KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Senior Jaime Nared recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 7/7 Tennessee to a 70-59 victory over Auburn (10-4, 1-1 SEC) on Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The win snapped a seven-game win streak for the Tigers and moved Tennessee to 14-0 for only the fifth time in school history.
Freshman Evina Westbrook chipped in a career-high 18 points and a game-high six assists, while senior Mercedes Russell added 10 points and four blocks on the night for Tennessee as the Lady Vols improved to 8-0 at home this season.
Daisa Alexander paced Auburn in scoring with 16 points, while Tiffany Lewis and Janiah McKay each added 10.
After a largely back-and-forth affair that included 16 lead changes, the Lady Vols (14-0, 2-0 SEC) ended the game on a 19-4 run, and overcome a season-high 28 turnovers to earn the win. With the victory, UT improves to 14-0 for the first time since the 2005-06 season when it won its first 18 games.
Both teams traded baskets over the first quarter, with six points from Russell leading the way for the Lady Vols. Westbrook recorded five assists in the frame, including one on each of Tennessee’s first four field goals. After holding Auburn to 5-for-24 shooting from the floor, UT used a 5-0 run at the end of the quarter to take an 18-13 lead.
Auburn’s full-court press proved to have an effect in the early stages of the second quarter, as Tennessee committed six turnovers over the first three minutes. The Tigers were able to grab the lead by way of an 8-0 run highlighted by two Alexander 3-pointers. Alexander finished the half with 12 points to lead Auburn, and Nared recorded nine points and seven rebounds for the Lady Vols as both squads battled to a 30-30 deadlock at the intermission.
The teams continued to fight down the stretch, and Auburn’s aggressive defense kept forcing the Lady Vols into offensive mishaps. After going into the fourth quarter tied at 44, a pair of steals coming 10 seconds apart gave the Tigers a three-point advantage with under five minutes left in the game.
Anastasia Hayes stepped up offensively in the fourth quarter, scoring six of her nine points in the final eight minutes. With 1:15 remaining, Hayes converted on a layup-and-one to put the Lady Vols ahead by five. UT used a strong defensive effort and hit six free throws over the last two minutes to gain a double-digit lead and put the game away.
While Tennessee held the overall edge in rebounding for the 13th time this season, Auburn was able to come away with a 20-11 advantage on the offensive glass, and scored 30 of its points in the paint. The Lady Vols did hold the Tigers to 31 percent shooting for the game, with Nared recording a career-high four blocks to help anchor the defense.
Up Next: The Lady Vols host Vanderbilt at noon in Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
Assist Machine: Freshman guard Evina Westbrook had six assists on the night, notching assists on each of UT’s first four buckets. She’s averaging 5.1 assists per game on the season and her career high of 12 (Troy, Dec. 6) ties the record for single-game assists by any Lady Vol freshman.
Sharpshooting Westbrook: Westbrook went 5-of-7 from the floor and 4-of-5 from behind the arc while hitting all four of her free throws to set a new career high of 18 points. Westbrook has upped her career high in three of the last five games, scoring in double figures in all of them.
Good Company: With the win the Lady Vols open a season 14-0 for only the fifth time in program history. They are currently one of only four undefeated teams remaining in NCAA Division I basketball. The other squads are Mississippi State, Connecticut and Louisville.
Balanced Offense: Seven of the eight Lady Vols who saw action against Auburn contributed at least four points to the win, and Nared, Westbrook and Russell each finished the night in double figures. Tennessee has had at least three players score in double-digits in every game this season.