NCAA Tournament

Notre Dame women claim Final Four spot by beating Terps 80-49

The sky’s the limit for revenge-minded Notre Dame — especially with its star guard playing like this.

Skylar Diggins had a triple-double, and Notre Dame gained its second straight Final Four berth by beating Maryland 80-49 on Tuesday night in the Raleigh Regional final.

Diggins did it all for the top-seeded Fighting Irish, 34-3.

Diggins, the Big East player of the year and All-America selection, finished with 22 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and five steals.

She kept Notre Dame’s four-guard lineup humming and caused the second-seeded Terrapins fits all night.

Natalie Achonwa added 18 points, while Kayla McBride had 16 for the Irish. Natalie Novosel finished with 14 for Notre Dame, which built a 46-27 rebounding advantage against Maryland.

A huge run late in the first half essentially ended this one at halftime and propelled Notre Dame to its fourth Final Four trip overall.

All four No. 1 seeds are headed to Denver — the first time that’s happened since 1989 — so once the Irish arrive in Colorado maybe they’ll find a close game there for a change. Only one of Notre Dame’s four NCAA Tournament wins was closer than 31 points.

A loss in last year’s national championship game provided a season’s worth of focus and motivation for the Irish, who moved two victories away from the title that eluded them last year.

A familiar foe awaits: Connecticut, which beat Notre Dame 63-54 earlier this month in the Big East title game. Notre Dame did, however, beat the Huskies in both meetings in the regular season.

Alyssa Thomas scored 17 points, and Tianna Hawkins and Alicia DeVaughn added 10 apiece for Maryland, which finished the season at 31-5.

After rallying from 18 points to beat reigning national champion Texas A&M two days earlier in the regional semifinal, the Terps finally slipped into a deficit they couldn’t escape.

Notre Dame raced out to a 19-point lead in the first half, wasted no time after halftime pushing it into the 20s, and Maryland simply couldn’t recover while being denied its fourth Final Four trip and first since its national title in 2006.

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