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ND to face Tennessee in Elite Eight

Laura Myers | Sunday, March 27, 2011

Notre Dame has not played in the Elite Eight since 2001, its first and only championship season.

Notre Dame has not played Tennessee since 2008, when Volunteers topped the Irish 74-64 in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament on their way to the most recent of their eight national championships.

Monday, the Irish will do both.

They will also look to defeat the Volunteers for the first time in program history; Notre Dame  is 0-20 against Tennessee all-time.

“We know the history between the two programs, with two hall of fame coaches,” sophomore guard Skylar Diggins said at a press conference in Dayton Sunday. “It’s going to be a great game. … We’re obviously looking to break that.”

The Volunteers defeated Ohio State 85-75 Saturday in the Dayton regional’s first game.

In that game, Tennessee out-rebounded the Buckeyes 45-29. McGraw said rebounding would be the most important part of Notre Dame’s play against the physical Volunteer team.

“We need the best out of everybody on our team tomorrow,” she said. “We need everybody to be able to get in and rebound, to box out, to try to get a career high in rebounding.”

Senior forward Devereaux Peters, who leads the team in rebounding and had 12 rebounds Saturday against Oklahoma, should figure prominently in this effort.

“They obviously have a really big team, and they’re a physical team that gets to the boards a lot,” Peters said. “… They have a lot of threats.”

Tennessee’s starting five includes one guard, point guard Meigan Simmons, one center and three forwards, including SEC player of the year Shekinna Striklen. 

Diggins said she had a plan to contain Simmons, the SEC freshman of the year, who averages nearly 14 points per game and scored 18 along with five rebounds and five assists against Ohio State Saturday.

“She’s a player that plays with a lot of emotion, so we’re going to try to put pressure on her. Being in this atmosphere, it’s different,” Diggins said. “So we’re going to try to take her out of her game.”

Senior forward Becca Bruszewski, who injured her left knee during the Irish win, was not cleared for practice Sunday and will be a game-time decision, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

“We hope we can use her a little bit tomorrow but her knee’s pretty sore,” McGraw said. “Obviously we need her in there with her toughness I think she’s going to want to play.”

Notre Dame and Tennessee tip off at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.