No. 3 Lady Vols pull away from Texas 75-61
Tennessee has played only one ranked team so far, but the
third-ranked Lady Vols still believe they’ve been tested plenty of
times this season.
It happened again Sunday.
Isabelle Harrison had 18 points and eight rebounds Sunday as
Tennessee rallied from its customary slow start for a 75-61 victory
over Texas. Although the Lady Vols (8-0) never trailed, they only
led 28-27 at intermission.
Tennessee has been tied or behind at halftime in three games
this season, yet won them all by at least nine points.
”I think in all the games we’ve played up to this point, there
have been times when our backs have been against the wall,”
Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale said.
Tennessee switched its lineup, giving 6-foot-6 freshman center
Mercedes Russell her first start and sophomore forward Jasmine
Jones her second career start.
Sophomore forward Bashaara Graves, who entered Sunday’s game
averaging 11.1 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds, was held out of
the starting lineup for only the second time in 42 career games.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said she made the changes because
Jones had a great week of practice and Graves didn’t perform as
”I said, `Bashaara, I can’t start you,’ and she said she
understood,” Warlick said. ”It’s not a disciplinary thing.”
Graves finished with seven points and six rebounds in 23 minutes
off the bench. Massengale had 15 points and seven assists, Meighan
Simmons scored 13 points and Cierra Burdick had 10 for the Lady
Tennessee improved to 8-0 for the first time since the 2009-10
season. The Lady Vols beat then-No. 12 North Carolina 81-65 on Nov.
11, but struggled in the first half before pulling away.
”They’re legit, there’s no question about it,” Texas coach
Karen Aston said. ”Watching a lot of film, they’re a legitimate
Nneka Enemkpali led Texas (6-3) with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
All but two of her points came in the first half. Chassidy Fussell
added 12 points, despite shooting 1 of 10 from 3-point range.
Krystle Henderson had 11 points and Empress Davenport added
This game was a contrast in styles between a Tennessee team that
likes to run and a Texas squad that prefers low scores. Tennessee
entered the day averaging 80.3 points, while Texas was allowing
In the first half, Texas controlled the tempo.
After taking an 11-2 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the
game, Tennessee struggled the rest of the first half. The Lady Vols
had a one-point lead at intermission mostly because Texas missed
open 3-point attempts. Texas was 1 of 7 on 3-pointers in the first
half and finished 4 of 20 from beyond the arc.
”I think we came into this game with nobody expecting us to
win,” Henderson said. ”We kind of had that chip on our shoulder
from the beginning.”
But once again, Tennessee came up big in the second half.
Massengale said Tennessee’s season-long penchant for playing better
in the second half helped players believe they could do it again
”It gives us a lot of confidence,” Massengale said. ”We need
to get off to better starts. We’re still trying to figure out
what’s going to make us go in the first half, but it’s a long
season and hopefully we figure that out soon.”
Texas trailed 35-34 with 15:20 remaining when Fussell missed a
3-pointer that would have given the Longhorns their first lead of
the game. But Tennessee went on a 9-0 run to build a double-digit
advantage. Massengale started the momentum shift with a driving
layup and assisted on baskets by Graves and Burdick in Tennessee’s
Texas regrouped and cut Tennessee’s lead to 54-50 on Davenport’s
3-pointer with 8:32 remaining, but the Lady Vols scored the next 11
points to put the game away.
The game’s dominant player in the first half, Enemkpali scored
just two points in the second before fouling out with 2:58 left.
After fouling out, Enemkpali picked up a technical foul when she
tossed the ball in frustration and it landed on Burdick, who had
fallen to the floor on the play.
”It wasn’t (done) purposely,” Enemkpali said. ”It was the
wrong move on my part. It wasn’t a reflection on who I am as a
person or my program. It was just the wrong call.”