No. 16 Tennessee dominates Mississippi State on the road

No. 16 Tennessee (22-7, 12-5 SEC) dominated a red-hot Mississippi State team on Tuesday night in Humphrey Coliseum, 76-54. The Vols were virtually unstoppable in the second half of the game, knocking down 11 consecutive field goals at one point.

Before dropping Tuesday’s bout to the Vols, Mississippi State had won its previous three games and seven out of the last 10.

Considered to be one of the hottest teams in the league, the Bulldogs made it tough for the Vols at the beginning of the game, jumping out to a 25-18 lead in the first half.

Admiral Schofield, who served as the co-SEC player of the week coming off of a career-high 24 points, once again proved to be one of the key players behind Tennessee’s success this season.

Schofield matched last weeks point total with 24 and also added seven rebounds and a block with 33 minutes of game time.

Schofield finished Saturday’s contest against Ole Miss with 35 minutes, proving to be one of the most durable players on Rick Barnes’ team.

Previous to its loss to Tennessee on Tuesday evening, Mississippi State was 18-1 at home this season and its only loss was to then-No. 22 Auburn.

The close game continued into the second half as the Bulldogs were down only four points closing in on the first media timeout.

Barnes’ team began to light up the scoreboard, shooting 15-of-22 in the second half of the contest.

“We got some real good execution playing inside out,” Barnes said. “When we move the ball and play together, we’re capable of (doing what we did tonight).”

Lamar Peters, the player who shared co-SEC player of the week last week with Admiral Schofield, was bested by Schofield in the game, getting outscored 24-7. Peters finished the game 3-of-10 with a turnover.

Lamonté Turner played a big role in the game for the Vols, especially from outside the arc. Turner nailed two three pointers and logged 29 minutes off the bench, finishing a perfect 4-for-4.

Turner knows his head coach is looking forward to the SEC tournament but isn’t taking road wins for granted at this point in the season.

“Coach Barnes didn’t complain about anything after the game,” Turner said. “I’m kind of worried about him, he must be sick or something.”

The Orange-and-White will face Georgia on Saturday for their Senior Day to honor the lone senior on the team, James Daniel III.

With the win, Tennessee ties Auburn for first place in the SEC at 12-5.

James Daniel III finished with three points on 1-of-1 shooting against Mississippi State and his only make came when he connected on a deep bomb which banked in from deep outside the three-point line with the shot clock running down.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Takeaways from No. 6 Tennessee’s loss to No. 3 Mississippi State

Sunday’s “We Back Pat” game brought a wonderful atmosphere to Thomson-Boling Arena, but the Lady Vols weren’t able to capitalize. No. 6 Tennessee trailed No. 3 Mississippi State for most of the contest, ultimately losing 71-52. The loss wraps up a brutal four-game stretch in which the Lady Vols went 1-3.

This is what you need to take away from Tennessee’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi State as the Lady Vols dropped to 16-3 on the season and 4-2 in SEC play.

Mercedes Russell needs help and more touches.

Russell was the lone Lady Vol to have a nice outing against Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon. The senior center finished with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field while also hauling in four rebounds.

Unfortunately, no other Lady Vols contributed. Fellow senior Jaime Nared was 3-fo-14 from the field for just 12 points. Nared wasn’t the only Lady Vol to struggle from the field though, as Meme Jackson was 1-for-10, Rennia Davis was 3-of-10 and Evina Westbrook was 3-for-7.

Not only did the Lady Vols struggle shooting the basketball, but they failed to get the ball to Russell throughout the game. 12 of Russell’s 16 points came in the opening minutes of the first and second quarter. The minutes in between, it was as if Russell wasn’t on the team.

This has been a constant theme this season, especially over the last four games in which the Lady Vols are 1-3. Few can guard Russell, and Tennessee needs to make it a priority to get her the ball going forward. But not only does it need to make getting Russell more touches a priority, her talented teammates are going to need to step up down the stretch to take pressure off the 6-foot-6 center.

Lady Vols brutal four-game stretch highlights weaknesses.

Two weeks ago, Tennessee was sitting pretty. It was ranked No. 6 in the country and a perfect 15-0 on the season after a 3-0 start in conference play.

Then, Tennessee traveled to College Station and lost to No. 17 Texas A&M 79-76 in overtime. The Lady Vols then traveled to No. 9 South Carolina and beat the Gamecocks 86-70. Tennessee followed up the win over the defending national champions with an embarrassing loss to No. 5 Notre Dame before returning home to take another loss to Mississippi State.

