Skylar Diggins had 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame Powers Past Pitt, 86-76

Feb. 6, 2010

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)Skylar Diggins answered Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw’s challenge to be a better rebounder.

Diggins grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her 23 points, both season highs, to lead the third-ranked Fighting Irish to an 86-76 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

“The rebounding is something we’ve been working on,” McGraw said. “She just did an outstanding job of trying to go get the rebound. That was the last piece that was missing.”

Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said the Panthers struggled to defend Diggins.

“She had a hot hand and Notre Dame did a great job of feeding the hot hand,” she said.

Diggins, a freshman, said she is feeling more comfortable in Notre Dame’s offense.

“I’m just playing. That’s what I’m doing better. I’m not playing not to make a mistake,” Diggins said. “I’m just being competitive and let the game come to me.”

Diggins, who also had six assists and two blocked shots with no turnovers, said she went into the game focusing on rebounding.

“I wanted to see how many I could get,” she said.

Diggins, whose previous high for rebounds was six against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, said she watched tape of recent games and found she was standing around too much.

“I was getting in there, I just wasn’t being aggressive to the ball,” she said.

Diggins was 9-of-11 from the free-throw line and the Fighting Irish (21-1, 8-1 BIG EAST) were 21-of-29. Pittsburgh (12-10, 1-8) was 9-of-15 and coach Agnus Berenato was complaining throughout the game about the lopsided calls. She declined to comment about it afterward.

“It doesn’t do any good to comment on that,” she said. “I’m not getting suspended for having a comment in the paper.”

McGraw attributed the lopsided calls to the Irish being aggressive offensively and not aggressive on defense.

“I was disappointed in our defense, 76 points is unforgivable,” she said.

The Irish outscored the bigger Panthers 46-34 in the paint and had a 38-32 rebounding advantage. Lindsay Schrader added 18 points for Notre Dame and Becca Bruszewski had 10.

Taneisha Harrison led the Panthers with 20 points. Jania Sims had 13 and Chelsea Cole and Selena Nwude had 12 points each.

“We have to have at least four players in double figures,” Berenato said.

After the Irish went on a 14-2 run in the first half to open a 13-point lead, the Panthers gradually cut the deficit to four late in the first half. But the Irish led 45-37 at halftime, then used a 10-2 run early in the second half take a 48-45 lead.

Notre Dame extended the lead to 81-62 when Ashley Barlow hit a 3 as the shot clock sounded with 5:13 left. Pitt used a 14-3 run to cut the lead to 84-76 on a jumper by Sims, but couldn’t get any closer.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame led wire-to-wire in Saturday’s win over Pittsburgh, the fifth time this season the Fighting Irish have led start to finish in a victory, and the first since Dec. 20, when they posted a 90-31 win over Charlotte at Purcell Pavilion … Notre Dame improves to 18-3 all-time against Pittsburgh, including a 9-0 record at Purcell Pavilion … this marks the ninth time in the past 11 series games that the margin of victory was 12 points or fewer … the Fighting Irish logged their highest point total against the Panthers (86) since Feb. 17, 1996, when they earned an 89-51 win at Pittsburgh … Notre Dame has scored at least 65 points in 19 of the 21 series games against Pittsburgh … the Fighting Irish tied their season low by committing only nine turnovers, a mark they had reached twice before (Jan. 4 at Purdue and Jan. 9 at home vs. Villanova) … Notre Dame shot at least 50 percent from the field for the seventh time this season, and first since Jan. 19, when the Fighting Irish connected at an even 50-percent clip in a 78-60 win at Louisville … Notre Dame dished out 25 assists, matching its second-highest output of the season (also Dec. 8 vs. IPFW and Jan. 12 vs. South Florida, both at home) and topped only by a 31-assist night in the season opener on Nov. 15 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (also at Purcell Pavilion) … Notre Dame improves to 2-0 in February games this season and 83-23 (.783) in February games since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96 (including a 47-5 February home record in that span) … freshman guard Skylar Diggins set or tied career highs for points (23, previous: 21 vs. San Diego State on Nov. 26 and at Syracuse on Jan. 30), rebounds (10, previous: 8 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 15), assists (6, previous: 6 at Syracuse on Jan. 30), and free throws made and attempted (9-11, previous: 8-10 vs. Iona on Nov. 22) … Diggins also notched her first career double-double and is the third Notre Dame player with a double-double this season (fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Lindsay Schrader has five, while junior forward Becca Bruszewski has one) … Diggins tallied her fourth “5-5-5” game of the season, taking over the team lead in that category from junior guard Brittany Mallory … Schrader tied her season high with 18 points (previous: vs. #18/16 Vanderbilt on Dec. 31 and vs. South Florida on Jan. 12) and four assists (previous: vs. Iona on Nov. 22 and at Purdue on Jan. 4) … Schrader is about to move up a spot on both the Notre Dame career scoring and rebounding lists — she has 1,311 points, one behind Margaret Nowlin (1988-92) for 14th on the Irish all-time chart, and she also has 772 rebounds, two back of Sandy Botham (1984-88) for seventh in school history … Bruszewski posted her third double-digit scoring game in the past four outings …senior center Erica Williamson grabbed three rebounds, giving her 501 career boards and making Notre Dame the second BIG EAST school (along with Connecticut) to have three active players logging 500 career rebounds (Schrader has 772, senior guard/tri-captain Ashley Barlow has 589) … Mallory celebrated her 21st birthday on Saturday and was serenaded with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” by the Notre Dame band and fans during a timeout in the second half … Notre Dame set a school record with its third sellout of the season (9,149), after having two sellouts each in 2000-01 and 2007-08; it’s also the ninth sellout in program history, with seven of those nine sellouts and 15 of the top 20 crowds in Notre Dame history coming in the past five seasons … the Fighting Irish now are averaging a school-record 8,559 fans per game, and with Saturday’s sellout, Notre Dame has attracted more than 100,000 total fans (102,707) for the fourth consecutive season and the fifth time in program history.