KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee kept on running Sunday until it finally ran away with the game.
Meighan Simmons scored 24 points as one of five Lady Vols in double fgures and No. 12 Tennessee capitalized on its transition offense to roll to a 97-68 victory over Mississippi. Tennessee shot 59.4 percent (38 of 64) and outscored the Rebels 28-8 in fast-break points.
The Lady Vols (19-5, 10-1 Southeastern Conference) defeated the Rebels for the 24th consecutive time. Mississippi (8-15, 1-9) hasn't beaten Tennessee since a 78-72 victory on Feb. 4, 1996.
"Meighan's the best scorer we have," said Tennessee forward Bashaara Graves, who scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. "She's confident. Everyone else is trying to get as confident as she is. We're just trying to move the ball and get each other touches. That's what we've been doing."
This was the kind of game that should build the Lady Vols' confidence.
Graves produced her ninth double-double of the season. Taber Spani, who was coming off a scoreless performance Thursday in a 64-62 victory over LSU, added 12 points. Nia Moore, who hadn't played at all against LSU, had a career-high 12 points in only 10 minutes of action. Kamiko Williams added 11 points.
Tennessee entered the day leading the SEC with 78.3 points per game while Mississippi was allowing a league-high 70.1 points per game. Mississippi also ranked at the bottom of the conference in field-goal percentage defense (.437).
Sure enough, the Lady Vols posted their highest shooting percentage of the season and made two-thirds of their attempts in the second half. Of the nine Lady Vols who played, sophomore forward Cierra Burdick was the only one who didn't shoot at least 50 percent. Burdick went 2 of 6 and scored six points.
Mississippi acting head coach Brett Frank said the Rebels focused on stopping Tennessee's transition game and staying competitive on the boards.
Instead, Tennessee used its transition game to get plenty of open shots all day. The Lady Vols also outrebounded Mississippi 46-27.
"I think the transition game got away from us," Frank said. "Right at the very beginning, we gave up some easy baskets, some open looks to Simmons, and I think that helped them get into an offensive rhythm and an offensive flow."
Diara Moore scored 16 points, Gracie Frizzell had 12 points and Danielle McCray added 11 points for Mississippi, which lost for the ninth time in its last 10 games.
Tennessee raced to an early 16-2 lead and stayed in front all day.
"A lot of it had to do with us being able to get up and down the floor," Spani said. "We moved very fast and very quick. That always helps when you're shooting high percentage shots -- layups and jumpers. We're excited about that, but we also had 19 turnovers and they scored 20 points off of our turnovers. We're not satisfied."
Those turnovers helped keep the game competitive for a while.
Tennessee committed 11 turnovers in the first half and even was called for a technical foul when six players took the floor after a timeout. That carelessness allowed Ole Miss to get back into the game.
After trailing by as many as 17 points, Ole Miss went on a 16-4 run and cut the lead to 28-23 on Frizzell's three-point play with 5:52 left in the half. Ole Miss actually outscored Tennessee 20-14 in points off turnovers.
"I think we did a good job of trying to capitalize off their mistakes," Frank said. "We're a transition team as well. I think we're best in the open court. I feel our players did a good job of getting in transition off their miscues."
But the Rebels wouldn't get any closer. Simmons scored seven points during a 12-4 Tennessee run that closed the half.
However, Ole Miss wouldn't go away immediately. The Rebels cut the lead to eight after scoring the first five points of the second half on a 3-pointer from McCray, a steal by Courtney Marbra and a layup by Diara Moore.
"We've just got to take care of the ball," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "At times we play too fast. We keep saying value the basketball because we work so hard to get it. Some of it is my fault because I want us to play in an uptempo (style). ... Some of those turnovers are my fault because I'm allowing people to come up and handle the ball in traffic. I'll take those. The ones I have a hard time with are (when we) catch and look and just throw it right to the defense. Those are the things we've got to clean up."
That fast pace eventually wore Mississippi down.
Graves scored six points during a 16-4 run that extended Tennessee's lead to 20, and the margin wouldn't drop below 17 points again. Tennessee scored 57 points in the second half, its highest total in a half this season.comments powered by Disqus