The Lady Vols couldn’t overcome a flat third quarter and fell to Notre Dame, 79-66, in South Bend. Go inside with InsideTennessee for game analysis.
Tennessee (11-6) got off to a great start against Notre Dame (17-1) but turnovers plagued the Lady Vols, and they fell on the road in the non-conference game.
“Our turnovers put us in a hole,” Coach Holly Warlick said. “The turnovers keep popping up. We’ve got to take care of that problem.”
The Lady Vols turned loose of the ball 20 times, and the Fighting Irish turned that into 24 points. It has been a recurring problem for Tennessee and, once again, most of them were unforced.
“It’s nerves,” guard Jordan Reynolds said. “We need to calm down and read the floor.”
Reynolds played one of her best games of the season with nine points, five boards, seven assists and just one turnover. The junior guard’s resurgence would be a tremendous benefit for Tennessee.
Warlick struck a positive tone after the game and complimented her team’s fight and efforts on the glass, especially the offensive end.
Tennessee shot 53.5 percent in the first quarter and led Notre Dame, 18-15, after the first 10 minutes. But 10 first-half turnovers left the Lady Vols trailing 29-36 and then came the third quarter. Diamond DeShields wasn’t in sight for the first four minutes and then appeared on the bench with a taped right shoulder.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, found its offensive groove, and Tennessee trailed 57-39 at the end of the third quarter behind a series of turnovers and quick shots. The Lady Vols too often have tried to make up a deficit, even a small one, too quickly.
For example, after two consecutive baskets to open the third quarter and close the lead to five points, Jaime Nared lofted a three-pointer and missed. For Tennessee, the turnovers and bad shots can snowball, and the team hasn’t been able to get out of the funk. At times the reserves try to make a splash upon entering instead of getting into the flow. The result are squandered possessions, even if it’s not a turnover.
The Lady Vols made a late charge in the fourth quarter thanks to a flurry of defense and shots by Diamond DeShields, but Tennessee could not make up for the deficit it dug in the third quarter.
DeShields led the Lady Vols with 17 points, while Bashaara Graves added 13 points and Nared notched nine. DeShields kept her turnovers to a manageable four but two came on bad passes. Te’a Cooper continued to struggle with four turnovers in 11 minutes, but the Lady Vols need to get the freshman point guard on the court.
Andraya Carter is managing the game at point guard on an ailing knee – she had three assists and no turnover – and had to play 32 minutes. The emergence of Cooper and resurgence of Reynolds would make Carter more effective because she could play less minutes.
The Lady Vols did a good job of guarding the arc with Notre Dame going 4-9 – the Fighting Irish can score in bunches from long range – but gave up drives and Notre Dame got 38 points in the paint led by 14 by Brianna Turner. Arike Ogunbowale also tallied 14 points for the Irish.
Tennessee shot 42.9 percent (27-63) from the field and notched 13 assists. They prevailed on the boards, 36-32, with Bashaara Graves getting a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Mercedes Russell had a pair of sixes in points and boards.
The Lady Vols lack confidence and focus – and that is a brutal combination against the No. 3 team in the country. Perhaps that is why Warlick took a soft approach on the post-game radio show.
“This team is hurting,” Warlick said. “I’m hurting. I hurt for them. Their hearts are in it. They’re playing hard.”
Tennessee doesn’t have much time to dwell on the defeat as Vanderbilt is in Knoxville on Thursday and then the Lady Vols hit the road again for games at Kentucky and Texas A&M, both of which gave undefeated South Carolina all it could handle this month.
“The SEC is our priority,” Warlick said. “We’ve got to go back and get ready for Vandy. We’ve got to keep competing and not give up. Get behind these kids. They are playing as hard as they can.”