No. 15 Lady Vols dominate second half to beat No. 7 Gamecocks, 65-46

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Athletics) — No. 15/14 Tennessee closed out the regular season Sunday with a 65-46 victory over No. 7/6 South Carolina in front of a crowd of 13,058 on senior day at Thompson-Boling Arena.

After a pregame ceremony that celebrated their tremendous careers in the orange and white, Mercedes Russell, Jaime Nared and Kortney Dunbar helped lead the Lady Vols (23-6, 11-5 SEC) to their third consecutive win against the Gamecocks (23-6, 12-4 SEC).

Russell recorded a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Rennia Davis added 18 points and 10 boards for UT. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan led South Carolina with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

After a slow start on the offensive end, Tennessee opened the second half with a 14-0 run and grabbed all momentum. The Lady Vols overcame a 10-point second quarter deficit on Sunday, which was their largest comeback in any win this year.

Both teams had to work through offensive droughts in the first quarter. South Carolina went on an early 9-0 run over a 4:55 span after Russell opened the scoring with a pair of free throws, but the Tennessee defense was able to respond by holding the Gamecocks scoreless for the next 3:48. Although a Davis layup cut it to four late in the frame, the Lady Vols could not get much else going and were held to eight points, their lowest total in a first quarter this season.

UT’s offensive struggles continued in the early stages of the second period, as it did not record a point until nearly the halfway mark of the quarter. With six minutes left in the half, a jumper by Ladazhia Williams put the Gamecocks ahead by double digits. The Lady Vols closed out the half strong, however, outscoring USC 11-6 over the last five minutes. With 1:36 remaining in the half, an Evina Westbrook drive and floater off the glass made it a three-point contest. Despite putting up a season-low 21 points in the first half, a strong defensive effort from the Lady Vols kept the score within reach, as they went into the break trailing by five.

Herbert Harrigan led the Gamecocks in the first half with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Davis scored nine for UT, while Russell added eight points and six boards.

The Big Orange stormed out of the gate in the second half, opening the third quarter with a 14-0 run, highlighted by a Russell put-back that gave Tennessee its first advantage since leading 2-0. UT was clicking on all cylinders offensively and shot 65 percent from the field in the period. The Lady Vols continued to use a stingy effort on defense in limiting South Carolina to nine points and forcing five turnovers, as UT went into the final 10 minutes ahead 50-35.

Davis was sensational in the third quarter for the Lady Vols. The freshman scored nine points, including a deep 3-pointer as time expired, and hauled in four rebounds while providing energy on both ends of the floor. Davis put Tennessee up by 10 for the first time on a layup with just under five minutes remaining in the frame.
The Lady Vols continued to separate themselves in the fourth quarter, maintaining their double-digit advantage throughout. UT asserted itself on the glass and finished the game with 21 offensive rebounds to USC’s seven. A late 9-2 run capped off by a Dunbar 3-pointer with 1:36 remaining put Tennessee ahead by 22.

Meme Jackson finished with 10 points and two blocks, while Evina Westbrook added eight points and Nared chipped in six with five boards. Doniyah Cliney netted 14 for the Gamecocks including a pair of 3-pointers.

Russell’s double-double was her 14th in 2017-18, tying her for the most in a single season by a Lady Vol senior. She set the junior record last year.

Up Next: Tennessee will travel to Nashville to face Auburn in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday. The game is scheduled to tip at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Starting Five: The Lady Vols started all three seniors against South Carolina for Senior Day, marking the first change to the starting lineup all season. The streak of 28 games with the same starting five is the longest Tennessee has ever opened a season with the same starting five since at least the 1977-78 season.

Third Quarter Fireworks: Tennessee opened the third quarter with a 14-0 run against South Carolina en route to outscoring the Gamecocks 29-9 in the period. UT also had a big third quarter against Florida, posting back-to-back runs of 14-0 and 10-0 while limiting the Gators to just two points.

In Good Company: With 16 points and 12 rebounds Mercedes Russell recorded her 14th double-double of the season against South Carolina, tying her with Shelia Collins, Lisa Harrison and Glory Johnson for the most double-doubles in a season by a Lady Vol senior. Russell set the junior record a year ago with 19. The senior now has 44 for her career, ranking behind only Chamique Holdslcaw (57) and Candace Parker (45) in UT history.

Davis Climbing The Double-Double List: Rennia Davis posted her eighth career double-double against South Carolina, putting her at sixth on the list for the most double-doubles recorded by a Lady Vol freshman. Tennessee players ahead of her on the list are Chamique Holdsclaw (16), Sheila Frost (11), Bashaara Graves (10), Candace Parker (10) and Tamika Catchings (9).

Warlick vs. Staley: With the win tonight Tennessee extends its winning streak over South Carolina to three games, and head coach Holly Warlick improves her record against Dawn Staley to 5-3. Warlick’s career SEC record (61-20, .753) ranks her first among all SEC women’s head coaches.

Senior Day Success: UT is 6-0 in its final home games of the regular season under Holly Warlick and 40-3 all-time since 1974-75.

Categories: College, Sports, Sports – Local Sports News, Sports – UT Vols

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