KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw worried her team might be facing Tennessee at the worst possible time as the Lady Volunteers tried to end their longest losing streak in nearly half a century.
Sure enough, the top-ranked Fighting Irish needed to erase a second-half deficit before winning 77-62 to hand the Lady Vols their sixth consecutive loss. Jackie Young recorded a triple-double and Arike Ogunbowale scored 24 of her 28 points after halftime.
This marked the second straight year Notre Dame came from behind to beat Tennessee. Last season, the Irish rallied from 23 points down to defeat the Lady Vols 84-70 for their biggest comeback in program history.
“I was worried for a couple of reasons,” McGraw said. “One, last year’s game really turned our season around and I thought they would be talking about how this game could turn their season around. … And I thought they kind of had their backs against the wall and were playing as hard as they could against the No. 1 team.”
Tennessee (12-7) hadn’t lost six straight games since 1970. The Lady Vols led for most of the first half Thursday and were still ahead early in the third quarter before Notre Dame took command.
“I’m disappointed, obviously, in the outcome, but I’ll tell you this, our kids didn’t have anything left in the tank,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “They fought and played hard. That’s a great step for us and a good process for this team.”
Young had 16 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and only two turnovers for the seventh triple-double in Notre Dame history. The school’s last player to post a triple-double was Lindsay Allen against Chattanooga on Dec. 27, 2016.
Notre Dame missed 11 of its first 12 shots and trailed by as many as eight points before outscoring Tennessee 46-28 in the second half.
“The coaches just really told us to take good shots,” Young said. “I think that was the problem at the beginning of the game. As the game went on, we were just able to stay in our offense and look for the open shots and just take wide-open layups really. At the start of the game, we were just a little rattled and just trying to score as soon as we could instead of staying in the play and just spreading our offense.”
Tennessee led 38-32 early in the third quarter before Ogunbowale scored seven points in an 11-0 Notre Dame run. Tennessee rallied to tie it at 44, but Ogunbowale scored 11 more points in a 19-2 spurt that put the game away.
The Irish scored 13 straight points during that 19-2 stretch.
“I just stayed calm,” Ogunbowale said. “I have to really work on my start, but I also know there’s still 20 minutes left in the game. Just stay focused.”
Tennessee’s Zaay Green scored a career-high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Evina Westbrook scored 16.
Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner each scored 13 points for Notre Dame. Shepard also had 11 rebounds.
Notre Dame: Young is the only non-senior in the starting lineup, but Thursday’s game showed how much the junior guard means to the Irish. “She’s kind of been the glue that keeps us together,” McGraw said. “She’s someone we can count on to do absolutely everything.”
Tennessee: Green’s breakthrough performance offers the Lady Vols at least some cause for encouragement. The Lady Vols now need Rennia Davis to break out of her slump. Davis, the Lady Vols’ second-leading scorer this season, had six points and shot 3 of 14 before fouling out. She’s shot a combined 8 of 43 over Tennessee’s last four games.
Tennessee was playing without starting guard Meme Jackson, who hurt her ankle Monday in a 80-79 loss to Arkansas. Her status is day to day.
Notre Dame beat Tennessee for the eighth time in its last nine attempts. Tennessee owned a 20-0 record against the Irish before this stretch.
WE BACK PAT
This game was part of the We Back Pat Week initiative to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease in honor of former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who died in June 2016 at the age of 64. Both Tennessee and Notre Dame wore We Back Pat T-shirts during pregame warmups.
A check for a $500,000 annual grant to the University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Pat Summitt Clinic was presented at the end of the first quarter. The clinic is dedicated to the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Notre Dame: at North Carolina on Sunday.
Tennessee: hosts LSU on Sunday.
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