The Tennessee Lady Vols blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead to the Aggies. Here are five takeaways from the women’s basketball Volunteers’ 61-59 loss.
Khaalia Hillsman made a shot with four seconds left, and then Mercedes Russell missed a game-tying shot as time expired, costing the Tennessee Lady Vols a home game against the Texas A&M Aggies.
Holly Warlick’s team led for almost the entire game and had built an 58-47 lead early in the fourth, but the Aggies finished the game on a 14-1 run to win.
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With the loss, Tennessee fell to 16-9 and 7-5 in the SEC, while Texas A&M improved to 19-6 and 9-3 in the conference. The loss also cost the Tennessee Lady Vols a chance to firmly hold a third place spot in the SEC standing when taking head to head consideration into account.
This is the third loss at home on the year for Warlick’s team, but it’s their first home loss to a ranked team. It all but ended their long-shot chances at an SEC regular season championship.
Here are five takeaways from the Tennessee Lady Vols’ heartbreaking loss.
1. Offensive droughts return.
This was an issue throughout last year and up until January of this year. And it returned in this game. As talented as the Tennessee Lady Vols are, they continuously lose games because of ridiculously long scoring droughts.
In this one, they did not score a field goal in the final eight and a half minutes of the game. They missed 11 field goals during that time. The only point during that time was when Jaime Nared went 1-of-2 from the free throw line. Turnovers were partially the issue for lack of scoring as was the fact that their shooters just go on slumps. But there’s a bigger reason for this drought.
2. Shot selection was terrible.
Tennessee shot under 40 percent from the field, and that’s mainly because they went 3-of-14 from the three-point line. But that begs the question: When you have a huge size advantage down low and a great inside out game, why are you settling for threes when your shots aren’t falling?
This is why they let the Aggies back in the game. During their drought at the end of the game, Alexa Middleton, Diamond DeShields, and Jordan Reynolds each missed three-point shots. And all of them were on consecutive possessions, and one of them was with over 20 seconds left on the shot clock? Any guess as to how the Aggies came back now? This was terrible, and the blame here has to fall on Holly Warlick. But there’s another reason for these troubles.
3. Diamond DeShields and Jaime Nared are drained.
The Tennessee Lady Vols have a big three, and all three players have to show up every night if they want to win. But because Warlick has no depth, there are nights when they won’t show up, which causes them to lose. And this was one of those nights.
DeShields finished the game with only 8 points on 4-of-12 shooting, and Nared finished with 9 points on 2-of-7 shooting. These two players have to get involved more because without consistent scoring from them and the rest of the guards, these guys can’t win. To be fair, Alexa Middleton had a good game with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. And the Lady Vols did have 18 assists. But both of those things are due to the next takeaways.
4. Mercedes Russell gets no blame for this loss.
Mercedes Russell did everything she was supposed to do in this game. The forward had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds on 8-of-17 shooting, so she once again played aggressive when needed. And she was able to get other people involved.
The focus on her is what got Middleton to score well Sunday, especially with DeShields and Nared struggling. She was able to show her soft touch and aggression. If the guard play can get more consistent and she continues that, there won’t be any problems. That’s the one bit of good news from this loss. But on the other hand, she needs more help in other areas.
5. The Tennessee Lady Vols are getting killed down low.
Mercedes Russell is a star, but she’s all the team has under the basket. And it is clearly beginning to show because the Lady Vols are worthless if they can’t stretch the floor with their three-point shooting. And when they took ill-advised threes in the fourth quarter, they lost due to having an off-night.
Texas A&M outrebounded the Lady Vols 45-34 on the night, and they had an amazing 15 offensive rebounds. That’s what cost Tennessee the game, and it’s a stat that would have Pat Summitt rolling over in her grave. Tennessee needs more than Russell under the basket to be a real threat, but she’s all they have right now. And it bit them on Sunday.