Redshirt senior Mercedes Russell paced No. 7 Tennessee with a career-high 33 points, as the seventh-ranked Lady Volunteers pulled away from Vanderbilt in the fourth period to secure an 86-73 victory Sunday afternoon in Thompson-Boling Arena.
With the win, the Lady Vols improved to 15-0, 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play, and won their 11th consecutive home game dating back to last season. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, fell to 4-13, 0-3 SEC.
Redshirt junior Cheridene Green also had a career day for the Big Orange, pouring in 17 points and grabbing five rebounds. Senior Jaime Nared chipped in 15 points, five rebounds and six steals as the Lady Vols remained unbeaten through their first 15 games for the fourth time in school history.
Vanderbilt was led in scoring by Cierra Walker, who went 6-of-8 from behind the three-point arc and finished the day with 20 points and six assists.Christa Reed (16), Chelsie Hall (15) and Erin Whalen (10) also scored in double figures for the Commodores, who dropped their third straight game and seventh in their last eight.
Russell proved to be too long, too strong and too determined to be contained, connecting on 14-of-20 shots from the field and five-of-six from the charity stripe to surpass her previous career best of 26, which she notched vs. Auburn on Jan. 19, 2017.
Green, meanwhile, exploded in the second half to finish 7-of-8 from the field. She had eight points in the fourth quarter alone. Behind the inside play of Russell and Green, the Lady Vols controlled the paint all day, possessing 42-28 and 56-26 advantages in rebounds and points in the paint, respectively. UT also worked on the offensive glass, pulling down 17 caroms that led to a 23-6 advantage in second-chance points.
The Lady Vols relied on their size advantage and physicality to jump to a quick 8-0 lead versus Vandy. After the hot start, VU was able to find an answer to Tennessee’s physical play, getting a pair of threes from Whalen. As a result, the teams exited the first quarter locked up at 16-all.
Vanderbilt led through most of the first half of the second quarter, as the Commodores seemed unable to miss from behind the arc. The Lady Vols tied the game twice before a 10-0 run saw the home team seize momentum and take a 37-32 lead in to the locker room. The advantage was in large part due to a Herculean effort by Russell, scoring 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor.

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