Now, the Lady Vols are 16-3 and 4-2 in SEC play, with a drop in the AP poll Monday afternoon. While just about any program in the country would welcome a 16-3 record and top 15 team, it does feel as if Tennessee was a bit exposed during its brutal four-game stretch.

“We need to get in the gym and practice,” Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said when asked about what she learned about her team during the stretch of games. “We have to clean up some things. We have to value the basketball. That goes both ways – on offense as far as the turnovers, and the shot selection, and we have to really commit to defense.”

Warlick is right. Tennessee has to clean up the turnovers as they have become a glaring issue with this year’s team. Turnovers are the sole reason the Lady Vols lost to both Texas A&M and Notre Dame. Against the Aggies, Tennessee turned over the ball 16 times. Against the Fighting Irish, they turned it 28 times. That’s not championship level basketball, and it must be fixed.

Tennessee also needs someone to step up in the back end of the rotation. Right now, there are only six reliable players who will produce every night. Some nights it’s seven, depending on if Cheridene Green shows up.

Against Mississippi State this afternoon, the Lady Vols appeared to be worn down following the game. That can be attributed to Russell, Nared, Davis, Westbrook, Jackson and sometimes Anastasia Hayes, having to play north of 30 minutes a game. Warlick needs Green, Kortney Dunbar or Kasiyahna Kushkituah to step up and provide some relief.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 6 Lady Vols don’t bring toughness against No. 3 Mississippi State

The results on the court weren’t as sweet as the festivities off the court for the Lady Vols on Sunday afternoon. In the seventh annual “We Back Pat” game in honor of legendary head coach Pat Summitt, No. 3 Mississippi State (20-0, 6-0 SEC) defeated No. 6 Tennessee 71-52.

“It meant a lot. I feel bad because we didn’t get the win for Pat,” Lady Vols freshman Evina Westbrook said on playing in her first “We Back Pat” game. “We try to play for her every day, so it means a lot to me and everyone on the team because of how she impacted people.”

Mercedes Russell led the Lady Vols to start the game, as Tennessee (16-3, 4-2 SEC) jumped out to an early 8-6 lead behind six points from the senior center. The lead wouldn’t last long though, as Mississippi State would go on a 7-0 run following the media timeout on its way to building a 21-14 lead to end the first quarter.

Russell found her groove to start the second quarter as well. Within the first two and a half minutes of the frame, Russell scored six points. That would be all Russell could muster in the first half though, as Mississippi State’s defense played as well as it has all season.

“We just didn’t have it today,” Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick said following the game. “We have to clean up some things. We have to value the basketball.”

While the Bulldog defense started to assert itself, the offense built a 39-26 halftime lead behind 13 points from Victoria Vivians. Roshunda Johnson chipped in nine points.

The Lady Vols didn’t play with their usual toughness on Sunday. In the first half alone, Mississippi State hauled in nine offensive rebounds that led to 14 second chance points. On the afternoon, the Bulldogs out-rebounded Tennessee 44-33 behind 18 rebounds from Teaira McCowan – 10 of which were on the offensive glass.

“I’m disappointed our kids weren’t more tough,” Warlick said. “I thought we gave up too many loose balls. We didn’t get on the floor as much. We have done that, it just didn’t appear that we had that today.”

Toughness is something that Warlick knows starts with her, and it’s going to take getting back in the gym to continue to instill it.

“This is still a learning process for us,” Warlick said. “We are going to get better. It starts with me and getting back on the practice floor and correcting things we need to get better at, and toughness is one of them.”

Tennessee fought back in the third quarter, out-scoring Mississippi State 18-14, but it couldn’t land the fatal punch. Every time it appeared Warlick’s team was on the cusp of cutting the lead to single-digits, the Bulldogs would hit a big three or haul in an offensive rebound.

With 7:19 remaining in the game, Tennessee cut the Mississippi State lead to 57-50, but that’s as close as it would good. The Bulldogs would go on a 14-2 run to close out the game, as the Lady Vols didn’t score over the final 7:54 of play. Tennessee scored a season-low eight points in the fourth quarter on just 2-of-14 shooting from the floor.

