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No. 12 Irish Fall Short Against No. 5 Tennessee

Dec 28, 2002

Box Score

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – Tennessee wanted to pressure Notre Dame’s guards and get the Irish out of sync.

Mission accomplished.

Gwen Jackson scored 16 points, Tasha Butts matched her season high with 13 points and No. 5 Tennessee kept Notre Dame’s top scoring threats in check as it rolled to a 77-61 victory over the No. 12 Irish on Saturday.

“We wanted to force them to play outside their offense, and I don’t think they were used to doing that,” Lady Volunteers guard Kara Lawson said.

Notre Dame wasn’t able to respond.

The Irish were off on offense, and their top two scorers finished with a total of seven points and two baskets.

For Notre Dame, it was an all-too-familiar theme in this series. The Irish (7-2) are now 0-15 against Tennessee, dating to 1983, and the Lady Vols (9-2) nearly matched their average victory margin of 22 points again Saturday.

The Irish made two baskets in the game’s final 46 seconds to avoid a second straight season-low shooting performance. The Irish shot just 30.6 percent from the field after making 29.8 percent in Monday’s win over Colorado State.

And Notre Dame’s best players were at their worst Saturday.

Jacqueline Batteast and Alicia Ratay were nonfactors. Batteast, who was averaging 16.1 points, was 1-of-12 from the field and had two points. Ratay was only slightly better, going 1-of-8 and scoring five points, well below her average of 13.1 points. The Irish were led by Courtney LaVere, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

With Tennessee’s balanced scoring attack and the lack of production from the Irish starters, it was simply too much for Notre Dame to overcome.

“I thought our perimeter defense was really intense,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. “We did a good job denying, containing and one-on-one.”

The Lady Vols also did their typical work on offense.

Three players – Jackson, Butts and Shyra Ely – all reached double figures. Butts added five assists, while Ely had 14 points and 10 rebounds in her first trip back to Indiana since winning the state’s Ms. Basketball Award two years ago.

Tennessee also dominated the offensive glass, 23-16, made five more 3-pointers than the Irish and won the bench-scoring duel, 34-22, despite LaVere’s big day.

“Our goal was to come in here and compete. I thought we did that,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We didn’t play well, and I think that’s a tribute to their defense.”

The Lady Vols increased their pressure and intensity midway through the first half and took advantage.

Lawson’s 3-pointer from near the NBA line with 12:16 left in the first half gave Tennessee a 14-13 lead and ignited a 17-2 run that put the game out of reach.

Notre Dame’s offense never responded. Instead, the Irish relied on free-throw shooting the rest of the half, scoring its last 10 points from the line to trail 36-25 at the break.

“We kept saying we were lucky to only be down 11 at the half because Jackie was on the bench for 12 minutes and our second-leading scorer (Ratay) hadn’t scored,” McGraw said.

Jackson and Loree Moore hit back-to-back 3s to open the second half, making it 44-27, and Notre Dame could not get closer than 14 the rest of the way.

“When you go on the road, defense and rebounding determine the outcome in most of those games,” Summitt said.