No. 9 Tennessee 75, Auburn 66

Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons swiped the ball, drove to the basket
and got two points and a free throw.

Simmons followed that play with back-to-back 3-pointers in a
surge that helped turn the No. 9 Lady Vols’ 12-point second-half
deficit into a 75-66 victory over Auburn on Thursday night.

Simmons scored 18 of her 29 points after halftime but that
nine-point binge turned the game, and Tennessee coach Holly Warlick
sensed it.

”When I made that (three-point play) it got everybody off the
bench and even Holly was jumping on the sideline,” Simmons
said.

The Lady Vols (14-3, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) used a 40-15
run to take control of a game they’d trailed most of the way en
route to their seventh consecutive win.

Simmons scored those nine points during a 15-2 spurt that
started the turnaround. Kamiko Williams’ drive with 10:05 left gave
Tennessee its first lead – 49-47 – since the game’s opening
basket.

Simmons, who had 27 points in an overtime win over Florida, made
10 of 14 shots – including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

Taber Spani had 12 points for the Lady Vols and Ariel Massengale
added 11. Simmons also had six turnovers against a pressing
defense, and got a pep talk from teammates during the game as a
result.

”She’s such a competitor and you could tell she was getting
frustrated with herself and we were telling her, `Stay in it. Stay
in it,’ Spani said. ”She poured it on in the second half.”

Hasina Muhammad and Blanche Alverson scored 15 points apiece to
lead five Auburn players in double figures. Najat Ouardad had 11
points, eight assists and four steals, while Tyrese Tanner and
Peyton Davis each had 10 points.

The Tigers led by as many as 12 five minutes into the second
half.

”I thought our girls felt really confident and they played
very, very hard,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said,
adding that lack of depth affected her starters down the stretch.
Auburn got only five points from its reserves.

Tennessee shot 54 percent (15 of 28) after erasing most of an
11-point deficit to trail 32-27 at halftime. The Lady Vols were
also 8 of 16 from 3-point range and made all four long-range
attempts in the second half.

”I think tonight we found a way to win,” Warlick said. ”It
wasn’t pretty for us. I think Auburn just played a heck of a game.
At halftime we went in and made a couple of adjustments, but we
just challenged our players. We were flat and I think Auburn had a
lot to do with the way we were playing. They were aggressive and we
weren’t.”

Simmons had four steals and was perfect on five free throw
attempts.

Bashaara Graves and Isabelle Harrison both had 11 rebounds for
the Lady Vols, who have won five straight over Auburn.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have dropped two straight to ranked
teams, including a 22-point loss at No. 20 Texas A&M.

”The thing about Tennessee is they score in bunches,”
Williams-Flournoy said. ”When you make a turnover, nine times out
of 10 they’re going to score off your mistake.”

The Lady Vols pushed the lead to 65-59 when Spani hit a basket,
was fouled and made the free throw with 4:12 remaining. Simmons hit
two free throws during that stretch after Auburn was hit with a
technical foul for a substitution miscue when Ouardat entered the
game that left six players on the court. The Tigers never rebounded
from there.

”I definitely think it was a mishandling of that situation by
the officials,” Williams-Flournoy said.