Post players lead Lady Vols over Ole Miss

The Lady Vols stayed perfect in the SEC with a 69-49 takedown Thursday of Ole Miss. Post players Isabelle Harrison and Bashaara Graves led the way for Tennessee. Go inside for game analysis and videos.

Tennessee (21-3, 11-0) secured a 69-49 road win at the “Tad Pad” over Ole Miss (14-10, 4-7) behind a combined 39 points from Isabelle Harrison and Bashaara Graves.

Harrison set the tone early – she had a double-double by the break with 15 points and 10 boards and finished with 21 and 14 – and Bashaara Graves made up for a missed five minutes to start the game with 17 points.

Graves was late to a team meal and was replaced in the starting lineup by Ariel Massengale, who fed Harrison for a layup in the game’s first five seconds.

The Lady Vols never trailed against Ole Miss, led 34-17 at halftime and claimed a second-consecutive SEC road win to stay perfect in the league.

Tennessee, dating to last season, has now won 18 straight SEC games and will be in Knoxville for the next two against Kentucky and Alabama before going back on the road against South Carolina and Georgia.

“It was a great game,” Head Coach Holly Warlick said. “It was fun to watch. It was fun to coach.”

The Lady Vols shot 52.8 percent (28-53) and tallied 18 assists. Tennessee’s offensive production came in the paint with 48 points to 24 for Ole Miss. The Lady Vols also dominated the glass, 46-29.

“Our game plan was to get the ball inside,” Warlick said. “The guards did a great job of getting them the basketball. The posts went to work.”

Warlick also cited the interior work of Cierra Burdick, who had six points, three rebounds and four assists. And while Massengale tallied just one point – she is now eight away from 1,000 – Warlick applauded the senior’s overall floor game.

“She was a coach on the basketball court,” Warlick said. “She got everybody where they needed to go. She made a commitment on the defensive end.”

Ole Miss shot 29.8 percent (17-57). Rebel post player Tia Faleru, who averaged 15 points a game, was held scoreless, and no Ole Miss player reached double figures.

“We played hard on the defensive end,” Warlick said.

The Lady Vols now have a 43-7 record over Ole Miss, and went 19-3 at C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum, known as the Tad Pad. Ole Miss is constructing a new arena so Thursday’s game was the last for Tennessee in that venue, a place Pat Summitt coached and Warlick played.

Warlick was concerned going into the game against Ole Miss – the Rebels can play a bruising style of basketball – but Tennessee subdued them midway through the first half.

The Lady Vols followed the game plan to get the ball inside, either by entry passes to the post or dribble penetration.

“We ran a lot of ball screens,” Warlick said. “We moved the ball. We got the ball in. We attacked at the pass inside or looks to the basket.”

Jordan Reynolds, who finished with eight points, did both but got hit in the face and logged just 17 minutes. Andraya Carter had four assists to go with five points – she and Kortney Dunbar accounted for the Lady Vols’ two made threes – and made getting the ball inside to Graves an art form.

Graves and Harrison combined to shoot 16-21, and Graves was a perfect 7-7 from the field.

“Dean tells us all the time that we have to establish an inside presence,” Harrison said. “The guards did a good job of finding us.”

Harrison didn’t commit a foul until there was under a minute to play in the first half. She watched film clips with Dean Lockwood of her offensive possessions to become more aware of where the double teams were setting up against her, so she could avoid the offensive fouls.

While the superlatives were plentiful in this game, there was some slippage. Harrison and Graves both shot 3-6 (50 percent) from the line, and Tennessee overall was 11-19 (57.9 percent).

The Lady Vols had just six turnovers in the first half, but finished with 16. Most of those came late when Warlick had gone 10 deep in the bench, but Tennessee has relied on substitutes all season, and ball security matters, no matter the score, time or situation.

Harrison also exited at the first media timeout, and the offense sputtered with her on the sideline. In the absence of foul calls or knee issues, Harrison needs to be on the floor at least through the second media timeout in the first half. The Lady Vols get out of sync when Harrison leaves the court too soon.

Harrison cited better communication among the players as the reason for a stronger start and overall play.

“We were communicating, and it was consistent,” Harrison said. “We can be great when we set our minds to it.”

Game highlights from utsportstv

Isabelle Harrison, Andraya Carter, Bashaara Graves from utsportstv

Inside Tennessee Top Stories