No. 7 Lady Vols rally late to beat Auburn 70-59 (Jan 04, 2018)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee has progressed to the point that it's not satisfied to win a game in which it doesn't play to its potential.
That's why the seventh-ranked Lady Vols weren't feeling particularly good about themselves Thursday night after surging down the stretch to beat Auburn 70-59 and snap the Tigers' seven-game winning streak.
''It feels good to end on a win, but at the same time, we played terrible, definitely not what we're capable of,'' said Evina Westbrook, whose jumper with 1:43 left put Tennessee ahead for good. ''At the same time, we'll bounce back.''
Tennessee (14-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) withstood a season-high 28 turnovers and continued its best start since winning its first 18 games in 2005-06, a season that ended with a 31-5 record and an NCAA regional final appearance. The Lady Vols are one of four unbeaten Division I teams along with No. 1 Connecticut, No. 3 Louisville and No. 5 Mississippi State.
That's a major step forward for a program that entered the 2017-18 campaign having gone a combined 44-26 over the last two seasons, including an 18-14 mark in SEC competition.
''I told them great teams find a way to win,'' Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. ''We found a way to win tonight.''
Jaime Nared scored 19 points as the Lady Vols went on a decisive 10-0 run with the game on the line and outscored Auburn 19-4 down the stretch. In a game that featured 12 ties and 16 lead changes, neither team ever was ahead by more than five points until the game's final minute.
Auburn (10-4, 1-1) has forced at least 20 turnovers in every game it has played this season and entered the night believing Westbrook and Anastasia Hayes - Tennessee's two freshman point guards - wouldn't be ready to handle the Tigers' pressure.
''There is no way anyone can simulate what we do,'' Auburn guard Janiah McKay said.
Westbrook ended up with nine turnovers and Hayes had five more, but both made huge plays in the final minutes.
The game was tied at 57-all in the final two minutes when Hayes prevented a wild Mercedes Russell pass from going out of bounds. Hayes then regrouped the offense and passed to Westbrook for the go-ahead basket. Warlick called Hayes' sequence the biggest play of the game.
''I guess I just used my athleticism,'' Hayes said. ''It was a big moment. Even if (the pass) was going out of bounds, I was going to try and hustle to make it and not let it get out of bounds. I just drove to the rim and I saw Evina open and just dished it to her.''
Westbrook scored 18 points and shot 4 of 5 from 3-point range, including 3 of 3 in the fourth quarter. Nared had 11 rebounds and four points to go along with her 19 points. Russell added 10 points.
Daisa Alexander scored 16 points off the bench for Auburn. Tiffany Lewis and McKay had 10 points each.
Auburn: While the Tigers thrive on forcing turnovers, they had their own issues protecting the basketball. Auburn committed 18 turnovers and had 13 of them in the second half.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols are undefeated but need to take better care of the basketball. This was the second straight game in which Tennessee had over 20 turnovers. Westbrook has 16 turnovers in her last two games.
Auburn lost despite attempting 32 more shots than Tennessee. Auburn shot 25 of 79 from the floor, while Tennessee was 21 of 47. Tennessee made up for that discrepancy at the foul line, where the Lady Vols went 22 of 28 while Auburn was 3 of 4.
''Obviously the game was ugly,'' Nared said. ''We knew that playing it. But we got stops when it mattered.''
Auburn: At No. 19 Texas A&M on Sunday.
Tennessee: Hosts Vanderbilt on Sunday.
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