No. 10 Tennessee (17-4, 5-3 SEC) just didn’t have fight on the court Sunday afternoon, as the Lady Vols fell to LSU 70-59 to cap “We Back Pat” week.
“Pat was probably raising hell up there,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “They (LSU) fought and we didn’t.”
The Lady Vols jumped out to a hot start, shooting 53 percent from the field and turning the basketball over just one time in the opening 10 minutes. Tennessee’s defense was impressive to start as well, forcing LSU (13-6, 5-3 SEC) to shoot 38 percent.
After closing out the first quarter on a positive note, LSU continued its run into the second quarter by going on a 7-0 run to cut the Lady Vols lead to just one-point.
Tennessee responded well with a pair of runs. Freshman point guard Evina Westbrook sparked both, knocking down tough shots and making impressive passes to set up Mercedes Russell. Following a 9-2 run and a 6-0 run, the Lady Vols entered halftime with a 31-26 lead.
Westbrook finished with 10 points on the afternoon to go along with seven assists. The Oregon native has now had five or more assists in a game 12 times this season.
The second half wasn’t nearly as crisp for the Lady Vols, as they shot just 9-of-30 from the field to close out the game. Foul trouble played a major role in the final 20 minutes, as six players picked up at least three personal fouls – including the star senior duo of Russell and Jaime Nared. As a result, LSU’s 44-point second half proved too much to overcome.
“They were gritty,” Warlick said. “They were tougher. They out-worked us.”
Russell finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds on the afternoon, recording her ninth double-double of the season. Nared continued to struggle, scoring just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting.
Junior guard Meme Jackson would try to will Tennessee back into the game, scoring an SEC career-high 13 points. Jackson was 3-of-6 from three-point range, but every time she knocked down a big three, LSU responded with a bucket of its own.
On the afternoon, LSU out-rebounded Tennessee 44-32, 23 of which were on the offensive glass leading to 20 second chance points. Lady Tigers forward Mitchell Ayana had nine rebounds of her own, leading to 16 total rebounds.
Tennessee now turns its attention to No. 15 Texas A&M. The Lady Vols will face the Aggies on Thursday night in Knoxville at 6:30 p.m. ET. Both teams met earlier this month when Texas A&M defeated Tennessee 79-76 in overtime.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics