Tennessee’s Cierra Burdick (11) puts up a shot between Alabama defenders Nikki Hegstetter (13) and Shafontaye Myers (12) during the second half Sunday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One big 3-pointer by Cierra Burdick got the Tennessee women rolling and Alabama couldn’t find any way to slow them down.
Burdick hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 7:29 left in the second half to give Tennessee its first lead since a minute and a half into the game. Shortly following that 3 was another by teammate Meighan Simmons to give the Lady Vols a 45-39 lead.
The 10th-ranked Lady Vols went on to win 64-54 over Alabama on Sunday night.
“It was a momentum changer, and that was kind of the 1-2 punch that gave Alabama the heartache,” Burdick said. “We took their hope away in that segment, and that’s what we kept trying to do.”
Despite trailing 26-18 at halftime, Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) was able to outscore the Crimson Tide 46-28 in the second half.
Simmons and Isabelle Harrison each added 11 points for Tennessee. Burdick and Harrison also had 11 rebounds each for a double-double. It was Burdick’s third double-double of the season and a career-high scoring night for her.
“She was very settling for us,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said of Burdick. “We went in a stretch where we weren’t making shots, we were missing layups, and we weren’t getting stops, and she held our team together. That’s stuff you don’t see in the stat sheet.
“She hit big shots for us, she got big rebounds, she had one turnover, she’s just been solid, and today she was huge for us.”
Daisha Simmons led Alabama (10-12, 3-6) with 18 points, and Shafontaye Myers added 11. The Tide came out strong to start the game and led by as many as 15 points, but went through a scoring drought with 5:13 left to let Tennessee back into the game.
The Lady Vols scored seven points to cut the lead from 15 to eight to end the half and started the second half out hot. After shooting only 28 percent from the field in the first half, they shot 53.8 percent from the field in the second.
“This is a very offensive-minded team,” Warlick said. “We’re contagious. If we hit a 3, everybody’s here we go, start hitting 3s. But I think the key to the game was getting stops.”
To get those stops, Tennessee shifted among five defensive sets throughout the game while Warlick looked for what worked best.
“You’re looking at somebody who’s a man-to-man team, and we went zone to get them in the game,” she said.
Alabama coach Kristy Curry said one of the biggest differences came down in the post.
“They really hurt us down the stretch on the offensive glass, their size, size matters,” she said. “I thought their skill and size hurt us on the offensive glass. They weren’t hitting an open look from 3, and they were getting the putback and getting to the foul line.”
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