Notre Dame women's basketball: PG Allen receives lesson from Skylar

Curt Rallo
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw watched her freshman point guard Lindsay Allen make strides in the summer during a European tour.

She saw Allen work hard to pick up the Irish system as quickly as she could in fall workouts.

But some of the best learning moments for Allen as she transitions to the college game happened this week when the player Allen is replacing at the point, former Notre Dame All-American Skylar Diggins, practiced one day with the Irish.

"Skylar showed us what intensity is supposed to be like," McGraw said. "It was great for Lindsay Allen, even though it was for just one day, to see what Skylar was like. She has a taste of, 'This is the best guard in the country that I'm ever going to see. I've really got to be ready.' I think Lindsay really rose to the challenge. I think she was ready for it. She embraced it, and she learned a lot. It was great."

Diggins took on the role of a teacher, instructing Allen about the craft of running the offense.

"During timeouts, Skylar would tell Lindsay, 'Hey, when you do this, this is what I'm going to do, so you probably don't want to do that,'" McGraw said. "Skylar would help her during the game. 'Don't leave the ball there. Do this, do that.' It was nice for Skylar to mentor Lindsay from the outside."

Diggins, who led Notre Dame to three Final Four appearances as a point guard, recently completed her first season in the WNBA.

UConn calling

After last season, Notre Dame joined the Atlantic Coast Conference for women's basketball, and Connecticut was left with the American Athletic Conference. That meant that the storied rivalry between the Irish and Huskies ended for the 2013-2014 season after they had met 12 times in the previous three seasons, including in three consecutive Final Fours.

Connecticut leads the series against Notre Dame, 30-11, but the Irish have won seven of the last nine meetings. Notre Dame won the Big East title with a perfect 16-0 record last season that included two wins over the Huskies. The Irish won a last-second thriller over Connecticut for their first Big East Tournament crown, but the Huskies beat Notre Dame in the Final Four.

Notre Dame wanted to play Connecticut this season, but the Huskies weren't able to work out a date on the schedule. Now, Connecticut is reaching out to Notre Dame for a game next season.

"Connecticut called and said that they were wide open," McGraw joked. Now that Kayla McBride will be graduating, they're anxious to play us."

McGraw said that she was very disappointed that the Irish wouldn't play the Huskies this season.

"We certainly wanted to play them," McGraw said. "You're looking at the best rivalry in women's college basketball. I'm sure ESPN is not happy that we're not playing. We hope to be able to get them on the schedule next year. We certainly were willing to do it this year, but they weren't able to do it."

According to McGraw, Connecticut may be more eager to schedule a game with the Irish as their conference changes.

"Connecticut's conference will not be nearly as strong when Louisville and Rutgers leave," McGraw said. "They need to have some RPI games outside of the league. But, also, people in the country want to see that game. I think everybody in the country was disappointed when we weren't able to get a Notre Dame-Connecticut game for this year. They even offered to play the first game here."

Winning a ring

Notre Dame alum Devereaux Peters helped the Minnesota Lynx win the WNBA crown over the Atlanta Dream, which also featured a former Notre Dame star on its roster, Ruth Riley.

Peters and the Lynx swept Atlanta, 3-0, for the title. Peters, a 6-foot-2 forward, averaged 4.1 points and 4.6 rebounds this season.

"I was so excited to see Devereaux win the title," McGraw said. "Every time they announced her name, it was a thrill for me to see her to come to a championship. That's what we've been reaching for for a few years. It was great to see her get to win. She handled adversity so well when she was here. She contributed a lot to the Lynx off the bench. It was just what they needed."

Peters' championship moment was the first time a Notre Dame alum was part of a WNBA title since Riley teamed with former South Bend Washington High School star Jacqueline Batteast to help the Detroit Shock win the crown in 2006.

Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen fields a question during media day Oct. 8.