#9 Lady Vols Blast By Bulldogs, 88-45

Jan. 31, 2013

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Lady Vols stayed perfect in the SEC with an 88-45 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The ninth-ranked team in America moved to 17-4 overall and 8-0 in league play. The Bulldogs dropped to 9-12 overall, 1-7 in the SEC.

Junior Meighan Simmons tallied a game-high 21 points, her 18th game this season in double-figures including the last 10 games in a row. It was also her seventh game this season with 20-plus points.

In her first start in two years, senior Kamiko Williams posted her second-career double with 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. She also had a career-high six steals and tied her career-high with six assists.

Senior Taber Spani netted 15 points and hauled down seven rebounds. She has scored in double-figures in eight of the last nine games. Spani is averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in SEC play.

Freshman Bashaara Graves had 10 points and seven rebounds. He 18th game in double-figures this year.

In her return to action after missing the last eight games with a fractured hand, sophomore Cierra Burdick played 16 minutes and scored four points.

The 43-point margin of victory was the fifth largest of the season. Tennessee beat both Alcorn State and Rice by 53 points and both North Carolina and Missouri by 45.

Tennessee entered the second half with a 24-point lead against Mississippi State, but the Lady Vols never let their guard down and played all 40 minutes with intensity.

Head coach Holly Warlick has used a variety of starting lineups and different rotations so far this year, but Kamiko Williams recorded her first start despite playing in all 21 games this year.

"I talked with Kamiko," Warlick said. "I just came to the conclusion that it would be good to get her a start, because she has had experience with starting before."

With starting center Isabelle Harrison missing time with a knee injury, Warlick had the opportunity to give her younger post players, like Nia Moore and Jasmine Jones, some quality minutes and experience to build depth for the remainder of the SEC schedule.

"I justed wanted to get out there and help my teammates in whatever way I could," Moore said. "Izzy (Harrison) is out, so I've got to step up my game to help the team compensate."

Warlick also had the chance to slowly nurse Cierra Burdick, who played with a heavily wrapped right hand, back into the rotation with a comfortable lead, without much risk of her re-injuring herself.

"I was just trying to get back in the groove of things tonight," Burdick said. "It's tough to just jump in there and be consistent. I just want to work on getting back to the level of production I was at, but I thought tonight was a good start."

Burdick managed four points and five rebounds in 16 minutes, and Moore scored eight points in twelve minutes

- Ryan Howard

The Lady Vols won their 34th consecutive game against Mississippi State -- every meeting between the teams. Only four of the meetings have been decided by five points or less. The 34 wins rank as the seventh-longest active streak in any series in the NCAA.

The Bulldogs were led by Martha Alwal, who had 16 points.

The win was the eighth wire-to-wire win this season and third in SEC play.

Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first three minutes and never looked back. Jasmine Jones' jump shot with 7:48 left in the half extended the lead to 25-10.

The highlight of the first half came when Burdick returned to the court after being sidelined since New Year's Day. Burdick played the final six minutes of the half in her SEC debut this season. She scored her first bucket on a layup with three minutes left in the first half, making it 35-16.

Simmons' jumper finished the first half scoring as she hit 10 points and gave the Lady Vols a 42-18 lead at intermission.

The second half was more of the same as Tennessee outscored the Bulldogs, 46-27 in the final 20 minutes.

Williams knocked home a jumper with 10:40 left to secure that second-career double-double and put Tennessee ahead, 64-31.

The lead ballooned to 40 on a pair of free throws by Nia Moore with 6:46 left, putting the Lady Vols ahead 74-34.

The Lady Vols played without Isabelle Harrison, who was injured in Monday's game vs. No. 2 Notre Dame. She is still being evaluated as far as when she will return from her left knee injury.

The Lady Vols head to the road for their next two games as Tennessee takes on Missouri on Sunday at 2 p.m. (CSS/ESPN3) and LSU on Thursday at 9 p.m. (CSS). Both games as always can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.





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