No. 12 Lady Vols breeze past Auburn 79-52
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee bounced back from adversity by delivering one of its best performances of the season to cap an emotional week that had its coach fighting back tears
Diamond DeShields had 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds Sunday as No. 12 Tennessee regained its shooting touch in a 79-52 blowout of Auburn. The victory came three days after the Lady Volunteers had lost at home to Florida.
They did it on a reunion weekend that brought about 50 former Lady Vols and former coach Pat Summitt to Thompson-Boling Arena. Former Lady Vols Candace Parker, Michelle Marciniak, Glory Johnson and Isabelle Harrison attended practice Saturday and offered the current team words of encouragement.
“It was special, I’ll be honest with you,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said as her eyes got watery. “It was special. When you struggle and you’re around people who are positive, they’re incredible. They’re why we do what we do. They’re why I’m here. They’re why I have this opportunity. Coach Summitt was there. I’m sorry I’m emotional.
“I understand it’s a privilege and an honor for me to coach this team. And I think our kids understand it’s a privilege to wear that uniform.”
Tennessee (11-4, 2-1 SEC) followed up its worst shooting performance of the season with its best.
After shooting 29.3 percent (24 of 82) Thursday against Florida, the Lady Volunteers shot 59.6 percent (34 of 57) on Sunday. Tennessee’s players watched film of the Florida game and provided their own scouting reports of what they’d done wrong.
They corrected their mistakes Sunday by working the ball inside instead of firing away from 3-point range, where they’ve struggled all season. Tennessee has made just 23.3 percent of its 3-point attempts and entered Sunday ranked 334th out of 344 Division I teams in that category.
“We’ve kind of just accepted that that’s not what we’re great at,” DeShields said. “We’ve got capable shooters indeed, but we really were just pounding the ball inside and just pushing tempo and trying to get good paint points, paint shots.”
Bashaara Graves, who shot 2 of 13 against Florida, was 8 of 9 against Auburn and scored 18 points. Mercedes Russell had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Tra’Cee Tanner had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Auburn (11-5, 1-2).The Lady Vols outscored Auburn 48-26 in the paint and 22-0 in fast-break points.
“We weren’t defending,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.
Auburn: Brandy Montgomery scored nine points in the first quarter but had just two points the rest of the way. She shot 3 of 7 in the first quarter and 1 of 6 afterward.
Tennessee: Senior Nia Moore entered the game with 4:22 left for her first appearance since Nov. 23. The reserve center had missed Tennessee’s last 10 games with a rib injury.
“There was a (large) amount of love and positiveness with them,” Warlick said on the support from former Lady Vols. “There wasn’t, ‘What are y’all doing? What aren’t you doing? Why aren’t you doing this?’ They were like, ‘Just keep plugging along and plowing away.’ For them to do that and give us the energy and strength we need as a staff, me personally (and) as a team, you can’t put a price on it.”
Tennessee improved its home record to 8-3. The Lady Vols haven’t lost more than three home games in a season since 1982-83. ... Tennessee’s .596 field-goal percentage was its best since a .622 performance against Arkansas on Jan. 30, 2014.
Auburn: Hosts Alabama on Thursday.
Tennessee: At Arkansas on Thursday.