Live Blog: Irish Break from BIG EAST Action to Host Lady Vols

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8:54 pm, Irish 72-44, Final: A dominant, dominant second half performance by the Fighting Irish. They outscore Tennessee 44-26 and cruise to a 28-point victory. Notre Dame improves to 20-1 on the season and the Irish have now won 17 straight games, including six consecutive against ranked teams. It's also their second victory in a row over Pat Summitt's Lady Vols, the team they knocked off in last year's NCAA Tournament Dayton Regional final.

Skylar Diggins finishes with 27 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, while Kayla McBride scores 17 and Devereaux Peters adds 16. More importantly for Peters, she pulled down 16 rebounds to help the Irish tally a 44-35 advantage on the boards.

The Irish shot 50.8% from the floor, compared with Tennessee's mere 27.9% performance. It wasn't a pretty start for either team, but in the second half, Notre Dame simply dominated the #9 team in the country on national television.

After the game and her radio interview, dozens of fans waited around to take pictures and get autographs from Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, the 2011 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year, and one of the all-time greats among American coaches, in any sport.

With upcoming games at St. John's (Saturday) and #11 Rutgers (Tuesday), Notre Dame will not be returning to Purcell Pavilion until Feb. 5 against DePaul. There's a lot of basketball left to be played, but at this point, it looks like few teams will be able slow down the Irish this season.

It was a perfect basketball weekend in South Bend. In front of three sold-out crowds, the Irish women won a pair of games, while the men knocked off the nation's top-ranked team. It will be more than a week and a half before either team returns to the home floor, but hopefully each can use the momentum from this weekend as they hit the road for some key BIG EAST contests.

8:52 pm, Irish 72-42, 1:05 2nd half: Diggins exits the game to a huge ovation. She finishes with 27 points, including 5-for-7 from 3-pt range. Also adds 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

8:46 pm, Irish 68-40, 3:28 2nd half: Peters makes a great dish from the wing to Diggins inside for another basket, before Sky returns the favor in transition. A couple of great, great plays and the lead is at 28 for Notre Dame. It doesn't top Saturday night (How could it?), but tonight is one of the best atmospheres I've seen at Purcell.

8:41 pm, Irish 64-40, 5:01 2nd half: Natalie Achonwa gets a nice rebound and put-back layup off Novosel's in-and-out three, before another Diggins layup in transition. Two more layups, one each from Achonwa and McBride and this game is all but over. An 8-0 run gives Notre Dame a 24-point lead and Purcell is on fire now. Tennessee calls a timeout. Fans are loving this second half showing from the Irish.

8:36 pm, Irish 56-37, 7:15 2nd half: Tennessee cuts the deficit to 14 with a pair of free throws from Isabelle Harrison and a put-back layup from Vicki Baugh. The Irish respond shortly later with a great steal and lead pass from McBride to Diggins for a fastbreak layup. On the next possession, the Lady Vols commit a foul and McBride heads to the line for a one-and-one, where she converts both free throws. Tennesee's Cierra Burdick hits a jumper from the corner, before Diggins hits yet another three, her fifth of the game.

We're at the under-8 media timeout, and it's starting to look like a 17th straight win and 20th of the season for Coach McGraw's team.

8:26 pm, Irish 49-31 11:54 2nd half: Notre Dame might run away with this one. After a tough start, Diggins is catching fire from behind the arc. The junior guard has 18 points to lead all scorers. Peters has chipped in 12 for the Irish, while McBride is the third player in double figures, with 11 points.

Crowd is electric tonight and the Dance Cam for LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" keeps them moving during the media timeout.

8:19 pm, Irish 42-26, 15:07 2nd half: Peters with a huge block that sails into the second media row. Crowd loves it!

8:15 pm, Irish 39-24, 15:49 2nd half: After the timeout, Shekinna Stricklen responds with a three from the top of the key for Tennessee, before a foul on Alicia Manning takes us to the first media break of the half. The Lady Vols shooting struggles continue. They are just 9-for-41 from the field and only 5-for-12 from the free throw line.

8:13 pm, Irish 39-21, 17:00 2nd half: Natalie Novosel's layup gives Notre Dame a 15-point advantage, before the Lady Vols come down on the other end and Diggins is whistled for a foul. Johnson hits the second of two free throws for Tennessee. I just noticed Skylar is now playing sans the signature Karate-Kid-esque white headband. Wonder why...

Peters scores a pair of layups and the Notre Dame lead has ballooned to 18 points. Tennessee calls for a timeout and the ecstatic crowd comes to its feet.

8:05 pm, Irish 31-18, 19:50 2nd half: Didn't take long for Notre Dame to come out firing in the second half. Diggins hits a three and the lead is 13.

8:01 pm: Just under three minutes until the start of the second half, both teams take the floor. Let's hope that each made a few locker room adjustments. It's a top-10 matchup, but thus far, neither team is playing to its potential.

