Role players lift Tennessee past Missouri, 77-66

Holly Warlick never asked for one of her players outside the team’s “Big Three” to double their scoring average.

She only requires that the role players step up when one of the “Big Three” — Diamond DeShields, Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared — are struggling. That didn’t happen in Sunday’s double-overtime loss to Georgia, and it hasn’t happened with much consistency throughout the course of the season, either.

On Thursday, the scoring trio again paved the way for Tennessee’s offense, but the contribution of the other five players catapulted Tennessee (16-8, 7-4 SEC) to a crucial 77-66 victory over Missouri (16-9, 6-5 SEC) in Knoxville.

“It was good for us because we know that we needed to step up,” Nared said after the win. “… you just saw different players step up.

Against the Bulldogs on Sunday, DeShields and Russell combined to score 58 of the Lady Vols’ 78 points. Only four days later, the rest of the orange and white lightened the load — Tennessee didn’t have a player reach double digits in scoring until midway through the third quarter. Overall, the Lady Vols had four players score at least ten points.

Initially, it appeared Tennessee would have to rely on the DeShields-Nared-Russell show again after Missouri grabbed a 23-17 second-quarter lead. However, DeShields responded with a pair of slick crossovers that led a smooth layup and later delivered a perfect half-court pass to a streaking Russell for an easy layup.

From that point forward, each member of Tennessee’s limited rotation found ways to contribute, especially Jordan Reynolds, who attacked offensively like she rarely has all season.

“I’m extremely proud of Jordan,” head coach Holly Warlick said. “Overall, she ran her basketball team. She got everybody where they needed to go. There wasn’t any confusion … she was a great leader for us and we need that all the time.

Reynolds’ eight assists orchestrated a Lady Vol offense that shot 52 percent from the field and a staggering 53 percent from beyond the arc. The senior also added ten points, five coming on back-to-back baskets in the fourth quarter to break a 54-54 tie and send Tennessee toward a double-digit victory.

 “I’m just trying to help these guys,” Reynolds said of DeShields, Russell and Nared. “(Scoring) can sometimes be a burden for them. If the rest of us step up and hit shots, it helps them out a lot.”

Alexa Middleton started in place of Meme Jackson, who had started the previous 18 games for Tennessee. Middleton’s season has been marred by inconsistent play in conference games, but she found her SEC footing on Thursday, scoring six points and dishing out four assists.

Tennessee squares off against Texas A&M (18-6, 8-3 SEC) on Sunday in another critical SEC matchup. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Feature image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols MVP of the week: Jaime Nared

Throughout this season, Jaime Nared has played a significant role for the Tennessee Lady Vols.

That didn’t change this week, as Nared’s performances against No. 4 South Carolina on Monday and LSU on Thursday helped extend Tennessee’s winning streak to four games.

Against the Gamecocks, Nared’s presence was vital.

In the final seconds with the game tied, Nared brought the ball down the floor, only to get tangled with South Carolina’s Tyesha Harris, who was called with a blocking foul, leaving the Gamecocks in fumes. Nared calmly drilled both free-throw attempts, giving the Lady Vols the 76-74 win, as well as the program’s first road win against a top-five team since Candance Parker helped Tennessee take down UConn in 2007.

Nared finished with a game-high 27 points on the night, but her week wasn’t done yet.

On Thursday, Nared led Tennessee again as the Lady Vols toppled former Tennessee standout Nikki Fargas’ LSU Tigers, 77-58, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Nared put the Lady Vols on her back in the first quarter, scoring 11 points and collecting 16 overall at halftime. But the junior wasn’t done yet, as she added 10 more points in the second half. She also finished with 10 rebounds en route to a double-double.

Nared’s impact on the game wasn’t limited to the offensive end of the floor, as she does more than simply stuff the state sheet.

“To me, Jaime’s just playing a complete game,” head coach Holly Warlick said after the game.

Warlick later went on to say that Nared seems to be “taking advantage of hard work” and that “she’s mentally focused and got her mind right.”

Warlick’s postgame analysis was spot-on, as Nared provided Tennessee with a spark whenever it was needed. For that reason, and many others, she is easily this week’s Lady Vol MVP.

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Amanda Izzi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

SEC top women’s basketball performers

Jamie Nared, Forward, Tennessee

It has certainly been an up and down season for the Lady Vols this season, but this week was certainly one of their stretches. One of the major reasons for the big week was the play of junior forward Jamie Nared. On Thursday, Nared played all 40 minutes and had 16 points and seven rebounds in Tennessee’s road win against Florida. She was vital in securing a nice victory against a team that the Lady Vols have struggled against in the past few seasons.

Nared followed up that performance with a career day in Tennessee’s upset win over No. 4 South Carolina on Monday. She finished with a carer-high 27 points and sank some key free throws down the stretch in helping the Lady Vols secure the huge road win.

Ronni Williams, Guard, Florida

It was a huge week for the senior from Daytona Beach, Florida. Williams averaged 37 points and over eight rebounds in just two games. For her efforts, she was tabbed as SEC Player of the Week.

