Photo by Riley Haltom (@rileyhaltom on X)
By Matthew Silitsky
KNOXVILLE, Tenn – No. 20 Tennessee (4-3) fell in a close one 74-69 against No. 18 Notre Dame (6-1) at the Food City Center on Wednesday.
The last time these two teams met, the Lady Vols took home a 74-63 win from South Bend. Much like that one, this contest was marked by a strong defensive presence.
After just a low scoring opening quarter, the Lady Vols lead 19-11.
It was a poor offensive start that never improved, especially from three. Shooting just two of nine from downtown did not matter as great defense prevailed.
The Lady Vols held the Irish scoreless for just under four minutes, and one of their last 13 from the field to finish the quarter.
Destinee Wells was the highlight for the Lady Vols for most of the game, playing the role of a Swiss army knife to a tee.
In the absence of Rickea Jackson and Avery Strickland, she had increased playing time, seeing the court for 33 minutes. Wells finished with 13 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds.
“Every game, every practice she is getting more comfortable. She sees the floor really well, she changes her speed really well offensively,” Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper said about Wells. “She can also score. She’s really talented, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Lady Vols’ offense never got the ball rolling due to numerous late shot clock situations
“We wanted a little bit of ball movement tonight, so we were okay going a little bit deeper into the clock,” Harper said. “There were times that I felt like we had a shot, we had an opportunity for a drive, we had an opportunity for a pass, and we didn’t take it.”
In the first half, the Lady Vols shot 25% from downtown. It was the defensive urgency that kept the Vols in it, closing the half with a 12-point lead.
A drastic flip of a switch was evident at the start of the second half. It was the Lady Vols’ worst quarter due to a stagnant offense, and the defensive attention to detail was not present.
Closing games has been the Lady Vols’ kryptonite this season.
Going into the final quarter, the Lady Vols had a five-point lead that quickly diminished. With 17 seconds left in regulation, Sara Puckett got a wide-open look for three to give her team the lead, but the shot went begging. Following the shot, fouls and free throws was the name of the game to close it out.
Offensive rebounding has been the difference maker for the Lady Vols this season.
But tonight, the Irish outrebounded the Lady Vols 15-8 on the offensive glass and 40-33 as a whole.
The Lady Vols get another crack at it on Sunday against No. 16 Ohio State (5-1) at 5 p.m. ET at Food City Center. The game will air on ESPN.