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#7 Tennessee Lady Vols host Auburn Tigers Thursday

 

#7 Tennessee vs. Auburn

Thursday, January 4th, 2018 | 6:02pm CT
Knoxville, TN | Thompson-Boling Arena

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – Tennessee (13-0, 1-0 SEC) plays its first home game in 25 days and its initial contest of 2018, as Auburn (10-3, 1-0 SEC) comes to Thompson-Boling Arena for an SEC match-up at 6:02pm CT on Thursday.

The last time the Lady Vols appeared in a game on The Summitt, Holly Warlick‘s squad upended #2/4 Texas, 82-75, on December 10th.

UT has gone 3-0 in road games since that victory over the Longhorns, taking care of Long Beach State (90-61) on December 17th, #18/24 Stanford (83-71) on December 21st and Kentucky (63-49) on December 31st.

Tennessee Women's Basketball faces Auburn Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip off is at 6:02pm CT. (Tennessee Athletics)

The Lady Vols will be aiming to go 14-0 for only the fifth occasion in school history and for the first time during the Holly Warlick era.

The last time Tennessee began a season 14-0, the Lady Vols extended the streak to 18 games before finally falling during the 2005-06 season en route to a 31-5 overall record an Elite Eight finish.

Auburn enters Thursday night’s match-up on a seven-game winning streak after defeating Florida at Auburn Arena, 84-55, on Sunday.

The Tigers stood 3-3 on November 26th after losing to Chattanooga, 50-41, in Nashville at the Challenge in Music City, but they have bounced back in strong fashion, going 5-0 at home and 2-0 on the road since that date.

Broadcast Information

Bob Kesling (play-by-play), Andraya Carter (analyst) and Maddie Glab (reporter) will describe the action for the Tennessee-Auburn online broadcast on SECN+ (WatchESPN).

Mickey Dearstone is handling the call for IMG College/Lady Vol Network radio/online broadcasts for the 19th season. A link to the live audio stream can be found on each game’s Hoops Central page or the Lady Vol schedule on UTSports.com.

Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.

Game Promotions/Information

Thursday is Youth Sports Night. For more information on how to bring your youth team, contact 865-946-7000.

High five tunnel for the first 50 kids every game! Pick-up a wristband for the tunnel at section 113 on the concourse.

Free parking & shuttle service from UT’s Ag Campus.

Coming Up On The Schedule

Vanderbilt travels to Knoxville on Sunday to face the Lady Vols at noon. The SEC Network will have the telecast.

After the current two-game home stand, the Lady Vols begin what appears to be their most grueling stretch of the season, playing at #19/19 Texas A&M (January 11th, 6:00pm CT), at #4/5 South Carolina (January 14th, 12:00pm CT), at #2/2 Notre Dame (January 18th, 6:00pm CT) and at home vs. #5/3 Mississippi State (January 21st, 2:00pm CT) during an 11-day span.

Tennessee In SEC Play

UT is 378-64 in SEC regular-season games through the Kentucky game, winning 18 championships and capturing 17 SEC tourney titles.

During the Holly Warlick era, Tennessee is 61-20 in league games, making Warlick the top-ranked active SEC coach in terms of winning percentage in league play at .753 among coaches with at least one season at a school.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley is the next coach behind Warlick at .685 (98-45), followed by UK’s Matthew Mitchell at .646 (102-56).

In only her sixth year as a head coach, Warlick already ranks fourth in total league wins among active SEC coaches and has won regular season titles in 2013 and 2015, and a tourney crown in 2014.

Warlick’s record stands 80-26 in non-conference games.

The Lady Vols in SEC Openers

Tennessee enters the Auburn game 31-4 in first SEC home games of a season. The Lady Vols beat UK last season, 72-65, on January 1st, but have lost two of their last four SEC home openers.

With the win over Kentucky on Sunday, Tennessee improved to 30-6 all-time in SEC openers, including 14-3 on the road and 16-3 at home.

UT now has won four straight SEC openers and has triumphed in its last 11 league lid-lifters that were played on the road.

