After making just one basket from the field in Notre Dame's first-round NCAA tournament game, Diggins had a season-high 31 points, seven steals and six assists to lead second-seeded Notre Dame to an 84-66 victory over 10th-seeded Vermont on Tuesday night in the second round.
Diggins set the tone for the Irish (29-5) and their pressing defense as they finished with 19 steals and forced the Catamounts (27-7) into a season-high 25 turnovers. The first was in the opening seconds, when Lindsay Schrader stole the ball from Alissa Sheftic and Diggins scored the first basket.
Diggins also helped slow down Vermont's two high scoring guards as May Kotsopoulos finished with 12 points and Courtnay Pilypaitis had 11, but also turned the ball over 10 times.
The game was a big turnaround for Diggins, who was just 1-of-4 shooting for seven points in Notre Dame's 87-58 victory over Cleveland State in the opening round.
Schrader had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Melissa Lechlitner added 12 points as Notre Dame advanced to the Kansas City Regional semifinal, their eighth trip to the round of 16 in the last 14 years.
Sheftic and Kendra Seto added 14 points each for Vermont and Sofia Iowbi added 11 as the Catamounts shot 49 percent for the game, but couldn't overcome their turnovers.
Notre Dame got off to a slow start, making 5-of-11 shots with four turnovers in the first 8:24, falling behind 20-10 as the Catamounts hit nine of their first 13 shots with just two turnovers. But then Brittany Mallory had two quick steals, Devereaux Peters blocked a shot by Kostopoulos and the momentum quickly changed.
Diggins hit a basket inside, then quickly added a 3-pointer. The Irish tied the score at 23 on a three-point play by Schrader as the Irish forced six turnovers in five minutes.
Notre Dame continued on a 19-5 run, going ahead 29-25 when Diggins stole the ball from Pilypaitis, who fell down trying to get the ball back as Diggins went in for an easy layup. The Irish finally extended the lead to 42-30 when Lechlitner hit a 3 with 26 seconds left in the half. Vermont closed to 42-33 at intermission on a late 3 by Seto.
The Irish ended the half on a 32-13 run and Vermont could never mount a serious challenge in the second half.
The Irish are a victory away from the third 30-win season in school history. The other two times were in 2001 when they won the national championship with a 34-2 record and in 1997 when they went to the Final Four.
Vermont (27-7), which beat Wisconsin on Sunday for its first NCAA tournament win ever, fell to 0-8 all-time vs. top-10 teams. The Irish finished the regular season ranked No. 7.