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ND Women’s Basketball: Irish defeat DePaul, to play Mountaineers

Joseph Monardo | Sunday, March 4, 2012

In the same venue that hosted Notre Dame’s regular season Big East title-securing victory over No. 4 Connecticut, the Irish began their quest for the Big East tournament title.

The Irish returned to action in the XL Center of Hartford, Conn., with a 69-54 defeat of DePaul in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

Graduate student forward Devereaux Peters recorded her 10th double-double of the season with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, and junior guard Skylar Diggins added 12 points and five assists after being named Big East Player of the Year on Friday. Diggins, who was also the Big East preseason Player of the Year, led the Irish with 17.2 points, 5.8 assists and 2.6 steals per game this season.

“It shows the respect that Big East coaches have for me, choosing me at the beginning and then at the end,” Diggins told BigEast.tv on Friday. “Without my teammates I would never be able to receive a reward like this … It means a lot to the University of Notre Dame and our program.”

Entering the tournament with the top seed and a double-bye, Notre Dame (29-2, 15-1 Big East) faced off with a DePaul team that had defeated South Florida 76-62 in the second round. The Blue Demons (22-10, 9-8) jumped out to an early lead and maintained a 12-11 advantage nearly six minutes into the contest.

“I think the game went about as I expected the beginning to go,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “[DePaul] had played yesterday. I think that historically, when a team plays a game they are a little bit more game ready.”

The Irish jolted to life with a seven-point run to gain the lead, and then used another seven-point run several minutes later to push their lead to 32-21. After heading into the break up 12, the Irish scored the first 10 points of the second half to push the score to 48-26 and take command of the game.

“I think … we finally woke up in the second half,” Diggins said. “We talked about it, made some adjustments at halftime, came out and executed better in the second half.”

The Irish outrebounded the Blue Demons 41-28 and grabbed 18 offensive boards, but their biggest accomplishment was holding DePaul junior guard Anna Martin to just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting. Martin averaged a Big East-leading 19.4 points per game this season and led the way with 33 points in DePaul’s second round win over the Bulls.

“I was pleased with the defense on Martin,” McGraw said. “She had a phenomenal year; she is just a great player so I was really happy with the way we were able to guard her.”

After closing out Sunday’s game with a victory, the Irish prepare to face fifth-seeded West Virginia in the semifinals. The Mountaineers (23-8, 12-5) defeated fourth-seeded Georgetown in their quarterfinal matchup, 39-32, and handed Notre Dame its only loss in conference play for the season. On Feb. 12, West Virginia defeated the Irish 65-63 in Purcell Pavilion, largely behind junior centers Asya Bussie and Ayana Dunning. Bussie scored a career-high 22 points and brought in eight rebounds, while Dunning added 11 points.

“For me [the last time against West Virginia], I think I was 1-of-8 shooting, and I missed a whole bunch of layups,” Peters said. “Dunning and Bussie were getting a lot of points on me and I was fouling a lot … I think the biggest difference in that game was the post game. They were scoring a lot of points in the post and we weren’t doing our job, so that is definitely going to have to change for tomorrow.”

The Irish will hope to take another step towards securing the first Big East championship in school history and exact revenge along the way when they face off with West Virginia at 6 p.m. Monday in the XL Center.

 

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd,edu