Notre Dame guard Natalie Novosel heads up court during the first half.

No. 3 Notre Dame Pushes Past No. 2 UConn, 74-67

Jan. 7, 2012

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP)Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame ended another Connecticut run.

Diggins scored 22 points and Natalie Novosel added 20, including six free throws in overtime, to help the third-ranked Irish rally to beat No. 2 UConn 74-67 on Saturday, snapping the Huskies 57-game BIG EAST winning streak.

“We knew it was going to be a game of runs. We played better in the second half. We knew we had to attack and we knew if we did, it would be worth it,” said Diggins, who had 16 of her points in the second half and OT.

The Irish, who hadn’t beaten UConn at home since 2004, also topped the Huskies in the national semifinals last April, marking the first time they’ve won consecutive games against UConn. A feat not many teams have accomplished.

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

The Irish (15-1, 3-0 BIG EAST) forced UConn into a season-high 27 turnovers and held the Huskies without a field goal over the final 3:49 of regulation and all through the overtime.

“Our defense late in the game was fantastic,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We did a really good job down the stretch using the clock and getting to free throw line.”

UConn (12-2, 2-1) , which had beaten Notre Dame 12 straight times before losing to the Irish in the national semifinals last April, got 25 points from Bria Hartley.

Connecticut, which hadn’t lost a conference game since falling to Rutgers in 2008, had a 61-57 lead and the ball with just under four minutes left in regulation but couldn’t hold off the Irish. The Huskies had several chances late to ice the game with a lead but couldn’t pull it off.

Diggins shot just 7-for-19 but came up with a big steal near the end of regulation that ended in the tying basket by Kayla McBride with 19 seconds left in the frenzied game that saw 10 ties and 11 lead changes at the green-clad Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame won despite shooting just 35.8 percent.

“Frustrating because it happened once at Baylor,” Hartley said of the Huskies’ only other loss this season. “When you have the ball and are up two, you should be able to win the game.”

McBride also had a key basket in overtime and finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Hartley had a driving basket, a free throw and a 3-pointer to spark a 10-2 UConn spurt as the Huskies opened up a 47-42 lead with 13 minutes remaining. After a timeout, she caught a long pass and hit another layup and the Huskies had built their lead to seven with 11 minutes to go.

Trailing by eight, the Irish rallied again as Diggins scored five straight points and Devereaux Peters got free for a layup after a mad scramble on the floor for a loose ball. The 9-2 run cut UConn’s lead to 55-54.

After a timeout, Diggins sank a 3-pointer to complete the 12-2 run and give the Irish a two-point lead. But UConn responded and Caroline Doty hit a 3-pointer and then made an alert follow of a missed layup, giving the Huskies a 61-57 lead. That turned out to be UConn’s final field goal.

“Skylar ignited us. She made a 3, got to the rim, hit some free throws, really came on,” McGraw said.

Mallory drove for a layup after a steal by Peters to narrow it to two with 1:49 remaining. After a missed shot by Doty, Novosel was fouled and made both free throws to tie the game with 1:10 left.

Tiffany Hayes gave the lead back to the Huskies by hitting a pair from the line with 56 seconds left and UConn got the ball back after a missed shot by the Irish. But Diggins made the steal and McBride’s ensuing basket tied it at 63.

UConn tried to set up for a final game-winning shot but freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis threw the ball away with four seconds to go – the Huskies’ 24th turnover.

After a timeout, the Irish got the ball to Novosel but her driving shot came up short, sending the game to overtime.

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

The Huskies also missed two of their first four free throw attempts in overtime, opening the way for the Irish and Novosel, who was 10-for-11 for the game.

“We have to make free throws at the end of the game, too. Notre Dame took advantage of the opportunities we gave them,” Auriemma said. “They’re one of the top two or three teams in the country for a reason.”

UConn’s 6-foot-5 Stefanie Dolson worked inside for a basket and Hartley stole the ball and drove in for a layup, putting the Huskies up 26-18 with just over five minutes to go in the opening half.

Notre Dame’s inside players Peters and Natalie Achonwa both picked up two fouls and leading scorer Diggins struggled, missing five of her first seven field goal attempts

Reinserted into the game after a breather, Diggins drove for a basket – Notre Dame’s first in more than eight minutes – Novosel also went hard to the hoop for two points and then Mallory sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The 11-point surge gave the Irish a three-point lead.

UConn’s Hartley stemmed the Irish rally with a 3-pointer and a layup just before the buzzer to finish with 12 points and create a 31-31 tie at the half.

