No. 7 Tennessee began conference play with a 63-49 win over Kentucky (8-7, 0-1 SEC) in Rupp Arena on Sunday afternoon. At 13-0, the Lady Vols are one of only five undefeated teams remaining in the country.
“Our goal was to be 1-0 in the SEC today,” Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick said following the game. “And that’s what we are.”
Led by freshman guard Evina Westbrook, Tennessee got off to a quick start. Behind 11 first quarter points from Westbrook – who was 3-of-4 from three- the Lady Vols led the Wildcats 26-7 at the end of the first frame. Kentucky shot just 19 percent from the field in the quarter while the Lady Vols hit 5-of-8 three-point attempts.
Westbrook would go on to finish with a game-high 17 points to tie her career-high. Over the last four games, she is averaging 15.8 points per game.
“The shots were just open,” Westbrook said following the game. “So, if they aren’t going to guard us, we are going to take shots.”
Tennessee got off to a great start, but the final three quarters weren’t as crisp as the first. The Lady Vols commanded a 36-20 halftime lead, but only scored 10 points in the second quarter. In the frame, Tennessee turned it over seven times and shot just 38 percent from the field.
The Lady Vols continued to struggle as they turned it over eight times in the third quarter and scored just 12 points. As Tennessee struggled offensively, so did Kentucky.
In the first half, Kentucky shot just 23 percent from the field and 21 percent from three. The Cats were outrebounded 50-31 on the day, as two Lady Vols registered double-figures in rebounds. Maci Morris was the only Wildcat in double-figures with 18 points.
Tennessee’s struggles on offense were due in large part to senior Jaime Nared’s inability to get things going early on. Nared finished with a double-double, but didn’t make a field goal until the opening moments of the fourth quarter. She was effective in other areas on the court though, as she would finish with 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Senior center Mercedes Russell added 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Freshman forward Rennia Davis was just shy of a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
Tennessee now returns home to face Auburn on Thursday night in its SEC home-opener. The game will tip at 7 p.m. ET.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics