The Lady Vols got off to a blistering start as Ariel Massengale, Meighan Simmons and Mercedes Russell began the game a perfect 11-of-11 from the field against Notre Dame at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night.
The trio combined for 26 of the team’s first 33 points as their performance helped Tennessee build a 46-41 halftime lead.
Unfortunately for the guard and for the Lady Vols, Massengale would go on to miss her next 10 shots, going scoreless in the second half and leading to an eventual 86-70 Fighting Irish victory.
Each excursion into the paint was met with strong defense. Shots from the outside that fell in the first half simply refused to fall in the second.
"Nothing changed the way they were guarding ball screens," Massengale said. "They started switching it on the perimeter. Sometimes I think we took bad shots or took quick shots and didn't necessarily run our offense at all like we should have.”
A tale of two halves: The Lady Vols opened up the second half against the Irish confidently. And who could blame them.
Offensively, the Lady Vols shot lights out, flirting with the 60 percent mark while seeing shots fall from all over the court.
However, the second half quickly turned into a polar opposite of the first.
Poor defense from the Lady Vols, coupled with cold shooting from UT allowed the Irish to pull ahead and stomp on the accelerator.
“In the second half we lost our assignments, we didn't react when we should, and we gave up 10 three's.” said head coach Holly Warlick. “We'd identified and knew who their 3-point shooters were but they had to make them - and they made them.
"They made them when they needed to make them."
Fickle freebies: The Lady Vols were given opportunities to try and dig their way out of an ugly second-half deficit with numerous trips to the free throw line.
But the Lady Vols couldn't capitalize.
Tennessee went 10-of-19 from the charity stripe in the second half, stifling any comeback chances the Lady Vols received.
"It was tough," junior forward Cierra Burdick said. "I think we played the best basketball we've played all season in the first half, and for us to come out and just play kinda down in the second half when we were so close is tough, it's disappointing."
Moving on up: With a team-high 23 points, Simmons moved into 10th place (1,736) on the Tennessee all-time career scoring list, surpassing Mary Ostrowski (1,729).
Top 5 disparity: With the loss Monday night, Tennessee has not won a game against a top-five opponent since Dec. 19, 2010, when it defeated then-No. 3 ranked Stanford in overtime.
Since that game, the Lady Vols have gone 0-8 against top-five opponents.