7:56 pm: Despite ten turnovers and 35.5% shooting, Notre Dame holds a double-digit lead against the ninth-ranked Lady Vols. The Band of the Fighting Irish performs on the court at halftime and the crowd comes to its feet for "the greatest of all university fight songs."

Sports information director Chris Masters announces to press row that the game is officially a sell-out. 9,149 in attendance. It's the fifth of the season for the Irish ladies.

7:48 pm, Irish 28-18, halftime: With the clock winding down, Diggins makes a move to the hoop and gets fouled. She makes both free throws, and the Irish head to the break with a 10-point lead.

7:45 pm, Irish 26-18, 0:41 1st half: The possession arrow goes in Notre Dame's favor and Diggins hits a short runner from the paint to get the lead back to seven. The Lady Vols get a layup from Glory Johnson before Diggins hits her second three of the night.

Brittany Mallory goes down hard with 59.6 left in the half, but walks it off and remains in the contest. Mallory drives to the hoop and it gets knocked away. Much to the disappointment of the sell-out crowd, the referee rules that it hit off her leg. Tennessee ball. The Lady Vols call a timeout with 41.6 left until the break.

7:36 pm, Irish 21-16, 3:56 1st half: The shooting struggles continue, but Diggins finds McBride for another easy layup to push the lead to six. Mallory hits one of two free throws to give Notre Dame it's largest lead of the game. After an ND miss, Tennessee gets a layup in transition. Peters gets tied up with a Lady Vols player and a jump ball is called as we go to the final media break of the first half. With Tennessee shooting just 21.4% and the Irish not faring much better (34.6%), it's certainly not a pretty game so far.

7:26 pm, Irish 18-13, 7:03 1st half: After an 0-for-3 start and a pair of turnovers, Skylar Diggins knocks down a big three from the corner for her first points of the game. The Lady Vols miss a pair of free throws and get their own rebound, but the Irish come up with a steal. McBride is still the star of the game so far, grabbing a nice rebound, taking it the other way and dishing it to Peters for an easy layup just before the third media timeout of the half.

7:17 pm, Irish 11-7, 11:57 1st half: McBride's great start continues. The sophomore guard is 4-for-4 from the field and has nine of Notre Dame's 11 points, including an and-1 layup. Men's and women's swimming & diving teams are introduced at the second media timeout and launch more of the lime green t-shirts (that most of the crowd is already wearing) into the stands.

7:09 pm, Irish 6-4, 15:11 1st half: Slow start for Notre Dame (1-6 from the field), but the Irish get layups from Kayla McBride on back-to-back possessions to take an early lead at the first media timeout. Tennessee is also struggling early, shooting just 22% (2-for-9). Crowd really getting into it as this player sections clip plays on the video board.

7:05 pm, Tied 2-2, 18:45 1st half: Lady Vols control the tip, but are unable to score. They do, however, get on the board after an Irish turnover to take an early lead, but Notre Dame responds with a layup from Devereaux Peters.

6:56 pm: The Band of the Fighting Irish performs the Star Spangled Banner as the Navy ROTC unit presents the colors.

6:52 pm: Very cool moment at Purcell. Muffet McGraw leads her assistant coaches onto the floor, and is followed shortly thereafter by Pat Summitt and her Tennessee staff. The crowd comes to its feet, recognizing the presence of two coaching legends in college basketball. After, as the Lady Vols starting lineup is announced, the crowd is largely quiet, but again breaks into a great round of applause for Summitt's introduction.

6:47 pm: Lady Vols are back in the locker room, while the Irish continue warming up with just over eight minutes on the clock. The Notre Dame band breaks into Lady GaGa's "The Edge of Glory" (a song they interrupted just a couple of minutes ago as it played over the arena speakers).

6:41 pm: The broadcast team is getting set up for tonight's matchup. Dave O'Brien (play-by-play), Doris Burke (color commentary) and Rebecca Lobo (sideline) will have the call.

6:35 pm: And the Irish have taken the floor! The Band of the Fighting Irish fills the arena with the sounds of the Notre Dame Victory March. Less than 20 minutes left on the arena countdown clock.

6:15 pm: Just arrived at Purcell Pavilion for tonight's great matchup between the second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the #9 Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

The stadium and JACC parking lots are filling up quickly. There are no other home athletic contests on campus tonight, but maybe there's another event I'm not aware of. It's also entirely possible that all these cars are already here for the sold-out game, as Purcell is more full than I would've expected with about 40 minutes still to go until tipoff.

Like Syracuse on Saturday, the Tennessee fans aren't large in number, but donning their orange shirts, they stand out amid the Irish faithful.

The Irish are still warming up, but the Lady Vols have headed back to the locker room. It should be another good one here tonight. While you're waiting, check out today's blog post for more about the matchup, as well as some video from last season's NCAA Dayton Regional final, Notre Dame's first victory ever over Tennessee. Catch tonight's game live on ESPN2 beginning at 7 pm ET or tune in to UND.com or Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) for the radio broadcast. And as always, follow the live blog, right here on Irish UNDerground. Go Irish.

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