#12 Tennessee Lady Vols vs. #8 South Carolina
Friday, March 2nd, 2018 | 6:00pm CT
Nashville, TN | Bridgestone Arena | TV: SEC Network
Nashville, TN – No. 12/12-ranked Tennessee (24-6, 11-5 SEC) faces No. 8/8 South Carolina (23-6, 12-4 SEC) in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at 6:00pm CT (7:00pm ET) Friday at Bridgestone Arena.
This will mark UT’s 100th SEC Tournament game, standing at 78-21 entering the contest. Tennessee also will be seeking its 25th win of the campaign, which would mark the 35th such season victory total all-time and the fourth occasion under Holly Warlick.
The Lady Vols, who tied for fourth in the SEC regular-season standings (one game out of second place), slid to a No. 7 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker with No. 4 LSU, No. 5 A&M and No. 6 Missouri. South Carolina tied for second in the standings and earned the No. 2 seed by tiebreaker over UGA.
UT and USC are meeting for the third time this season. Tennessee defeated the Gamecocks in Columbia on January 14th, 86-70, and handled Dawn Staley’s squad, 65-46, in Knoxville on February 25th.
Tennessee has won three straight and seven of its last nine contests. The Lady Vols also have won three in a row over South Carolina, and Holly Warlick‘s record vs. USC now stands at 5-3.
South Carolina last played in its loss in Knoxville to Tennessee. The Gamecocks are 5-3 in their last eight contests. Three-time SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson missed both games vs. UT this season. She was reported to be sidelined by an ankle injury in Columbia and by vertigo for the game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Pam Ward (play-by-play), Gail Goestenkors (analyst) and Steffi Sorensen (reporter) will describe the action for the UT-South Carolina 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 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-USC contest advances to meet either No. 3 seed Georgia (24-5) or No. 6 seed Missouri (24-6at approximately 6:00pm CT (7:00pm ET) in the semifinal round on Saturday (ESPNU).
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 Friday’s game with a 78-21 (.788) all-time record in the 39th year of the SEC Tournament.
UT now is 34-5 in its opening game of the SEC Tournament.
The Lady Vols are 2-0 in SEC tourney play as a No. 7 seed, defeating Arkansas, 68-51, in Jacksonville, FL, on March 3rd, 2016, and beating Auburn, 64-61, on Thursday night.
Tennessee is 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 23-5 in SEC Tournament play since 2007-08.
Holly Warlick has forged a 9-4 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 13-2 record in the facility, winning their past 10 contests there.
Being undefeated the past three trips here 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.
Big Orange Tailgate Tour
The UT Office of Alumni Affairs’ Big Orange Tailgate Tour: Lady Vols Edition is calling 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.
Friday: Lady Vol function runs 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.
The Latest On Tennessee
The Lady Vols have held their last three opponents (Florida, South Carolina, Auburn) to an average of 49.7 points per game.
Tennessee also held those opponents to single-digit point totals in the third quarter, limiting Florida to two, South Carolina to nine and Auburn to nine.
Mercedes Russell‘s 10-for-10 effort at the free throw line vs. Auburn tied an SEC Tournament single-game record. It was the fourth-best all-time by a Lady Vol in any game. She has hit her last 17 free throws in a row, dating back to the Alabama game.
Russell now stands alone with a record 15 double-doubles by a UT senior and is tied with Candace Parker for second-most ever by a Lady Vol behind only Chamique Holdsclaw (57). Russell had a UT junior-record 19 double-doubles a year ago.
Rennia Davis has UT’s highest scoring average over the past three games, putting up 15.0 ppg. Her three-point bank shot with .5 left on the clock vs. Auburn delivered UT a victory in the second round on Thursday night.
The Lady Vols have won the rebounding battle in 25 of 30 games this season, including the last eight games with five of those by double digits.
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’s roster features seven players 6-2 or taller, tying the 2004-05 team as the second tallest in Lady Vol history behind the 2014-15 unit that boasted eight.
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 10 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, Auburn, .419).
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.
Tennessee Notes vs. South Carolina
UT enters Friday’s contest with a 50-6 advantage in the series, including 21-2 in Columbia, 22-2 in Knoxville and 7-2 at neutral sites.
South Carolina had won the last three meetings, including twice in 2014-15, before Tennessee bounced back to win the past three contests.
In UT’s 86-70 win on Jan. 14, the Lady Vols’ point total was the highest by the Orange and White since hitting 86 vs. USC on January 15th, 2004.
Tennessee is 5-2 vs. USC during the postseason and is 1-0 in overtime, taking a 79-73 extra-frame decision over the Gamecocks in the Palmetto State on February 15th, 1996. UT is 3-1 vs. USC in the SEC Tourney.
Since 2010, UT and USC each have won four SEC regular-season titles, with UT winning or sharing in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015 and USC doing so in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Holly Warlick is 5-3 vs. the Gamecocks since taking over as head coach at UT in 2012-13.
