The No. 6 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (15-1, 3-1 SEC) look for its first win on its three-game road stretch over the No. 9 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (14-2, 3-1 SEC). The Lady Vols are 32-9 after losses in Holly Warlick’s tenure, and they look to boost that record with a huge road win in Columbia.
The Lady Vols perfect record was tarnished by Texas A&M on Thursday, with a 79-76 overtime loss in College Station. Tennessee was leading by two points late into overtime until Aggies guard Danni Williams was fouled and sent to the free throw line for three shots. Williams knocked down all three free throws and the Vols committed a turnover to ice the win for Texas A&M.
However, Tennessee center Mercedes Russell continued her impressive play against the Aggies with another double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Russell has now logged double-digits in points in 46 of her last 48 games. Jaime Nared bounced back from her shooting struggles in the previous games with 18 points and seven rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond-the-arc. Also, Cheridene Green once again provided valuable play from the bench with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and five rebounds.
The biggest battle of the game will come in the paint between these two teams, as two of the best centers in the country will face-off. Russell and A’ja Wilson of the Gamecocks, if she returns from ankle injury, will clash in the post for the first time this season. Wilson is averaging 23 points and eight rebounds-per-game, while Russell averages 17 points and nine rebounds-per-game. Russell and Wilson have the most career double-doubles of any other active SEC players, with a combined 79.
Although Wilson was injured in South Carolina’s 71-63 win over Auburn last game, the Gamecocks were able get a conference win following their loss to Missouri last week. Only two players recorded double digits against the Tigers tough defense. Wilson logged 19 points and 11 rebounds, while guard Tyasha Harris had 12 points and 11 assists. The returning national champions responded well from their 83-74 loss to Missouri, where Wilson fouled out early in the game.
The Volunteers and South Carolina have a tied series at 3-3 since Warlick took over in Knoxville. However, in the last matchup, Tennessee upset No. 4 South Carolina 76-74 in Columbia to snap its 30-game home win streak. The Lady Vols have lost back-to-back games nine times during Warlick’s tenure at Tennessee.
Wilson’s injury plays a major factor in the outcome of this game. The Gamecocks do not have another forward that can matchup with Russell if Wilson is out. Still, the defending national champions will not go down easy.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics