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She Got Game: Skylar Diggins Knows What She Wants

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Notre Dame women's basketball junior point guard Skylar Diggins was recently featured in The New York Times. Here's a look at her interview with Andrew Goldman.

As a high-school basketball player in South Bend, Ind., you were considered a phenom in the vein of LeBron James. But LeBron made $4 million in his first season in the N.B.A. The top W.N.B.A. salary is about $105,000. Does this depress you?
If it's about money, you shouldn't play.

But men's college basketball stars can envision making a fortune afterward. Your dream path isn't as clear.
Do you think we don't know that we don't make a lot in the league? We can't sit on the edge of the bench waving a towel and get paid $400,000, so we have to make sure we come up with a strong Plan B. Right now I'm in business-management entrepreneurship in one of the country's top undergrad business programs. This summer, if everything goes right, I'll be interning with espnW. Eventually maybe I'll get into sports commentating.

The N.C.A.A. makes a fortune. It also requires athletes to sign away their likenesses in perpetuity without pay. Does this bother you?
When I see these people walking around with my jersey on, I'm like, Where does that money go? But I'm living the life. As high as the tuition is, I probably wouldn't be able to go here as a regular student. So anything that's good for Notre Dame is good for me and our program.

You frequently change your hairstyle at halftime, depending on the kind of game you're having. What's that about?
If I had a bad first half, I'll come back after halftime, and you'll see a bun or a fan ponytail. When my hair goes up, that means it's time to get down and dirty -- I must have been messing around in the first half, and I'm just a wild child now.

I never saw the bun as a predatory hairstyle.
Maybe not to you. Maybe not to anybody else. But I know what it means.

People generalize that women are the more empathetic sex. Ever felt bad after stealing the ball?
Never. I'm not very good with mercy.

You took Notre Dame's loss to Texas A&M in last year's national championship game particularly hard. What do you think about when you replay that game in your head?
I think of 15:52. That's how much time was on the clock when we were up by 7 and they made their comeback. I should have had better game management. I'm the point guard, that's my job. It could be 100 factors, but to this day, I won't let anybody else tell me that. I know. Because I was out there playing.

You were criticized in the press for leaving the court before the traditional postgame handshake.
I don't regret that. I have relationships with those A&M girls, I told them congratulations. I just didn't stay after for the confetti dropping and them diving on each other. Do you know what it's like to lose a national championship game?

I certainly do not. When people see a young talent like yours, they envision an overbearing stage parent. How much were you pushed by your stepfather, who coached you in different capacities through high school?
It was kind of the other way around. I knew he had the keys to the gym, and I would drag him out of bed early, I mean early, and I would be at the gym for six hours every day. He once asked me: "Are you sure this is what you want to do? Are you willing to put the work in?" I said, "Yes." And from then on we have had a very, very close bond.

Your mother ran an incredibly strict house.
My mom, she doesn't play.

I heard there was a permanent ban on the word "can't." And that she'd insist on getting the license plates and cellphone numbers of any suitors. She also demanded you sign a contract prohibiting anyone else from driving your car.
I signed it when I was a sophomore. It was typed. No joke, it might still be in my glove compartment. And if my mom doesn't like a guy, he's not going to make it very far.

Considering Notre Dame is in your hometown, I'm surprised you didn't decide to take off to Stanford.
If I went to Stanford, I promise you, my mom would have moved there.

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.

- Andrew Goldman

Following Flynt - Mountaineers Stun Irish at Purcell

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It started as a great afternoon. A celebration of cancer survivors, and those fighting the illness. Over $204,000 were raised for breast cancer research. Cathy Richardson in the house to sing "Here Come The Irish." The sellout crowd was electric.

But at the end of the day, the Irish were stunned, falling to the West Virginia Mountaineers, 65-63 on their home floor. It's the first loss for Notre Dame since Nov. 20, and it snaps the 20-game home winning streak for Coach Muffet McGraw's team.

