No. 2 Notre Dame 93, Kansas 63

Skylar Diggins was already having such a great day, her coach

figured she might as well make it historic.

The Notre Dame point guard scored 22 of her 27 points by

halftime Sunday and became the school’s career scoring leader,

leading the top-seeded Fighting Irish to a 93-63 victory against

Kansas in the semifinals of the Norfolk Regional.

Notre Dame will play No. 2 seed Duke on Tuesday for a berth in

the Final Four.

Coach Muffet McGraw had forgotten all about Diggins’ pursuit of

the school scoring mark until the game was well in hand. When she

asked, she was told the senior was just two points away from

passing assistant coach Beth Cunningham.

”I told her, `You’re coming out in 30 seconds. You might as

well get one more,”’ McGraw said she told Diggins.

Moments later, with 7:48 to play, the lefthander in her

trademark white headband swished a 12-foot jumper.

”Coach told me to score two more. I didn’t really know why, but

I was like, `OK,”’ Diggins said.

It was that kind of the day for Diggins, who heard talk

beforehand that the Norfolk Regional was full of great point

guards, and quickly showed she might not have a peer, especially at

this time of year with the stakes so high.

”We play in games that are so much like Sweet 16 or Elite Eight

kind of caliber games in our conference,” she said. ”That helps

all of us.”

So does having a leader that makes it all look so easy. Diggins

added nine assists and three steals, scored nine straight during a

16-2 first-half run that put the Irish (34-1) ahead to stay, and

six more to cap a 10-2 run into halftime.

”She’s what everyone says,” Kansas point guard Angel Goodrich,

who finished with seven points and 13 assists, said. ”She’s the

whole package. She can create for herself and she can create for

her teammates.”

The victory was the 29th in a row for Notre Dame, and left the

Irish one victory shy of a third consecutive trip to the Final

Four. They have lost in the title game each of the last two

years.

Carolyn Davis led the upstart Jayhawks (20-14) with 25 points on

11-for-17 shooting, but the second No. 12 seed ever to get this far

in the women’s tournament since the seeding format began in 1994

didn’t stick around long.

Notre Dame led 40-27 at halftime and started the second half

with a 22-9 run.

”We definitely let them play comfortable and confident,”

Jayhawks coach Bonnie Henrickson said. ”I was disappointed our

defensive effort wasn’t better.”

Goodrich’s head-to-head duel with Diggins never materialized.

When Goodrich, like Diggins a senior, finally scored with 5:48 left

in the first half, Diggins already had 16 points and her team was

about to make another run before halftime.

It came in the final 4:30 of the half, a 10-2 burst capped by

two 3-pointers by Diggins.

”When she starts hitting the 3, you’re in trouble,” McGraw

said.

Natalie Achonwa added 17 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame,

Jewell Loyd scored 15 and Kayla McBride 13 as the Fighting Irish

shot 54.4 percent from the field, making 37 of 69 attempts.

Monica Engelman added 10 points for Kansas, but on just 4 of 16

shooting.

The Irish trailed 15-11 when Loyd made a 3-pointer with 14:37 to

go and then Diggins took over. She hit a 16-footer, a 17-footer, a

3-pointer and then had a steal and layup, making it 23-15. After

Davis’ stickback for the Jayhawks, Ariel Braker scored inside and

Diggins did, too, posting up Goodrich.

The 16-2 run gave the Fighting Irish a 27-17 lead, and the

spread stayed about the same until late in the half when Diggins

hit a 3-pointer, then followed a turnover with another 3 from the

right side.

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