#12 Tennessee Lady Vols vs. Auburn Tigers
Thursday, March 1st, 2018 | 6:00pm CT
Nashville, TN | Bridgestone Arena | TV: SEC Network
Knoxville, TN – No. 12/12-ranked Tennessee (23-6, 11-5 SEC) opens play in the 2018 SEC Tournament at 6:00pm Central time (7:00pm ET) Thursday, facing off against Auburn (14-14, 5-11 SEC) at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville.
The Lady Vols, who tied for fourth in the SEC regular-season standings, fell to a No. 7 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker with No. 4 LSU, No. 5 A&M and No. 6 Missouri. Auburn finished 10th in the standings and earned the No. 10 seed.
UT and AU are meeting for the second time this season. Tennessee defeated the Tigers, 70-59, in Knoxville on January 4th in the teams’ second league contest.
Tennessee comes to Nashville on a two-game winning streak and as the victor in six of its last eight contests after taking down #7/6 South Carolina in Knoxville on Sunday, 65-46.
The victory was UT’s third in a row over the Gamecocks and upped Holly Warlick‘s record to 5-3 vs. USC.
Auburn, meanwhile, is 3-3 in its last six games and ended a three-game losing skid with a 60-55 home victory over Ole Miss on Sunday.
Pam Ward (play-by-play), Gail Goestenkors (analyst) and Steffi Sorensen (reporter) will describe the action for the UT-Auburn television broadcast on the SEC Network.
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.
Also available is the SEC Radio Network broadcast via Sirius 138/XM 190/App Channel 966. (Champ. game on ESPN XTRA Channel 81 – all services).
Next Stops On The Tour
The winner of the UT-AU contest advances to meet #8/8 South Carolina, the No. 2 seed, at 6:00pm CT (7:00pm ET) in the quarterfinal round on Friday.
Selection Monday for the NCAA Women’s Tournament is on March 12th (7:00pm, ESPN).
UT is in the hunt to potentially host NCAA First and Second Round games March 16th-19th.
Tennessee In The SEC Tournament
Tennessee enters Thursday’s game with a 77-21 (.786) all-time record in the previous 38 years of the SEC Tournament.
UT is 33-5 in its opening game of the SEC Tournament, winning its debut contest 23 years in a row before falling in the 2017 second round to Alabama in Greenville, SC, 72-64, on March 2nd.
The Lady Vols are 1-0 in SEC tourney play as a No. 7 seed, defeating Arkansas, 68-51, in Jacksonville, FL, on March 3rd, 2016.
Tennessee will be seeking to capture its league-leading 18th SEC championship trophy. UT was victorious in 1980, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.
The Lady Vols were runners-up on six occasions, including 1982, 1990, 1991, 1995, 2003 and 2015.
UT has advanced to the title game in two of the past four seasons, winning in 2014 as a #2 seed, 71-70, over #4 Kentucky and falling as a #2 seed to #1 South Carolina, 62-46, in 2015.
The Big Orange women are 22-5 in SEC Tournament play since 2007-08.
Holly Warlick has forged an 8-4 record in SEC Tournament games as a head coach, including 1-1 in title games.
Isabelle Harrison (2014), Glory Johnson (2012), Shekinna Stricklen (2011) and Alyssia Brewer (2010) were the past four MVPs from Tennessee.
Current assistant coach Bridgette Gordon was a two-time SEC All-Tournament selection (1988, 1989), claiming MVP honors in 1989.
UT head coach Holly Warlick was a senior point guard on the Lady Vol team that won the very first SEC Tournament title in 1980, defeating Ole Miss, 85-71, at Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville.
This marks the sixth time the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament is being held in Nashville.
Music City previously hosted the tourney in 2002, 2004, 2008, 2011 and 2012 at the same venue (previously the Nashville Arena, Gaylord Entertainment Center, Sommet Center) albeit with different names than the current Bridgestone Arena.
The Lady Vols own a 12-2 record in the facility, winning their past nine contests there.
Being undefeated the past three trips there means the Lady Vols were the SEC Tournament champions in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
UT reached the semifinals in 2002 and 2004.
As an assistant then, Holly Warlick had a larger role in 2012 as floor coach assisting Pat Summitt, who had announced she was battling dementia, Alzheimer’s type, prior to the start of the season.
Mid-State Kids Shine For UT
Tennessee has always had a strong presence on its roster from the mid-state area of Tennessee, and this season is no different.