The two teams will meet again in Connecticut on Feb. 27.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is off to a 15-1 start for just the third time in school history (it opened 16-0 in 2000-01 and 15-1 in 2009-10) … the Fighting Irish 12-game winning streak matches the fourth-longest run in school history and longest since a season-opening 15-game streak in 2009-10 … the Fighting Irish also register their 16th consecutive home win, beginning after last year’s 79-76 loss to Connecticut (Jan. 8, 2011) … Notre Dame improves to 4-1 against ranked opponents this season (all five teams were ranked 12th or higher in the Associated Press poll), including a 3-1 record against the AP Top 10 (all four teams were ranked eighth or higher in the media poll) … coupled with the Fighting Irish men’s basketball team winning at No. 11/10 Louisville (67-65 in double overtime), this marks the first time in school history both Notre Dame basketball teams defeated teams ranked 11th or higher in the AP poll on the same day … both Notre Dame basketball squads also played overtime games on the same day for the first time in school history … Saturday’s win was the sixth all-time for the Fighting Irish against an AP top-five opponent, and first since last year’s 72-63 win over top-ranked Connecticut in the NCAA national semifinals (April 3, 2011) at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis … Notre Dame posts consecutive wins over Connecticut for the first time in the 34-game series … Notre Dame is the first opponent to win back-to-back series games against Connecticut since Feb. 5, 2008, when Rutgers logged its second consecutive victory over the Huskies (55-47 on March 6, 2007, in BIG EAST final at Hartford; 73-71 on Feb. 5, 2008, at Piscataway, N.J.) … Saturday’s results snapped Connecticut’s 57-game BIG EAST regular-season winning streak, dating back to that 2008 win by Rutgers … the Fighting Irish have more wins over Connecticut since 2000-01 (six) than any other team in the nation (Rutgers is next with five) … Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw led her team to its sixth win over Connecticut, giving her more wins over Husky mentor Geno Auriemma since the start of the 2000-01 season than any coach in the country (Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer is next with five wins) … McGraw’s six career wins vs. Auriemma are tied for sixth-most in his 27-year tenure at Connecticut, and tied for fourth among active coaches (Villanova’s Harry Perretta has 11 wins, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt has nine wins and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer also has won six times) … Saturday’s game was the first between the Fighting Irish and Huskies to go to overtime … Notre Dame earns its first win over Connecticut at Purcell Pavilion since Jan. 13, 2004 (a 66-51 verdict by an unranked Fighting Irish squad against the fourth-ranked Huskies) … after going 15 consecutive games without scoring 70 points against Connecticut (Jan. 21, 2002-March 8, 2010), Notre Dame has topped that mark in three of its last five matchups with the Huskies … Notre Dame registers its first overtime win since March 25, 2008, when it defeated No. 14/13 Oklahoma, 79-75, in the second round of the NCAA Championship (Oklahoma City Region) at West Lafayette, Ind. … the Fighting Irish collect their first overtime win at Purcell Pavilion since Nov. 13, 2006, when they ousted Bowling Green, 85-81 … Notre Dame is 8-6 all-time in OT games at home, and evens its all-time overtime record at 17-17 … the Fighting Irish earn their first win in five all-time appearances on CBS network television … Notre Dame forced at least 20 opponent turnovers for the 12th time this year, topping the 25-takeaway mark for the ninth time … Connecticut’s 27 turnovers were the most it has committed in a game since Dec. 21, 2007 (28 at San Diego State) … the Fighting Irish nabbed at least 40 rebounds for the ninth time in the past 10 games after not reaching that mark once in their first six games … Notre Dame is 3-1 against other former NCAA national champions this season (wins over USC, Purdue and Connecticut; loss at Baylor), moving to 33-85 (.280) all-time against the other titlists … senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel extended her streak of consecutive double-figure scoring games to 23, taking sole possession of third on the all-time Fighting Irish list (Beth Morgan is second with a 24-game run from Feb. 10, 1994-Jan. 19, 1995) … Novosel moved to 19th place on the Notre Dame all-time scoring chart with 1,232 points, passing Letitia Bowen (1,219 from 1991-95) and sitting one point behind Mary Beth Schueth (1,233 from 1981-85) … junior guard Skylar Diggins took over sole possession of 15th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,334 points, breaking out of a tie with Margaret Nowlin (1,312 from 1988-92) … the Fighting Irish had three double-figure scorers for the 14th time in 16 games this season … sophomore guard Kayla McBride registered her first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds (previous high was nine rebounds vs. Penn on Dec. 2) … McBride is the fourth Fighting Irish player to record a double-double this year, along with fifth-year senior Devereaux Peters (3), Diggins (2) and freshman forward Markisha Wright (1) … Notre Dame posted its third women’s basketball sellout of the season (9,149), as well as its 14th in the past three years and 20th in program history … several members of the 1997 Fighting Irish team that made the program’s first-ever NCAA Women’s Final Four appearance returned to campus to celebrate the 15th anniversary of that memorable season, with those players and support staff recognized in an on-court ceremony during a first-half timeout.