#13/15 UT Rolls Rutgers For 1,200th Win

Dec. 30, 2012

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee beat Rutgers for the ninth time in a row, as the Lady Vols used tenacious defense on the way to a 66-47 victory on Sunday afternoon. The victory was the 1,200th in the illustrious history of Lady Vol basketball, the most of any women's basketball program in the nation. UT is now 1,200-268 (.817) all-time in its 68th season.

The Lady Vols (9-3) jumped ahead early and led wire-to-wire with their second convincing win in a row. Tennessee had a double-figure lead for the final 33 minutes

Tennessee limited the Scarlet Knights (8-4) to just 34.6 percent from the floor in the game, including 22.2 percent in the first half.

Sophomore Isabelle Harrison tied her career high with 18 points. She grabbed 11 rebounds for her fourth career double-double.

Harrison also had a career-high six steals, the most by a Lady Vol since Alicia Manning had six vs. Old Dominion last season.

Freshman Bashaara Graves hauled down a career-high 14 rebounds to go with 11 points for her sixth double-double of the season -- tying for the most among any player in the SEC this season.

Junior Meighan Simmons added 15 points.

Tennessee has responded with back-to-back efforts that have pleased head coach Holly Warlick and her staff after dropping consecutive games to No. 3 Baylor and No. 1 Stanford. Combined with the 75-40 win over Davidson on Friday, the Lady Vols have outscored opponents 141-87, a margin of 27 points per game.

Five minutes into the contest and up, 4-0, Tennessee forced two steals on two defensive possessions in a row and turned both into unconventional fast-break baskets in the middle of an 18-4 run over the first ten minutes of the game.

"You just have to put in extra effort on defense," Isabelle Harrison said. "I love defense, so I try to do whatever helps get the team going on the defensive end."

Meighan Simmons made an aggressive move to come up with the first steal. She broke down the court side-by-side with one Rutgers defender. As she made her move to the basket, she almost lost the ball but managed to turn it into a behind-the-back spin move to shake the defender. Then, she converted an impressive fadeaway hook shot.

"I saw her getting ready to come across me," Simmons said. "I usually just put the ball behind my back, but it just kind of slipped out of my hands. I'm just glad I was able to recover and get the basket to go in."

After Simmons' basket, Harrison, who finished with six steals, forced UT's second steal. She quickly fed the ball to Ariel Massengale, who quickly brought it up the court and passed the ball to a cutting Harrison, who missed a layup. However, Bashaara Graves grabbed the offensive rebound and converted a contested layup to give the Lady Vols an 8-0 lead.

"Coming out of the holiday break, we stressed defensive boards and the guards setting the tempo," Taber Spani said. "We did a good job of getting up and guarding their point guard, which dictates our entire defense. But everything starts with that tempo and that mindset."

- Ryan Howard

After holding a 20-point halftime lead, the Lady Vols continued to stand stout in the second half on both ends of the court.

Taber Spani's 3-pointer with 14:16 left in the game ballooned the lead to 26 at 44-18. The margin moved to 28 on a Simmons fastbreak jumper, 48-20. That was the largest lead of the game for the Lady Vols. The closest Rutgers got in the final 10 minutes was 18.

Rutgers was led by Kahleah Cooper, who tallied 13 points before fouling out with 3:24 left in regulation. The Scarlet Knights were hampered by the loss of Monique Oliver, their season leader in scoring and rebounding, who suffered a right ankle injury in the first half.

The 47 points were the second-fewest Rutgers has scored in the 22-game series between the teams that dates to 1979. The all-time low of 46 came in the 2007 National Championship game when UT beat Rutgers, 59-46.

Tennessee dominated on both ends throughout the first half, building a 33-13 lead at halftime. The Lady Vols shot 45.2 from the floor and limited Rutgers to 22.2 as the Scarlet Knights didn't make a 3-pointer (0-of-6). UT also forced Rutgers into 14 turnovers, as Harrison had four of the Lady Vols' eight steals.

It was sixth time this season the Lady Vols held an opponent to less than 25 percent from the floor in a half.

In allowing just 13 points, the Lady Vols had their best defensive effort in a first half this season. Twice last year UT limited foes to 13 points at intermission.

The Lady Vols opened the game scoring the first eight points, as UT shut out the Scarlet Knights for nearly six minutes before Shakena Richardson knocked home a jumper.

Tennessee took control of the game early, building an 18-4 lead midway through the first half thanks to a parade of layups. The Lady Vols had 14 of their first 18 points in the paint.

The lead expanded to 17 at 25-8 on a Simmons 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the first half. Another Simmons trey pushed the lead to 33-13 with just over a minute left in the half.

Tennessee opens its SEC schedule on Thursday at #19/16 South Carolina in Columbia. That game airs on SportSouth and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network with a 9 p.m. tip-off.

The Lady Vols' final non-conference game of the season comes against #5 Notre Dame on Jan. 28 in Knoxville.





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