Dec. 17, 2011
Los Angeles, Calif. - Sixth-ranked Tennessee used 69.2% shooting to help post an 85-64 win over UCLA in a non-conference game played before 2,025 fans in a sold-out John Wooden Center on Saturday afternoon. The Lady Vols connected on their first eight shots in the game and went on to make 18 of their first 20 attempts from the field, while earning their fifth straight win on the season. Senior guard Rebekah Gardner topped UCLA, now 5-4 on the year, with a career-high 24 points. Tennessee upped its record to 7-2 overall, with a game at fourth-ranked Stanford on Dec. 20.
Tennessee jumped out to a 19-8 lead on a Shekinna Stricklen basket with 13:52 to play in the first half. It was the Lady Vols' eighth straight made basket to open the game. Despite the hot shooting by the visitor's, UCLA managed to cut the deficit to 24-20 following a basket from junior forward Atonye Nyingifa with 10:34 on the clock. Tennessee then ran off eight straight points, in the midst of a 14-2 run, which increased their advantage to 38-22 with 5:45 left in the first half. UCLA closed to within 45-34 at the halftime break. Tennessee shot 76% in the first twenty minutes of action.
In the second half, Tennessee scored nine of the game's first 11 points to pull away from the Bruins. A Rebekah Gardner three, one of her career-best five in the game, cut the lead to 54-41 with 15:50 to play and that would be as close as the Bruins would get the balance of the contest.
Rebekah Gardner was joined in double digits by junior forward Markel Walker and sophomore guard Thea Lemberger, who each added 11 points, and by Nyingifa, who totaled 10. Walker led UCLA, which won the battle of the boards, 31-28, with eight rebounds.
"We work to force the other team to take hard shots," said UCLA head coach Cori Close. "Today, they made those hard shots - give some great players at Tennessee credit. But I tell my players, we cannot give up the easy ones, especially when a team is making the tough ones on us. We will grow from this experience and it will aid us come time for conference play."
Sophomore guard Meighan Simmons' 18 points led a balanced Lady Vols attack which featured all five starters in double figures. Glory Johnson added 17, while Vicki Baugh and Taber Spani had 14-each and Shekinna Stricklen had 11 points. Tennessee shot 63% in the second half of play and converted 36 of its 52 field goal attempts.
UCLA now heads to Philadelphia to take on Temple, on Dec. 20, and St. Joseph's, on Dec. 22. The Bruins will return home on Dec. 29 (California) and Dec. 31 (Stanford) to begin Pac-12 conference play.