GREENVILLE, SC – The Lady Vols entered their first game of the 2017 SEC Women’s Tournament on Thursday with a 23-game winning streak in their opening tournament game. However, Alabama had its mind set on an upset and that is exactly what they did when they ousted Tennessee on Thursday 72-64, snapping UT’s winning streak.
Both teams got out to a slow start before Tennessee built a six point lead. After a timeout, Alabama came out swinging and went on its own run to end the first quarter with a 15-14 lead.
The Lady Vols took control in the second quarter and outscored the Crimson Tide 15-7 in the period. UT used its dominant quarter to build a 29-22 lead going into the half. Diamond DeShields led the Lady Vols in the first half with seven points, but also picked up two personal fouls.
Tennessee had a lead as large as nine points in the first hald and it looked like they had all the momentum heading into the locker room.
UT was able to build its largest lead of the game at 10 points with 8:14 left in the third quarter. However, that was where things took a turn for the worst for the Lady Vols.
Bama outscored the Lady Vols 21-10 in the third quarter, thanks to a 16-2 run that lasted a little over six minutes. Tennessee was only able to hit three of its 14 shots from the floor in the third, for 21 percent shooting. Meanwhile, Bama hit nine of its 17 shots and went three-for-four from three-point range in the quarter.
Tennessee was able to keep it close and was never out of the game heading into the final quarter. The Crimson Tide didn’t record their largest lead in the game until they went up by eight points with just five seconds left in the game.
UT put up a fight, but was outscored by the Tide 29-25 in the quarter to seal the win.
The big takeaways from this disappointing and early exit for the Lady Vols was that at times, Alabama just looked like they wanted it more.
“Credit to Alabama. They were tougher than us today. They had a little bit of a stronger will. They just out-worked us and out-played us,” Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick said.
“Our game plan was to do everything we needed to do to beat Alabama. We weren’t saving ourselves,” Warlick added.
For Tennessee, there are plenty of questions that come with this loss.
What does this do to their seeding in the NCAA Tournament when the bracket is revealed? However, the bigger question is why did Jordan Reynolds feel like UT overlooked Alabama?
“I think we were just overlooking this team. We didn’t think we had to come out here and play to the best of our ability because we came off a very good win,” Reynolds said.
You never want to hear that coming from your senior point guard and Warlick didn’t have an explanation for it when she was asked about Reynolds’s comment.
“Well, I didn’t pick up on that. If she felt that way, that’s not how the team was addressed,” Warlick said.
“We had a lot of respect for Alabama because they beat us. We talked a lot about that…I don’t know why. I guess that’s what she felt, but we prepared this team like we did any other team,” she added.
All Tennessee can do now is learn from this loss and move on while they wait to find out their seed, opponent and location of their first NCAA Tournament game.
“Look, you don’t advance unless you take care of the game at hand,” Warlick said.
That is a lesson this team has to learn very quickly if they want to avoid a repeat of Thursday in the NCAA Tournament.