Another page was written in the Notre Dame-Tennessee rivalry on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
But after a dubious second half that saw the UT register a dozen turnovers and shoot only 25 percent from the field, the Lady Vols might want to have this year's edition edited from their memory.
Despite winning the first 20 games in the all-time series, the No. 12 Lady Vols — behind a double-double from junior center Isabelle Harrison — dropped their fourth consecutive matchup to the No. 2 Fighting Irish, 86-70.
While second-year head coach Holly Warlick was proud of her team’s play in the first half, the team’s reccurring second half troubles could not be shaken.
“I was proud of our kids' effort,” Warlick said after the game. “We had a great first half but couldn’t sustain it. We went up against a tough team tonight and this is a good foundation game for us.”
The Lady Vols started the game with an offensive showcase, highlighted by junior Ariel Massengale and senior Meighan Simmons who gave their opponent fits at times.
The two guards combined for 26 points in the first period and knocked down five 3-pointers.
Massengale brought the home crowd to their feet after she came up with a steal and found driving teammate Bashaara Graves for the fast break layup to give Tennessee a 39-27 lead, its biggest of the first half.
“We played hard and together,” Warlick said. “I loved our energy in the first half, and I loved our passion for the game.
"They came out and competed and that’s what I wanted them to do.”
While the Lady Vols were in an offensive groove in the first half, the Fighting Irish did not lack in scoring either either.
Senior guard Kayla McBride scored 14 of her 22 points in the initial period as her two baskets before the break cut the halftime deficit to five.
“I thought at halftime we were lucky to be down by five,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I felt like we could’ve been down a lot. We had a nice run at the end of the half to tighten the gap. Kayla did it all for us tonight.”
The Fighting Irish took advantage of Tennessee's zone defense and grabbed their first lead since the opening three minutes of play when Michaela Mabrey hit an open three to put Notre Dame up 52-51 with 13:25 left in the game.
Notre Dame would hit three straight from beyond the arc to give them a seven-point lead they did not let go of.
While UT has failed to beat a top-5 ranked opponent, several Lady Vols admitted they still refuse to hang their heads.
“We just have to come out and play a full 40 minutes,” junior forward Cierra Burdick said. “Great basketball teams are going to come out and switch their defenses. It’s just a matter of us coming out and accepting that.
"We have to come out and respond to the blows.”
Simmons scored her second-highest total of the season with 23 points, as she was 10-of-14 shooting and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
Next up for the Lady Vols will be an SEC home matchup with Florida on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.
“I know they’re upset,” Warlick said. “ I’m upset. We have to get our focus back for conference play. We have Florida here and then we go to Texas A&M, so it doesn’t really get easier for us.”