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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.

Following Flynt - Irish Aim for Win #20

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In 25+ seasons with Notre Dame, head coach Muffett McGraw has won more than 73% of her games. So it should not come as a surprise that there aren't too many teams who have had the Irish's number.

One of these rare exceptions comes in tonight's opponent, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Led by Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, Tennessee has won eight national titles and until last season, held a 20-0 series advantage against Notre Dame.

On Mar. 28, 2011, the Lady Vols and Fighting Irish met in the Dayton Region championship game and Coach McGraw's team finally broke through with its first win over Tennessee, 73-59. Skylar Diggins scored 24 points, Natalie Novosel added 17 and Notre Dame celebrated its first trip to the Final Four since 2001.

This season, the second-ranked Irish (19-1) have not lost since Nov. 20, when they fell 94-81 at Baylor, a team currently unbeaten and #1 in the country. During its impressive 16-game winning streak, Notre Dame has defeated five ranked opponents - Duke, Purdue, Kentucky, Connecticut and Georgetown.

In less than seven hours, Notre Dame puts that winning streak on the line and looks for its second consecutive win against Tennessee in a sold-out, nationally televised matchup at Purcell Pavilion. The game begins at 7 pm ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2. Catch the radio call on UND.com or locally on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and follow the live blog right here at Irish UNDerground. Though the calendar says Monday, tonight should be an exciting conclusion to a wild sports weekend in South Bend.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Irish Connection - Episode 33

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A crutch, a Skip, a bus and a pond.

Wild Weekend

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For those who will be around Notre Dame this weekend, prepare for the craziness that's about to hit campus. Over a 48-hour period from Friday through Sunday evening, there are eleven varsity athletic events scheduled at the university.

Here's a quick look at the schedule:

Friday:
Men's Tennis vs. William & Mary at 6 p.m.
Hockey vs. #15 Michigan at 7:35 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Saturday:
Indoor Track Notre Dame Invitational at 10 a.m.
Women's Basketball vs. Villanova at 1 p.m. (UND.com)
Women's Tennis vs. Cincinnati at 1 p.m.
Women's Swimming vs. Michigan State at 2 p.m.
Men's Swimming vs. Michigan State at 2 p.m.
Men's Basketball vs. #1 Syracuse at 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Hockey vs. #15 Michigan at 7:35 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Sunday:
Women's Tennis vs. Missouri at 11 a.m.
Women's Tennis vs. IPFW at 5 p.m.

There won't be any tailgating, Knights of Columbus steak sandwiches or team walk to the stadium, but the amount of traffic on campus might make it feel more like a football Saturday than a mid-winter weekend.

One Special Relationship

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One of the most overdue features in all of women's college basketball? Al Lesar takes a look into the rabid Notre Dame hoops fanbase. Lime green t-shirts available at the door.

Hat tip to the fans who braved the (almost) apocalyptic snow storm of January 2011 to watch Notre Dame face Connecticut. Big nod to those who show up two hours before each home game to secure a good parking spot in the Joyce Center lot.


South Bend Tribune - Who are these people? Most have already lived a long life. They appreciate hard work.

Character's important; old-fashioned values.

And their basketball? They like it hard-nosed and fundamentally sound.

Notre Dame women's basketball fans are a unique bunch.

They're grandparents who have adopted 12 young 'uns. They're young kids who look forward to watching a dozen "big sisters" work their magic.

Student support is minimal. The band is nice.

This team, though, belongs to the Michiana community -- 7,500 season-ticket holders strong in an arena that seats 9,149.

Affordable tickets (17 home games for $70), a great product (the second-ranked Irish are 18-1) and some very likeable players make for plenty of reasons to follow the Irish.

They wear their (coach Muffet) "McGraw (lime) green" shirts and swear their girls can do no wrong.

"The UConn game (a couple weeks ago) was great," said Rachael Lynn of Granger. "When Notre Dame was behind, (her 6-year-old son) Aiden said, 'We're losing. We never lose.'"

Such is the mentality of the typical card-carrying, T-shirt wearing Notre Dame women's basketball fan.

Blame Stephanie Menio for the phenomenon. She can get over 8,500 people into Purcell Pavilion on a snowy night in January to watch a 76-point blowout.

Now, that takes some work.

The 29-year-old Menio, in her seventh year of drumming up business for Irish women's basketball, has the process down to a science. No checklist. No scribbled notes. She has a legion of volunteers, mostly those keeping busy in their retirement years, who do the legwork and help things run smoothly.

Entertain the crowd. Give back to the community. Enhance the players' experience.

"The fans know (sophomore) Kayla McBride is a great player," Menio said, giving an example of her mission. "What we want them to know is that she's a great person."

Autograph sessions after every game. Personal appearances in the community. An impromptu surprise team drop-in to a bowling league in which several longtime fans are involved. Anything to show there are some really special young women on the roster.

"We love 'em all," said Betty Bennett of Lakeville.

Her button, with a photo of Devereaux Peters and Whitney Holloway, gives away her allegiance. She sits in the "Dev & Whit" section of the arena, behind the west basket. Those folks are loyal to their ladies, you know.

"I've followed 'Sky' for the last seven years," Donna McCullough of South Bend said of Irish All-American Skylar Diggins. "I came here a Skylar fan, now I'm a Notre Dame fan. I'll be back even after Skylar's done."

"Skylar opened a lot of doors on the West Side of South Bend," Menio said of the Washington High grad. "Those same people have come around and adopted the whole team."

