Irish Have Huskies' Number Again, 96-87 (3 OT)

Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins pressures UConn guard Bria Hartley Monday night in South Bend, Ind. (Patrick Raycraft)

First, it was an aberration. Then it was a coincidence. By the end of last year it was definitely a trend.

Come Monday, it had become a legitimate annoyance.

Notre Dame's success against UConn had made its point. Losing five of six over the past three seasons against a top rival — including two national semifinals — can toss you and turn you.

So as much as Monday's showdown with the Irish at Purcell Pavilion was about sharing the conference title with them, it was really more about re-establishing a positive train of thought for UConn heading into the postseason.

And what happened here was historic, certainly for the women's game, still so littered with ordinary teams.

Not these two. Equally matched, equally inspired, equally resilient, they battled through three overtimes before the Irish prevailed, 96-87.

"I guess you can see that we are not too good at sharing [the conference title]," said Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins.

It was the first triple overtime game ever for both programs.

"I was incredibly pleased with my team's resiliency, its refusal to lose," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We were done at the end of regulation and the first overtime."

Notre Dame (28-1, 16-0) closes out an undefeated conference season and clinches the first seed in this weekend's Big East tournament in Hartford. It's 23rd straight win ties a program record.

UConn (27-3, 14-2) is the second seed. And for that it can blame 35 turnovers (10 in three OTs) and errant free-throw shooting in the three overtimes (7-of-13).

"How do I explain the turnovers?" Auriemma said. "I don't know. I guess we're not any good. … We need to protect the ball better and we didn't do it. And unless we do a better job of it, this is going to be it for us."

By the end, UConn was without Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. Notre Dame was missing Kayla McBride. All had fouled out.

So Notre Dame freshman Jewel Loyd (six points, 54 minutes) and Diggins rolled off six straight points in the third OT to revive the Irish.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led UConn with 26 points in 55 minutes. Kelly Faris scored 21 with 13 rebounds in 53 minutes.

Stefanie Dolson scored 12 points with 11 rebounds, but completed a reverse triple-double with 11 turnovers. Bria Hartley added 10 points.

Diggins (29 points, 11 of 31) played 55 minutes. McBride (26 points, 11 of 28) and Diggins combined for 55 points and 59 shots of Notre Dame's 89 shots.

"If you don't do the little things you need to do at the right time to put yourself into position to win … we couldn't finish it off," Auriemma said.

This was a wonderful game, played primarily in half-court, the teams trading screens, whipping the ball around, dipping shoulders looking for space and good scoring chances.

Tied at 64 after regulation, Breanna Stewart ( five points, 40 minutes) missed the front end of a penalty situation then Natalie Achonwa hit two free throws to pull the Irish within 70-66 with 1:47 to play.