Roundup: Notre Dame women back in Final Four

Louisville caps Final Four field

Skylar Diggins and the Irish topped Duke to set up a second consecutive Final Four rematch with UConn.
Skylar Diggins and the Irish topped Duke to set up a second consecutive Final Four rematch with UConn.

Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame are headed back to the Final Four for another rematch with Connecticut.

Diggins shook off early foul trouble to score 24 points and Notre Dame rallied to beat Duke, 87-76, on Tuesday night in Norfolk, Va., to earn its third consecutive trip to the Final Four. The Irish have lost in the past two national championship games.

‘‘I want to win a championship for Coach [Muffet] McGraw bad,’’ Diggins said. ‘‘When you have a coach who believes in you so much, I’d do anything for her.’’

Kayla McBride added 17 points and Jewell Loyd and Natalie Achonwa had 17 each as the Fighting Irish (35-1) won their school-record 30th consecutive game, earning a fourth meeting with UConn.

It’s the third straight meeting between the two Big East rivals in the Final Four. The Irish won the previous two and have won seven of the past eight meetings.

Notre Dame swept UConn all three meetings with UConn this season in thrilling fashion winning in overtime and by 1 and 2 points.

The Irish had to rally past Duke to get there.

Trailing by 6 at the half, Notre Dame took control with a 15-2 run early in the second half to take a 50-42 lead. The Blue Devils (33-3) lost in the regional finals for the fourth straight year, failing once again to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2006.

Diggins, hampered by foul trouble in the first half, started the run with her fourth 3-pointer of the game and followed quickly with a no-look feed to Natalie Achonwa, who had 13 rebounds, for a layup that had drew an impressed roar from the crowd at Old Dominion’s Constant Center.

Diggins added a steal and a layup, and McBride finished the burst with another 3-pointer. The Fighting Irish extended their lead to 60-49 with 9:57 to play, and Duke trailed by as many as 16 before closing the gap only slightly in the desperate final minutes. The Blue Devils hurt their cause with 21 turnovers.

Louisville 86, Tennessee 78 — Shoni Schimmel scored 24 points and the giant-slaying Cardinals claimed another big upset, beating the second-seeded Lady Vols in Oklahoma City, earning the school’s second trip to the Final Four.

Two nights after taking down defending national champion Baylor, fifth-seeded Louisville (28-8) built a 20-point lead and then withstood a second-half comeback by Tennessee (27-8) before celebrating another big victory.

When it was over, the Cardinals huddled at center court and celebrated. Tennessee headed home with a third straight loss in the regional finals, failing to make the Final Four for a fifth straight year.

Louisville joined the men’s team in the Final Four, marking the 10th time that a program had both teams make it that far. Only Connecticut has won both titles in the same season, in 2004.

.   .   .


Diggins and Baylor star Brittney Griner were unanimous selections to the Associated Press’s All-America team Tuesday. Griner, 6-foot-8-inch star, became the fifth three-time AP All-American. They were joined by Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, and Griner’s teammate Odyssey Sims. UConn’s sophomore forward and leading scorer Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis made the second team, and the third team included Huskies junior center Stefanie Dolson.