The Lady Vols now are 28-8 all-time in the first SEC game that is played on the road during a season and 31-4 in the first one played at home.

Tennessee and Kentucky met for the fourth time in an SEC opener, with UT winning all four meetings, including three in Knoxville {January 11th, 1987 (76-64);  January 8th, 2009 (69-64); and January 1st, 2017 (72-65)} and one in Lexington {December 31st, 2017 (63-49) at Rupp Arena}.

The Lady Vols are 5-1 in SEC openers under Holly Warlick, including 2-1 at home and 3-0 on the road.

#12/13 UT won at #18/15 South Carolina in the first SEC opener for Warlick, 73-53, on January 3rd, 2013.

#5/5 UT lost at home to #16/16 LSU (80-77) on January 2nd, 2014; #8/9 Tennessee won at home over Missouri, 63-53, on January 2nd, 2015; #12/11 UT took down #20/RV Missouri in Columbia, 71-55, on January 4th, 2016; the unranked Lady Vols beat  #17/23 Kentucky in Knoxville, 72-65, on January 1st, 2017; and #7/7 UT defeated Kentucky, 63-49, on December 31st, 2017, in Rupp Arena.

Tennessee Reset

At 13-0, the Lady Vols are in the midst of their longest winning streak since reeling off 25 in a row from December 18th, 2010, to March 28, 2011.

UT is one of only four undefeated teams remaining in NCAA Division I basketball. The other squads are Connecticut, Louisville and Mississippi State.

The Big Orange women have won 11 of 13 games by double-digit margins, including by 43 vs. Central Arkansas , 53 vs. Alabama State, 62 vs. Troy, and 29 vs. Long Beach State.

Tennessee opened league play with a 14-point win at Kentucky, UT’s biggest margin of victory over the Cats in Lexington since 2008.

UK’s 49 points in Lexington were the fewest points Tennessee has allowed an SEC opponent on that team’s home court since holding Ole Miss to 49 in Oxford on February 12th, 2015.

UT has led every game this season at the half and has owned a double-digit advantage at the intermission in 10 of 13 contests (Marquette, Texas and Wichita State are the exceptions).

The Lady Vols have allowed only two opponents to score more than 71 points (Marquette – 99, Texas – 75) and a have allowed only one team to shoot better than 40 percent from the field (Marquette, .437).

They’ve scored 100 or more points three times in a season for the first time since doing so in 2010-11. UT hasn’t had more than three 100+ games in a campaign since hitting that mark four times in 2000-01. The Big Orange record for 100-point efforts in a year is seven in 1987-88.

Holly Warlick has started the same five players every game thus far. That quintet includes Jaime Nared and Rennia Davis at the forward positions, Mercedes Russell at center and Evina Westbrook and Meme Jackson at guard.

It’s the longest Tennessee has opened a season with the same starting five since at least the 1977-78 season. Box scores that season and prior do not indicate who started.

In Lady Vol history, the previous long streak for the same starting five reached 11 games in 2007-08, when Pat Summitt chose the same lineup of Candace Parker, Angie Bjorklund, Nicky Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt and Alexis Hornbuckle to report for the opening tip. UT went 10-1 in that span and went on to win the NCAA title with a 34-3 record and the SEC title with a 14-0 mark. In game 12, in the team’s visit to Chicago, Parker missed curfew and didn’t get the starting nod vs. DePaul on January 2nd, 2008.

UT has four players averaging double figures in scoring, including seniors Jaime Nared (17.4) and Mercedes Russell (16.4), and freshmen Rennia Davis (11.8) and Anastasia Hayes (11.7). Another first-year performer, Evina Westbrook, is knocking on the door at 9.8 ppg. 

Russell and Nared have led Tennessee in scoring five times each, while Hayes has done so twice, and Davis, Meme Jackson and Evina Westbrook once each.

Russell has scored in double figures in every game, while Nared has done so 11 times, Hayes 10 times, and Davis and Westbrook on seven and six occasions, respectively.

Tennessee has outscored its opponents in the points-in-the-paint category in 11 of 13 games, averaging a 42.9 to 29.5 difference.

