UT dominates paint against Troy

The Lady Vols remained perfect on the season with a decimation of Troy that was marked by near-record glass work, three players with double-doubles, and too many turnovers, though not by the point guards. Go inside with InsideTennessee for analysis and video coverage.

Tennessee (9-0) hung more than a hundred on Troy (4-5), on Saturday, 103-64, the first time the Lady Vols hit the century mark in the regular season since 2011.

The board tally was 74 for the Lady Vols to 29 for the Trojans, the most rebounds by a Tennessee team since 76 were grabbed against Tennessee State on Feb. 27, 1988, and, ironically, the team the Lady Vols will next face.

Cierra Burdick didn't know the Lady Vols were close to setting a program record – she noted that was the media's job to much laughter – but she predicted this team could set it.

Tennessee is now averaging a whopping 51.4 boards a game for a +15 margin over its opponents, and four players reached double digits in rebounds against Troy.

Jasmine Jones was just one point away from putting four players in double-double territory with nine points and 10 boards. Isabelle Harrison had 13 points and 12 boards; Burdick, 15 and 10; and Nia Moore, 10 and 13. The last time Tennessee had three players tally double-doubles was in 2006, courtesy of Candace Parker, Tye'sha Fluker and Shanna Zolman.

Moore's twin sister, Annaya Moore played for Troy last season before foot issues ended her career – she is now a manager for Tennessee – and Troy coach Chanda Rigby was happy for Nia Moore's output.

"I'm proud of her," Rigby said. "I know her family and love them. I would love to see her – I didn't want it to be tonight – but we're excited and we want to see her come out and do really well here and have a great Tennessee career."

Moore set career highs with 13 boards and 10 points. The sophomore post also had three assists, two blocks and one steal in 22 minutes of play. One of her baskets came right at the rim when Bashaara Graves, who was boxed out, leaped and tipped the ball to Moore, who completed the play.

Graves led Tennessee with 16 points on 6-9 shooting with five boards – four on the offensive glass – while Mercedes Russell added 10 points and also nearly joined the double-double group with eight boards. Meighan Simmons shared top scoring honors with Graves, as she also tallied 16 points.

"Nia is playing behind three people," Coach Holly Warlick said. "She's playing behind Izzy and she's playing behind Bashaara and they're dynamite. You look at Mercedes and what she's capable of doing, so Nia has to play behind those three.

"I thought it was a great game for her to break out. Our goal was to get everybody some quality minutes. … I have a lot of confidence in Nia and I think for her it's more game time, more playing time, and it's hard to get her playing time when the other three are playing well in front of her.

"You don't hear one negative thing out of this kid. She's positive, comes to work every day and practices hard, so when a kid gets rewarded like that and plays the way she did, I'm excited for her."

Burdick and Andraya Carter logged the most minutes at a relatively sparse 23, with Harrison checking in at just 11 minutes – very efficient ones with those 13 points and 12 boards.

Tennessee got 56 points in the paint to 28 for Troy, as the Lady Vols were able to get the ball inside at will. After starting the game 2-12 from the arc in the first half, the Lady Vols didn't attempt a single long-range shot in the second.

Jones and Burdick smiled when ask about the stat – and made it clear Warlick had put the brakes on lofting threes.

"It was by design," Warlick said. "It doesn't take an intelligent person to see you're two-for-12, you need to stop shooting the three-point shot.

"I thought we needed paint points, so I said if you shoot a three, you're coming out. They valued playing more than shooting the three, which was a good thing."

There was plenty in the game for Warlick to like – the board play, her team's depth, paint points and 25 assists on 37 made baskets. Ariel Massengale and Carter had six helpers each, and Massengale now has 59 on the season, averaging 6.6 per game.

Warlick also will find things on film not to like, especially the 28 total turnovers, with 16 coming from three players, against a team that didn't press.

