Kaila Turner has never been about herself.
At Marian Catholic, she prided herself on defense and setting others up to score. Though Turner was not afraid to go the basket when needed, she was about team. She was a four-year starter at guard and a two-time Times Illinois Player of the Year.
At Notre Dame, Turner adjusted to her role of coming off the bench and alternated from point guard to shooting guard.
She was now in a position where she was expected to shoot. With All-American Skylar Diggins at point guard and Natalie Novosel at the No. 2 guard spot, Turner has played both and is a backup to both of the standouts. While she is not a starter, the junior has appeared in all 37 of the Fighting Irish's games.
Notre Dame (34-3) will face Connecticut at 5:30 p.m. today in one national semifinal at Denver's Pepsi Center. Baylor (38-0) will face Stanford (35-1) in the other semifinal. All four are No. 1 seeds.
"It was a change playing the 2-(guard), but I was able to make the transition," Turner said. "A lot of it is my teammates encouraging me and giving me confidence. It is a chance to play more and contribute to the team, and that is what it is about.
"We pride ourselves on our defense and being unselfish."
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said during a Thursday news conference in Denver that the Fighting Irish keeping the other team from scoring has been a big part of her team's success.
"We have a really determined, relentless approach defensively," she said. "I think we're a competitive team that we don't like to get scored on. So we take a lot of pride in that.
"I don't think that's something that a lot of people talk about. They talk about our steals and our assist-to-turnover ratios and stuff like that. I think it's something we feel we do pretty well."
Turner, who averages 3.4 points per game, had a career-high 17 points against Mercer on Dec. 30, going 4-of-5 from the field – including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. Turner scored 14 in a NCAA tournament win against St. Bonaventure, hitting 4-of-5 from 3-point land.
"I don't worry about whether I score because anyone on our team can have a big game," she said. "For us, it is about winning and if you have to do some little things, that's fine, as long as we can win."
While some high school stars would pout about lack of playing time, Turner knew her time would come.
"When you are on a team like this, you just work to get better," she said. "Not one person, but we all have worked hard to improve our game. We haven't accomplished what we wanted to yet, but hard work and unselfishness got us where we are."
This is the fourth time this season the two national and Big East powers will meet. Notre Dame won the two regular-season games, but UConn beat the Fighting Irish for the Big East Tournament title.
It is the third time the two will meet in the Final Four. Last year, Notre Dame won the semifinal 72-63, but lost in the NCAA title game. In 2001, Notre Dame beat UConn 90-75 in the semifinal en route to winning it all.
"We're excited to play UConn again," Turner said. "They are a great team, and it should be a good game."