Tennessee won its second-straight game Thursday night, defeating Florida 67-50 at home.
The Lady Vols (14-7, 3-5 SEC) never trailed and led for over 38 minutes of action as Rennia Davis led Tennessee with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Cheridene Green chipped in 15 points. Davis and Green both had 10 rebounds on the night, each recording a double-double.
“(It was) a great win for us tonight,” Holly Warlick said. “We did some really, really good things. I thought our defense was solid.”
Warlick’s squad jumped out to an early 11-4 lead and never looked back, leading by as many as 18 points in the third quarter. Following back-to-back 3’s from Evina Westbrook to take a 21-6 lead with 1:32 remaining in the opening quarter, Tennessee led by double-digits for the remainder of the game.
In the first quarter, the Lady Vols shot 56 percent, 3-of-3 from three, and only turned it over twice. On the defensive end they held Florida to 0-of-6 shooting from distance and 29 percent from the field. At the end of one, Tennessee led 24-8.
Florida (5-16, 1-7 SEC) started the second quarter on a 10-5 run. The run helped the Gators outscore Tennessee 19-14 in the quarter. Despite Florida’s start to the second quarter, the Lady Vols shot 52 percent in the opening half and led 39-27 at the break.
The third quarter for the Gators resembled much more of the first quarter. After scoring eight points in the opening frame, Florida scored nine points in the third. Tennessee’s defense continued to make life tough in the fourth quarter, holding the Gators to 24 percent shooting from the field in the second half. On the night, Florida shot 28 percent and 6-of-26 from the 3-point line.
For Tennessee, Davis continued her strong play in the second half, scoring 10 of her 19 points in the final 20 minutes. As a team, the Lady Vols shot 37 percent from the field and 1-of-8 from the 3-point line.
Here are our observations from the Lady Vols’ win over Florida.
For once, an opponent didn’t light the Lady Vols up from the 3-point line this season.
In 11 out of Tennessee’s 21 games this season, opponents have shot 30 percent or better from the 3-point line. On eight occasions, opponents have made seven or more 3’s. The Lady Vols’ perimeter defense stepped up against the Gators, though.
On 26 attempts, Florida made just six three-pointers and shot just 23 percent from the 3-point line. For Florida, Funda Nakkaasoglu was 2-of-9, Danielle Rainey was 0-of-6, and Delicia Washington was 0-of-3.
“I thought we were really aware of the 3-point shooting,” Warlick said. “We lost a couple in transition, but our defense was solid. We were talking and moving. Some of those got loose behind us. But we will watch (film) and clean it up. I am just thankful they didn’t go off on us on the 3-point line.”
It wasn’t all bad for the Gators, as Ariel Johnson was 2-of-4, Kiara Smith was 1-of-3, and Emanuely de Oliveira made her only attempt.
Florida struggled from the 3-point line, and so did the Lady Vols. Tennessee was 4-of-13 on the night from distance. Evina Westbrook was 2-of-7 and Meme Jackson was 0-of-3.
Meme Jackson’s Return
Speaking of Jackson, the senior guard made her return to the court on Thursday night.
Jackson had missed the previous two games against No. 1 Notre Dame and LSU after suffering an ankle injury against Arkansas. In her return, Jackson scored four points on 2-of-6 shooting. She missed all three of her 3-point attempts, but she did pick up an assist in 17 minutes off the bench.
“I watched her today in shoot around, and I thought she didn’t favor her ankle or foot,” Warlick said. “I wanted to get her back in the game and rhythm. I thought she did a good job.
“For sitting out for a while, I thought she did a good job. She got a little tired, but that is expected.”
“I felt good,” Jackson added. “I’m just happy to be back out there with my teammates. I was just trying to be patient.”
Freshman Zaay Green didn’t have the biggest impact against Florida as she scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 from the 3-point line. Green added five rebounds, four assists and a steal in 23 minutes.
Though Green wasn’t the star freshman she had been in recent games, she was recognized during the first media timeout for being named SEC Freshman Player of the Week. The Texas native earned the honor after she averaged 14.5 points per game, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in games against Arkansas, No. 1 Notre Dame, and LSU last week.
On the season, Green is averaging 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.
The Lady Vols will look to extend their winning streak to three games on Sunday as they travel west to take on Vanderbilt (6-17, 1-7 SEC). Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
“You cannot treat Vanderbilt like their record,” Warlick said. “They play hard. We cannot overlook anybody, and we will not overlook anybody. We do not have that luxury, and we are not going to do that.”