Davis buries Tigers, No. 12 Lady Vols advance in SEC Tournament

Tennessee (24-6, 11-5 SEC) lost its star senior Jaime Nared to an apparent hip injury in the fourth quarter of its contest against Auburn (14-15, 5-11 SEC) in Nashville on Thursday. However, the Lady Vols advanced to the third round of the SEC Tournament when freshman forward Rennia Davis banked in a dagger 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining in the game.

Although they lost the All-SEC forward, the No.12 ranked Tennessee finished off Auburn 64-61 and will advance to play the No. 2 seed Gamecocks on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

Nared tried to return to the game with five minutes remaining, but she clocked out for the night with 4:36 left in the game. She led the team in scoring with with a total of 17 points. Davis, the hero of the game for the Volunteers, logged 16 points and five rebounds.

Janiah McKay led No. 10 seed Auburn on Thursday night with 24 points, while her teammate Daisa Alexander stayed  close behind with 16 points. Alexander knotted the game up at 61 with 11.2 seconds to go when she stole a Tennessee inbound pass and took it to the rack for a bucket.

While Tennessee chalked up a whopping 24 turnovers on the night, it still cashed in from the charity stripe. The Lady Vols were 20-of-24 from the free throw line on the night while the Tigers were shot just 4-of-5 from the line.

While Anastasia Hayes and Cheridene Green were the only players off the bench for the orange-and-white tonight, head coach Holly Warlick knew Hayes would the player to create the last shot.

“We wanted to get (Hayes) to the basket because she had been doing so well,” Warlick said. “She attacked and it closed in, she kicked out to (Davis) and she let it fly… I hope she called glass.”

Davis was a perfect 2-of-2 on the night from beyond-the-arc and was the anchor for Tennessee when Nared went out. She created shots all night long and when the big moment came, the freshman cashed in.

“I’m just happy the shot went in,” Davis said. “We had a lot of turnovers, as we did (the first matchup against Auburn), I’m just glad we were able to come out with the win.”

Davis knew when Nared went down that somebody had to step up for the Lady Vols, and when Warlick called her name, she was there to answer.

“I’m just glad I was able to beat that person for my teammates,” Davis said. “I understand that (Tennessee) lost last year in the first round, we didn’t want to do that again, so I’m just happy.”

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Undefeated Lady Vols softball heads to Michele Smith Invitational

Photo by Brad Blackwelder.

The No. 10 Lady Vols softball team travels to Clearwater, Florida this weekend, but the team won’t have time to bask in the sunshine. The Lady Vols will face five different opponents in a three-day span.

The Lady Vols started the season hot in Arizona, as the team finished the Kajikawa Classic with a perfect record while scoring six or more runs in every game.

Tennessee will have its hands full in the upcoming tournament, beginning with a slate against a top-25 matchup against No. 19 Oklahoma State at 11 a.m. on Friday morning.

The team will also face UMass Lowell, Florida Atlantic, Marshall and the tournament host, South Florida.

The Big Orange found success in its last trip to the Michele Smith Invitational, boasting an impressive 4-1 record but losing to James Madison.

Potential Tournament MVP for Tennessee:

Look for Matty Moss to continue her hot start this season, tied for No. 1 in the nation with three wins. Moss, the sophomore from Greenville, South Carolina, made the All-SEC Freshman team in 2017 and finished the year with 193 strikeouts.

The Opponents:

Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State relies on senior Vanessa Shippy. Shippy posted an impressive six RBI’s in the same tournament from which Tennessee emerged undefeated.

The Cowgirls found success on offense by posting an impressive 12 home runs over the weekend – good for third in the country.

Oklahoma State finished the Kajikawa Classic 4-1 and scored a total of 51 runs.

The victory over No. 7 Arizona was the second defeat of a top-10 opponent since the Cowgirls downed No. 1 Florida in Gainesville last season during the NCAA Tournament.

UMass Lowell

This tournament welcomes the first matchup between the River Hawks and the Lady Vols.

Keep an eye on Courtney Cashman who batted .430 last season, leading the team and the conference.

Media picked the River Hawks to finish second in the American East this season.

Florida Atlantic

The Lady Owls boasted a 4-2 record hosting the First Pitch Classic last week. While preseason predictions put them in third, the Lady Owls will prove tough.

Senior Tatum Buckley, 3-0 in games this season, is not the player to watch in this matchup. Media picked Emily Lochten to win preseason player of the year for the conference.

Lochten posted absurd numbers last year while leading the team in batting average (.408), home runs (18) and RBI (41).

Look for Florida Atlantic to be a sneaky, tough matchup for the Lady Vols.

South Florida

South Florida, while only posting a 3-2 record in the USF-Wilson DeMarini Tournament, pulled a major upset with its win over No. 15 Michigan.

The Bulls return eight starters. The Lady Vols last played the Bulls in the 2016 Michele Smith Tournament, defeating them 6-4.

Marshall

Marshall does not look forward to playing the Lady Vols. In a 5-1 upending of the Thundering Herd, Tennessee smashed Marshall 18-0 in five innings to close out the 2016 Easton Bama Bash Tournament.

