LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Skylar Diggins scored 21 points and freshman Kayla McBride added 15 to lead No. 3 Notre Dame over No. 16 Louisville 68-52 on Monday, moving the Fighting Irish one step closer to a Big East title.
Notre Dame (26-2, 13-1) controls its destiny in its quest for its first regular-season league championship since tying Connecticut for it in 2001 on its way to the national title.
The Fighting Irish are a game up in the loss column against the Huskies with a game left against South Florida on Saturday before playing at Connecticut next Monday.
Antonita Slaughter scored 12 points for the Cardinals (19-8, 8-6), who failed to reach the 20-win plateau with their fourth loss in six games.
Brittany Mallory had 13 points, and Devereaux Peters added 10 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame, which shot 61.9 percent in the second half to pull away.
The Irish struggled from the field in the first half before using a 12-4 run early in the second to take their first double-digit lead when Peters had a layup and made two free throws on the next possession to put Notre Dame ahead 44-33.
After Louisville cut it to 46-39 on a layup by Shawnta Dyer off a pass from Shoni Schimmel with 8:55 left, Mallory answered with a 3-pointer in the left corner following a timeout. She pumped her fist and clapped twice on a play that thwarted a potential run and silenced the Louisville crowd.
It turned out to be a big one. The Cardinals missed 14 of their 16 3-point attempts as Notre Dame surged ahead.
Diggins hit 11 of 12 free throws, and Notre Dame finished 17 of 18 overall from the line.
Notre Dame came in as the nation's highest scoring team, but had to shake off a sluggish start. In one sequence late in the first half, Peters made a steal, but then threw a long outlet pass that was easily intercepted by Louisville guard Becky Burke.
Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw glared at Peters, who just looked down at the floor after the mistake in the midst of the Irish missing their final eight shots and committing two turnovers before halftime.
Still, Kaila Turner's 3-pointer was the difference, giving Notre Dame a 28-25 lead at the break.
Senior guard Fraderica Miller, who fainted after Notre Dame's win against Providence on Tuesday night and spent the night in the hospital, went scoreless in six minutes.