No. 3 Irish women hand Kentucky 1st loss, 92-83By NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer Sunday, Dec 18, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Skylar Diggins and No. 3 Notre Dame carry a grudge.
Diggins made her only 3-pointer of the game and then forced a turnover as Notre Dame used an 11-0 run to finish off No. 8 Kentucky on Sunday, winning 92-83 and handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Not only did the Irish snap Kentucky’s 10-game winning streak, which was tied for second-best in the country, they avenged a loss last season in Lexington, Ky., in the first meeting between the teams.
“The pride thing kicked in,” Diggins said. “This was such a big game for us personally because we lost last year, we’re at home and it’s a very good team. All those things. We wanted to win.”
Natalie Novosel, a Lexington native, led five Irish players in double figures with 23 points, while Diggins (16 points, 11 assists) and Devereaux Peters (13 points, 13 rebounds) each had double-doubles. Notre Dame (10-1) has now won seven straight since losing to top-ranked Baylor.
Samantha Drake had 21 points for the Wildcats (10-1), who were playing their third ranked team in four games. A’dia Mathies had 17 before fouling out with 7:25 to play, and Samarie Walker, playing in her first game since transferring from Connecticut, had seven points and seven rebounds.
“Everyone did not play as hard as they could so that really put us in a bad position,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Because now you are putting people who have played extremely hard and you can’t get them much of a rest before they have to go back in.”
The Wildcats had won 10 straight behind one of the country’s nastiest defenses. They came in leading the country in turnover margin (plus 17) and steals (16.5), and were holding opponents to below 52 points a game.
Kentucky did force the Irish into 22 turnovers, scoring 27 points off the miscues. But the Irish, runners-up in last year’s national championship game, simply have too many options.
And too long of a memory.
“I thanked every one of them,” Novosel said, unable to keep the smile off her face. “I’m just really happy to get that win over Kentucky. It was a little revenge.”
The Irish led by as much as 10 early in the second half, only to have Kentucky keep finding ways to come back. Drake’s layup gave the Wildcats a 75-74 lead with 5:07 to play.
But the Irish showed a little nasty D of their own, holding the Wildcats to just two field goals the rest of the game while their offense kicked it up a notch with the 11-0 run.
Novosel made a pair of free throws and Peters scored on a layup to put the Irish up 78-75 with 4:09 to play. Kentucky’s Bernisha Pinkett attempted a 3-pointer but it sailed over the rim and the Wildcats couldn’t corral the rebound, watching helplessly as it rolled out of bounds. After a timeout, Diggins coolly drilled a 3, drawing a roar from the sellout crowd of 9,149.
Diggins then stripped Amber Smith on Kentucky’s next possession.
“That was the nail in the coffin,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “And then to come up with steal after it, that was a momentum killer for them.”
“It was a 3-point game, and we asked our kids not to let the ball not to go long, and press,” Mitchell said. “It happens sometimes. We make mistakes and we let them go straight line, and I think our team faded at that point.”
Drake fouled Novosel, who made both free throws. After a Kentucky miss, Peters scored on an easy layup and, just like that, the Irish were back up 85-75 with 2:40 to play.
Kentucky never threatened again.
“We just have more of a sense of urgency,” Diggins said. “This team wants to win.”