No. 6 Lady Vols beat slumping Georgia 70-59
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Tennessee's response to its only SEC loss was its best-shooting road performance of the season.
Cierra Burdick scored 18 points and No. 6 Tennessee beat Georgia 70-59 on Thursday night, giving the Lady Bulldogs their longest losing streak in 38 years.
Tennessee (24-4, 14-1 Southeastern Conference) recovered from Monday night's 71-66 loss at No. 2 South Carolina by making 54.3 percent of its shots: 25 of 46.
Coach Holly Warlick said the team's senior leaders, Burdick and Ariel Massengale, made sure there was no letdown after the South Carolina game. Massengale had 17 points and five assists.
''This team is really seasoned,'' Warlick said. ''You talk about Burdick and Massengale and (junior) Bashaara (Graves) ... I think they are mature. I think they understand our system more. It does come with maturity.''
Burdick said the Lady Vols understood the visit to Georgia could have been a dangerous game.
''We needed to bounce back from that South Carolina loss,'' Burdick said. ''We needed to learn from it and implement what we learned.''
Georgia (17-11, 5-10) has dropped eight straight, the longest losing streak in coach Andy Landers' 36 seasons and the second longest in program history. Georgia's longest skid was 15 games over two seasons in 1976 and `77.
''I think we are making progress,'' Landers said.
Landers said he continues to give increased playing time to such young players as sophomore Halle Washington and freshmen Haley Clark and Mackenzie Engram, who led the Lady Bulldogs with 16 points.
''We're playing younger players more than we've played all year, and they continue to get better,'' Landers said. ''I thought Washington again was very, very good.''
The Lady Vols led by 12 points in the first half, but Georgia chipped away in the second half and pulled within 58-54. Ariel Massengale, who had 17 points, answered with a jumper for Tennessee. Jordan Reynolds sank a 3-pointer and the lead was back to eight.
The Lady Bulldogs' slide began with a 59-51 loss at Tennessee on Jan. 25. One of the team's top players, Shacobia Barbee, suffered a season-ending leg injury in the loss.
Tennessee also has had to adjust to the loss of a top player to a recent injury. Center Isabelle Harrison, the team's top scorer, suffered a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 15.
Georgia led 16-11, prompting a Tennessee timeout. The Lady Vols responded with a 19-3 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Burdick and a steal and basket by Andraya Carter.
With Tennessee leading 30-19, the Lady Bulldogs finally answered with two straight 3s from Tiaria Griffin. Georgia couldn't sustain the brief surge and the Lady Vols led 39-27 at halftime.
Tennessee: Burdick had a game-high 10 rebounds. ... The Lady Vols have seven straight wins in the series with Georgia. ... Tennessee protected its lead by making seven free throws down the stretch, including four by Massengale.
Georgia: Griffin had 11 points. ... The longest losing streak in the program's history included the last game of the 1975-76 season and the first 14 of the 1976-77 season. ... Forward Merritt Hempe missed her fourth straight game with mononucleosis.
Warlick said she is ''shocked'' by Georgia's record because ''they don't quit and it was a battle for us.'' Engram agreed.
''I think we played hard for 40 minutes,'' Engram said. ''(Landers) said we fought hard and that we played Georgia basketball. There were times where we turned it over and it really hurt us, but overall I think we played hard.''
TRACKING SOUTH CAROLINA
Tennessee's only SEC loss may be too much to overcome in the conference race. South Carolina clinched a tie for its second straight SEC championship by beating No. 11 Mississippi State 69-50 on Thursday night.
Tennessee: Hosts Vanderbilt on Sunday.
Georgia: At Florida on Sunday.