Knoxville, TN — It was a tough day in Knoxville when Tennessee fell to Baylor 88-66 in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge that the Lady Vols hosted.
"They outworked us,” said Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick. “They have more talent. They played harder. They have more heart. They're a team that's on a mission. They're focused. Obviously, we didn't have an answer for them today."
Baylor started the game on fire, and they never let up.
"I think we came in here with focus and poised and ready to play,” said Baylor guard Alexis Jones. “We knew there was going to be a crowd out there and we know Tennessee is the home of basketball really besides Baylor, but we were just focused and we were ready to play"
In the first half, the Bears shot just below 50% from the field and 57% from the three-point arc. Couple that with their tenacity and depth, it immediately put Baylor on the defensive — mightily. Tennessee struggled to contain fast and furious offensive style that the Bears were bringing.
Baylor’s pinpoint accuracy spearheaded by Jones, their star guard, was a thing to watch, whereas Tennessee shot a dismal 28% from the field in the first half.
Warwick was holding back tears post-game, echoing feelings of disappointment and wishing her team would respect the game.
"It's about heart, it's about (not) thinking you're better than you are," said Warwick.
Tennessee spent a week preparing for this game, Warwick urged, but said it “looked like her lineup had no idea what Baylor would bring.”
Baylor's energy certainly didn't fade even with the game in control late in the second half, and they had Jones to thank for that one. Jones was 11 of 25 from the field, and 5 of 9 from the three-point arc, ending the game with a career-high 30 points.
They shot three or four times more free throws than we did,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. “So I just thought that has to speak volumes about how well we did play."
Jones cited “mental toughness” and an urge be a leader on the court invigorated her energy to continue.
Nina Davis thought her team's single loss to Connecticut (72-61) this season has propelled her teammates to remain focused and poised even in tough matchups.
It wasn't all bad for the Lady Vols, though, as Mercedes Russell stunned with her 12 rebounds. Warwick said if Russell weren't so tall, she'd have her in at point guard.
It's still early in the season, so for a Tennessee team that feels crippled by disappointment and a lack of heart, it's not too late.
“Back to the drawing board,” said Warwick.
Tennessee sits at 4-3 overall, while Baylor goes to 9-1.
Next up: Tennessee faces Texas on December 11 and Baylor hosts Texas State on December 6.