NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jordan Horston scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the fifth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols beat Vanderbilt 65-51 Thursday night for their seventh straight victory.
The Lady Vols (16-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) also won their seventh consecutive game in Memorial Gym against their in-state rival. They’ve won 13 of the last 14 and are now 31-7 in games played in Nashville in this series.
“My three years of being here, I know every year we emphasize that we’re rival teams …,” junior center Tamari Key said. “We play in the same state. Yeah, we definitely address that.”
Rae Burrell had a season-high 11 points off the bench in her fourth game back for Tennessee, and Key added 10.
“It’s not always pretty, but … proud of our team for finding a way to to make enough plays and to give ourselves a win,” said Harper, who went 9-0 against Vanderbilt in her days as the Lady Vols’ point guard.
Vanderbilt (10-7, 1-2) now has lost two straight, this time after being held to their worst shooting performance of the season at 26.7% (20 of 75).
Iyana Moore led the Commodores with 16, and Brinae Alexander had 15 points before fouling out.
This was the first time Harper and first-year Vanderbilt coach Shea Ralph have met as coaches, though Harper was 3-1 against UConn when playing guard for her alma mater. Ralph came in 6-6 against Tennessee as either a player or assistant coach at UConn.
In this game, Harper had the decided size advantage with only three Lady Vols under 6-foot. Ralph, who has four freshmen scoring 36% of the Commodores’ points this season, has only three players over 6 feet.
Tennessee, the only remaining undefeated team in the SEC, used that size to counter the Commodores’ defensive speed and skills.
Vanderbilt led 6-4 on a jumper by Kaylon Smith and tied it up at 9 on a 3-pointer by Iyana Moore. Horston put Tennessee ahead to stay with a pair of free throws, and the Lady Vols finished the quarter on a 9-2 run for an 18-11 lead after 10 minutes.
They pushed their lead to double digits in the second quarter with Alexus Dye’s jumper making it 28-18 with 6:15 left. The Lady Vols just kept padding the lead, outscoring Vandy 23-12 in the second quarter to take a 41-23 lead into halftime.
Ralph said she saw a nervous, young team play a bit passively early as the Commodores having some air balls on shots they usually make. They also passed up some good shots, but she was encouraged by how they responded in the second half.
“I got on my team for doing that, and then they took them,” Ralph said. “We just didn’t make enough.”
Vanderbilt missed it first 11 shots in the third as the Lady Vols built their lead to as much as 25. They led 53-33 through three.
The Commodores outscored Tennessee 18-12 in the fourth taking advantage of the Lady Vols’ shooting struggles. The deficit was too much to close.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols are the best rebounders in the SEC and the nation. They dominated Vandy on the boards 50-40 and used their decided size advantage to dominate the paint, outscoring the Commodores 28-10 inside.
Vanderbilt: Ralph has the Commodores playing much improved defense ranked ninth nationally in steals with Cambridge leading the country coming into the game with 64 herself. They harassed Tennessee into 18 turnovers with 15 steals. But the Commodores have to slow down just a bit and finish off fast-break opportunities better.
Tennessee hosts No. 19 Kentucky on Sunday.
Vanderbilt visits LSU on Sunday.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25