First things first, if you didn't see the game and you have access to ESPN3, go here and watch it. You can thank me after you finish watching. (You're welcome.)
Setting all other sports aside for a second, adding Texas A&M to the conference has been great for Tennessee women's basketball. The Aggies are a big, physical team that relies on defense and possession offense, and have already played several terrific matches against the Lady Vols in their two years in the conference. Today's game was no exception.
Like the LSU game, Tennessee owes the victory to fantastic interior play. Meighan Simmons again struggled from the field, shooting 3-17 (1-7 from three) and only getting to 15 points on the strength of 8-10 shooting from the line. Her defense has been solid, but the halfcourt shots just have not been falling for Tennessee's lone senior. Andraya Carter wasn't exactly stellar shooting either, with 4-8 and two missed three point attempt for 8 total points, but the defensive effort was there for both starting guards, including a very Simmons-like chase-down to block a fast break layup by Carter. The guard of the night was most definitely Jordan Reynolds, however, who had 9 points on 4-5 shooting with only one turnover in her 14 minutes of action.
The story of the night, again, was not guard play but post play. Tennessee's bigs carried the day with 54 points, 38 rebounds, 5 assists, and only 2 turnovers from Harrison, Graves, Burdick, and Russell combined. Additionally, they placed A&M's interior rotation in deep foul trouble, with Mitchell picking up four in the first half (!!!), and both Gilbert and Ade limping along with 4 fouls throughout the end game. Tennessee ended with 17 offensive rebounds - nearly as many as A&M's 20 defensive boards - to finish with 48 total boards on the night. Just like LSU, early rebounding saved Tennessee early, as very sharp shooting led the Aggies to an early double digit lead while Tennessee struggled from the field. Harrison is the clear player of the game, with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and only 1 turnover and 3 fouls (2 were late in the game). A&M never could really contain the junior, who has become utterly dominant over the last few weeks.
As dominant as Tennessee's posts were inside, A&M's guards were nearly as strong from the field. Courtneys Walker and Williams finished with 26 and 22 points respectively, and point guard Jordan Jones had 10 assists before leaving the game very late after her head hit the floor. The midrange jumper is historically a bad shot choice, as its make percentage is far below its risk/reward, but the Aggies are masters of the shot, and it kept Tennessee from building more than a 4 point lead until the game's very end phase.
Any future games between these two teams should be circled on the calendar as soon as they are scheduled; this is a series not to miss.