Warlick reviews 79-66 Tennessee win over Georgia
Before fielding a question, Holly Warlick voiced one of her own in the interview room Sunday afternoon.
"Can we play a first half?"
The Tennessee women's basketball coach didn't wait for an answer. She couldn't muster much exasperation either. She had just watched the second half UT played in a 79-66 SEC victory over Georgia.
For a second consecutive game, the Lady Vols (11-3, 2-0 SEC) emerged from their locker room after halftime as if they were busting out of a phone booth. A 42-40 deficit disappeared in a matter of moments, replaced by a lead that grew to 19 points with 3:04 left.
Before a crowd of 12,319 at Thompson-Boling Arena, freshman forward Bashaara Graves led No. 12 Tennessee (11-3, 2-0 SEC) with a career-high 23 points. She shot 8 for 11 from the floor in scoring the most points by a Lady Vols freshman since Meighan Simmons scored 23 against Stanford on Dec. 19, 2010.
On this day, Simmons scored 16. The junior guard scored 11 during the second half, hitting three of her four 3 pointers.
Freshman forward Jasmine Jones scored a season-high 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists in 23 minutes.
Taber Spani was Tennessee's other double-figure scorer with 11.
Since the tale of two halves was similar to Thursday's 73-53 victory at South Carolina, Warlick recycled the same explanation for another surge.
"I told you I bottled up what we did at South Carolina and it was a big bottle; I opened it up a little bit today," she said. "You just challenge them."
After carrying the first-half play and leading by as many as six points, No. 10 Georgia (13-2, 1-1) was outscored 39-24 in the second half and outrebounded 28-9. The Lady Bulldogs shot 29 percent from the floor (9 for 31) during the final 20 minutes.
Senior guard Jasmine James led Georgia in scoring with 18 points. Former Webb School star Marjorie Butler played five minutes for Georgia and didn't score.
"One team was able to play two halves of basketball, and the other, who would be us, only was able to play one," Georgia coach Andy Landers said.
The Lady Vols' zone defense again helped change the course of play. While they didn't deploy the alignment as extensively as Thursday, they utilized two different zones to help shrink Georgia's scoring. Nine Lady Bulldogs scored in the first half. Only six scored after halftime and one — guard Shacobia Barbee — scored just two points. Firing mostly jumpers, reserve guard Tiaria Griffin shot 2 for 10 from the floor in the second half and finished 3 for 14.
"We just tried to mix it up and use our length and athleticism," Spani said. "Like South Carolina, they were great penetrators, especially Jasmine James. She was really getting into our paint so we tried to clog it up."
Georgia looked like South Carolina in scoring 10 second-chance points in the first half. Tennessee's rebounding limited the Lady Bulldogs to three after halftime.
The biggest change in the storyline involved Jones, who spread her production across both halves in a breakout performance.
"It helps a lot," she said. "I haven't been playing to the best of my ability, so to come out here with the encouragement of everyone else helped me believe in myself as much as everyone else does."
Graves sounded the most excited about Jones' play.
"I'm so happy; I've been waiting for this for the longest time," Graves said. "I know how good she is and what she can do, so I know this game boosted her confidence a lot. I'm going to expect a lot for the rest of the games."
Landers, on the other hand, will expect more from his team.
"I think its a reflection of how poorly we played inside defensively," he said. "You had two freshmen there that had career days today. We weren't very good defensively."