Irish capture Big East title
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The second-ranked Fighting Irish trailed by six in the first overtime Monday night, then five in the second overtime before finally beating the third-ranked Huskies, 96-87, in three overtimes to win Big East regular-season title outright for the second consecutive year.
"We were done in regulation and the first and second overtimes. We just clawing away and got them to miss some free throws," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "What a battle."
The Fighting Irish (28-1, 16-0) went undefeated in the conference for the first time since joining in 1995-96 and became the first team to win six of seven games against Connecticut (27-3, 14-2) in more than two decades.
Skylar Diggins finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds and Kayla McBride added a career-high 26 points before fouling out.
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was pleased with his team's effort, but disappointed the Huskies couldn't come up with a big play when they needed one. "We couldn't finish it off," he said. "Every opportunity we had to put it away we let it slip away from us."
The Irish took their first lead in overtime when Kaila Turner hit a free throw 18 seconds into the third overtime. After Kelly Faris answered with a bank shot for the Huskies to regain the lead, the Irish took over. Ariel Braker starter it with a free throw, then Jewell Loyd muscled in a basket inside and nearly a minute later added a pair of free throws to give the Irish an 87-83 lead.
Diggins then stole the ball from Breanna Stewart and scored on a fastbreak layup, then Braker, Diggins and Natalie Achonwa each made two free throws to put the game away.
The Irish managed to win despite going just 1 of 12 from 3-point range and being outshot 46 percent to 39 percent, but the Irish forced 35 turnovers. Achonwa added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Irish.
McGraw said she was pleased with her team's resilience. "An amazing win," she said.
Other Top 25
• Syracuse 68, Louisville 57: Freshman Brittney Sykes and senior Kayla Alexander each scored 16 points as host No. 24 Syracuse (23-6, 11-5 Big East) snapped a late-season swoon, beating 13th-ranked Louisville (23-7, 11-5).
• Baylor 90, Kansas State 68: Brittney Griner scored a Big 12 single-game record 50 points in her final regular-season game at Baylor -- including her first dunk at home since she was a freshman -- to lead the top-ranked Lady Bears (29-1, 18-0) to the victory against Kansas State (14-16, 5-13) in Waco, Texas.
• Rutgers 65, Pitt 44: Brianna Kiesel led the Panthers with 14 points, Loliya Briggs added 11 points and Marquel Davis added 10 points and seven rebounds but Pitt (9-20, 0-16 Big East) could not keep up with Rutgers (16-13, 7-9) in Piscataway, N.J.
• Bryant 61, Robert Morris 56: Artemis Spanou recorded her 24th consecutive double-double and her 26th of the season as she tallied 12 points and 16 rebounds and Kelly Hartwell scored a career-high 21 points as the Colonials (7-22, 6-12 NEC) took Bryant (12-17, 8-10) to overtime before their season came to an end.
• Penn State junior guard Maggie Lucas was named the Big Ten player of the year by the coaches and media, Coquese Washington was chosen coach of the year by the media and senior guard Alex Bentley was named to first-team All-Big Ten.
First Published March 5, 2013 12:11 am