Skylar Diggins led the way with 32 points and Natalie Novosel contributed 16, but Notre Dame got little from anyone else offensively. The Irish shot just 64% from the line, and several missed free throws down the stretch cost them an opportunity to put the Mountaineers away.

After forwards Natalie Achonwa and Devereaux Peters fouled out, Notre Dame had a difficult time containing West Virginia center Asya Bussie, who made three key baskets in the closing minutes. The junior finished with 22 points to lead the Mountaineers to the upset road victory.

Combining for 45 personal fouls and 38 turnovers, neither team played particularly well. Notre Dame shot 40.7% from the field, slightly higher than West Virginia's 38.5%. It was a sloppy game from both teams, but in the end, West Virginia stepped up when it mattered most, closing the game on a 8-1 run and making key shots both from the field and at the free throw line.

Notre Dame (24-2, 11-1 BIG EAST) will look to bounce back on Tuesday night at 7:00 pm ET vs. Providence at the Purcell Pavilion. Follow the action right here on UNDerground, as the Irish gear up for the home stretch of the regular season and seek to start a new home winning streak.

- Josh Flynt ('11)
5:41 pm, Mountaineers 65-63, Final: Brooke Hampton makes both free throws. Novosel takes it up the court and gets a good look at the hoop, but it's short and the buzzer sounds. The faithful Irish crowd leaves absolutely stunned. The loss certainly puts a damper on an otherwise great afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion.

5:39 pm, Tied 63-63, 0:05 2nd half: Diggins holds for most of the shot clock and drives to the hoop with just a few seconds to play. She misses the shot, and West Virginia comes up with the rebound. Diggins commits a foul and the Mountaineers will have a chance to take the lead with just 4.6 seconds to play.

5:37 pm, Tied at 63, 0:35 2nd half: On the next possession, Caldwell commits her fifth foul. Diggins goes to the line, but only makes one of two. After the ball's knocked out of bounds a couple of times on the West Virginia possession, Asya Bussie makes a tough, tough jumper as the shot clock winds down. We're tied at 63 with 35 seconds to play, and the Irish call a timeout.

5:35 pm, Irish 62-61, 1:48 2nd half: Novosel makes two free throws, and the lead is back to three. The Irish put the full court press on the Mountaineers, forcing a jump ball. West Virginia retains possession, but the Irish get another jump ball and will take it the other way.

Kayla McBride makes a layup and the crowd goes wild. Bussie responds with a layup however, and on the next possession is fouled by Devereaux Peters. She makes the layup, but misses the free throw. Bad news for the Irish - Peters has fouled out.

5:28 pm, Irish 58-57, 3:39 2nd half: Bussie makes one of two free throws for the Mountaineers, before Taylor Palmer hits a jumper from the elbow. Achonwa is called for a foul in the paint, and West Virginia will go to the line. Bussie converts both shots and we're tied at 55.

Novosel responds with a huge three from the wing and the crowd comes alive. Ayana Dunning hits a long two for West Virginia, before a kick violation brings us to the under-4 timeout.

During the break, it is announced that $204,682 were raised for breast cancer research in today's Pink Zone game. Great job, Irish fans. 5:21 pm, Irish 55-50, 5:55 2nd half: Caldwell makes both free throws following the timeout, and the crowd is quieted. It's not often the Irish have just a five-point lead this late in the game. Bussie makes two more free throws and Notre Dame's lead is down to three.

Achonwa makes a nice fake in the paint and drives to the hoop for an easy layup, forcing the Mountaineers to call a timeout.

5:15 pm, Irish 53-46, 7:56 2nd half: Diggins converts one of two free throws, and Peters makes a layup to push the lead back to seven. Crowd comes alive chanting for a defensive stop and the Irish respond, forcing West Virginia to take a three as the shot clock winds down. Diggins comes up with the board and gets fouled, where she makes both free throws.

