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ND Women’s Basketball: Team falls to UConn in semis

Jared Jedick | Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No. 6 Notre Dame made a strong showing in the Big East tournament, rolling over Louisville 89-52 and avenging a regular season loss to No. 17 St. John’s with a 75-67 win before running into the brick wall that is the undefeated No. 1 Connecticut squad for the third time this year, losing 59-44.

“Defensively we played really well,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I was really happy with the defense, I thought we rebounded pretty well.”

The Irish (27-5, 12-4) managed to play a close game with Connecticut (33-0, 16-0) during the first half thanks to that defense, pulling the score as close as 21-20 late in the half. Notre Dame was able to keep it close by winning the turnover battle 17-11.

Notre Dame was only down 25-22 at the break, but the close game was not to last.
The Huskies dominated the boards down the stretch, winning the rebounding battle 44-34 over the course of the game.

Senior center Tina Charles paced Connecticut with 16 points and 17 rebounds, while senior guard Kalana Greene chipped in 15 points of her own.

The leading scorer for the Irish, and the only one in double figures, was freshman guard Skylar Diggins, who had 10 points and two assists.

The loss to Connecticut marks the third time this year the Irish have lost to the Huskies, with the previous losses coming with deficits of 24 and 25 points. This game was the closest thus far, with the deficit being only 15 points.

Placed on opposite sides of the NCAA Tournament bracket, Notre Dame and Connecticut would not play again this year unless they both made it to the national championship game. The Irish earned a No. 2 seed and will open the NCAA Tournament at home against No. 15-seed Cleveland State Sunday.

“I was joking with Coach, we’re probably one of the best prepared teams going into the tournament having played Connecticut three times this year,” Diggins said.

Despite the loss to Connecticut, the Irish still put up strong showings against Louisville (14-17, 5-11) and St. John’s (24-6, 12-4), two teams they struggled against in the regular season.

In the win over Louisville in the second round of the tournament, Notre Dame got a very welcome contribution from senior center Erica Williamson, who chipped in for 16 points.

“The great thing was Erica Williamson,” McGraw said. “Secondleading scorer in the Big East tournament. [Junior forward] Devereaux Peters, third-leading scorer. That was exciting for me to see because it just means how much better of a team we are when you take your [senior guards] Ashley Barlow, Lindsay Schrader and [Melissa] Lechlitner and you know they’re going to be ready, now you know more people are going to be ready.”

After defeating Louisville, the Irish took on St. John’s in the quarterfinals, avenging a loss earlier this year with the win.

The Irish were led by Diggins’ 21 points and 13 points from Peters, who had 11 points in the second half alone.

Notre Dame’s NCAA-opener will begin Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion.