Lady Vols settle Vandy score

The Lady Vols exacted their revenge against Vanderbilt and used scorching shooting and sticky defense to claim an 81-53 win on "Big Monday." Go inside for analysis and video coverage.

Andraya Carter may just be a freshman, but she already understands the rivalry with Vanderbilt.

"They don't like us, and we don't like them," Carter said.

Tennessee (20-4, 9-2) solidified its hold on second place in the SEC with the takedown of Vanderbilt (17-6, 6-4).

After the loss to the Commodores last month in Nashville, the Lady Vols lost their locker room. With a bye on Thursday – Tennessee next plays Sunday against Kentucky – the Lady Vols got two days off after Monday's win.

Tennessee looked lethargic in its 9 p.m. tip last week against Ole Miss, but the Lady Vols were anything but against Vandy. From warmups to tipoff to final buzzer, Tennessee played with energy and purpose.

"When you get beat down in Nashville, you're not happy campers. We haven't been happy for a while," head coach Holly Warlick said. "I think, yes, we had a little chip on our shoulders and I loved it.

"I love that we're competing and I thought tonight we played every play like it was our last play and every defensive play, it was like we needed to steal on that play, so I loved how we worked tonight."

Isabelle Harrison played with particular purpose in Knoxville. Foul trouble in the first half and then a technical foul in the second – her fifth whistle – kept her off the court for most of the game in Nashville. The rematch was personal for her.

"I knew I couldn't let my team down or my coaches down or my family," Harrison said." When we lost in Nashville, I know I let my family down, so I wanted to play my best and take care of business."

Harrison scored the first six points of the game, and was essentially the difference for Tennessee the way Vandy coach Melanie Balcomb saw it.

Harrison had 18 points on 8-10 shooting, hit both of her free throws and grabbed five boards.

"I told Isabelle that it helps that she played more than 58 seconds in the first half," Warlick said. "She didn't get in foul trouble. That helped us. We needed her to set the tone, and I thought our defense was solid."

Tennessee played 40 minutes of man defense, a departure from its recent zone deployments. The zone was porous last week against Mississippi, and Warlick said immediately afterwards that she was returning to man for the next game. She was serious.

Warlick used all nine players in various combinations – Carter had some foul trouble so fellow freshman Jordan Reynolds logged 16 minutes with 10 of those at the point spot – and never played a single defensive possession in zone.

Tennessee induced four shot clock violations.

"They have put in the time," Warlick said. "I was happy for them. They were as excited about that as after game I told them they had two days off. They loved that as well. You would have thought I had given them all a million dollars.

"We have been traveling so much. I thought if we could get past this game and play well, we would have a couple of days off."

Warlick cited the scouting report of Dean Lockwood for getting the team ready for the rematch. She also noted that the players followed the plan on both ends.

Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister were focal points for the defense.

"As hard as we played on Foggie, she still got 22 points, so I have a lot of respect for her game and I just think we stepped up," Warlick said. "We stepped up and got stops. We got steals. We limited our turnovers, so I think it's one of our best all-around games, I really do."

Lister had just two points at halftime and eight for the game. Carter, Meighan Simmons and Jasmine Jones did the bulk of the defensive work on the two scoring guards.

One play in the first half illustrated the emphasis. Simmons would not let Lister get around her – much to the crowd's delight – and when Lister finally found a seam, Simmons turned her right into Carter, who got the steal and the breakaway layup.

Both teams opened the game scorching the nets. Vanderbilt shot 50 percent (12-24) in the first half while Tennessee connected at 65.5 percent (19-29) for a 42-31 Lady Vols lead at the break.

But the Commodores missed their first nine shots to start the second half – they tallied just two free throws in the first nine minutes – while the Lady Vols continued their torrid marksmanship.

Midway through the second half, Tennessee led 60-33. The final score of 81-53 was the largest margin of defeat against Vandy since 1999.

Tennessee shot 58.2 percent (32-55) overall, 70.0 percent (7-10) from the arc and 76.9 percent (10-13) from the line.

"I think it's just a lot of us putting a lot of individual work in but also we've been playing together," Carter said. "It's been a long season and I think we are finally starting to know each other, really study each other.

"We play inside-out, so I think our ball movement and everything is just really starting to come together for us. We hit shots because we're getting to know people well, so we're getting good looks."

Warlick seems to have settled on a starting lineup, one that was ironically brought about due to injury. Ariel Massengale missed her fifth straight game because of a facial injury and while she watched a portion of warmups, she wasn't on the bench for the game.

Carter, with backup from freshman Jordan Reynolds, has handled the point spot.

"We have quality guards," Warlick said. "Andraya Carter and Jordan Reynolds have stepped up. They haven't missed a beat. That is because they are players. They run the team. They are leading. They had the opportunity and took it and ran with it."

Carter scored 11 points, was 2-2 from long range and tallied seven assists with no turnovers and five steals.

"It is just game experience," Warlick said of Carter's steady improvement. "When you have game experience I think you get better and better. You can simulate in practice, and we have been pretty tough on her.

"I was pretty tough on her tonight for letting Christina Foggie get those threes off whether she was guarding her or helping. She is a competitor. I think she is taking this as a challenge."

Reynolds also has contributed, especially the way she pushes tempo. Warlick wants a fast pace, and Reynolds gets the ball and scoots down court.

Simmons led the team in scoring with 22 points and also added five assists. She was 4-6 from long range, and got a standing ovation from the crowd of 11,384 when she left the game.

The loss of the locker room jolted the senior, and she has been playing the best basketball of her career of late.

"We just didn't take anything for granted and worked hard in practice and got better and better and showing the coaches we wanted to play intense basketball," Simmons said.

That was on display Monday from all nine players on the court from Jasmine Jones ripping rebounds to Mercedes Russell getting to the rim.

The Lady Vols also had 20 assists on 32 baskets with Carter and Simmons combining for 12 of them. Carter had one of the sweetest helpers when she drew the defense to her and then dropped the ball on the bounce to Russell, who went unimpeded to the rim.

Tennessee won the glass battle, 34-20, and had just 12 turnovers. They doubled Vandy in points in the paint, 36-18.

Cierra Burdick had another all-around game with eight points, six boards and three assists. Bashaara Graves had 10 boards and was robbed of an and-one play on a charge call, wiping out a pinpoint assist from Simmons.

Balcomb said the game was lost in the paint, and the Lady Vols used their size – something they didn't do in Nashville – to seize control of the game.

Since it's Tennessee and Vandy, the game was still chippy at times. Harrison was ridden out of the lane as if she were being blocked on the offensive line but didn't react in the first half. She did get a tad annoyed in the second half on a tie-up, and her teammates encircled her, as they did Simmons later in the game. Reynolds had a block late in the second half that elicited a scream from the usually quiet freshman.

"It's a healthy rivalry," Carter said.

Carter, the redshirt freshman, is from Georgia but she has already grasped the significance of this matchup.

"We're battling for the state," Carter said.

Warlick's orange jacket was a hit with the players.

"It was fly," Simmons said.

"It was fresh," Harrison said.

"Volunteer State. It's all orange," Carter said on the way out of the press conference.

"All orange, baby," Simmons added.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Game highlights from utsportstv

Coach Holly Warlick

Andraya Carter, Meighan Simmons, Isabelle Harrison

Coach Melanie Balcomb, Jasmine Lister, Christina Foggie


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