Bussie makes a jumper from the top of the key, before a Notre Dame foul brings us to the media timeout.

5:08 pm: Almost at the midpoint of the second half, Skylar Diggins leads the Irish with 28 points on 10-for-15 from the field. Novosel has chipped in 11 for Notre Dame, but no other players have contributed much from an offensive standpoint. It's been a sloppy game so far, with the teams combining for a whopping 37 turnovers and 35 personal fouls.

5:07 pm, Irish 48-44, 10:49 2nd half: Caldwell hits a short jumper for the Mountaineers, and Notre Dame turns the ball over on the ensuing possession. After a couple of turnovers by each team, Diggins is fouled and makes both shots for the Irish.

After another Mountaineer foul, Diggins makes both free throws, to give Notre Dame an 11-point lead. Novosel's called for a foul and Jessica Harlee goes to the line, where she makes both shots.

The Irish miss on their possession, but Fraderica Miller draws an offensive foul. Unfortunately, Notre Dame turns the ball over and Harlee makes a layup for West Virginia. Akilah Bethel hits a three and suddenly the lead is down to four.

4:54 pm, Irish 44-35, 15:13 2nd half Second half underway here at Purcell. Notre Dame strikes first when Skylar Diggins takes it strong to the hoop for a fast break layup. Natalie Novosel picks up a steal for the Irish and is quickly fouled. Ayana Dunning knocks down a long two for West Virginia. The Mountaineers hit a tough three from the wing, and we're tied again.

Diggins drives to the hoop and makes a layup, but misses the opportunity to convert an and-1. On the next possession however, the Irish outlet it to Diggins who makes another layup and gets fouled again. She misses the free throw, but the Irish get the rebound. Diggins dishes it to Peters who gets fouled, and Notre Dame heads back to the line. The fifth-year senior converts both free throws, and it's a six-point lead - the largest of the game.

Diggins makes one of two free throws on the next trip, before Kayla McBride hits a tough reverse layup on the assist from Mallory. Just like that, it's a nine-point lead for Notre Dame and West Virginia calls for a timeout.

Student. Athlete. Irish.

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2:48 pm, Irish 90-70, Final: Despite being outscored 39-34 in the second half, Notre Dame coasts to its 23rd win of the season. Led by Natalie Novosel's 21 points, five players finish in double-figures, and Skylar Diggins notches a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.

The Irish finish 9-for-15 from beyond the arc, and shoot 58.3% for the game. Brittany Mallory contributes 14 points, and knocks down four 3-pt field goals, while Natalie Achonwa scores 16 on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.

It's Notre Dame's 20th victory in a row, and eighth straight by at least 15 points. It's also their 20th double-digit win of the season and eighth over a ranked opponent. The Irish will travel to Syracuse for a game on Monday night, before returning to Purcell Pavilion next Sunday at 3:30 pm ET against West Virginia.

2:43 pm, Irish 89-65, 2:09 2nd half: Achonwa hits both free throws and comes down with a rebound on the other end. After a DePaul layup, Markisha Wright puts back an Achonwa miss and the fans cheer for the Big Mac basket!

2:40 pm, Irish 85-63, 3:01 2nd half: McBride hits a mid-range jumper from the corner, and Achonwa gets a block on the next possession. Brittany Hrykno makes a jumper from the paint, and fouls Achonwa on Notre Dame's possession, as we go to the final media timeout of the game.

2:36 pm, Irish 83-61, 5:06 2nd half: After the crowd goes quiet, Novosel hits a fadeaway jumper and the Irish get a steal. Novosel goes up for the layup, but gets fouled. She hits both free throws to push the lead back to 26. DePaul's Kelsey Reynolds hits a short jumper on the next Blue Demons possession. The crowd is getting a little restless, as DePaul has outscored Notre Dame 30-27 in the half. Coach McGraw calls a timeout after a layup from Harry. With so many dominating home victories, a lot of these fans aren't used to seeing Notre Dame struggle. Still, the Irish are on their way to their 23rd victory of the year.

