KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - No. 20 Tennessee dropped a thriller to No. 18 Notre Dame on Wednesday night, suffering a 74-69 loss in front of a crowd of 8,211 in Food City Center.
Fifth-year senior Jasmine Powell led UT (4-3) with 14 points and seven rebounds. Three other Lady Vols were in double figures, with senior Destinee Wells close behind Powell with 13, and senior Jewel Spear and junior Karoline Striplin finishing with 11 and 10, respectively.
Notre Dame (6-1) was led by Maddy Westbeld and Natalija Marshall with 15 each. Westbeld pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double. Hannah Hildalgo, who came into the game averaging 25.0 points, was limited to 13, along with seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Tennessee won the jump and got on the board early, with Powell draining a three just eight seconds into the contest. Hidalgo scored Notre Dame's first points on the next play, and by the 7:07 mark, the game was tied at 7-all. The Irish took their first lead of the game a minute and a half later when Hidalgo drained a jumper to put her team up 9-8. Sara Puckett swished a three on the next possession, and the Lady Vols outscored ND 11-2 over the closing minutes to lead 19-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Notre Dame scored the first points of the second period, but a 7-2 Lady Vol run capped off by a trey from Spear gave UT an 11-point advantage with just over eight minutes remaining in the half. The Fighting Irish responded with five straight points to whittle the deficit down to six 90 seconds later. Striplin ended the drought with a reverse layup, and by the 3:05 mark Tennessee had grown its lead to 13 at 35-22. With 1:30 to go, Destinee Wells scored a layup on the fast break to put UT ahead by 14, but Marshall scored the last bucket of the half to send the game into the break with the Big Orange on top, 37-25.
Wells kicked off the second half with a long-range jumper and Spear followed it up with a pair of 3-pointers to give the Lady Vols a 45-29 lead three minutes into the half. The Lady Vols then went cold from the floor, going without a field goal for over four minutes while Notre Dame went on an 11-2 run to pull within seven by the 3:29 mark. Tess Darby sank a three to end the Lady Vol skid, but eight straight points had Notre Dame within two with 20 seconds left in the third. In the final play of the quarter, Powell converted on an old fashioned three-point play, sending the game into the final stanza with UT leading 53-48.
Tennessee extended its lead to six with a free throw from Jillian Hollingshead to open the fourth, but back-to-back baskets by Westbeld had the Irish within two with 8:23 to play. The game became a back-and-forth affair with Notre Dame pulling within one on four occasions over a three-minute span, and Tennessee leading 61-60 at the final media timeout. ND took the lead off a jumper by Anna DeWolfe coming out of the break, but Powell answered with a three on the other end. A Hidalgo layup tied the game at 64-all with 3:37 to play in what would be the first of three ties leading up to the final minute. KK Bransford nailed a jumper with 44 seconds on the clock to give the Irish a 70-68 advantage. Powell cut it to one from the free-throw line, and the Lady Vols had a chance to reclaim the lead with 15 seconds remaining when Puckett launched a three. The shot was just a hair long, and Notre Dame collected the rebound and converted on free throws to take a 74-69 victory.
NEXT UP: Tennessee returns to Food City Center on Sunday to meet #16/13 Ohio State (5-1) at 5 p.m. ET in the Jimmy V Women's Classic. ESPN will televise the contest.
FINE FIRST HALF DEFENSE: Tennessee held Notre Dame to 11 points in the first quarter, 14 in the second and 25 total in the first half. Those represented season lows for UT opponents in all three of those time periods. The Lady Vols allowed 74 total points to the Fighting Irish in the game, marking ND's second-lowest output of the season behind the 71 it scored in a blowout loss to No. 1/1 South Carolina to open the year. UT also held its fifth straight opponent to 74 points or fewer, lowering its season points allowed average to 74.4 per contest.
POWELL CONTINUES TO SHINE: Fifth-year senior guard Jasmine Powell enjoyed her fourth straight game scoring in double figures, leading the Lady Vols with 14 points. She also added seven rebounds to pace UT. Powell, who played at Minnesota before transferring to Tennessee last season, had not tossed in 10+ points in that many consecutive contests since doing so during a four-game stretch for the Gophers midway through the COVID-curtailed 2021-22 season. Her longest streak last season as a Lady Vol was two straight games in the third and fourth contests of the year.
TEAM SCORING EFFORT: Four Lady Vols recorded double-digit points vs. Notre Dame. It marked the fifth game this season Tennessee had four or more players in double figures.
HOLDING HANNAH HIDALGO: Tennessee's defense slowed Notre Dame's Hannah Hidalgo, who averaged 25 points per game over the first six contests, limiting her to just 13 points. She also came in leading the country at 6.3 steals her game and managed just four vs. UT.
SHUTTING DOWN THE THREE: The Lady Vols didn't allow Notre Dame to make a single three-pointer, holding the Irish to 0-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. The last time Tennessee held an opponent to no threes was against Georgia last season (1/15/23), holding the Bulldogs to 0-of-14 shooting.