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After 28 years, Irish win first vs. Vols

From left, Brittany Mallory, region MVP Skylar Diggins and Devereaux Peters celebrate as Notre Dame improves to 1-20 against Tennessee.

Associated Press

From left, Brittany Mallory, region MVP Skylar Diggins and Devereaux Peters celebrate as Notre Dame improves to 1-20 against Tennessee.

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NCAA Women's Tournament Round of 16

Region semifinals and finals Semifinal Championship Semifinal Region semifinals and finals
PHILADELPHIA Region 1. Connecticut 68 1. Stanford 72 SPOKANE, Wash., Region
1. Connecticut FINAL FOUR: CONSECO FIELDHOUSE, INDIANAPOLIS 1. Stanford 83
5. Georgetown 63 5. North Carolina 65
7 tonight, ESPN 1. Stanford
3. DePaul 63 11. Gonzaga 76
2. Duke 11. Gonzaga 60
2. Duke 70 Sunday 7. Louisville 69
April 5, ESPN Sunday
DAYTON, Ohio, Region 1. Tennessee 85 1. Baylor 86 DALLAS Region
1. Tenn. 59 1. Baylor
4. Ohio State 75 5. Wis.-Green Bay 76
2. Notre Dame 9 tonight, ESPN
6. Oklahoma 53 6. Georgia 38
2. N. Dame 73 2. Texas A&M
2. Notre Dame 78 2. Texas A&M 79


DAYTON, Ohio — The wait was certainly worth it for Notre Dame.

Skylar Diggins scored 24 and the second-seeded Fighting Irish made up for 28 years of beatings at the hands of Tennessee, upsetting the top-seeded Vols 73-59 on Monday night to earn a spot in the Final Four.

The Fighting Irish (30-7) came in 0-20 all time against the Vols. But the operative number on this night was 3-0 — Notre Dame's record in region championship games. The Irish are headed to the Final Four for the first time since 2001, when they won the national championship.

"We went into the locker room after the game and the first thing the team said was, '1 and 20! 1 and 20!' " coach Muffet McGraw said, laughing.

Natalie Novosel added 17 points and Becca Bruszewski — who didn't practice Sunday and was listed as questionable with a knee injury — had 13 for the Fighting Irish. Brittany Mallory chipped in with 10.

Notre Dame will play the winner of tonight's game between Connecticut and Duke.

"We're definitely cheering for the Big East," McGraw said, referring to UConn. "We'd like to have two Final Four teams from the Big East."

Taber Spani and Shekinna Stricklen had 13 points for the Vols (34-3).

"I'm so excited, I'm out of breath," said Diggins, who as a middle-schooler helped her father, Tiger, coach recreation league youth teams in Clearwater. She was named the region's most outstanding player.

Freshman Meighan Simmons, Tennessee's leading scorer at 13.8 points a game, was in foul trouble and was scoreless until the waning minutes, finishing with two points. Senior Angie Bjorklund, the program's all-time 3-point shooter and this season's fourth-leading scorer at 11 points a game, didn't score in the semifinal win over Ohio State and had one point against Notre Dame.

"Obviously I'm very upset; I'm very disappointed in our team," Vols coach Pat Summitt said. "I don't think we came here with the focus. Don't ask me why. I'm kind of at a loss for words."

Tennessee, down five at the half, picked up two quick baskets by Stricklen, but the Fighting Irish scored on five of their next six possessions — Diggins hit two 3s and a long jumper and assisted on Bruszewski's short shot and on Novosel's spinning reverse layup.

That swelled the lead to 41-32 — and the sea of orange at the University of Dayton Arena got nervous.

With Spani twice hitting 3s, the Vols remained in contact, but Diggins came up with big plays time and time again. She drove the lane and flipped in a lefty layup with 11:16 left to keep Notre Dame in charge, 49-41.

"She was terrific, without any doubt the best guard on the floor," Summitt said of Diggins. "She energizes that team. She was the real force."

Stricklen choked up afterward.

"We just didn't show up," she said. "We didn't have leaders step up."

During one physical exchange, Tennessee's Kelley Cain was fouled by Bruszewski as they both fell, and Cain was called for a technical after she got up, stared down at Bruszewski and said something.

After Novosel hit both technical shots and Cain hit one of her free throws, the Irish pulled away.

Stanford 83, gonzaga 60: Nnemkadi Ogwumike dominated inside with 23 points and 11 rebounds, sister Chiney scored 18, and the top-seeded Cardinal (33-2) advanced to its fourth straight Final Four by beating the 11th-seeded Zags in Spokane, Wash.

The Ogwumikes combined for 11 offensive rebounds and 26 total, beating Gonzaga's total of 25.

Gonzaga (31-5) started the second half missing 11 of 12 shots as Stanford's lead ballooned to 21 on the way to a 27th straight win to match the longest streak in school history.

"Some people might take this for granted, but we're very grateful to be going," said Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen, who joins Kayla Pedersen playing in all of the Final Fours.

In her last game for Gonzaga, Courtney Vandersloot scored 25, including 18 straight during a nine-minute stretch in the first half.

"In the second half, we weren't getting the shots we were in the first half, and things just started to go Stanford's way," Vandersloot said.

After 28 years, Irish win first vs. Vols 03/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 12:11am]
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