Women’s basketball loses Top 10 rematch against Notre Dame 71-67

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Skylar Diggins scored 19 points to help No. 10 Notre Dame beat No. 9 DePaul 71-67 on Monday night in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.The Irish will face top-seeded Connecticut on Tuesday night for the championship in a rematch of the famous 2001 final in which Sue Bird hit a jumper at the buzzer for the Huskies.

Notre Dame (26-6) hasn’t been back to the title game since.

Trailing 65-64 with 1:43 left, Diggins hit a lay-in to give the Irish a one-point lead. After Sam Quigley missed a lay-in, Diggins found Natalie Achonwa for a basket to make it 68-65.

Keisha Hampton got DePaul (27-6) within one with 27.6 left.

Diggins hit one of two free throws and Hampton turned it over on the next possession. Brittany Mallory hit two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to seal the win.

Hampton scored 31 points for DePaul.

Connecticut beat Rutgers 75-51 in the first semifinal. It’s not often that a UConn game feels like a warm-up act, but as has often been the case over the last few years the Huskies pretty much had it decided by the half.

DePaul and Notre Dame have built quite the rivalry over the past few seasons. Five of the last seven meetings have been decided by five points or less for the Midwestern schools who are a short 2-hour drive apart.

The two teams met last Monday with the Blue Demons rallying for a 70-69 victory as Felicia Chester hit a shot with just under 6 seconds left. That gave them the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

The semifinal game was more of the same. Each time one team would make a run, the other responded. There were 11 lead changes in the second half alone.

Notre Dame erased a six-point halftime deficit and took its own six-point lead, 57-51.

DePaul battled back to tie the game at 57 on Hampton’s free throw with 7:25 left.

The teams traded leads over the next five minutes.

The Irish led 61-60 when Becca Bruszewski got fouled on a lay-in. She limped off the court to the locker room and Natalie Novosel made one of the two free throws with 3:39 left to make it a two-point game.

Hampton responded with a three-point play to give the Blue Demons a 63-62 advantage. After Diggins hit two free throws, Hampton had another layup to make it 65-64 with 1:43 left.

The Irish lost to Connecticut twice during the regular season, including a 79-76 home defeat.

Notre Dame jumped out to a 9-0 lead as DePaul missed its first eight shots and turned the ball over five times. Hampton finally got them on the board 5 minutes in.

Trailing 17-10 midway through the first half, DePaul went on a 23-10 run to close out the period. Sam Quigley, Hampton and Deirdre Naughton combined for 19 of the points.

Quigley got it started with a 3-pointer and pull-up jumper. Katherine Harry’s runner in the lane gave DePaul its first lead of the game at 20-19. After Skylar Diggins hit a jumper the Blue Demons scored 11 of the next 14 points to take a 31-24 advantage.

They led 33-27 at the half.

DePaul extended its lead to seven before Notre Dame rallied behind Devereaux Peters. She scored five straight points to give the Irish a 45-43 lead with 14 minutes left in the game.

The Blue Demons went up 48-45 before Notre Dame went on a 12-3 run to take a 57-51 advantage.

Peters finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.

DePaul was trying to advance to its first title game.