Irish, Diggins squelch UConn in OT, storm in women’s NCAA final

DENVER — Notre Dame is back in the national championship game thanks to Skylar Diggins’ steady leadership and Brittany Mallory’s clutch shooting.

Diggins scored 19 points, Mallory made two big 3-pointers in overtime and the Irish beat Connecticut 83-75 on Sunday in the Women’s Final Four.

Notre Dame (35-3) also beat the Huskies (33-5) in the national semifinals last year, ending Maya Moore’s brilliant career and UConn’s bid for a third straight national championship. But Notre Dame stumbled 48 hours later, losing to Texas A&M in the title game.

Unfinished business has been the Irish’s mantra all season, and now they get a chance to take care of business Tuesday against Baylor (39-0).

Diggins and Mallory hooked up for the pivotal play in overtime when Diggins stood her ground on a fast break, blocked a shot by Bria Hartley to prevent the Huskies from retaking the lead and then fed Mallory at the other end for her second important 3, which gave Notre Dame a 76-72 advantage.

"That was game-saving. That was huge," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "That would have turned it around if they made that layup. She sprinted the floor, made that huge play. It gave us such a big momentum lift, and Britt hitting that 3 made it a huge play."

The game was tied at 67 after regulation following an 8-2 run by UConn that was fueled by a series of hustle plays by Kelly Faris, who had a steal and a basket and four free throws in the final 90 seconds.

The Huskies, who were led by Stefanie Dolson’s 20 points, stretched their run when Hartley opened the extra period with a 3-pointer.

The Huskies had the ball again after a missed free throw but freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis fired an off-target 3-pointer early in the shot clock and UConn never recovered.

"We put ourselves in a position to win the game," Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said. "The last two minutes, minute and a half of regulation were pretty amazing. As most games do, it turned on one great play by a great player.

"In overtime we didn’t have enough. We took a chance on making it difficult, but Brittany Mallory made two huge shots. That’s who we wanted to take the shots, and God bless her, she made them."

Mallory shot 0-for-4 on 3-pointers in regulation.

"It was a big sigh of relief when that first one went in," she said.

Natalie Novosel led Notre Dame with 20 points, including her follow-up hook shot with 4.6 seconds to play in regulation that tied it after Diggins’ shot was off.

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