Women's basketball team of the week: Tennessee Lady Vols
Undefeated on the season but still in search of a signature win, the Tennessee Lady Vols found it this past week, defeating the previously undefeated No. 2 Texas Longhorns on Sunday to earn NCAA.com Team of the Week honors.
Tennessee, 10-0, went 2-0 at home last week, first scoring a Division I team-high 131 points in a win over Troy (131-69) on Dec. 6, and then maintaining the momentum in the 82-75 win over Texas in Knoxville.
In the win over Texas, the Lady Vols were led by the play of seniors Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell who combined for 38 points and half of Tennessee's 50 rebounds. Each had a double-double on the night, with Nared posting 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season and 34th over her career. Freshman Evina Westbrook added a career-high 15 points of her own on 5-for-11 shooting in the winning effort. Everyone who entered the game for Tennessee contributed at least four points.
Against Texas, the Lady Vols never trailed during the game and held the Longhorns (7-1) to 36 percent shooting. Fueled by clutch rebounding and aggressive defense, Tennessee answered every Texas run to hang on down the stretch and earn its first home win over a top-two ranked opponent since beating No. 2 Stanford in 2010. It also halted a three-game losing skid to the Longhorns. After trailing by as many as 10 points in the game, a layup by Texas' Lashann Higgs cut the score to 74-73 with one minute remaining. Tennessee, however, was able to ice the game from the free-throw line over the final moments, including four from Nared.
In Tennessee’s win over Troy earlier in the week, Nared scored 27 points and Westbrook dished out a career-high 12 assists to lead the Lady Vols to the lopsided victory. It was the second straight game that the Lady Vols had topped the 100-point mark after registering 104 in a win over Alabama State on Dec. 3. Tennessee's unselfishness was on full display throughout the game, as the team finished with 38 assists on 54 baskets. The assist total ranked second in school history, while the number of field goals made ranked fourth. Tennessee's 131 points against Troy are the third most in program history and the second most ever scored in a home game.
For the season, Tennessee has now topped the 100-point mark four times after the win over Troy and is currently No. 7 in the country in team scoring, averaging 88.7 points per game. Tennessee has had at least three players score in double digits every game this season.
Tennessee will next hit the road for the team's first two true road games of the season. The Lady Vols travel to Long Beach State on Dec. 17 and then face a test at No. 18 Stanford on Dec. 21.