After a disappointing loss to No. 17 Texas A&M 79-76 in overtime on Thursday night, No. 6 Tennessee (16-1, 4-1 SEC) bounced back on Sunday afternoon, defeating No. 9 South Carolina 86-70 in Columbia.
Five different Lady Vols reached double-figures in scoring, as the Lady Vols bounced back from their first loss of the season with a win over the former national champions.
Once again, the Lady Vols veteran duo of Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared led the way in Colonial Life Arena. Russell tallied yet another double-double, scoring 16 points and hauling in 12 rebounds.
Nared added 21 points thanks to an impressive outing from the free throw line. The senior was 11-of-12 from the charity stripe while adding five rebounds and two assists.
Despite recent struggles, the Lady Vols freshmen trio of Evina Westbrook, Rennia Davis and Anastasia Hayes played vital roles in the Lady Vols second consecutive win in Columbia. The three combined to score 29 points in the final 20 minutes of play.
Westbrook shot 6-for-11 from the field to finish with 14 points. The former No. 2 overall player in the country added five assists, two blocks, two steals and three rebounds. Fellow point guard, Hayes, finished with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. Davis would finish with 11 points as well – on 5-of-8 shooting – while hauling in five rebounds.
Tennessee swapped buckets with South Carolina to start the game, but thanks to a 14-4 run to finish the quarter, the Lady Vols led 21-14 at the end of one.
Lady Vols senior forward Kortney Dunbar sparked the team in the second quarter, knocking down a pair of 3’s within 26 seconds of checking in midway through the second quarter. The pair of buckets helped Tennessee build a 43-35 halftime lead.
On the afternoon, Tennessee shot 50 percent from three, knocking down six of its 12 attempts. Westbrook and Dunbar were a perfect 2-for-2 while Meme Jackson also drilled two three’s. The Lady Vols would shoot 56 percent from the field, their second-best outing on the season.
Tennessee dominated for much of the third quarter, as Westbrook led the way with seven points. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lady Vols led the Gamecocks 68-57.
South Carolina was able to cut the lead to four with under six remaining. That would be all the Gamecocks could muster though, as a strong defensive effort from the Lady Vols allowed them to finish the game on a 16-4 run.
With star forward A’ja Wilson not playing due to injury, Tyasha Harris led the way for South Carolina (14-2, 3-2 SEC). Harris scored a game-high 28 points and added four assists. Alexis Jennings – sister of former star Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings – finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Lady Vols are now halfway through a brutal four-game stretch. After falling to No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 9 South Carolina, Tennessee will now travel to No. 2 Notre Dame on Thursday night before returning home to take on No. 4 Mississippi State next Sunday.
Tennessee and the Fighting Irish will tipoff at 7 p.m. on ESPN to conclude its three-game road trip.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics