Huskies Lose Another Battle To The Irish, 61-59

Skylar Diggins, right, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beat the UConn women's basketball team in the Big East Tournament final at the XL Center Tuesday night. (RICH MESSINA)

When the history of Big East women's basketball is written it will be in the form of a novella. Even after all these years, the story is niche reading.

But thankfully, the last chapter will be devoted to the last three years of conference life, the wonder years, when Notre Dame and UConn lifted the Big East and staged a compelling, important, historic series that died at the hands of BCS bullies.

It was fun. It was emotional. And it ended Tuesday.

It ended with another championship game, the third straight between the programs, ranked second and third in the nation.

And this time, for the first time, the trophy went to Notre Dame.

After so much disappointment against UConn prior to the 2010-11 season, the Irish ended the rivalry in complete domination of it.

Led by their tremendous guards, Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride, the Irish completed a three-game season sweep of UConn with a 61-59 win before 9,085 at the XL Center in the final Big East tournament championship game they will ever play in.

"What can I say other than I feel really bad for these guys," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "After putting ourselves in a big hole, we played an amazing second half."

But not one without its flaws.

Irish center Natalie Achonwa, playing with four fouls, took a pass from Skylar Diggins after a steal from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and scored with two seconds to play.

"We tried to foul [Diggins] three times," Auriemma said. "It took a long time for the officials not to call a foul [on UConn in the series against Notre Dame]. They picked the worst time. Three times we fouled her. We just didn't want to make it look intentional."

It was the fourth turnover in the final 4:43 for the Huskies, who also shot 0-for-5 from three — their first perimeter shutout since the national championship game against Oklahoma in 2002.

"Our three-point defense was fantastic," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.

The win was the seventh in the last eight games for Notre Dame against UConn, hard to believe about a program that's won seven national championships since 1995.

McBride led the Irish (31-1) with 23 points (11-of-25). Jewell Loyd added 16. Diggins scored 12 with six assists and five steals.

"It was just an amazing game," McGraw said.

The guards took 52 of the 63 shots the Irish attempted and scored 51 of their points.

UConn was led by Stefanie Dolson (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Breanna Stewart, who scored 16.

"It was a very emotional game and we thought we had it in our hands," Stewart said.

The Irish, who have won 26 straight since losing to No. 1 Baylor, spotted UConn the game's first four points, the first hoop coming off the opening tip when Stewart flicked the ball to Bria Hartley for a layup.