No. 4 Lady Vols hang on for 57-55 win over No. 25 Syracuse
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee's superiority in the paint has helped the Lady Vols barely withstand their struggles from 3-poiint range.
Bashaara Graves made a tiebreaking basket with 2:48 remaining and No. 4 Tennessee held No. 25 Syracuse scoreless for the final 5-plus minutes in the Lady Vols' 57-55 victory Friday night.
Graves' basket broke a 55-all tie and ended up as the final points. Syracuse (1-1) missed its last eight field-goal attempts after tying it on Abby Grant's 3-pointer with 5:12 left. The post presence of Graves and Mercedes Russell helped Tennessee (3-0) win despite being outscored 24-3 from 3-point range.
''Anybody that knows Tennessee knows that we play inside-out, and our posts are going to touch the basketball,'' Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. ''They did tonight. But it gave guards an opportunity to shoot, and we just didn't knock down shots.''
Syracuse's Brittney Sykes had given Syracuse one last chance by stealing the ball from Tennessee's Jasmine Jones with less than 15 seconds left. Brianna Butler missed a 3-pointer that would have put Syracuse ahead, but the ball went out of bounds off Tennessee. Sykes then drew a foul and went to the line to try tying the game with 5.4 seconds remaining.
The first of her two free-throw attempts hit both the front and back of the rim before falling out. Russell got the rebound off Sykes' second miss.
''It felt fine leaving my hands,'' Sykes said of that first miss.
Graves had 16 points and 10 rebounds to help Tennessee (3-0) to its 25th straight home victory. Russell added 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Alexis Peterson led Syracuse with 19 points.
After trouncing Central Arkansas 102-47 in its season opener, Tennessee has come from behind in the second half of close victories over Penn State and now Syracuse.
''We have a lot to learn from,'' Graves said. ''These close games have taught us a lot. We've got to go back and fix what we need to fix in practice. These close games have been great because we've fought through to the end.''
Tennessee's poor outside shooting has made these games close.
The Lady Vols shot 9 of 19 from 3-point range against Central Arkansas. They've been 1 of 12 from beyond the arc in each of the last two games since while seeing plenty of zone defenses. Tennessee had gone 56-plus minutes without a successful 3-pointer before Te'a Cooper connected in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Syracuse wasn't exactly shooting well either, as the Orange went 8 of 32 on 3-pointers. Butler, who entered the night with the most career 3-pointers of any active Division I player, was 2 of 13 from beyond the arc.
Syracuse: Syracuse hasn't beaten a top-five team since a 62-59 victory over No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 2, 1996. Syracuse has beaten the No. 6 team in the nation twice in Quentin Hillsman's coaching tenure - a 75-66 triumph over Ohio State in 2010-11 and a 78-73 victory over North Carolina in 2013-14. Tennessee's Diamond DeShields played on the North Carolina team that lost to Syracuse.
Tennessee: Freshman Meme Jackson made her Lady Vols debut Friday but played just two minutes. Jackson had missed Tennessee's first two regular-season games after getting hit in the face during an exhibition victory over Carson-Newman.
DeShields continues to show signs of rust as she returns to action after sitting out last season as a transfer. The Lady Vols guard went scoreless and shot 0 of 5 in 20 minutes Friday after shooting 2 of 11 Wednesday against Penn State. ''"Her timing's off and her shot's off. ... I thought Diamond got good looks. (They) just didn't go down,'' Warlick said.
Graves has shot 16 of 17 from the floor so far this season.
Syracuse: Hosts Morgan State on Monday.
Tennessee: Hosts No. 24 Chattanooga on Monday.