Notebook: Lady Vols Blow Out Vanderbilt

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    Raiders Draft Prospect: Malik Willis

    Tennessee earned its second straight win and completed the season sweep of Vanderbilt Sunday, knocking off the Commodores, 66-52, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

    Here are four takeaways.

    Turnovers Plague Lady Vols

    As they have frequently this season, turnovers plagued the Lady Vols in their win over Vanderbilt.

    The Lady Vols turned it over 10 times in the first half and six times in the first quarter where Tennessee opened a 15-12 lead despite taking just 10 shots to Vanderbilt’s 20.

    Vanderbilt’s matchup zone defense took Tennessee out of its comfort zone on offense and stagnated the Lady Vols’ ball movement. The Commodores did an excellent job of defending post entries and as Tennessee attempted to feed Tamari Key it frequently led to turnovers.

    The Lady Vols ended with 19 turnovers as they proved a consistent issue throughout the game. Eight Lady Vols turned the ball over with Tamari Key leading the way with seven.

    Puckett Provides Spark Off The Bench

    With Tennessee struggling to find offensive success in the first half, freshman forward Sara Puckett stepped up for the Lady Vols.

    The Alabama native’s eight points were the second most of any Lady Vol at the break. Puckett drilled one of Tennessee’s three first half triples while recording an and-one and another inside basket.

    The freshman didn’t tally any points in the second half as her shot went cold, but Puckett’s eight points were still the second most she’s scored since Christmas.

    “When you look at Rae (Burrell) or even Sara, either one of those players are going to make plays if they start, they’re going to make plays if they come off the bench,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “They’re fine either way, but for what we’re doing and for our rotations, it really helps us to be able to bring them off the bench. It doesn’t really change their role at all. They’re still really talented go-to players for our team.”

    The versatile wing added seven rebounds in 25 minutes— her most minutes in the last four games.

    Tennessee Jumps On Commodores To Open Second Half

    Vanderbilt led the Lady Vols with a minute left in the first half before Tennessee used a 6-0 run in the half’s final 50 seconds to take a lead into the locker room.

    The Lady Vols kept that momentum coming out of the locker room, going on a 10-0 run to push its lead to 15 in the first four minutes of the half. Tennessee did it with defense, holding Vanderbilt scoreless the first 5:15 of the second half.

    “I thought the end of the second (quarter) was important,” Harper said. “Jordan hit the jumper and then to start the third, getting those stops and at the same time we were scoring just gave us a lot of confidence. We stayed pretty focused on our defense and that’s true to who we are. I was proud of our team for that.”

    Tennessee earned stops on Vanderbilt’s first nine possessions of the second half, forcing two turnovers and seven missed shots. On the offensive end, the Lady Vols got out in transition scoring seven fast break points during the run.

    Still, the Lady Vols were unable to put Vanderbilt away in the third quarter. The Commodores ended the quarter strong, going on an extended 13-7 run to cut Tennessee’s lead to nine at the end of the quarter.

    Lady Vols’ Defense Dominates

    When Tennessee’s been at its best this season, the Lady Vols defense has completely suffocated opponents. That’s exactly what they did Sunday afternoon, holding the Commodores to 52 points.

    Vanderbilt tallied its third least amount of points in an SEC game this season, coming in just behind the 51 points they scored against Tennessee in Nashville and the South Carolina game.

    The Commodores could not consistently find open looks, finishing 31% from the field and 22% from three-point range.

    Vanderbilt did a solid job of taking care of the ball, turning it over just 10 times. However, Tennessee controlled the paint, out rebounding and blocking its instate foe.

    After a strong first five minutes for Vanderbilt’s offense, Tennessee’s defense was incredibly consistent. The Commodores scored between 12 and 14 points every quarter.

    “Really proud of that,” Harper said of holding Vanderbilt to less than 15 points every quarter. “That’s putting together 40 minutes of solid defense. I think anytime they made some shots, we made a few adjustments with our personnel with how we were guarding and I thought it was really effective. Proud of our team for doing that.”

    Up Next

    Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa Thursday for its second matchup of the year with Alabama. The Lady Vols defeated the Crimson Tide, 62-44, in December. The game can be streamed on SEC Network+.

    Ryan Schumpert is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. Ryan spent three years with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program before joining RTI. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.