Jaime Nared arrives in nick of time

The Lady Vols stayed perfect in the SEC with a hard-fought 64-56 win at Florida thanks to the poised play of freshman Jaime Nared in the first half and the stout defense of Andraya Carter in the second half. Go inside with InsideTennessee for game analysis.

Tennessee (20-3, 10-0) flipped the script on turnovers and took down Florida (11-12, 3-7) to keeps its SEC record unblemished, the best start in league play for Coach Holly Warlick.

The Lady Vols had 12 first-half miscues and trailed 30-28 at the break. The Gators had 14 second-half miscues and trailed 64-56 at the end.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Warlick said.

Warlick wasn’t referring so much to the turnovers as to her team’s overall play.

“I was the maddest I’ve been this year,” Warlick said of her halftime remarks to her team.

The head coach had good reason to be. After a scorching start by Isabelle Harrison to open an 11-4 lead – Harrison scored all 11 – the senior took a seat with one foul and the team wilted on offense and defense.

“Don’t give us any more byes,” Warlick joked. “We went crazy. We didn’t look like we had a lot of energy, a lot of heart. Florida was in it to win it.”

The Gators deployed a small lineup – thus Harrison’s early success – and an elastic zone that forced Tennessee into contested shots. Tennessee’s 12 turnovers were the result of bad decisions and Florida’s trapping defense.

Harrison, Jordan Reynolds and Andraya Carter ultimately ended up parked on the sideline in the first half with two fouls, and the bench, which had been a strength for the Lady Vols this season, faltered with the exception of freshman Jaime Nared.

“We were soft. And you can’t play soft,” Warlick said.

Nared scored the final eight points of the first half to keep the Lady Vols from being down double digits on the road.

“I thought Jaime played one of her best games,” Warlick said. “It was solid. It was smart.”

Nared finished with 10 points, a career-high seven boards and just one turnover in 24 minutes of play.

“Just coming in ready,” Nared said. “Make sure it’s not a dropoff when you come in.”

Nared was in sync with fellow Oregonian Jordan Reynolds, who finished with 13 points and also had just one turnover.

When Nared committed to Tennessee, she couldn’t name every team in the SEC. She has learned quickly.

“Bring everything you have every game, because the SEC is good,” Nared said.

Tennessee benefited in the second half from getting its starters back on the court. Andraya Carter brought the defense and aggressively got to the paint. The sophomore finished with seven points, four boards, four assists, five steals and just one turnover.

In the second half, Carter rebounded a missed three by Florida from the floor, led the break and dished to Reynolds for a 40-36 lead to set the tone for the second half.

“Andraya was the key,” Warlick said. “She got steals, she got stops, she got rebounds. When you do that, you’re off to the races.”

Cierra Burdick’s no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Bashaara Graves gave the Lady Vols a 49-40 lead and it was preceded by a missed shot by Carter, who raced to the other end to get a steal and bring the ball back to Tennessee’s end.

Burdick struggled from the field, but she was 4-4 from them line and grabbed 14 rebounds, tying an SEC high vs. Texas A&M on Feb. 28, 2013.

“It wasn’t coming to her today. That’s OK,” Warlick said. “We needed those 14 rebounds.”

Burdick also had the pass of the game - it would make SportsCenter's Top 10 - with a blind, over-the-shoulder flip to Bashaara Graves.

Harrison would pick up a fourth foul in the second half on a wretched charging call and ended up playing just 17 minutes. But the senior had 17 points and seven boards, as the only effective defense against Harrison was the officials’ whistles.

Warlick was concerned about the first half play with good reason. Outside of Harrison’s hot start, the team played in low gear on both ends.

“After our halftime talk, they got it together,” Warlick said. “It concerns me that we’re not playing as hard as we need to in the first half.”

The Lady Vols recovered against Florida, but it was the continuation of a troubling trend of playing to the other team’s record. While Tennessee can recover in February, starts like that lead to losses in March.

Warlick placed the responsibility of fixing that on the coaches.

“Coaches have to find a way to motivate,” Warlick said. “That’s up to us, and that’s up to me.”

The Lady Vols shot 37.9 percent from the floor – Florida connected at 34.4 percent – and won the game with its board play and defense. Tennessee prevailed on the glass, 45-38, and tallied 11 steals with Carter and Reynolds accounting for eight of them.

“Defense leads to something good and positive and special,” Warlick said.

While the game’s shortcomings will be revealed in full by film study, the tape also will show a solid second half. The Lady Vols stayed undefeated in a rugged league and notched at least 20 wins in a season for the 39th consecutive time, a feat that dates to 1976-77.

“We got it done as a team,” Warlick said.

Game highlights from utsportstv

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