KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Kayla McBride scored 22 points to lead five players in double figures and No. 2 Notre Dame erased an early 12-point deficit to beat No. 12 Tennessee 86-70 on Monday night.
Since losing the first 20 games in this series, Notre Dame has beaten Tennessee four straight years by an average margin of 17 points.
Michaela Mabrey and Natalie Achonwa each added 15 points for Notre Dame (17-0), which hit 10 of 20 3-pointers. Madison Cable had 12 points and Jewell Loyd added 11.
Meighan Simmons scored 23 points for Tennessee (14-4). Isabelle Harrison had 13 points and 16 rebounds. Ariel Massengale had 14.
The Lady Vols shot just 8 of 32 and committed 12 turnovers in the second half after leading 46-41 at the intermission.
Notre Dame entered the night leading the nation in field-goal percentage (.517), 3-point percentage (.436) and assists per game (22.4) while racing to the second-fastest start in school history, behind the 2000-01 national championship team that opened 23-0. Tennessee, on the other hand, had dropped three of its last seven games and was struggling to find its footing.
Yet it was Tennessee that looked like the team on a roll in the early going. The Lady Vols led by as many as 12 points in the first half over a Notre Dame team that hadn’t trailed by more than seven points all season.
Tennessee took the lead by beating the hot-shooting Irish at their own game. Tennessee shot 55.9 percent (19 of 34) overall and went 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the first half against a Notre Dame team that hadn’t allowed any opponent to make more than 44.9 percent of its shots all season.
Massengale helped the Lady Vols seize the momentum by scoring 14 points in the first nine minutes of the game.
Notre Dame wasn’t nearly as sharp.
The Irish committed three turnovers in the first 90 seconds of the game and had to adjust to playing without Loyd, who picked up two fouls in the first 5 ½ minutes of the game and sat out the rest of the first half. Loyd entered the night averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game.
But after making 19 of its first 28 shots, Tennessee missed 17 of its next 18 attempts to allow Notre Dame to claw back into the game. Tennessee missed its last six shots of the first half and started the second half by shooting 1 of 12.
Notre Dame pulled ahead 49-48 when Taya Reimer capped a 14-2 run that started late in the first half by converting a three-point play with 15:27 remaining. After Tennessee briefly regained the lead, Notre Dame sank a trio of 3-pointers on a 9-0 spurt that gave the Irish a 58-51 advantage. Mabrey made the first two, including one that put Notre Dame ahead 52-51 with 13:25 left.
The Irish then gradually extended the lead as Tennessee continued to shoot poorly and got careless with the ball.
Simmons sank a 3-pointer that cut Notre Dame’s advantage to 60-56 with 10:09 remaining, but the Irish scored the next 13 points to put the game away. .