Diggins takes Big East’s top honor

Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins pumps up the crowd during the game at Notre Dame on Saturday, February 25, 2012. Diggins was named Big East Player of the Year. (ISR Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)
Irish Sports Report
8:10 pm, March 02, 2012

When the Notre Dame women's basketball team found itself down, 25-18,
on Monday night on the Connecticut Huskies' home floor in Hartford,
Conn., all it took was one look in the eyes of Irish point guard
Skylar Diggins to know that the Huskies, not the Irish, were in

Diggins triggered a 16-3 run by the Irish and helped Notre Dame
capture its first Big East women's basketball outright championship by
defeating the Huskies, 72-59.

It's a look that Big East rivals are all too familiar with this
season. And when the Big East conducted its vote on the league's
Player of the Year, it's a fierce look that the Big East coaches

Diggins, a 5-foot-9 junior point guard from South Bend, was named the
Big East Player of the Year. She is the third-ever Irish player to win
the award and the first from ND since Jacqueline Batteast took the top
honor seven seasons ago.

Both Batteast and Diggins are graduates of South Bend Washington High.
ND’s other league MVP was Ruth Riley in 2001.

St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico was named the Big East Coach of the
Year over Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw. Barnes Arico led St. John’s to a
second-place tie with Connecticut in Big East play.

The Red Storm ended Connecticut’s 99-game home winning streak last
month. St. John’s enters post-season play with a 21-8 record, 13-3 in
the Big East. McGraw’s club won the Big East crown with a 15-1 record,
which included two victories against perennial power Connecticut.

Diggins will lead No. 3 Notre Dame (28-2 overall, 15-1 Big East) in
pursuit of their first Big East Tournament championship. The Irish,
the No. 1 seeds, play on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (ESPNU). Notre Dame faces
the winner of Saturday's game between No. 8 seed DePaul and No. 9
South Florida.

“I’m very humbled and grateful for this honor,” said Diggins, who
dedicated the award to McGraw. “I’d like to thank the Big East
Conference and its coaches for choosing me to receive this award. It’s
strange seeing Player of the Year on the trophy, because really, this
is a team award.

“Anything I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish this year has been
due to the hard work of my teammates and coaches, and the way we’ve
pushed each other every day to get better and reach our goals. So I
share this with … all of the other 11 girls and the coaches in that
locker room with me.

“I always want to thank my parents and my whole family for their love
and support and their sacrifice. They always have inspired me and
encouraged me. I want to thank the University of Notre Dame, the South
Bend community, and our fans, who are the best fans in the country.
(They’ve) helped me so much and helped me to live my dreams both on
and off the court and in the classroom, and I could not be more proud
to represent (them).”

A candidate for the national Player of the Year award, Diggins
averages 17.4 points a game and leads the Big East in assists (5.8 a
game) and steals (2.6). The South Bend southpaw is first in the league
in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.26), eighth in free-throw percentage
(.802) and ninth in field-goal percentage (.525).

McGraw said that Diggins is a team player who helped players like
Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters have career seasons. Novosel and
Peters joined Diggins on the Big East all-conference first team.

“I’m so happy for Skylar,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I can
hardly put it into words. She has done so many things to help lift our
program. She makes the people around her better. I think that Dev and
Natalie would agree, that having her with the ball in her hands has
certainly elevated their game, and that of the whole team.

“Skylar could score a lot more points than she does, but she’s happy
to get assists, and she’s happy to be a great defender and be somebody
who is certainly a giant impact on our team and our program. She’s so
unselfish and just wants to win. I’m just really proud of her. I’m
happy for her. She works so hard. She definitely was the best player
in the league.”

McGraw said that Diggins has been dazzling on the court.

“She makes passes that we call ‘wow’ moments,” McGraw said of her
All-America candidate. “She threw one in the Tennessee game. She has
one almost every game. She does something just so spectacular.

“In the South Florida game, we’re down three, she gets back-to-back
steals, creates defense and turns it into offense. In the Connecticut
game, we’re down seven, and she triggers an 8-0 run. She gets a steal,
she gets the break going. She hits a 3. She does something impactful
at both ends of the floor.

“There have been so many games where she’s made the big shot at the
right time, or made the assist that we needed. The pace of the game is
at such a high level when she’s at the point.”

Tom Lemming


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@hansenndinsider - Eric Hansen, Football Beat Writer

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