BIG EAST teams went 4-1 on Sunday, including No. 3/3 Notre Dame’s 92-83 win over No. 8/7 Kentucky on ESPNU. No. 2/2 UConn lost at No. 1/1 Baylor 66-61 in a nationally televised ESPN tilt.
Skylar Diggins made her only 3-pointer of the game and then forced a turnover as Notre Dame (10-1) used an 11-0 run to finish off Kentucky, handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Not only did the Irish snap Kentucky’s 10-game winning streak, which was tied for second-best in the country, they avenged a loss last season in Lexington, Ky., in the first meeting between the teams.
“The pride thing kicked in,” Diggins said. “This was such a big game for us personally because we lost last year, we’re at home and it’s a very good team. All those things. We wanted to win.”
Irish senior Natalie Novosel, a Lexington native, led five Irish players in double figures with 23 points, while Diggins (16 points, 11 assists) and graduate student Devereaux Peters (13 points, 13 rebounds) each had double-doubles. Notre Dame has now won seven straight since losing to top-ranked Baylor.
In Waco, Texas, the Lady Bears overcame an 11-point deficit in the final 13 minutes for a 66-61 victory over Connecticut (9-1) and their second win in a No. 1-vs.-2 game in less than a month.
Junior Brittany Griner scored 12 of her 25 points in a closing 27-11 spurt for the Lady Bears (11-0) when she also made all six of her free throws. The 6-foot-8 All-America pick also finished with nine rebounds and nine blocked shots.
The Huskies had Baylor facing its largest deficit of the season after three consecutive 3-pointers—two by their new No. 23, freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis—put them up 50-39.
“For about 35 minutes there, I felt we were good enough to win the game,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “There was a 5-minute stretch there, maybe even less than that, where I thought Baylor and their aggressiveness and intensity level kind of took over the momentum.”
Bria Hartley led Connecticut with 25 points, Mosqueda-Lewis had 15 and Tiffany Hayes 10.
Auriemma got a nice ovation when he came on the court about 4 minutes before tipoff in UConn’s first trip to Waco. He responded by returning the applause to the crowd.
“I don’t think there are going to be a lot of teams that come in here and be up 11 and do what we did to them for long stretches of the game,” Auriemma said. “I think in a lot of other ways we leave here with a pretty good understanding of where we need to be as a team. I think both teams come out of it feeling pretty good. I don’t see any downside to the way this game was played.”
In Piscataway, N.J., Rutgers (10-2) turned in its best defensive effort of the season as it beat Iona 62-29. After holding the Gaels to 15 first-half points, RU limited Iona to just 14 second-half points, including just two field goals.
April Sykes scored 18 points to lead the Scarlet Knights offense. Rutgers let a 23-15 halftime lead dwindle to four, missing 11 of its first 12 shots to start the second half. But then the freshmen took over.
Betnijah Laney started the game-changing run, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner with 11:21 left. Then classmates Shakena Richardson and Syessence Davis pitched in as Rutgers closed the game with a 36-7 surge. Richardson had nine points during the spurt and Davis added five. Laney’s three-point play made it 52-29 with 4:59 left.
“It’s great to have them step up,” Sykes said of the freshmen. “They have energy. It’s great to see them grasping things on the offensive and defensive side. It showed in the last 10 minutes of the game.”
“We’re going to be a team that plays all types of things on defense,” Stringer said. “Christmas holiday will afford us a chance to get better defensively and offensively for sure.”
Elsewhere around the league, St. John’s (7-5) beat Memphis 64-60 to capture the St. John’s-Chartwells Holiday Classic at Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first half and never looked back.
St. John’s junior Shenneika Smith scored 18 points, and helped give Memphis its first loss in seven games. Smith shot 8-of-14 in the contest, with 14 points in the first half. Fellow guard Eugeneia McPherson recorded her seventh-straight game in double digits as she finished with 13 points.
McPherson, who had 20 points against Prairie View A&M in Saturday’s opening round of games, earned her the Mrs. Eleanor Taffner Tournament MVP award. The junior averaged 16.5 points per game in tournament play. Smith was also named to the All-Tournament team, as well as senior forward Da’Shena Stevens, who had 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in the Holiday Classic final.
With the victory, St. John's is 8-0 in its Holiday Classic. The Red Storm also improved to 6-1 at Carnesecca Arena, winning the last five games at home after losing the season-opener to St. Bonaventure.
In addition, Syracuse (8-3) beat Xavier 70-67 in Las Vegas. Double-doubles by Carmen Tyson-Thomas and Kayla Alexander, along with 17 second-half points from Iasia Hemingway thwarted a Xavier comeback attempt and gave SU a victory in the opening game of the Duel In The Desert at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
The Orange continues play in Las Vegas on Monday when it faces Oklahoma in a 5:30 p.m. ET tip-off.
Material from interviews, school websites, the Associated Press wire service as well as league and team sources was used in this report.