Jackson has started all 29 games for the Lady Vols and is averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds, and is the team’s leader in three-pointers with 43.
Hayes, meanwhile, is the team’s top reserve, averaging 9.1 points, 3.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds. She was named the SEC 6th Woman of the Year.
Where We Started, Where We Are
UT was predicted to finish fourth in the SEC by the media and fifth by the coaches. The Lady Vols tied for fourth this season.
Tennessee opened the season ranked No. 11 in the AP Poll and No. 14 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll. The Lady Vols are currently No. 12/12.
UT had lost two starters and three other players with starting experience from last year’s team.
Holly Warlick returned five players from a year ago, but only three with extensive minutes.
Tennessee was coming off 22-14/8-8 SEC and 20-12/10-6 SEC records with league finishes of seventh and fifth, respectively, the past two years.
The Lady Vols entered last season’s SEC Tournament looking for win 20. This time they are 23-6.
Big Orange Tailgate Tour
The UT Office of Alumni Affairs’ Big Orange Tailgate Tour: Lady Vols Edition will roll into Nashville and call The George Jones, located at 128 2nd Avenue North, its official UT Alumni and Lady Vol headquarters for the SEC Tournament.
All UT alumni and Lady Vols fans in orange and white will receive 10% off any regular priced menu item at the George Jones, which will offer a handful of “Big Orange” themed menu items throughout the weekend. The UT band and spirit squads are slated to make appearances.
Thursday: Informal pregame gathering from 3:30pm to 5:00pm CT.
Friday: If Lady Vols win Thursday, official gathering runs from 3:00pm to 5:00pm.
Saturday: If Lady Vols win Friday, official gathering runs from 1:30pm-3:30pm.
Sunday: If Lady Vols win Saturday, official gathering runs from 12:30pm-2:30pm.
Latest on Tennessee
The Lady Vols have held their last two opponents (Florida, South Carolina) to an average of 44.0 points per game.
Tennessee held the Gamecocks to a season-low 46 points and forced USC into a season-worst 21 turnovers.
The Lady Vols also limited South Carolina to .347 shooting from the field, the Garnet & Black’s third-lowest of the season behind .323 vs. UConn and .345 vs. Missouri.
UT allowed South Carolina only nine points in the third quarter while scoring 29.
UT surrendered only two points to Florida in the third quarter (while scoring 24), the second fewest allowed in school history in a period and the fewest vs. an SEC foe.
Mercedes Russell needs a double-double to give her 15 for the season and stand alone for the most by a Lady Vol in a senior season. She is tied at 14 with Glory Johnson, Lisa Harrison and Shelia Collins.
The next double-double by Russell would be the 45th of her career, tying her with Candace Parker (45) for second all-time by a Lady Vol. Chamique Holdsclaw is first with 57.
Rennia Davis posted the eighth double-double of her rookie season vs. South Carolina, the sixth most of any UT freshman.
Ahead of Davis are Chamique Holdsclaw (16), Sheila Frost (11), Bashaara Graves (10), Candace Parker (10) and Tamika Catchings (9).
Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell have been included as members of the Wade Trophy Award Midseason Watch List and Citizen Naismith Trophy Late Season Watch List. Nared is among the top 10 for the Cheryl Miller Awards, while Nared is in the same company for the Lisa Leslie Award.
Mercedes Russell surpassed the 1,000-rebound mark vs. Georgia and the 1,500-point mark against Alabama, becoming only the sixth Lady Vol to reach 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. The others in that club are Chamique Holdsclaw, Glory Johnson, Bashaara Graves, Sheila Frost and Tamika Catchings.
UT has led 24 of 29 games this season at the half. UT trailed Mississippi State by 13, Missouri by six, Alabama by five and South Carolina (home) by five, and was tied vs. Auburn.
The Lady Vols have allowed seven opponents to score more than 72 points (Marquette – 99, Texas – 75, Vandy – 73, A&M – 79, Notre Dame – 84, Arkansas – 85, Missouri – 77) and have allowed only nine teams to shoot better than 41 percent from the field (Missouri, .556; Vanderbilt in Knoxville, .491; Texas A&M in Knoxville, .484; Notre Dame, .478; Arkansas, .477; Vanderbilt, .469; Marquette, .437; Miss. State, .418; Alabama, .426).
When UT has more fouls than its opponent, the Lady Vols are 2-4, losing to Texas A&M, Notre Dame, LSU and Missouri, and beating Marquette in OT and winning by 14 at Kentucky.
