Notre Dame takes on No. 6 Vols
Renee Griffin | Monday, January 19, 2015
No. 7 Notre Dame will take on No. 6 Tennessee at Purcell Pavilion tonight at 7 p.m., with the Volunteers entering on an 11-game winning streak and the Irish fresh off a road win against No. 13 North Carolina.
The matchup pits Notre Dame’s No. 4 scoring offense against Tennessee’s eighth-ranked scoring defense, making the inside game crucial, Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey said.
“I think the biggest thing for us is going to be rebounding,” Ivey said. “They have two solid post players in [junior forward] Bashaara Graves and [senior center] Isabelle Harrison. Harrison is coming off a huge year last year. She’s a veteran post player, [second on the team] in blocked shots. She’s really, really athletic and does a really good job with their high-low type offense. So it’s really going to be a game of trying shut down their inside presence.”
Ivey said that though every player will contribute, solid performances by the post players will be key for the Irish (16-2, 4-2 ACC).“I think it’ll have to be a completely total team effort, but our post players have to really focus on keeping them off the boards,” Ivey said. “Like I said, they have a really good inside presence, really good high-low action, so we expect our bigs — [freshman forward] Kathryn [Westbeld], [sophomore forward] Taya [Reimer], [freshman forward] Brianna [Turner] and [senior forward] Markisha [Wright] — to really play significant minutes to try and contain them.”
Notre Dame holds a 9-1 record at Purcell Pavilion this season, but Tennessee (15-2, 5-0 SEC) has shown an ability to win on the road, winning its last five away games.
In fact, the Volunteers have not lost since November, when they surrendered back-to-back games to Chattanooga and then-No. 6 Texas. The Irish beat Chattanooga, 88-53, on Nov. 21, but suffered their own losses to No. 2 Connecticut on Dec. 6 and to Miami on Jan. 8.
However, momentum and morale could be a factor, as Ivey said Thursday’s 89-79 victory over No. 13 North Carolina helped instill confidence in the team.
“We’re a young team, so we really have to focus on just one game at a time,” Ivey said. “It’s a great confidence-builder for us to beat a really good North Carolina team on the road, so it’s going to be good for us, coming into our place with a little bit of confidence, having beaten a team like we just beat. But just trying not to look too far in advance and taking each game at a time is great preparation for our next opponent.”There is considerable history between Notre Dame and Tennessee, as today’s game will mark the 25th matchup between the teams. Tennessee holds a 20-4 all-time record in the series, but the Irish have won the last four, including an 86-70 win in 2014, when Notre Dame was ranked No. 2 and the Volunteers were ranked No. 11.
Ivey said Notre Dame will try to repeat the success it had against Tennessee last season.
“We go back and watch a lot of film, just to see what we did last year,” Ivey said. “That was a big win for us. We were down in the first half and came back. We were really resilient but that was because of our senior leadership, so we’re going to back and really dissect that game and just see the things that we need to work on offensively and the things we need to do better defensively.”
The Irish and the Volunteers face off at Purcell Pavilion tonight at 7 p.m.