#11/10 UT Shoots Past Auburn, 83-61

Feb. 21, 2013

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn -- Tennessee opened the game on a 19-2 run and never looked back, as the Lady Vols cruised to their 10th wire-to-wire win of the year, 83-61, over Auburn. Tennessee (21-5, 12-1 SEC) increased its first-place lead in the conference to a full game over Kentucky (11-2 SEC).

Five Lady Vols scored in double figures, the seventh time this season that has occurred.

Junior Meighan Simmons led Tennessee with 24 points. She also recorded a career-high five steals.

Sophomore Cierra Burdick posted her fourth career double-double and third this season with 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

Senior Taber Spani tallied 16, as she knocked down 4-of-5 from trifecta land.

Freshman Bashaara Graves notched her 23rd game in double figures with 14, in her 26th collegiate game.

Sophomore Ariel Massengale handed out a season-high 10 assists to go along with 10 points for her first career double-double. It marked the third time this year the Lady Vols had a pair of players with double-doubles.

Three-pointers were a huge story for the Lady Vols, as they hit on a season-best nine-of-20.

The win was Tennessee's 15th consecutive at home against the Tigers. The Lady Vols have won every game in Knoxville vs. AU since 1989. All-time the Lady Vols lead the series, 38-10.

Taber Spani ignited Tennessee's offense with deadly 3-point shooting in the first half of the Lady Vols' matchup against Auburn, and Meighan Simmons picked up right where she left off.

Spani, one of two Tennessee seniors, opened the game with a defensive rebound off a missed Auburn jumper and made the first basket for the Lady Vols: a 3-pointer. She finished the first half making 4-of-6 for 11 points and was perfect from beyond the arc, hitting 3-of-3.

"I have to start strong and bring the leadership from the beginning," Spani said. "Everybody on this team has their role, and it's up to me to be the vocal leader and lead by example as we learn and grow as a team."

Spani went off again five minutes into the first and hit her second 3-point shot of the half from the left corner to give the Lady Vols a 10-2 lead, as the forward scored eight of the team's first 10 points. Auburn followed up with a timeout to try and cool Spani down to regain their composure.

Right out of the gate, Simmons hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Auburn was forced to call another timeout. With 13:40 left in the half, Ariel Massengale joined in on the action with a 3-pointer of her own, and Simmons added on another trey following an Auburn jumper to make it 22-5.

"It's so much fun to play with Meighan," Spani said. "She was a great 'energizer bunny' for us tonight. We had a couple of connections out there tonight. We both looked to make the extra pass, so I think that led to good things tonight."

Simmons finished the first half with 13 points and made 3-of-6 from 3-point range. She also contributed three steals in the first half alone.

"I've been trying to let the offense come to me as the game goes and not force it," Simmons said. "But my 3-point shot is such a big part of my game, it has definitely been something I've been working on."

Spani finished the first half in similar fashion to the way she started it. With just under a minute to go, Simmons assisted Spani on another 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Lady Vols a 23-point lead going into the half.

By Ryan Howard

Tennessee began the game on fire, making nine of its first 12 shots, including seven in a row, extending its lead to 22-5. The Lady Vols broke the game open hitting five consecutive 3-pointers in a two-minute span. Simmons knocked down three treys on her own to give the Lady Vols that 17-point advantage.

Spani added two 3-pointers in the first half while Massengale also aided the effort with a three of her own.

The Lady Vols' offense, combined with 14 Auburn miscues in the first half, allowed the Lady Vols to scored 15 points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Tennessee's largest lead of the half was 26 on a Burdick layup with 7:29 left in the first half, making it 33-7.

The Lady Vols led 44-21 at halftime -- their eighth 20-point lead at halftime this season. UT shot 7-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first half -- its most 3-pointers in a half this season. Tennessee made two 3s in the second half, going 2-of-10.

The onslaught continued in the second half, as the lead was never less than 20 points.

Spani's 3-pointer, UT's first in the second half after eight misses to start the period, put the Lady Vols ahead 76-47 with five minutes left. Simmons' 3-pointer with 3:40 left ballooned the lead to 31 at 81-50.

Auburn was led by Tra'Cee Tanner, who had 20 points. Blanche Alverson tallied 15.

The Tigers, who played Tennessee to a close 75-66 decision at Auburn on Jan. 17, stand at 14-12 overall and 3-10 in the SEC.

Tennessee only has three regular-season games remaining. The Lady Vols travel to Arkansas on Sunday for a 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT), match-up on the SEC Network and the Lady Vol Network.

Tennessee closes the regular season with Texas A&M (10-2) at home on Feb. 28 and travels to Kentucky (11-2 SEC) on March 3 in the finale.





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