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Struggling Lady Vols beat rival as coaching rumors swirl

The Commodores hosted the Lady Vols tonight, looking to snap a three game losing streak. Tennessee pulled away early, leading by 14-points at halftime. Vanderbilt tried to comeback, pulling within six in the fourth, but the Lady Vols close it out, 69-51.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville, TN -- It sure was a packed house as the Lady Vols traveled to Nashville Thursday evening to take on in-state rival Vanderbilt. During their last match up in Knoxville, the Commodores fell to the Lady Vols 58-49. There was a lot on the line for both teams as Tennessee looks to stay in the top-25, Vanderbilt is hoping to snap a three-game losing streak.

The Lady Vols defense came out strong early letting the Commodores score only seven points in the first quarter. Vanderbilt kept letting the shot clock wind down which resulted in sloppy shots and tons of turnovers. The Commodores ended the game with 15 turnovers.

The Lady Vols, on the other hand, played very well on both offense and defense. The Lady Vols have needed a game where they show up on both sides of the ball. Tennessee didn't turn the ball over until the second quarter, a great accomplishment for the team. They also allowed only seven offensive rebounds.

Cutting down on extra possessions for the Commodores showed to be beneficial. Great passing and teamwork is what led to the Lady Vol victory; on the night the team had 11.

"We finished the game, we finished with a win, and that's extremely positive for us," said Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick. "I'm very happy that we got away with the W."

Mercedes Russell had six rebounds in the first half alone, which helped fuel the Lady Vols to a 14-point lead at halftime. Russell finished the game with 11 points and eight rebounds.

Tennessee had multiple players shine for them tonight. Diamond DeShields continued to step-up her game, adding 12 points and nine rebounds. Jaime Nared led the Lady Vols with 18-points and five rebounds.

Te'a Cooper added 11 and Bashaara Graves had 10. That's FIVE Lady Vols players that scored in double-digits tonight. If the team wants to continue to win, they will need more games with a collective scoring effort to do so.

The Lady Vols have struggled all season with finishing the game, and we saw that in the fourth quarter tonight when the Commodores managed to cut Tennessee's lead to six with help from Minta Spears and Rebekah Dahlman. Spears finished the game with 11-points while Dahlman led the Dores with 13-points and five rebounds.

Jasmine Jenkins helped fuel the late game surge ending the game with 10-points. Tennessee can thank their strong offensive performance to start the game along with their defense, for keeping Vanderbilt at an arms length down the stretch.

Vanderbilt had foul trouble all night, ending with 25 for the game. The crowd made it known, they were not happy with the refs. Head Coach Melanie Balcomb said, talking about Webb's fifth foul, "To be honest with you, I have no idea what she did to get that foul." As for the future, "We can do better than we're doing. We're a better practice playing team than this, everybody is all in, everybody is commited," Balcomb said.

The Commodores surged late in the fourth quarter to come within six points of the Vols, but that's as close as they would get. Tennessee won the game 51-69.

The Lady Vols eyes are set on their next game, #2 South Carolina on February 15th.

Note: A report ran yesterday that stated it's rumored that Holly Warlick could be on the hot seat. Even further, Louisville head coach Jeff Walz was a name mentioned as a potential candidate. Rumors have been circulating for awhile that she could be on the hot seat. But according to sources, all of this talk and conjecture is premature, as a matter of fact, one source stated that Warlick "will be back."