No. 6 Tennessee holds Vanderbilt at bay in second half

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Even when they get lazy, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers can still win by a solid margin.

The Lady Vols (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) took some bad shots, turned the ball over and didn't fight as hard for loose balls as they usually do but pulled out a 68-56 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday night to remain perfect in the Southeastern Conference.

"We need to execute a lot better," Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund said. "I thought we got lazy and made some turnovers we usually don't make."

Tennessee (17-2, 5-0) entered the game against its in-state rival having beaten its previous six opponents by an average of 36.8 points, including blowout wins over SEC foes Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. LSU was the only one of the Lady Vols' last six opponents to come within 20 points, losing 73-65 to Tennessee on Jan. 2.

They appeared to be on their way to another blowout early in front of 17,853 fans gathered for the women's part of a Tennessee-Vanderbilt doubleheader.

Tennessee used an 18-0 run during a 9:22 Commodores scoring drought to take a 21-5 lead and held Vanderbilt to a season-low 18.9 percent shooting in the first half. A 3 by Bjorklund with 11:27 in the second half gave the Lady Vols a 50-28 lead.

That's when they got a little sloppy, and the Commodores (12-6, 3-2) took advantage.

"I think we spent the first half looking at the height advantage, looking at the colors of the jersey and the big crowd," said Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb, who dropped to 1-19 against Tennessee. "Second half, we usually come to play."

Despite Tennessee's size advantage, Vanderbilt buckled down in the paint and outscored the Lady Vols there 22-16. The Commodores also scored 17 points off 15 Tennessee turnovers.

After falling behind by 22 points, Vanderbilt began to relax, and its shooting improved to 48.6 percent in the second half.

Tennessee tried to answer with 3s but struggled to keep pace. The Lady Vols finished 10 of 32 from behind the 3-point line.

"I called a timeout. I told them, 'No more 3s,' " Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said.

Jasmine Lister, who led Vanderbilt with 17 points, hit a 3 with 1:04 left to cut the margin to 64-56, but the Commodores couldn't close the game out as Tennessee scored the final four points.

Meighan Simmons led the Lady Vols with 17 points, Bjorklund and Glory Johnson each scored 14 and Kamiko Williams added 13. Kelley Cain grabbed 13 rebounds, and Tennessee had a 52-39 advantage on the boards, turning its offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points.

"I was pleased with the way we played in the first half, but we didn't get much better in the second half," Summitt said. "We'll build on it. Vanderbilt played us tough. They never quit. It's a win, but we'll learn from it."

Christina Foggie scored 13 and Jence Rhoads added 10 for the Commodores, who dropped to 0-26 against Tennessee in games played in Knoxville.

"The next time around I think we will have to focus on settling down and relaxing and running our offense that we work on every day in practice," Rhoads said.