The sixth-ranked Lady Vols bounced back from their loss to Texas A&M last week with a convincing 86-70 win over No. 9 South Carolina. The Volunteers had five players with double-digit points and shot over 50 percent from the field and from 3-point range.
Here are the takeaways from Tennessee’s huge win over the Gamecocks.
It’s a win with an asterisk.
While the Lady Vols clearly dominated this game, South Carolina was missing one of the best players in the country in A’ja Wilson. Wilson was averaging a double-double with 23 points and 10 assists per game before her injury, and the Gamecocks sorely missed her on Sunday.
South Carolina simply had no other players that could handle Tennessee’s duo of Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell in the paint. Russell and Nared teamed up for a combined 37 points and 17 rebounds in the win. The Gamecocks simply looked lost without the All-American on the floor, and were unable to play efficiently without Wilson. Russell was a mismatch for South Carolina without Wilson, as she dominated with 10 defensive rebounds and three blocks.
Still a statement win.
The Lady Vols are in the toughest stretch of games they will face all season, and they all but proved how tough and durable they are. After losing the first game of the season on free throws and a turnover to Texas A&M, Tennessee came back strong against the defending national champions. Still, the Lady Vols will face their two biggest tests of the season in the next two games against No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 4 Mississippi State.
Even with the absence of Wilson on the court, Tennessee showed no signs of folding to South Carolina. The Lady Vols limited the Gamecocks to just 27 percent shooting from beyond-the-arc and out-rebounded them 41-28. Wilson surely would have made an impact of the game, but Tennessee all but took over the game.
Guard play improved.
Despite having some turnover problems against South Carolina, the Tennessee guards stepped up for the Lady Vols. Tennessee has had two consistent scorers all season in Nared and Russell, but improved guard play gives the Vols another element.
Evina Westbrook scored all 14 of her points in the second half, after scoring just 11 points in the past two games. Anastasia Hayes and Rennia Davis both notched 11 points and a combined eight assists and six rebounds. The Lady Vols have no problem getting consistent play from Russell and Nared, but improved guard play transforms Tennessee into a dangerous team.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of UT Sports