2:29 pm, Irish 79-55, 7:56 2nd half: Achonwa continues to have a great afternoon, hitting a short jumper, but DePaul uses a 13-2 run to cut the lead to 24. Peters responds with a layup, before Jasmine Penny hits a jumper for the Blue Demons. A bit of a sloppy second half for Notre Dame so far, but the Irish are clearly in control today, with a 79-55 lead at the under-8 media timeout. The Band of the Fighting Irish blasts Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" during the break.

2:21 pm, Irish 75-45, 11:59 2nd half: Turner hits another three for Notre Dame. After consecutive turnovers by Notre Dame, DePaul's Anna Martin gets a fast break layup three-point play. A couple of sloppy possessions for the Irish, but the lead is still 30 points.

2:14 pm, Irish 72-38, 15:04 2nd half: McBride hits a short jumper from the paint, Novosel gets a steal, Peters puts back her own rebound, gets fouled and converts the three-point play, and the Irish lead climbs to 36 points. DePaul responds with a short jumper from Harry. Markisha Wright gets a steal on the next possession, but Notre Dame throws it away, and that takes us to our first media timeout of the half.

2:07 pm, Irish 65-33, 17:53 2nd half: Wow. Mallory drains threes on back-to-back possessions and the Irish lead is 32. The fifth-year guard has 14 points and is a perfect 4-for-4 from long range. DePaul calls a timeout.

2:04 pm, Irish 58-31, 18:42 2nd half: Diggins drives to the hoop and makes a nice layup for the first bucket of the half.

1:51 pm: Great first half offensively for Notre Dame. The Irish shot 71.9% from the field, including 6-for-7 from 3-point range. The Natalies are the stars of the game so far. Senior Natalie Novosel has 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting and sophomore Natalie Achonwa is 5-for-5 with 12 points. The Irish have made 23 field goals, and have gotten assists on 18 of those scores (Diggins leads with 8).

Smiling From Ear To Ear

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whitholloway.jpg Now that the first semester of my freshman year is officially over, here is a little insight on how it went, both academically and basketball-wise.

First off, I would like to say that Notre Dame is exactly what I expected and more! I couldn't be happier with my choice to attend Notre Dame and I am absolutely loving every moment of it. Of course, times can get rough, like challenging classes and hard practices, but I know it will all pay off in the end.

Coming to Notre Dame, I knew that I would be challenged academically. I remember during summer school at a meeting for all of the freshmen athletes they told us that there would be no shortcuts. They told us that just because we were athletes, there would be no special treatment, no backdoors, no side doors, no entitlements, none of that. We have the same exact expectations as other students. I wasn't expecting any easy ways out, but at the same time, this was a little scary when I thought about the fact that roughly 70 percent of accepted Notre Dame students rank in the top five percent of their high school class and have extremely high ACT and SAT scores. I was hoping my college preparatory high school education would pay off!

I took five classes last semester - statistics, philosophy, common human diseases, social problems and adolescent psychology. Philosophy was definitely my hardest class, but I worked hard in the classroom and finished off the semester with a 3.1 grade-point average.

Now it's time for the exciting part - basketball! When I put on that Notre Dame uniform for the first time for our first game, it felt like the best day of my life. It felt so surreal! Seeing my name and number on a Fighting Irish jersey just made me so happy and excited, and I felt so blessed.

I committed to Notre Dame at the end of my sophomore year in high school, so after waiting nearly two years, taking numerous visits to campus, and watching the team play game after game, the only thing I could say was "finally!"

When I ran out on that court for the first time with "Here Come the Irish" playing and all of our wonderful fans cheering, I knew that college basketball would be the best thing ever. Honestly I don't think I stopped smiling that whole game! I kept looking up in the stands right at my parents with a huge smile on my face. Both my parents and I were extremely excited, and it was even more exciting when I got into the game for the first time.

