LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Vols freshman Meighan Simmons scored 22 points before a record crowd as No. 4 Tennessee beat Louisville 63-50 on Friday night in the first regular-season game at the new KFC Yum! Center.
It was one of 13 BIG EAST women's basketball games opening the season.
The Louisville-Tennessee game set a BIG EAST women’s attendance mark of 22,124. That topped the 19,123 that then-No. 1 Connecticut drew in a visit to Freedom Hall on Jan. 12, 2008.
Freedom Hall was a dusty old barn with so much hoops history. People may have been curious to check out the gleaming building with the dazzling scoreboard and all the modern comforts down to a bourbon bar overlooking the Ohio River. Louisville also added a new piece of history by retiring the No. 35 jersey worn by Angel McCoughtry before tipoff.
“What a great place,” Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said of an arena she compared to Tennessee’s home, Thompson-Boling Arena.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz grabbed a microphone at the end and thanked the fans who wore mostly red and not Tennessee orange. The fans gave him a standing ovation and fans talked of a quick return to the Final Four. He joked later he thought they were standing up to head for the exits.
“They were fantastic. The place got loud,” Walz said.
Other action on Friday saw a trio of ranked BIG EAST teams in action.
Devereaux Peters had a career-high 23 points and eight rebounds in only 14 minutes, and No. 12 Notre Dame opened the season by cruising past New Hampshire 99-48 in a record-setting rout.
On a day when Notre Dame honored former star Ruth Riley, retiring her 00 jersey, the Fighting Irish set school records by making 36 steals and forcing 48 turnovers.
Skylar Diggins, a sophomore guard from South Bend, paced the Irish on both ends of the floor as Notre Dame went to a tenacious full-court press early against the overmatched Wildcats.
Notre Dame was up by 16 less than 8 minutes in and held New Hampshire scoreless for 9:44 during a 28-0 run.
During halftime, Notre Dame celebrated the 10th anniversary of its 2001 national championship.
Da’Shena Stevens put up a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead No. 14 St. John’s past Marist 64-50 in the Commerce Bank Wildcat Classic.
Shenneika Smith added 12 points and 5 rebounds while Centhya Hart had eight points and matched Stevens with 13 rebounds. St. John’s outrebounded Marist 51-34.
In Morgantown, Liz Repella scored 18 points and No. 11 West Virginia, with the highest preseason ranking in school history, opened up by beating Loyola, Md., 80-49.
Madina Ali added 17 points for the Mountaineers, who won their 12th straight home opener and school-record 20th consecutive home game dating to the end of the 2008-09 season.
Other action had Cincinnati over Southwest Baptist 55-40, Pittsburgh beating Youngstown State 78-58 and Villanova over La Salle 57-42. Syracuse edged Northeastern 72-69, DePaul beat Valpo 84-53 and USF topped Jacksonville 82-77.
In addition, Seton Hall lost at Florida Gulf Coast 64-57, while Providence lost at Saint Joseph's 64-49.
There are three women's basketball games on Saturday. Georgetown begins the season against Alcorn State at 2 p.m., while Marquette takes on Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 8 p.m. ET. Both games are at home. No. 14/16 St. John's looks for its second win of the year at Kansas State at 3:30 p.m. ET.