Tennessee Athletic Department
Knoxville, TN – A late run by Tennessee helped give the Lady Vols a 74-70 victory over the Florida Gators on Senior Night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Mercedes Russell led UT’s offense, getting her 16th double-double of the season, with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Diamond DeShields just missed a triple-double, posting 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high nine assists.
UT got a late push of momentum in the fourth quarter to come back from a seven-point deficit. Over the last 2:57 in the contest, Tennessee (18-10, 9-6 SEC) went on a 13-2 run, starting with a layup by Alexa Middleton. She brought energy to the offense in the second half, finishing with 15 points and converting a trio of 3-pointers.A pair of free throws by senior Schaquilla Nunn sealed the victory for the Lady Vols with two seconds remaining to put the game out of reach.
UT caught fire from the charity stripe in the fourth period, converting on 12 of 16 shots from the line.
Ronni Williams kept Florida (13-15, 4-11 SEC) alive, scoring 22 points and grabbing nine rebounds throughout the competition. The Gators finished on a 1-of-9 shooting slump to end the game.
The Lady Volunteers had a slow start in the first quarter with an 8-0 drought against Florida. Jaime Nared put UT on the board with two free throws after 4:29 minutes of play. Russell posted eight points to fuel Tennessee’s offense.
The Lady Vols picked up momentum in the second quarter with a 16-6 run, giving them their first lead of the game. Nared and Russell led the UT offense with 16 points combined in the first half, as Tennessee took a 35-32 advantage into intermission.
The second half went back-and-forth, but a late push gave the Lady Vols the win on Senior Night in front of a crowd of 9,968.
“Florida was outstanding. Their record is not an indication of how good their team is. Ronni Williams is just a special kid. She keeps getting better and better, so personally, I’m glad she’s a senior. I was glad to give her those flowers before the game today, knowing she was going to be gone after tonight,” stated Head Coach Holly Warlick.
“Our team found a way to win. I thought in the first quarter we were getting good looks, but they just weren’t dropping. We were giving them second-chance points, so it was a battle. We tried man, we tried zone, we tried press, and so we decided to just bring it on with about four minutes to go. We hit some big free throws, which is good because we’ve been really focusing on those,” said Warlick.
“It all started with our defensive stops and getting defensive rebounds. I loved the fight in our kids at the end, and we have to make sure that carries into the next game,” Warlick stated.
Mercedes Russell led UT’s offense, getting her 16th double-double of the season. She finished the day with 17 points and 10 rebounds, passing Chamique Holdsclaw for the second-most double-doubles by a junior in Tennessee history. Diamond DeShields just missed a triple-double, posting 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high nine assists. It marked her fifth double-double of the season and eight of her career.
Closing Out With Another Win At Home
Tennessee won for the 13th time at home this season. The 13-3 record boosts UT’s all-time mark in Thompson-Boling Arena to 428-35 in 30 seasons here for a .924 winning percentage. That’s an average of only 1.2 losses per season during that span.
Next Up for UT Lady Vols
Tennessee hits the road on Sunday to close out the regular season against No. 3 Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum. That game will tip off at 4:00pm CT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.