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    No. 13 Irish Fall in Final Seconds to No. 2 Connecticut, 79-76

    FIGHTING IRISH Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins chalked up 16 points, five assists and four rebounds in Saturday's last-second 79-76 loss to #2 Connecticut at a sold-out Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins chalked up 16 points, five assists and four rebounds in Saturday's last-second 79-76 loss to #2 Connecticut at a sold-out Purcell Pavilion.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Jan. 8, 2011

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    NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame's scouting report on Kelly Faris will be a little different next time around.

    Other teams', too.

    Faris scored a career-high 20 points, including a layup with 14 seconds left that allowed No. 2 Connecticut to escape with a 79-76 victory over No. 13 Notre Dame on Saturday. Maya Moore added 31 points, eight rebounds and two blocks for the Huskies (14-1, 4-0 Big East), whose victory was only their second by single digits this season.

    "Probably the biggest key to how this team goes down the road is going to be how Kelly plays," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "When she's in a groove like she was today, that kid is really, really good. I wouldn't trade her for anybody, anyone in the league."

    Skylar Diggins missed two shots in the last five seconds for Notre Dame, including a last-ditch 3 at the buzzer that sailed way beyond the basket. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Irish (13-4, 2-1), whose only losses this year have been against ranked teams, and disappointed the 9,149 fans who came out despite a snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow on South Bend.

    "We realized we can stick with the best teams in nation after playing Baylor and UConn," Diggins said. "I'm excited about the future of this team. We'll see UConn again."

    And they'll be a lot more wary of Faris next time around.

    Connecticut's Division I-record 90-game winning streak came to an end at Stanford last week, and the Huskies have an air of vulnerability they haven't had in recent years. All-everything Tina Charles is gone - "I think most of the Big East coaches wanted to attend the graduation ceremony," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "We were all pretty happy she was gone." - and the Huskies are starting two freshman with another providing key minutes off the bench.

    The Huskies picked up four fouls in the first two minutes of the game - including two on Tiffany Hayes - and never seemed in sync. But Faris kept UConn close, making a big layup and a 3 to tie the game midway through the second half after Notre Dame had matched its largest lead of the game at 7.

    Faris was 2 of 3 from 3-point range and also made all 10 of her free throws.

    "That wasn't on the scouting report," McGraw said, rattling off Faris' pre-game percentages from beyond the arc (25) and free throw line (73). "She played better than her average today."

    Moore made back-to-back 3s to put UConn in front 67-64 with 7:29 to play. But the Huskies would go almost four minutes without scoring, and Natalie Novosel continued her impressive second half by capping an 8-0 run with a layup to give the Irish a 72-67 lead with 4:24 left.

    The Huskies wouldn't lead again until Moore shook off a bump from Devereaux Peters and drilled a pull-up jumper with 50 seconds left.

    "You just play. You make plays," Moore said. "I thought we did a really good job of staying together and believing in each other the last three, four minutes of the game. We never stopped believing we could win."

    Stefanie Dolson blocked one Novosel effort with 34 seconds left, but the gritty Irish guard put up another shot as she fell to the floor and it went in, giving Notre Dame a 76-75 lead with 30 seconds left. But Faris, who hadn't had a field goal in more than 10 minutes, made the critical layup.

    After Diggins missed a short jumper, Dolson got the rebound and was fouled by Peters. The freshman, who's made all but two free throws this year, made both.

    "They'd never won a big road game. Until you do it, you're not sure whether you can or not," Auriemma said. "Of course there's going to be a little bit of a doubt, and they're going to have to carve this out and create the moment. This isn't the team that won 78 in a row. This is a team that's won 14 games.

    "So they took a big step forward today in winning a big game on the road against a Notre Dame team that outplayed us in I'll bet you every category."

    The loss spoiled an outstanding effort by Novosel, who scored Notre Dame's last six points and all but two of her 16 in the second half. Diggins also had 16 and Peters had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but she was held to just four points and three boards in the second half.

