By Ron Wynn
The Lady Volunteers hope they don’t see Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggs again anytime soon. Diggs had an amazing performance Monday night, one that prevented a late UT rally from overtaking the Irish as Notre Dame prevailed 77-67 in Knoxville. It was Notre Dame’s 14th straight win, one that came despite a huge crowd (13,556) gathered to honor longtime UT and Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt. The televised game featured a banner raised in Summitt’s honor, and the return of many former UT standouts, including Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw and Candace Parker.
But none of those players were on the court guarding Diggs, and UT had no defense that could stop her, either singly or team wise. Diggs’ prowess helped Notre Dame put UT in a huge early hole, as they built a 19-point lead. But Tennessee fought back and cut it to four by halftime (33-29). Throughout the second half, every time it seemed Tennessee was about to take over, Diggs would make a great shot, get a key rebound, or a big assist. She ended with 33 points, hitting 13 of 26 from the field and four of eight from the foul line. She also had five assists.
“She had a phenomenal game,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw told the Associated Press. “She’s shooting the ball extremely well. She shot 50 percent from the field against a great defense, managed the game, ran the team. Fourth game in nine days, I thought we looked a little tired in stretches at the end, and I really didn’t want to take her out to even give her a quick breath. She really gutted it out for 40 minutes with intense pressure on the ball.”
“We went up against a great team and a great player in Skylar Diggs,” UT coach Holly Warlick added. “We battled. When we learn to maintain a level of play for us, we’re going to be very good. We just get in some lulls and some valleys.” It was Tennessee’s fourth loss of the season against 16 wins. Three of the four have come against top-ranked opposition (Baylor and Stanford in addition to Notre Dame) while the other was a season-opening upset by UT Chattanooga. The Lady Vols remain undefeated in SEC play.
Bashaara Graves led UT with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Taber Spani had 13 and Meighan Simmons 11 points. The loss snapped a nine-game UT winning streak. Simmons’ effectiveness was limited by foul trouble, while starting center Isabelle Harrison, already battling a meniscus injury in her left knee, was hurt during the game. There was no announcement afterwards regarding her condition.
The Lady Vols next game will be Thursday in Knoxville against Mississippi State. It will be shown on CSS at 6 p.m.
Photo By: notredamegoirish