Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame are headed back to the Final Four for another rematch with Connecticut. Diggins shook off early foul trouble...
NORFOLK, Va. — Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame are headed back to the Final Four for another rematch with Connecticut.
Diggins shook off early foul trouble to score 24 points and Notre Dame rallied to beat Duke 87-76 on Tuesday night to earn its third consecutive 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 said. “When you have a coach who believes in you so much, I’d do anything for her.”
Kayla McBride scored 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 UConn.
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It’s the third straight meeting between the two Big East rivals in the Final Four. The Irish won the previous two and have dominated the series lately winning seven of the past eight meetings.
Notre Dame swept all three meetings with UConn this season in thrilling fashion winning in overtime and by 1 and 2 points.
The Irish had to rally past Duke (33-3) to get there.
Trailing by six at the half, Notre Dame took control with a 15-2 run early in the second half to take a 50-42 lead. The Blue Devils lost in the regional finals for the fourth straight year.
Diggins, hampered by foul trouble in the first half, started the run with her fourth three-pointer and followed quickly with a no-look feed to Natalie Achonwa, who also grabbed 13 rebounds, for a layup that had drew a roar from the crowd at Old Dominion’s Constant Center.
Diggins added a steal and a layup, and McBride finished the burst with another three-pointer. The Irish extended their lead to 60-49 with 9:57 to play, and Duke trailed by as many as 16 before closing the gap slightly in the desperate final minutes. The Blue Devils hurt their cause with 21 turnovers.
“I think they were outworking us (in the first half),” said Diggins, who earned AP All-America honors for the second straight season earlier on Tuesday. “I’ve never seen that from my team. They were getting hustle scrap points. I couldn’t wait to get in that locker room. We had to light a fire. We set the tone on defense and got some stops and played our game.”