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2001 Big East championship flashback

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, March 8, 2011

With only 5.1 seconds remaining in the 2001 Big East championship game, Connecticut legend Sue Bird caught the inbounds pass, traveled down the length of the floor and hit a buzzer-beating jumper to lift the No. 2 Huskies over No. 1 Notre Dame to win the conference title.

Although the Irish went on to win the national championship a month later, the last-second loss to the Huskies stung. Notre Dame has not reached the conference championship game since that night.

Irish sophomore guard Skylar Diggins remembers that game all too well. She was a fan of the hometown team, growing up in South Bend, Ind.

“They wrote a book about it, so I don’t like that book,” Diggins said when asked about Bird’s shot.

The only other members of the Irish squad who have bad memories of Bird’s heroics are head coach Muffet McGraw and assistant coach Niele Ivey. McGraw was holding the same position at the time, but Ivey was a senior guard on the team.

“That is very fitting,” McGraw said when reminded that it is the 10-year anniversary of the game. “It’s great to be back in the championship game. It’s been a long stretch for us, so we’re happy to be there.”

It was the 10th Big East tournament championship at the time for the Huskies and their eighth consecutive title. Since then, the Huskies have won six additional conference championships, including the last three.

Notre Dame is still looking for its first Big East tournament championship, and it could not come at a better time, with McGraw heading into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this summer.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere for basketball,” Diggins said about tonight’s matchup between the two basketball heavyweights. “We’re all going to be up and excited and ready for it and hopefully we come out with a championship for Coach McGraw.”