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Knoxville, TN – Senior Jaime Nared scored 23 points and recorded 13 rebounds to lead No. 11/13 Tennessee to a signature win over No. 2/4 Texas in front of a crowd of 9,651 on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
After another strong start in front of their home fans, the Lady Vols (10-0) never trailed during the game and held the Longhorns (7-1) to 36 percent shooting. Fueled by clutch rebounding and aggressive defense, Tennessee answered every Texas run to hang on down the stretch and earn its first home win over a top-two ranked opponent since beating No. 2 Stanford in 2010. It also halted a three-game losing skid to the Longhorns.
Tennessee Women’s Basketball holds off Texas Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena. (Tennessee Athletics)
The Lady Vols opened the game on a 6-0 run and limited Texas to two points through the opening seven minutes of the game.
The Longhorns were also held to just four field goals, as Tennessee finished the quarter ahead, 16-11.
The 11 points were the fewest Texas has scored in a quarter this season. Mercedes Russell led the Big Orange offensively, shooting 3-for-6 for six points.
The Longhorns’ defense turned it on in the second quarter, holding Tennessee to 13 points on 27 percent shooting from the field. Texas used a 6-0 spurt of its own in the last five minutes of the half to claw its way back. Thanks to nine points from Westbrook and eight from Nared, however, the Lady Vols went into the intermission leading, 29-27. Jatarie White led Texas in the first half with seven points and five rebounds.
Tennessee came out of the locker room ready in the second half, going on a 7-0 run in the early stages of the third quarter. The Lady Vols remained efficient offensively throughout the quarter, shooting 7-for-15 from the field for 19 points. Westbrook hit two 3-pointers for six points as the Big Orange took a 48-44 edge into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter proved to be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, as both teams traded baskets in the closing minutes. As the clock wore down, Tennessee’s guards were continuously met by an aggressive full-court press. Forward Cheridene Green emerged as a force in the post, scoring six of her eight points and bringing down three crucial offensive rebounds to provide the Lady Vols second chances on key possessions.
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the game, a layup by Texas’ Lashann Higgs cut the score to 74-73 with one minute remaining. Tennessee, however, was able to ice the game from the free-throw line over the final moments, including four from Nared.
Russell finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season and 34th over her career. Westbrook added a career-high 15 points of her own on 5-for-11 shooting in the winning effort. Ariel Atkins led the Longhorns offensively, shooting 6-for-14 with 21 points.
Playing Up To The Competition The Lady Vols are 2-0 this season versus ranked opponents (101-99 over No. 20/20 Marquette on November 23rd and 82-75 over No. 2/4 Texas on December 10th). Sunday’s win was the program’s first victory over a top-two opponent at home since defeating No. 3/2 Stanford in overtime, 82-72, on December 19th, 2010.
Orange Out This is just the fourth time Tennessee has worn orange at home. The win moves the Lady Vols’ record to 3-1 when wearing orange at home. Their only home loss when wearing orange came against Notre Dame in 2013.
Seniors Lead The Way
Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell led the team in scoring and rebounding, combining for 38 points and half of Tennessee’s 50 rebounds. Each had a double-double on the night, with Nared posting 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell logging 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Balanced Offense Tennessee had three players in double figures (Nared, Russell, Westbrook), and everyone who entered the game for the Lady Vols contributed at least four points. Tennessee has had at least three players score in double digits every game this season.
Next Up for UT Women’s Basketball
Tennessee will take its 10-0 record on the road for the team’s first two true road games of the season. The Lady Vols face Long Beach State on December 17th, 2017 at 2:00pm PT (4:00pm CT) and then face a test at #18/18 Stanford at 6:00pm PT (8:00pm CT) on December 21st. The Long Beach State game will be streamed on Beach Vision, and the Stanford contest will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.