Feb. 19, 2011
STORRS, Conn. (AP) – Freshman Bria Hartley had been struggling on offense so she changed her approach and just took what she was given.
The move worked as she scored a career-high 29 points to help No. 2 Connecticut to a 78-57 win over eighth-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday.
“If I had the open shot I’d take it, she said. “If they came out on me I’d drive by.”
Hartley had been in a little bit of an offensive slump lately, scoring in double figures just once in the last six contests.
“That was a big time performance by her,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “It’s not like she’s been shooting the ball great so for her to go beyond that today it’s a huge step.”
Maya Moore added 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Huskies (26-1, 13-0 BIG EAST), who have won 14 straight since their 90-game winning streak ended at Stanford on Dec. 30.
The Huskies, who spent a record 51 weeks atop the poll before that loss, will likely move back to No. 1 on Monday because top-ranked Baylor lost 56-45 to Texas Tech on Saturday.
“She’s gotten a lot better,” Auriemma said of Diggins. “I don’t know she could have done what she did today against us certainly not last year. She looks like a different player and is hard to play against.”
On Jan. 8, UConn rallied for a 79-76 victory over the Irish. Notre Dame had won every game since by at least 15 points and had a week to prepare for this game.
One thing that Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw might have noticed during the week was that so many teams get blown out at UConn before the first media timeout. Duke and Oklahoma were already out of their games by the 16-minute mark.
McGraw decided to take her team off the court while the Huskies were being introduced. The move paid off as the Irish scored the first seven points before freshman center Stefanie Dolson got the Huskies on the board nearly 2 1/2 minutes in with a hook shot.
Notre Dame – wearing its alternate road green uniforms for the first time this season – couldn’t sustain the early wave of momentum as UConn rallied behind the freshmen. Dolson and Hartley combined for 18 of the team’s first 24 points.
Dolson finished with 15.
Hartley’s 3-pointer gave UConn its first lead at 17-16. That started a 10-1 spurt in which Hartley scored the first eight points. Dolson capped it with another hook shot.
Hartley, whose previous career high was 24 points against Louisville, had struggled the previous six games. She had reached double figures only once in that span. On Saturday, she achieved double digits midway through the first half.
Moore, who passed Crystal Kelly of Western Kentucky to move into 14th on the career scoring list, got off to a slow start. She missed her first three shots and didn’t have her first points until making a tough runner in the lane with 5:29 left in the half.
That seemed to get her going a little bit as she hit a 3-pointer from the wing after Notre Dame cut its deficit to 30-25.
The Huskies led 37-29 at the half as Diggins kept the Irish in the game with 17 points by the break. That’s the most an opposing player has scored in the first half against the Huskies this season – and more than Providence (12) and Duke (15) put up as a team.
“She was the only thing going well for us,” McGraw said. “She hit some amazing shots. she carried us in the first half.”
Tiffany Hayes and Moore hit back-to-back 3s to start the second half and UConn extended its lead to 23. The Irish couldn’t get within 14 the rest of the game.
UConn has won 63 straight Big East games and 76 consecutive overall at home. The Huskies will host Seton Hall on Tuesday before traveling to Georgetown next Saturday.
Devereaux Peters, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the earlier meeting, was held scoreless. She picked up two quick fouls and sat out the final 14-plus minutes of the first half.
“First time she hadn’t scored,” McGraw said. “They did a great job defensively on her. Those two quick fouls took her out of the game.”
The Irish have a tough finish to their season, playing at West Virginia on Tuesday and at DePaul on Feb. 28.
“This is a learning experience playing in this atmosphere,” Diggins said. “We need to just go in there and tighten up some things that we need to work on.”
UConn has beaten Notre Dame 11 straight times and has a 27-4 lead in the series.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame sees its season-high nine-game winning streak snapped … the Fighting Irish scored a season-low 57 points, one fewer than their total in a 58-43 win at Villanova on Jan. 29 … Notre Dame was defeated by 20+ points for the first time since March 1, 2010, when Connecticut posted a 76-51 win at Purcell Pavilion … the Huskies match their series-long winning streak (11, first set from 1996-2000) against Notre Dame, improving to 27-4 all-time against the Fighting Irish, including a 16-1 mark at home (Storrs or Hartford) … Notre Dame trailed at the half for the first time since Dec. 29, when it was down 35-33 against current No. 25 Gonzaga before rallying for a 70-61 win over the Bulldogs at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle … the Fighting Irish had only two double-figure scorers for just the second time all season, the other coming on Dec. 1 in a 76-65 loss at then-No. 2/3 Baylor (Diggins -21; Novosel – 12) … Connecticut is just the second Notre Dame opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor this year, the other being another New England school (.514 by New Hampshire on Nov. 12 in a 99-48 Notre Dame win at Purcell Pavilion) … the Fighting Irish chalked up double-digit steals for the 20th time this season … Diggins scored at least 20 points for the second consecutive game and a team-high sixth time this season … Diggins scored 17 of her 22 points in the first half, the most by a Connecticut opposing individual in the first half this season, as well as more than five different Connecticut opposing teams in the first half this year, most notably No. 3 Duke (15 on Jan. 31) and BIG EAST opponents Villanova (12 on Jan. 5) and Providence (12 on Feb. 12), and nearly No. 14/12 Oklahoma this past Monday (the Sooners had 18 points at the half) … Notre Dame broke out its alternate green road uniforms for the first time this year, the fifth dufferent uniform combination the Fighting Irish have worn at least once (white/blue, white/green, white/pink, blue/white).