ROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence guard Symone Roberts hasn’t had the team success that she would have liked. But she showed on senior night why she is the Friars’ leader.
The 5-foot-7 guard had 22 points and four assists in a 92-57 loss Saturday to Notre Dame, which clinched a share of the Big East regular-season title.
“She’s played hard all year, and she would shoot a little better if she didn’t have to play 38 minutes a game,” said first-year Providence coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl. “But I appreciate her hustle. She attacks, and that’s what I asked of her.”
Sophomore Tori Rule added 13 points and another senior, Brianna Edwards, chipped in 10 points for Providence (7-21, 2-13), which has lost six straight and 13 of its last 15 games.
“We’ve tried to just keep working, building for the future,” Robinson Fruchtl said. “You hate it for the older kids, the seniors, but we’ve got to keep moving forward because this is a long-term project and it’s going to take a couple of years.”
For Notre Dame, the time is now.
Skylar Diggins scored 28 points and Kayla McBride added 24 for the second-ranked Irish, who now have at least a piece of back-to-back conference championships.
Natalie Achonwa chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds for the Irish (27-1, 15-0 Big East) who extended their winning streak to 22 games.
“How could we be anything but happy right now,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said . “This team has overachieved all season and I’m just thrilled with where we are right now.”
Notre Dame will look to win the regular-season outright Monday at home in a showdown with No. 3 Connecticut. The Huskies can gain a piece of the title with a win.
“We don’t want to share it,” said McBride, who has combined with Diggins to score 101 points in their wins this week over Syracuse and Providence.
McBride hit 10 of her 15 shots from the field Saturday. Diggins was 8 of 15.
“At this point, right before the Big East tournament, you want to be playing well,” she said. “It’s coming down to the grind. Your body is little more sore and so we are just trying to come out here and have some fun.”
The Irish led by 20 points at halftime and opened the second half on a 10-2 run.
Notre Dame shot better than 52 percent from the floor, and hit seven of their 15 shots from 3-point range. Diggins had four of those on seven attempts.
Notre Dame also outrebounded Providence 51-21. .
Notre Dame has won 22 straight road games and Saturday’s game was never in doubt.
Diggins grabbed the opening tap, raced for a layup and the Irish never trailed, going on a 13-4 run to open the game.
Notre Dame hit seven of its first 10 shots and its first six shots from 3-point range.
Brianna Edwards tried to keep the Friars close, scoring all 10 of her points in the first half. But when she picked up her third foul, with just under 4 minutes to go in the half, Notre Dame was already up 19, 46-27.
Diggins had 17 points before intermission and McBride had 16 as the Irish went into the half leading 52-32.
Diggins also had two steals, moving her past assistant coach Niele Ivey and into the top spot on the school’s career list with 349.
A win Monday would give the Irish the top seed in the Big East tournament. A loss to UConn would drop Notre Dame into a tie with the Huskies, and UConn would get the top seed in a tiebreaker, because the Huskies beat Marquette twice this season while Notre Dame was only 1-0 against the Golden Eagles.
The Irish have turned the rivalry with UConn into a one-sided affair lately, winning five of the past six meetings, including a 73-72 win at Connecticut on Jan. 5.
“Monday it will be to win the Big East outright, so we want to play well, because that looks good on our resume,” Diggins said.
The Fighting Irish have never lost to Providence, improving to 22-0 with Saturday’s win. Nineteen of those wins have come by double digits. Notre Dame also beat Providence at home this year, 89-44 in January.
This was the final home game for Roberts, who last week scored her 1,000th career point, Edwards and Jenna Roncarati.
Robinson Fruchtl, whose team lost to UConn earlier this season 105-49, said she’d give the slight edge Monday to Notre Dame, because the Irish have Diggins and UConn doesn’t.
“She’s the best point guard in the country in my opinion,” she said. “Yes, she has great ability, but it’s her leadership, it’s her dictating the tempo, it’s her getting people in the right spots.”