published Monday, April 4th, 2011

Notre Dame stuns UConn in women’s semi

INDIANAPOLIS—Even Maya Moore’s magic wasn’t enough for Connecticut this time.

Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins scored 28 points and hot-shooting Notre Dame upset UConn 72-63 on Sunday night, ending the brilliant career of Moore and the Huskies’ quest for a third straight national championship.

Ten years after their last title, the Irish will be playing for another one Tuesday night against Texas A&M, which beat Stanford 63-62 in the first semifinal.

Notre Dame was 0-3 against its Big East rival this season but the Irish had all the answers this time for the Huskies, who lost for just the second time in three seasons. Notre Dame had already beaten Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, ending a 20-game skid against the Volunteers.

Now the Irish have knocked out the two-time defending champions.

Moore finished with 36 points, including 12 straight as she tried to rally the Huskies from a 12-point deficit in the final 6 minutes, but it wasn’t enough.

The four-time All-American and AP player of the year was overshadowed by Diggins, the South Bend native who felt right at home in Conseco Fieldhouse, where she led her high school to three straight championships. Now she can add a NCAA championship to that list with a victory Tuesday night.

“We had to be poised, I mean, we had to try to make Maya take tough shots, and I think she did,” Diggins said. “And at the end we said, ‘We have to stay poised on defense and we have to execute on offense.’ We showed a lot more poise than we did in the first three games against Connecticut.”

Trailing 34-26 early in the second half, Diggins’ three-point play started a 15-4 run by the Irish. Devereaux Peters’ added her own three-point play that gave Notre Dame a 38-37 advantage — its first lead since midway through the first half.

Diggins capped the burst with another three-point play that made it 41-38 with 13:17 left and brought the pro-Irish crowd to its feet and left Geno Auriemma’s team reeling.

The Irish extended their lead to 47-40 a few minutes later before UConn cut the deficit to four on Bria Hartley’s 3-pointer.

Brittany Mallory and Natalie Novosel hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it a 12-point game with just over 7 minutes left. Moore did her best to try to rally her young team, but the Huskies fell short.

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