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Moments Of The Year — No. 8

This is the fifth installment of our series counting down the 12 most memorable events of the 2012-13 academic year. With the last final exams turned in, it’s time to look back at all the highs and lows of an eventful year in South Bend. These aren’t the best times or the worst times, simply the moments we’ll remember most when looking back.

Skylar Diggins and head coach Muffet McGraw led the Irish to three thrilling wins over UConn this year, including on in the Big East Tournament title game.

8. Lucky Number Seven

March 12, 2013

In Muffet McGraw’s first quarter century as the Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach she won more than 650 games, made 19 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and won a national championship. But up until this March, she had never topped Connecticut in a Big East Tournament.

McGraw’s last chance to win the conference title came in mid-March this year, and her team came through with a dramatic buzzer-beating victory over the Huskies. Junior Natalie Achonwa banked in a layup with less than two seconds to play to break a 59-59 tie and give McGraw’s team its third win of the year over the women’s basketball powerhouse.

Notre Dame and UConn had met six times in the final game of the Big East Tournament before the 2013 matchup, and UConn had won all six. Achonwa’s bucket stopped a late rally from the Huskies, who erased a six-point deficit in the final minutes to bring the game to a tie. They looked poised to take the lead with the last possession of the game when senior guard Skylar Diggins intercepted a wild pass and found Achonwa open up the court.

“I've had a lot of big wins in my years here — wins against UConn to go to national championship games, [this is] definitely is up there,” Diggins said after the game. “It means a lot not only to me, means a lot to coach and our program.”

Diggins scored 12 points and added six assists, a modest performance by her standards during her four-year career in South Bend. Fellow guard Kayla McBride led the team in scoring with 23 points.

The win added a missing piece to the trophy case in Purcell Pavilion before the team moves on to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference starting next season. It also extended an unprecedented winning streak to 26 game (the steak eventually reached 30).

During the season, Notre Dame beat the Huskies twice. The first was a 73-72 nail-biter in Connecticut. The second was a triple-overtime win on Senior Night in South Bend. Diggins led the way with 29 points in that game, her last in her hometown.

The unfortunate epilogue for Irish fans is that UConn finally got the better of Notre Dame when it mattered most. The Huskies beat McGraw’s team in the Final Four and went on to rout Louisville for a national championship. Nonetheless, beating UConn in Hartford provided a fond farewell to the Big East for the Irish and their longtime head coach.

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