Mississippi falls 94-70 to No. 8 Lady Vols
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
Ariel Massengale scored 23 points Thursday as the eighth-ranked Lady Vols breezed to a 94-70 victory over the Rebels, who didn't have a single player in double figures. Mississippi has lost its last 25 games in this series since beating Tennessee on Feb. 4, 1996.
Mississippi (9-7, 0-2 SEC) had shown it could challenge a Final Four contender Dec. 18 when it led by 10 points in the first half of an 87-80 loss at then-No. 9 Baylor. But Mississippi couldn't sustain an early advantage Thursday. After the Rebels took a 4-3 lead, Tennessee pulled ahead for good with a 16-4 run.
''Baylor's a little bit better of a matchup for us,'' Mississippi coach Matt Insell said. ''Tennessee, good gracious (they're) so big. We're in there battling, but we're a little bit short. Obviously we're a lot shorter (than Tennessee).''
Tennessee has six players 6-foot-2 or taller and is outrebounding foes by more than 15 boards per game. The Lady Vols (13-2, 2-1) had a 56-40 edge in rebounds and a 10-0 advantage in blocks Thursday.
''You just have to really box them out and go up for the boards,'' Mississippi forward Tia Faleru said. ''You know they're longer than you, so they're going to be coming over you a lot. It wasn't (that) bad. We just have to box out, and we missed some box-outs.''
Faleru's foul trouble made Mississippi's challenge even greater.
Faleru, who has been playing through a broken pinkie finger, entered the night leading the SEC with 9.9 rebounds per game and tied for sixth in the conference with 16 points per game. But she picked up three fouls Thursday in the game's first 6 minutes, 45 seconds. She ended up with eight points and nine rebounds despite playing just two minutes before halftime.
Although Insell removed Faleru from the game after her second foul, he put her back in with the Rebels trailing 14-6. The 6-1 forward picked up her third foul 31 seconds later and sat out the rest of the first half.
''Putting her back in with two fouls is just the way we play,'' Insell said. ''We came here to win. We went to Baylor to win, and we've got to get that mentality back in our program. Our program's been down for five or six years, but it's not going to be down much longer. We're just going to keep getting better and we're going to change our mentality and starting going to these games with a mentality that we're going to win these games.''
Diara Moore, Shequila Joseph, Gracie Frizzell and Amber Singletary scored nine points each for Mississippi, which shot 9 of 20 from 3-point range but was just 18 of 58 from inside the arc.
Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison had 16 points and 10 rebounds to set a school record with her seventh straight double-double. Andraya Carter had 14 points and Meighan Simmons added 12 points.
Although she was happy with the win, Tennessee coach Holly Warlick didn't like the Lady Vols' energy level at times and said they would need to step up their performance.
''This is a team right now that is very talented, but we're underachieving,'' Warlick said. ''I've gotten mad at them. I've raised my voice. I've threatened them. I've been nice. I don't know. When our backs are against the wall, we generally play pretty hard. But I don't have an answer. We play in spurts and at times we don't look like we really care if there's a game going on or not anything going on.''
Thursday's game drew an announced crowd of 10,382, which increased Tennessee's all-time home attendance to 5,006,586.
NCAA spokesman Rick Nixon said earlier in the week it's a ''safe assumption'' that Tennessee is the first women's program to reach the 5 million mark based on the Lady Vols' attendance history, but there isn't a way to officially verify that because the NCAA doesn't measure each school's all-time cumulative attendance. Tennessee has led the nation in attendance for 10 straight seasons.