November 19, 1996


Ruston, LA — The 14th-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team nearly pulled offits second straight upset over a top 10 opponent, but the defending national champion andsecond-ranked Tennesse Lady Vols hung on for 72-59 victory over the Irish in semifinalaction of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament in Ruston, La.

Down by 19 (52-33) with 11:50 left in the contest, Notre Dame outscoredTennessee 16-3 over the next 5:28 to pull to within 55-49 with 7:12 remaining. BethMorgan, who had just two points in the first half, key the comeback with a three-pointerfrom the right baseline with 11:36 left in the contest. Morgan finished the game with l3points and had five points during the comeback.The lrish cut the Tennessee lead to six on two occacions in the second half whenMollie Peirick canned a three-pointer with 8:21 left and Rosanne Bohman drove aroundtwo Tennesse players around her.

Katyrna Gaither continued to put up strong numbers as she finishcd with 20 points andnine rebounds. Tennessee was led in the game by sophomore All-American ChamiqueHoldsclaw who had game-highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Both players were dominant in the first half for their respective teams as eachscored 14 points. Gaither scorcd Notre Dame’s first four points of the second half, butthen was held without a basket for nearly 12 minutes in the second half. After a layup atthe 14:52 mark, Gaither did not score again until there was just 2:43 remaining in thecontest.

Notre Dame and Tennessee traded baskets and leads early on in the first half.After Abby Conklin’s three-pointer with 9:11 left before the half tied the game at 14-14,the Irish went up by four 18-14 on a Gaither hook shot and Morgan layup.

The Lady Vols came back to score five unanswered points and went up 19-18 ona LaShonda Stephens jumper, but two free throws by Gaither gave the Irish lead back.

Julie Henderson’s layup with 4:28 left before intermission put Notre Dame up byfive as the Irish had their largest lead of the game at 24-19. Turnovers, by the Irish inthe last four minutes of the first half, helpcd give the Lady Vols a 34-27 halftimeadvantage as Tennessee outscored the lrish 15-3 to close out the first half.

“We were hurt towards the end of the first half by our turnovers,” Irish headcoach Muffet McGraw said. “We were controlling the tempo and had them playing ourtype of game, but we got careless with the ball. Defensively, we also had a couple oflapses in the last five minutes of the first half and I think this is where the game wasdecided.”

Tennessee started the second half by coming out and outscoring the Irish 18-6.Notre Dame scored just four points in the first six minutes of the second half.

Both teams somewhat fatigued after playing Sunday and having, to get to Rustonfor the game. Notre Dame shot just 36.2 percent from the field, while the Lady Vols shot37.5 percent. The Irish committed 22 turnovers in the game, including 12 in the secondhalf and were just three of 15 from three-point range and six of 12 from the charity stripe.

Despite the loss, its first of the season after a first round victory over Kent and anupset over then sixth-ranked Iowa, McGraw saw many positive signs from her veterans.

“This was an opportunity for us to go out and see where we are,” she said. “This game is a greatmeasuring stick. Our win over Iowa was big and gave us a lot of confidence. Coming in here and playing well is really what our goal was and I felt like we did that for about 30 minutes.”

Notre Dame will face 17th-ranked North Carolina State in the consolation game, while Tennesseefaces Louisiana Tech in the championship tilt.

Score By Half      1    2    FinalNotre Dame         27   32   59Tennessee          34   38   72