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    SEC Women's Basketball Recap: Thursday, January 2

    THURSDAY WOMEN'S HOOPS SCHEDULE
    LSU 80, Tennessee 77
    Kentucky 85, Alabama 63
    Missouri 85, Ole Miss 76
    Texas A&M 74, UTEP 58
    Florida 82, Mississippi State 72
    South Carolina 55, Arkansas 51
    Vanderbilt 66, Georgia 58

     

    Balanced Effort Vaults No. 16 LSU Past No. 5 Tennessee, 80-77

    KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Danielle Ballard ripped off 25 points to equal a career-high and was one of four players to secure double figures as the No. 16 LSU women’s basketball team opened SEC action with a thrilling 80-77 victory over No. 5 Tennessee Monday in-front of 14,437 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena.

    LSU (11-2, 1-0 SEC) snapped a seven-game losing skid to the Lady Vols (11-2, 0-1 SEC) which dated back to the 2008-09 season. It was the Lady Tigers third win in 22 attempts in Knoxville and the program’s first road win over a Top 5 opponent since a 78-62 victory over then-No. 1 Tennessee on Feb. 14, 2008. LSU also handed the Lady Vols their first defeat in a SEC opener since the 1996-97 campaign which ended a run of 16 consecutive wins.

    Ballard poured in 17 of her 25 points during the first half, and the 25 points matched her career-high which she set at West Virginia last season. She also provided eight rebounds, four assists and four steals over her 34 minutes of action.

    DaShawn Harden tacked on 17 points off the bench highlighted by a quartet of three-pointers. It was Harden’s highest scoring output since the opening weekend of the season.

    Theresa Plaisance registered nine of her 15 points in the second half before she fouled out, while Jeanne Kenney turned in 14 points aided by a flawless 7-for-7 effort at the foul line and dished out five assists.

    Tennessee was led by Isabelle Harrison’s 26 points and 10 rebounds. Meighan Simmons, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, was shutout in the second half after she garnered 15 points during the opening 20 minutes. Ariel Massengale came away with 10 points and 12 assists for the Lady Vols.

    With the score knotted at 55-55 at the 10:46 mark of the second half, LSU ripped off 20 of the next 24 points over the next 6:07. The flurry was ignited by a Harden triple on the left baseline with the shot clock expiring.

    Ballard connected back-to-back driving layups, and Harden drilled another three-ball from the top of the key to give LSU a 65-56 edge with 6:59 remaining. The spurt was capped by four Kenney free throws off Tennessee technical fouls, and a Raigyne Moncrief foul shot to make it 75-59 with 4:37 to go.

    The Lady Vols charged back behind 11 points from Harrison. She split two free throws with 16 seconds left to pull Tennessee back to 78-77 which finished off an 18-3 Lady Vols run. Four seconds later, Moncrief calmly knocked down the front end of a 1-and-1 and her second free throw pushed LSU’s advantage back to 80-77. The Lady Vols had one final chance to tie, but Andraya Carter’s three-pointer from the top of the key rimmed in-and-out to seal the LSU victory.

    LSU plays its final non-conference game Sunday at Tulane. Tip time is slated for 2 p.m. from Devlin Fieldhouse. There is no television coverage for Sunday’s game.

    The LSU Sports Radio Network will broadcast the game on Talk 107.3 FM in the Baton Rouge and inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright, the voice of the Lady Tigers, will call the action.

    For all of the latest news and information on Lady Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/womensbasketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuwbkb along with @lsuwbkb and @nikkicaldwell on Twitter.





    O'Neill Leads Balanced UK Attack in Win at Alabama

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Jennifer O'Neill scored 17 points and Azia Bishop added 16 to lead No. 6 Kentucky past Alabama 85-63 to open conference play.

    The Wildcats (13-1) shot 50 percent from behind the arc, knocking down 10 of their 20 3-point shots.

    The UK defense forced 25 Alabama turnovers, 14 of them coming off of steals.

    Senior Samarie Walker recorded her 15th career double-double and fourth of the season with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

    Shafontaye Myers led Alabama (7-7) in scoring with 20 points, and Daisha Simmons added 12.

    Up next, the Wildcats host Florida in their SEC home opener on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 3 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised on CSS.





    Tigers Take Home First SEC Road Win

    Oxford, Miss. -- Missouri Women's Basketball earned its first SEC victory of the season with Thursday's 85-76 win at Ole Miss. The Tigers improve to 12-2 overall and 1-0 SEC on the season. Four Tigers finished in double figures including two 20+ point performances from both Morgan Stock and Bri Kulas. Both Stock and Morgan Eye finished with five treys on the night, helping the Tigers to a season best 62.5 three-point shooting percentage on the night.

