INDIANAPOLIS - It's not often Maya Moore meets her match. Skylar Diggins was up to the task, and Notre Dame will play for a national championship because of it.
The sensational sophomore guard scored 28 points and hot-shooting Notre Dame upset top-seeded UConn, 72-63, on Sunday night, ending the brilliant career of Moore and the Huskies’ quest for a third consecutive national championship.
Ten years after their last title, the Irish will be playing for another one Tuesday night against Texas A&M, which beat Stanford in the other semifinal. This will be the first title game without a No. 1 seed since 1994.
Connecticut and Stanford had each been to the Final Four the past four seasons and were expected to meet for the title on Tuesday night in a rematch of last year’s title game.
While UConn won that meeting, the Cardinal ended UConn’s record 90-game winning streak Dec. 30.
“This is what women’s basketball needs,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “It needs regional finals, national semifinal and national final games like this to sometimes wake up America.”
Notre Dame was 0-3 against its Big East rival this season, but the Irish had all the answers against the Huskies, who lost for the second time in three seasons. The Irish already had beaten Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, ending a 20-game skid against the Volunteers.
Now the Irish (31-7) have knocked out the two-time defending champions.
Moore finished with 36 points, including 12 in a row as she tried to rally the Huskies in the final six minutes, but it wasn’t enough for UConn (36-2).
“I don’t know that you could wish for somebody better to spend four years with,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of Moore. “I don’t think she needs to hang her head one bit.”
The four-time All-American was overshadowed by Diggins, the South Bend native who felt right at home in Conseco Fieldhouse, where she led her high school to three championships.
Calmly directing her offense and fearlessly driving into the lane to create chances for herself and her teammates, Diggins now has a chance to add a NCAA championship to that list.
“We had to be poised, I mean, we had to try to make Maya take tough shots, and I think she did,” Diggins said.
Trailing 34-26 early in the second half, Diggins’ three-point play started a 15-4 run by the Irish. Devereaux Peters’ added her own three-point play that gave Notre Dame a 38-37 advantage — its first lead since midway through the first half.