No. 4 Tennessee 65, Vanderbilt 57
Pat Summitt promises she isn’t running out of material to whip
up her Tennessee Lady Vols even in her 37th season.
”Oh, I can make stuff up,” she said.
She must have come up with a doozy at halftime Sunday because
No. 4 Tennessee rallied from one of the Lady Vols’ worst first
halves ever and beat Vanderbilt 65-57 Sunday for their 15th
”We had a real good halftime,” Summitt said. ”I like halftime
more than anything I think. … I ripped everybody. You know,
nobody was really stepping up and taking ownership and
The Lady Vols (24-2, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) played their
third game in seven days and were sloppy scoring only 15 points in
the first half, the third-worst scoring performance for 20 minutes
in Tennessee’s history.
They came back with a 50-point second half keyed in part by
freshman Lauren Avant, who scored all her season-high 11 points in
the final 20 minutes. Shekinna Stricklen scored 14 points, and
Glory Johnson had 10.
Assistant coach Mickie DeMoss suggested Summitt put Avant in for
the second half after the freshman played only three minutes in the
first. Avant played 17 minutes in the second and also grabbed two
rebounds with four steals.
”She stepped up big time,” Stricklen said of Avant. ”She had
it all today. She’s the one who brought the energy to us in the
second half. She had No. 11 (Jasmine Lister) all frustrated, you
know. When you see one person who has defense like that, it brought
our energy. We just started being more aggressive on defense. We
started making them play faster.”
Avant played only eight games as a high school senior due to
shoulder surgery, and illness and injuries had limited her to 58
minutes in nine games coming into Sunday.
”I was definitely nervous, but I just tried to show my
confidence, kind of fake it a little to get my teammates upbeat,”
Avant said. ”We just all responded well to each other. I’ve always
had confidence in my defense.”
Vanderbilt (17-8, 8-4) snapped a four-game winning streak that
had moved the Commodores from fifth in the SEC to second, just
three games back of Tennessee. The Commodores couldn’t hold on for
what would have been only their eighth victory all time against
Tennessee, blowing an 11-point lead with 13:52 left.
”You hold somebody to 15 and then they score 50?” Vanderbilt
coach Melanie Balcomb said. ”I mean 20 might not have been enough
at that point. The frustrating piece, until the last eight minutes
we were beating them, and they’re the No. 4 team in the country and
there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Jence Rhoads had 15 points for Vanderbilt, and Stephanie Holzer
Summitt stared stonily at her Lady Vols through the first half
when they scored a measly 15 points, shooting 20 percent (5 of 25).
That is the third-worst scoring half ever behind the 13 scored
against Rutgers on Jan. 3, 2009, and 14 against Virginia in an NCAA
tournament regional championship March 25, 1996.
She ripped them heavily at halftime, probably just as she did in
those other games.
”It was almost like roll call, trying to find out who’s going
to step up and really bring what we had to have,” Summitt said.
”But we found a way to win. That’s what championship teams do.
They just find a way to win, and I don’t necessarily like watching
as we struggle through a lot of possessions. But I think this team
has a lot of maturity now, and hopefully we’ll build on it from
The Lady Vols won both of those, and they came back to win this
one too despite being so cold in the first half that even when
Taber Spani stole the ball from Lister, her pull-up jumper off the
fast break hit off the front rim for Tennessee’s 15th miss of the
Tennessee didn’t score a point in the final 5:33 after a
fast-break layup by Kamiko Williams pulled the Lady Vols within
Vanderbilt didn’t take advantage of the Lady Vols’ woes. The
Commodores led only 28-15 at halftime because only Holzer scored on
a layup, and Elan Brown added two free throws while Tennessee
couldn’t score down the final minutes.
Vanderbilt led 39-28 when the Lady Vols finally got going with a
16-3 run. Avant, hobbled by injuries and illness this season, came
off the bench and provided a spark. She scored on a driving layup
and converted the free throw and then hit a 3-pointer to pull
Tennessee within 42-41 with 7:31 left.
”We couldn’t stop them off the dribble in the second half, and
a lot of it was her,” Balcomb said of Avant. ”We got caught on
switches and had some mismatches and didn’t have our best defender
guarding her a lot of the time, and they attacked us.”
Meighan Simmons, who had been 1 of 8 from the floor, hit a
3-pointer from the top of the key that capped the spurt with 5:55
left and put Tennessee ahead 44-42 – the Lady Vols’ first lead
The teams went back and forth with Vandy last leading at 49-47
before Williams’ layup tied it up, and Simmons hit a jumper that
put Tennessee ahead to stay at 51-49. The Lady Vols led by eight
three times down the stretch.