SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Tennessee coach Holly Warlick feels a lot better about how the fifth-ranked Lady Vols played in an 11-point loss to No. 6 Notre Dame on Monday night than she did in a 13-point loss at then-No. 6 Texas in November.
"The Texas game we were uninspired and had low energy. It's night-and-day," she said. "I'm not faulting us for effort. We had high energy. We just couldn't finish the deal."
The Lady Vols could do little to slow down Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, who scored 34 points in the 88-77 victory. The Lady Vols said the loss didn't shake their confidence.
"I think everything that happened out there is fixable," Andraya Carter said. "The SEC is tough, so we can't have a confidence break. We know the way we can play and we know what Lady Vol basketball is when we do it right. So I think we just have to have confidence in that."
Cierra Burdick said the loss showed the Lady Vols they need to play better defense.
"You have to be able to get stops when you need them," she said.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw laughed when she was asked if the Irish finally "got the number" of Tennessee, beating the Lady Vols for a fifth straight time.
"Well, we had an 0-20 start, so we're kind of coming out of a hole there," McGraw said. "We had nothing to lose. I think we've just got momentum going and we feel like we have a lot of confidence going into the game."
Loyd hit 13-of-23 shots with five rebounds and four assists in an 88-77 victory.
"Jewell was Jewell. She was phenomenal today," McGraw said. "She's so fun to watch and so hard to guard."
Loyd drove through the lane, scored on backdoor passes and hit baskets even when Tennessee defended her well, spinning inside and hitting a shot over a crowd inside.
"One of the best players that we've played against and seen," Warlick said. "We tried to switch on her, we face-guarded her, but she was in a zone. We just didn't have an answer for her."
The Lady Vols (15-3) hadn't allowed any opponents to shoot better than 54 percent all season, but the Irish (17-2) shot 58 percent and the 88 points were 16 points more than Tennessee had allowed all season.
"It's tough to beat a team when they're getting good looks and they're finishing," Warlick said.
Tennessee cut the lead to 42-41 early in the second half on a layup by Isabelle Harrison and cut it again to 46-44 on a rebound basket by Bashaara Graves, who led Tennessee with 22 points. The Irish responded with a 6-0 spurt on a rebound by Allen, a basket inside by Briana Turner and a backdoor layup by Loyd to extend the lead to eight points.
When Ariel Massengale hit a 3-pointer, Loyd responded with a three-point play. The Irish eventually used a 9-3 run, highlighted by a 3-pointer by Loyd and an alley-oop layup by Brianna Turner on a pass from Allen to open a 66-52 lead.
Tennessee narrowed the lead 80-74 on a layup by Graves with 56 seconds left, but couldn't get any closer.
Tennessee: Tennessee's five straight losses to Notre Dame have all been by 10 points or more. .... The Lady Vols had held opponents to 53 points or fewer in 13 of 17 games. ... After playing at Tennessee two straight seasons, the Lady Vols are scheduled to play in South Bend again next year.
Notre Dame: The victory was McGraw's 900th game as Notre Dame's coach. Her record is 680-220, a winning percentage of 75.6. ... Notre Dame players wore "We Back Pat" T-shirts before the game in support of the Pat Summitt Foundation, an initiative focused on recognizing the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Summitt coached Tennessee for 38 seasons before stepping down in April 2012 one year after announcing she had early-onset Alzheimer's. Tennessee players wore similar shirts.
Warlick gave much of the credit of Tennessee's defensive struggles to Notre Dame's offense, but said the Lady Volunteers defense wasn't aggressive enough. "Our games where we've held people we've attacked and we've dictated. I thought the majority of the time we didn't dictate anyone one defense."
Tennessee: Hosts LSU on Thursday.
Notre Dame: Hosts Georgia Tech on Thursday.
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