Photo by Wade Payne // Buy this photo
Lady Vols hug Pat Summitt before their Alabama game
Bashaara Graves and Isabelle Harrison couldn't make a shot to start Tennessee's last game. On Sunday, the two post players couldn't miss.
Two games after failing to grab a single rebound, Meighan Simmons was hoarding them against Alabama.
Statistical order was restored by this Lady Vols trio in a 96-69 SEC women's basketball victory before a crowd of 12,512 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Graves' 19 points led five double-figure scorers for No. 9 Tennessee (15-3, 6-0 SEC). Simmons' seven rebounds were one short of her career high. Their personal achievements reflected UT's collective success when shooting the basketball or fetching it against the Crimson Tide.
Guarding the ball, particularly against Alabama's Daisha Simmons, was more problematic. But UT defended the bottom line, winning for the 39th consecutive time in the series with the Crimson Tide (11-7, 1-4). The points were the most scored by Tennessee in an SEC game since a 110-45 victory over Alabama on Jan. 6, 2011.
The result also showed some respect for Lady Vols head coach emeritus
Pat Summitt. The game was part of the SEC's "We Back Pat" initiative to raise awareness and funding for Summitt's foundation in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.
"We talked about Pat's sacrifices and what she's meant to everyone," UT head coach Holly Warlick said. "We just wanted to make sure we represented UT and Pat in the nature we needed to."
Meighan Simmons scored 16 points for Tennessee. Isabelle Harrison, Taber Spani and Jasmine Jones had 14 apiece. Jones' total was a career high.
Graves and Jones each grabbed eight rebounds in leading Tennessee's 50-38 advantage.
Jones completed the rewrite of her season highs with four blocks, one more than the 6-foot-2 freshman forward had for the entire season.
Every Lady Vol scored and grabbed a rebound and nobody played more than Spani's 29 minutes.
The Lady Vols started 9 for 11 from the floor and shot 62.9 percent (22 for 35) for the first half. Graves and Harrison, who were a combined 0 for 8 in the first half against Auburn on Thursday, started 10 for 10 against Alabama.
"We didn't have a great game against Auburn," said Graves, who finished 9 for 11. "We couldn't get shots off. It was terrible for us.
"We wanted to come out for the Alabama game and make up for that game. I think we did that."
UT's Simmons, who was irritated by her six turnovers against Auburn, committed just one on Sunday. Yet she seemed more motivated by failing to grab a rebound last Sunday at Florida.
"I just happened to be in the right position to get those rebounds," she said. "I knew there was something I needed to do besides score and to play defense and put ball pressure on them. It was one of those things. It was my goal today to have five rebounds. I ended up with seven so I'm proud of myself for that."
Alabama's four-guard lineup and aggressive approach required some adjustments. Daisha Simmons, a sophomore guard and transfer from Rutgers, had 12 of her team-high 19 points before the game was seven minutes old.
"When you get up on the ball, which we wanted to do, and you're guarding a great athlete, you have to run your help side defense to get the ball and the first four minutes we didn't do that," Warlick said. "We addressed some things and then our help side was a lot better. Alabama is one of the most athletic teams that we have played, throughout their whole team."
The Lady Vols couldn't have been much better than one first-half sequence during which they blocked two shots and swatted a pass out of bounds. Alabama's Shafontaye Myers salvaged the possession by literally throwing in a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock.
"Well, you watch this game long enough ..." Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "I was glad to see something go our way."