Sunday, January 06, 2013

No. 12 Tennessee 79, No. 10 Georgia 66

Bashaara Graves scored a career-high 23 points and No. 12 Tennessee rallied in the second half to beat No. 10 Georgia 79-66, giving the Lady Vols their fifth consecutive victory in this series.

After trailing 42-40 at halftime, Tennessee (11-3, 2-0 SEC) scored the first nine points of the second half and stayed in front the rest of the way.

Meighan Simmons added 16 points for Tennessee, while Jasmine Jones scored a career-high 12 points to go along with seven rebounds. Taber Spani had 11 points and seven rebounds.

Jasmine James scored 18 points and Khaalidah Miller had 14 for Georgia (13-2, 1-1 SEC).

In each of its two conference wins, Tennessee has broken open a close game in the second half. The Lady Vols won 73-53 at No. 18 South Carolina in their SEC opener Thursday after leading 32-31 at halftime.

Georgia has won just one of its last 14 meetings with Tennessee and has lost its last 11 games to the Lady Vols in Knoxville by an average margin of 24.7 points.

This game proved much closer, at least in the early going. The lead changed hands seven times in the first half alone, with neither team pulling ahead by more than six points.

The Lady Bulldogs entered the day having outscored their opponents 391-190 in points off the bench, and they had nine players averaging at least 14.8 minutes per game. Nine Georgia players scored in the first half Sunday, while Tennessee had just nine healthy players on its entire roster.

That balance helped Georgia take a halftime lead against a Tennessee team struggling with foul trouble. Tennessee sophomore center Isabelle Harrison, coming off a career-best performance in a 73-53 rout of South Carolina, picked up two early fouls and played just six minutes in the first half.

But instead of wearing down in the second half, the Lady Vols came out stronger.

Tennessee built a seven-point lead as Georgia missed its first eight shots of the second half. Georgia wouldn't go away quite yet and cut the deficit to two points when Tennessee got a little careless with the ball.

Simmons and Graves took over from there.

The junior guard and freshman forward each scored five points during a 14-3 run that helped Tennessee build a double-digit advantage. Simmons made a 3-pointer and sank an off-balance baseline jumper at the start of the run. Graves capped the spurt by making back-to-back baskets in the paint and converting the last one into a 3-point play.

Tennessee's lead never dropped below nine points the rest of the way. Tennessee shot 50 percent (15 of 30) while holding Georgia to 29 percent shooting (9 of 31) in the second half.

Georgia hasn't beaten Tennessee in Knoxville since edging the Lady Vols 94-93 in overtime on Dec. 8, 1996. Tennessee is the only SEC program with a winning record against Georgia.

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