 points while Jewell Loyd and Natalie Achonwa had 17 each as the Fighting Irish (35-1) won their school-record 30th consecutive game, earning a fourth meeting with the Huskies this season.

It’s also the third straight meeting between the two Big East rivals in the Final Four. The Irish won both of those and have dominated the series lately, winning seven of the past eight meetings. Notre Dame swept UConn in all three meetings this season in thrilling fashion, winning in overtime and by 1 and 2 points.

The Irish had to rally past Duke to earn the right to get there again.

Trailing by six at the half and looking disjointed without Diggins on the court, Notre Dame got back to playing the way it likes after the break and took control with a 15-2 run early in the second half to take a 50-42 lead.

“We talked in the beginning about leaving with no regrets,” Diggins said, adding that the first half could hardly have gone worse. “I think we were all pressing a little bit. We weren’t playing like we talked about.”

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