Lady Vols win by 15 over Georgia
Jan 06, 2014 | 301 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tennessee center Mercedes Russell and Georgia forward Merritt Hempe fight for a rebound in the first half Sunday, in Athens, Ga.  AP photo
Tennessee center Mercedes Russell and Georgia forward Merritt Hempe fight for a rebound in the first half Sunday, in Athens, Ga. AP photo
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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Ariel Massengale and Isabelle Harrison took turns carving up Georgia’s defense.

With Massengale steering Tennessee’s offense in the second half and Harrison in the first, the Lady Volunteers proved too tough for Georgia to overcome.

“The main focus at halftime was getting paint points and getting the ball inside,” Massengale said. “Whether it was our posts scoring or our guards getting to the rim, we just wanted to score in the paint.”

Massengale scored a career-high 28 points and Harrison added 18 points and 10 rebounds to help No. 5 Tennessee hold on for an 85-70 victory over No. 19 Georgia on Sunday.

The Lady Volunteers (12-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) have won six straight and 14 of the last 15 series matchups with Georgia.

Krista Donald finished with a career-high 18 points and Tiaria Griffin added 15 for the Lady Bulldogs (12-3, 0-2 SEC).

During an 8-minute stretch of the second half, Georgia went on a 31-11 run to cut the lead to 76-70 with 1:12 remaining on Merritt Hempe’s two free throws.

“We can’t relax and we have to keep playing defense,” Harrison said. “I think we can definitely take away that no matter what the score is, we definitely have to keep pushing.”

But Massengale followed with two free throws that pushed the lead back to eight, Donald committed an offensive foul and Tennessee went up 80-70 on a pair of foul shots by Andraya Carter.

“We put some grit into it,” Donald said. “We were going to lose anyway — we didn’t do anything else so we put the pedal to the metal and tried to make a big comeback. It was a heartbreaker to not start the way we finished.”

Tennessee was coming off a rare loss in a SEC regular season opener, falling by three points last Wednesday at home to LSU.

Beating Georgia allowed the Lady Vols to avoid losing consecutive SEC regular season games for the just the fourth time in school history and the first the since 1996-97.

Harrison has a double-double in six straight games.

The Lady Bulldogs have dropped three of four following an eight-point setback last week at Vanderbilt. Georgia is 0-2 in the SEC for the first time since 1992-93.

Khaalidah Miller, who began the game as Georgia’s third-leading scorer, was 1 for 9 from the field and finished with five points.

With the scored tied 17-all, the Lady Vols went on a 23-11 run to close out the first half. During that stretch, Harrison had 12 points, six rebounds, one steal, one assist and two turnovers.

Mercedes Russell, Tennessee’s highly touted freshman center, made her second career start and first against an SEC opponent. Russell finished with seven points and five rebounds.

In a 3:45 span early in the second half, Massengale scored hit a 3, a jumper, a halfcourt layup, converted a three-play and closed with two straight fastbreak layups to push the lead to 24.

Massengale credited Tennessee coach Holly Warlick with using plenty of high screens that Georgia failed to defend properly.

“They didn’t do a very good job,” Massengale said. “I saw openings. The posts set great screens. Their post players had to help and it’s easier for a guard to go against a post and get by them.”

The Lady Vols opened up their first double-digit lead on Carter’s straightaway 3-pointer at the 3:07 mark of the first half.

Warlick was pleased that Tennessee was active around the rim, drew 23 fouls and hit 30 of 33 free throws.

“We hit free throws when we needed to, got the ball inside and for the most part made our layups,” Warlick said. “I thought we at times looked outstanding, so I’ll take that. I thought we played with a lot of heart.”