No. 4 Lady Vols outlast Georgia Tech 87-76

Before every game, Tennessee assistant coach Dean Lockwood tells
Bashaara Graves and Isabelle Harrison how many rebounds he wants
from each of them.

Lockwood needs to start setting his sights higher.

Graves and Harrison each pulled down 18 rebounds – career highs
for both – as the fourth-ranked Lady Vols remained unbeaten Sunday
with an 87-76 victory over Georgia Tech.

”We definitely exceeded what he told us (he wanted) before the
game,” Harrison said.

Tennessee outrebounded Georgia Tech 65-38 and matched its
sixth-highest single-game rebound total in school history.
Tennessee hadn’t collected as many as 65 rebounds in a game since
Nov. 23, 1996. The Lady Vols had 33 offensive rebounds, their
highest single-game total since Jan. 10, 2000.

Although Tennessee doesn’t have official school records for
offensive rebounds, Graves’ 14 were the most by any Lady Vol in a
single game since at least 2000.

”When you have two kids with 18 rebounds apiece, that’s the
difference in the game,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.
”It’s second-chance points. That’s just heart and desire to go in
and rebound.”

Graves also had 23 points and five assists to match career highs
in both categories. Graves, the 2012-13 Southeastern Conference
newcomer of the year, had been averaging just 7.7 points and 6.3
rebounds through the first three games of her sophomore season.

Before the game, she told herself to play more aggressively.
Graves responded with arguably the best performance of her
career.

”There wasn’t too much more Bashaara could do. … At one time
I thought she was guarding just about everybody on the floor,
including the point guard,” Warlick said.

Mercedes Russell scored 14 points, Meighan Simmons added 13 and
Harrison had 10 for Tennessee, which led by as many as 18 points in
the first half before Georgia Tech used outside shooting to get
within four midway through the second half.

Kaela Davis scored 28 points to lead Georgia Tech (2-1), though
she had only three points in the last 10:53 of the game while being
guarded closely by Tennessee’s Cierra Burdick. Aaliyah Whiteside
added 16 points. Sydney Wallace and Tyaunna Marshall added 13
points each, though Marshall shot just 6 of 25.

Davis, the daughter of former NBA forward Antonio Davis, was one
of the nation’s most heralded prospects in her high school class.
The 6-foot-2 freshman guard was verbally committed to Tennessee for
nearly two years before eventually signing with Georgia Tech. She’s
averaging 22.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game thus far in her
freshman year.

”The day Kaela Davis signed with Georgia Tech, it changed our
program forever,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. ”She
elevated our program before she ever stepped foot on campus.”

Davis’ twin brother, A.J. Davis, is a freshman forward for the
Tennessee men’s basketball team. He was in the stands Sunday
wearing Tennessee gear and cheering for his sister.

”I definitely noticed,” Davis said. ”He’s a big guy. He
stands out.”

Tennessee’s fast start Sunday ended the Lady Vols’ early-season
trend of relying on second-half surges. Tennessee had been
outscoring teams 134-84 in the second half through its first three
games of the season. In the first half of those games, opponents
were playing Tennessee to a 94-94 deadlock.

After trailing 41-23, Georgia Tech ended the first half on a
12-3 run and continued its comeback early in the second half by
relying on its perimeter attack. Georgia Tech went 8 of 21 from
3-point range, while Tennessee was just 2 of 13.

”We started out strong, and then we got comfortable,” Warlick
said.

Tennessee didn’t put the game out of reach until late in the
second half. Ariel Massengale sank back-to-back jumpers to spark a
12-0 spurt as Georgia Tech finally started to cool off from long
range. After getting Georgia Tech within striking range in the
second half, Davis struggled to get open late in the game while
being guarded closely by Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick.

In the end, Georgia Tech’s edge from long range couldn’t
compensate for Tennessee’s decisive advantage on the boards.