By TOM COYNE Associated Press
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Skylar Diggins scored 29 points and sparked a decisive run in the third overtime as No. 2 Notre Dame beat third-ranked Connecticut 96-87 Monday night to win Big East regular-season title outright for the second straight year.
The Fighting Irish (28-1, 16-0) went undefeated in the conference for the first time since joining in 1995-96 and became the first team to win six of seven games against Connecticut (27-3, 14-2) in more than two decades. Two of those victories clinched league titles and two more were in NCAA semifinal games. The only loss was in the finals of the league tournament last season.
Diggins added 11 rebounds. Kayla McBride added 26 points before fouling out.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led UConn with 26 points and Kelly Faris added 21. Stefanie Dolson added 12 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out in the final minute and Bria Hartley, who fouled out seconds later, finished with 10.
Playing on the same court that the Notre Dame men’s team beat Louisville 104-101 in five overtimes back in February, the Irish didn’t lead in overtime until Kaila Turner hit a free throw early in the third to put the Notre Dame ahead 82-82.
After Faris answered with a bank shot for the Huskies to regain the lead, the Irish took over. Ariel Braker started it with a free throw, then Jewell Loyd muscled in a basket inside and nearly a minute later added a pair of free throws to give the Irish an 87-83 lead. Diggins then stole the ball from Breanna Stewart and scored on a fast-break layup.
Braker, Diggins and Natalie Achonwa each made a pair of free throws to put the game away.
The Irish managed to win despite going 1 of 12 from 3-point range and being outshot 46 percent to 39 percent, but they forced 35 turnovers. Achonwa added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Irish.
The Huskies had chances to put the game away in the first two overtimes, but couldn’t do it. Morgan Tuck missed a free throw late in the first overtime that could have given the Huskies a four-point lead. McBride then hit Notre Dame’s only 3-pointer with 8 seconds left to tie the score at 71 and force the second overtime.
Faris scored on a layup and Mosqueda-Lewis made three throws to give the Huskies n 80-75 lead. But the Irish finished the second OT on a 6-1 run to tie the game at 81 after Mosqueda-Lewis missed a free throw.
Notre Dame improved to 9-1 against ranked opponents this season.
The Irish head to Hartford next week seeking to win their first league tournament title. The Irish have won 23 straight, matching a school record set by the national championship team in 2000-1.
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