On a side note, I had to miss the exhibition game because of an ankle sprain I had done in practice just a few days before the game, which was really depressing. But I did lots of treatment with our amazing trainer Anne (Marquez) and I was only out for about a week to 10 days.

When basketball practice first started, I thought it was very challenging, and it still is. Having to guard and be guarded by teammates like Skylar Diggins, Fraderica Miller, Natalie Novosel, Brittany Mallory, Kayla McBride and Kaila Turner isn't an easy job, and neither is competing against all of my other amazing and talented teammates. But I love it because each and every day at practice, they make me better by challenging me and never going easy on me just because I'm a freshman or just because I'm small. I know for a fact that this type of challenge will pay off in the long run. In fact it already does in the sense that the games are easier than practice.

I love my teammates and coaches more than anything! My teammates are all like the big sisters I never had. We have so much fun together and most of them love picking on me (jokingly, of course!) because I'm small and a freshman but I love it and wouldn't want it any other way :)

As for my coaches, having a Hall of Fame coach is amazing. It attests to how great of a coach Coach McGraw has been and still is today. But even more than that, Coach McGraw is an amazing woman. She cares about more than just basketball. She genuinely cares about her players and staff and it is easily shown. Coach Ivey, Coach Owens, and Coach Tsipis are the same way. They are all amazing coaches and people. They are the same people now as when I first met them as a freshman in high school. I have a particularly special relationship with Coach Ivey. She is my position coach and helps me out more than she probably even realizes. I really admire her.

Not having to do with academics or basketball, I have to give a shout out to my dorm, Pangborn Hall! I live in Pangborn and Pangborn is also the former home of Natalie Novosel when she lived on campus. It may not be the nicest-looking dorm on campus, but it has great people in it and it is near South Dining Hall!

Go Irish!

- Whitney Holloway ('15)
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Debby Wong/US PRESSWIRE

SI.com - Both Skylar Diggins and Devereaux Peters are strong-minded, opinionated women so don't read too much into it if you hear them engage in some R-rated language every now and then. Last week following a blowout win over Tennessee, Peters admitted that she and Diggins will curse each other on the court one minute and be fine the next, and when her words were read back to Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, the coach let out a hearty laugh.

"I'm sure that the [Notre Dame] priests were not really happy to read that and even I cringed a little when Devereaux said that," McGraw said. "It's unusual for women to be able to do that, but it's great for the coaches because we don't have to be the bad guys when they hold each other so accountable. Those two hold each other to a high standard and their expectations are so high that they can get on each other. And I love a point guard [Diggins] who can get on people, bring their best out, and still be a leader who is respected."

Things were strictly G-rated between pals Diggins and Peters on Saturday afternoon during a 71-56 win over a feisty St. John's team, though Red Storm fans were likely cursing the Notre Dame duo out of respect. A 6-2 fifth-year forward with boundless energy and arms that seemingly extend to Canada, Peters finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds, five blocked shots and four steals. Diggins, a junior guard and Player of the Year candidate, had a game-high 24 points to go along with six assists and three blocks. The two combined for 42 points on 17 of 27 shooting. "We both have extremely strong personalities," said Peters, when asked how graphic the language gets between she and Diggins. "When Sky gets upset, she yells and people get silent. But being who I am, I yell back, too. Nobody takes it personally and it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it does. We just want to make each other perfect."

Notre Dame (21-1, 8-0 Big East) has been close to perfect this season. The win over St. John's (13-8, 5-3) was the team's 18th consecutive victory, the third longest winning streak in program history and its longest run since it won 23 consecutive games to open the 2000-01 season. The Irish entered the game leading the nation in scoring offense (84.5 points), and ranked second in steals (14.4 spg), assists (20.0), field goal percentage (.491) and scoring margin (34.8 ppg) "And I still don't think we've played our best game yet," said Diggins, who leads the Big East assists-to-turnover ratio and whose teams are now 81-15 since she arrived at Notre Dame three years ago.

