No. 7 Lady Vols take on Auburn to start the new year

Holly Warlick and No. 7 Tennessee take on Auburn Thursday night for its first home game in 25 days.

No. 7 Tennessee (13-0, 1-0 SEC) will host the Auburn Tigers (10-3, 1-0 SEC) at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET as the Lady Vols return to Knoxville for the first time since knocking off No. 2 Texas on Dec. 10. A win over the Tigers would give Tennessee just its fifth 14-0 start in program history.

Auburn is fresh off an 84-55 beat down of the Florida Gators in its first SEC game of the season. The Tigers are on a seven-game winning streak after beating their last three opponents by more than 20 points. If Auburn were to knock off the undefeated Volunteers, it would be the second time in program history that the Tigers beat Tennessee in consecutive games.

Auburn’s win over Florida on New Year’s Eve was nothing short of impressive. The Tigers outscored the Gators 30-4 in the final quarter of play, as the guard duo of Janiah McKay and Daisa Alexander combined for 46 points. Although their scoring was noteworthy, the Tigers defense is what truly won the game for them. This same high-pressure defense could cause problems for the Lady Vols.

“I think they understand that if we just get our defense and pressure, pressure, pressure like we can, our defense will always get us back in the game,” said Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy.

The Tigers held the best 3-point shooting team in the SEC to just 6-of-20 from beyond the arc. Auburn also was able to force 23 more turnovers than they committed, and tallied 38 more shots than the Gators.

Tennessee has taken No. 2 Texas, No. 18 Stanford and Kentucky in the last four games. However, the Vols were held to their lowest point total of the year against the Wildcats in the 63-49 win on New Year’s Eve. Still, Tennessee put a win in the column to start conference play off.

“I didn’t think we let up,” said Warlick. “I just love our energy and effort and how we’re playing well together. We’re not going to play a perfect game. Our goal was to be 1-0 today in the SEC, and that’s what we are.”

Freshman guard Evina Westbrook had one of her best nights shooting with 17 points on 7 of-11 shooting in the Lady Vols win over Kentucky.

The senior tandem of Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared also teamed up for 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists. Nared started off missing her first eight shots, but recovered nicely to finish with her 15th career double-double.

Tennessee now has four players averaging double-digit points this season, while Westbrook is averaging a close 9.8.

The Tigers won convincingly over Warlick and Tennessee in their last matchup by a score of 79-61, which snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Lady Vols. The matchup between undefeated Tennessee and Auburn can be seen on SEC Network+.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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