No. 5 Notre Dame 83 tops No. 22 Texas A&M 83-74By KEITH FREEMAN, Associated Press Saturday, Dec 22, 2012
Diggins scored 24 points and had five steals, and Achonwa added 22 points and 14 rebounds as No. 5 Notre Dame beat No. 22 Texas A&M 83-74 on Friday night in the championship game of the World Vision Classic.
Texas A&M topped Notre Dame in the championship game of the 2011 NCAA tournament. While much less was on the line this time, the Fighting Irish made sure they left the court on top.
The Fighting Irish also got 19 points from Kayla McBride and 15 from Jewell Loyd. Muffet McGraw earned her 600th win as Notre Dame coach in the first meeting between the teams since Texas A&M won the title.
Notre Dame (9-1) took control with a 13-0 run that turned a 48-46 deficit into a 59-48 lead with 11:25 remaining. Diggins and McBride both had four points during the spurt, and Achonwa supplied the final three points of the run.
“She took over the game,” McGraw said of Diggins. “She attacked the basket and did what we wanted her to do. Skylar draws so much attention. She opens things up for other people. I think she drove the ball well.
“And I thought her defense was outstanding. I think she took advantage of their guards defensively.”
Kelsey Bone led Texas A&M (8-4) with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Courtney Walker had 12 points, and Kristi Bellock added 11.
The Aggies committed 26 turnovers, compared to 13 for the Fighting Irish. Several miscues occurred at key points in the game.
Notre Dame had its biggest lead of the first half, 44-37, after Loyd scored underneath off a feed from Diggins at the buzzer. But the Aggies hurt their own cause in the opening half by making 17 turnovers and committing 10 personal fouls.
With Texas A&M holding its biggest lead, 18-10, Notre Dame went on an 8-0 run to tie the game with 10:38 left. During that run, the Aggies turned the ball over on five consecutive possessions with the Irish scoring off two of them. In the opening half, the Irish were 11-for-13 at the free-throw line. The Aggies were only 1 of 2.
“The 17 turnovers in the first half was the difference in the ballgame,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “I ran seven different plays and they made (baskets on) six of them. Then, they upped the defensive pressure.
“Overall, this is the best game we’ve played, and we lost. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to play them when it counts.”
After getting even again at 21 on Loyd’s three-pointer, the Fighting Irish grabbed the lead on Diggins’ basket. Natalie Achonwa scored eight straight points to go ahead 36-30 with 3:16 left.
The Aggies took a 48-46 lead following seven consecutive points by Bone shortly before the Fighting Irish’s 13-0 run. The Aggies got no closer than 65-60, after another basket by Bone, the rest of the way.
“We had a lot of trouble guarding her,” McGraw said of Bone.
Achonwa made two free throws to give the Fighting Irish a 74-65 lead with 4:38 left, and Diggins followed with her lone 3-pointer of the game.
“The three, I thought, was the dagger,” McGraw said.