Two first half runs, including an early 19-2 run and a late 14-0 run, gave Notre Dame a 20-point halftime lead. The Irish were sloppy with their shot selection in the second half -- St John's cut the lead to 11 and outscored Notre Dame in the second half -- but the No. 2 ranked team had too much scoring depth and too much Diggins and Peters. "They are really a special group, the way they share the basketball, find each other, make extra passes, plus Peters is playing outstanding," said St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico, whose team has faced both top-ranked Baylor and Notre Dame this season. "I would find it hard for someone to beat them down the stretch the way they are going."

Notre Dame entered the season at No. 2, their highest ranking since the final poll of the 2000-01 season, and returned six of their top seven scorers, including Diggins, the Big East preseason player of the year, Natalie Novosel, a senior guard who is averaging 15.4 points and Peters, the 2011 Big East defensive player of the year. The squad has been bent on redemption all season. In last year's title game in Indianapolis, Notre Dame blew a 48--41 lead to Texas A&M early in the second half. The final score -- Texas A&M 76, Notre Dame 70 -- is written on the main whiteboard in Notre Dame's locker room.

So far the Irish have played with the urgency a champion needs. Notre Dame's only loss came at Baylor on Nov. 20, a game that wasn't as close as the 94-81 final. Baylor center Brittney Griner finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds and sophomore point guard Odyssey Sims controlled the perimeter with 25 points, six assists, six steals. McGraw said she does not think about that game often, but believes her team is better than it was in Waco two months ago. "Maybe if we were undefeated and No. 1 in the country we would be a little more complacent," McGraw said. "This keeps you hungry because there is somebody ahead of you."

Notre Dame's immediate task is a road game at No. 11 Rutgers on Tuesday. In late February, the team will travel to Hartford to face the No. 3-ranked Huskies after they snapped Connecticut's 57-game Big East winning streak earlier this month. Prior to last year's national semifinals, UConn had beaten Notre Dame 12 straight times. "Now we have beaten them back to back," said McGraw. "I think that's continued to feed our confidence."

That confidence grew last week after a 72-44 pounding of Tennessee, the worst loss suffered by the Lady Vols in 28 years, and the fewest points scored by a Tennessee team in Pat Summitt's coaching career. McGraw said the defense played by the Irish that night was as good as she's ever had a team play, especially because Notre Dame did not press much. One place the Irish must improve is rebounding -- Diggins said the team has been working hard on the defensive glass and making better decisions in transition -- because Notre Dame is undersized in the post. It's also why Peters must stay out of foul trouble -- her bugaboo -- because she's a terror when she plays extended minutes. She is averaging 18 points and 9.2 rebounds over her last five games. "She's long, she's athletic and she's relentless on the boards," said Diggins. "We need Devereaux in the game. When people see her in there, they change their shot. You see the blocks and the steals, and she's someone who can guard either a guard or a post player."

McGraw described her team as more businesslike than previous Irish teams, and she's marveled at how this group has used last year's championship loss to self-motivate. "I'm really pleased with the way we are improving, and I love the way this team is ready for a challenge," McGraw said. "We go into practice with something to fix and they are completely engaged with how we can get better. They want to be challenged. We never talk about, 'Wasn't that a great game? or 'We beat UConn, wasn't that awesome?' For this group, it's let's move on to the next game."

- Richard Deitsch

Chicken Toss Training Showdown

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VS.

Sky's Now the Limit for Irish

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ESPN.com - Run the court with Skylar Diggins and the bruises and bruised egos teach you to expect the unexpected, the ball likely to arrive out of thin air, whistling through a thicket of torsos only to arrive where it knows hands ought to be. But by far the point guard's greatest skill is making what was once unexpected entirely expected.

On a night Tennessee set a dubious program record with its fewest points in a game and suffered its most lopsided defeat in nearly 30 years, only the seismic scale of Notre Dame's 72-44 win felt at all out of the ordinary in watching these two teams compete.

Tennessee wasn't in Notre Dame's league. All you had to do was ask Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick, who spoke for the team. She's the one who said it.

Notre Dame played Tennessee 20 times before Skylar Diggins arrived on campus. It lost every one of those games.

The Fighting Irish have played the Lady Vols twice with Diggins. Monday's victory makes her 2-0.

More to the point, the win against the Lady Vols makes almost the entirety of this Notre Dame roster perfect against the most decorated program in women's college basketball (only fifth-year seniors Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory were around for a Sweet 16 loss against Tennessee in 2008). And it is an entire team that looks as good as any in the nation right now, including the Baylor team that handed it its only loss. It's a team that recorded assists on 25 of 30 field goals against Tennessee. It's a team that got 27 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals from Diggins, but also one that got 16 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and three blocks from Peters. It's a team that got 17 points from sophomore Kayla McBride, 11 of them in the first half for a player sneaking up as a scoring asset the team didn't have last season.

But it is Diggins' team. It has been since she spurned Stanford to stay home in South Bend. It's her team that became just the second to beat both Connecticut and Tennessee in back-to-back seasons, joining North Carolina in 2005-06 and 2006-07. It's her team that drew the fifth sellout crowd of the season to Purcell Pavilion, the 16th full house during the Diggins era for a program with 22 in its history. It's a team that followed her lead to turn an all-around ugly game in the first half into a historic rout.

It didn't start out that way, looking at times early on more like a game that might set the sport back a few decades than make history. With the notable exception of McBride, nobody on either team could put the ball in the basket in the first half. The teams combined to miss 48 shots in those 20 minutes. The Lady Vols missed layup after layup and free throw after free throw, while the Fighting Irish either forced shots or gave away the ball.

Diggins was as guilty as anyone, forcing passes as the Fighting Irish teetered on the fine line between familiarly frenetic and flat-out frantic.

"I think we got the shots we normally get and normally make, but they weren't falling," Diggins said. "Bad choices on my part in some transition things that I usually make better decisions in, that we usually make better decisions as a team in."

With seven minutes remaining in the first half, Diggins had three turnovers and had hit just 1 of 5 shots from the floor. A quick scan of the Tennessee box score would have revealed similarly ineffective lines from top to bottom, be it Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen, Ariel Massengale or anyone in orange.

But where the Lady Vols never did figure out where to turn for an answer, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw never even pondered the question.

"I trust her implicitly," McGraw said of Diggins. "I know she's going to get going. I have total confidence in her ability, and she can turn it around instantly. I think that she did a really good job of managing her own frustration at the way that we started and really turned it on in the second half. To hit those 3s -- she hit some huge shots when the game was a little bit in question. She hit a shot and then we got a steal and a layup, it was her getting a 5-0 run that I think turned the game around."

As poorly as Tennessee played in the first half, it trailed just 23-18 with fewer than two minutes to play before the break. Diggins followed with a 3-pointer and closed the half with two free throws to push the lead to 28-18. Still, the Lady Vols had a pulse, if only they could convert some of their offensive rebounds or hit free throws at any reasonable rate.

Then Diggins hit a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the second half and found Peters for an easy basket barely a minute later. By the time she put together one more one-woman, 5-0 run with a little more than 14 minutes to play, the game was over but for the formality of time running off the clock. The exclamation point won't be recorded for posterity, Diggins whistled for a foul that could have gone uncalled when she slid along the baseline, rose and met the 6-foot-3 Johnson in the air to block a shot.

She had 13 3-pointers in her team's first 20 games this season. She broke Tennessee's back with five on Monday night. Whatever is required.

