Sweet Dreams in Pieces: Notre Dame Crashes Out

055Much will be written about Skylar Diggins’s legacy at Notre Dame in the coming days. Today, though, is for dissecting last night’s disappointing loss to UConn in New Orleans in the Women’s Basketball Final Four. UConn will go on to face Louisville on Tuesday, while Notre Dame will clean out their lockers, wonder what could have been, and what is to come. Sure, there are incredible bright spots on Irish horizons. Today, though, the seas between are disturbed.

 Coach Muffet McGraw’s Fighting Irish gave as good as they got against Geno Auriemma’s Huskies for the first fifty combined points. ND was up 26-25 with 3:44 to go in the first half when things went pear-shaped for the Irish. The half ended with Notre Dame down 39-29 and everyone wondering what happened to Skylar Diggins.

Notre Dame’s talismanic leader, Skylar Diggins was as cold last night as a mint julep cup. Limited to two points on free throws in the first, she finished her career with just ten points on a sorry 3-15 from the field. Despite her defense, 4 steals and 3 blocks, and distribution, 8 assists, she was unable to get anything going.

063After that 26-25 lead was lost, nothing worked last night for ND, who never got closer than six points distant from the rampant Huskies in the second half. Swaths of time melted from the clock as Irish shots missed their mark. With the final seconds dripping away, Notre Dame ultimately crumbled and lost, 83-65.

In a city where stories are written as freely and as fast as sazeracs are poured, two freshmen penned new chapters in their teams’ legends. For UConn, Brenna Stewart led all scorers, hanging 29 points on the Irish and giving them fits on the defensive end of the court. For Notre Dame, Kayla McBride had the high hand, netting 16 points. Of the fallout from the Big East’s demise, that these two won’t be able to square off regularly is among the most disappointing.
Both teams travelled well. If you watched the early game, in which Louisville clawed back to defeat Cal and punch their ticket into the final, you saw that only about eleven people were able to free themselves from the Crescent City’s embrace and make it to the Arena. By the time the Irish tipped off, UConn and Notre Dame had sizeable contingents who were in full throat. The pregame festivities, put on by the Alumni Association and the Monogram Club, were well-attended and Ruth Reily and other former players signing autographs and mingling with the fans.

It was a disappointing showing by the Irish and by Diggins in particular. She’s the most decorated and accomplished female athlete in Irish history, with a successful professional career all but guaranteed. Last night’s defeat will not dull her legacy’s lustre or the affection South Bend and Notre Dame have for their hometown hero. Still, in the light of the day after, as crumpled ticket stubs swirl in the eddies along the muddy waters of the Mississippi, something feels that the Irish left something on the table last night and failed to rise to the moment.

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  • brentsn

    I’m still heartbroken. This turned out to be my favorite ND team all time,ever,in any sport. I think Muffet got here in ’87 ? I’ve been following close and going to games since the early 90’s. Women’s bb was not very popular then. They had ticket give aways often and attendance figures were in the hundreds , not thousands. Sometimes low hundreds.But the program kept getting better and better.With the recruits of Beth Morgan and Katryna Gaither,a corner was turned.The first final four in ’97 was an exciting big deal. When I first saw Ruth Riley as a freshman,she looked a little clumbsy and didnt play much at first , but I remember thinking I can’t wait until she’s a senior. To watch her improvement over four years along with the rest of the program was incredibly so much fun and made me so proud.Sheila McMillen was my first favorite player,then it was Niele Ivey and she’s still my favorite over all. I’m thrilled she is a coach here. I moved to Kentucky in ’03. In ’07 , I moved back to South Bend in ’07 to help care for ailing parents in their eighties.Those 4 years I never made it back to SB. It was a horrible feeling waking up and going to work on football saturdays in Paducah KY,when you lived almost all your life somewhere very close to ND campus! In ’07 basketball was pretty solid , football not so much. I moved back in late July , Sept. I was at the Georgia Tech fb game. Thats a whole other story. I got right back into going to games and fed my addiction and obsession to ND sports. These last 3 years were remarkable for NDWBB. In ’11 we surprised everyone , beat Tennessee and then Uconn in the tourney and reached the finals. ’12 we lost Becca,Brittany came back for 5th yr and it was supposed to be our year. My girls didn’t disappoint. Made it to the finals again and ran into the Griner/Baylor buzz saw. I expected a less successful ’13 losing 4 seniors , 3 of them starters , along with probably starting a freshman.But then I saw the continuing to improve Achonwa plus we still had Kaymac and Sky.Then we also had Maddy Cable coming back from an injury. I was excited for a competitive year. I was hoping for maybe 6-8 losses and possibly a sweet sixteen appearance. WOW , nobody told Muffet and the troops. As the year went on , I became so emotionally involved with this team , like none I ever have before.Muffet’s 600 ND wins,her 700 total wins and record after record all year long to go along with win after win after win ! Sky 2,000 points , eventually several all time records and 1,000 points to KayMac and Ace.We stayed with Baylor until the last 5 or 6 minutes. The game was closer than the 12 pt loss suggested. I left that game feeling really good. I did not expect to reel off the next 30 games as wins !! We all know how hard it is to beat a good team 3 times in one year. Well we did and it was Uconn !! Undefeated Big East Champions , first time ever Big East tourney champs! What this team accomplished was absolutely I N C R E D I B L E !!!! Big East coach , player and freshman of the year. National coach of the year ! Awards and records and wins all year long. I admired my overachieving girls more with every game. The Queen of South Bend , Skylar is everything ND wants in a student/athlete. Being that she’s from SB (like me , my home girl)made me even more emotional over her accomplishments. I watched her play at SB Washington , my mom’s alma mater. Im so proud of her and our olympian with 19 double/doubles and KayMac and actually EVERY student/athlete on this team. EACH and EVERY one. Jewell B. was amazing, Maddy was so impressve ,Michaela popin 3’s , Whitney grabbing rebounds (yes Whitney!), the play of Markisha & Ariel , the leadership and clutch play of Kaila , I was just as excited when Hannah scored like I am at beginning of game. EVERYBODY stepped up and the freshmen did alot more than just contribute. I’m still heartbroken from Sunday nights loss. But this is my favorite ND team , all time , any sport. Thank you NDWBB , I love you. My heartbreak is slowly turning to excitement for next year. I can’t wait for Taya , Lindsay , Kristina and Diamond to get here. I wouldn’t trade one player out of all that have played for Muffet for 10 championships. I know the 4 freshmen will fit right in and be exceptional student/athletes. Thats what Muffet and her staff do. CONGRATS to one of the most awesome years NDWBB !