SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma thought the Huskies had Notre Dame beat. He was wrong.
The third-ranked Huskies squandered a six-point lead in the first overtime and a five-point lead in the second extra period before falling 96-87 in three OTs as the second-ranked Fighting Irish won the Big East regular-season title outright for the second straight year.
Auriemma blamed the loss on Connecticut's inability to handle the pressure Notre Dame's defense put on the ball, forcing 35 turnovers. The previous high for the Huskies was 20 turnovers against Penn State.
"We just need to take care of the ball better," he said. "Unless we get better at that, then this is going to be it for us. This is going to be the story of our season. We're going to come up a little bit short."
UConn guard Kelly Faris said it's impossible to win turning the ball over that often.
"The seniors, we didn't handle the pressure well, and we can't expect any of the younger girls to do that if we can't even do it," she said. "Thirty-five turnovers, that's incredibly unacceptable."
Skylar Diggins finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds to spark the Irish to (28-1, 16-0) to their sixth win in their last seven meetings against Connecticut (27-3, 14-2), the first team to do that in two decades. The Irish also went undefeated in the conference for the first time since joining in 1995-96.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was pleased with her team's resilience.
"We were done in regulation and the first and second overtimes. We just clawing away and got them to miss some free throws," she said. "What a battle."
The Irish took their first lead in overtime when Kaila Turner hit a free throw 18 seconds into the third overtime. After Faris answered with a bank shot for the Huskies to regain the lead, the Irish took over. Ariel Braker starter it with a free throw, then Jewell Loyd muscled in a basket inside and nearly a minute later added a pair of free throws to give the Irish an 87-83 lead.
Diggins then stole the ball from Breanna Stewart and scored on a fastbreak layup, then Braker, Diggins and Natalie Achonwa each made two free throws to put the game away.