published Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Lady Vols overpower Troy, 103-64

KNOXVILLE — The only suspense in Tennessee’s 103-64 women’s basketball victory over Troy on Saturday was whether the third-ranked Lady Vols would set a school single-game rebounding record.

Tennessee used its height advantage to outrebound Troy 74-29 and ended up with the second-highest rebounding total in school history. Tennessee pulled down 76 rebounds in a 104-51 rout of Tennessee State on Feb. 27, 1988.

The Lady Vols (9-0) said they didn’t realize they were approaching a record that has lasted a quarter-century.

“Did we break it?” Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick said. “We’ll get that before the season’s over. We had no idea.”

Burdick had 15 points and 10 rebounds as one of three Lady Vols with double-doubles. Isabelle Harrison had 13 points and 12 rebounds despite resting most of the second half. Nia Moore, who didn’t play at all last Sunday in Tennessee’s 75-61 victory over Texas, had 10 points and 13 rebounds to establish career highs in both categories. This marked the first time since 1996 that Tennessee had three players post double-doubles in the same game.

Moore’s big performance came on a big day for her family. Her twin sister, Annaya Moore, was a member of Troy’s team last season but didn’t play because of a foot injury that eventually ended her career. Annaya Moore has since transferred to Tennessee and works as an equipment manager for the Lady Vols.

“I just knew that I wanted to get everybody some equal playing time, and I wanted to make sure Nia got some time where we could watch tape on her and try to help her along, because I think down the road we’re going to need Nia,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.

“I was proud of her. This is a kid who didn’t play [against] Texas, doesn’t get a lot of playing time and you don’t hear one negative thing out of this kid. She’s positive. She works every day, practices hard. When a kid gets rewarded and plays the way she did, I’m excited for her.”

Bashaara Graves and Meighan Simmons scored 16 points each and Mercedes Russell added 10 as the Lady Vols recorded their highest point total of the year despite committing a season-high 28 turnovers. Graves, the 2012-13 Southeastern Conference newcomer of the year, returned to the starting lineup Saturday after coming off the bench against Texas.

Ashley Beverly-Kelley scored 22 points and Joanna Harden added 14 for Troy (4-5). Harden entered Saturday’s game ranked third in the nation in scoring with 26.6 points per game, but the 5-foot-7 senior shot 1-of-10 in the first half Saturday and didn’t score until 8:07 remained before halftime. Jasmine Jones and Andraya Carter took turns guarding Harden in the first half.

“I felt like every time I got past the first man, I had another man to get past,” Harden said. “They played some tough defense.”

Troy’s problems began before the opening tip.

The Trojans received a technical foul when they didn’t provide their starting lineup in enough time. Tennessee’s Ariel Massengale made one of two free throws to give the Lady Vols a 1-0 lead before the two teams tipped off.

Tennessee raced to a 15-2 lead and stayed in front the rest of the way by dominating the boards. The Lady Vols had more offensive rebounds (32) than Troy had total rebounds (29). Six of Tennessee’s 10 players are listed as 6-foot-2 or taller. Troy has nobody taller than 6-1.

“Honestly, that’s something we struggle with,” Troy coach Chanda Rigby said. “As you can see, we don’t have a lot of size on our team. We try to make it an emphasis rebounding, especially since we like to push the ball up the court so much and take the first shot, not the best shot. We know we need good rebounders, so we need to keep recruiting to that and keep working on that.”

The Lady Vols raced to a 15-2 advantage in the first 5 ½ minutes and extended the lead once it stopped shooting 3-pointers and focused on using its height advantage. Tennessee didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in the second half after going 2-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.

“It didn’t take an intelligent person to decide if you’re 2-for-12, you need to stop shooting the 3,” Warlick said. “I thought we needed paint points. I said if you shoot a 3-point shot, you’re coming out. They valued playing more than shooting the 3.”

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