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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Big East Notebook: No. 3 Irish Knock Off No. 2 UConn, 74-67, in OT

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Photo Caption: Despite disastrous two-of-seven (28.6 percent) field-goal shooting early in the game, No. 3 Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins came live when her team needed her most, spurring the Irish to a 74-67 overtime victory over the visiting No. 2Connecticut Huskies. Diggins finished with a team-high 22 points on seven-of-19 (36.8 percent) from the field and six-of-eight from the foul line, plus two assists and four steals.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Notre Dame Media Relations/Matt Cashore




By Mel Greenberg
Correspondent

Almost a month ago the Huskies were the No. 2 team in the nation, visiting No. 1 Baylor in Waco, Texas, and holding an 11-point lead on the Bears in the second half before being smothered by Brittney Griner and company down the stretch to lose the battle of the unbeatens.

On Saturday afternoon, Connecticut was again the “2,” this time to No. 3 Notre Dame in the front end of two regular-season showdowns between the pair of BIG EAST powerhouses, plus perhaps other match-ups to come in the postseason.

Just like in the game against Baylor, the Huskies held a lead they frittered away, ultimately losing to the Irish, 74-67, in overtime before a sellout crowd of 9,149 predominantly Notre Dame fans in Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind. It was Connecticut’s first overtime game since 2006.

 

The loss put an end to a 57-game Connecticut win streak in BIG EAST competition that dated back to a loss to Rutgers in 2008. And that upset by the Scarlet Knights was the last time an opponent got the best of the Huskies in consecutive games since Rutgers went back-to-back on UConn in 2007 and 2008.

This time around, it was Notre Dame boasting the back-to-back wins, getting the last laugh last spring after three losses in conference play in the preceding months, by knocking UConn out in the NCAA national semifinals when last these two teams met in the Final Four last spring in Indianapolis.

“It’s hard to lose a game we put ourselves in a position to win,” said Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma afterward, shaking his head.

However, putting aside the ranking numbers from the AP media poll and USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, the real conclusion is this particular outcome was not an upset of the Huskies, but rather a near-upset for the second time in a month by the Huskies.

Notre Dame was the BIG EAST coaches’ preseason pick to capture this year’s conference title over the Huskies. The Irish (15-1, 3-0 Big East) are the more experienced of the two teams, featuring All-American junior Skylar Diggins and at least two other blue-chip talent players in the starting lineup in Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters.

The Huskies (12-2, 2-1) have lost all-world Maya Moore to graduation and the WNBA, where as rookie of the year she was a major part of the Minnesota Lynx’s first-ever title last summer.

“I’ll have to admit it was nice watching film and not seeing Maya out there,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.

Instead, UConn’s starting line-up features two sophomores in Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley; two juniors in Kelly Faris and Carolyn Doty, the latter a redshirt junior who missed last season after undergoing knee surgery; and only one senior, Tiffany Hayes, who has great athleticism and is an All-BIG EAST first-team honoree, but is certainly not of the caliber of a Maya Moore

And before the season, UConn’s Auriemma several times noted that in 2011-12 three other teams have a better chance to win the NCAA title than of his Huskies. (Of course, anything coaches say before the opening tip can be taken with a grain of salt.)


“Our defense late in the game was fantastic,” said McGraw, whose Irish beat UConn at home in South Bend for the first time since 2004.

“We did a really good job down the stretch using the clock and getting to the free-throw line.”

Indeed, the Irish defense held the Huskies scoreless from the field for the final 3:49 of regulation as well as in the overtime.

Before the drought, UConn junior Caroline Doty, still suffering the after-effects of missing all of last season with her third knee injury, hit a three-pointer and followed Dolson’s missed jumper with a layup to give Connecticut a 61-57 lead with under four remaining.

Earlier in the game, it was the Irish who had gone dry from the field for nearly a full eight minutes of the opening period, while Peters and Natalie Anchonwa languished on the bench in foul trouble, alongside Diggins, who had missed five of her first seven field-goal attempts.

The Huskies led by as many as eight in the second half before the Irish launched a 12-2 run late in the period.

Diggins made a key steal near the finish of regulation and her swipe led to Kayla McBride’s layup, tying the game at 63-63 with 19 seconds left.

UConn still had a chance to seal the win in regulation, but Connecticut freshman sensation Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who struggled in this outing, committed another turnover.

That gave Notre Dame the final opportunity to put an end to avoid the extra minutes, but Novosel’s shot caromed off the rim when she drove for an attempted layup.

The result of Saturday’s thriller is likely to send the fans of both teams into two separate reactions.

Huskies nation might be lining up along the Connecticut River, since any loss is perceived in the Nutmeg State as the end of the world arrived.

The Irish brood, on the other hand, believing women’s basketball salvation is at hand, is already planning for some kind of St. Patrick’s Day gala, which is on the calendar soon after the BIG EAST tournament in Hartford, Conn., has concluded.

Whether either side is right in its assumptions remains to be seen despite Saturday’s Notre Dame win.

The two teams will meet again in the regular season in Connecticut on Feb. 27 – time enough for the Huskies to have grown more battled-tested and stronger. Or then again, perhaps not.

“They’re a young team,” McGraw said of the Huskies to the Hartford Courant. “They’re so talented. They’re going to figure it out quickly.”

But then, Auriemma’s far more experienced squad beat Notre Dame three straight last season before match-up No. 4 became the charm for the Irish, though two days later it was Texas A&M rallying over coach Muffet McGraw’s squad to win the Aggies’ first-ever NCAA title.

