No. 9 Tennessee women beat Vanderbilt 83-75
Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb wasn't happy with how her Commodores trailed 41-29 at halftime and shot only 25.6 percent from the floor (10 of 39).
The Commodores came in as the SEC's second-best team beyond the arc, shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range. They shot 21.7 percent (5 of 23) and missed three 3s in the final minutes with a chance to make it a one-score game. But Balcomb said the game plan called for the Commodores to work the ball into the paint and defend Simmons and Spani.
"I'm just baffled by the first half," Balcomb said. "I liked the fight in the second half, but obviously the first half I didn't. We just didn't execute our game plan. Our kids are smarter than that. They have to work harder at the things we're asking them to do."
Tennessee had coach emeritus Pat Summitt sitting on the front row behind their bench right beside Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, just her second road trip this season. She watched the Lady Vols do what they usually do in Nashville. The Lady Vols now are 61-8 all-time against Vanderbilt in this in-state rivalry and 24-6 in Nashville.
Spani said having Summitt at the game meant the world.
"We were so excited when we found out she was coming, I was really trying to look for her, and I finally found her before the game," Spani said. "She brings inspiration to our team every time we see her."
The Lady Vols grabbed control from the start on a jumper by Isabelle Harrison, whose father Dennis played football for Vanderbilt in the 1970s. Vanderbilt managed to tie it up at 4 before Simmons hit a 3-pointer to put Tennessee ahead to stay. Simmons followed with another 3 and celebrated as she ran backward down the court signaling three with each hand.
Spani hit her first two 3s as well as the Lady Vols quickly pushed the lead to double digits. Even when something went wrong for the Lady Vols when Simmons missed a layup off the fast-break after moving the ball behind her back, Kamiko Williams was there to rebound the miss and put it back up for a bucket.
Tennessee led by as much as 15 with 1:50 left on Spani's third 3 of the half, and the Lady Vols led 41-29 at halftime only to watch that lead evaporate in the opening minutes of the second half.
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