The Lady Vols bested their foes in second chance points 10 times and tied another time. UT averages 15.8 second chance points, while its opponents tally 10.5.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Jaime Nared has averaged 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.8 steals over her past four games. She has hit 34 of 40 free throws for 85.0 percent.

Nared has tallied double-doubles in three of her last four games.

Evina Westbrook has averaged 15.8 ppg., 3.3 rpg., 3.3 apg., 1.3 bpg. and 1.0 spg. over the last four contests, hitting 52.4 percent from the field (22-42), 44 percent from the three-point arc (8 of 18) and 73 percent from the free throw line (11 of 15).

Westbrook has scored 15, 14, 17 and 17 points during that span, her longest streak of double-figures scoring this season.

Mercedes Russell has three double-doubles in her last four games, averaging 14.0 points and 9.8 rebounds.

Reserve guard Anastasia Hayes has hit 54 percent of her field goal attempts (13-24) and 77 percent of free throws (13 of 17) over the past four outings.

Tennessee has outscored its opponents 85 to 35 at the free throw line, getting 58 more shots there the past four contests (111-53). UT has hit at a 77 percent clip.

Meme Jackson is seven of 15 (46.7 percent) from the three-point arc over her last four games and has recorded a team-low four turnovers among regulars during that time frame.

Tennessee has outscored opponents 92-48 in the first quarter over the past four contests.

Best Starts

  • Tennessee has recorded its best start since 2005-06 and has one of the top five opening efforts in school history.
  • 1997-98: 39-0 (NCAA Champs/SEC Champs)
  • 2005-06: 18-0 (Elite Eight/SEC Runner-up)
  • 1994-95: 16-0 (NCAA Runner-up/SEC Champs)
  • 1993-94: 14-0 (Sweet 16/SEC Champs)
  • 2017-18: 13-0 (TBD)

UT Statistical Nuggets

Tennessee ranks No. 12 nationally and leads the SEC, pulling down 49.9 rebounds per game, with Jaime Nared (9.0), Mercedes Russell (8.7) and Rennia Davis (8.4) setting the tone.

As a note, UT’s school record for season rebound average is 46.9, set in 1992-93.

The team is No. 2 nationally in defensive rebounds per game, grabbing 35.

The Big Orange women have won the battle of the boards in every game but one (Stanford), forging a +12.7 advantage on the glass that ranks No. 6 nationally.

The squad from Rocky Top has shot a higher percentage than 12 of 13 opponents (not Marquette) and stands at 47.6 for the season. That rate ranks Tennessee No. 16 nationally and third in the SEC.

Mercedes Russell continues to shoot at an very high percentage, connecting on 63.8 percent of her shots (88 of 138). She ranks No. 9 nationally and second in the SEC.

The Lady Vols are No. 1 in the NCAA in free throws attempted (354) and No. 1 in free throws made (252).

Anastasia Hayes ranks No. 18 in free throw attempts (91) and No. 25 in free throws made (67), while Jaime Nared ranks No. 27 (85) and No. 21 (69) in those categories.

The Lady Vols are No. 10 in scoring margin (25.5) and No. 12 in scoring offense (86.4).

That per game average would rank fourth best in UT annals if the season ended today.

Tennessee ranks No. 2 in three-point field goal defense (22.9 percent).

The Lady Vols are shooting 47.6 from the field this season, ranking No. 16 nationally, and holding opponents to .336, which is ninth.

Getting Off To A Great Start

Tennessee has made a habit of getting off to great starts. A 308-162 first quarter tally over opponents backs that up.

UT shot out to a 10-0 lead on Kentucky and ended the first period up, 26-7.

Holly Warlick‘s squad surged to a 21-9 first quarter lead over Stanford en route to a 23-14 edge after the opening 10 minutes.

UT burst ahead 22-7 en route to a 27-16 first quarter advantage over Long Beach State.

The Lady Vols got out to 6-0 and 12-2 leads early against Texas.

The Lady Vols bolted to a 12-0 advantage against Troy, leading to a 34-15 first quarter score vs. the Trojans.

