No. 2 Irish rout DePaul
Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins drives to the basket Sunday against DePaul. (David Banks / Photo for the Tribune / February 24, 2013)
The bauble commemorated Bruno’s having been an assistant coach of the U.S. women’s team that rolled to the 2012 Olympic gold medal, winning the final by 35 points.
The mid-court ceremony would be the last thing for Bruno to celebrate, as his Blue Demons were as overmatched against the No. 2 Irish as U.S. opponents had been at the London Summer Games.
Notre Dame won 84-56 before a sellout crowd at McGrath-Phillips Arena. The margin was one point shy of matching the most lopsided outcome in the 38-game series between the schools, which now stands tied after Notre Dame victories in eight of the last nine meetings.
"I wasn't trying to do a `Win one for the Gipper, get the ring out' thing," Bruno said. "It wasn't my idea to do that today. This was just the only time they (USA Basketball) could do it."
All you needed to see the difference between the teams was Notre Dame’s stunning passing while holding for one shot in the final 30 seconds of the first half. The sleight-of-hand, lightning ball movement ended with a kickout from Irish superstar Skylar Diggins to freshman sensation Jewell Loyd of Niles West, who hit a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 23-point halftime lead.
The Irish (25-1), whose only loss is to top-ranked Baylor, got a triple-double from Diggins (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and a game-high 19 points from Loyd.
"Everyone in the stands was there to see her (Loyd)," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said, "and she didn't disappoint them. What a cool customer she was."
It was the second career triple-double for Diggins, a senior guard who had her first in the NCAA Elite Eight last year. That also had been the first by an Irish player since 1990.
"I respect the talent of Notre Dame," Bruno said. "But that's what we have done at DePaul since I've been here (27 years) - play against the best talent and figure out a way to overcome it. I always believe we can pull it off."
Still minus leading scorer Anna Martin, who injured a knee Jan. 19, DePaul (18-9) had no answer for Notre Dame’s speed, pressure defense and rebounding. The Blue Demons made the situation worse with a raft of early turnovers and had 21 in the game, leading to 28 Notre Dame points.
"How can you be thrilled when you lose by 28?" Bruno said. "But I'm a little bit excited we found some spark in the last 12 minutes. That is what has been missing for us the last two or three weeks."