Diggins helps Irish stun Lady Vols 73-59

Posted March 28, 2011, at 10:31 p.m.
Last modified March 28, 2011, at 11:38 p.m.

DAYTON, Ohio — No team has ever been so happy to be 1-20.

Skylar Diggins scored 24 points and second-seeded Notre Dame made up for 28 years of beatings at the hands of Tennessee, upsetting the top-seeded Lady Vols 73-59 Monday night to earn a spot in the Final Four.

“We went into the locker room after the game and the first thing the team said was, “1 and 20! 1 and 20!” coach Muffet McGraw said with a laugh.

The Fighting Irish (30-7) came in 0-20 all-time against the Lady Vols. But the operative number on this night was 3-0 — Notre Dame’s record in regional championship games. The Irish are headed to the Final Four for the first time since 2001, when they won the national championship.

“This is what you work for,” said Diggins, a first-team All-Big East performer. “I said all day, this team has so much camaraderie. It’s been like that all year. We just rallied around each other.”

Natalie Novosel added 17 points and Becca Bruszewski — who didn’t practice Sunday and was listed as questionable to even play with a knee injury — had 13 for the Fighting Irish. Brittany Mallory chipped in with 10 points.

“It’s a surreal feeling, knowing that could have been my last game,” said Bruszewski, who got a new knee brace earlier on Monday. “But this team just came out ready to go. This is an unreal feeling.”

Notre Dame advanced to the play the winner of Tuesday’s game between top-ranked Connecticut (35-1) and second-seeded Duke (32-3).

McGraw said she had a clear rooting interest in that game.

“We’re definitely cheering for the Big East,” she said, referring to conference and national power Connecticut. “We’d like to have two Final Four teams from the Big East.”

It went without saying that she might want to play the Huskies because — much like Tennessee — the Fighting Irish owe them. Connecticut won all three meetings with Notre Dame this season.

Taber Spani and Shekinna Stricklen had 13 points for the Lady Vols (34-3). Glory Johnson added 12.

“Obviously I’m very upset, I’m very disappointed in our basketball team,” coach Pat Summitt said after being stuck with loss number 199 of her career against 1,071 wins. “I don’t think we came here with the focus. Don’t ask me why. I’m kind of at a loss for words. We’ve got a ways to go, obviously. We were exposed today.”

Stanford 83, Gonzaga 60.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Nnemkadi Ogwumike dominated the inside with 23 points and 11 rebounds, sister Chiney chipped in with 18 points, and Stanford is headed back to its fourth straight Final Four after the top-seeded Cardinal ended the surprising run of Gonzaga 83-60 in the Spokane Regional final on Monday night.

There was no stopping the dynamic Stanford (33-2) duo, who scored seemingly every way around the basket. Whether grabbing offensive rebounds and scoring on putbacks or powering through the arms of the Bulldogs’ defense, the Ogwumikes were not going to be slowed.

It didn’t help that Gonzaga (31-5) started the second half missing 11 of 12 shots and saw Stanford’s lead balloon to 21. Gonzaga got no close than 18.

Courtney Vandersloot finished her remarkable career at Gonzaga with 25 points, including 18 straight at one point in the first half.

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