Bob Joyce and Kara Wolters with Coach Chris Dailey. And the game’s highlights.
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Natalie Novosel scored 21 points and
Skylar Diggins added 20 to help No. 3 Notre Dame beat fourth-ranked
Connecticut 72-59 on Monday night and win the Big East regular
It’s Notre Dame’s first outright conference title. The Fighting
Irish shared the regular season championship with UConn in 2001
before going on to win the national title.
The Irish (28-2, 15-1 Big East) had already clinched the top
seed in the Big East tournament that begins Friday by virtue of the
conference’s tiebreaker. The Huskies fell to third in the
conference, losing the tiebreaker to St. John’s, which ended
UConn’s 99-game home winning streak on Feb. 18.
Tiffany Hayes scored 22 points and Stefanie Dolson added 18 for
UConn (26-4, 13-3), which has now lost consecutive games at home
for the first time in 19 years.
The Irish swept the season series from the Huskies and have won
three straight overall against UConn, including last season’s
victory in the national semifinals. North Carolina was the last
team to win three in a row from UConn, doing so from 2004-07.
And winning the Big East regular season title outright plugged
one of the few holes in Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw’s impressive
Diggins led the way.
With the game tied at 51, Notre Dame went on an 11-2 run with
Diggins scoring the first eight points. She hit two layups on the
fast break then connected on a deep 3-pointer. Dolson’s layup broke
up the junior guard’s spurt. A free throw by Diggins and a
3-pointer by Brittany Mallory made it 62-53 with 9:16 left.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who was scoreless in the first half, had
five quick points to get UConn within four. That’s as close as the
Huskies could get. Devereaux Peters followed up a free throw with a
block on the other end that led to an easy lay-in by Diggins.
Mallory hit another 3-pointer with just under five minutes left
that made it 69-59.
A 3-pointer with 3:11 left by Novosel made it a 13-point game
and UConn coach Geno Auriemma called timeout. Unhappy with the play
of his starters, he subbed them all out, putting in the reserves.
They didn’t score and UConn suffered its first double-digit home
loss since Dec. 5, 2005, against Tar Heels.
This was the first time in six seasons that UConn didn’t win or
share the Big East regular season title. The Huskies have won
either the Big East regular season or tournament championship in
the last 17 years.
UConn jumped out to a 25-18 lead midway through the first half
behind Dolson and Hayes. The two combined to score all the points
for the Huskies to that point. Hayes had the final five, including
a deep 3-pointer, to give UConn a seven-point lead. Notre Dame
called a timeout and the Irish promptly went on a 14-3 run over the
next 5 minutes. Novosel had the final seven points of the burst,
including an acrobatic three-point play. Her two free throws with
31/2 minutes left in the half capped the spurt and gave Notre Dame a
The Irish led 38-35 at the half. Novosel had 14 points at the
break as the Irish converted 12 offensive rebounds into 15 second
chance points. Hayes had 18 points, easily surpassing her previous
career high against the Irish of 13.