The Thundering Herd started the season 1-3 with losses to No. 13 Auburn, Furman and Wichita State.

Watch for senior Elicia D’Orazio, who gets on base nearly every time she steps to the plate. D’Orazio finished the 2017 season with 73 hits and 49 runs.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Brad Blackwelder

Takeaways from No. 7 Tennessee’s home win against Auburn

The No. 7 ranked Tennessee Lady Vols (14-0, 2-0 SEC) snapped the Auburn Tigers (10-4, 1-1 SEC) seven-game win streak by a score of 70-59 on Thursday night. The last time the Vols started 14-0 was the 2005-06 season when they finished with a 31-5 record and a trip to the NCAA Regional Final.

Freshman Evina Westbrook and senior Jaime Nared combined for 37 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists to lead Tennessee to a win in its second conference game of the season.

Here are the takeaways from the Lady Vols late rally win over the Tigers.

Turnovers still loom over the Lady Vols

The only thing separating this Tennessee team from being something truly special is its frequent turnovers. The Lady Vols had a season-high 28 turnovers and committed 12 of them in the final 12 minutes of the game. This is the second contest in a row that Tennessee has logged over 20 turnovers, and Westbrook has racked up 16 turnovers herself in the past two games.

It was anticipated that the Auburn defense would be a tough test for the Vols, but 28 turnovers is unprecedented. Warlick and Tennessee may truly have a special team this season, but the inability to play clean basketball could play out of its favor in conference games. Especially since the Lady Vols face four ranked opponents in their next five games, including No. 4 South Carolina and No. 2 Notre Dame.

Tennessee is resilient.

Auburn has proven to be one of the most dominant defenses in the SEC this season. After going on a 30-4 run in the fourth quarter to beat Florida last week, Auburn was able to tally 26 points off turnovers. However, the late basket by Westbrook with under two minutes left to break the tie was the game changer, as she finished with 11 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lady Vols already showed their toughness in their last home win over No. 2 Texas. However, the ability to commit nearly 30 turnovers and still win the game shows how durable they really are. While the game was sloppy and gritty, it still is yet another reminder of how tough this Tennessee team is.

Westbrook has finally broke through.

Although she has had turnover problems in the past few games, Westbrook has proven why she was the No. 2 player in the nation last year. Westbrook finished with eight points in the final few minutes of the game, showing her capability to lead the Lady Vols in late-game situations.

Westbrook registered a career high in points against Auburn, and has scored over 15 points in five of her last six games. The young talent on this Tennessee team has continued to impress, but Westbrook is starting to set herself aside as a true superstar. The Lady Vols will certainly need her to keep her streak of solid play alive in the next handful of games against top-ranked teams.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

No. 7 Lady Vols fend off upset bid from Auburn

No. 7 Tennessee (14-0, 2-0 SEC) avoided the upset on Thursday evening, defeating Auburn 70-59 in Thompson-Boling Arena. With the win, the Lady Vols are now 14-0 for just the fifth time in school history.

It was a back-and-forth affair, as there were 16 lead changes until the Lady Vols ended the game on a 19-4 run to snap Auburn’s (10-4, 1-1 SEC) seven-game winning streak.

“I told them great teams find a way to win,” Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick said following the game. “We found a way to win tonight.”

Freshman Evina Westbrook continued her recent uptick in offensive production, scoring a career-high 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor and 4-of-5 from three. The former No. 2 overall player in the country added a game-high six assists.

Along with Westbrook, senior Jaime Nared helped lead the way with yet another double-double. Nared finished with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. Fellow senior Mercedes Russell added 10 points and four blocks.

Tennessee led Auburn 18-13 at the end of the first quarter thanks to a 5-0 run to end the frame. The Lady Vols held the Tigers to 5-of-24 shooting in the first 10 minutes.

The second quarter was much more effective for Auburn on the offensive end. Thanks to an 8-0 run and 12 first half points from Daisa Alexander, the Tigers were able to battle back and tie the game, as the two teams entered halftime tied at 30-all.

Warlick’s team turned it over a season-high 28 times and entered the fourth quarter with the game tied at 40. The Lady Vols and Tigers swapped buckets for much of the fourth, but freshman Anastasia Hayes stepped up and scored nine points in the final eight minutes to lead Tennessee to the win.

“Obviously the game was ugly,” Nared said.  “We knew that playing it. But we got stops when it mattered.”

Despite her career-night, Westbrook wasn’t pleased with the outing.

“It feels good to end on a win, but at the same time, we played terrible, definitely not what we’re capable of,” Westbrook said. “At the same time, we’ll bounce back.”

While the offense was ugly tonight, the Lady Vols were at least balanced. Seven of the eight Lady Vols who played on Thursday night scored at least four points.

Now 8-0 at home, the Lady Vols will play one more game in Thompson-Boling Arena before setting out on a three-game road trip. Tennessee will host Vanderbilt at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Auburn upsets No. 23 Tennessee to win in Knoxville for first time in 20 years

Bruce Pearl walked into Thompson-Boling arena on Tuesday night and won for the first time as an opposing coach, as Auburn (13-1, 1-0 SEC) upset No. 23 Tennessee 94-84. The win is Auburn’s first win in Knoxville since 1998.