In the home loss to the Lady Vols, she had 31 points and five rebounds, but it was her performance against Vanderbilt that really grabbed everyone’s attention. She scored 43 points on 60 percent shooting from the field in the 20-point road win for the Gators. Her week-long total was the most in school history for a two-game stretch.

Diamond DeShields, Guard, Tennessee

It’s a pretty simple recipe for success for the Lady Vols: When DeShields is at her best, so is Tennessee. DeShields had another solid week as the Lady Vols were able to have a pair of big wins. She had 27 points on Thursday against Florida in a solid road victory for the Lady Vols. DeShields is normally a high-volume shooter, but she scored her 27 against the Gators on efficient 9-of-13 shooting.

DeShields was huge again for Tennessee in their biggest win of the season against South Carolina on Monday. The redshirt junior played all 40 minutes and racked up 21 points along with eight rebounds and five assists. She played a key part in ending South Carolina’s 29-game home winning streak and announcing the Lady Vols as a major threat.

Edited by Quinn Pilkey

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Around the SEC: Women’s basketball weekly recap

Tennessee goes 2-0 on the week, including big upset

The Lady Vols (14-7, 5-3 SEC) closed out the week with a huge 76-74 upset over No. 4 ranked South Carolina. Tennessee snapped the Gamecocks’ 12-game winning streak and gave South Carolina its first conference loss at home since 2013.

The Lady Vols received help from junior guard Jaime Nared, who converted on a pair of clutch free throws late to seal the win. Nared recorded a career-high 27 points along with five rebounds and three assists. Diamond DeShields also contributed by continuing her hot streak, scoring 21 points as well as snagging eight rebounds and five assists.

Earlier in the week, Tennessee defeated Florida, 84-75. The Lady Vols were once again led by Nared and DeShields, who scored 16 and 27 points respectively. The pair of victories brought Tennessee’s winning streak to three games as they head into a home contest against LSU on Thursday night.

Missouri continues win streak

The Missouri Tigers (16-7, 6-3 SEC) went 2-0 this past week with wins over Auburn and No. 25 Kentucky.

In Mizzou’s 68-53 win over Auburn, sophomore forward Cierra Porter tallied 27 points and nine rebounds. Porter received help from guards Lindsey Cunningham and Amber Smith, as the trio of players combined to score 53 of the Tigers’ 68 points.

Missouri capped off the week with a 73-67 upset victory over No. 25 Kentucky for its fourth win in a row. The victory catapulted the Tigers ahead of Kentucky for third place in the SEC, which they accomplished thanks to a balanced attack against the Wildcats. In the upset, four players scored double digits, including 19 points from senior guard Sierra Michaelis. On Sunday, Missouri travels to Starkville to take on No. 5-ranked Mississippi State.

LSU responds after three-game slide

After a rough three-game losing streak that included games against South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas A&M, LSU (15-6, 4-4 SEC) responded well by winning its only game this week.

This week, the Tigers defeated Arkansas for the second time this season, 53-46. The game pushed LSU’s home record to 10-3 on the year, with two of its losses coming at the hands of great teams in UConn and South Carolina. The Tigers were led by Raigyne Moncrief, who scored 12 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and recorded seven steals. In total, LSU forced 22 Arkansas turnovers and scored 23 points off of those turnovers. The Tigers held Arkansas’ leading scorer, Jessica Jackson, to only 15 points. Next, LSU travels to Knoxville to take on the Lady Vols on Thursday.

 

Results

Alabama Crimson Tide – L 87-80 @ Vanderbilt, L 66-55 vs Auburn

Arkansas Razorbacks – L 53-46 @ LSU

Auburn Tigers – L 69-53 @ Missouri, W 66-55 @ Alabama

Florida Gators – L 84-75 vs Tennessee, W 93-73 @ Vanderbilt

Georgia Bulldogs – L 62-44 vs South Carolina, L 69-62 @ Ole Miss

Kentucky Wildcats – W 89-57 vs Ole Miss, L 73-67 @ Missouri

LSU Tigers – W 53-46 vs Arkansas

Mississippi State Bulldogs – W 71-61 vs Texas A&M

Missouri Tigers – W 68-53 vs Auburn, W 73-67 vs Kentucky

Ole Miss Rebels – L 89-57 @ Kentucky, W 69-62 vs Georgia

South Carolina Gamecocks – W 62-44 @ Georgia, L 76-74 vs Tennessee

Tennessee Volunteers – W 84-75 @ Florida, W 76-74 @ South Carolina

Texas A&M Aggies – L 71-61 @ Mississippi State

Vanderbilt Commodores – W 87-80 vs Alabama, L 93-73 vs Florida

 

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols upset No. 4 South Carolina, 76-74

The Lady Vols (14-7, 5-3 SEC) earned a road win over an AP top-five opponent with a 76-74 victory over No. 4 South Carolina (18-2, 8-1 SEC) on Monday night. Tennessee’s last road win over a top-five team came on Jan. 6, 2007, when the Lady Vols defeated No. 5 Connecticut.

