KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —
But the Irish didn’t take advantage in the early going and only led 33-29 at the half. Diggins didn’t get much help from her teammates, who shot a combined 8 of 30 in the first half.
Diggins then took over the game early in the second half.
The senior guard dominated the Lady Vols on both ends of the floor. She had six points, three steals, one block and an assist during an 11-0 run that gave the Irish a 16-point lead.
Diggins started the run by sinking a 3-pointer and making a conventional three-point play. Tennessee called a timeout, but Diggins stole the ensuing inbounds pass, drove to the basket and sank one of two free throws after drawing a foul.
Diggins then made another steal that eventually led to a 3-point basket by Madison Cable.
She got one more steal on Tennessee’s next possession and passed to Kayla McBride for a jumper that capped the spurt.
In a 72-44 victory over Tennessee last season, Notre Dame broke open a close game in the second half and proceeded to hand the Lady Vols their second-most lopsided loss in Summitt’s tenure. This time, the Lady Vols fought back.
After trailing by as many as 19 points, Tennessee rattled the Irish with a furious rally over the final 10 minutes and cut the lead to 69-64 on Taber Spani’s free throw with 3:54 remaining.
That’s when Diggins took over again.
She found Madison Cable for a layup that got the Irish out of danger. After Spani and Jasmine Jones missed jumpers on Tennessee’s next possession, Diggins sank a 3-pointer to make it a 10-point game.
Notre Dame’s lead wouldn’t drop below eight again.
Jewell Loyd added 10 points for Notre Dame, while Kayla McBride had nine points and 10 rebounds. Bashaara Graves had 19 points and 13 rebounds for Tennessee. Taber Spani added 12 points and Simmons had 11 points.