DULUTH, Ga. – As the game turned: For a majority of the contest, Texas A&M's Courtney Walker had an answer for everything the Tennessee Lady Vols sent the Aggies way.
With the Aggies down four with 4:39 to go, the sophomore guard canned back-to-back jumpers in a 15 second stretch to draw the game even.
Walker wasn't the only one with answers, though.
Tennessee followed up Walker's mini-run by scoring seven unanswered points, making it an 82-75 ballgame with 1:21 remaining.
And with 47 seconds remaining after an Isabelle Harrison tip-in, the one response Walker needed wasn't there, as she dribbled it down the court, only to be stripped by redshirt freshman Andraya Carter, thus sealing an 86-77 victory for the Lady Vols.
"This game was a grind," junior forward Cierra Burdick said. "Our motto is 'Grind for Nine,' it's been that since day one, and it truly was a grind today. I just commend my team because we continue to just battle through the adversity and we never get rattled.
"We just continue to stay composed and play our game and stay together."
Hot topic: In this SEC tournament, the Lady Vols' interior players have dominated down low, as they have scored more than 50 points in the paint in both of their tournament games.
The strength of their post play, however, devastated the Texas A&M defense in another fashion on Saturday, as the Aggies' two centers – Kayle Gilbert and Rachel Mitchell – each recorded four fouls by 11:09 mark in the second half.
The conservative play of the Aggies interior from that moment on played right into the hands of the Tennessee offense.
"We are an inside-out team and so we wanted to get the ball inside and just let our bigs go to work," head coach Holly Warlick said. "I thought we attacked their big players and it obviously helped us to get them in foul trouble, but that's our gameplan, we want to play inside-out and when they are hitting inside it opens up the outside for us."
Spotlight: In a game where the Lady Vols needed as many people to step up as they could, their two freshmen, Mercedes Russell and Jordan Reynolds, answered the call.
The two Oregon high school standouts combined for 20 points and even strung together nine straight points for UT between the 14:06 and 11:42 marks in the second half.
"They've been solid, and it's been a learning process for them and I think the upperclassman have really taken them under their wing and kept them focused," Warlick said. "They are freshman. They are just having fun and I don't if they know to be worried or concerned, but they came up big."
Russell had a perfect day from the field, going 4-for-4 and hitting on all three of her free throw attempts, while gathering six rebounds.
"(Coach) Dean (Lockwood) just kept telling me to attack the post because they were in foul trouble so that's what I kept doing and I was crashing the boards," Russell said. "I've been working on my free throws a lot so that just came in handy."
The other guys: Texas A&M guards Courtney Williams and Walker combined to score 48 points on 22-of-47 (.468) shooting.
Jordan Jones added 12 of her own, going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Outside the box score: Isabelle Harrison recorded her 17th double-double of the season, breaking the UT record for double-doubles by a junior that was set by Tennessee legend Chamique Holdsclaw.
By the numbers
26: The Lady Vols turned 17 offensive rebounds into 26 second chance points against Texas A&M. They also held the Aggies to just four second chance points.
48: Tennessee dominated the glass on Saturday as they corralled 48 rebounds compared to Texas A&M's 26.
20: The bench showed up for the Lady Vols against the Aggies as the UT role players registered 20 points off the bench, led by Russell who had 11.
Say something: After his team was out-rebounded 48-26, Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair said, "I've seen Tennessee rebound like that ever since 1980 and that's just their trademark. Give them credit. If I'm not mistaken – and you Tennessee folks can look in the record book – when I was at Arkansas, I think they had 39 offensive rebounds on me one ballgame. I think I'm probably in the record book (for that)."
Up next: With the victory, Tennessee advances to the SEC Tournament Final where they will matchup against the Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.