KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Skylar Diggins scored a career-high 33 points and No. 2 Notre Dame built a 19-point lead in the second half before withstanding a late Tennessee rally in a 77-67 victory Monday night over the ninth-ranked Lady Vols.
Notre Dame (19-1) won its 14th straight game and snapped the Lady Vols’ nine-game winning streak. Notre Dame also became the first school ever to defeat both Connecticut and Tennessee in three consecutive seasons. The Irish won 73-72 at Connecticut on Jan. 5.
Before the game, Tennessee hung a banner at Thompson-Boling Arena in honor of former Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, whose 1,098-208 record in 38 seasons gives her the most career wins of any Division I men’s or women’s basketball coach ever.
Summitt, who led Tennessee to eight national titles and 18 Final Four appearances, already had the playing court named after her. The Hall of Fame coach stepped down in April after announcing in 2011 that she has early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. She remains on Tennessee’s staff as head coach emeritus, attends just about every practice and sits in the stands for all home games. Former Lady Vol greats Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker attended Monday’s game.
Tennessee (16-4) used the emotion of that pregame ceremony to take an early 7-2 lead, but the Irish answered with a 12-2 run of their own. Diggins scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes of the game to help the Irish build an eight-point lead.
Notre Dame had chances to build an even bigger lead.
Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons, who entered the night averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game, picked up two early fouls and played just 11 minutes in the first half. Tennessee’s frontcourt endured a major loss when center Isabelle Harrison took a spill after driving to the basket and had to be helped to the locker room. The Lady Vols had announced before the game that Harrison was playing with a meniscus injury in her left knee.