published Monday, February 20th, 2012

Lady Vols hold off Ole Miss

OXFORD, Miss. — The size and strength of No. 13 Tennessee ended up trumping the speed of Mississippi for a 66-56 Southeastern Conference victory on Sunday.

With Tennessee (20-7, 11-3) struggling to connect from 3-point range, the inside duo of Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen bailed out the Lady Volunteers, who have struggled with their effort and energy level from game to game.

Johnson and Stricklen both went 5-of-9 from the floor and combined to score 25 points. Johnson, who finished with 13 points, also grabbed eight rebounds for the Lady Volunteers.

“I thought Ole Miss really focused on taking away our inside game early. Credit to Glory and [Stricklen], they kept working,” Tennessee assistant coach Holly Warlick said. “They probably weren’t getting as many touches as we normally get, and that’s due to Ole Miss, but I thought we kept working hard, and when we needed a basket inside, we got them the ball. They made plays.”

In a game that Tennessee never led by more than 12 points, Warlick talked about why the Lady Volunteers struggled to put away an Ole Miss team (12-15, 2-12) that played its most complete game of the season.

“We did some good things and then we turn the ball over at crucial times and they took advantage of it,” Warlick said. “We didn’t get to loose balls that we normally do, and I thought Ole Miss was capitalizing on our mistakes. We needed buckets, we needed stops and we got them, but we let somebody score 21 points. We were just too inconsistent.”

Valencia McFarland was the Lady Rebel who finished with 21 points. The point guard, who was 4-for-6 from 3-point range, was praised by Johnson following the game for her effort and her ability to lead her team.

“She’s really quick. She was a player that her team needed to play well to be successful, and she did her job,” Johnson said. “She made it hard on our guards, and when she drove and we went to help, she was able to dish and find her teammates. She played a great game.”

Tennessee led 32-21 at the half. The Lady Rebels cut into that lead early in the second half with a 13-6 run that brought them within four points, 38-34, at the 14:27 mark.

Ole Miss got within four points twice more but never got any closer as Tennessee withstood the Lady Rebels’ best punches with inside buckets from Johnson and Stricklen as well as a key 3-pointer by Stricklen with just under seven minutes left.

Tennessee has won three straight games since falling out of the Top 10 last week and leads the SEC by a half-game over Kentucky, which hosts Vanderbilt on tonight.

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