Much 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.
After 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.