    After a quick Rebel lead, the Tigers battled through the first half to remain in control of the game. Mizzou held on to the lead and headed into the halftime break with a 34-30 advantage. The Tiger defense held the Rebels to just 26.3-percent shooting in the first half. The Tiger scoring was spread around, as is the norm for the unselfish team. Mizzou assisted on 7 of 10 first half field goals, and five Tigers found the basket in the half. The Tigers went 7-of-9 from distance in the first half, and Eye's 14 first-half points led the Tigers. Kulas finished the half with eight points and four rebounds total.

    The Rebels came out strong after the break, and the two teams traded baskets for the lead throughout the first few minutes of play. Tied up at 44 with just over 16 minutes to play, Mizzou knocked down two treys in a row to take back the lead. Mizzou made eight threes in the second half, continuing its first-half success. The Tigers battled throughout the half, also taking advantage of opportunities from the charity stripe. Mizzou made 7-of-8 from the line in both halves, finishing over their team goal at 87.5-percent on the night.

    The Tigers return to Columbia, Mo. on Sunday to host Arkansas in the SEC home opener at 2 p.m. Mizzou will host Family Funday on the concourse prior to the game, featuring face painting, the Mizzou bounce house and family friendly craft activities. Admission for children 12 and under is free on Sundays. Your Tiger junior class will be available for autographs following the game.

    For more news and updates on Mizzou Women's Basketball, check in to MUTigers.com. Fans can also follow the team on Twitter (@MizzouWBB), Instagram (@MizzouWBB) and Facebook (facebook.com/MizzouWBB).





    Aggies Cruise To Victory Over UTEP, 74-58

    COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M’s women’s basketball team cruised to victory over one of the nation’s top mid-majors, downing UTEP 74-58. Courtney Williams scored 20+ points for the third straight game, leading the Aggies with 21 points.

    Williams became the first A&M player to score 20+ points in three straight games since Kelsey Bone scored 20+ in all three games of the World Vision Classic from Dec. 19-21, 2012. Williams has scored at least 10+ in eight straight games.

    Texas A&M (10-4) took a 42-24 lead into halftime, anchored by a 16-2 run that lasted over six minutes of game time and gave the Aggies a 37-18 lead, which effectively put the game out of reach for the Miners.

    Williams led the Aggies in the first half, and one point scoring 14 straight of the Aggies’ points, the last seven of which started the 16-2 A&M run. Williams had 16 in the first half, giving her double digits in four straight first halves, dating back to Dec. 22.

    The Aggies led by as many as 26 in the second half, and never let UTEP get any closer than 13 points in the second frame, as the Aggies cruised to victory.

    UTEP (11-2), who was receiving votes in the Associated Press poll entering this game, was held to 32.4% shooting and did not make a 3-pointer over the course of the game.

    Jordan Jones had nine assists, marking her third straight game with eight-or-more assists. She is averaging 10.0 assists in that span.

    Karla Gilbert had 12 points, but her impact was primarily felt on the defensive side of the ball, where she had a career-high with eight blocks. Danielle Adams is the last A&M player to have more than eight blocks in a game, when she set a school-record with 10 in 2009-10. Gilbert also moved into 4th on A&M’s career blocks list in the game, passing Danielle Gant with 114 for her career.

    Courtney Walker had 18 points, reaching double figures for the 11th time this season.

    This was a matchup between the Texas programs with the second- and third-most wins since 2007-08, with the Aggies picking up their 174th win in that span, moving 34 games ahead of UTEP’s 140.

    The Aggies tip off the SEC season on Sunday, January 5 when they host the Alabama Crimson Tide at 2 p.m. The Alabama game is the final Holiday Hoops women’s game of the season, with general admission tickets starting at just $4, and an autograph session planned post-game.





    Cassie Peoples Scores 23 to Lead Gators Past Mississippi State in SEC Opener

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Behind an impressive 23-point effort from Cassie Peoples and three other double-figure-scoring Gators, the University of Florida women’s basketball team opened Southeastern Conference play with an 82-72 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

    Jaterra Bonds scored 18 points, Christin Mercer added 12 and January Miller notched her first career double-double with 12 points and a career-high 10 boards.