Diggins and Notre Dame outlasted Tennessee in a 73-59 victory in the Elite Eight last season. This time the Fighting Irish outclassed the Lady Vols.

"This one they kicked our butts by quite a bit," Warlick said in a simple summation of the difference between then and now.

[Skylar] Diggins doesn't guarantee the Fighting Irish anything. But she does make it easy to believe in the possibility of everything.

With the lack of confetti as concrete proof, even a record-setting win against Tennessee doesn't clinch a thing for Notre Dame in January, just as it doesn't doom the Lady Vols to a spring of despair. Notre Dame beat Duke on a neutral court in November and routed Purdue on the road, but signature wins against Kentucky, Connecticut and Tennessee came in South Bend. The rest of the major tests will come on the road, beginning with a tricky two-game trip to the Northeast to play St. John's and Rutgers this weekend and continuing with the possibility of two games in nine days against Connecticut in Hartford at the end of the regular season and in the Big East tournament.

Diggins doesn't guarantee the Fighting Irish anything. But she does make it easy to believe in the possibility of everything.

"I've never been a part of anything like this, so this is amazing," Diggins said. "So many good players on the team, so unselfish and just a great coaching staff that's willing to work. And you've got girls coming in putting in the work. I'm excited to see what we have coming up and to get back in the gym and get better and continue this run with this team."

Notre Dame has been a part of a championship before, but when it comes to Diggins, the feeling is mutual.

It has never been party to anything quite like her.

Via @grahamhays

Love of the Irish Drives Volunteers

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ESPNW.com - The troops are suited up in lime-green aprons, their names embroidered in blue script over the Fighting Irish logo, making it all the easier to complete a mission that on this day includes selling programs, handing out pompoms and posters and, as usual, greeting 9,000-plus patrons as if they are close friends and relatives streaming through their own front doors.

Their leader is a 70-year-old, no-nonsense former nun named Patricia McAdams, who is stationed at Gate 10 of the Purcell Pavilion inside Notre Dame's Joyce Center and manages this group of about 50 mostly female, mostly senior volunteers that serve as the heart of one of the top-ranked and most highly supported women's basketball programs in the country.

It is this core unit, with hugs and smiles for seemingly every fan who streams by, that transforms Notre Dame's home court on this Saturday before a clash with No. 2 Connecticut, and before every home contest, into a green-filled mass of organized hysteria, making it one of the toughest places for opposing teams to play.

They are a family, they say, drawn together by their shared love of Notre Dame basketball and a desire to see the women's program, the NCAA runner-up last season, and women's sports prosper.

One volunteer, Mary Jane Goodwin, is 94 and pauses in her duties passing out posters to say she played basketball, softball and volleyball as a girl. "Of course, it was hardly anything back then," she said. "I wish I was young, playing today. I'd love to get out there."

Goodwin, who has her fingernails painted green, says she was drawn to today's game because her granddaughter played basketball at Sienna College and because, while nursing her husband who was weakened by a heart condition for 16 years, the two religiously listened to Notre Dame women's games on radio.

After her husband passed away, Goodwin attended games in person and was invited to volunteer with her sister, Marguerite Krueger, who died recently.

"I just love [Muffet] McGraw," Goodwin said of Notre Dame's head coach. "And what a pleasure it is for me to do this for the girls. I feel like I'm part of the program."

David Woods remembers the days when attendance was sparse. He was new to South Bend. A retired colonel, he accepted the post of Notre Dame's ROTC Air Force commander in 1985. Woods and his wife, Eileen, met McGraw and her husband, Matt, when Muffet accepted the Notre Dame women's job and the couple moved two doors down in '87.

"As we got to know Muffet, she let us know that they needed some help in getting fans to come out, and so Eileen and I started to talk it up amongst all our friends," Woods said.

When Woods tried to get out promotional information, he found he was up against a South Bend business community already committed to Notre Dame's men's programs. But he also discovered there was an available niche for the women.

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