Series Notes vs. Auburn
Tennessee holds a 42-11 all-time record vs. Auburn, dating back to February 9th, 1980, and has won 26 of the past 29 games in the series.
The Lady Vols are 21-2 vs. the Tigers 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.
Tennessee has limited Auburn to 66 points or fewer 10 of the last 11 times they’ve met and to 61 or less on eight of those occasions.
This marks the 14th meeting between these schools in SEC Tournament play, with UT holding a 9-4 record in previous match-ups.
Auburn won the last meeting in tourney play, 78-58 in the 2009 semifinals in North Little Rock.
UT and AU four times played for SEC Tournament titles from 1985 to 1990, with the Lady Vols winning three of those (1985, 1988, 1989).
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.
Auburn has managed to claim only two victories in Knoxville, with those coming on January 9th, 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 30 years and 18-straight UT home wins since it last occurred.
Tennessee has won in 13 of its last 15 trips to The Plains.
Last Meeting Between UT and AU
Senior Jaime Nared recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 7/7 Tennessee to a 70-59 victory over Auburn (10-4, 1-1 SEC) on January 4th, 2018, at Thompson-Boling Arena. The win snapped a seven-game win streak for the Tigers and moved Tennessee to 14-0 for only the fifth time in school history.
Freshman Evina Westbrook chipped in a career-high 18 points and a game-high six assists, while senior Mercedes Russell added 10 points and four blocks on the night for Tennessee as the Lady Vols improved to 8-0 at home this season.
Daisa Alexander paced Auburn in scoring with 16 points, while Tiffany Lewis and Janiah McKay each added 10.
After a largely back-and-forth affair that included 16 lead changes, the Lady Vols (14-0, 2-0 SEC) ended the game on a 19-4 run, and overcome a season-high 28 turnovers to earn the win. With the victory, UT improved to 14-0 for the first time since the 2005-06 season when it won its first 18 games.
Auburn is led by Janiah McKay, who averages 16.3 points and 4.5 assists per contest.
McKay has been to the free throw line 154 times and hit on 128 occasions for .831 accuracy.
SEC All-Defensive Team member Daisa Alexander chips in 14.1 points, with many of those coming via her 41 three-pointers made. She has 74 steals this season as well.
SEC All-Freshman Team member Unique Thompson is the Tigers’ other double-figure scorer at 11.8 per game. She paces the team with 8.7 rebounds per contest.
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 2017 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 2017-18 preseason polls.
AU is led by head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who is 102-90 in her sixth year at Auburn and 245-194 overall in her 14th season.
Auburn Last Time Out (AU 60, UM 55)
Daisa Alexander led all scorers with 21 points, and Auburn sent its five seniors out in style with a 60-55 victory over Ole Miss on Sunday at Auburn Arena.
It was the fifth win in six years on Senior Day for Auburn (14-14, 5-11 SEC), which picked up its 11th home victory of the season and secured a winning SEC record at home for the second time in three seasons.
Alexander topped the 20-point mark for the sixth time this season on 7-of-12 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 day from beyond the 3-point arc. She also had three steals in the game. Unique Thompson added 15 points and nine rebounds, and Janiah McKay scored 12 points and had a game-high six assists.
The Tigers forced Ole Miss into 25 turnovers that turned into 22 Auburn points. It marks the 10th time this season for Auburn to force 25 or more opponent turnovers; the Tigers are 8-2 in those games. Auburn shot 40 percent (20-of-50) for the game and 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from 3-point range.
Tennessee Last Time Out (UT 65, USC 46)
No. 15/14 Tennessee closed out the regular season Sunday with a 65-46 victory over No. 7/6 South Carolina in front of a crowd of 13,058 on senior day at Thompson-Boling Arena.
After a pregame ceremony that celebrated their tremendous careers in orange and white, Mercedes Russell, Jaime Nared and Kortney Dunbar helped lead the Lady Vols (23-6, 11-5 SEC) to their third consecutive win against the Gamecocks (23-6, 12-4 SEC).
Russell recorded a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Rennia Davis added 18 points and 10 boards for UT. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan led South Carolina with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
After a slow start on the offensive end, Tennessee opened the second half with a 14-0 run and grabbed all momentum. The Lady Vols overcame a 10-point second quarter deficit on Sunday, which was their largest comeback in any win this year.
Meme Jackson finished with 10 points and two blocks, while Evina Westbrook added eight points and Nared chipped in six with five boards. Doniyah Cliney netted 14 for the Gamecocks including a pair of 3-pointers.