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Notre Dame

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Associated Press
Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins is defended by Providence’s Danielle Pearson on Saturday.

Irish clinch share of Big East crown

– Notre Dame enters the biggest game of the regular season with its two best players playing their best basketball.

Skylar Diggins scored 28 points and Kayla McBride added 24 as the second-ranked Irish clinched a share of their second straight Big East regular-season title with a 92-57 rout of Providence on Saturday.

Natalie Achonwa chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds for the Irish (27-1, 15-0 Big East), who extended their winning streak to 22 games.

“How could we be anything but happy right now,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “This team has overachieved all season, and I’m just thrilled with where we are right now.”

Notre Dame will look to win the regular-season outright Monday at home in a showdown with No. 3 Connecticut. The Huskies can gain a piece of the title with a win.

“We don’t want to share it,” said McBride, who has combined with Diggins to score 101 points in their wins this week over Syracuse and Providence.

McBride hit 10 of her 15 shots from the field Saturday. Diggins was 8 of 15.

“At this point, right before the Big East tournament, you want to be playing well,” she said. “It’s coming down to the grind. Your body is a little more sore and so we are just trying to come out here and have some fun.”

Symone Roberts had 22 points for Providence (7-21, 2-13), which has lost six straight and 13 of its last 15 games.

The Irish led by 20 points at halftime and opened the second half on a 10-2 run.

Notre Dame shot better than 52 percent from the floor and hit seven of its 15 shots from three-point range. Diggins had four of those on seven attempts.

Notre Dame also outrebounded Providence 51-21.

The back-to-back regular-season titles are the first for the Irish since they won what is now the Horizon League back in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

“That’s special, especially for Coach McGraw,” Diggins said. “And my senior year, going out of the Big East, the best conference in America, to have that title and to represent that is good. But we’ve still got a lot to do.”

The 22-game winning streak is the second longest in school history, just behind the 23-game run the school went on to open its 2000-01 national title campaign. The win also was their 19th straight in Big East regular-season play.

The Irish have turned the rivalry with UConn into a one-sided affair lately, winning five of the past six meetings, including a 73-72 win at Connecticut on Jan. 5.

“Monday it will be to win the Big East outright, so we want to play well because that looks good on our resume,” Diggins said.

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