UT started the previous game 12-0 vs. Alabama State en route to a 30-12 first quarter, followed by a 31-14 second stanza on Dec. 3. The 31 was (then) the fourth-highest point total in a quarter in school history.

The Big Orange posted a 22-8 first quarter vs. Central Arkansas.

UT went up 10-0 to open the Marquette game.

The Lady Vols were up 6-0 on Oklahoma State en route to a 24-10 first quarter lead.

The Big Orange burst out to a 7-0 advantage over South Dakota en route to a 24-9 first quarter.

Series Notes vs. Auburn

Tennessee holds a 41-11 all-time record vs. Auburn, dating back to Feb. 9, 1980, and has won 25 of the past 28 games in the series.

The Lady Vols had won nine in a row in the series before dropping a 79-61 decision at Auburn last season on Jan. 19, 2017.

The Lady Vols are 20-2 in games held in Knoxville, 13-5 in games played at Auburn and 8-4 at neutral sites.

UT is 2-0 vs. AU in overtime games, winning extra-frame contests in Knoxville vs. the Tigers in 1996 and 2004.

Auburn has managed to claim only two victories in Knoxville, with those coming on Jan. 9, 1988 (#2/3 AU def. #4/4 UT, 71-68) and Feb. 8, 1986 (#11/13 AU def. #10/12 UT, 66-60), meaning it’s been 29 years and 17-straight UT home wins since it last occurred.

Tennessee has won in 13 of its last 15 trips to The Plains.

Tennessee has limited Auburn to 66 points or fewer in nine of the last 10 times they’ve met and to 61 or less on seven of those occasions.

Chamique Holdsclaw scored a career-high 39 points vs. the Tigers on Feb. 14, 1998, marking the sixth-highest point total in Lady Vol history.

Tennessee and Auburn played for the 1989 NCAA Championship in Tacoma, Wash., with the Lady Vols prevailing, 76-60.

Tennessee also beat the Tigers in regional finals in 1987 and 1991 en route to NCAA Final Fours they would end up winning.

UT and AU four times played for SEC Tournament titles from 1985 to 1990, with the Lady Vols winning three of those.

The Last Meeting Between UT & AU

Mercedes Russell scored a career-high 26 points and logged her 11th double-double of the season, but Tennessee fell to Auburn, 79-61, on January 19th, 2017, at Auburn Arena.

Tennessee (11-7, 2-3 SEC) committed 22 turnovers in the loss. Auburn (14-5, 4-1 SEC) scored 33 points off turnovers and surged in the second and third quarters to take control of the game.

Russell was 11-of-14 from the floor and collected 11 rebounds. Diamond DeShields was close to pulling off a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Jaime Nared added 12 points.

Janiah McKay scored a career-high 29 points, including a 3-for-3 effort from 3-point range, to lead Auburn. Katie Frerking added 22 points and seven boards.

Tennessee opened the game with a 14-0 run, holding the Tigers scoreless for the first five minutes of the game. The Lady Vols made five of their first six shots. Russell led the way in the first quarter with 11 points and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor as UT took a 25-10 lead to the second. DeShields also had a strong start with eight points and four of UT’s eight assists in the opening quarter.

Auburn responded with a 13-0 run to open the second quarter with McKay accounting for eight points during that stretch. Brandy Montgomery made a layup with 5:30 left in the first half to knot the game at 26-26. Frerking made a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer to give the Tigers a 38-36 lead at the half.

Last Time In Knoxville For UT & AU

Diamond DeShields scored 25 points, Bashaara Graves added 18 points and Mercedes Russell posted a double-double to lead No. 12/11 Tennessee to a 79-52 win over Auburn on Jan. 10, 2016, the last time these teams met at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Lady Vols (11-4, 2-1 SEC) dominated the paint, outscoring Auburn (11-5, 1-2 SEC), 48-26, down low. UT also enjoyed a 42-30 rebounding edge.

DeShields enjoyed a great all-around game, going 9-of-14 from the floor and contributing seven assists and six rebounds.

Graves scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half and shot an efficient 8-of-9 on the day.

Russell scored 10 points and hauled down 13 rebounds to post her fifth double-double on the year.