    After Mississippi State took its only lead of the game, 9-7, Florida answered with an 11-3 surge and never looked back. The run put UF up 18-12, lasted 2:41, saw four Gators score and included Bonds’ 100th career three-pointer. The teams traded baskets for the following 6:23 before Carlie Needles sank two shots from the charity stripe to spark a 6-0 Gators spurt that lasted 1:44 and gave Florida its first double-digit lead of the game, 34-23. UF entered the locker room with a 40-30 advantage off of a last-second layup by Mercer.

    Florida outscored Mississippi State off turnovers (17-6), with second chance points (13-4) and off the fast break (12-0) in the first half. The Gators shot a highly effective 46.9 percent from the field, compared to the Bulldogs’ 38.7 percent.

    The Gators led by double-digits for most of the second half, including a 17-point lead, 72-55, with 4:16 left on the clock. The Bulldogs looked to rally late with a 15-6 run that lasted 3:29 and brought the score to 78-70 with just 47 seconds remaining. However, the damage was already done and it was too much for Mississippi State to overcome. Florida connected on all four of its final-minute free throws en route to the team’s seventh consecutive win.

    UF used a very balanced offense throughout the game, connecting on 46.8 percent (29-62) of its shots, while holding Mississippi State to 34.3 percent (24-70). However, the Bulldogs connected on 33.3 percent (6-18) of their shots from behind the arc, compared to the Gators’ 20 percent (2-10). Florida out-rebounded Mississippi State, 47-43, marking the sixth time Florida has won the rebounding battle this season.





    Coates, Mitchell Stave Off Arkansas 55-51

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- No. 13/12 South Carolina needed late free throw and defensive heroics to secure a 55-51 win over Arkansas in the SEC opener for both teams at Bud Walton Arena Thursday night. The Gamecocks (13-1, 1-0 SEC) got double-doubles from Tiffany Mitchell and Alaina Coates in the victory as the defense held the Razorbacks (13-1, 0-1 SEC) to just 26.1 percent shooting. After holding a 12-point lead at the half, South Carolina struggled with turnovers late in the second half to give Arkansas hope for the upset. Coates dominated the glass and Mitchell delivered from the free throw line to secure the win.

    The game got off to a sloppy start as two young teams shook off nerves of starting SEC play, but the Gamecocks found their footing first with a 10-0 run keyed by the sophomore tandem of Mitchell and Asia Dozier on the offensive end and solid team work on the defensive glass. After a Mitchell steal, Dozier scored on a putback to kick things off. Mitchell hit a free throw line jumper on the next possession, and after a pair of misfires from both teams, the Gamecocks really got it going. Dozier hit a pull-up jumper on the baseline, and Mitchell followed up her own miss to make it a 10-2 Gamecock advantage. A Razorback turnover put South Carolina back on offense quickly, and Aleighsa Welch followed up her miss with her first bucket of the game to put the Gamecocks up 12-2 with 13:11 to play in the half.

    Arkansas took advantage of a South Carolina turnover to score on consecutive possessions, but the Gamecocks rattled off the next eight points behind strong rebounding. Coates book-ended the surge, hitting from the right block to start and through a double-team on the left block to finish it and give South Carolina a 20-7 edge with just under eight minutes to play in the half.

    A spate of South Carolina turnovers let the Razorbacks pull within six at 20-14 three minutes later, but the veteran duo of Mitchell and Welch locked down the remainder of the half. Mitchell’s drive opened the 8-2 run that sent the game to halftime. Welch followed with a transition layup then took a feed from Olivia Gaines to score from the left block and closed it with a nice slip to the basket where Dozier found her to make it a 28-14 lead. Arkansas got a pair of free throws from Kelsey Brooks just before the half to make it a 28-16 game.

    The Razorbacks started the second half with a flurry and were encouraged by getting Elem Ibiam to commit her fourth foul less than four minutes into the period, but again, the Gamecocks had the answer. The response began with a 3-pointer from Dozier late in the shot clock and continued with an inside basket from Coates and a driving left-handed layup from Mitchell to put South Carolina up 38-23 with 15:26 to play.

    Just when things looked to be back on track for the Gamecocks, turnovers began piling up. After Coates’ traditional three-point play made it a 41-25 with 13:25 to go, the Razorbacks kept South Carolina off the board for the next seven minutes. Fortunately, the Gamecock defense was keeping it in check as Coates was all over the glass. Arkansas scored just eight points off the six Gamecock turnovers and missed field goals during the stretch, closing to within eight at 41-33 with 6:35 to play.

