Spell Guts with a capital “G.”
Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team didn’t just win the Dayton Regional Monday night.
The Irish imposed their will. Final Four, baby!
In a matter of 40 minutes, Rocky Top became Orange whipped.
Notre Dame’s 73-59 win over Tennessee was a product of determination; a refusal to flinch with the game on the line.
Now that was must-see TV.
It seemed like a game in Knoxville, rather than Dayton. Orange-clad fans, 360 degrees. They got quiet in a hurry.
Tennessee may have held the edge on size, healthy bodies and big-time individual athletes. But Notre Dame was the better team. No question. Case closed.
Credit Irish coach Muffet McGraw with her best coaching job in the last decade. Becca Bruszewski playing on one knee. Natalie Novosel hobbled. Foul trouble for Devereaux Peters. McGraw rolled the dice with her standard seven-player rotation and held their ground with Tennessee’s 11-deep.
But one player stood above the rest: Skylar Diggins.
The sophomore guard’s 24 points and four assists came along with confident game management and a smothering defense.
This was her defining game.
Touted as the nation’s top recruit two years ago, it took a while for her to finally live up to that billing. There have been struggles. Poor shooting nights. Lack of value for the basketball. Defensive lapses.
Monday, it all came together.
“Skylar just has that confidence,” said McGraw. “She was like, ‘I’ve got this.’ She kept looking over like, ‘I’ve got this, don’t worry.’”
That subtle confidence was a big factor in the Irish not buckling to the Tennessee pressure. The Vols owned the boards, 46-34; 22-10 on the offensive glass. That’s all the Irish yielded.
After committing 24 turnovers in Saturday’s win over Oklahoma, Notre Dame tightened up its game, giving the ball away just 16 times Monday.
Most of that was Diggins.
Defensively, Tennessee point guard Meighan Simmons hit just 1-of-11 shots, and the Vols committed 19 turnovers.
Again, mostly Diggins.