Tennessee’s bench contributed 22 points in the win. Alexa Middleton had eight points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench and Jordan Reynolds had four points, four rebounds and five assists.

Tra’Cee Tanner paced Auburn with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Brandy Montgomery had 11 points and Janiah McKay added 10 points.

Auburn Reset

Auburn has hit its stride, winning its last seven games in a row, all of them by double digits.

The Tigers are holding opponents to 51.5 points per game and are carding 15.1 steals per game.

AU’s defense is allowing only 46.5 shots.

Junior Janiah McKay leads the way, averaging 16.0 points, 5.0 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 steals.

Sophomore guard Daisa Alexander (13.5) and freshman forward Unique Thompson (11.3) also score in double figures for Auburn.

McKay (25 points), Alexander (21 points) and Thompson ( 12 rebounds) paced the Tigers vs. UF.

AU returned nine letterwinners and three starters from last season’s squad, which finished 17-15 overall and 7-9 in the SEC, good for a tie for eighth.

The Tigers earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament, falling to N.C. State in the first round, 62-48.

Auburn was picked 10th by the media and 11th by the coaches in the preseason polls.

AU is led by head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who is 97-79 in her sixth year at Auburn and 241-183 overall in her 14th season.

Auburn Last Time Out (AU 84, UF 55)

Janiah McKay had 25 points, Daisa Alexander had 21, and Auburn outscored Florida 49-19 in the second half to earn an 84-55 win in the SEC opener for both teams Sunday at Auburn Arena.

The Tigers (10-3, 1-0 SEC) overcame a 16-point first-quarter deficit, thanks in large part to forcing the Gators (8-6, 0-1) into 28 turnovers, converting those into 33 points.

Auburn tied a school record for fewest turnovers in a game with five and held the SEC’s top 3-point shooting team to just six treys while tying a season high with eight 3-pointers of their own.

Auburn matched its record-high for points in a quarter in an SEC game, outscoring the Gators 30-4 in the final period; Florida made its last field goal with 8:19 to play. From the point where Auburn trailed 18-2 in the first quarter, the Tigers outscored Florida 82-37 over the final 33 minutes.

Auburn shot 38.6 percent for the day, but after missing the first 17 shots, the Tigers were 32-of-66 (48.4%). The Tigers hit 20-of-39 shots (51.3%) in the second half while holding the Gators to just 6-of-20 (30%) in the final 20 minutes. Auburn was 32-of-83 on the day while Florida was 18-of-45.

Tennessee Last Time Out (UT 63, UK 49)

No. 7/7 Tennessee improved to 13-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC on Sunday, defeating Kentucky (8-7, 0-1 SEC) 63-49 in front of a crowd of 8,921 at Rupp Arena.

The victory was UT’s first in the venue in three tries. The Big Orange women lost to the Wildcats during the 2005-06 season and fell to USC here in the 1986 NCAA Final Four semifinals. The triumph was only the third in Tennessee’s last seven trips to the Bluegrass.

The Lady Vols, who improved to 55-11 in the all-time series, were led in scoring by freshman Evina Westbrook who notched 17 points, tying her career high. Senior Jaime Nared recorded her sixth double-double of the season, contributing 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Fellow senior Mercedes Russell added 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots, while freshman Rennia Davis just missed a double-double with 11 rebounds and nine points.

Maci Morris was Kentucky’s high-scorer with 18 points. She was the only Wildcat in double figures, as Tennessee held UK to 30.3 percent shooting for the game. The Lady Vols now have held 12 of 13 foes this season under 40 percent from the field (Marquette, .437, is the only one to shoot better than 40 percent).

Evina Westbrook and Meme Jackson set the tone early for the Lady Vols, each knocking down threes for Tennessee’s first two buckets of the game. Kentucky started the game cold, going 0-of-6 from the field.  The Wildcats scored their first points off a Morris jumper with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter to end a 10-0 run by Tennessee.  Jackson and Westbrook combined for three additional treys before the end of the quarter to help build a 19-point lead and head into the second stanza up 26-7.


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