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    Today In SEC Women's Hoops: December 30

    WOMen's Basketball RESULTS
    Tennessee 66, Rutgers 47
    Kentucky 78, Marist 56
    Ole Miss 61, Eastern Michigan 58
    Alabama 44, Hawaii 43


    #13/15 UT Rolls Rutgers For 1,200th Win, 66-47

    KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee beat Rutgers for the ninth time in a row as the Lady Vols used tenacious defense on the way to a 66-47 victory on Sunday afternoon. The victory was the 1,200th in the illustrious history of Lady Vol basketball, the most of any women's basketball program in the nation. UT is now 1,200-268 (.817) all-time in its 68th season.

    The Lady Vols (9-3) jumped ahead early and led wire-to-wire with their second convincing win in a row. Tennessee led by double-figures for the final 33 minutes

    Tennessee limited the Scarlet Knights (8-4) to just 34.6 percent from the floor in the game including 22.2 percent in the first half.

    Sophomore Isabelle Harrison tied her career-high with 18 points. She grabbed 11 rebounds for her fourth career double-double. Harrison also had a career-high six steals, the most by a Lady Vol since Alicia Manning had six vs. Old Dominion last season.

    Freshman Bashaara Graves hauled down a career-high 14 rebounds to go with 11 points for her sixth double-double of the season -- tying for the most among any player in the SEC this season.

    Junior Meighan Simmons added 15 points.

    Tennessee has responded with back-to-back efforts that have pleased head coach Holly Warlick and her staff after dropping consecutive games to No. 1 Stanford and No. 3 Baylor. Combined with the 75-40 win over Davidson last Friday, the Lady Vols have outscored opponents 141-87, a margin of 27 points per game.

    After holding a 20-point halftime lead, the Lady Vols continue to stand stout in the second half on both ends of the court.

    Taber Spani's 3-pointer with 14:16 left in the game ballooned the lead to 26 at 44-18. The margin moved to 28 on a Simmons fastbreak jumper, 48-20. That was the largest lead of the game for the Lady Vols. The closest Rutgers got in the final 10 minutes was 18.

    Rutgers was led by Kahleah Cooper, who tallied 13 points before fouling out with 3:24 left in regulation. The Scarlet Knights were hampered by the loss of Monique Oliver, who suffered an ankle injury in the first half.

    The 47 points were the second-fewest Rutgers has scored in the 22-game series between the teams that dates to 1979. The all-time low of 46 came in the 2007 National Championship game when UT beat Rutgers, 59-46.

    Tennessee dominated on both ends throughout the first half building a 33-13 lead at halftime. The Lady Vols shot 45.2 from the floor and limited

    Rutgers to 22.2 as the Scarlet Knights didn't make a 3-pointer (0-of-6). UT also forced Rutgers into 14 turnovers as Harrison had four of the Lady Vols' eight steals.

    It was sixth time the Lady Vols held an opponent to less than 25 percent from the floor in a half.

    In allowing just 13 points, the Lady Vols had their best defensive effort in a first half this season. Twice last year UT limited foes to 13 points at intermission.

    The Lady Vols opened the game scoring the first eight points as UT shutout the Scarlet Knights for nearly six minutes before Shakena Richardson knocked home a jumper.

    Tennessee took control of the game early, building an 18-4 lead midway through the first half thanks to a parade of layups. The Lady Vols had 14 of their first 18 points in the paint.

    The lead expanded to 17 at 25-8 on a Simmons 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the first half. Another Simmons trey pushed the lead to 33-13 with just over a minute left in the half.

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    O'Neill answers the bell in final non-conference tuneup

    By: Ryan Suckow
        
    Jennifer O'Neill finished with a career-high 21 points in a win over Marist. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Jennifer O'Neill finished with a career-high 21 points in a win over Marist. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)

    Jennifer O'Neill and DeNesha Stallworth had career performances Sunday afternoon when their team needed them the most. Marist, the eight-time defending champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, had the right game plan, and in an off game, it may have been enough to help the Red Foxes knock off the No. 6 Wildcats.

    This was not that game.

    O'Neill and Stallworth combated the Marist defensive efforts to take away the interior game of Kentucky and make UK win from the perimeter. But Stallworth had the hot hand early scoring six of the team's first eight points on her way to a career-high 21 points.

    While Stallworth was holding it down in the post, it was O'Neill taking care of business on the perimeter. While Marist looked to pack it inside against a much taller Kentucky team, O'Neill and the other guards plenty of opportunities around the arc.

    "You could see holes in their defense, like the hard hedge and when they were going under the screens," said O'Neill. "You could take that 3-point shot. You could definitely see it was kind of force us to shoot outside shots."

    O'Neill, ever confident in her outside shooting abilities, took advantage in a big way. She was 7 of 11 from the field including 4 for 7 from beyond the arc. With the recent season-ending injury of teammate Megan Conwright, O'Neill will have to play a much bigger role. Early returns say that should be no problem for the sophomore point guard, who lost last season to an injury of her own.

    "Great offensive lift she gave us today," said head coach Matthew Mitchell. "I think they were going to force someone to step up on the perimeter to make some shots, and boy did she do that today. I just thought she had a really, really good offensive day and gave us a big lift."

    She was a huge lift indeed for the Cats. She finished the day with a career-high 21 points with just two turnovers in her 30 minutes on the floor Sunday.

    Mitchell knew that potential was in there all along.

    "She's a great perimeter shooter and a very skilled offensive player," said Mitchell. "I'm not surprised, just really happy and excited to see it because we needed it today. They really made it tough on us and our interior players."