Russell finished with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, but the Oregon native didn’t receive much help on the afternoon. Fellow senior Jaime Nared was just 3-of-14 for 12 points while the talented freshmen trio of Evina Westbrook, Rennia Davis and Anastasia Hayes combined for just 15 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Junior guard Meme Jackson was 1-for-10 from the field.

Led by Vivians’ 24 points, four different Bulldogs finished in double-figures. Johnson finished with 16 points on 2-of-3 shooting from beyond-the-arc, while Blair Schaefer was 4-of-8 from three for 12 points. Along with her 18 rebounds, McCowan finished with 12 points.

The Lady Vols lone bright spot on the afternoon was in the turnover department. After turning it over 28 times on Thursday night against No. 5 Notre Dame, Tennessee committed just 13 turnovers against Mississippi State.

Tennessee now turns its attention to Ole Miss (11-8, 1-5 SEC). The Lady Vols and the Rebels will square off in Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols Season Recap

Confusion.

This is the only word that can describe the season for the Tennessee women’s basketball team. Game after game, the Lady Vols would show up and either look like world-beaters or look like they couldn’t even beat a recreational league team. There is no doubt that this team was talented, but the consistency never clicked with this team. It was concerning to see a team coming off an Elite 8 trip look so lost and confused on the court at times. The short seven-person rotation probably didn’t help matters, but head coach Holly Warlick will have a good deal of questions to answer of herself next season. But next season is next season. Here’s how things shook out for this year’s team.

Non-Conference Play

The warning signs began early for the Lady Vols. Just a few short games into the season, Tennessee went on the road to face both Penn State and Virginia Tech. Both of these teams were unranked, and they both did not make the NCAA Tournament at the season’s end. The losses, although not crippling at the time, showed a sign of playing down to lower competition that would continue the rest of the season.

Tennessee also lost to both Baylor and Texas from the Big 12, with the Baylor loss coming in crushing fashion in Knoxville. However, they were able to pick up two very solid non-conference wins over Stanford in December and Notre Dame in January. The win over Notre Dame was especially nice because the Lady Vols found themselves down by 15 at one point during that game.

SEC Play

Conference play started well for Tennessee. After wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt, it looked as though the Lady Vols might be able to get a winning streak going.

Then came the issues that plagued Tennessee all season. Following a loss at home to Mississippi State, Tennessee traveled to Oxford and laid an egg against an Ole Miss team that barely even made the women’s NIT. Following that, the Lady Vols got a huge comeback win over Notre Dame, which could have propelled them into playing well consistently. Instead, they went on the road at Auburn and lost by 18.

After this loss, Tennessee was able to put together a win streak of four, its longest of conference play. During that streak, Tennessee picked up a huge road win over a top-five South Carolina team. That win pushed them back into the top 25 after having been out of it for weeks. But just as they were starting to get some more national attention, the Lady Vols went on the road and lost to a Georgia team that finished barely over .500. From Feb. 5 to Feb. 16, the Lady Vols lost three out of four games, two of which were to teams that did not even end up making the NCAA Tournament. They were able to close the season strong, including an 18-point thrashing of a highly-ranked Mississippi State team in Starkville.

Postseason Play

The postseason for the 2016-2017 Lady Vols was a microcosm of their season as a whole. In the opening round of the SEC Tournament, they drew an Alabama team that they had lost to just a few weeks before. Tennessee led by as much as 10 in the game but were not able to close out a team that they were more talented than across the board. Because of the loss, the Lady Vols were given a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, slated to play a pesky Dayton team.

In their opening round game, the offense at times was atrocious. The Lady Vols jumped out to a huge lead, only to let Dayton hang around until the end of the game. In the second round, they drew the No. 4 seed, Louisville, on its home court. Tennessee led after three quarters, but the wheels fell off in the fourth, allowing Louisville to move on to the Sweet 16.

The Final Verdict

There is no question about it: the Lady Vols’ season was a disappointment. While depth was an issue, this team was too talented to lose some of the games that they lost. The common factor in most of their losses this season was the simple lack of chemistry and consistency between the players. Diamond DeShields, who may be the first pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft, seemed lost in some of their losses. The leadership was not present like it has been on some of the great teams in program history. With a few more wins abasing teams they should have beat, the Lady Vols may have been able to advance further in March with an easier road. Next year may be a make-or-break year for Holly Warlick, especially with a new athletic director in charge. Luckily, Warlick will be able to try and utilize the nations’s top incoming recruiting class.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols roll to an 82-64 victory against No. 3 Mississippi State

Tennessee’s uneven season took another positive turn on Sunday night with an 82-64 victory against No. 3 Mississippi State.