“For us, it was just a battle of will,” Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick said after the game. Tennessee battled all game long, forcing the Gamecocks into 13 turnovers.

Led by junior guard Jaime Nared, who had a career-high 27 points, the Lady Vols snapped the Gamecocks’ 29-game home conference winning streak. With the game tied at 74-74 in the waning seconds of the game, Nared knocked down two go-ahead free throws to give Tennessee the lead, and eventually the win.

Nared was 11-of-12 from the free throw line in the second half, including her two late makes. When asked what was going through her mind in those pressure situations, she credited the emphasis put on free throws at practice.

“Just taking your time,” Nared said, “… and focusing, and knowing that all of the reps that you put in, in practice, and all of the games before, are going to pay off.”

Down by 11 points at one point in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks crawled back to tie the game at 74-74 after a big 3-pointer from South Carolina guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore with 14.7 seconds remaining. Tyasha Harris was then called for a controversial blocking foul on Nared, which led to Nared’s go-ahead free throws. After Cuevas-Moore clanked a three off of the rim as time expired, Tennessee was celebrating its third top-10 win of the season.

In the first half, the Lady Vols and South Carolina went back-and-forth before Tennessee took a 39-36 lead into halftime. Junior guard Diamond DeShields led the way at intermission with 12 points and five rebounds.

To add to Nared’s career-high 27 points, DeShields dropped in 21 points, while center Mercedes Russell had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Entering the game, South Carolina post players A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates were averaging a combined 30 points and 18 rebounds. The two star players were limited to just 21 points and 13 rebounds on Monday night, as the Lady Vols defense created havoc for the Gamecock offense early and often. Wilson and Coates also got into early foul trouble, preventing either one from getting into any sort of rhythm on offense.

After back-to-back road wins, the Lady Vols return home on Thursday night to face LSU (15-6, 4-4 SEC). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on SEC Network+.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Rocky Topics: How will Harrison’s absence impact Lady Vols in NCAA tournament?

Co-written by Sam Forman

This week on Rocky Topics, Cody McClure and Sam Forman discuss how the Lady Vols’ loss of Isabelle Harrison to a torn ACL could impact a potential run to the Final Four.

FORMAN: Before the loss of Isabelle Harrison, I would have guaranteed 100 percent that the Lady Vols would return to the promised land that is the Final Four. While they may have less of a chance, the Lady Vols can still make it to Tampa and return to the Final Four this year. They still have plenty of offense without Harrison in the line up. Jaime Nared has come on to play a key role for Tennessee in their last few games – even before the injury to Harrison. The Lady Vols still have an abundance of players capable of three point shooting. A team that can consistently knock down shots behind the arc could be dangerous when tournament time comes.

MCCLURE: Tennessee has made strides this season, finally putting a veteran squad with size on the floor in the post-Pat Summit era. They have several quality wins over top ten teams on their resume. On a good night, I think the Lady Vols can play with anybody in the country – besides UCONN. ESPN’s bracketologist Charlie Creme currently has Tennessee as a No. 1 seed in the Oklahoma City region, but the bracket has not been updated since their loss to South Carolina. That loss to South Carolina can be attributed to the Lady Vols being out-rebounded and dominated on the glass – an area in which Harrison’s presence certainly would have helped. Another loss to the Gamecocks in the SEC tournament almost certainly puts the Lady Vols as a No. 2 seed, but the seeding is not necessarily the problem. The problem, assuming they are in the Oklahoma City region, is a potential matchup with Baylor – a team that averages 46.1 rebounds per game, good for third in the country.

FORMAN: I will give you the fact that Tennessee may be a No. 2 seed after the loss to South Carolina on Monday. If you look at Creme’s bracket, it has Baylor as the No. 2 seed setting up that match up anyway. You can make a good case that if Tennessee is a No. 2 seed, then they will be the highest ranked No. 2 seed. Yes, Baylor is a team that can give the Lady Vols problems. However, Nina Davis is really the only offensive weapon for the Bears – averaging 20.8 points per game. While Tennessee may not have anyone averaging that many, they do have more players averaging double digits in scoring than Baylor. The Lady Vols also have more firepower off the bench. Though it is a likely match up, there is no guarantee Baylor and Tennessee will even meet up before the Final Four. For this Lady Vols team, all it takes is getting hot at the right time. Let us not forget they found themselves in almost the same spot last year and got hot, and they where nowhere near as complete of a team.

MCCLURE: They also lost by double digits to Maryland in the Sweet 16 last year. I am actually arguing that they will go further in this year’s tournament. I don’t think there are many teams that can beat Tennessee, especially in their projected region. They are more talented and deeper than last year’s team. And yes, they have some shooters that will give Baylor problems should that match up arise – which it likely will. However, without Harrison, the Lady Vols lack the size to keep them in the game with Baylor. Having great shooters is nice, but there is always a possibility of a cold night when shots just don’t fall. A reliable, consistent “big” presence is a better formula for winning in the NCAA tournament. Baylor is very familiar with contributing “bigs.” I do think the Lady Vols will get to the Elite Eight, but the Final Four is not happening.

Edited by Maggie Jones