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Irish Insights

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Moore torments Irish ... and other notes

If Notre Dame wants to reach its first NCAA women's tournament championship game since winning it all in 2001, the Irish will have to get past a familiar foe in Connecticut.

The two Big East teams tip off in one of the Final Four semifinal games at 9:30 p.m. Sunday in Conseco Fieldhouse.

It has not been easy for Notre Dame when it comes to playing UConn.

The Irish are 4-28 all-time against the Huskies and haven't posted a win in the series since a 65-59 victory in 2005.

And Notre Dame will have to find away to slow down Huskies star Maya Moore. In eight games against the Irish, Moore has averaged 18.3 points on 49.1 percent shooting.

"I'm not sure that you can stop her, and definitely you can't do it with one person," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of Moore. "I think that she is just a phenomenal player. The way she can stop on a dime, elevate and release her jumper, which is just a beautiful shot, I think that she's incredibly difficult to guard.

"I don't think we have gone into any of the three games thinking we were going to hold her down."

But don't expect Notre Dame to put all of its focus on the three-time Wade Trophy winner.

Connecticut may only play six players in most games, but all the Huskies can be dangerous.

"We haven't really explored the option of she gets hers and we try to stop everybody else," McGraw said. "(Stefanie) Dolson really hurt us in the last two games, so I think when you have that inside-outside combination you're pretty hard to guard, and that's a huge problem for our defense."

Rising star

Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins was named to her first State Farm Coaches' All-America team on Saturday.

The sophomore averages 14.4 points and 4.8 assists and is coming off a Dayton Regional performance in which she scored a season-high 24 points in the 73-59 regional title game win over Tennessee and was named the regional's most outstanding player.

Diggins' performance this season has caught the attention of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma.

"I remember when Notre Dame came to our place last year. She was a freshman. She was completely overwhelmed by the whole atmosphere, the whole situation and wasn't able to lead her team," Auriemma said. "And now you fast-forward to the three times that we've played them this year, and she owns their offense. She runs the show for them about as well as I've seen any guard direct Muffet's offense.

And when you have somebody that can score like she can and is unselfish, and now is confident, that makes for a tough matchup for anybody on our team. And she's playing with a lot of confidence right now. But it's like every other player, it took a year. And now here they are."

McGraw's take

During Saturday's media session McGraw was asked to give her take on the field of coaches at the Final Four.

Here's her take on Auriemma, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, Texas A&M coach Gary Blair and herself.

"Well, I'd say Geno and Tara, probably night and day. I don't think there's a lot of similarities except for their obvious success and their wins," McGraw said. "They both have racked up quite a few wins. I think Tara is a little more reserved and probably a little bit more politically correct than Geno is. Geno is going to tell it like it is. He's a Philly guy. We appreciate that in Philly.

"Gary Blair, I'd say is the loquacious one of the group. He probably had you in here a lot longer than his allotted time this afternoon. But he's definitely someone that's got the respect of his peers, as well as the other two do.

"I think I'm intense. I think I'm competitive. I can be almost as sarcastic as Geno at times, but I've been working on it to try not to be as sarcastic. But I think still growing as a coach. I think you learn more and more every year, and I think this year has been fun for me because I've enjoyed the journey a lot more because I've been able to not try to be so in control. Trying to lose a little bit of the control and give it to the team. And it's worked out pretty well for us. So I think I'm still a work in progress."

More on his mind

Blair may have Texas A&M in its first Final Four in program history, but he is keeping the mood light around his team.

The veteran coach made sure to ask a San Francisco Chronicle reporter for a favor.

"Your Giants beat my Rangers, but I grew up a Giants fan," Blair said. "I'm a Willie Mays fan, and if you can get me an autographed ball or his rookie card there, you and I will have dinner and I'll be your fan for life. But Willie Mays and Whitey Ford. Whitey Ford was my other one. So that's want I really need. And then get Larry Bird to come to the ballgame tomorrow night. Hey, what a great time I would have."

When a reporter from Connecticut asked the coach if he wanted anything from the Nutmeg State, Blair was ready for that too.

"Geno's paycheck," Blair deadpanned. "His restaurants. His summer camps, everything (laughter). I mean, what does Geno not have?"

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