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Notre Dame-Tennessee Preview
Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory - meeting with the media on Sunday - are two of just three current Irish players who have played against Tennessee before.
 
Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory - meeting with the media on Sunday - are two of just three current Irish players who have played against Tennessee before.

March 28, 2011

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - The teams are different. These players have never met before. That was all in the distant past.

But still, Tennessee is 20-0 against Notre Dame heading into their regional championship game on Monday night. That's got to count for something, right?

The Fighting Irish's Muffet McGraw and the Lady Vols' Pat Summitt swear they're coaches and not historians. They are aware of the old meetings but won't make a big deal out of them.

"That would be really silly of me to bring that up I think," McGraw said of Notre Dame's drought against Tennessee, which dates to 1983 and includes an 0-3 mark in the NCAA tournament. "This team is a team that hasn't played Tennessee. The seniors played them once in Oklahoma City in the regional semifinal. That's the only time we've played them. So certainly we're not going to be talking about the past."

Second-seeded Notre Dame (29-7) and top-seed Tennessee (34-2) haven't met on the court since two engagements three years ago. The score was 87-63 in South Bend, Ind., on Jan. 5, and 74-64 in the Sweet 16 in Oklahoma City. Of course, Tennessee won both.

Summitt expects McGraw and the Fighting Irish to use the 0-20 mark as fuel to add to the fire.

"Absolutely. If I was in their situation, I would do the same," she said.

Her players, riding a 25-game winning streak, also figure that it will serve as motivation for Notre Dame to finally try to stamp out all that orange-tinged domination.

"It would be important to any team to be the first to beat Tennessee," said Shekinna Stricklen, who led the way with 20 points in the Lady Vols' 85-75 victory over Ohio State in Saturday's semifinal. "For them to not beat us, we need to buckle down and play great defense and play as a team."

The Fighting Irish are unbothered by the lopsided nature of the series.

 

 

"Me, personally, I haven't been a part of any of those 20 games. But we know the history between the two programs," sophomore guard Skylar Diggins said. "Two hall-of-fame coaches, and it's just going to be a great game. Teams that haven't met up with each other. We're obviously looking to break that (losing streak)."

Besides, both sides have enough to worry about dealing with the next 40 minutes on the court instead of 28 years of baggage.

The numbers for both teams are almost identical through 36 games apiece this season: Tennessee is scoring 79.9 points and allowing 55.9 points a game, while Notre Dame is putting up 77.5 points and giving up 55.4 a game.

The Lady Vols come at teams in waves, with nine players scoring against Ohio State in the first half alone and Summit going as deep as 13 players in some games. But at the same time, they have been erratic of late. The team had a players-only meeting early last week after struggling before subduing Marquette 79-70 in Knoxville, Tenn., in the second round.

Then the Lady Vols were outplayed in the opening half on Saturday - although they trailed just 42-40 at the break - leading Summitt to give a roaring halftime speech to shock her team out of its funk.

"She is one of the greatest motivators in sports," forward Taber Spani said. "After that speech we came out and played a lot different in the second half. We needed to."

Summitt, who is replacing Kelley Cain with Alyssia Brewer in the starting lineup to make her starters "more mobile," said it was a pivotal moment for her squad.

"At that time, our coaching staff was desperate to get this team to step up and do what they had to do," she said.

Notre Dame had no such problems in its semifinal, jumping on sixth-seeded Oklahoma early and coasting to a 78-53 win. The Fighting Irish aren't stocked with stars, but they've got terrific balance. Natalie Novosel leads in scoring at 14.9 points a game, with Diggins right behind at 14.2. Five others hit for at least 7 a game.

In case you were wondering, the Lady Vols have seven players averaging 7 a game, too.

So the intensity should be white hot with so many skilled performers playing without regard to foul trouble or weariness.

"It's going to be a fight between two teams that have the will to come out with the win," Brewer said. "It's whoever has the biggest heart."

The Fighting Irish could be without co-captain Becca Bruszewski, who has a sore knee. She was not cleared for Sunday's practice but McGraw said she hoped that she would be permitted to play against the Lady Vols.

Event Calendar

Delta

November 3
7:00 PM
Roberts Wesleyan
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)
November 11
7:00 PM
Central Michigan Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 14
7:00 PM
WNIT Quarterfinals
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 17
7:00 PM
WNIT Semifinals
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 20
3:00 PM
WNIT Final
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

CBS Sports Network
November 22
8:00 PM
UL-Lafayette
Houston, Texas (Campbell Center)
November 26
1:00 PM
TCU
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
November 30
TBA
Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
December 4
1:00 PM
Valparaiso
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
December 7
7:00 PM
UConn
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN2
December 10
TBA
DePaul
Chicago, Ill. (McGrath-Phillips Arena)
December 18
2:00 PM
Toledo
Toledo, Ohio (Savage Arena)
December 20
TBA
Michigan State
East Lansing, Mich. (Breslin Center)
December 27
TBA
Chattanooga
Chattanooga, Tenn. (McKenzie Arena)
December 29
7:00 PM
North Carolina State
Raleigh, N.C. (Reynolds Coliseum)

ACC Network Extra
January 2
7:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, Ga. (McCamish Pavilion)
January 5
7:00 PM
Wake Forest
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
January 8
3:00 PM
Miami
Coral Gables, Fla. (BankUnited Center)

ESPN Flex
January 12
7:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Notre Dame, Ind.

ACC Network Extra
January 16
7:00 PM
Tennessee
Knoxville, Tenn. (Thompson-Boling Arena)

ESPN2
January 19
7:00 PM
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Mass. (Conte Forum)
January 22
12:00 PM
North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C. (Carmichael Arena)

ESPNU
January 26
7:00 PM
Duke
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
January 29
12:00 PM
Virginia
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPNU
February 2
7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Va. (Cassell Coliseum)
February 6
7:00 PM
Louisville
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN2
February 12
1:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
February 16
7:00 PM
Clemson
Clemson, S.C. (Littlejohn Coliseum)
February 19
5:00 PM
Syracuse
Syracuse, N.Y. (Carrier Dome)

ESPN2
February 23
7:00 PM
Boston College
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ACC Network Extra
February 26
1:00 PM
Florida State
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN2
March 17
TBA
NCAA First/Second Rounds
TBD
March 24
TBA
NCAA Regionals
TBD
March 31
TBA
NCAA Semifinals
Dallas, Texas (American Airlines Center)
April 2
TBA
NCAA Final
Dallas, Texas (American Airlines Center)

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