Tennessee freshman Andraya Carter skies for an errant pass against Troy on Saturday.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)

"We were passing the ball like we were trying to get on SportsCenter instead of passing the ball like we're making a passing highlight tape," Warlick said. "We just threw the ball. We were very casual, very careless with the basketball and they took advantage of it. They had 26 points off of our turnovers."

The good news, though, is that the three point guards, Massengale, Carter and Jordan Reynolds, had just three miscues total – two for Massengale, one for Reynolds and zero for Carter.

The miscues by their teammates are correctable with Warlick indicating that would come in practice by lining up on the baseline.

Burdick, who had six turnovers, as did Simmons, made no excuses. One of Simmons came when she made such an effective fake to the basket that she lost the handle on the ball.

"We're a transition team," Burdick said. "We want to get quick shots, we want to get our posts running the post highway, and with that comes turnovers. We've got to limit those, we have to pass well, and we have to read our defenses."

Troy tossed what Rigby called "junk defenses" at the Lady Vols, including something called "a twilight zone."

"It's the zone defense where the two guards come up and try to sandwich the point guard," Rigby said. "They leave her open to drive the middle, but they're on either side of her. It's just a different kind of defense."

Troy had some stretches of success – especially in the first half when the Trojans got Tennessee out of rhythm and early in the second half they traded baskets – but the Lady Vols' interior size and bench eventually overwhelmed them. The Lady Vols got 44 points from the bench to 16 for the Trojans.

"We were going media timeout to media timeout and we were keeping up with the stats on how we did in every four minutes and there was one media timeout in the first half that we tied them, and then there was one in the second half that we won it by a considerable margin," Rigby said.

"If you want to beat a big team like this, you need to have bigger runs like that instead of a couple good runs like that, we needed several so it's another lesson learned."

Tennessee learned a lesson, too. It will take a much better game overall to beat a ranked team.

"We still came out sluggish in the first half and we've got to get better," Burdick said. "I mean when we play, not looking ahead, but when we play Stanford, we can't come out like that.

"They're a great team so we've got to come in immediately with an intensity and focus and play a full 40 minutes of basketball."

Against an opponent like Stanford, the scorer's table won't be so busy checking Lady Vols in and out of the game. Against Troy, Warlick had used all 10 players in the first six minutes of the first half. But the starting lineup remains in flux, dependent on practice and matchups.

"Everyone makes a big deal out of starting," Warlick said. "I think this team gets it. I don't think it's a big deal to start. They want to contribute. That's what I'm trying to get them to do. I think we can go 10 deep."

Graves was back in it Saturday, after a one-game absence. Massengale is a given, especially with her ability to take care of the ball. Harrison has been outstanding when on the floor. Simmons is always an offensive threat, though Carter replaced her in the second half.

"We started a different lineup the second half because I wanted to get a little defensive punch," Warlick said.

Burdick has played better off the bench, so perhaps she has relaxed a tad. Jones and Carter are always candidates to start because of their defensive capability.

Carter and Jones took turns picking up Joanna Harden, who entered the game ranked third in the nation at 26.6 points per game. She was 5-17 for 14 points.

"It felt like every time I got past the first man, I had another man to get past and then if I got past that one, there was another one so they were playing a suffocating defense," Harden said.

Ashley Beverly-Kelley led Troy with 22 points and enjoyed the experience of playing in Knoxville before a large crowd announced at 11,358 but about 3,000 less than that, likely due to cold and rainy weather, the end of school and the Vols playing on TV at the same time against Wichita State.

"Yes ma'am. I loved playing in front of this crowd," said the very polite Beverly-Kelley.

Warlick will take the win, undefeated slate to date and get ready for Tennessee State – the Lady Tigers come to town Tuesday – before taking her team west for a Dec. 21 matchup with Stanford.

"Some good things happened and some things that we need to continue to work on," Warlick said.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Game highlights from utsportstv

Coach Holly Warlick

Jasmine Jones, Cierra Burdick, Bashaara Graves

Coach Chanda Rigby, Ashley Beverly-Kelley, Joanna Harden


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