    After Kentucky set a record for the lowest point total allowed in school history on Friday against Alcorn State, the Cats would be in for quite a different type of game against Marist. Marist's offense, a screen-heavy attack, counteracted quite a bit of Mitchell's signature pressure defense. The visitors had success over the top against the press, found cutters going to the basket, and more importantly handled themselves admirably against Kentucky's full-court press. Though the Red Foxes finished with 27 turnovers on the game, when they broke the pressure, they often got a good shot out of it.

    The ability to knock down big shots while also limiting Kentucky's opportunities in the post gave Marist a real opportunity to make things interesting. Kentucky clung to a 12-point lead at halftime, and the Red Foxes jumped all over the Cats in the second half, cutting the deficit to eight points twice.

    As O'Neill and Stallworth traded baskets, senior guard A'dia Mathies emerged after a quiet first half. Mathies was bothered by two injuries that kept her out of action for pieces of the first 20 minutes. She looked to be fully healthy in the second half, however, hitting a pair of jumpers with active hands on defense.

    As Mathies put up a quiet 10 points for the game, she became the fourth-leading scorer in program history with 1,608.

    With the victory, UK moves to 12-1 on the season and will head into the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule. After rolling over Alcorn State two days prior, this type of game against Marist was exactly what the doctor ordered as the Cats start to prepare for conference play.

    "I think that you have a better idea about things that you need to work on as we lead up to our first conference game," said Mitchell. "I think it's much more beneficial than a blowout win.

    "We'll have a good idea of where we are headed into Thursday."

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    Ole Miss Wins Non-Conference Finale

    NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Ole Miss women’s basketball team closed out non-conference play with a 61-58 win against Eastern Michigan in the third-place game of the Tulane DoubleTree Classic Sunday afternoon.

    With the win, Ole Miss improved to 6-7 overall while Eastern Michigan fell to 2-10.

    Valencia McFarland led Ole Miss for the second day in a row with 16 points, eight rebounds, five steals and five assists. Her five assists marks the 32nd time in her career she has recorded at least five assists per game, including eight games this year. She also recorded a career-high eight rebounds.
    Kenyotta Jenkins added 14 points and eight rebounds while Diara Moore added 10 points and two assists.

    For the game, Ole Miss shot 31.4 percent (16-51) from the floor Eastern Michigan shot 37.5 percent (24-64). The Rebels went 24-31 from the free throw line with Jenkins going 8-10 and McFarland going 7-8.

    Eastern Michigan built a 12-point lead, 23-11, with 9:48 to play before a three from Maggie McFerrin and a layup from Tia Faleru cut the Eagles’ lead to seven, 23-16, with 8:20 remaining.

    Ole Miss used a 12-0 run, including seven points from McFarland, to take a 31-28 lead over Eastern Michigan with 2:13 left in the half.

    The Rebels led at the half, 35-51. Jenkins recorded 11 points while McFaland added nine. McFarland and Monique Jackson each added five rebounds. As a team, Ole Miss shot 31.0 percent (9-29) from the floor while Eastern Michigan shot 35.3 percent (12-34).

    Eastern Michigan opened the second half with six unanswered points to go ahead by two, 37-35. Neither team led by more than three until McFarland’s three with 2:57 to play put Ole Miss up, 59-53.

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    Tide Wins Rainbow Wahine Invitational with a 44-43 Victory over Hawai’i

    HONOLULU – The Alabama women’s basketball team (10-3) grinded out a 44-43 victory over Hawai’i (4-7) on Sunday at the Stan Sheriff Center to win the Bank of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine Invitational. Crimson Tide junior Shafontaye Myers was named Tournament MVP following the game while senior Alicia Mitcham earned all-tournament team honors.

    “This was just one of those games we needed to grind out,” said Alabama head coach Wendell Hudson. “We started off real sluggish, but I have to give Hawai’i credit. The best thing I can tell you is we hung in there and found a way to win. Nobody really had a great game, but this was a good team win.”

    Junior Jasmine Robinson led Alabama in scoring with 13 points, eight of which were scored in the second half. She was followed by Myers, who chipped in 10 points. Redshirt sophomore Kaneisha Horn pulled down a team-high eight rebounds and was also 7-for-10 from the free throw line.

    Alabama got off to a slow start offensively, missing its first 13 attempts; however the Tide’s defense kept it in the game, as UA forced five early turnovers, four of which came off steals. Eight straight points from Myers, including back-to-back three pointers, tied the game with 7:03 to go. Hawai’i took the lead back briefly before Robinson hit four free throws to give Alabama the 17-15 edge at the 3:56 mark. The Tide would remain on top for the duration of the half, leading 18-17 at the break.

    Rainbow Wahine freshman Ashleigh Karaitiana knocked down a pair of free throws to give Hawai’i the lead back 21 seconds into the second half. The Rainbow Wahine led by as many as five, but a 6-0 run by Alabama spanning less than one minute gave the Tide a 31-30 advantage with 13:11 to go. Hawai’i tied the game four times down the stretch, but Alabama would hold on, never giving up the lead. The Rainbow Wahine would have the last shot with 6.4 seconds remaining on the clock, however the Tide defense stepped up, as it had all game, not allowing Hawai’i to score.

    For the game, Alabama shot 23.6 percent (13-55) from the floor while Hawai’i was 25.5 percent (12-47) in the game. The Rainbow Wahine out-rebounded the Tide, 53-36, but Alabama forced 18 turnovers while committing only nine.