After falling to No. 8 Stanford 95-85 on Tuesday, the ninth-ranked Lady Vols bounced back on Friday night with a 80-61 win over East Tennessee State.
In its win over its in-state foe, Meme Jackson led the way with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 7-of-12 from the 3-point line. Cheridene Green was the Lady Vols’ second-leading scorer on the night in just 15 minutes of action. Green scored 12 points while Mimi Collins chipped in 11 points and six rebounds. Rennia Davis also scored 11 points. Freshman Zaay Green dropped in nine points.
As a team, Tennessee shot 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from the 3-point line. Despite the Lady Vols turning it over 21 times, ETSU only scored 12 points off turnovers. Defensively, Tennessee held the Bucs to 31 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers.
The Lady Vols (9-1) led 38-28 at the halfway point after shooting 39 percent in the first half. Tennessee led throughout the opening 20 minutes, but they turned it over 10 times and were 3-of-13 from the 3-point line. Despite out-rebounding ETSU (2-13) 27-18, Tennessee allowed the Bucs to grab 10 offensive boards. Davis led the way with 11 points and four rebounds at the break.
Tennessee played a much better second half despite turning it over 11 times. It shot 51 percent in the second half and out-scored ETSU 42-33. The Lady Vols led for 39:25 out of the 40 minutes.
For ETSU, Knoxville native Micah Scheetz scored a team-high 15 points. Carley Lytton and Erica Haynes-Overton both scored 11 points. Haynes-Overton entered the game averaging 16.5 points per game, but Tennessee was able to keep her in check, holding her to 3-of-10 shooting from the field.
“I respect what she’s doing there at ETSU,” Holly Warlick said of ETSU head coach Brittney Ezell following the game. “Her kids played hard, they didn’t look at the score and they took on her personality.”
Here are our biggest takeaways from the Lady Vols’ final game before Christmas.
Meme Jackson’s Near Record
Jackson nearly broke a Lady Vol record for three-pointers in a game, but she came up just short as she connected on a career-high seven of her 12 attempted shots. The junior scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting in 28 minutes. She added four assists, three rebounds and a steal.
“Meme has been in the gym outside of practice,” Warlick said. “And when you do that, you have a lot of confidence.
“She shot the ball well tonight because she shot open shots. She was open and she didn’t force it. Her teammates got her the ball.”
Jackson bounced back following a 4-of-14 shooting performance against Stanford and is now averaging 14.5 points per game on the season and nearly 24 points per game over the last three games. She’s shooting 39 percent from the 3-point line.
Tennessee may have won by 19 points, but it wasn’t as crisp of a performance as Warlick would have liked.
Sure, Tennessee shot 45 percent from the field, but it allowed a small East Tennessee State to pull down 17 offensive rebounds. ETSU’s 17 offensive boards were the most Tennessee has allowed all season long. Off of those rebounds, the Bucs scored 26 points in the paints but just six second-chance points.
Rebounding was also a problem against Stanford on Tuesday, as the Lady Vols were out-rebounded by 14 boards. Warlick wasn’t pleased with the rebounding effort following their last game, and she wasn’t pleased with it on Friday night either.
The Lady Vols also turned it over 21 times, tying a season-high just a game removed after turning it over a season-low eight times against Stanford. Part of that probably had to do with the fact that Evina Westbrook only played 20 minutes. But still, Tennessee’s primary ball-handlers turned it over 10 times.
“We had too many turnovers,” Warlick said. “But I liked how aggressive we were.”
Though Tennessee did turn it over quite a bit, the Lady Vols assisted on 20 of their 27 made baskets – a number that Warlick will take all day long.
“They’re learning to play with each other,” Warlick said. “The majority of the time they’ve been here, they’ve been willing to share the basketball.”
Evina Westbrook’s Health
It was business as usual for the Lady Vols on the court, so one of the biggest storylines developed when Evina Westbrook checked out of the game late in the second quarter due to what appeared to be a wrist or hand injury. She immediately took a seat on the bench and received attention from the trainer. Westbrook wouldn’t check back in before the half after tallying just two points on 0-of-2 shooting from the field.
“She jammed her thumb a little bit,” Warlick said after the game.
Westbrook would return to the floor to start the second half, but it appeared her injury continued to bother her. As a result, she only played nine minutes in the second half. Westbrook finished the night with just two points on 0-of-5 shooting, though she did pick up nine assists.
“She (Evina) was a great leader tonight,” Warlick said. “Evina has had some great games, but you can’t measure your game by stats, especially if you’re a point guard.”
In the four games prior, Westbrook had reach the 20-point mark – becoming the First Lady Vol to do so since Candace Parker did it from March 2nd to March 9th in 2008. In her last game out, Westbrook recorded her first career double-double, scoring 29 points and tallying 10 assists.
Tennessee will be back in action a week from tonight when they face Murray State in Thompson-Boling. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET. The Lady Vols will then take on Belmont before it begins SEC play on Jan. 3 with a trip to Auburn.