SOUTH BEND — Lightning flashed across the Joyce Center court, lightning wearing a green script 4 on a white Irish jersey. Skylar Diggins scored a career-high 31 points, ripped off a career-high seven steals, and kicked out six assists to lead No. 2 seed Notre Dame to an 84-66 victory against No. 10 seed Vermont Tuesday night in second round action of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. Coach Muffet McGraw's Fighting Irish (29-5) advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history, all since 1997. The Irish play in Kansas City against the winner of the Oklahoma (24-10) vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (27-6) game. Time and telecast information will be announced later. Notre Dame beat Oklahoma, 81-71, to win the championship of the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam on Nov. 28. Vermont's season, highlighted by its first win in an NCAA tournament, ends at 27-7. Diggins, the national high school player of the year last season at Washington High School, turned in an electrifying performance. The South Bend southpaw connected for the most points by an Irish player since Charel Allen hit Oklahoma with 35 in a 2008 NCAA victory. "I thought today was really exceptional," McGraw said of Diggins' effort. "That was an incredible performance. She played well in the Big East tournament, but I thought for 40 minutes tonight, she was really on her game, and that was really fun to watch." Lindsay Schrader scored 14 points and muscled inside for 11 rebounds for the Fighting Irish. Melissa Lechlitner contributed 12 points to the Irish attack. Alissa Sheftic and Kendra Seto led Vermont with 14 points each. Diggins hit 13-of-21 shots, scoring 19 in the first half. She accounted for 15 of Notre Dame's first 20 points and also forced Vermont point guard Courtnay Pilypaitis into 10 turnovers. "I knew from the jump, this team (Vermont), they won 11 of their last 12," Diggins said. "They were going to be real pumped up to play a No. 2 seed. I really wanted to make sure I came out and tried to get us started and get into the run game. I wanted to get up and get some steals and run. Our team likes to get out in transition. We really wanted to get out and run, because that was working for us. We knew that their starting five played a lot of minutes. We just tried to use that to our advantage." Vermont nailed nine of its first 13 shots and the Catamounts bolted to a 20-10 lead with 11:33 left in the first half. But when the Notre Dame pressure kicked in, it ended the Catamounts' hopes. Notre Dame harassed Vermont into 14 turnovers in the first half, rocking the Catamounts for a 22-4 edge in points off of turnovers. Notre Dame trailed, 23-15, and then outscored the Catamounts 27-10 the rest of the first half. During a fast-breaking 14-2 run, Vermont was 1-of-5 shooting and was forced into six turnovers in nine possessions. McGraw said that Devereaux Peters ignited the Irish press. Notre Dame ended up with a 35-10 edge in points off of turnovers. "It's amazing when we sub and we come in with Devereaux Peters, who would be starting for almost every other team that we play," McGraw said. "She gives us speed and the ability … you just throw the ball up, and she goes up and gets it. It really excites the team and the crowd. It's really demoralizing for the opponent. "She can do so many great things with her athletic ability," McGraw continued. "She also likes to get other people the ball. She loves getting assists. But she gets us going with the press. When she comes in and we put it up full court, everybody gets excited about that. She sees that as her role, to create havoc defensively." When Notre Dame's press hit Vermont, it hit at warp speed. Notre Dame trailed, 20-10 and Lindsay Schrader hit a free throw, then missed the second. Devereaux Peters speared the ball with one hand and immediately fired a bullet pass to Brittany Mallory for a lay-up. Mallory swiped a Vermont pass and triggered a fast break capped with an alley-oop basket by Diggins off a pass from Barlow. By the time the first half buzzer sounded, Notre Dame outscored Vermont 32-13 after trailing 20-10 for a 42-33 halftime lead. Vermont closed to eight points in the second half, 55-47, but a 19-5 run by the Irish ended the dancing for the Catamounts. "Obviously, it was very effective," Vermont coach Sharon Dawley said of the Irish press. "They timed it well and put pressure on. I think that is why they are as good as they are, great pressure defense."
- NOTRE DAME 84, VERMONT 66 At Joyce Center VERMONT(66): Alissa Sheftic 7-11 0-0 14, Courtnay Pilypaitis 4-9 1-1 11, May Kotsopoulos 4-8 2-2 12, Sofia Iwobi 5-9 1-1 11, Kendra Seto 5-13 1-1 14, Morgan Albert 0-0 0-0 0, Kristine Lalonde 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0, Tonya Young 1-2 0-0 2, Lauren Buschmann 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 27-55 5-5 66. NOTRE DAME (84): Erica Williamson 2-2 1-1 5, Skylar Diggins 13-21 4-6 31, Ashley Barlow 2-5 2-2 7, Melissa Lechlitner 2-6 7-8 12, Lindsay Schrader 6-10 2-4 14, Devereaux Peters 1-4 1-6 3, Kaila Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Natalie Novosel 2-3 2-2 6, Brittany Mallory 1-2 0-0 2, Becca Bruszewsk 2-5 0-0 4, Alena Christiansen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-59 19-29 84. Halftime — Notre Dame 42-33. 3-Point Goals — Vermont 7-15 (Seto 3-5, Kotsopoulos 2-3, Pilypaitis 2-6, Young 0-1), Notre Dame 3-10 (Lechlitner 1-2, Diggins 1-3, Barlow 1-3, Turner 0-1, Mallory 0-1 ). Fouled Out — Sheftic. Rebounds — Vermont 29 (Pilypaitis, Sheftic 7), Notre Dame 34 (Schrader 11). Assists — Vermont 19 (Pilypaitis 7), Notre Dame 20 (Diggins 6). Total Fouls — Vermont 20, Notre Dame 13. A — 6,085.