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ND Women’s Basketball: Notre Dame loses to Huskies 78-57

Andrew Owens | Monday, February 21, 2011

In January, Connecticut’s NCAA record 90-game winning streak had just been snapped, and the Irish were trying to give the Huskies their second loss in three games. The strong effort of the Huskies in the final two minutes led to a 79-76 victory in a heartbreaking defeat for Notre Dame.

This time, Connecticut dominated throughout the contest and denied the Irish a chance for revenge.

Huskies guard Bria Hartley exploded for 29 points and five assists in the contest. The freshman made 10 of her 16 attempts from the field, including a 5-9 effort from behind the arc. Her performance in the second half helped No. 2 Connecticut (26-1, 13-0 Big East) pull away from the No. 8 Irish (22-5, 11-2) for a 78-57 victory in Storrs, Conn.

“We obviously did a poor job guarding [Hartley],” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She was open in transition and made some important buckets for them.”

The Irish frontcourt, which has performed at such a high level for the team this season, was essentially a non-factor because of the play of the Huskies and Notre Dame’s early foul trouble.

“I think the foul trouble in the first half hurt,” McGraw said. “I think they are a big presence on defense. Maya Moore is the leader down there.”

Moore, the Big East’s Preseason Player of the Year, scored 12 points and recorded seven rebounds in 34 minutes. The senior All-American anchored a strong Huskies defense that held the Irish to fewer than 60 points for only the second time this season. Senior forwards Devereaux Peters and Becca Bruszewski combined for only eight points in the contest.

The Irish backcourt was forced to step up and spark the Notre Dame offense. Sophomore Skylar Diggins and junior guard Natalie Novosel led the way with 22 and 18 points, respectively. The rest of the team scored only 17 points in the loss.

With the defeat, Notre Dame falls one game behind DePaul for second place in the Big East. The two teams will conclude the regular season against each other in Chicago, Ill., in the conclusion of a brutal four-game stretch for the Irish. The second game of that stretch comes this Tuesday, when Notre Dame travels to West Virginia to battle the Mountaineers.

“We’re looking forward to West Virginia now,” McGraw said. “We need to put this game behind us and focus on finishing second in the conference. We really need to focus on these final three games.”

The matchup between the Irish and Mountaineers will tip off at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Morgantown, W.Va.