Notre Dame (16-3) tried to become the first team to ever beat Tennessee in seven consecutive outings, but the Vols (11-6) weren't going to let that happen so easily. Statistically, the Irish held the advantage in almost every category, but the Vols had Diamond DeShields, who paced all scorers with 20 points, and a physical inside game that Notre Dame couldn’t counter. That accounted for Tennessee’s 37-32 rebounding advantage and 22 trips to the free-throw line compared to Notre Dame's nine.
For the Irish, Marina Mabrey led the way with 17 points while Arike Ogunbowale (14), Brianna Turner (10) and Jackie Young (10) all had double-digit efforts. Lindsay Allen was one point short of a double-double with nine points and 10 assists.
Vols' center Mercedes Russell had 13 points, while Jamie Nared and Jordan Reynolds each added 12.
In the blink of an eye, Tennessee owned an 11-2 advantage before a raucous crowd after which Notre Dame settled down into its offense. With a 16-point swing, the Irish had a 25-18 cushion at the end of the first period, and continued to click in the second. As time expired, Allen kicked the ball out to wide open freshman Erin Boley who buried the three for a 44-31 halftime lead.
But the second half didn't start as well as the first had ended for the Irish, which turned it over four times in the first three minutes. Adding fuel to the fire was Turner, who spent the rest of the quarter on the bench after picking up her third foul at the 4:14 mark.
Still, Notre Dame held a 62-52 edge with just 10 minutes left in the game.
Tennessee continued to chip away and with 1:19 remaining the Vols' Meme Jackson connected on a trey (with an assist to DeShields) for a 69-67 lead.
Tennessee never trailed again.
Notre Dame was held to just seven points in the final quarter as Tennessee claimed its biggest victory of the season.
"Hats off to Tennessee," said Irish associate head coach Niele Ivey. "They went after it in the second half. Diamond DeShields stepped up and gave them great offensive energy. We were resilient (after they took the quick lead) and we had poise. We also had great looks (late in the game) … we just need to finish.
"Tough place to play and they're a talented team. Now we need to move forward and get better."
Notre Dame resumes conference play - and returns to the road - when it travels to Chestnut Hill for a matchup up with Boston College on Jan. 19.