STORRS, Conn. – Over the past three seasons, a trend has emerged in the Connecticut-Notre Dome women’s basketball series. And that trend is that Skylar Diggins always shows up to play against the Huskies.
Starting with the 2011 NCAA Final Four, when Notre Dame eliminated UConn from tournament play with a 72-63 victory, the Irish have won five of their last six meetings against the Huskies, including a 73-72 victory at Gampel Pavilion Saturday. Diggins has averaged just over 20 points in those six games.
In Saturday’s nail biter over No. 1UConn, Diggins proved herself once again, hitting the game-winning free throws with 49 seconds remaining. Diggins was fouled by UConn’s Bria Hartley attempting a layup after getting past the core of the Huskies’ defense.
“I should have made it,” Diggins said of the layup. “It was a good play call by coach (Muffet McGraw) and we executed well. I think everybody was really moving with a purpose and that made the defense turn their head for a little bit and gave me a window of opportunity.”
Those points won the game for the fifth-ranked Irish (12-1, 1-0 Big East). Diggins finished with 19 points and six rebounds but points did not come easily for the senior guard.
Diggins was 4-for-15 from the floor and had a slow start, making only one field goal in the first half. Nearly half of her points came from the free-throw line, where she hit nine of her 12 free throw attempts. The second half was an improvement for Diggins, as she scored 12 of her 19 points, including two 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma felt that those consecutive three-pointers Diggins made came at a crucial point in the game. The two three-pointers tied the game at 50-50 with 15:26 remaining.
“We were taking over the game at that point and she makes two threes to get them right back,” Auriemma said.
Notre Dame’s only loss this season came against Baylor on Dec. 5. Baylor is ranked No. 2 this week and will likely replace UConn at No. 1 in the new polls released Monday.
“This is a good win to have on our resume and like I said, we want to continue to get better,” Diggins said. “We made a lot of mistakes and I have to take care of the ball better.”
Diggins finished with a game-high seven turnovers, five of which came in the first half alone.
“I think when you have a player like Skylar (Diggins) on your team, you don’t need to really do a whole lot. She does it all,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw about her guard. “She lays the ground work, she sets the tone.”
Although Diggins may be the focal point, she could not do it alone. Kayla McBride had a game-high 21 points, shooting 10-of-21 from the floor without any free throw attempts. McBride also added three assists and three rebounds.
“As a leader on the team, I’m supposed to set the tone and defensively I didn’t do that,” said UConn guard Kelly Faris, who guarded McBride most of the game. “I think that’s usually what is expected of me and McBride got any shot she wanted and she hit almost every single one of them.”
The loss marks UConn’s first defeat in a Big East conference opener since Jan. 3, 1992, when the Huskies fell 65-60 against Georgetown.