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Notre Dame

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Associated Press
Notre Dame’s Natalie Achonwa, left, was surprised by the shirts with “Ace” and the No. 11 that the team wore during warmups Sunday.

Sidelined star moved by Irish warmup tribute

– Diamond Thompson triggered a stirring tribute from the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.

Those new warmup shirts that have “Ace” and the No. 11 on the back? Her idea.

The Irish unveiled them for the first time Sunday night in a show of support for teammate Natalie Achonwa, who suffered a season-ending knee injury March 31.

“The team literally put me on their back,” said Achonwa, who didn’t see the shirts until Notre Dame ran onto the court at Bridgestone Arena for stretching.

Thompson, a seldom-used freshman center, had told Achonwa she was in for a surprise. “I didn’t know what it was,” Achonwa said. “It felt so good. It was really inspiring. The 13 of us will ride for each other, go to war for each other. It goes beyond basketball, and (the shirts) really exemplify that.”

Good for sport

Because of the records, UConn coach Geno Auriemma expects tonight’s game to draw perhaps more television viewers to women’s college basketball than ever before.

“Those that have not had any interest may tune in to see what’s going on,” Auriemma said. “There need to be more rivalries like UConn-Notre Dame. The game of women’s basketball will be better off Wednesday morning. There’s nothing that could be better for the sport.”

End of the line

For Irish seniors Achonwa, Kayla McBride and Ariel Braker, they have the chance to end their careers on the ultimate high note.

“I’m not even thinking about it being my last game,” Braker said. “Maybe (today) it will hit me. I’m not much of en emotional person. I’m just going to leave it all out on the floor. No reason to save energy.”