Diggins scored 22 points and had five steals in the fourth-ranked Irish’s 80-58 win over USC on Friday in the Junkanoo Jam tournament.
“No turnovers for Skylar,” McGraw said. “That’s incredible, against some great pressure, and she had the ball so much. We really wanted to keep the ball in her hands today, because she was really making things happen. For a while, she was the only one who was scoring. I was really, really pleased with just her game management. I thought she ran the team extremely well.”
Natalie Novosel added 17 points for the Irish (4-1), who will play No. 7 Duke on Saturday night in the championship game.
“I’m just trying to stay steady through frustration, through adversity, through any situation,” Diggins said. “I was trying to set the tone. (Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey) and I had a conversation before the game about defensive pressure. I said, I feel like I haven’t had a great defensive pressure game since my freshman year.’ She said, This is where you can get back to it.”’
Notre Dame turned up its defense and held USC (1-3) to one field goal over the final 7:34 of the first half. The Irish led 42-30 at the break as Diggins had 16 points. Notre Dame cruised in the second half.
“What gets us going is our defense,” Novosel said. “If we were able to get some defensive stops that turn into easy transition points, it gets us into a better flow offensively.”
The Women of Troy are in the midst of a month-long stretch that will see them play eight of nine games on the road, including six east of the Rocky Mountains. USC began that run last week with losses at Nebraska and No. 10 Georgia.
Ashley Corral scored 17 points to lead USC.
This was the first meeting between the schools since USC beat Notre Dame 69-58 on Nov. 24, 2006. The Irish have won eight of the 10 all-time meetings.
“You’re playing against a top 5 team in the country in Notre Dame,” USC coach Michael Cooper said. “One of the things we wanted to do was come out and get a good start, and I thought we did that. We were able to stay focused. But when you play these elite teams, you have to stay focused for every possession, every minute of the clock. We were able to fight our way back into it, but we knew it was just a matter of time before Notre Dame would try to assert its will on us. They did that. We played well, but it shows you why they are one of the top teams in the country.”