Tennessee State falls 94-43 to No. 3 Lady Vols

Tennessee State appreciates the opportunity to face Southeastern

Conference teams, even if it means being on the wrong end of a

lopsided score every now and then.

That’s what happened Tuesday when the Lady Tigers fell 94-43 to

No. 3 Tennessee in a game that was as big of a mismatch as the

final score indicated.

”I think you learn from skilled athletes,” Tennessee State

coach Larry Joe Inman said. ”It is like anything else, especially

the SEC, which is an up league, a great league, and a national

prepping league year in and year out. Those are some of the things

that we are aspiring to take our program to. Some people laugh at

that right now, but the bottom line is that if we don’t aspire to

that right now, then we will never get that opportunity to be

there. That is why we are doing what we are doing, and that is why

we are trying to teach our kids how to play at a higher

level.”

Tennessee State will test itself against an SEC opponent again

Friday when it faces Florida. The Lady Tigers (3-8) lost 77-61 at

Mississippi on Nov. 24.

”We might as well be in the SEC with the schedule we are

playing,” Inman quipped.

Tennessee State had won its last two games by double digits,

over North Florida and NAIA program Martin Methodist, but the Lady

Tigers were facing an entirely different level of competition

Tuesday.

A look at the rosters underscored the challenge facing Tennessee

State.

Tennessee State didn’t have a single starter taller than 6 feet.

Six of Tennessee’s 10 players are 6-2 or taller. The height

discrepancy clearly bothered Tennessee State, which shot 14 of 74

overall and 1 of 22 from 3-point range.

”It is very difficult, especially when you get to the cup,”

said Tennessee State guard Rachel Allen, a 5-5 junior who led the

Lady Tigers with 12 points. ”I had to either try and get contact

or do the little floater that I like to do. It is challenging but

it prepares me for my league in the (Ohio Valley).”

Bashaara Graves scored 17 points to lead five Lady Vols in

double figures as Tennessee improved its record to 10-0 for the

first time since its 2007-08 national championship season. Graves

made all six of her shots from the floor and was 5 of 6 from the

free-throw line.

Meighan Simmons added 13 points for Tennessee. Cierra Burdick,

Isabelle Harrison and Russell had 12 points apiece.

All nine of Tennessee’s healthy players scored at least six

points. A facial injury prevented Jasmine Jones from playing

against Tennessee State, though Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick

expects the sophomore forward back for Saturday’s game at No. 6

Stanford.

”We definitely wanted to come out and play Lady Vol

basketball,” Burdick said. ”That’s something we’ve been

struggling with in past games, playing down to our competition. We

can’t do that. We’ve got to come out and play to our potential

every single night. That’s the sign of a great team.”

Tennessee sprinted to a 14-1 lead in the first four minutes and

never looked back. The Lady Tigers missed 23 of their first 26

shots and trailed 42-9 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first

half.

”I didn’t think we shot the ball very well, but I feel like

they had something to do with that, too, especially around the

basket with their height,” Inman said. ”I was very proud of our

kids’ effort. I thought they had a tremendous effort.”