On Sunday, Tennessee gave No. 6 Mississippi State everything they could handle for about three quarters before watching the Bulldogs run away with it in the fourth quarter.
On Thursday, they found themselves on the winning end of that type of game.
Behind a dominating performance in the final 10 minutes and a big night from freshman guard Zaay Green, the Lady Vols (16-8, 5-6 SEC) completed a season sweep of the Auburn Tigers (18-7, 6-6 SEC) in the form of a 73-62 win at Thompson Boling Arena.
“It was a tale of two halfs,” head coach Holly Warlick said. “In the second half, we were aggressive on defense and attacking on the offensive end. It was just a great effort for two quarters. We just have to do that for a whole game.”
Heading into the contest, there were concerns that the feelings of Tennessee’s loss to Mississippi State still lingered, and Auburn hitting a corner three on their first possession to take an early lead only increased those concerns.
But that set the tone for things to come. For the next two and a half quarters, Auburn would grab the momentum with big shots, but Tennessee found a way to punch back every time.
The Lady Vols took their first lead of the game on a three from guard Meme Jackson, the first of two three-pointers on the night for the senior, at the 7:30 mark of the first quarter. Jackson made another from the corner out of an Auburn timeout to extend the lead to 18-11.
“I thought (Jackson) took good shots,” Warlick said. “She needed those two threes. She has been in the gym. She has worked hard. They needed to go. I thought she did some good things. She kind of sparked our run, there.”
The second quarter saw the Tigers clap back with a 9-2 run halfway through the period to climb back in front as Tennessee struggled shooting just 20 percent.
Auburn took a narrow 32-27 advantage into the intermission.
The late-second quarter struggles did not carry over, as the second half started off with a big Tennessee run, orchestrated by Zaay Green.
Green rattled off 10 of the Lady Vols’ first 12 points of the third quarter, en route to a 19-point second half, and Tennessee fed off of her performance.
Green finished with a career-high 25 points.
“(Green) was efficient,” Warlick said. “She took a lot of makeable shots. She was on the boards, she was attacking, and that’s her game. She is at her best when it is an open court.”
Despite that, the Tigers would not go down quietly, pulling within four, 45-49 in the opening minutes of the fourth. But the Lady Vols were able to put together another dominating run, this one, strong enough to put Auburn away for good.
“Our defense flipped the switch for us,” Green said. “We just switched the tempo. We were pressuring the ball and making sure we were getting in the passing lanes.”
In the paint, both teams were even with 32 points a piece, but the Lady Vols held advantages in points off turnovers (13-12) and second chance points (16-11). Most importantly, Tennessee won the rebound battle, snagging 45 to Auburn’s 30.
A big factor for the Lady Vols was senior forward Cheridene Green, who grabbed 11 of those rebounds along with 16 points. Green shared double-double performances with sophomore Rennia Davis, who had a 10 rebound and 15 point outing.
After completing their first home game in nearly two weeks, the Lady Vols will again return to the road to face the Missouri Tigers (18-7, 7-4 SEC) in Columbia, MO., on Sunday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.