11:05 PM EST, December 5, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- Under the proper lighting conditions, as she impatiently fidgeted while doing her post-game media duty, it probably would have been possible to see steam coming from Skylar Diggins' ears.
Man, was she mad.
Ever the competitor, Wednesday night was Diggins' time to shine. National TV. Defending NCAA women's basketball champion Baylor. Brittney Griner, all 6-foot-8 of her, gobbling up the attention and everything else that came her way. Rapper Lil Wayne, one of Diggins' tweeps and biggest fans, sitting courtside.
Big game, big-time players step up.
Diggins' moment got muddled.
One of the greatest players in Notre Dame history hit a clunker in the 73-61 Irish loss.
Eight points. Seven assists. Four-of-19 shooting, 0-of-5 on 3-pointers, 0-of-7 in the first half. Three turnovers.
Bad day to have one of those days.
"I thought we could have won with what (players) we had out there, if I had just made a frickin' shot," Diggins said, not trying to mask her dismay.
How frustrating was it?
"Very," she said.
A lot of Irish players had problems against the Baylor defense. Shooting 36 percent won't win many games.
At one point in the first half, Notre Dame went 11 possessions without scoring a point. Of their 70 shots, the Irish had 15 altered by the boarding house reach and big paw that Griner launched into the stratosphere.
"I thought I took my shots," Diggins said. "I don't think I hesitated ... Maybe one 3 in the corner in the first half. I was just shooting it. It wasn't going in. I shot it the same way, it just wasn't falling."
Griner took away Diggins' drive to the bucket. Odyssey Sims, who teamed with Diggins in the backcourt of several national teams, pestered her out front. Sims returned from a layoff of almost three weeks after a hamstring injury.
"It's a learning experience," Diggins said. "Am I p****** off? Yes. You go back in the gym, you watch film, you practice hard, and you get over it."
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey didn't pass on the opportunity to get her plug in for Sims. Has Diggins been overhyped?
"I'm toughest on point guards," Mulkey said. "I'm very critical of point guards. What does (Sims) have to do to get that recognition? She's the best guard in the country. She's played Skylar four times now and won every ballgame. She never stopped being tough on the floor and she never stopped guarding people."
Easy to be a real good guard with a 6-8 center that can shoot jump shots from the top of the key.
Sims hit just 3-of-9 shots, but canned all 10 of her free throws. She had more turnovers (7) than assists (6).
Hardly a performance worthy of supplanting Diggins as the cream of the nation's crop.
"It's always fun to go against her," Sims said of Diggins. "We don't have no rivalry. It's just two great players going against each other."
Mulkey might have been the one to fuel the competition.
"In the line when I was shaking hands, Odyssey grabbed me and said, 'See ya at the Final Four,'" said Diggins. "I thought, 'Wow, she's not one to give compliments.'"
Skylar wasn't in the mood to accept any, either.
A big game started badly and ended worse. Maybe a little stage fright for a young team. Probably a lot of intimidation.
At least the Irish have a base line from which to judge progress. A revamped team, hardly ready to tangle with the elite, took some baby steps. The Irish will have a month, Jan. 5, to be exact, to prepare for their next legitimate test at Connecticut.
Bet the ranch Diggins will be better.
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