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March 12, 2013

Natalie Achonwa

Skylar Diggins

Kayla McBride

Muffet McGraw


Notre Dame: 61
UConn: 59

THE MODERATOR:  We welcome Notre Dame.  Joining us is Muffet McGraw, junior guard Skylar Diggins, junior guard Kayla McBride and junior forward Natalie Achonwa, Coach?
COACH McGRAW:¬† Unbelievable game, I thought the bench did a great job of keeping us in it and getting the lead and then when Natalie got her third I thought we were in trouble rebounding, they had the big team in at that point and I felt Stewart played really well, she had a great game, maybe the best I've seen her play this year and Stefanie Dolson, they were so much on the inside without Natalie Achonwa in there.¬† I thought our 3‑point defense was fantastic, we tried to keep them off the 3‑point, especially Kaleena Mosquesa‑Lewis, but great presence to play that defense and come up with the steal and for Sky to find Natalie under the basket, what an incredible finish.

Q.  Skyler, how conscious were you of how much time was left when you got the ball?
SKYLAR DIGGINS:  I think I glanced when I first got it, I saw like eight on the steal or something like that.  I tried to drive it down the court.  That's the fastest I've seen Natalie tryin' to run down the court to get the ball. I was trying to draw the foul, but they let it go.  I'm glad they let it go and Natalie was just there, Jewls was on they other side, I saw Ace, and I just threw it to her, she made it.

Q.  Skyler, I was going to ask, it looked like you got quite a bit of contact.  Can you talk about how you kept going?  Because it looked like they hesitated when Bria Hartley hit you.
SKYLAR DIGGINS:  I think they thought the foul was coming and I'm glad they let it go.  I got to see the replay but I had the presence of mind to start out and it gave me options and she called my name at the end and I looked up and saw Natalie and she finished.

Q.  Skyler, you guys were never able to finish this off and how great is it to get the monkey off your back?
SKYLAR DIGGINS:¬† It's great for our program.¬† I'm excited about going into the tournament with the way our bench stepped up.¬† The way Kayla McBride put the team on her back, the way Jewl played fighting through adversity.¬† You know Ace had four fouls, she could have put her head down and you know, been out of it, but she stayed in it, she came in and made the game‑winning shot.¬† This means a lot for our team.¬† I think this is our coming of age.¬† We fought through adversity and this is a great win for our program and for Coach McGraw.

Q.  Coach, I guess seventh time is the charm.  What are your feelings?  It looked like it was going to be a route, and now the last Big East Tournament you guys win it, probably one of the most exciting.
COACH McGRAW:¬† It certainly was that.¬† I think it's special because it's the last one, it's nice to leave here champions.¬† To go undefeated for the whole season was a great accomplishment for this team and to overachieve like we did and to win it here makes it even better.¬† Now we're 0‑0 and we have to focus on the NCAA Tournament.

Q.  Kayla, yesterday I asked you about playing more under control as opposed to the first game, now I'm going to ask you about playing against UConn, because it's like you go home and kick husky puppies or something to get ready, because you just owned this game.
KAYLA McBRIDE:  UConn is a great team.  I love playing in big games, and I couldn't do it without any teammates passing the ball, setting good screens, things like that.  It was a great win.

Q.  Natalie, talk about UConn players doing what they did inside and that last play, what was going through your mind when Skyler found you?
NATALIE ACHONWA:  Before that last play Skyler said, "They're tired" and in my head, I've played four minutes, I've got all the energy in the world!  (Laughter.)  And as soon as Sky got that steal at the end I saw her going, and she had done a great job of attacking the ball the whole game, and I saw three or four running to her, and as soon as I saw my man weak out, I was the safety, and I had to get to the basket.

Q.¬† Skyler, Connecticut had zero 3‑point goals today, it's the first time since 2002, a streak without a three‑pointer.¬† Can you talk about the defense you guys played, especially on the perimeter?
SKYLAR DIGGINS:¬† We talked about it before, in transition games we were leaving people open, we left Kaleena Mosquesa‑Lewis open last week, somebody left Kelly open another time.¬† We did a bad job of finding players, and they can shoot the ball.¬† So before the game we said let's hold them under a couple of three's this game, try to play defense and protect the 3‑point line, and that was a total team effort, and I think it started on our communication with the screens did a better job of talking and switching out.¬† I thought that was an improvement from last week.

Q.  Natalie, you always have to defend Stefanie Dolson very hard but tonight you added a new dynamic of Breanna Stewart.  How difficult was that?
NATALIE ACHONWA:  Like Coach said, she had a great game today, her wing span is incredible and that's why she got rebounds over us; we weren't boxing her out enough.  I was trying to get some ball pressure and staying away from Stefanie Dolson in the post, because I had those fouls, and as a team we were helping and recovering really well and at the end of the game I think that's what made the deference.

Q.¬† Coach you hear about Skyler and the leadership and the poise, big plays.¬† Last couple of games she has defended Shimmel, kept her under control and tonight was on Kaleena Mosquesa‑Lewis for a good portion of the night and Bria Hartley when she was hitting.¬† Can you talk about Skylar Diggins as a defender as opposed to the offensive player?
COACH McGRAW:  I thought when they came to Notre Dame our defense improved because she is able to get up on the ball.  A lot of players can't guard the dribble.  She is able to pick 'em up in the backcourt and had a couple of turnovers in the backcourt, but her defense is excellent because she has so much pride.  She does not want to let you score on her.  She is going to fight and battle the screens and do everything she needs to do, but I think she is a great defender.

Q.  When you look at what this team became without Peters, without others, what is Skyler's imprint?
COACH McGRAW:  Her legacy is going to be unmatched and unparalleled for decades to come, what she has done for our program to elevate it like she has and to lose last year's class that was so talented and we relied on so heavily, these two stepped up and this core with Skyler at the helm has been unbelievable.

Q.  Coach, Notre Dame has won seven out of eight meetings with Connecticut now, I think five of those games were decided in the last minute.  Is there a common denominator in there that you've seen?
COACH McGRAW:  You know, I don't think probably either coach feels like we have played well in any of the games.  We have great spurts and certainly great moments, but it's just such a battle, you know?
I think that's the only thing, we start to look at the scouting report and the film and we go, it doesn't matter, it's not going to matter what exactly we're doing because it's just going to be a matter of me against and you we're going to battle and I'm going to box you out and rebound and defend and last man standing wins.

Q.  Sky, you have had a lot of big wins at Notre Dame, you have one that I'm sure you want to get in about three weeks from now.  Where does this one rank?  I thought it was interesting you were the last one to cut down the net.  Where does this rank in your time at Notre Dame?
SKYLAR DIGGINS:  Definitely the freshest in my mind, we had a lot of big ones this year and in my years, versus Tennessee to go to the Final Four, the win against UConn to go to the national championship game, the win at home, and now.  I have had a lot of big wins, but this is definitely up there.
It means a lot not only to me but I know it means a lot to Coach and our program and like I said earlier, you know, my teammates have been stepin' up and I give all the credit to them for just rising to the occasion and really stepping into roles that, you know, they weren't comfortable with at first.  This is a coming of age of this group and I'm so proud of 'em.
COACH McGRAW:  I would like to thank the Big East, it's been an unbelievable run for us, since joining the conference.  It elevated our program, it's been exciting, and we owe a lot to the Big East for where our program is right now. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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