    "We talked about it after the game, and those last few minutes is how we are supposed to play. That was Connecticut basketball," Faris said. "It was good for us to see that we have it in us and pull out the game like that. But we have to play like that the entire game."

    -- ND --

    POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has lost all four of its games this season to top-15 opponents by an average of 5.5 points per game -- 86-83 in double overtime vs. #15 UCLA, 81-76 at #9/10 Kentucky, 76-65 at #2/3 Baylor and 79-76 vs. #2 Connecticut ... both three-point losses came at home (UCLA and UConn) in games where the Fighting Irish had a shot to tie the game in the closing seconds ... the 76 points scored by Notre Dame were the most by any team against Connecticut in more than two years -- Nov. 30, 2008, when the Huskies defeated fourth-ranked Oklahoma, 106-78 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. ... while Connecticut won its 10th consecutive game in the series, this was the closest margin between Notre Dame and UConn since March 6, 2001, when the Huskies won the BIG EAST title with a 78-76 championship game win at Gampel Pavilion (on Sue Bird's jumper at the horn) ... Saturday's 76 points were the most Notre Dame has scored against Connecticut since March 30, 2001, when the Fighting Irish avenged their BIG EAST title game loss with a 90-75 win over the Huskies in the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis (paving the way for Notre Dame's first NCAA national championship two days later) ... this was Notre Dame's closest game against a top-five opponent since Jan. 13, 2004, when the Fighting Irish defeated fourth-ranked Connecticut, 66-51 at Purcell Pavilion ... the 41-41 halftime tie marked the first time Notre Dame was tied or leading Connecticut at the break since Jan. 30, 2005, when the Fighting Irish were up 34-24 on the way to earning their most recent win over Connecticut (65-59 at Gampel Pavilion) ... Notre Dame shot a season-low .360 from the floor, just the third time all season the Fighting Irish have connected on less than 45 percent of their shots (first since a then-season low .387 at #2/3 Baylor on Dec. 1) ... Notre Dame's 23 offensive rebounds were third-best this season, exceeded only by 25 offensive boards at #9/10 Kentucky (Nov. 21) and 24 offensive rebounds against Southeast Missouri State (Jan. 2) ... prior to Saturday's game, Connecticut had not given up more than 20 offensive rebounds in a game (season high by a UConn opponent was 19 by Marquette on Dec. 9) ... Connecticut set a Purcell Pavilion opponent record by shooting .962 (26-of-27) from the foul line, topping the old mark of .952 (20-of-21) set by West Virginia on Jan. 14, 1998 (record requires minimum of 10 attempts to qualify) ... Connecticut's Kelly Faris is the third opposing player in Purcell Pavilion history to go at least 10-for-10 from the charity stripe and the first since Jan. 27, 2009, when Rutgers' Epiphanny Prince made 12-of-12 free throws ... Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in the paint in every game this season and has outscored or tied its opponent in the paint in all but one game this year (30-46 at #2/3 Baylor on Dec. 1) ... the 38 points in the paint also were the most allowed by Connecticut this season ... Connecticut's Maya Moore is the first Notre Dame opposing player to score 30 points in a game since March 21, 2010, when Cleveland State's Kailey Klein also scored 31 points in an 86-58 Notre Dame win at Purcell Pavilion in the first round of the NCAA Championship ... senior forward Devereaux Peters chalked up her third double-double of the season, all in the past five games -- Peters had one double-double in her career prior to this season ... Peters also tied her season high with four blocked shots ... sophomore guard Skylar Diggins not only went a season-best 6-for-6 from the foul line, but also dished out at least five assists for the 10th time this season (she had seven five-assist games in her entire rookie season of 2009-10) ... Saturday's game was an advanced sellout, the second capacity crowd of the season for Notre Dame and the 14th in program history (eighth in the last two seasons) ... the Fighting Irish are averaging 8,542 fans in their 10 home games this year, on pace to break last year's school record of 8,377 fans per game (which also ranked fourth in the nation).

     

     

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