The No. 11 Tennessee Lady Vols dominated the Auburn Tigers (14-12, 3-10 SEC) 83-61 on Thursday to earn their twelfth SEC victory of the season.
The Lady Vols (21-5, 12-1) came out hot with shooting 6-of-7 from behind the arc in the first eight minutes of the contest. The fast start would give the Lady Vols a 26-5 lead, and from there they wouldn't look back.
"We got off to a great start," head coach Holly Warlick said. "It started with our defense, the last two days all we've done is defense, we haven't touched the basketball on the offensive end the last two days so you're seeing the result of us emphasizing our defense and it got us going, it just got us momentum. On the offensive end we got good looks and we moved the basketball. We had a season-high of 24 assists so I think it was a complete game and I just think our defense started the whole thing off."
The Lady Vols were led by junior guard Meighan Simmons who scored 24 points on 10-of-23 shooting to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and five steals.
"I feel like I started off a lot more energetic than I did the last time we played them," Simmons said. "I was a lot more hungry this game. When my defense is going, my offense just comes naturally."
Sophomore forward Cierra Burdick, who is still coming back from a broken right hand she suffered earlier in the season, also had a good game registering a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
"I finally can smile after the game," Burdick said. "It's kind of like a sigh of relief. I finally came out and played the way I'm capable of playing. I really just tried to be aggressive on the boards and I was able to get some put-backs off of that and my teammates found me when I was open, and I think this was a stepping stone game for me."
It has been the kind of season where the Lady Vols just can't seem to avoid the injury bug and this game proved to be no different as freshman forward Jasmine Jones left the game with an undisclosed injury after she took what appeared to be an elbow to the face in the first half. Jones finished with zero points.
"From what I understand, she just got her nose hit and it was just a precaution thing," Warlick said. "I think she's fine but I'm sure they'll evaluate her tomorrow and the doctors will be looking at her as well."
The Lady Vols' defense played well, especially in the first half where they only allowed 21 points. The team was effective getting into the passing lanes, recording 10 steals and scoring 24 points off turnovers, with 20 of those off the fast break.
"We've been focusing a lot on the defensive end the last couple of practices," Simmons said. "I feel like I've been working so hard to try and make defense a priority and Coach Elzy and Coach Law were telling me they wanted to see some really good defense tonight so I feel like my defense really did dictate my offense. I got early points off of steals, but it wasn't just me that got steals, a lot of people got in the passing lane and got steals but we had a really good team effort today and I'm proud of the team and how we played."
Next up for the Lady Vols are the Arkansas Razorbacks on Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. EST in Fayetteville, Ark.