As the former coach of the Vols, Pearl was here before the black seats, suites and a practice gym, but his first win in Knoxville didn’t mean any more than a win over any other opponent.

“Being here is way more emotional,” Pearl said following the game. “I care so much about this place and this building.”

“Beating them doesn’t mean any more. In fact, in some ways it means a touch less because I care so much about coach (Rick Barnes). He’s one of the guys I looked up to. He’s as good as there is in this business, so I’m not celebrating it.”

Tennessee (9-4, 0-2 SEC) jumped out to an early double-digit lead, but fell apart midway through the first half and could never fully recover.

Behind two 3’s from Jordan Bone and a three from Lamonte Turner, Tennessee led Auburn 20-9 early on. The lead would grow to 28-14 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. That’s when Auburn started to heat up.

The Tigers led 42-36 at halftime, closing out the first half on a 28-8 run.

Auburn completely outworked the Vols in the opening 20 minutes, out-rebounding Tennessee 27 to 19, hauling in 13 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second chance points. Despite the presence of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, the Tigers would score 22 points in the paint.

Auburn out-rebounded Tennessee 46-38 on the night, 22 of them coming on the offensive glass.

Head coach Rick Barnes was none too pleased with his team’s effort following the game. The Vols were a team tonight that Barnes has never seen before, being out-worked in every phase of the game.

“That’s always the hardest thing to accept,” Barnes said following the loss. “We’ve got guys’ egos that they want to show they can do other things as opposed to doing their job. That’s the problem with where we are right now. Guys not doing what they need to do and no making winning plays.”

Barnes sees the team’s casual approach every day. “That’s why I have to be on them every day because they don’t get it,” Barnes said. “At some point in time you’d like to see them say this is important right now because if we don’t keep getting better, we’re going to get the kind of results we got tonight.”

Tennessee found success in the first four minutes of the second half, as Grant Williams scored seven points to give the Vols a 47-46 lead.

Williams picked up his third foul with 13:26 remaining and Admiral Schofield picked up his third foul with 12:16 remaining. Once Williams and Schofield took a seat on the bench, it was all Auburn.

Pearl’s squad closed out the first half with a dominant run and would go on a 28-8 run midway through the second half to build as big of a lead of 12 points.

Turner tried to will the Vols back into it, scoring 20 of his career-high 25 points in the second half. The redshirt-sophomore guard was a perfect 13-for-13 at the free throw line, but Auburn’s five made 3-pointers in the final six minutes were too much to overcome.

Turner isn’t concerned about breaking out of his five-game slump though. He’s focused on getting back in the film room and gym to correct his and the teams’ mistakes.

“We have to get back to playing hard and getting after our opponents on the defensive end,” Turner said. “We have to go back and look at ourselves in the mirror through film and coaching. We have to be honest with ourselves, and if we learn from it, I think we will bounce back.”

Williams added a season-high 22 points, marking his fourth 20-point game of the year. Sophomore point guard Jordan Bone scored 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while Schofield finished with 13 points.

Tennessee now looks to avoid an 0-3 start in the SEC when No. 17 Kentucky comes to town on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. ET.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee volleyball falls to Auburn 3-1

Tennessee (11-12, 4-10 SEC) fell to Auburn 3-1 after an intense match in Auburn Arena on Thursday night. Tessa Grubbs led the team with 10 kills followed by Madison Coulter and Breana Jeter with nine kills each. Brooke Schumacher led the team with 26 digs followed by Coulter and Sedona Hansen with 16 digs each. Hansen continues to impress fans while on the road as she led the team with 25 assists.

In the beginning of set one, Auburn (14-8, 7-6 SEC) took a four-point run and gained a little lead on the Vols early on in the set. After that, the Vols applied the pressure to the Tigers and took off with their own four-point run to tie the match 5-5. Half way through the set, the Vols forced the Tigers into a few errors and went on a 7-3 run to take a 16-13 lead. After that, the match went back-and-forth with five game ties, but Tennessee failed to take the lead allowing Auburn to win the set, 25-22.

Tennessee continued to put pressure on Auburn in the second set as they continued to exchange points. The Lady Vols rallied early in the set and took a 9-6 lead over Auburn. The matched remained close as Tennessee rallied again late in the set, taking a 23-20 lead and pushed through, winning the set 25-23.

The Vols struggled in the third set making a few errors which allowed Auburn to take a three-point run followed by a four-point run making the score 18-15. Tennessee took a timeout to rebuttal but couldn’t come back, losing 25-18.

Tennessee continued to struggle in the fourth set and Auburn took a four-point run in the middle of the set leaving the score at 15-11. Tennessee again struggled to keep up and Auburn closed the set with a 25-20 win.

The Vols will end their last road trip of the season in Tuscaloosa to face the Crimson Tide in Foster Auditorium this Sunday at 2 p.m. Tennessee will then close its season with three home games in Thompson-Boling Arena against Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports