KNOXVILLE, TN- Mercedes Russell collected the 1,000th rebound of her fantastic career, leading No. 11/11 Tennessee to a 62-46 victory over No. 18/18 Georgia on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The 6-foot-6 senior center became the sixth Lady Vol to reach the 1,000-rebound mark, joining all-time greats Chamique Holdsclaw (1,295), Glory Johnson (1,218), Bashaara Graves (1,044), Sheila Frost (1,043) and Tamika Catchings (1,004). The redshirt senior finished with 13 points and a game-high 15 boards to help UT (21-4, 9-3 SEC) move into a tie for second place in the SEC standings.
The Lady Vols put on a stellar defensive performance in holding Georgia to a season-low 46 points and 29.5 percent shooting (18-of-61) from the field. UT dominated on the glass throughout the game, finishing with a 50-30 rebounding advantage, and forced UGA into 20 turnovers.
Senior forward Jaime Nared contributed 15 points for the Lady Vols, while Meme Jackson and Rennia Davis added 11 apiece. Taja Cole and Mackenzie Engram scored 12 each to lead the Lady Bulldogs (21-4, 9-3 SEC).
After Georgia grabbed a 9-6 edge five minutes into the game, the Lady Vols answered with an 8-2 run capped off by a Nared 3-pointer to put themselves in front by three. UT shot efficiently throughout the first quarter, including going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. A Davis triple from the wing with eight seconds remaining in the quarter gave the Big Orange a 17-13 lead at the end of the frame.
Tennessee's defense shut the Lady Bulldogs down for the majority of the second stanza, as UGA was held without a point until the 4:01 mark. UT continued to produce offensively during that drought, scoring 13 straight points to increase the lead to double digits for the first time of the afternoon. Nared led the way offensively with 12 points in the half on 3-of-5 shooting.
With Tennessee ahead by 21 in the final minute of the second quarter, the Lady Bulldogs were able to rattle off four quick points, including a Mackenzie Engram jumper as time in the half expired to cut the UT lead to 36-19 going into the intermission. Georgia's six points were the fewest Tennessee has allowed in a second quarter this season.
Russell's 1,000th-career rebound came as her eighth of the game with 1:24 left in the first half.
Also appearing in the first half for UT was Kasiyahna Kushkituah. The freshman from Atlanta, Ga., scored three points, including her first since Dec. 6 against Troy, and finished the game with five rebounds in 10 minutes of action.
The two teams traded baskets through the third quarter. Cole scored eight points in the frame for UGA, while Russell led the Lady Vols with seven points and four boards as UT held an 18-point edge with the game heading into the final period.
The defensive intensity continued into the fourth quarter for Tennessee, as Georgia was held to 2-for-13 shooting during the frame and committed six turnovers. The Lady Bulldogs also went 0-for-8 from the floor during a scoring drought that lasted four minutes and 43 seconds. UT was also stagnant on the offensive end during the period, going 1-for-8 on field goal attempts and recording seven points, its lowest total in a fourth quarter this season.
Courtesy: University of Tennessee Athletics
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