Tonight won’t be the last home game for Notre Dame senior guards Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner, or student managers Brigette Lawless and Katie Schwab. But it’s the one where they will be honored on Senior Night, which begins 15 minutes prior to the 7 p.m. tip-off (CBS Sports with the telecast) versus No. 22 Syracuse.
All-America Skylar Diggins will be one of the honorees against Syracuse on Senior Night versus Syracuse on CBS Sports.
Next Monday (March 4) against 25-2, No. 3-ranked and archrival Connecticut will be the actual home finale, but that showdown on ESPN had a little less flexibility for pre-game festivities.
The battle tonight with the Lady Orange is not expected to be a cakewalk either, even though No. 2 Notre Dame’s current 20-game winning streak (25-1 overall, 13-0 in Big East) has seen them win each game during the string by an average of nearly 27 points. No. 22 Syracuse enters the contest 22-4 overall and in third place in the 15-team Big East with a 10-3 record. It had been on a six-game winning streak before losing in the closing seconds this past weekend to South Florida, a quality outfit the Irish defeated in overtime (75-71) on Jan. 8.
The veteran Orange are led by the senior trio of center Kayla Alexander (16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots per game) and guards Carmen Tyson-Thomas and Elashier Hall, both of who average 10.2 points per contest. Alexander’s nine double-doubles are second in the Big East to Notre Dame junior Natalie Achonwa’s 14 — two short of the single-season school record.
All-America guard Diggins is coming off her second career triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in Sunday’s 84-56 win at DePaul. Freshman Jewell Loyd tallied 19 points and was named the Big East Rookie of the Week for the fourth time.
Diggins (16.2 points per game), junior Kayla McBride (14.2), Achonwa (13.9) and Loyd (12.1) provide a balanced attack that is now better augmented with a more seasoned group off the bench.
Junior Ariel Braker was back in action as the fifth starter against DePaul after having her injured knee drained earlier this month. Turner returned against DePaul from an elbow injury that sidelined her much of February, and sophomore swingman Madison Cable and classmate Markisha Wright in the post have been providing quality minutes, as have freshmen Michaela Mabrey and Hannah Huffman and sophomore Whitney Holloway.
The Fighting Irish are 7-1 this year against ranked teams, with the lone loss occurring Dec. 5 to current No. 1 Baylor. Especially impressive is Notre Dame is 7-0 in quick turnaround games (48 hours or less), including victories at No. 9 Tennessee, a 93-64 blowout at home of No. 10 Louisville and vanquishing No. 22 Texas A&M in Las Vegas.
The most recent meeting between Notre Dame and Syracuse was Feb. 7, 2012 in the Carrier Dome, a 74-55 Irish victory.