Lady Vols fall short in first round of SEC Tournament, 72-64

A double-double by Mercedes Russell wasn’t enough for the Lady Vols to overcome Alabama in the second round of the SEC tournament.

#21 Mercedes Russell helps teammate #11 Diamond DeShields in the first round of the SEC Tournament vs Bama. 3/2/17. Photo taken by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics. No changes made.

Tennessee (19-11) had four players in double figures, but rebound differential and bench scoring proved to be the difference in a 72-64 loss to Alabama (19-12). The Tide have won three consecutive games over the Lady Vols after losing 42 straight in the series, also bringing an end to Tennessee’s 23-game winning streak in SEC Tournament openers.

Diamond DeShields had a well-rounded performance with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Mercedes Russell posted her 17th double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, but was nonetheless frustrated after the loss. “It’s obviously very frustrating because our play is up and down. . . We have to keep our heads high and move forward,” Russell said.

The Crimson Tide were led in scoring by Meoshonti Knight with 16 points and Ashley Knight earned a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, along with six blocks. Alabama out-glassed UT 44-31, which was reminiscent of the previous meeting.

In the first quarter, Tennessee jumped out to an 11-5 lead, but Alabama surged back after a scoring drought to take a 15-14 lead at the end of the quarter. The Lady Vols defense was lights out in the second quarter, holding Alabama to 23 percent shooting. Tennessee took a 29-22 lead into the half with DeShields leading the way with seven points and a pair of steals.

However, the third quarter was all Alabama. UT increased the lead to 34-24, but the Tide went on a 16-2 run while holding Lady Vols to 21 percent shooting from the field. Alabama never looked back en route to the win.

Senior Jordan Reynolds, says beating No. 3 Mississippi State on Sunday caused UT to overlook Alabama. “We didn’t think that we had to come out here and play to the best of our ability because we came off a very good win.”

Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick, said that is not the message that was conveyed in the locker room. “That’s not how the team was addressed. . . We prepared for this team like we did any other.”

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics