ND’s Diggins, McBride carry Irish past UConn in 3OT
Posted: 03/05/2013 at 9:00 am
By: Rachel Terlep
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Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins (4) celebrates a steal and the subsequent Connecticut foul during the third overtime of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, March 4, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. Diggins scored 29 points as Notre Dame won 96-87 for the Big East regular-season title. Notre Dame guard Kaila Turner (15) also reacts to the play. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, left, drives the lane as Connecticut guard Kelly Faris defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, March 4, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Diggins was on her 55th straight minute — including three overtimes — of defending that house against visiting archrival No. 3 Connecticut.
So when the clock hit zero with a 96-87 advantage, the exhausted Notre Dame senior met head coach Muffet McGraw and junior Kayla McBride at center court for an emotional hug.
“So that was a pretty memorable last game for our two seniors,” McGraw announced to the roaring crowd.
That’s putting it lightly.
Despite ice-cold 12.5 percent shooting the first eight minutes of the game and being outscored 21-3 from behind the 3-point arc, Notre Dame rallied from an 8-point deficit in the first half with help from UConn’s 35 turnovers.
Diggins and McBride kept the No. 2 Irish (28-1, 16-0 Big East) afloat in their final performance at the Purcell Pavilion, combining for 44 of Notre Dame’s 66 points in regulation. A free throw by Diggins with 27 seconds left in the second half sealed the tie.
Even though Connecticut starters Stephanie Dolson and Bria Hartley fouled out late in regulation, Notre Dame quickly fell behind by 6 in overtime. Like a déjà vu moment from earlier in the game, it looked like Notre Dame was out for the count.
Then junior Natalie Achonwa nailed two clutch free throws, UConn (27-3, 14-2 Big East) missed three of four free throws and McBride sank Notre Dame’s first and only 3-pointer of the night as time expired.
“I missed my first three, so I was a little nervous,” McBride of her big shot. “I didn’t want to lose.”
Once McBride fouled out early in the second overtime, Diggins and Achonwa took control.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the resilience of this group, they refuse to lose,” McGraw said. “We were done in regulation and in the first and second overtime. We had just fallen away, but what a battle. What a war. I can’t even think of any words. I’m just so proud of (Diggins and McBride).”
Diggins led all scorers with 29 points and 11 rebounds, her third double-double of the season. McBride finished with a career-high 26 points before fouling out.
Part of Diggins’s drive to keep fighting was to end her Notre Dame career at home with a win. Part of it was to thank the fans for their unyielding support over the past four years.
“It was something about protecting my house,” she said. “Like I was a guard dog or something.”
And part of it was because the Irish wanted the undisputed regular season Big East title all to themselves.
“You can see we’re not too good at sharing,” Diggins, sporting a Big East regular season champions T-shirt, said with a grin.
No. 2 NOTRE DAME 96, No. 3 UCONN 87, 3OT
Tuck 5-11 1-2 11, Mosqueda-Lewis 8-16 5-6 26, Dolson 6-14 0-0 12, Hartley 3-7 4-4 10, Faris 9-14 1-3 21, Jefferson 1-1 0-0 2, Doty 0-1 0-0 0, Stewart 1-7 3-6 5, Stokes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-71 14-21 87.
NOTRE DAME (28-1)
Achonwa 5-10 7-8 17, Braker 2-4 5-6 9, Diggins 11-31 7-9 29, McBride 11-28 3-4 26, Loyd 2-10 2-2 6, Turner 3-5 1-2 7, Cable 0-0 0-0 0, Mabrey 0-0 0-0 0, Wright 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 35-89 25-31 96.
Halftime—UConn 34-28. End Of Regulation—Tied 64. End Of 1st Overtime—Tied 71. End Of 2nd Overtime—Tied 81. 3-Point Goals—UConn 7-20 (Mosqueda-Lewis 5-9, Faris 2-4, Tuck 0-1, Dolson 0-1, Doty 0-1, Hartley 0-1, Stewart 0-3), Notre Dame 1-12 (McBride 1-4, Loyd 0-1, Turner 0-2, Diggins 0-5). Fouled Out—Dolson, Hartley, McBride, Tuck. Rebounds—UConn 51 (Faris 13), Notre Dame 49 (Diggins 11). Assists—UConn 23 (Hartley 6), Notre Dame 14 (Loyd 4). Total Fouls—UConn 26, Notre Dame 22. Technical—UConn Bench. A—9,149.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that McBride is a junior.