No. 2 Notre Dame 92, Providence 57

Notre Dame enters the biggest game of the regular season with

its two best players playing their best basketball.

Skylar Diggins scored 28 points and Kayla McBride added 24 as

the second-ranked Irish clinched a share of their second straight

Big East regular-season title with a 92-57 rout of Providence on


Natalie Achonwa chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds for the

Irish (27-1, 15-0 Big East) who extended their winning streak to 22


”How could we be anything but happy right now,” said Notre

Dame coach Muffet McGraw. ”This team has overachieved all season

and I’m just thrilled with where we are right now.”

Notre Dame will look to win the regular-season outright Monday

at home in a showdown with No. 3 Connecticut. The Huskies can gain

a piece of the title with a win.

”We don’t want to share it,” said McBride, who has combined

with Diggins to score 101 points in their wins this week over

Syracuse and Providence.

McBride hit 10 of her 15 shots from the field Saturday. Diggins

was 8 of 15.

”At this point, right before the Big East tournament, you want

to be playing well,” McBride said. ”It’s coming down to the

grind. Your body is a little more sore and so we are just trying to

come out here and have some fun.”

Symone Roberts had 22 points for Providence (7-21, 2-13), which

has lost six straight and 13 of its last 15 games.

”She’s played hard all year, and she would shoot a little

better if she didn’t have to play 38 minutes a game,” said

Providence coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl.

The Irish led by 20 points at halftime and opened the second

half on a 10-2 run.

Notre Dame shot better than 52 percent from the floor, and hit

seven of their 15 shots from 3-point range. Diggins had four of

those on seven attempts.

Notre Dame also outrebounded Providence 51-21. .

The back-to-back regular-season titles are the first for the

Fighting Irish since they won what is now the Horizen League back

in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

”That’s special, especially for coach McGraw,” Diggins said.

”And my senior year, going out of the Big East, the best

conference in America, to have that title and to represent that is

good. But we’ve still got a lot to do.”

The 22-game winning streak is the second longest in school

history, just behind the 23-game run the school went on to open its

2000-01 their national championship campaign.

The win also was the 19th straight in Big East regular-season

play for the Irish, and their 16th straight conference road win.

The Fighting Irish haven’t lost a regular-season conference game

since falling to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012.

Notre Dame has won 22 straight road games and Saturday’s game

was never in doubt.

Diggins grabbed the opening tap, raced for a layup and the Irish

never trailed, going on a 13-4 run to open the game.

Notre Dame hit seven of its first 10 shots and its first six

shots from 3-point range.

Brianna Edwards tried to keep the Friars close, scoring all 10

of her points in the first half. But when she picked up her third

foul, with just under 4 minutes to go in the half, Notre Dame was

already up 19, 46-27.

Diggins had 17 points before intermission and McBride had 16 as

the Irish went into the half leading 52-32.

Diggins also had two steals, moving her past assistant coach

Niele Ivey and into the top spot on the school’s career list with


A win Monday would give the Irish the top seed in the Big East

tournament. A loss to UConn would drop Notre Dame into a tie with

the Huskies, and UConn would get the top seed in a tiebreaker,

because the Huskies beat Marquette twice this season while Notre

Dame was only 1-0 against the Golden Eagles.

The Irish have turned the rivalry with UConn into a one-sided

affair lately, winning five of the past six meetings, including a

73-72 win at Connecticut on Jan. 5.

”Monday it will be to win the Big East outright, so we want to

play well, because that looks good on our resume,” Diggins


The Fighting Irish have never lost to Providence, improving to

22-0 with Saturday’s win. Nineteen of those wins have come by

double digits. Notre Dame also beat Providence at home this year,

89-44 in January, a game in which Diggins became the fourth

Fighting Irish player to ever score 2,000 career points.

This was the final home game for Roberts, who last week scored

her 1,000th career point, Edwards and Jenna Roncarati.

Tori Rule chipped in 13 points for the Friars.

Robinson Fruchtl, whose team lost to UConn earlier this season

105-49, said she’d give the slight edge Monday to Notre Dame,

because the Irish have Diggins and UConn doesn’t.

”She’s the best point guard in the country in my opinion,” she

said. ”Yes, she has great ability, but it’s her leadership, it’s

her dictating the tempo, it’s her getting people in the right