Slow starts have been one of the biggest banes for the Tennessee women’s basketball team so far this season, dooming it during its losing skid at times. Against Florida on Thursday night, the story played out a little differently.
The Lady Vols utilized a hot start, and some strong defense, to pick up their second straight SEC victory in a row against the Gators, 67-50. They had almost as many points in the first quarter, with 24, than they did in the second half, at 28.
“I thought our defense was solid,” head coach Holly Warlick said. “We distributed the basketball, we had a lot of people scoring. Just really proud of our team. Stuck to the game plan and got us a win.”
Rennia Davis, with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Cheridene Green, with 15 points and 10 rebounds, both had double-doubles. It was the fourth game in a row that Green notched double-digit boards.
Here are some of the big takeaways from the win:
The kink in Tennessee’s defensive armor has been defending the three ball. It allows opponents an average of 6.3 per game, including three games in which its foes have hit double-digit three pointers, two of which were in-conference.
Meanwhile, the Gators are a team that has lived, and died, by the three-point line. They rank second in the conference in three-point attempts, with 518 thus far this season, though they have only made 144 of those total threes.
That offensive philosophy was front-and-center in their game against Tennessee, and the Lady Vols did well resisting it.
“I thought we were really aware of the three-point shooting,” Warlick said. “A couple we lost in transition, but our defense was solid. We were talking, moving … But yea, I’m just thankful they didn’t go off on us at the three-point line.”
Florida attempted 13 threes in the first 20 minutes of play, with only three finding their mark. Like the first half, out of 13 more attempts in the second half, only three hit home.
The perimeter defense was part of what ended up being one of the best showings by Tennessee’s defense thus far. The 50 point effort by the Gators is the lowest of the Lady Vols’ conference opponents this season.
They were held to 28.8-percent shooting from the field, their worst performance this season.
The Lady Vols got both good and bad news on the injury front. After missing the past two games with an ankle injury suffered against Arkansas, senior guard Meme Jackson made her return to the court.
She looked a little rusty, though. In 17 minutes of play, Jackson went 2-for-6 from the field, including an 0-of-3 mark from beyond the arc, for just four points. Still, her return is a crucial one for her team.
“We were just taking it day-by-day,” Jackson said. “I just felt like I was ready to kind of get back out there today, so we were just being patient.”
In the bad news column, starter Kasiyahna Kushkituah left in the second quarter with what appeared to be a knee injury. This comes just a few days after the sophomore post player was finally able to take off her knee brace.
Tennessee will have a few days off before it returns to the court on Sunday afternoon, travelling to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores. It will be the first road trip for the Lady Vols in four games.
Like Florida, Vanderbilt is a team that has struggled mightily at times this year. It currently stands at 4-16 thus far, and 1-6 in conference play. The Commodores lost their first five conference games in a row before finally beating Ole Miss on January 24.
They’re led by junior forward Mariella Fasoula, who sits at third place in the SEC in scoring, averaging 17.0 points per game. Her team, however, averages just about 65 points per game, 10th worst in the conference.
Tip off is set for 3 p.m., with the game being broadcast nationally on ESPN2.