NASHVILLE — Tennessee erased one deficit Thursday night, but the Lady Vols couldn’t do it a second time.
After rallying from 12 points down in the second half and grabbing a two-point lead, the Lady Vols succumbed to another scoring onslaught by Vanderbilt.
The result was a 93-79 SEC women’s basketball loss to the Commodores before a crowd of 12,034 at Memorial Gymnasium.
Tiffany Clarke led four double-figure scorers with 23 points for Vanderbilt (19-5, 7-4 SEC), which reached a program high for points against its instate rival. Clarke, who was in foul trouble in the first half, had 19 points in the second half.
Guard Christina Foggie scored 22 points. Her 3-pointer gave the Commodores the lead for good with 11 minutes, 12 seconds left. Stephanie Holzer and Jasmine Lister each scored 19. Lister had 13 assists.
“Vanderbilt was better than us,’’ UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “They were stronger. They were smarter. They wanted it more.”
The Commodores beat UT at its own game, outrebounding the Lady Vols 41-27 and outscoring them in the paint, 52-28.
“We weren’t highly motivated to defend inside,’’ Warlick said. “It wasn’t just one player, it was several.”
In a season of defensive low points, Warlick conceded that this was the lowest.
“We’re a team that takes a lot of pride in their defense,’’ Warlick said. “We didn’t tonight.”
Meighan Simmons scored 20 points for No. 11 Tennessee (17-7, 8-3). Glory Johnson scored 19 but fouled out with 5:59 left.
Shekinna Stricklen added 17.
Tennessee didn’t start out shy about trying different defensive strategies. The Lady Vols altered their alignment on virtually every possession in the early going. The variety show wasn’t effective, however.
Instead, it appeared to be an open invitation for Vanderbilt to conduct a layup drill. Lister went the length of the floor for the first of three in a row by the Commodores. When the drill was complete, they had opened a 19-12 lead.
Foggie drove by Simmons for another layup to give Vanderbilt its first double-figure lead, 33-23.
Holzer did most of the first-half damage with 15 points. Her baseline jumper pushed the lead to 40-29.
Tennessee stayed within 42-34 at the half primarily on the strength of two scorers.
While Johnson wasn’t doing much to slow down Holzer, at least she matched her with 15 points, shooting 6-for-9 from the floor.
Simmons added 13, hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
The second half didn’t start out much better than the first. When Kady Schrann blew by Taber Spani for a layup, Vanderbilt had a 48-36 lead.
But a Stricklen block, of all things, ignited a Tennessee rally. The Lady Vols scored 14 of the next 18 points. A Johnson turn-around jumper gave them a 54-52 advantage.
“I was trying to talk to everyone, let them know this was our chance,’’ Johnson said.
Instead, it was time for Vanderbilt to get a second scoring wind. Consecutive treys by Foggie ignited the Commodores’ comeback.
Video highlights of the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game, Feb. 9, 2012
After Holzer and Clarke scored down low, Foggie punctuated the surge with another 3-pointer, culminating a possession that was saved when Lister chased down a loose ball in the backcourt.
Suddenly, the Commodores were back in front, 65-56.
And the Lady Vols again were defenseless to prevent the fate that awaited them.
Dan Fleser may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/FleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser.