April 8, 2013
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Skylar Diggins needed a moment to compose herself. Her stellar career at Notre Dame had just come to an end.
The hometown star couldn't have asked for much more in her four years playing for the Irish. She just couldn't deliver a national championship.
Diggins and Notre Dame fell short for the first time this season against UConn, losing 83-65 on Sunday night in the Final Four.
"It's been a dream come true to play for my hometown school right in my backyard," she said. "It's an experience I'll never forget."
Because of Diggins, Notre Dame was able to dominate UConn in a way no other team has since the Huskies won their first national championship in 1995. The Irish (35-2) won seven of eight meetings before losing Sunday night, in no small part because of their star with her distinctive white headband.
"She's a champion. We didn't win it, but what she's done for us has been amazing. She leaves Notre Dame as the most celebrated and decorated player, the best player ever."
The loss ended an incredible season for Notre Dame and left Diggins without a national championship. She had accomplished nearly everything else at the school, including helping her Irish turn around their rivalry against the Huskies.
Diggins said she spoke with Auriemma after the loss.
"Don't let this define my career," she said he told her, and that "I've done more for women's basketball than some people have done who have won four championships."
"He just told me I was a good player," she said. "You respect that coming from such a good coach."
Diggins brought a rock star quality to the Irish, with fans including Lil Wayne and more than 300,000 followers on Twitter by the time her career came to an end. She had the talent to go with it, too, as a two-time All-American.
Auriemma said Diggins has the "it" factor.
"She has an uncanny ability to capture the moment," Auriemma said. "It's one reason she's been so successful; she has that mindset that I was worried no one on our team has."
"Once you get here you're only going to beat great teams. And the reason Notre Dame has beaten us seven of the last eight times is because they're really, really good," Auriemma said. "For one night, that's what's great about the NCAA tournament, for one night, for just this night, we just needed to be better than them, and we were."
The Huskies built a 10-point halftime lead playing incredible defense and Notre Dame (35-2) could only get within six in the second half as its school record 30-game winning streak came to an end.
The Huskies and Irish have developed the best rivalry in women's basketball over the past few seasons, and this game might have been the final chapter between the two with Notre Dame headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Two years ago, the Huskies won the first three meetings before Notre Dame shocked them in the national semifinals. Notre Dame had won seven of the previous eight meetings before Sunday night.
Diggins was 0 for 6 from the field in the first half as the Huskies harassed her all over the court. She scored the Irish's first two points on free throws and didn't have another point until getting a steal early in the second half and converting it for the easy layup to make it 42-35. She tried to do everything she could to rally her team. Twice she chased down Hartley on the break to block her shot.