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Irish Insights

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No. 2 Irish women hold off USF in OT

TAMPA, Fla. – Skylar Diggins scored four of her 19 points in overtime, helping second-ranked Notre Dame overcome cold shooting and hold off South Florida for a 75-71 victory Tuesday night.

Natalie Achonwa had 20 points and Jewell Loyd finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Irish (13-1, 2-0 Big East) in their first game since handing then-No. 1 Connecticut its first loss of the season. Kayla McBride was limited to 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting, but keyed a second half surge that helped Notre Dame take its first lead since early in the game.

Andrea Smith tied a career high with 33 points and 11 rebounds for USF (11-3, 0-1), including her team’s last nine points of regulation and first four of overtime. Smith’s twin sister, Andrell, had 15 points before fouling out less than a minute into the extra session, and Inga Orekhova added 13.

McBride scored a career-high 21 points and Diggins had 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals in Notre Dame’s 73-72 victory at Connecticut, but both Irish stars got off to slow starts against a South Florida team that’s off to its second-best start in 13 seasons under coach Jose Fernandez.

Diggins missed her first five shots before scoring 11 in the final nine minutes of the opening half. McBride, meanwhile, missed the only two shots she attempted while sitting out much of the first half with two fouls.

South Florida led 35-32 at the break despite shooting 37.8 percent and pushed Notre Dame to overtime for the third time in the last nine meetings between the team despite shooting 33.3 percent (25 of 75) for the game. The Irish were only slightly better, shooting 36.8 percent while making the same number of field goal while taking seven fewer shots.

McBride made a long three-pointer and added a three-point play during a 13-2 run Notre Dame put together to turn a 46-42 deficit into their biggest lead of the night, 55-48. But just when it appeared that the Irish were taking over the game, Andrea Smith found a way to keep USF close.

While Notre Dame was going scoreless from the field over the last six minutes of regulation, the 5-foot-8 senior made a pair of free throws, a three-pointer and a contested 15-foot jumper to make it 61-61 with 2:02 remaining. After Loyd made two free throws to put the Irish in front again, Smith answered with another jumper to send it into overtime at 63-all.

Diggins, who missed the final shot of regulation, put Notre Dame ahead for good with a basket a little more than a minute into overtime. She sank free throws for a 74-69 lead with 23.4 seconds left in the extra period, and Michaela ensured the Irish would hold on for their eighth straight victory by making one of two free throws.

Andrea Smith was 13 of 37 from the field and made all six of her free throws. Andrell Smith was 4 of 9 from the field and 6 for 6 from the foul line.

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