Jewell Loyd takes over as Notre Dame upends Tennessee
SOUTH BEND – After being taken to school this season by Connecticut and Miami, and taken to task by their own coach for not being physical enough, No. 6 Notre Dame showed itself and the rest of the women’s basketball world something Monday night against No. 5 Tennessee.
On a day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and legendary coach Pat Summitt, the Irish first decided to have fun and then got physical with the Volunteers before a capacity crowd of 9,149 at the Purcell Pavilion and millions more watching on ESPN2’s Big Monday Night.
“Just before the (opening tip), we said, ‘Let’s have some fun and enjoy the moment,’” said junior All-American Jewell Loyd, who saw her 60-game string of double-digit scoring efforts snapped last Thursday at North Carolina. “And that’s what we did.”
With Loyd scoring 34 points – her third time over 30 points this season – and Lindsay Allen adding 15, Brianna Turner 13 and Taya Reimer contributing nine points with 10 rebounds, Notre Dame never trailed in an 88-77 victory that was as impressive from start to finish as any game the Irish have played in their 17-2 season.
“This is a great victory for us,” coach Muffet McGraw said after coaching her 900th game at Notre Dame and watching her team win for the fifth straight time against the Vols, who won the first 20 games in the series. The 88 points scored by Notre Dame, which hosts Atlantic Coast Conference foe Georgia Tech Thursday night, are the most ever against Tennessee, where eight national-title trophies currently reside thanks to the work of Summitt, who is battling the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s great to be able to win and still have a lot of things to work on, and as a coach, you like that,” said McGraw, who made a few adjustments at halftime with her team leading 40-37 thanks to a sizzling 62.5-percent shooting (15 of 24) effort and an amazing tip-in by Loyd off a missed Allen 3-point shot that hit the backboard and caromed right to Loyd just before the buzzer.
The adjustments mainly were in the rebounding department where Tennessee stayed close in the first 20 minutes because of an 18-13 edge on the boards, including 10-3 in offensive rebounds.
In the second half, the Irish turned the boards to their advantage, finishing with a 36-34 edge at game’s end and just a one-rebound deficit, 8-7, on the offensive boards.
Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick, who played for Summitt and was her long-time assistant before being elevated to the head position prior to the 2012-13 season, thought Notre Dame just finished more plays than her team.
“I thought we had key stops but couldn’t finish it with a rebound, and we also fouled way too much,” said Warlick, whose team took 19 more shots than Notre Dame but was held to 43.2-percent shooting (32 of 74) and also was whistled for seven more fouls (19-12). The Irish hit 20 of 27 from the line (74.1 percent) while the Vols only shot 10 free throws and hit seven.
The Irish started quickly after Reimer corralled her first rebound of the game and Loyd’s opening basket was followed by the first of two 3-pointers by Michaela Mabrey for a 5-0 lead. Tennessee responded with two baskets and a free throw from Bashaara Graves, who had a team-high 22 points (Cierra Burdick had 15, Isabelle Harrison 12 and Ariel Massengale 11) to tie the game at 5-5 with 17:03 left.
Mabrey’s second 3-pointer just five seconds later gave the Irish the lead for good and, while Tennessee got within a point three times, Notre Dame maintained its composure and the lead thanks to its remarkable first-half shooting. At one point, with 2:54 to play in the first half, Notre Dame had hit 14 of 19 shots (73.7 percent).
With 1:09 remaining before half and Notre Dame leading by a point, Loyd drove the lane and collided with several Tennessee players in the lane, fell hard and was whistled for an offensive foul. She remained on the floor for a couple of minutes but finally got up and made her way to the bench for a quick breather.
“It was a shocker,” Loyd said. “I’m tough. I’ve played tackle football with the guys, so it was nothing really bad. It was my butt.”
With three seconds remaining and 90 feet of the floor to travel, McGraw drew up a play to free up Allen and Loyd. Freshman Kathryn Westbeld passed the ball to Allen at midcourt, and the sophomore point guard, who contributed six assists, three steals and five rebounds, threw up a desperation prayer off the backboard.
Loyd, who had sprinted across the court and then into position to get the rebound, got the ball in mid-air and banked it home for a 40-37 halftime lead.
“The only thing Coach drew up was something to get Jewell and Lindsay free,” Westbeld said. “We figured out the rest.”
And after their halftime adjustments, the Irish moved steadily away with Reimer helping Turner, who had just three rebounds after last Thursday’s career 18 at North Carolina but also changed a lot of Tennessee shots thanks to five blocks, and everyone getting into the act offensively. Notre Dame’s largest lead was 14 after Madison Cable produced one of her two steals and scored for a 66-52 lead with 8:32 remaining.
Tennessee got it back to 80-74 with 56 seconds remaining, but Notre Dame hit eight of 10 free throws in the final minute, with Loyd providing the 87th and 88th points with 10 seconds to play.
“You just have to try to make it hard on her (Loyd), get a hand in her face when she is taking a shot,” said Andraya Carter, who drew the assignment and fouled out after scoring nine herself. “Notre Dame may be the smartest team we’ve played this season.”
Smart, balanced — and now toughened.
NOTRE DAME 88, TENNESSEE 77
At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend, Ind.
TENNESSEE (77): Cierra Burdick 6-12 1-1 15, Bashaara Graves 10-20 2-3 22, Isabelle Harrison 4-15 4-6 12, Jordan Reynolds 2-3 0-0 4, Andraya Carter 4-6 0-0 9, Ariel Massengale 4-9 0-0 11, Nia Moore 2-5 0-0 4, Jaime Nared 0-1 0-0 0, Alexa Middleton 0-3 0-0 0, TOTALS 32-74 7-10 77.
NOTRE DAME (88): Brianna Turner 6-8 1-1 13, Taya Reimer 4-6 1-2 9, Lindsay Allen 5-9 5-5 15, Michaela Mabrey 2-3 0-0 6, Jewell Loyd 13-23 6-9 34, Kathryn Westbeld 1-4 3-6 5, Madison Cable 1-2 4-4 6, Hannah Huffman 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 32-55 20-27 88.
Halftime: Notre Dame 40, Tennessee 37.
Shooting: Tennessee 32 of 74 for 43.2 percent; Notre Dame 32 of 55 for 58.2 percent. 3-point shooting: Tennessee 6 of 10 (Massengale 3-6, Burdick 2-3, Carter 1-1) for 60 percent; Notre Dame 4 of 10 (Mabrey 2-2, Loyd 2-5, Allen 0-1, Cable 0-1, Westbeld 0-1) for 40 percent. Rebounds: Tennessee 34 (Harrison 9, Graves 8); Notre Dame 36 (Reimer 10, Allen 5, Loyd 5, Cable 5, Turner 3). Assists: Tennessee 16 (Massengale 4, Burdick 3, Graves 3, Carter 3); Notre Dame 18 (Allen 6, Loyd 4, Cable 3). Blocked shots: Tennessee 2 (Harrison 1, Carter 1); Notre Dame 6 (Turner 5, Cable 1). Steals: Tennessee 8 (Carter 4, Harrison 2); Notre Dame 7 (Allen 3, Cable 2). Turnovers: Tennessee 10 (Massengale 4, Harrison 2, Carter 2); Notre Dame 13 (Loyd 6, Allen 3). Total fouls (fouled out): Tennessee 19 (Burdick 00:40, Carter 00:10); Notre Dame 12 (none).
Officials: Dee Kantner, Wesley Dean, Joseph Vaszily.
Records: Tennessee 15-3, Notre Dame 17-2.