The Tennessee Lady Volunteers defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 79-67 Sunday afternoon in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tenneessee faced a quick turnaround after coming off an emotional road win Thursday night at Kentucky. As fear of a letdown loomed in the psyche of many Lady Vols fans, Tennessee’s players and coaches remained focused.
When asked about the possible letdown, head coach Holly Warlick said, “I thought today we showed great maturity. We could have folded and felt sorry for ourselves. We stayed pretty focused on what we needed to do today.”
As a team, Tennessee hit 56.9 percent of their shots on the afternoon, compared to Mississippi State’s 46.7 percent.
The Lady Vols were led by Cierra Burdick, who accounted for a career-high 24 points and also snagged eight rebounds.
After the game, Burdick addressed the media on her fast start. Burdick said, “I feel like I’m capable of doing multiple things on the offensive end. I think what got me rolling is I was able to get some assists early to my teammates and when they’re hitting, that helps me out.”
Burdick added, “I’ve just been playing with a lot of passion and energy. There’s no formula to what I’ve been doing. I’ve just been trying to keep things simple. I think when I play with my heart, that’s when I play my best and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Bashaara Graves added another 17 points for Tennessee, including 5-6 field goals. She was a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line, capping off one of her best shooting performances this season.
Isabelle Harrison contributed 11 points and brought down 10 rebounds to secure a double-double.
The Lady Vols led 36-31 at the intermission, but their halftime adjustments would lead to a scoring explosion in the opening minutes of the second half.
Warlick said, “I think we started playing defense. We got some transition looks and got down the floor, and we got the ball inside. We had 42 points in the paint. At halftime we talked about getting the ball down, getting the rebound and getting stops.”
Mississippi State narrowed the gap late in the game, 70-65, but a 9-2 run by Tennessee ceased a comeback for the Bulldogs and secured the win for the Lady Vols.
Sunday’s win vaulted the Lady Vols to 19-3 overall and 9-0 in conference play. Tennessee sits atop the SEC, tied for first place with South Carolina.
The Lady Vols get a much-needed breather before traveling to Gainesville to vie with Florida on Feb. 8.
Edited by Maggie Jones