KNOXVILLE – Tennessee opened with a 19-2 run and never looked back, cruising to its 10th wire-to-wire win of the year, 83-61, over Auburn. The Lady Vols (21-5, 12-1 SEC) increased their first-place lead in the conference to a full game over Kentucky (11-2 SEC).
Five Lady Vols scored in double figures for the seventh time this season.
Junior Meighan Simmons led Tennessee with 24 points. She also recorded a career-high five steals, a byproduct of the Tennessee coaching staff’s emphasis on the defensive end.
“We make sure she understands that (defense) is a priority,” coach Holly Warlick said. “I think she does that. We just have to make sure when she lets up or makes a mistake we draw attention to that and teach her, coach her, that is what we should do.
“We should be coaching her to understand how to play defense and the importance of it. She has played better defense this year, but she understands she has to be better. I think she started off the year wanting to get better by making it a priority, and I think she has.”
“We’ve been focusing a lot on the defensive end the last couple of practices and I feel like I’ve been working so hard to make defense a priority,” Simmons said. “Coach (Kyra) Elzy and coach (Jolette) Law were telling me they wanted to see some defense tonight, so I feel like my defense really did dictate my offense. I got early points off of steals.”
Sophomore Cierra Burdick posted her fourth career double-double and third this season with 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
Senior Taber Spani tallied 16, as she knocked down 4-of-5 from trifecta land.
Freshman Bashaara Graves notched her 23rd game in double figures with 14, in her 26th collegiate game.
Sophomore Ariel Massengale handed out a season-high 10 assists to go along with 10 points for her first career double-double. It marked the third time this year the Lady Vols had a pair of players with double-doubles.
Three-pointers were a huge story for the Lady Vols, as they hit on a season-best nine-of-20.
The win was Tennessee’s 15th consecutive at home against the Tigers. The Lady Vols have won every game in Knoxville vs. AU since 1989. All-time the Lady Vols lead the series, 38-10.
Tennessee has just three regular-season games remaining. The Lady Vols travel to Arkansas on Sunday for a 2 p.m. matchup on the SEC Network and the Lady Vol Network.
Tennessee closes the regular season with Texas A&M (10-2) at home on Feb. 28 and travels to Kentucky (11-2 SEC) on March 3 in the finale.