Skylar Diggins

No. 3 Notre Dame Rolls Past No. RV/23 DePaul, 69-54

March 4, 2012

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)Devereaux Peters had 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks to lead No. 3 Notre Dame to a 69-54 win over No. RV/23 DePaul in the BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinals Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford.

Natalie Novosel also had 16 points and Kayla McBride added 14 for the Irish (29-2) who are coming off the program’s first outright regular-season conference championship.

Katherine Harry had 10 of her 14 points in the first half for eighth-seeded DePaul (22-10).

Notre Dame will face West Virginia in Monday’s semifinal. The Mountaineers beat No. 12 Georgetown 39-32 in Sunday’s first quarterfinal.

West Virginia handed the Irish their only conference loss this season, 65-63 in South Bend on Feb. 12.

“We’ll come out with a chip on our shoulder … we seem to play better with a chip on our shoulder,” said BIG EAST Player of the Year Skylar Diggins, who had 12 points, five assists and six steals on Sunday. “It’s good for a second chance, because they beat us at home.”

Notre Dame took control of the game with a 14-0 run that began in the first half and ended three minutes into the second with a 3-pointer from Novosel that gave the Irish a 48-26 lead.

The Blue Demons fought back, cutting the lead to 11 on a jumper by Jasmine Penny with 7:30 left in the game.

But three straight layups from Peters along with a blocked shot on the other end stretched the lead back out to 17.

DePaul hit four of its first six shots and led 10-7 early on the strength of two 3-pointers by Deanna Ortiz. But Notre Dame responded with an 11-2 run to take the lead for good.

Peters and Diggins scored the final two buckets of the half, and Notre Dame blocked three DePaul shots down the stretch to go into halftime with a 38-26 lead.

The Irish outrebounded DePaul 41-28 and Peters had six of the team’s seven blocks.

“I think I’m just being smarter about which ones to block and which ones to go straight up and make them shoot over me,” Peters said.

The Irish have now won two consecutive games at the XL Center. They closed the regular season with a 72-59 win over Connecticut to sweep the regular-season series with the Huskies and secure sole possession of the regular-season conference title.

Notre Dame has never won a BIG EAST tournament title, and hasn’t won any conference tournament since taking the 1994 Midwestern Collegiate Conference crown.

The Irish shared the regular-season title with UConn in 2000-01 and went on to win the program’s only NCAA championship that season.

Notre Dame has won seven of the last eight meetings with DePaul, including a 90-70 win in South Bend on Feb. 5.

DePaul beat South Florida 76-62 on Saturday, behind 33 points from Anna Martin. Martin was held to seven by the Irish on 3 of 10 shooting.

“I think everybody did guard her a little bit and I think that probably trying to keep a little fresher defender on her was a little bit more effective,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.

The Blue Demons have advanced past the tournament’s quarterfinals just once since joining the conference and that was last year, when they lost to Notre Dame 71-67 in the semifinals.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame advances to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals for the third consecutive year and the 10th time in 17 seasons as a conference member … this is the first time the Fighting Irish have made the semifinals three years in a row since they made six consecutive semifinal trips from 1996-2001 … Notre Dame improves to 10-6 (.625) all-time in BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal games, and 20-16 (.556) overall in the conference tournament, having won five of their last seven games in the event … the Fighting Irish are 14-6 (.700) all-time as the higher seed in BIG EAST Championship play … in the past four years, Notre Dame has opened with a strong defensive effort at the conference tournament, holding each of its “first” opponents to 54 points or fewer … the Fighting Irish even their record at 8-8 in BIG EAST Championship action at the XL Center since the tournament moved to Hartford in 2004, and move to 9-12 (.429) all-time in the building formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center … Notre Dame jumps to 11-1 this season against ranked opponents (DePaul was No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll at tipoff), extending its school record for Top 25 wins in a season and including a 7-1 record away from home against ranked teams … eight of the 11 Fighting Irish wins against the Top 25 have come by double digits … Notre Dame defeats DePaul for the seventh time in the past eight matchups, trimming the Blue Demons’ series lead to 19-18 (the Fighting Irish lead 3-2 at neutral sites) … with Sunday’s result, Notre Dame takes a razor-thin edge in the aggregate scoring total during the 37-game series with DePaul (which ties Marquette for the most frequently-played opponent in school history) — the Fighting Irish have scored 2,525 points in the series, while the Blue Demons have piled up 2,523 points … Notre Dame held DePaul to fewer than 70 points for the sixth time in the past eight series games (the Blue Demons scored exactly 70 points in the regular-season contest the past two years), with Sunday’s 54 points the fewest allowed by the Fighting Irish since Dec. 31, 2001, when Notre Dame posted a 79-50 victory over DePaul at Purcell Pavilion … the Fighting Irish collected double-digit steals for the 23rd time this year … Notre Dame had at least four double-figure scorers for the 15th time this season and raise its record in the past three years to 49-4 (.925) with at least four in double figures … the Fighting Irish grabbed at least 40 rebounds for the 20th time in the past 25 games … fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters registered her team-high (and career high-tying) 10th double-double of the season, and the 21st of her career, tying her for ninth in school history with Heidi Bunek (21 from 1985-89) … Peters tied her career best with six blocked shots, a mark she had reached on three other occasions, most recently on Feb. 12 against West Virginia at Purcell Pavilion … Peters rose one spot on the Fighting Irish career scoring list with 1,243 points, passing Mary Beth Schueth (1,233 from 1981-85) … Peters also moved into 10th place in school history with 209 career steals, passing Katryna Gaither (207 from 1993-97) … senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel jumped to 12th place on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,448 points, passing Sheila McMillen (1,439 from 1995-99) … junior guard Skylar Diggins tied her season high with six steals, the third time this year she has hit that mark.