As for the actual basketball played Saturday, UConn’s demise was 27 turnovers, including a critical one near the end of regulation.

Notre Dame has been one of the tops in the nation on defense, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Huskies had their worst day handling the ball since 2004.

The other key to the game came at the charity stripe, where the Irish garnered 23 of their points on 29 visits (79.3 percent). The Huskies didn’t get there quite as often, and they wasted many of the opportunities they did get, connecting on just 12 of their penalty shots in 20 visits to the line (60 percent).

“We were plus two with a minute to play and we don’t finish the game?” 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.”

Huskies sophomore Bria Hartley, who scored 25 points in both the Baylor game and against the Irish, bemoaned the way both outcomes got away.

“Frustrating because it happened once at Baylor,” she said. “When you have the ball and are up two, you should be able to win the game.”

Auriemma complimented Hartley, saying, “Bria comes up big in every single big game we play. She comes up huge. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough help for her.”

By contrast, Notre Dame had plenty of forces in the Irish lineup.

Diggins scored 22 points of which 16 came in the second half and in the overtime, while Novosel, who had missed several practices with a slight knee injury suffered in Wednesday’s win at Seton Hall, scored 20.

McBride, a third starter, scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Diggins had four of Notre Dame’s 14 steals.

We played better in the second half,” Diggins said. “We knew we had to attack and if we did it would be worth it.

“We wanted to keep them under pressure,” Diggins related. “We wanted to slow the ball down at the guards and we wanted to protect the home court.”

Next time it will be UConn’s turn to attempt to do likewise in Hartford. And after that game ends, much more will be known than the initial measuring stick each team took to gauge itself against the other on Saturday.

NCAA Tournament Seedings Could Prove a Nightmare if East Coast Play Continues on Its Current Path


One thing can be said about navigating the rapids to earning one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament: Notre Dame moved a little closer on Saturday and UConn a little further away.

However, BIG EAST fans need to remember that other East Coast conference—specifically, the ACC. If Maryland continues to perform like it did Friday night at home in the Comcast Center, rallying from a second-half 20-point deficit to slip past Georgia Tech in an Atlantic Coast Conference match-up, this year’s NCAA Tournament seedings and placement could generate as much a controversy as last year’s tournament rematch between Baylor and Texas A&M.

If either the Terrapins or Duke are deemed worthy of a No. 1 seed, geographical placement will be fascinating. Say Connecticut falls to a second seed: The Huskies could be slated for what would likely be a fourth match of the season with Notre Dame (assuming the two meet twice in the regular season, and once in the BIG EAST tournament). Or UConn could find itself pitted against the ACC champion in the bracket, which would likely get the Huskies nation howling.

And if UConn is the two, suddenly teams might want to be in the 4-5 seed placement instead of a 7.

Furthermore, in the world of the Big East, a much-improved No. 10 Rutgers could be an X factor. We’ll know more about that at the end of the month when the Scarlet Knights host Notre Dame and then head to Connecticut in back-to-back games.

Elsewhere in the BIG EAST

Connecticut has not lost back-to-back games since 2002-03 and the Huskies are not considered likely to do so this week, when they host Providence Tuesday.

Still, the Friars (9-7, 1-2) did create a stir Saturday, upsetting No. 20 DePaul, 60-52, in Rhode Island as Teya Wright had 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The Blue Demons (14-3, 2-1), who were limited to eight players because of injuries, got 17 points from Anna Martin.

Meanwhile, No. 10 Rutgers (13-2, 2-0) has a chance to move up in the rankings after Ohio State, currently ranked above the Knights, lost its first game Saturday to Michigan, and Texas A&M fell earlier in the week.

The Scarlet Knights downed Cincinnati, 58-47 Saturday at home in Piscataway, N.J., as April Sykes had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Bearcats (9-7, 0-3).

Rutgers is off to its best start since 17-2 in 2007-08.

In Tampa, No. 15 Georgetown recovered from a home loss its last time out to beat South Florida, 66-56, as Tia Magee and Sugar Rodgers each scored 12 points for the Hoyas (13-3, 2-1).

Rodgers, the reigning women’s National Player of the Week selected by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), had been averaging 20.7.

Magee added 11 rebounds to her tally, as the Hoyas dominated the boards, 50-37, against the host Bulls (9-7, 1-1).

Inga Orekhova, a junior college transfer, made her debut for South Florida, scoring 18 points and Jasmine Wynne scored 17.

In Morgantown, W. Va., the host Mountaineers edged Villanova, 61-56, as Brooke Hampton scored 18 points for West Virginia (11-4, 2-1).

Rachel Roberts had a career-high 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting for the Wildcats (11-4, 2-1).

In two other BIG EAST games, Syracuse beat host Pittsburgh, 83-60, and Marquette at home in Milwaukee, beat Seton Hall.

On Sunday No. 14 Louisville visits St. John’s in New York.

 

     

 

Originally published Sun, January 08, 2012


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NCAA DIVISION I TOP 25 COACHES' POLL
WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Week: February 7, 2012
RANK SCHOOL RECORD LAST WEEK'S RANK PRESEASON RANK AP RANK POINTS
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
(61)
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
(70)
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
(38)
92
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
(18)
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
(13)
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
(23)
NR-RV
(19)
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
Ranking has risen since last week.
Ranking has dropped since last week.
Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.