KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee’s fourth-quarter defense helped the Lady Vols end their slide and break open a close game.
Jaime Nared scored 23 points and Mercedes Russell had a double-double Thursday as No. 12 Tennessee dominated the final period to pull away for an 82-67 victory over No. 14 Texas A&M.
Russell had 18 points and 13 rebounds to help Tennessee rebound in its first game since falling out of the top 10. Tennessee (18-4, 6-3 SEC) entered the night having lost four of its last six games after a 15-0 start.
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”What makes this win a good win for us is how much doubt has come from the losses and everyone questioning us, and how much different things have been when we’ve lost games, from all around,” Nared said. ”Just the fact (is) we’ve stuck together and we’re still working. … Despite what anybody says or has to say about us, we know who we are. We’re going to keep fighting and keep getting better.”
In a game that featured 30 lead changes, Tennessee broke away by outscoring Texas A&M 25-8 in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M (17-7, 6-3) had led 59-57 at the end of the third period.
Chennedy Carter scored 25 points and Jasmine Lumpkin had a career-high 22 points for the Aggies.
All of Lumpkin’s points came before halftime, and she attempted only one shot in the second half. Carter scored 23 points in the first three quarters, but she shot 1 of 5, committed three turnovers and scored just two points in the fourth.
”In the fourth quarter, I felt like all we were doing is what I call `hooping,’ ” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. ”That means you’re playing rec ball. You are not running an offense. You are not running anything. Everybody was trying to win it by themselves.”
Anastasia Hayes scored 16 points, Rennia Davis had 11 and Meme Jackson added 10 for Tennessee.
The two teams had gone to overtime in their first meeting three weeks ago – a 79-76 Texas A&M victory – and went back and forth again for most of the rematch.
But everything changed in the final period as Tennessee silenced Texas A&M.
”I thought we wore them down a little bit,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. ”I thought our press was really good.”
Texas A&M: The Aggies’ lack of depth has hurt them in the fourth quarter against Tennessee this season. Texas A&M missed 18 straight shots late in the first Tennessee game and squandered a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead before rallying to win in overtime. This time, the Aggies were dominated down the stretch.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols benefited from a huge performance from Nared, who had been struggling lately. Nared had shot a combined 11 of 35 in the three games leading up to this one. She was 8 of 15 on Thursday.
Tennessee and Texas A&M entered the night with the most free-throw attempts of any Division I teams, yet they combined for just 23 free throws Thursday. Tennessee was 11 of 16 and Texas A&M was 5 of 7.
Blair said the game’s fast pace kept many fouls from being called. Remarkably, the two starting centers – Russell for Tennessee and Khaalia Hillsman for Texas A&M – didn’t attempt a single free throw.
”We fouled each other, but they let us play,” Hillsman said.
During a first-quarter timeout, the Pat Summitt Foundation received a $100,000 check from Josh Crisp and former Lady Vols guard Michelle Marciniak, who had raised the money as co-chairs of the “Pedal for Pat” excursion .
Crisp and Marciniak were part of a group cycling from Knoxville to Key Largo, Florida, last fall. The trip lasted 1,098 miles, one for each of the victories Summitt accumulated as Tennessee’s coach.
Texas A&M hosts Auburn on Sunday.
Tennessee is at Vanderbilt on Sunday.
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