No. 9 Tennessee returned home on Tuesday afternoon following an 88-82 win over No. 12 Texas in its last outing to take on No. 8 Stanford – who was coming off a 68-63 win over No. 3 Baylor.
The return home for the Lady Vols (8-1) wasn’t very welcoming, as the Cardinal (8-1) won 95-85 thanks to a tremendous shooting night from the 3-point line. Stanford shot 58.3 percent from deep and 55 percent from the field on its way to its third-highest scoring output of the season. It out-rebounded the Lady Vols 45-31 on the night, generating 11 second chance points.
“Give Stanford credit,” Lady Vols’ head coach Holly Warlick said following the game. “They were tougher, more poised. We lacked attention to detail.”
Individually for Stanford, DiJonai Carrington scored a career-high 33 points and hauled in 13 rebounds on an 11-of-15 shooting performance. Carrington was one of five Cardinals who reached double-figures in scoring. Alanna Smith and Kiana Williams both scored 16 points.
Evina Westbrook led the way for Tennessee, recording a double-double with 29 points and 10 assists. She also added four rebounds and two steals. Coming off a career-high against the Longhorns, Meme Jackson scored 17 points, but she struggled shooting from the field. Jackson was 3-of-13 from the 3-point line. Zaay Green and Rennia Davis each added 14 points.
Here are our biggest observations from the Lady Vols’ first loss of the season.
The Lady Vols’ defense has seen better days. Stanford was red-hot from the field, but Tennessee did very little to make life hard on the Cardinal. Tennessee forced Stanford into 20 turnovers and turned that into 17 points, but Stanford was able to get any shot it wanted – particularly from the 3-point line.
Not only did they have multiple open looks from deep, but Stanford was able to attack the rim with relative ease. The Cardinal generated 42 points – 44 percent of their offense – from 3-pointers, but they also scored 38 points in the paint (40 percent). Even on its misses, Stanford grabbed nine offensive rebounds.
Individually, Tennessee didn’t have an answer for Carrington, who had a career night. The Lady Vols tried a full-court press, they tried zone, they tried man-to-man, but nothing was stopping the junior guard. Carrington’s previous season-high was 16 points, and her previous career-high was 24. She surpassed that number easily on Tuesday, scoring 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
Carrington was surprised by how open she was on some of her shots. Whether it was simply a poor job of communicating through switches or a poor job of communicating in general, Stanford had as many open looks as any of Tennessee’s opponents this season.
“Every game, we prepare very hard for what teams are going to give us,” Carrington said of her performance. “We knew we were going to get a lot of drives to the basket and had to finish. My teammates did a great job of allowing me to get into position to where I could finish.”
En Fuego from Distance
It just wasn’t Carrington who was red-hot from the 3-point line, though. Four different Cardinals made three or more 3’s as they shot 14-of-24 from behind the 3-point line as a team, nailing 58.3 percent of their threes. In the first half, Stanford was 9-of-15.
“There was no confusion,” Warlick said of defending the three. “It is just get out and guard the three.
“I will have to go back and watch the tape, but I do not think that they hit a shot when we were in their face. I think they were all uncontested threes. I do not know how you can say confusion. (We know) they shoot the three ball. If somebody hits a shot in my face, then you’ve got to adjust what you are doing because you are not going to do that again. We just let it happen time and time again.”
Carrington and Lacie Hull were both 4-of-5 from the 3-point line, and Alanna Smith was 3-of-4. Kiana Williams scored 16 points on 3-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
As a team, Stanford entered the game shooting 39 percent from three. Its 58 percent shooting clip against the Lady Vols was the highest it’s shot all season.
“We shot the ball well, and we did a lot of other things well as well,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “Getting 14 threes out of 24, I would take that any day of the week.”
For the second straight game, Tennessee was out-rebounded.
Against Texas, the Lady Vols were out-rebounded 41-35. Against Stanford, they were out-rebounded 45-31.
Tennessee goes as its defense and rebounding goes, and on Tuesday night, both failed them. On 72 missed shots, the Lady Vols were able to grab just 31 boards – a number that Warlick was not pleased with following the game.
“We’re not going,” Warlick said of her team crashing the boards. “Rebounding. It was nonexistent tonight.
“We have not had an effort issue all year. Tonight we did. I would think that is a one-and-done, but we will see. We will see how we bounce back. I thought we were soft. It was the first time I have said we had a lack of effort.”
Davis hauled in 10 rebounds, but outside of Jazmine Massengill, no other Lady Vol had more than five rebounds. Tennessee’s three key post players – Cheridene Green, Kasiyhana Kushkituah and Kamera Harris – combined for just four rebounds. That’s extremely poor production when you consider the starting point guard had four by herself.
Westbrook was tremendous, producing one of the best games of her career. The sophomore point guard recorded a double-double with 29 points and 10 assists, playing all 40 minutes. She added four rebounds and two assists.
“I thought Evina was the one player that competed tonight,” Warlick said. “I loved her aggressiveness. I wanted her to take it almost every time.”
Westbrook’s 29 points, 40 minutes played, 21 field goal attempts, five 3-point attempts and 10 assists were all season-highs. The most impressive stat that was generated by Westbrook was that Tennessee only turned it over eight times. Normally, the Lady Vols are in the 20’s.
“She just played a solid game,” Warlick said. “But she has been doing that the past couple of games. I have been really proud of her.”
Tennessee will be back in TBA on Friday night to take on East Tennessee State at 7 p.m. ET. ETSU will be the first of three remaining non-conference games in December before beginning SEC play on Jan. 3 with a trip to Auburn.