When the Lady Vols lost to Arkansas on Monday night, Holly Warlick was happy that she didn’t have to coach effort.
The effort displayed against the Razorbacks was a good step in the right direction all things considered. That same effort was present once again against No. 1 Notre Dame (19-1) on Thursday night. But the top-ranked Fighting Irish were too much for the Lady Vols (12-7) to handle as they fell by a score of 77-62.
After a tremendous showing in the first half, Tennessee laid an egg in the second half. Notre Dame outscored the Lady Vols 46-28 over the course of the final 20 minutes on 48 percent shooting from the field. Arike Ogunbowale led the way with a game-high 28 points for the Fighting Irish. Ogunbowale added six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Along with Ogunbowale, junior guard Jackie Young recorded a triple-double – the first of her career. Young scored 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting, grabbed 12 rebounds, and assisted on 10 buckets in 39 minutes.
Trailing 34-31 at the break, Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run in the early stages of the third quarter to claim a 43-38 lead. Evina Westbrook then snapped the run with a bucket and sparked a 4-0 run to reclaim the lead. The Tennessee lead didn’t last long, as Notre Dame once again went on a run – this one of the 6-0 run variety – to claim a 50-44 lead.
Tennessee wouldn’t sniff the lead again. The Fighting Irish went on to outscore the Lady Vols 22-16 in the fourth quarter, closing out their 18th win of the season despite Tennessee leading for 19 minutes of action.
Despite the collapse in the second half, Tennessee was clicking on all cylinders in the first half. In the opening 20 minutes, the Lady Vols led for just over 16 minutes.
A 7-0 run capped by a Westbrook three gave Tennessee an 11-4 lead midway through the first quarter. After out-rebounding Notre Dame 12-10 and shooting 42 percent from the field while holding the Fighting Irish to 31 percent from the field, the Lady Vols led 17-14 at the end of one.
Notre Dame began to find its stroke in the second frame, going on runs of four makes in a row and seven makes in a row. It was able to make eight of its final 10 shots to end the half as well. A late 6-0 run from the Lady Vols allowed them to take the lead into intermission.
Here are the biggest observations from the Tennessee’s sixth-straight loss.
The Third Quarter
Tennessee’s third quarter was the difference in the game. It was the only quarter in which Notre Dame completely dominated, outscoring the Lady Vols 24-12.
Following two free throws from Kasiyahna Kushkituah, Tennessee led by six, 38-32, with 8:37 remaining in the third quarter. Notre Dame proceeded to close out the quarter on a 23-8 run.
After turning it over a season-low three times in the opening half, UT turned it over seven times in the third quarter alone. The Lady Vols finished the quarter making just one of their last eight shots and didn’t score over the final two minutes. They shot 51 percent in the frame while Notre Dame shot 31 percent.
With Notre Dame leading by nine at the end of the quarter, though the game was still within reach, the energy within the arena was lackluster as the deficit felt more like 20.
Tennessee’s three-point lead at the break was solely because of the play of freshman guard Zaay Green. The Texas native was on fire in the first half, scoring a game-high 15 points. Green was 7-of-13 from the field in the opening 20 minutes and grabbed five rebounds. She added four assists and a steal in 17 minutes.
“Zaay did exactly what we expect Zaay to do,” head coach Holly Warlick said after the game. “We need her to do that all the time, and she’s capable of doing that.”
The second half didn’t go as smoothly for Green, as she only scored four points on 2-of-8 shooting. On the night, she scored 19 points, grabbed eight boards, assisted on five buckets, and picked up a steal.
Green’s 19 points were not only a season-high, but a career-high as well.
Meme Jackson Out
On Monday night, Meme Jackson left the game in the second half after falling to the ground on a drive to the basket. Unable to put any pressure on her left ankle, Jackson left the game. She returned to the bench later in the game on crutches and her ankle heavily wrapped in ice. Following the game, Warlick said she was day-to-day but didn’t know specifically how long she would be out.
Against Notre Dame, Jackson didn’t play. Rather, her left ankle was in a walking boot as she was in street clothes. Warlick said after the game that she remains day-to-day.
The Lady Vols will look to snap their six-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon against LSU (12-6, 3-3 SEC). Former Lady Vol guard Nikki Fargas is the head coach of the Tigers. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.