The 23rd-ranked Lady Vols cruised to a 73-56 win over Georgia on Sunday afternoon inside of Thompson-Boling Arena.
Rennia Davis led the way with 17 points as Tennessee (13-3, 3-1 SEC) has now won five out of its last six games. Davis was one of four Lady Vols to reach double figures while also recording six rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal. Jordan Horston scored 14 points, Tamari Key had 13, and Lou Brown chipped in 12. Key also blocked four shots.
“I’m proud of our team,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said following the win. “I thought it was one of our better basketball games. We saw some growth from our team both offensively and defensively.
“I think we can continue to build on games like this. As a coach, I’m never going to be satisfied. I’m going to pick it apart all day long, but I am pleased with some strides we’re making.”
Georgia (10-7, 1-3 SEC) led the Lady Vols 20-19 at the end of the first quarter. Tennessee would outscore the Lady Bulldogs 54-36 the rest of the way to win by 17.
Here are a few observations from UT’s win that moved them into an early tie for third place in the SEC.
Quarter Change Proves Difference
The adjustments made from the first quarter to the second quarter proved to be the key in the game. After being outscored by one point in the first quarter, the Lady Vols outscored the Lady Bulldogs by 18 points over the final three quarters of play.
Georgia shot 9-of-13 from the floor in the opening frame. In the second quarter, the Bulldogs made just three shots total.
“I felt they were open a lot in that first quarter, and that they got open and knocked down shots,” Harper said. “They got open because they were running into screens. Our defense was maybe a step behind on several possessions in the first quarter, which allowed them to get open.
“I thought we cleaned that up in the second quarter and did a much better job of executing on defense.”
The defensive clean up in between the first and second quarter set the tone for the remainder of the game. After Georgia shot 69 percent in the first quarter, they shot 30.4 percent over the final three quarters. For the game, the Lady Bulldogs shot 39 percent and were 4-for-21 from three.
Sharing the Basketball
When Harper first took over as head coach, the former Lady Vols point guard was adamant that her first-year team needed to improve their passing. 15 games into her tenure, they’re sharing the ball at an exceptional rate.
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Lady Vols ranked No. 1 in the SEC in assists per game at 17.7 assists per contest. Against the Lady Bulldogs, Tennessee eclipsed its average by assisting on 20 of its 28 made baskets.
“I think we’re doing a really good job of sharing the basketball,” Harper said. “They just don’t play selfishly. They’re constantly looking for their teammates.
“One thing that has helped us with that statistic is our spacing. Our offensive execution has been better, so spacing has allowed for more opportunities to penetrate and kick, dish, and being aggressive offensively in transition.”
As a result of good spacing, Tennessee was 8-for-12 from the 3-point line. The eight made threes tied for the most the Lady Vols have made all season long.
“When you make shots, you’re really good,” Harper said. “We just took open shots. I thought we did a really nice job of finding the open person.”
Davis was 2-for-2 from three while Brown and Jazmine Massengill were both 2-for-3. Rae Burrell made her lone 3-point attempt and Jordan Horston was 1-for-3. Massengill also led the Lady Vols in rebounds with seven.
Lady Vols sophomore guard Zaay Green tore her ACL just two games into the season to bring her second-year on Rocky Top to a crashing halt. Green has still had a large presence on the bench for the Lady Vols this season, however.
Sunday marked the first time Green was able to step in with the team during shoot-around and shoot free throws. As for her rehab, the Lady Vols are still working with her and bringing her along.
“Anytime anyone has that kind of injury, it’s hard to stay engaged with the team,” Harper said. “We’re working on press offense, and she’s over there doing leg lifts. You just don’t feel a part of the team. Right now, when she’s on the bench, her voice is heard.
“She wants this team to win regardless if she’s doing rehab or scoring points.”
With all three of their SEC wins coming by double-digits, the Lady Vols now turn their attention to Florida. Tip-off in Gainesville on Thursday night is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. The Gators are coming off of a 65-45 loss to No. 14 Kentucky.