    Welch fought for a tough basket falling down to get the offense back on track and put the Gamecocks back up by double digits. The Razorbacks came back with a 3 from Brooks to make it a 45-38 game with just under five minutes to play. South Carolina went to Mitchell for a stop and pop for a 47-38 lead. Neither team could connect on its next two possessions, and Welch came up with a big defensive rebound off a miss on the first end of an Arkansas 1-and-1 opportunity.

    The free throw line provided the Gamecocks with some challenges down the stretch, but they hit just enough to stave off the charging Razorbacks, who got three 3s from Jessica Jackson in the final 1:13 to keep the game in jeopardy. Mitchell, who hit just two of her first four attempts from the charity stripe drained her final four with the game on the line to deliver the victory.

    Mitchell led all scorers with 16 points to go with 11 rebounds, including two in the final minute to help stave off the Razorbacks’ rally. Coates came off the bench with 11 points and 12 rebounds. The freshman added five blocks to the defensive effort, including four in the second half. Welch joined the duo in double figures with 11 points to with her career-high tying four blocks and seven boards. Dozier led the Gamecocks with five assists.

    South Carolina is back at home in Colonial Life Arena for its next two SEC matchups, beginning with Vanderbilt on Sun., Jan. 5, at 1 p.m.





    Commodores upset No. 19/18 Georgia

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Even while reeling off a long series of victories, the Vanderbilt women's basketball team still didn't have that signature win that would allow the Commodores to grab national attention.

    Now they do.

    With Jasmine Lister scoring 24 points and propelling a second-half comeback, Vanderbilt upset No. 19/18 Georgia, 66-58, on Thursday night at Memorial Gym in the SEC opener for both teams.

    The victory stretched the Commodores' winning streak to nine games and pushed them to 12-2 overall as they head to South Carolina on Sunday. Vanderbilt hasn't a lost a game since Nov. 21, when the Commodores lost at Duke.

    Lister -- who finished 8-of-12 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range -- scored 10 points in the span of less than five minutes late in the second half while fueling a 17-5 run that allowed Vanderbilt to flip a 47-43 deficit into a 60-52 lead with 3:40 to go.

    Christina Foggie, the SEC's leading scorer, also hit a key 3-pointer during the game-changing surge. Foggie finished with 11 points, and was the only other Commodore in double figures.

    "They are our senior leaders, and we look up to them," said sophomore Morgan Batey about Lister and Foggie, the lone seniors on the roster. "When they hit big shots, it ignites the rest of us."

    Batey finished with seven points and three rebounds despite being limited to just 11 minutes of action due to foul trouble.

    Vanderbilt has now won nine of the past 12 meetings against Georgia, including five straight in Nashville.

    In Thursday's game, the Commodores trailed by as many as seven points in the second half before surging back to capture the victory in the hotly-contested game, which featured five ties and 10 lead changes.

    Vanderbilt was down 49-45 when Lister stepped up and scored all seven points during a 7-0 run. She hit perhaps the biggest shot of the night -- a 3-pointer that cut Georgia's lead to one -- with 7:56 to play, and followed that up with a jumper that gave Vanderbilt the lead for good. She then capped off her spree with another 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 53-49 with 5:52 to go.

    "She's got ice water in her veins," said head coach Melanie Balcomb.

    Thursday's matchup featured strength against strength, with Vanderbilt's high-powered offense (which entered the night averaging 80.9 points per game) pitted against a Georgia defense that was ranked third in the nation (allowing just 50 points per game).

    Early on, Georgia's defense seemed to have the upper hand, as the Lady Dogs pestered Vanderbilt into 11 first-half turnovers, helping Georgia take a 25-24 lead into the locker room. But the Commodores solved Georgia's pressure in the second half and committed just six turnovers while flipping the game around.

    Vanderbilt's bench played a pivotal role in the win, outscoring Georgia's reserves 16-5. "That says a lot about our depth," said Balcomb. "It's players coming off the bench and playing with a sense of urgency."

    Lister said the Commodores played with more energy in the second half.

    "We picked up the defensive intensity and communication," said Lister.

    Neither team shot the ball effectively during the low-scoring first half. Georgia made just 11-of-30 attempts (36.7) from the floor, and Vanderbilt -- which leads the SEC in field goal percentage -- was 10-of-25 (40 percent).

    Still, the first half was tightly-contested, with four ties and five lead changes. Georgia's largest lead of the half was four points, and the Commodores' largest was three.

    Lister was about the only Commodore to find a rhythm in the opening 20 minutes. She was 3-of-4 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, while scoring a team-high eight points. Her 3-pointer on Vanderbilt's final possession of the half cut Georgia's lead to 25-24 at the break.