The Irish came into Monday entering a key segment of their 2013-2014 schedule. Though they haven't faced the most difficult slate this season, Muffet McGraw's squad is in the midst of a six-game stretch against four ranked teams, including Monday's opponent, the 11th-ranked Lady Vols.
Notre Dame answered the bell, scoring a statement road victory en route to a 17-0 record thus far on the season. They actually trailed at halftime but quickly turned around that 5 point deficit into a double-digit lead. Led by Kayla McBride, the Irish outscored the Volunteers in the second half by 21, coasting to a fairly easy road victory against a traditional power.
McBride filled up the stat sheet, going off for 22 points on 8 of 16 shooting and grabbing 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. Natalie Achonwa played an excellent second-fiddle, scoring 15 on 7 of 11 shooting. Muffet McGraw also got major production off the bench, led by the three-point barrage from Madison Cable (12 pts, 3-4 3pt FG) and Michaela Mabrey (15 pts, 3-7 3pt FG).
Despite a well-played first half that saw them leading by as many as 12 points, the Lady Vols struggled mightily in the second half. They turned the ball over 12 times to just 1(!) assist. Tennessee also shot 25% while missing some crucial free throws, including a couple front ends of one-and-ones.
Meighan Simmons led the Vols with 23 points while Isabelle Harrison earned the game's lone double-double (13 pts, 16 rebs).
The lone cloud over this one for Notre Dame was the late injury to star guard Jewell Loyd. She suffered an apparent ankle injury with the game out of hand after a Volunteer somewhat recklessly collided and stepped on her foot. Loyd walked off under her own power, which hopefully signals that she will miss little if any time.
Notre Dame is ranked second in the country, trailing only the undefeated Connecticut Huskies. The two rivals do not play each other this season, at least until a potential Final Four collision.
Up next for the Irish is unranked Miami in South Bend (Thursday, 8:30pm). They then head back on the road to College Park for a big match up against the sixth-ranked Terrapins, which should again be carried by ESPN (7pm). As perhaps the biggest game of the season so far, we'll be back with coverage of the tilt in Maryland on Monday.
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