NASHVILLE — Holly Warlick often got her team's attention with strong, shrill whistles that carried from one end of the court to the other at Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday night.
But with just more than seven minutes to play, the Tennessee women's basketball coach was too frustrated to whistle. All she could do was extend both arms as if to say, "What's going on?"
At the other end of the court, the Commodores had grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds while reminding everyone they had the wherewithal to mount another comeback.
They combined for 47 points as the ninth-ranked Lady Vols (16-3) overturned a Vanderbilt comeback in an 83-75 victory.
The Simmons-Spani combination is hardly a new development. The two have been teaming up repeatedly since forward Cierra Burdick went down with a hand injury just before the start of SEC play.
The Lady Vols haven't lost since — thanks mainly to the scoring of Spani, who had a career-high 24 points against the Commodores, and Simmons, who had 23. In the seven games without Burdick, Simmons has averaged 19.8 points per game; Spani, 14.2.
Spani had 15 of her points against Vanderbilt in the first half when UT opened up a 15-point lead with 1:47 remaining. Just four minutes into the second half, the Lady Vols had a 41-41 deadlock on their hands.
No one should have been surprised by what happened next. Simmons happened.
She scored seven of the Lady Vols' next 12 points as they opened up a nine-point lead en route to their seventh conference victory in as many games. Their victory, coupled with South Carolina's upset of Kentucky on Thursday night, left UT alone in first place in the SEC.
Despite Tennessee's lofty status in the conference, it's assured of an underdog role against No. 2 Notre Dame on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. And it will take a greater team effort — especially on defense — to pull off an upset.
Many of Vanderbilt's offensive problems were self-induced. The Commodores too often missed easy shots and were 5-for-23 on 3s, compared to Tennessee's 6-for-11 3-point shooting.
The Lady Vols can't count on as much help from Notre Dame, which routed them 72-44 last season in South Bend, Ind.
That's too many points to make up with the Spani-Simmons combination alone.