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Diggins Calm as She Readies for Last Shot at Title
Skylar Diggins at Saturday's practice.
 
Skylar Diggins at Saturday's practice.

March 24, 2013

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By TOM COYNE, Associated Press

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Skylar Diggins enters her final NCAA tournament with a sense of calmness after losses in the championship game the past two seasons.

"I'm really coming in with a light mood, approaching practice wanting to have fun and enjoy this moment, because it's my last go around. But the sense of urgency is greater," Diggins said Friday before practice. "But I don't think I'm putting any more pressure on myself or on our team than anyone else is."

Diggins, one of four finalists for the Naismith Award, has led the Fighting Irish (31-1) to its best regular-season ever, with Notre Dame posting its first undefeated BIG EAST season and winning the league tournament for the first time, beating rival UConn three times along the way.

Diggins believes winning the league tournament is an example of this squad's will to win and gives it momentum heading into the NCAA tournament, where the Irish open against UT Martin (19-14) on Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa. Notre Dame, which has won a school-record 26 straight, is a No. 1 seed for the second straight season and for the third time in program history.

Diggins, who was has started a school-record 139 games and played in 15 NCAA tournament games, said she isn't feeling any nervousness about her last chance.

"The calmness comes with experience. I know what I have to do in my job," she said.

Coach Muffet McGraw, who guided the Irish to a national championship in 2001, said Diggins had been feeling "under the weather" all week. All Diggins would say Friday was that she is feeling fine.

McGraw knows Diggins is putting pressure on herself heading into the tournament. McGraw believes that's a good thing because it's what makes her one of the nation's best players.

"She embraces that challenge. She wants to be great. She wants to be the best player, and she wants us to be the best team. So I think for her, she's going to go into this tournament - like she does for every other one - with an incredible sense of urgency and ready to go," McGraw said. "She doesn't have to prove herself to anybody. She can just relax."

Diggins heads into the tournament 53 points shy of breaking the school scoring record of 2,322 held by current assistant coach Beth Morgan Cunningham (1993-97). She already holds the school record for career steals with 365 and needs 20 assists to move past assistant coach Niele Ivey (1996-2001) into second on the school's all-time list.

As good as Diggins has been in four seasons for the Irish, averaging 15.7 points a game on 44.8 percent shooting with 4.9 assists a game and 3.2 turnovers, she's been even better at tournament time. In NCAA tournament games, Diggins is averaging 17.4 points on 46 percent shooting with 5.7 assists and 3.6 turnovers.

Teammates say as much as they want to simply win a championship, they want to win one even more for Diggins.

"That's our end goal every year, but it makes it special this year," junior forward Natalie Achonwa said. "Skylar's been such a great contributor to our program, not only this team, but the teams in the past as well. "

Diggins doesn't feel the need to stress to her teammates how much she and fellow senior Kaila Turner want a national championship.

"I think they can feel our sense of urgency," she said.

The Skyhawks certainly won't be intimidated by facing Diggins and the Irish. They played other top seeds Baylor and Stanford back in November, and only lost 82-67 to the top-ranked Bears. UT Martin was one of four teams to stay within 15 points of Baylor during the regular season, and Notre Dame and UConn were two of the others.

Jasmine Newsome and Heather Butler take more than 60 percent of the Skyhawks' shots. They're the highest-scoring duo in the nation, averaging 22.9 and 22.0 points to each rank among the NCAA's top seven in scoring.

UT Martin lost 72-49 to second-seeded Tennessee in the first round of the 2012 tournament, and 90-45 to second-seeded Duke in the first round a year earlier.

 

 

Event Calendar

Delta

November 3
7:00 PM
Roberts Wesleyan
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)
November 11
7:00 PM
Central Michigan Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 14
7:00 PM
WNIT Quarterfinals
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 17
7:00 PM
WNIT Semifinals
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 20
3:00 PM
WNIT Final
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

CBS Sports Network
November 22
8:00 PM
UL-Lafayette
Houston, Texas (Campbell Center)
November 26
1:00 PM
TCU
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 30
9:00 PM
Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa (Carver-Hawkeye Arena)

BTN
December 4
1:00 PM
Valparaiso
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
December 7
7:00 PM
UConn
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN2
December 10
8:00 PM
DePaul
Chicago, Ill. (McGrath-Phillips Arena)
December 18
2:00 PM
Toledo
Toledo, Ohio (Savage Arena)
December 20
7:00 PM
Michigan State
East Lansing, Mich. (Breslin Center)

BTN
December 27
6:30 PM
Chattanooga
Chattanooga, Tenn. (McKenzie Arena)
December 29
7:00 PM
North Carolina State
Raleigh, N.C. (Reynolds Coliseum)

ACC Network Extra
January 2
7:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, Ga. (McCamish Pavilion)
January 5
7:00 PM
Wake Forest
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
January 8
3:00 PM
Miami
Coral Gables, Fla. (BankUnited Center)

ESPN Flex
January 12
7:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Notre Dame, Ind.

ACC Network Extra
January 16
7:00 PM
Tennessee
Knoxville, Tenn. (Thompson-Boling Arena)

ESPN2
January 19
7:00 PM
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Mass. (Conte Forum)
January 22
12:00 PM
North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C. (Carmichael Arena)

ESPNU
January 26
7:00 PM
Duke
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
January 29
12:00 PM
Virginia
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPNU
February 2
7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Va. (Cassell Coliseum)
February 6
7:00 PM
Louisville
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN2
February 12
1:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
February 16
7:00 PM
Clemson
Clemson, S.C. (Littlejohn Coliseum)
February 19
5:00 PM
Syracuse
Syracuse, N.Y. (Carrier Dome)

ESPN2
February 23
7:00 PM
Boston College
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
February 26
1:00 PM
Florida State
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN2
March 17
TBA
NCAA First/Second Rounds
TBD
March 24
TBA
NCAA Regionals
TBD
March 31
TBA
NCAA Semifinals
Dallas, Texas (American Airlines Center)
April 2
TBA
NCAA Final
Dallas, Texas (American Airlines Center)

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