Jaime Nared led the Lady Vols (19-10, 10-6 SEC) with 30 points. Diamond DeShields contributed 20 points, five rebounds and six assists, while Jordan Reynolds contributed 17 points and eight boards. For the Bulldogs (27-3, 13-3 SEC), Victoria Vivians led the way with 18 points. The win marked the program’s first victory against a top-3 team since 2010, and the first on the road since 2004. In a season full of big wins and disappointing losses, this one stands out as an incredible way to finish up regular season play.

“It’s a huge win for us,” head coach Holly Warlick said in her postgame press conference. “To say this is a big win for us would be an understatement… I’m really proud of our kids for accepting the game plan and sticking with it. It was obviously a huge win for us.”

Tennessee used suffocating defense in the first quarter to jump out to an 18-8 lead after 10 minutes. After hitting just one 3-pointer in the first quarter, the Lady Vols nailed four shots from deep in the second to extend their lead to 36-20 at halftime. Those 3-pointers helped Tennessee pull away, but the team wouldn’t need any more to secure the big win. Nared’s 3-pointer with 1:28 left in the first half was the last time the Lady Vols would hit a shot from downtown.

After a relatively slow-paced first half, the game broke open after halftime. The Bulldogs scored 26 points in a high-flying third quarter after managing just 20 in the first two. Tennessee managed to mostly keep pace with 24 points of its own, entering the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead. An early five-point Mississippi State run in the final quarter made the Lady Vols sweat a bit by shrinking the lead to 10, but a six-point run of their own put the visitors back ahead by a comfortable margin. From then on, Tennessee managed rolled the rest of the game to finish with an 18-point road victory against one of the nation’s best teams.

The Lady Vols’ lack of depth has been an issue all season, but they managed to overcome it on Sunday against a much deeper team. Five Bulldogs got time off the bench and outscored Tennessee’s two bench players 22-4. Mercedes Russell, Reynolds and Nared played all 40 minutes, while DeShields only got two minutes of rest.

The win means that the Lady Vols finish No. 5 in the conference, just missing out on a double-bye in the conference tournament. Instead, they will open their SEC tournament play by taking on the winner of Alabama and Vanderbilt on March 2.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Vols come up short against Mississippi State, 71-66

A career-high scoring effort from Josh Richardson could not save Tennessee from the hands of defeat.

The Vols’ men’s basketball team fell for the third time at home in SEC play as they succumbed to the Mississippi State Bulldogs Tuesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena, 71-66.

Mississippi State advanced to .500 on the season at 11-11, 4-5 while Tennessee fell to 13-8, 5-4. While the Bulldogs’ record is less than impressive, they have shown signs of improvement – including a Jan. 31 win over LSU.

After the game, coach Donnie Tyndall said, “Mississippi State is the most improved team in our league. I think everyone saw that that is probably the case tonight.”

Richardson led all scorers on the night with 30 points – a new career-best. His former career-high was a 26-point effort against Mercer in last year’s NCAA tournament.

Tyndall said, “The biggest thing is, Josh [Richardson] was aggressive off the dribble and got some good looks, which is good. He had five assists, which is good.”

Kevin Punter added 10 points in the Vols’ losing effort. Armani Moore nearly eclipsed a double-double with 10 rebounds and eight points.

However, Richardson wasn’t the only big scorer Tuesday night. For Mississippi State, Craig Sword and Fred Thomas combined for 46 points and were both lights out shooting the basketball. Sword had a team-high 26 points – Thomas had 20.

On Mississippi State’s hot shooting, Tyndall added, “I think the biggest thing is, they did a good job of not settling… Our defense wasn’t what it needed to be. 56 percent overall is horrendous. 73 percent from three is bad but you have to give Mississippi State credit. I thought they played very efficient at the offensive end.”

As a team, the Vols shot 41.7 percent – a sparse comparison to the Bulldogs’ big night.

Tuesday night’s loss undoubtedly added a glaring flaw to Tennessee’s RPI. Luckily, the Vols will have a significant opportunity to improve when they face Georgia Saturday in Athens. Georgia – who is coming off a loss to unbeaten Kentucky – has an RPI rating good for 26th in the country.

Tip-off is set for noon Saturday.

Edited by Nathan Odom