Nashville – After a hard-fought game with Auburn the Lady Vols did what they couldn’t do last year and won their first game in the SEC tournament.

It was not an easy victory however, as the Lady Vols trailed at the end of the first half 38-35. Auburn would not go quietly into the night in the second half as it took a late three pointer from Rennia Davis to clinch it for Tennessee.

Unfortunately, the Lady Vols did not escape what everyone knew would be a physical game unscathed.

Jaime Nared went down in the 4th quarter with what seemed to be a hip injury. She tried to re-enter the game and did score a basket, but was in obvious pain and pulled herself for the remainder of the game.

She seemed to be ok and should be good to go for the game tomorrow night, though she may not be 100 percent.

The Gamecocks, however, are still unsure whether they will have star forward and SEC player of the year A’ja Wilson back for the game after experiencing a bout of vertigo.

If she cannot play this will be the third time the teams face off this season and the third time they do it without Wilson’s participation.

She was held out of the first game due to a foot injury and game two due to the vertigo flare up.

If she cannot go on Friday it would once again be a huge boost for the Lady Vols due to the mismatches it creates down low for Mercedes Russell. As well as the ability for players like Nared, Anastasia Hayes, Evina Westbrook, and Davis to drive to the hoop.

Russell had 16 points and 12 rebounds in both games against the Gamecocks earlier this year.

Feb 15, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Lady Volunteers center Mercedes Russell (21) shoots a free throw against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the third quarter at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

On top of all that Wilson’s absence allows the Lady Vols to go to the bench more often and earlier without fear that whoever they put in won’t be able to guard their woman.

The Lady Vols also seem to be playing better defense recently especially against the Gamecocks.

In Game one on Jan. 14th, UT allowed Tyasha Harris to score 28 points in a high scoring affair that the Lady Vols won 86-70.

However, in game two Harris was held to two points and the Gamecocks were held to just 46 points as UT won that one on Feb. 25th 65-46.

If the Lady Vols hope to take down the Gamecocks for the third time this year they must do the following things (assuming Wilson does not play).

UT must abuse Russell’s size advantage on both sides of the ball. She must dominate scoring and rebounding on both ends, while defensively keeping USC from driving to the basket without resistance.

Meme Jackson must lead the charge, alongside Davis, with the press on defense.

This team has the most success when they are aggressive on both ends and create off the press.

They need points off turnovers and they need to not have many of their own.

Finally, and most important, this team must play with some fire. They tend to hold the ball and get very lazy with their passes as well as drives sometimes are only halfway completed.

If UT wants to beat USC for the third time this year, something that is hard to do in any sport, they must make decisive, crisp passes and they must drive back door as well as drive straight to the basket with a purpose and draw fouls.

The Lady Vols and the Gamecocks will tip-off at 7 p.m. ET or 6 p.m. CT from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Friday.

Written by: Colin Castleberry

Edited by: Sam Forman