Skylar Diggins

No. 4 Irish Top USC, 80-58

Nov. 25, 2011

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FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) – Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw looked at the stat sheet and was impressed with the zero turnovers her point guard Skylar Diggins had against Southern California.

Diggins scored 22 points and had five steals in the fourth-ranked Irish’s 80-58 win over USC on Friday in the Junkanoo Jam tournament.

“No turnovers for Skylar,” McGraw said. “That’s incredible, against some great pressure, and she had the ball so much. We really wanted to keep the ball in her hands today, because she was really making things happen. For a while, she was the only one who was scoring. I was really, really pleased with just her game management. I thought she ran the team extremely well.”

Natalie Novosel added 17 points for the Irish (4-1), who will play No. 7/6 Duke at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday in the Freeport Division championship game.

“I’m just trying to stay steady through frustration, through adversity, through any situation,” Diggins said. “I was trying to set the tone. (Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey) and I had a conversation before the game about defensive pressure. I said, ‘I feel like I haven’t had a great defensive pressure game since my freshman year.’ She said, ‘This is where you can get back to it.'”

Notre Dame turned up its defense and held USC (1-3) to one field goal over the final 7:34 of the first half. The Irish led 42-30 at the break as Diggins had 16 points. Notre Dame cruised in the second half.

“What gets us going is our defense,” Novosel said. “If we were able to get some defensive stops that turn into easy transition points, it gets us into a better flow offensively.”

The Women of Troy are in the midst of a month-long stretch that will see them play eight of nine games on the road, including six east of the Rocky Mountains. USC began that run last week with losses at Nebraska and No. 10 Georgia.

Ashley Corral scored 17 points to lead USC.

This was the first meeting between the schools since USC beat Notre Dame 69-58 on Nov. 24, 2006. The Irish have won eight of the 10 all-time meetings.

“You’re playing against a top 5 team in the country in Notre Dame,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “One of the things we wanted to do was come out and get a good start, and I thought we did that. We were able to stay focused. But when you play these elite teams, you have to stay focused for every possession, every minute of the clock. We were able to fight our way back into it, but we knew it was just a matter of time before Notre Dame would try to assert its will on us. They did that. We played well, but it shows you why they are one of the top teams in the country.”

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has won 30 of its last 34 regular-season tournament games (dating back to the 1996-97 season), including four of five this season … the Fighting Irish are 4-0 all-time when playing in the Caribbean, adding Friday’s win over USC to three victories at the 2009 Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands … Notre Dame improves to 8-2 all-time against USC, earning its first win over the Trojans since Nov. 27, 2005 (a 73-62 victory in South Bend) … Friday’s 22-point margin was the largest by either side in the 10-game series (previous was 16 by USC in a 69-53 win on Jan. 2, 1985, in Fullerton, Calif.) … the 80 points scored by the Fighting Irish also were a series best, while the 58 points were the fewest allowed by Notre Dame to USC since Nov. 26, 2004 (a 60-56 Notre Dame win over the Trojans at the Los Angeles Sports Arena) … the Fighting Irish rise to 70-14 (.833) in the month of November since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96 … Notre Dame is 22-13 (.629) when playing its first game after Thanksgiving, including an 18-7 (.720) record in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era … the Fighting Irish move to 23-15 (.605) all-time against California schools, including a 14-11 (.560) record away from home and a 21-7 (.750) mark in the McGraw era … Notre Dame also improves to 22-20 (.524) against the current Pac-12 Conference alignment, winning for the 19th time in its last 26 games against that league … senior guard Natalie Novosel moved into 25th place on the Fighting Irish career scoring list with 1,066 points, passing Carrie Bates (1,060 points from 1981-85) … Novosel has gone 22-of-29 at the foul line in her last two games … as a team, Notre Dame shot a season-best .818 (27-of-33) from the free throw stripe on Friday, with the Fighting Irish averaging 31 trips to the line (and 23.5 free throws made) in their last four games … junior guard Skylar Diggins has scored 20 or more points in four of five games, with the lone exception being the Nov. 13 game vs. Indiana State when she scored 14 points in 20 minutes during a 99-34 win over the Sycamores at Purcell Pavilion … Notre Dame will play its second top-10 opponent in six days when it faces No. 7/6 Duke on Saturday night — the Fighting Irish and Blue Devils have not met since the 2004 Preseason WNIT semifinals, with Notre Dame prevailing 76-65 at Purcell Pavilion.