The sixth-ranked Lady Vols (16-2) were on the wrong side of history on Thursday night, as No. 5 Notre Dame (17-2) completed its biggest come from behind victory in program history. Behind 27 points from Arike Ogunbowale, the Fighting Irish erased a 23-point deficient to beat Tennessee 84-70.
“We’ve been pretty gritty and we’ve been pretty tough,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “I don’t think we were gritty and tough today overall for 40 minutes.”
Warlick’s squad was red-hot from the field to start the game, as the Lady Vols shot 68 percent in the first quarter. Notre Dame jumped out to an early 4-2 lead, but Tennessee would go on a 21-2 run over six minutes to help build a 27-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Vols dominated on both ends of the floor in the first quarter, out-rebounding the Fighting Irish 14-5. On the night, Tennessee won the rebounding battle 34-27.
While the story in the first quarter surrounded the Lady Vols dominance, the story in the second quarter was Notre Dame’s ability to battle back.
Both teams swapped buckets in the opening minutes of the second quarter, but the Fighting Irish would go on a 10-0 run midway through the quarter to cut the Lady Vols lead 39-27 heading into halftime.
Notre Dame put together yet another run midway through the third, trimming the Tennessee lead to 10 thanks to a 9-1 run. Forward Jessica Shepard sparked the run, scoring six points in the quarter on 3-of-3 shooting.
In the fourth quarter, Notre Dame dominated Tennessee, outscoring the Lady Vols 34-10. The Lady Vols entered the final quarter with a 60-54 lead, but Ogunbowale quickly erased that lead, tying the game at 65-all with a free throw just under the six-minute mark. 30 seconds later, Marina Mabrey drilled a 3-pointer to give Notre Dame its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
Tennessee’s 10 points in the fourth quarter were the fewest its scored in a fourth quarter this season. The offense struggled in large part due to 28 turnovers.
“Down the stretch we were just throwing the ball out of bounds,” Warlick said. “We just needed to throw the ball to the people in orange. We were throwing it to the people in green up in the stands.”
Despite the offense faltering late, the Lady Vols had five players reach double-figures. Meme Jackson led the way 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting, while Mercedes Russell, Rennia Davis and Evina Westbrook each contributed 12 points. Senior forward Jaime Nared finished with just 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
After a tough three-game road trip in which the Lady Vols were 1-2, they now return home. Tennessee will face No. 3 Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics