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“A lot of people, I don’t want to say they fear our defense, but I think they really respect what we do on the defensive end,” Carter said. “And we take so much pride on the defensive end and making people feel uncomfortable and making them do things that they don’t want to do.”

Added Colson: “It’s going to be a physical game, I think they’re just as physical as we are. And I think it’s just going to be an all-out battle.”

The Irish (31-7) are rugged, too, proud of their defense and their dynamic young star, Diggins.

With 28 points in the seven-point win over Connecticut, Diggins has become an overnight national sensation. She gained nearly 20,000 new Twitter followers after Sunday’s victory over Maya Moore and the two-time defending champion Huskies.

It helped to get a tweet shoutout from rapper Lil Wayne, who has 1.6 million followers.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “I just have fun on Twitter. I have a lot of young girls following me and asking how I handle different situations. I have to understand that I’m a mentor and a role model and act as such.”

And with Tennessee and Connecticut both gone _ only the fifth time since 1995 that neither was in the title game _ Notre Dame is ready to seize the moment.

“I think a lot of people were happy to see a different face in the final game,” McGraw said. “I think it’s great what Connecticut’s done for the Big East and for women’s basketball, and I think it’s also great to have some new teams come in and maybe appeal to a lot more people.”