Tonight will be a fitting finale for Skylar Diggins.
The 5-foot-9 Notre Dame senior says goodbye to the Purcell Pavilion and a sold-out crowd clad in “Muffet green.” The only thing standing between Diggins and a fairy tale ending seven miles away from where she grew up is Geno Auriemma’s No. 3 UConn.
The No. 2 Irish (27-1) have won five of its last six against UConn, but the arch-rival Huskies never make it easy. Diggins scored 19 points in a 73-72 win when the Irish visited the Huskies earlier this year. Expect nothing less in her finale tonight.
Sharp, charismatic and oftentimes blunt – she summed up the loss to Baylor Dec. 5 with “I think we could have won with what we had out there if I could have made a freakin’ shot” – Diggins evolved from a hometown hero to a national sensation during Notre Dame’s title run in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Rapper Lil’ Wayne elevated Diggins to a household name with a Tweet before the 2011 national championship:
Lil’ Wayne took his devotion to the next level by showing up at the Purcell Pavilion for courtside seats for the Notre Dame/Baylor game, the only Irish loss of the year.
The New York Times profiled Diggins in a piece published March 3. Author Tim Rohan writes:
Now, in her senior year, it seems there is very little left for her to correct. Notre Dame lost three starters from last season, but Diggins is averaging 16.9 points, 6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. She is shooting 36.3 percent from 3-point range and 82.1 percent from the free-throw line. And Notre Dame is 27-1.
“You have to say she’s the best player in the country,” McGraw said. “Nobody else at the top has lost three starters and played like we have.”
McGraw marvels at Diggins, how she knows when to sing to lighten the mood, how she knows which teammates need the ball when, where they are best with it and when she herself should go off. There is a rhythm, a feel to it, the same way she performs onstage.
When Notre Dame beat No. 1 UConn in January, Diggins sensed, early in the second half, that “it was time for me to try and take over.”
Although it’s too late to snatch a ticket for tonight’s game, you can catch it on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. Be watching. Diggins won’t disappoint.