Notre Dame went into Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night and beat Tennessee 77-67.
The win itself was a good one. The no. 2-ranked Lady Irish beat the Lady Vols on the road in a win that will improve their chances at a no. 1 seed come March.
But more than that, the victory completed a feat no team in the NCAA era has ever been able to accomplish.
Notre Dame went into Storrs, Conn. and beat the Lady Huskies 73-72 on Jan. 5. That win, coupled with Monday night’s win, makes Notre Dame the first team since the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball that a team has beaten both those powerhouse programs on the road in the same season.
Skylar Diggins scored a career-high 33 points in the game for the Lady Irish, who improved to 19-1. Tennessee fell to 16-4.
It was banner night for Notre Dame on the same night Tennessee raised a banner itself, for legendary coach Pat Summitt. The long-time Lady Vols head coach, along with a number of former players, was on-hand to watch it go into the rafters. Summitt, who already has the court named after her, won 1,098 games, a record over men’s and women’s college basketball and eight national championships in her 38 years as head coach in Knoxville.
“This is one of the toughest places to play with all those fans out there,” Diggins told The Associated Press. “It was a great moment for Coach Summitt, with all those players like Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings on the sidelines. It was a very emotional night tonight, and I thought we did a good job of handling it because they had a lot to play for.”
This was definitely an incredible feat for Notre Dame. As it would be for any team. UConn and Tennessee have carried women’s college basketball over the years thanks to great coaches in Summitt and Geno Auriemma and to beat them both in the same season speaks volumes about coach Muffet McGraw and the job she’s done. Especially with a face-of-the-program player like Diggins.
A loss is never fun, but I’d be willing to be that Summitt had a great deal of respect for what she saw on Monday night.
David Harten is the founder of The Backboard Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.