ND Women’s Basketball
Vanquishing the Lady Vols
Samantha Zuba | Monday, January 19, 2015
No. 6 Notre Dame stepped up in front of a national audience and a raucous full house to defeat No. 5 Tennessee, 88-77, on Monday night at Purcell Pavilion.
“I think it’s great for this young team to understand what it’s like to play on [ESPN’s] Big Monday in front of a national audience with a great crowd in a big game like this,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It’s the kind of atmosphere that the NCAA tournament’s going to look like.”
Junior guard Jewell Loyd powered the Irish (17-2, 4-1 ACC) with 34 points and four assists. This season, Loyd has averaged 27.7 points per game against ranked opponents.
“It’s really from my teammates,” Loyd said of her performance. “They look for me, and they encourage me so much, so I give all the credit to them. … When you have someone encourage you, it makes it a lot easier.”
“Jewell was Jewell,” McGraw said. “She was phenomenal today.”
The Irish struck at end the first half and extended that momentum into the second period.
With three seconds remaining in the first period, Notre Dame called a timeout. The inbounds pass went to sophomore guard Lindsay Allen, who bounced a shot off the glass. Loyd snagged the rebound and tipped it in as time expired. The play energized the Irish, McGraw said.
The Irish pushed their lead to 59-49 at the midway point of the second half. In the game’s closing minutes, the Lady Volunteers (15-3, 5-0 SEC) could not made a significant dent in Notre Dame’s advantage.
Tennessee outrebounded the Irish early, 18-13 in the first half, and scored many of its initial points in the paint. Notre Dame managed just three offensive rebounds in the half.
“I thought the difference in the game really was rebounding,” McGraw said. “The second half we rebounded much better. First half — really disappointing, and they still had 18 offensive rebounds [on the game], so we’ve got some work to do there, but I’m happy with our post game.”
The Irish also struggled at the line in the first half, shooting 7-for-12 (58.3 percent).
But Notre Dame headed to the locker room with a 40-37 lead, largely on the strength of 62.5 percent field goal shooting. The Volunteers shot 45.7 percent from the floor.
Loyd racked up 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting by halftime to lead Notre Dame on her way to topping 30 points.
Notre Dame jumped to an early lead by working the perimeter, as junior guard Michaela Mabrey drained two early 3-pointers to help put the Irish up 8-5.
Allen (15) and freshman forward Brianna Turner (13) also finished in double-digits. Sophomore forward Taya Reimer scored only one point in the first half but eventually tallied nine total points and led the team in rebounds with 10 by the game’s end.
“I love this team,” Reimer said. “We all get along so well, and I love playing with this team. We all enjoy playing together, and tonight was such a fun game. All of us were really gelling.”
Junior forward Bashaara Graves led the Volunteers in the first half with 14 points. Tennessee’s leading scorers entering the game, senior guard Ariel Massengale and senior center Isabelle Harrison, got off to slow starts but finished the game with 11 and 12 points, respectively.
Graves finished with a team-high 22 points, and senior forward Cierra Burdick scored 15.
Overall though, Tennessee shot just 43.2 percent from the floor.
“I think we missed ‘em,” Volunteers coach Holly Warlick said of her team’s scoring opportunities, especially near the basket. “And they have a lot to do with their defensive presence as well. I think it’s a combination of both.”
Before the game, both teams united in wearing “We Back Pat” shirts for warm-ups to show support for former Tennessee hall-of-fame coach Pat Summitt and her Alzheimer’s foundation. Summitt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s diesease in 2011.
Next up, the Irish take on Georgia Tech on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.