Everybody has their reason for being part of the fun game-day atmosphere. Abby Lynn, 9, of Granger, figures out ways to get on the JumboTron by busting a new move during the "dance cam" segment. Her dad, Hugh, likes the Irish style of play.

"I like to see what kind of abuse Brittany (Mallory) is going to dish out," Hugh said of Notre Dame's rough-and-tumble fifth-year senior.

Frank Smith of South Bend enjoys the purity of the women's game.

"I love the way they play. I'm a big fan," Smith said. "It takes me back to a time in basketball when everybody wasn't 8-feet tall."

McGraw's got a handle on the basketball side of the operation. The win over UConn will go a long way toward a No. 1 seed come tournament time.

Every home game is proof that, given the right set of circumstances and the proper chemistry, the community can come together for a common cause. It's an electric atmosphere. A strange melting pot of personalities and backgrounds - age 70 or 7 - takes ownership in a collection of a dozen quality young women.

That's who those people are.

They all have a stake in the Irish

Live Blog - Irish Return Home Against Pitt

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8:37 pm, Irish 120-44, Final: An absolutely dominant game for the Irish and a 76-point victory tonight at the Purcell Pavilion. The 120-point night was the second highest scoring performance of the season for Notre Dame, topped only by the 128-point day at Mercer. A great night for the fans who exited the arena to the sounds of "The Blood of Cu Chulainn," better know as the awesome and ubiquitous-on-the-Notre-Dame-campus theme song from Boondock Saints.

The Irish ladies will have a few days to practice and get back into the swing of the academic semester before taking on Villanova on Saturday at home. The game begins at 1 pm ET and you can catch it live on UND.com. With hockey, men's basketball, track & field, men's and women's swimming and women's tennis all at home, it will be a very busy weekend on campus.

8:29 pm, Irish 107-41, 3:53 2nd half: At the final media timeout, the Irish are up by 66 points. A few impressive stats for Notre Dame: 29 assists, 39 points off turnovers, 22 second chance points, 41 bench points, 62 points in the paint and 7 players in double-figures. An all-around dominant performance tonight at the Purcell Pavilion.

8:24 pm, Irish 100-37, 7:22 2nd half: 100! A midrange jumper from Kaila Turner gives the Irish 100 points for the second time this season.

8:22 pm, Irish 98-37, 7:49 2nd half: At this point, it's only a question of "by how much." Notre Dame is cruising to its 18th win over the season and a 6-0 start to the BIG EAST schedule. Six players have scored in double-figures.

8:15 pm, Irish 88-34, 10:39 2nd half: The BIG MAC basket! Thanks to Fraderica Miller's layup, everyone in attendance gets a Big Mac. With more than 10 minutes to play, it looks like the Irish will have no problem eclipsing the 100-point mark this evening.

8:13 pm, Irish 83-34, 11:33 2nd half: Freshman Markisha Wright makes a couple of nice moves down low on back-to-back possessions for Notre Dame. The Panthers are finding the basket more frequently than they did during the first half, but they've still been unable to shut down the Irish offense, and find themselves down by 49 points with 11:33 to play.

8:04 pm, Irish 70-26, 15:34 2nd half: At the first media timeout of the second half, the Irish already have 70 points, thanks to their continued hot streak from the field (62%). Peters leads with 20 points, while Novosel has 13 and Mallory and McBride have 11 apiece.

Life After Hoops

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Fighting Irish Xtra

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It Was a Good Day

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Live Chat - Women's Basketball vs. Connecticut

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No. 3 Notre Dame welcomes No. 2 Connecticut to Purcell Pavilion today for a battle between two of college basketball's top programs.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

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Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

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Event Calendar

January 7
7:00 PM
Boston College
Conte Forum

RSN
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January 7
7:00 PM
Virginia
Charlottesville, Va. (John Paul Jones Arena)

Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND
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Live Video
January 8
5:00 PM
Virginia
Charlottesville, Va. (Charlottesville Aquatic & Fitness Center)

Live Stats
January 8
5:00 PM
Virginia
Charlottesville, Va. (Charlottesville Aquatic & Fitness Center)

Live Stats
January 8
7:35 PM
Western Michigan
Notre Dame, Ind. (Compton Family Ice Arena)

NBC Sports Network
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January 8
All Day
Div. I/Junior NAC
St. Louis, Mo. (Convention Center)
January 9
4:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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HALFTIME PERFORMANCE: Jack "Blackjack" Ryan
January 9
12:00 PM
Virginia
Charlottesville, Va. (Charlottesville Aquatic & Fitness Center)

Live Stats
January 9
12:00 PM
Virginia
Charlottesville, Va. (Charlottesville Aquatic & Fitness Center)

Live Stats
January 9
7:05 PM
Western Michigan
Kalamazoo, Mich. (Lawson Ice Arena)

CBS Sports Network
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January 9
All Day
Div. I/Junior NAC
St. Louis, Mo. (Convention Center)
January 10
1:00 PM
North Carolina
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN2
Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND
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January 10
All Day
Div. I/Junior NAC
St. Louis, Mo. (Convention Center)
January 11
All Day
Div. I/Junior NAC
St. Louis, Mo. (Convention Center)
January 13
9:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

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January 14
7:00 PM
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Mass. (Conte Forum)

Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND
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January 15
7:35 PM
Merrimack
Notre Dame, Ind. (Compton Family Ice Arena)

NBC Sports Network
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St. Joseph Health System Medifast Delta Canon Visit South Bend Mishawaka