Nov. 15, 2011
KNOXVILLE - Junior Taber Spani hit a game-high four three-pointers, but none bigger than the one she drained from the top of the key as the shot clock expired with 6:36 remaining in the game.
The swish ignited an 11-0 Tennessee run and ultimately helped lift the No. 3 Tennessee women's basketball team (2-0) to a 92-76 victory over No. 7 Miami (1-1) on Tuesday evening at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The pair of top ten teams were tied, 42-42, at halftime before Tennessee scored the second half's first nine points and 18 of the first 22 to take a 60-46 lead.
"I think it was once again us picking up our defense and just really focusing on crashing the boards," senior Glory Johnson said. "They were hitting shots, and they weren't missing really in the first half. We were hitting shots, so something's got to change, so we've got to pick up our rebounding. They were out-rebounding us. Ultimately they ended up out-rebounding us, but once we picked up our defense, that changed a lot of things."
But the Hurricanes came storming back, eventually getting as close as 73-68. That's when Spani saved her best for her last shot.
"I think she's more comfortable with our system," associate head coach Holly Warlick said of Spani. "I think she's more comfortable just in her total game, and I think that happens when you do that in the summer and put a lot of time and effort in your game and work on fundamentals. I think that's what Taber did. You're seeing her with a lot more confidence. We're putting her in situations where she thrives. She hit big threes for us, and she's answering. She's answering anything we ask her to do."
After her three-pointer, the Lady Vols forced a shot clock violation on the other end, and freshman Isabelle Harrison scored her first points of the evening off of on an offensive rebound.
Tennessee went on to score 19 of the game's final 27 points to notch its second win in as many tries this season.
"It certainly felt like a March game in November," head coach Pat Summitt said. "It was amazing...what intensity. I'm proud how our team responded. Obviously, this Miami team was really, really good and we knew that going in. Overall, I was very pleased. Anytime we put anyone in, they were talking - on the court, in the huddles. Everyone was focused."
After Miami's Riquna Williams went off for 17 first-half points, UT limited her to just seven in the second. Although she finished with a game-high 24 points, the Lady Vols made her use 28 shot attempts to get there.
Tennessee had five players in double-figures. Joining Spani were Meighan Simmons (18), Johnson (16), Shekinna Stricklen (15) and Ariel Massengale (11). Johnson also chipped in a team-high nine rebounds, while Massengale led the game with the second-highest assist total by a UT freshman all-time with nine.
In the first half, it was the Hurricanes that got off to a strong start. After Baugh scored the game's opening bucket on a layup, Miami went on a 10-2 run for its largest lead of the contest, 10-4.
The Hurricanes made four of their first six three-point attempts, and led until a try from Simmons put the Lady Vols back ahead, 18-16, with 13:41 left in the first half.
After UM's Stefanie Yderstorm responded with a three-pointer of her own complemented by a Krystal Saunders layup, the Lady Vols scored eight consecutive points to take a 26-21 lead with 10:21 left in the first half and would not trail again.
UT matched its biggest lead of the first 20 minutes, 38-31, on a jumper from Spani, who led the team with 13 first-half points. UM closed the first half with an 11-4 run to tie the score, 42-42.
The Lady Vols return to action Sunday, Nov. 20, when they travel to Virginia to take on the Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena. UT's first road game is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.