April 7, 2013 in Sports

Irish women look for win No. 4 over UConn in Final 4

Doug Feinberg Associated Press
 
Women’s Final Four

At New Orleans

Semifinals, today

• Louisville (28-8) vs. California (32-3), 3:30 p.m.

• Notre Dame (35-1) vs. Connecticut (33-4), 5:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN Radio: 1510-AM

 Championship

• Semifinal winners, Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS – Skylar Diggins has accomplished nearly everything she could have imagined in her career at Notre Dame. The only thing missing is a national championship.

To get another chance at that elusive title, Diggins will have to help the Fighting Irish women beat Big East rival Connecticut for an unprecedented fourth straight time this season.

“It would mean a lot,” Diggins said. “I say this over and over – not only to me but to our team and our program, the city of South Bend who have been supporting me my whole life. The opportunity is here now.”

These two teams have had the best rivalry in the sport over the past few years, and tonight’s meeting might be the final chapter with Notre Dame heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

This year the two schools played three thrilling games, with Notre Dame coming out on top by margins of one point, two points and in triple overtime.

“We came out of each game with ‘Wow, we didn’t play well,’ ” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “We can do a lot better. We learned a lot from each game since they were so close. We don’t have that feeling of we’ve beaten them so easily.”

Louisville vs. Cal

Louisville has really relished being the underdog. So much so that coach Jeff Walz doesn’t want to hear about how the Cardinals have that team-of-destiny air about them heading into the women’s Final Four.

Yet, is there any other way to see Louisville after it derailed AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and defending national champ Baylor, and then upset Tennessee?

Surely they couldn’t be the underdogs against Final Four newcomer California. Don’t tell that to Walz.

California, Walz noted, “is a team that’s 32-3, that beat Stanford. … They’re a great basketball team, so we’re going to have to figure out a way.”

The Golden Bears were the No. 2 seed in the Spokane region and did not have to play their Pac-12 rivals, top-seeded Stanford in the NCAA tournament. Georgia took care of the Cardinal in the regional semifinal. The Lady Bulldogs also led Cal late in regulation before the Bears stormed back to force overtime and pull out a three-point victory.

“I definitely agree that a lot has to go right in order to get to this point, but I also think there’s a huge impact that our players have in making things go right,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “The teams that were in front of us at each stage were really formidable and we had to get the job done.”

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