KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) – Despite a 19-point, 13-rebound effort by UT freshman Bashaara Graves, No. 2/3 Notre Dame defeated No. 9/9 Tennessee 77-67 Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena in front of a crowd of 13,556, the largest home crowd of the season.
The loss ended a nine-game win streak for the Lady Vols dating back to Dec. 28, 2012.
The Lady Vols (16-4) kept the Fighting Irish (19-1) in check during the first half, but an early second half surge by the visiting team was too much for Tennessee to overcome as they fell to Notre Dame for the third-straight meeting.
Skylar Diggins led the Fighting Irish putting up 33 points on the night, the most against the Lady Vols this season and most since A’dia Matthews had 34 for Kentucky on Jan. 12, 2012. Twenty-two of her 33 points came in the second half.
Graves double-double was her team-leading eighth of the season, and 10 of her rebounds came on the offensive glass, a career best. Nine of her 19 points came from the charity stripe, yet another career best for the freshman.
The Lady Vols took advantage of their second chances outscoring Notre Dame 17-14, while also putting up 18 points off turnovers. But the Irish had the edge in the paint, 38-28.
Ariel Massengale dished out nine assists on the night, a season-high for the sophomore.
Notre Dame opened the second half on 8-3 run extending its lead to 41-32, the largest of the game. Just a few minutes later the Fighting Irish took a 17-point lead thanks in part to an 11-0 run to make it 54-37 after the under-16 break.
The Lady Vols turned it on putting up six points in just 24 seconds extending that run into an 18-5 offensive onslaught to cut the deficit to just six points with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
But the Irish’s shots continued to fall as they went 53.6 percent from the field in the second half, including a 66.7 percent effort from behind the arc, finishing with the 77-67 victory.
The night began with a presentation honoring Lady Vol Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summit who became the 11th Vol to have a banner raised in their honor at Thompson-Boling Arena, and just the sixth Lady Vol.
Summitt’s banner was raised in the rafters alongside Daedra Charles, Brigette Gordon, Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw, and Holly Warlick. The final three Lady Vols were in attendance for the ceremony along with Candace Parker.
The Hall of Fame coach, who led the Lady Vols from 1974-2012, accumulated 1,098 wins and eight National Championships during her tenure. Summit became the first Lady Vol since Catchings Dec. 7, 2003 to be honored.
In the first half, the Lady Vols jumped out to an early 5-0 lead netting the first two baskets of the game, but the Fighting Irish responded with an 8-0 run of their own to take a 14-9 lead and force Holly Warlick to call an early timeout.
The two teams battled back and forth with Notre Dame holding the slight edge until UT took off on a 7-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer by Kamiko Williams to bring the game within two, and a 17-foot jumper by Bashaara Graves tied things up at 25-all forcing Muffet McGraw to call a timeout of her own.
After the return to action, Isabelle Harrison injured herself driving to the hoop and was replaced on the court by Jasmine Jones who hit an outside jumper to bring things within one.
A three right before the half gave Notre Dame its four-point halftime lead, the sixth time this season the Lady Vols trailed at the half. UT was 3-2 in the previous five games when trailing.
Tennessee will look to bounce back against Mississippi State this Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.