NCAA Notebook: Skylar Diggins phenomenon a fact of life
The last two points Skylar Diggins scored against Kansas on Sunday in the Norfolk Regional semifinals made her Notre Dame’s career scoring leader.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw made sure of it.
She was about to remove Diggins from what evenually was a 93-63 win over the Jayhawks with approximately eight minutes left when she found out her senior star needed only a field goal to surpass Beth Morgan’s total of 2,322 points.
“So I said, ‘You’re coming out in 30 seconds, so you might as well get one more,’” McGraw said.
Diggins’ jumper with 7:48 put her atop the Irish scoring list, though she said she wasn’t aware of the accomplishment.
“Coach McGraw told me to score two more points,” Diggins said. “I didn’t really know what it meant, but I just to myself, ‘OK.’ Becoming the leading scorer is something that I can’t even put into words.
“Growing up in South Bend, I have so much pride in playing for Notre Dame. I am just enjoying this last experience in the NCAA Tournament and just trying to soak it in.”
The “Skylar Diggins phenomenon” — national magazine features, a six-figure following on social media, attending the BET Awards — is something she doesn’t shy away from, even if she repeatedly shifts the focus of comments to her team.
“The benefits are definitely the added attention to the university and to our team,” Diggins said. “People are watching our games, and I think that is great for the university. ... I do not really care why people watch the game, as long as they are watching. ...
“I think that I have gotten to where I am now because of my family, coaches and teammates. I try to just be myself. ... My focus is still the same. My priorities are still the same. It is flattering to see young girls look up to me and say I’m their role model. That is always great. Growing up, values stuck with me and I continue to embody those values now.”
Duke’s campus is less than a three-and-a-half hour drive from Norfolk.
South Bend, Ind. — that’s another story. The trek from the midwest takes 12 hours by car, though the Irish weren’t concerned.
“I think mentally we approach every game the same,” Notre Dame forward Natalie Achonwa said. “We’ve played in harsh atmospheres before and even if it is a pro-Duke (crowd), I know we have great fans that are going to travel and come cheer for us.
“At the end of the day, it’s the group that is in the huddle and the ones that are there for us.”
Of more concern to McGraw was for Achonwa to play more consistently after scoring 16 of her 17 points in the second half against Kansas.
“Natalie is, apparently, not an early riser,” McGraw said of Sunday’s noon tipoff. “I think her alarm went off at halftime, and she really refocused and ... had a fantastic second half. I think she really rose to the occasion.”
SOCIAL (MEDIA) CREATURES
Fortunately for Duke, the outcome of tonight’s game does not hinge on a popularity contest on Twitter.
A quick survey shows that Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had 4,560 followers as of midday Monday. The Duke women’s basketball program had 3,759, while junior guard Tricia Liston had 677. Former Duke star Alana Beard had 8,979.
And Diggins, Notre Dame’s All-American senior? Try more than 322,000.
Even Diggins has a long way to go to catch women’s basketball legend Nancy Lieberman, who led Norfolk Regional host Old Dominion to a pair of national championships. She has more than 2,043,000 followers.