KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After nearly upsetting Baylor last month, Mississippi couldn't throw a similar scare into Tennessee.
Ariel Massengale scored 23 points Thursday as the eighth-ranked Lady Vols breezed to a 94-70 victory over the Rebels, who didn't have a single player in double figures. Mississippi has lost its last 25 games in this series since beating Tennessee on Feb. 4, 1996.
Mississippi (9-7, 0-2 SEC) had shown it could challenge a Final Four contender Dec. 18 when it led by 10 points in the first half of an 87-80 loss at then-No. 9 Baylor. But Mississippi couldn't sustain an early advantage Thursday. After the Rebels took a 4-3 lead, Tennessee pulled ahead for good with a 16-4 run.
"Baylor's a little bit better of a matchup for us," Mississippi coach Matt Insell said. "Tennessee, good gracious (they're) so big. We're in there battling, but we're a little bit short. Obviously we're a lot shorter (than Tennessee)."
Tennessee has six players 6-foot-2 or taller and is outrebounding foes by more than 15 boards per game. The Lady Vols (13-2, 2-1) had a 56-40 edge in rebounds and a 10-0 advantage in blocks Thursday.
"You just have to really box them out and go up for the boards," Mississippi forward Tia Faleru said. "You know they're longer than you, so they're going to be coming over you a lot. It wasn't (that) bad. We just have to box out, and we missed some box-outs."
Faleru's foul trouble made Mississippi's challenge even greater.
Faleru, who has been playing through a broken pinkie finger, entered the night leading the SEC with 9.9 rebounds per game and tied for sixth in the conference with 16 points per game. But she picked up three fouls Thursday in the game's first 6 minutes, 45 seconds. She ended up with eight points and nine rebounds despite playing just two minutes before halftime.
Although Insell removed Faleru from the game after her second foul, he put her back in with the Rebels trailing 14-6. The 6-1 forward picked up her third foul 31 seconds later and sat out the rest of the first half.
"Putting her back in with two fouls is just the way we play," Insell said. "We came here to win. We went to Baylor to win, and we've got to get that mentality back in our program. Our program's been down for five or six years, but it's not going to be down much longer. We're just going to keep getting better and we're going to change our mentality and starting going to these games with a mentality that we're going to win these games."