Jan. 7, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame ended another Connecticut run.
Diggins scored 22 points and Natalie Novosel added 20, including six free throws in overtime, to help the third-ranked Irish rally to beat No. 2 UConn 74-67 on Saturday, snapping the Huskies 57-game Big East winning streak.
"We knew it was going to be a game of runs. We played better in the second half. We knew we had to attack and we knew if we did, it would be worth it," said Diggins, who had 16 of her points in the second half and OT.
The Irish, who hadn't beaten UConn at home since 2004, also topped the Huskies in the national semifinals last April, marking the first time they've won consecutive games against UConn. A feat not many teams have accomplished.
"We wanted to keep them under pressure," Diggins said. "We wanted to slow the ball down at the guards and we wanted to protect the home court."
The Irish (15-1, 3-0 Big East) forced UConn into a season-high 27 turnovers and held the Huskies without a field goal over the final 3:49 of regulation and all through the overtime.
"Our defense late in the game was fantastic," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "We did a really good job down the stretch using the clock and getting to free throw line."
UConn (12-2, 2-1) , which had beaten Notre Dame 12 straight times before losing to the Irish in the national semifinals last April, got 25 points from Bria Hartley.
Connecticut, which hadn't lost a conference game since falling to Rutgers in 2008, had a 61-57 lead and the ball with just under four minutes left in regulation but couldn't hold off the Irish. The Huskies had several chances late to ice the game with a lead but couldn't pull it off.
Diggins shot just 7-for-19 but came up with a big steal near the end of regulation that ended in the tying basket by Kayla McBride with 19 seconds left in the frenzied game that saw 10 ties and 11 lead changes at the green-clad Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame won despite shooting just 35.8 percent.
"Frustrating because it happened once at Baylor," Hartley said of the Huskies' only other loss this season. "When you have the ball and are up two, you should be able to win the game."
McBride also had a key basket in overtime and finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Hartley had a driving basket, a free throw and a 3-pointer to spark a 10-2 UConn spurt as the Huskies opened up a 47-42 lead with 13 minutes remaining. After a timeout, she caught a long pass and hit another layup and the Huskies had built their lead to seven with 11 minutes to go.
Trailing by eight, the Irish rallied again as Diggins scored five straight points and Devereaux Peters got free for a layup after a mad scramble on the floor for a loose ball. The 9-2 run cut UConn's lead to 55-54.
After a timeout, Diggins sank a 3-pointer to complete the 12-2 run and give the Irish a two-point lead. But UConn responded and Caroline Doty hit a 3-pointer and then made an alert follow of a missed layup, giving the Huskies a 61-57 lead. That turned out to be UConn's final field goal.
"Skylar ignited us. She made a 3, got to the rim, hit some free throws, really came on,' McGraw said.
Mallory drove for a layup after a steal by Peters to narrow it to two with 1:49 remaining. After a missed shot by Doty, Novosel was fouled and made both free throws to tie the game with 1:10 Left.
Tiffany Hayes gave the lead back to the Huskies by hitting a pair from the line with 56 seconds and UConn got the ball back after a missed shot by the Irish. But Diggins made the steal and McBride's ensuing basket tied it at 63.
UConn tried to set up for a final game-winning shot but freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis threw the ball away with four seconds to go - the Huskies' 24th turnover.
After a timeout, the Irish got the ball to Novosel but her driving shot came up short, sending the game to overtime.
"We were plus two with a minute to play and we don't finish the game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It just shows that we are not ready to win those kind of games. We have too many guys who have not been in that position before."
The Huskies also missed two of their first four free throw attempts in overtime, opening the way for the Irish and Novosel, who was 10-for-11 for the game.
"We have to make free throws at the end of the game, too. Notre Dame took advantage of the opportunities we gave them," Auriemma said. "They're one of the top two or three teams in the country for a reason."
UConn's 6-foot-5 Stefanie Dolson worked inside for a basket and Hartley stole the ball and drove in for a layup, putting the Huskies up 26-18 with just over five minutes to go in the opening half.
Notre Dame's inside players Peters and Natalie Achonwa both picked up two fouls and leading scorer Diggins struggled, missing five of her first seven field goal attempts
Reinserted into the game after a breather, Diggins drove for a basket - Notre Dame's first in more than eight minutes - Novosel also went hard to the hoop for two points and then Mallory sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The 11-point surge gave the Irish a three-point lead.
UConn's Hartley stemmed the Irish rally with a 3-pointer and a layup just before the buzzer to finish with 12 points and create a 31-31 tie at the half.
The two teams will meet again in Connecticut on Feb. 27.