- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Skylar Diggins turned the NCAA tournament into her own coming out party.

She beat Tennessee, beat Connecticut and led the Fighting Irish into their first national title game in a decade. The coronation Diggins really craves will have to wait till next year.

Diggins scored 23 points against Texas A&M but committed six turnovers against the stifling Aggies, including the one that sealed A&M’s first national title Tuesday with a 76-70 victory.

“We just didn’t handle their pressure,” Diggins said, fighting back tears. “We turned it over too much. I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but we didn’t handle the ball and didn’t execute on offense.”

At times, Diggins looked like her usual crisp, tenacious self.

She followed last week’s 24-point game against Pat Summitt’s Volunteers and Sunday’s 28-point game against Geno Auriemma’s Huskies by going 7 of 19 from the field, 8 of 9 from the free-throw line and coming up with four steals.

But in the final 67 seconds, she looked like, well, a sophomore.

Tyra White knocked down a shot-clock beating 3-pointer with 1:07 to go as Diggins raced over to contest the shot. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw called the shot the difference in the outcome.

And during the final minute, A&M forced Diggins into trouble. It double-teamed the Notre Dame guard, stripping the ball away with 20 seconds left. On the next possession, Diggins missed a jumper that would have kept it a single-possession game and then took too long trying to find an open teammate for a much-needed 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

That’s not the player the home-state fans remember going to four Indiana state championship games and winning the state’s coveted Miss Basketball Award.

Or the player NCAA tourney fans watched evolve into the next big thing in women’s basketball. Or the player who is likely to have a major impact in the rugged Big East next season.

Clearly, Diggins has lived up to the billing as one of nation’s top recruits. She helped the Irish become the first team to beat Tennessee and UConn in the same tournament, and she could wind up taking Notre Dame to even loftier achievements in the next two years.

Just ask A&M coach Gary Blair.

“She might not be Maya Moore, but she might be Maya Moore by the time she gets to be a senior,” he said.

In the first five tourney games, Diggins averaged 18.6 points, shot 47.8 percent from the field, 45.5 percent on 3-pointers and had four more assists than turnovers.

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