No. 3 Lady Vols pull away from Texas 75-61

STEVE MEGARGEE AP Sports Writer Published:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Isabelle Harrison had 18 points and eight rebounds and No. 3 Tennessee needed another second-half run to beat Texas 75-61 on Sunday.

Although the Lady Vols (8-0) never trailed, they only led 28-27 at intermission. Tennessee has been tied or behind at halftime in three games this season, yet won them all by at least nine points.

Ariel Massengale had 15 points and seven assists for Tennessee. Meighan Simmons scored 13 points and Cierra Burdick added 10 points off the bench.

Nneka Enemkpali led Texas (6-3) with 12 points and 11 rebounds. All but two of her points came in the first half. Chassidy Fussell added 12 points despite shooting 1 of 10 from 3-point range.

Krystle Henderson had 11 points and Empress Davenport added 10.

Tennessee switching the lineup, giving 6-foot-6 freshman center Mercedes Russell her first start and sophomore forward Jasmine Jones her second start.

Sophomore forward Bashaara Graves was held out of the starting lineup for only the second time in 42 career games. Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said she made the changes because Jones had a great week of practice.

This game was a contrast in styles between a Tennessee team that likes to run and a Texas squad that prefers low scores. Tennessee entered the day averaging 80.3 points, while Texas was allowing 49.5 points.

In the first half, Texas controlled the tempo.

After taking an 11-2 lead in the first 5 ½ minutes of the game, Tennessee struggled the rest of the first half. The Lady Vols had a one-point lead at intermission mostly because Texas missed open 3-point attempts. Texas was 1 of 7 on 3-pointers in the first half and finished 4 of 20 from beyond the arc.

Tennessee's three leading scorers this season -- Massengale, Simmons and Graves -- shot a combined 3 of 11 for eight points in the first half. The Lady Vols couldn't slow down Enemkpali, who had 10 points and eight rebounds in the opening half.

The Lady Vols still had reason to feel optimistic about their chances of breaking through in the second half.

Tennessee has shown all season it can rally from slow starts. Texas led No. 6 Stanford at halftime on Nov. 23, only to fade in the second half for a 63-54 loss.

Sure enough, Tennessee extended its lead after halftime.

Texas trailed 35-34 with 15:20 remaining when Fussell missed a 3-pointer that would have given the Longhorns their first lead of the game. But Tennessee went on a 9-0 run to build a double-digit advantage. Massengale started the momentum shift with a driving layup and assisted on baskets by Graves and Burdick in Tennessee's 9-0 spurt.

Texas regrouped and cut Tennessee's lead to 54-50 on Davenport's 3-pointer with 8:32 remaining, but the Lady Vols scored the next 11 points to put the game away. After Harrison scored on a pass from Simmons to extend Tennessee's lead to 63-50, a blocked shot by Harrison led to a layup by Simmons that capped the run with 4:34 remaining.

Tennessee maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way. The game's dominant player in the first half, Enemkpali scored just two points in the second before fouling out and picking up a technical foul with 2:58 left.