No. 8 Lady Vols breeze past No. 16 Vandy 81-53

STEVE MEGARGEE AP Sports Writer Published:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee seemingly couldn't miss a shot in the first half. Vanderbilt couldn't make one for much of the second half.

That combination assured Vanderbilt's history of road futility in this series would continue for one more year.

Meighan Simmons scored 22 points to help No. 8 Tennessee rout No. 16 Vanderbilt 81-53 on Monday night for its sixth consecutive victory. Vanderbilt (17-6, 6-4 SEC) has never beaten the Lady Vols (20-4, 9-2) at Knoxville in 29 attempts, though it had won 74-63 at Nashville on Jan. 12 in the last meeting between these two teams.

"When you get beat down in Nashville, you're not happy campers," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We haven't been happy for a while. Yeah, we had a little chip on our shoulder, and I loved it. I love that we're competing. I thought tonight we played every play like it's our last play."

Tennessee shot a blistering 65.5 percent (19 of 29) in the first half and ended up shooting 58.2 percent (32 of 55) for the game. The Lady Vols never trailed and put the game out of reach when Vanderbilt missed its first 12 shots of the second half.

Isabelle Harrison scored 18 points and shot 8 of 10 for Tennessee, which clinched its 38th consecutive 20-win season. Andraya Carter added 11 points, seven assists and five steals without committing a single turnover.

The Lady Vols have gone on this winning streak without the services of starting point guard Ariel Massengale, who missed her fifth straight game Monday after inadvertently getting hit in the face while making a steal Jan. 23 in an 89-69 victory over Florida.

"I think it just shows we're getting better and better with every opponent we play against," Simmons said.

Christina Foggie scored 22 points and Marqu'es Webb added 12 points for Vanderbilt, which was held to its lowest point total of the season. Tennessee outrebounded Vanderbilt 34-20 and outscored the Commodores 36-18 in the paint.

"They just dominated us inside," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "They used their height this time. We really, from the tip, had trouble guarding their size inside. They buried us. They were on the boards, and basically in the paint we got killed. They were very aggressive from the tip at doing that, which they weren't last time."

Harrison's presence made the difference.

Harrison, the daughter of former Vanderbilt defensive lineman and assistant football coach Dennis Harrison, had played just 10 minutes before fouling out of Tennessee's Jan. 12 loss at Vanderbilt. Harrison, a 6-foot-3 center and Nashville native, made amends in the rematch.

"Ever since we lost in Nashville, I've been kind of upset about that in my mind," Harrison said. "I feel like let my team down, my coaches down. And since it was in Nashville, I felt I let my family down. I really wanted to play my best and take care of business."

Harrison made her first seven shots and scored 14 points in the first half to help Tennessee grab a 42-31 lead at the intermission. Tennessee made its first six shots overall.

The Lady Vols broke a 12-12 tie and took the lead for good with an 8-0 run featuring a pair of Carter steals that led to baskets.

Foggie kept Vanderbilt in the game by shooting 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the first half, but she wasn't getting much help. Once Foggie cooled off in the second half, the game got out of hand.

Tennessee opened the second half on an 18-2 run by turning up its defensive intensity. Vanderbilt missed its first 12 shots of the second half and trailed 60-33 by the time Lister finally sank a 3-pointer to end the drought with 10:35 remaining.

"I think we're just having fun, honestly," Harrison said. "We weren't thinking about anything. I feel like in Nashville, we were kind of overthinking a lot of stuff. We're in (Thompson-Boling Arena). This is home for us. It allowed us to be a lot more open, free and carefree, I guess."