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Diggins sets Irish career scoring record in regional blowout

The SportsXchange

NORFOLK, Va. -- Big game. Center stage. Time for a big-time player to step up.

Women's college basketball has no greater prime-time player than Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

The 5-foot-9 senior guard finished with 27 points and became Notre Dame's career scoring leader in leading the No. 1 seed Irish to a 93-63 victory over 12th-seeded Kansas in the semifinal round of the Norfolk Regional in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame (34-1) will return to action Tuesday night against No. 2 seed Duke (33-2), a 53-45 winner over No. 6 Nebraska Sunday, for a berth in the Final Four.

Diggins passed current Irish assistant Beth (Morgan) Cunningham's career record (2,322, 1993-97) after making a 10-foot jumper with 7:48 left in the second half when the outcome was all but decided. Diggins has scored 2,323 points in 148 games; Cunningham played in 126.

Once she got the record, Diggins retired to the bench. She also had nine assists.

"I had forgotten all about (the record)," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "I was looking to sub her out about the eight-minute timeout. It kind of hit me (that she might be close)."

Once McGraw received the updated numbers, she barked an order to Diggins.

"I said (to Diggins), 'You're coming out in 30 seconds, so you might as well get one more (basket),'" McGraw said.

As good as done.

"Coach McGraw told me to score two more points," Diggins said. "I didn't really know what it meant, but I just said to myself, 'OK.' When I took the shot, I just kind of said, 'OK, coach.'"

Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said, "She's as good as advertised. She took over, took control of the game."

Leading by 13 at intermission, Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run early in the second half to go up by 26 at 62-36.

A Notre Dame line normally much more balanced in scoring was decidedly lopsided on Easter Sunday. It was Diggins ... and everybody else.

That's the way the tournament has been so far. Jewell Loyd was dominant against Tennessee-Martin. Kayla McBride was the offensive leader against Iowa.

Natalie Achonwa, who had just one point at halftime, finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds against Kansas (20-14). Loyd had 15 points and McBride scored 13.

Carolyn Davis led Kansas with 25 points. Monica Engelman had 10 points and Angel Goodrich had seven points and 13 assists.

"Davis was a tough matchup for us," McGraw said. "She played really well."

Notre Dame is making a bid for its third straight appearance in the national championship game. Two years ago, the Irish lost to Texas A&M. Last year, they fell to Baylor.

"My previous experience in the tournament and big games has helped me as well as my teammates," Diggins said. "We play in the Big East Conference where it feels like every game is a tournament-caliber game."

Diggins took charge in the first half and gave Notre Dame the breathing room it needed.

Midway through the half, Diggins went on a 9-0 run by herself to turn a one-point deficit into an eight-point advantage -- a lead the Irish never surrendered.

"We locked down on defense and we wanted to string together a series of stops," Diggins said of the defense that fueled the spurt.

McGraw said, "We switched matchups. We changed over-guarding the ball screen."

The All-American Diggins scored 22 first-half points, leading Notre Dame to a 40-27 advantage at the break.

The game was a bit dicey for the Irish early. Kansas wasn't about to roll over because it was a prohibitive underdog. The Jayhawks' inside presence with the 6-foot-3 Davis gave the Irish plenty of problems. Davis had 14 first-half points and her length on defense made several Notre Dame post players alter their shots.

Kansas hit seven of its first nine shots from the field, and for the first time in its three tournament games, the Irish fell behind briefly. A 3-pointer by Engelman gave Kansas a 13-9 lead about eight minutes into the first half. From there, Diggins loaded Notre Dame on her shoulders and carried the Irish to the Elite Eight.

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