KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No. 13 Tennessee used a strong defensive performance and balanced scoring to defeat Rutgers 66-47 Sunday.
The victory was the 1,200th in Tennessee’s program history, an NCAA best. It was also the ninth consecutive win over Rutgers for the Lady Volunteers (9-3).
Tennessee led by as many as 28 points in the second half after leading 33-13 at halftime.
The Scarlet Knights (8-4) shot 34.6 percent (18-of-52) from the field and just 22.2 percent (6-of-27) in the first half.
Rutgers’ 13 first-half points were the fewest Tennessee has allowed in a first half this season. Rutgers missed its first seven shots as the Lady Vols jumped out to an early 8-0 lead.
“It was a focus,” Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons said of the Lady Vols’ defense. “We’ve got a pretty good history with Rutgers, and the games are usually pretty close. We took that to heart that we had to start with defense before anything.”
Tennessee’s Isabelle Harrison recorded a double-double with a game and career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Kahleah Copper led the Scarlet Knights with 13 points.
Rutgers cut Tennessee’s lead to 33-16 to start the second half but never got any closer after the Lady Vols went on a 7-0 run to take a 40-16 lead.
A jumper by Simmons with 13 minutes, 6 seconds left gave Tennessee a 48-20 lead, its largest of the day.
Simmons scored 11 of her 15 points in the first half. Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
The Lady Vols shot 44.1 percent (26-of-59) from the field. They outscored the Scarlet Knights 30-22 in the paint and 19-12 in fast-break points.
“I thought today that the defense allowed us to take good looks at the basket,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “We didn’t let our offense affect our defense, and I think at times (this season) we’ve done that. In this game, we did not. I think we took good shots, but you take good shots when you’re getting steals and shooting layups instead of settling for jump shots.”
Tennessee scored 24 points off 24 Rutgers turnovers, while the Scarlet Knights managed just eight points off 18 Lady Vols turnovers.
Rutgers’ leading scorer and rebounder, Monique Oliver, injured her left ankle midway through the first half and didn’t return. She played just nine minutes and had no points or rebounds.
“Let’s look at it like this: It gave us an opportunity for Chelsey (Lee) or other people to play,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “This would not have been the time that I would’ve wanted that to happen, but I was pleased Chelsey Lee didn’t give up in her effort. She wanted to be there.”
Lee scored four points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Erica Wheeler finished with 11 points for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers’ 47 points were the second fewest the Scarlet Knights have ever scored against Tennessee. The Lady Vols held Rutgers to 46 points in the 2007 national title game.
In a 2009 matchup between the two teams, Rutgers led 33-13 at halftime — the opposite of Sunday’s first-half score — but Tennessee rallied for a 55-51 victory.
The Lady Vols are 19-3 overall against the Scarlet Knights, including a perfect 7-0 at home.