Second half surge sends Fighting Irish to the Final Four

Skylar Diggins finished with 24 points, nine assists and five steals as the top-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish used a strong second half to defeat the second-seeded Duke Blue Devils, 87-76, in the Elite 8 of the 2013 NCAA Women's Tournament at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Kayla McBride added 18 points and seven assists for the Irish (35-1), which have won 30 games in a row heading into their Final Four matchup against the Connecticut Huskies. Natalie Achonwa registered a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Jewell Loyd also tallied 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the floor.

Tricia Liston paced Duke (33-3) in the heartbreaking setback with 19 points. Haley Peters contributed a double-double of 15 points and 10 boards while Richa Jackson chimed in with 12 points before fouling out. The loss was the fourth in a row in the regional finals for Duke, which has not played in the Final Four since 2006.

The Blue Devils took a 37-31 lead into the intermission after Liston pumped in 13 points and they shot 50 percent from the floor as a team in the opening 20 minutes. Notre Dame shot just 32.4 percent from the field in the first half.

The Irish trailed, 40-35, after Peters put in a layup with 18:12 remaining in regulation. Diggins, who became the program's all-time leading scorer her last time out, then hit a 3-pointer before assisting an Achonwa layup to even the score. Notre Dame then went on a 10-2 run to take control. During the run, the Blue Devils committed six turnovers. Diggins and Achonwa produced 13 points each in the second stanza as Notre Dame hit on 62.1 percent of its field goal attempts and outscored Duke, 15-9, at the free-throw line.

Notre Dame defeated Connecticut three times this season, but the victories did not come easy. One came in a thrilling overtime bout and the other two were decided by a single possession.