KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's inconsistency is preventing the Lady Volunteers from breaking out of their season-long funk.
The 13th-ranked Lady Vols have lost two of their last three games by falling to No. 20 Florida and Arkansas, both of whom were unranked at the time. The Arkansas game marked the first time since 1979 that Tennessee had fallen to a team with a losing record.
Now the Lady Vols (11-5) go on the road Monday to play at No. 3 Notre Dame (16-1). Tennessee hasn't lost three times in a four-game span since 2008-09.
"We've got great kids, great kids," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said Thursday after the 64-59 loss to Arkansas. "They're just up and down. They play hard one game and (then) they don't."
Ranked fourth at the start of the season, Tennessee has shown signs of its potential but hasn't sustained it.
A home loss to Florida ended a three-game winning streak that included a victory at No. 12 Oregon State, which was ranked seventh at the time. Tennessee trounced Auburn 79-52 with former coach Pat Summitt and about 50 former Lady Vols in the stands, then lost to Arkansas four days later.
Arkansas carried a 6-10 record into the Tennessee game. According to STATS LLC, that was the first time the Lady Vols had fallen to a team with a losing record since at least 1999-2000, which is as far back as its data went on the subject. An analysis of statistics and box scores from earlier seasons shows that Tennessee hadn't lost to a team with a sub-.500 record since a 66-64 defeat at Kentucky on Jan. 20, 1979.
Tennessee is doing what it can to make sure that doesn't happen again. After returning home from Arkansas late Thursday night, the Lady Vols held a 7 a.m. practice the next morning.
"We thought it was important while it was fresh on their minds to go back and work on the things that we did not do well," assistant coach Kyra Elzy said.
The Lady Vols still have time to turn things around. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw calls Tennessee "incredibly talented" and says the Lady Vols are just starting to jell now after dealing with injuries.
"Talent-wise they definitely have everything they need," McGraw said. "To me, they look scary on film. So many weapons. So many different ways they can score. So many great athletes."
A lack of offense has hindered Tennessee all year. The Lady Vols are on pace for their lowest scoring average (66.7) and field-goal percentage (.411) since Summitt took over the program in 1974.
The biggest contrast between Tennessee and Notre Dame is in 3-point shooting. Tennessee has made 23.6 percent of its 3-point attempts to rank 336th out of 344 Division I teams. Notre Dame is shooting 44.9 from 3-point range to lead the nation.
Taking care of the ball also has become an issue.
The Lady Vols have averaged 22.5 turnovers and 10.5 assists in their last two losses. Diamond DeShields averages a team-high 15.3 points per game but has 20 turnovers over her last three games.
"A lot of them were just me throwing the ball away," DeShields said after the Arkansas game. "I have to understand that in order for us to win, we can't have somebody with seven turnovers."