New UT head coach, same Andy Landers. - Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Let the Landers hold me down.
So if we sounded a bit on the overconfident side in our pregame writeup, it's because of the recent history between Tennessee and Georgia. Tennessee has won 12 of the last 13, including the last four in a row. In most of those games, there has usually been a point for each team where things break down on the court and nothing goes as planned. The difference is that Tennessee has tended to improvise and play through the doldrums much better than Georgia (who, conversely, never seems sure what to do when a set play doesn't work).
The entire first half felt like the doldrums for Tennessee. Some early fouls put Harrison on the bench for most of the half, leading to a sixteen minute night for the star center. Rebounding seriously suffered without her presence, and Georgia held the board advantage 20-18 (it was advertised as 23-22 in the arena, but whatever), which was monumental for a road team that's just not good at rebounding vs. a home team that's really good at it. Georgia also started hot from the field, shooting about 65% in the opening ten minutes or so. Finally, a +7 on bench points led to the 42-40 halftime differential, as it took some time for Tennessee's relief players to really contribute to the game.
Georgia's time with limp sails was much shorter, but much more damaging. For the first 5:30 of the second half, the Lady Bulldogs failed to score a single point and watched their halftime margin swing from +2 to -7. Meanwhile, Harrison returned in a three-person rotation with Graves and Jasmine Jones (more on that in a bit) and Tennessee's rebounding woes suddenly reversed. In the second half, Tennessee outrebounded Georgia 28-9. It's a margin that is actually worse than it sounds: Georgia only had six board in the first 18 minutes of the second half. The remaining three rebounds came after Tennessee subbed out everybody and was busy discussing where to go eat. For the portion of the second half that actually mattered, Tennessee held over a 4:1 rebounding edge over Georgia.
And just to add injury to insult: Georgia had 9 fouls in the second half to complement their 9 rebounds.
For one quick aside, this is a trend I've felt about Georgia. I like their talent and the way their team is assembled, but they've always felt very dependent on technical play. When the game gets dodgy, Georgia seems to get lost. (Tennessee's issues are almost the opposite: the Lady Vols almost do better when the game is completely wild rather than when they're running set plays and trying to do the whole "teamwork" thing. It's not as bad as that sounds, but the point stands.) But enough about Georgia; they are who they've been for the last 14 games now against Tennessee, and with the Lady Vols being so young, it's hard to imagine that trend changing anytime in the near future.
Back to the game at hand. First, the story of the Jasmines. Georgia's Jasmines (Hassell and James) played a combined 65 minutes for 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers. Most of that was James (18, 4, 4, 0 respectively) while Hassell was basically a nonfactor in the game. (!!) Meanwhile, Tennessee's Jasmines fared much better (well, Jasmine, really; Jasmine Phillips played one minute to end the game and missed Club Trillion by missing a three point attempt). Jasmine Jones came of the bench to replace Isabelle Harrison and played 23 minutes for 12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 turnover, a stat line far better than the Georgia Jasmines if the time of play is accounted for. It's a game that would often earn her player of the game awards, and I'd have no problem giving it to her anyhow. But more importantly than POG, this was her breakout game. Easily her best game of the year, she helped filled the void left by Harrison and played a lot at the top of the key in the zone defense of the second half, effectively shutting down Jasmine James's scoring streak.
The player of the game, though, was Bashaara Graves. She's not at Glory Johnson levels yet, but she's just a freshman. And a 23 point, 8 rebound night when you're often the only interior threat in the game is a terrific stat line. Most importantly, her points came consistently throughout the game, even when the rest of the team was slumping. But her one streak in the second half shut down Georgia's only credible attempt at a run and put the game away for good.
Some fun notes, in bullet-point form:
- Georgia scored 66 points (including free throws) on 66 total shot attempts (not including free throws). See Pendley's pregame for how expected this was.
- Meanwhile, Tennessee scored 79 points on 61 attempts. Efficiency matters.
- Graves was by far the most efficient, with 8-11 from the field and 7-7 from the line. (Jasmine Jones was 5-8 and 2-2, respectively.)
- While we're at it, Simmons was 6-12 for 16 points despite zero free throw attempts. That's a stat line I can live with. She also had 5 assists, which, well, ok. I can live with that too.
- Tennessee had 22 assists and 15 turnovers. It still feels odd to see a UT team with a >1.0 A/TO. Not that I'm complaining.
- Georgia had only 6 turnovers, and that's a bad thing. Why? Because Georgia doesn't take any risks, which makes them easier to defend and beat. Great for A/TO (2.7 tonight) but bad for generating streaks and breaking slumps.
- Stats that mislead: Georgia led in steals 9-3. Why? Because Tennessee zone defense. (Which also led to ALL. THE. THREES. /claaaaaaang)
- Stats that don't show up: Ariel Massengale falls a lot. I don't know why.
- Next up: Missouri in Knoxville on Thursday at 8 PM Eastern. Welcome to the SEC, Tigers!