After defeating South Carolina, the regular season SEC champs at 14-2, the 13-3 Lady Vols went on to claim the 2014 SEC Tournament title in Duluth, GA.
Warlick picked up the first SEC victory of her head coaching career in Columbia on January 3rd, 2013, as her #12/13 Lady Vols went into Colonial Life Arena and took down #18/15 USC, 73-53.
Tennessee lost to South Carolina, 64-60, on February 2nd, 2012, in Knoxville, but rebounded to defeat USC in the 2012 SEC Tournament semifinals in Nashville, 74-58, en route to its 16th SEC postseason championship.
First 2018 Meeting Between UT And USC
Senior Mercedes Russell recorded a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double to lead No. 6/6 Tennessee to an 86-70 victory over No. 9/8 South Carolina on January 14th, 2018, at Colonial Life Arena.
Jaime Nared added 21 points as the Lady Vols (16-1, 4-1 SEC) bounced back from their first loss of the season with a win over the defending national champions and their second consecutive victory in Columbia. UT was fueled by a balanced attack, with five different players reaching double figures.
Tyasha Harris put on an offensive display for South Carolina (14-3, 3-2 SEC) with a game-high 28 points and four assists. The Gamecocks were able to cut the deficit to four with under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but Tennessee relied on strong defense and timely scoring to end the game on a 16-4 run.
UT’s freshman trio of Evina Westbrook, Rennia Davis and Anastasia Hayes had a strong showing in the second half, combining for 29 points over the final 20 minutes. Westbrook finished with 14 points, including 2-for-2 shooting from behind the arc, as well as a game-high five assists, while Davis and Hayes netted 11 points apiece.
UT/USC Second Meeting In 2018
No. 15/14 Tennessee closed out the regular season on Feb. 25 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).
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.
About South Carolina
USC assistant Jolette Law spent five years on Holly Warlick‘s staff before joining the Gamecocks over the summer. Law is from Florence, SC.
Former Lady Vol Te’a Cooper transferred to South Carolina after last season. She sat out the 2016-17 campaign at Tennessee while rehabbing a knee injury suffered between her freshmen and would-be sophomore seasons.
The Gamecocks feature three active players scoring in double figures, led by A’ja Wilson (22.9). She is joined by Alexis Jennings (11.4) and Tyasha Harris (11.3).
The Gamecocks have key wins over #15/13 Maryland, #14/16 Duke, #22/21 Texas A&M, #11/11 Missouri, #20/19 Georgia and #24 LSU.
Defending NCAA champion South Carolina is coached by U.S. Olympic coach Dawn Staley, who is 244-86 in her 10th year at the school. She is 416-166 in her 18th season overall as a head coach.
USC has won or shared a piece of the last four SEC titles and has claimed the last three tourney crowns.
Season Series Notes vs. USC
The Lady Vols limited South Carolina to .347 shooting from the field the last time these teams played. It was USC’s third-lowest effort this year.
UT allowed USC only nine points in the third quarter while scoring 29 in the last meeting.
Mercedes Russell has averaged 16.0 ppg. and 12.0 rpg. while shooting 68 percent (13-19) vs. South Carolina this season.
Rennia Davis has shot 13 of 25 (52%) vs. USC in two games, averaging 14.5 ppg. and 7.5 rpg.
Russell (16/12) and Davis (18/10) had double-doubles the last time these teams met. Russell (16/12) had one the first meeting as well.
Evina Westbrook has hit 56 percent (10-18) vs. the Gamecocks, averaging 11.0 ppg. and 3.0 apg.
Jaime Nared has averaged 13.5 ppg. and 5.0 rpg. vs. South Carolina this season.
Kortney Dunbar is 3-for-3 on threes in two games.
The Lady Vols had a 48-22 points in the paint edge in the last meeting.
UT has shot 47 percent vs. USC this season while holding the Gamecocks to 38 percent.
UT had 21 offensive boards the last meeting and an 18-8 second-chance-points advantage.
Tennessee Last Time Out (UT 64, AU 61)
Rennia Davis knocked down a three-point shot with .5 seconds remaining to give No. 12 Tennessee a 64-61 victory over Auburn Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena and advance the Lady Vols to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
Jaime Nared led UT in scoring, hitting 17 before a hard fall on a layup attempt eventually sidelined her. Mercedes Russell had 12 points and 15 rebounds to record her 45th career double-double, tying Candace Parker for the second most career double-doubles in Tennessee history behind only Chamique Holdsclaw. She went 10-of-10 from the free throw line, setting a new career high in free throws made and tying an SEC FT pct. record.
Davis and Meme Jackson also scored in double figures for Tennessee (24-6) with 16 and 10, respectively.
Auburn (14-15) was led in scoring by Janiah McKay with 24. Daisa Alexander added 16 for the Tigers.