Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins is getting help from veteran players during her freshman season on the women's team. (Tribune Photo/MIKE HARTMAN)
Instead of hitting the wall like many college freshmen basketball players do as February rolls around, Notre Dame freshman Skylar Diggins continues to impress with her progress. Diggins leads the Irish in scoring, averaging 13.7 points a game. She also leads Notre Dame with 51 steals, and is second on the team with 57 assists. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw is pleased with the maturity Diggins has shown as the season gets closer to tournament time. “I think she’s doing a really good job of controlling her emotions,” McGraw said. “Out there on the floor, when you’re with Lech (Melissa Lechlitner) and (Ashley) Barlow and (Lindsay) Schrader and (Becca) Bruszewski, that’s helping her game, because she has the veterans surrounding her. Skylar’s done a great job of adjusting and knowing what shots are good and which ones aren’t.” Diggins said the experienced players have helped her transition to the Big East. “Being around veterans makes you so much more comfortable,” Diggins said. “Sometimes I get frustrated. Everybody gets frustrated. They do a good job of pulling me to the side and talking to me and just making sure that I stay composed.’’ Notre Dame, 20-1 overall and 7-1 in the Big East, returns home from a rugged four-game stretch, capped by two road games in three days, to take on Pitt. Tip-off for Saturday’s game at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center is 2 p.m. EST.
Poise over panic
When Rutgers sliced into an eight-point Notre Dame lead in the second half of Monday’s Big East battle, the Irish were ready for the fight. Blinking when staring adversity eyeball-to-eyeball is for the opponent, not the Irish this season. Consistently, it’s been poise over panic. Notre Dame countered a Rutgers run that narrowed the Irish lead to 52-50 with a 12-3 run to produce the 75-63 victory. “It’s the veterans,” McGraw said. “I really feel like, end of the game, I’m so confident in this team that, at timeouts, I don’t even have anything to say. “It’s just so easy for them,” McGraw continued. “They know what they have to do, and they go out and do it. It’s a very fun end-of-game with this group, because they’re patient, they’re poised, they make their free throws, they don’t do any things that you don’t want them to do.” Lechlitner, along with fellow senior captains Barlow and Schrader each delivered key plays against Rutgers. Junior Bruszewski, and Diggins also contributed critical plays. “It’s that point in the season, we’re halfway through the Big East season and everything is wearing on you, and veterans need to step up,” Lechlitner said. “We need to have poise at the end of games. “Some days, you’re going to come out and you’re not going to play like you need to play, your defense is going to be bad and your shots are going to be off, but you have to dig down deep and find a way, and that’s what’s made us so successful up to this point of the season. We’re just digging down and we’re finding a way.’’
Defending the arc
Notre Dame’s perimeter defense has put the clamps on opponents lately. The Irish have allowed only 6-of-35 shooting (17 percent) from 3-point range in their last three games. The Irish are allowing 31 percent this season (compared to 31.6 percent last season). Last season, the Irish allowed opponents to score 31 more 3-pointers than the Irish. This season, Notre Dame has hit 28 more 3-pointers than opponents.