HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Skylar Diggins cut the final strand off the net and twirled it around. Finally, Notre Dame had its first Big East tournament championship.
Six previous times the Irish had played Connecticut in the tournament title game and had fallen in each one, including the previous two. Now in its final Big East title game, the Irish were champions.
``It's special because it's the last one,'' Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ``We leave here champions and go home undefeated. To win it here makes it even better.''
Natalie Achonwa's layup with 1.8 seconds left lifted No. 2 Notre Dame to a 61-59 victory over third-ranked UConn on Tuesday night.
Diggins stole an errant pass from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with 8 seconds left, and after dribbling through a few defenders, found Achonwa for the uncontested lay-in.
Kelly Faris then heaved a desperation attempt from 65 feet that fell harmlessly off the backboard, setting off a wild celebration for the Irish, who have won 26 straight games.
``I've had a lot of big wins in my years here - wins against UConn to go to national championship games, it definitely is up there,'' Diggins said. ``It means a lot not only to me, means a lot to coach and our program.''
The Fighting Irish players, wearing championship hats and T-shirts, set up a dance line to celebrate and did an Irish jig in front of the school band.
``It's great for our program,'' Diggins said. ``I'm excited for the team going into the NCAA tournament. This is our coming of age.''
Now with the Big East title, a national championship is the only thing missing from Diggins' impressive resume.
The Irish (31-1) weren't going to be denied in their final chance to win that elusive Big East conference championship. Their last tournament title came back in 1994 when they ruled the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, now the Horizon League. The win complimented their 16-0 regular season record in the conference this season.CLICK HERE TO READ COMPLETE ARTICLE
Please login using your credentials received by email when you registered.×