Fast Start for Buckeyes Too Much for Lady Vols to Overcome

Photo by Riley Haltom (@rileyhaltom on X)

By Matthew Silitsky

KNOXVILLE, Tenn – No. 20 Tennessee (4-4) dropped another loss at home 78-58 against No. 16 Ohio State (6-1) at the Food City Center on Sunday. 

The struggles continued for The Lady Vols as they lost their second straight game at home and fourth in five games against a ranked opponent. 

 It was all Buckeyes from the tip. The Buckeyes showed their defensive prowess, the reason for which they force 21.5 turnovers a game. 

The Lady Vols turned it over four times in the first five minutes of the contest, and they tallied 10 turnovers at the break. The Buckeyes’ full court press was feasting off Lady Vol mistakes, scoring 28 points off turnovers in the game.

Through one quarter, there was little involvement on the offensive end for the Lady Vols. This was due to the full court pressure applied by the Buckeyes, resulting in a 43-28 score at half.

“We have to find the balance of being aggressive, but also being poised. We had some really good possessions against the press, some really good ball movement that I was proud of,” Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper said about breaking the press. “But we also had some silly turnovers that we have to be better at and I think our players understand that.” 

Buckeyes forward Cotie McMahon put up 19 points in 18 first half minutes. When it was not McMahon, the wealth was shared as four players finished in double figure scoring. A mixture of late contests and poor positional discipline hurt the Lady Vols defensively.

The second half might have well been déjà vu as nothing changed on either end of the floor for The Lady Vols. After shooting 32% from the field in the first half, the second half did not hold much better as the Lady Vols shot 35%. 

The Lady Vols season-long three-point struggles continued. They made five of 27 attempts from downtown, which has them shooting the three ball at a 30 percent clip for the season. 

Following Wednesday’s loss to Notre Dame, Sara Puckett said the reason for the team’s poor play as of late is due to not playing Tennessee basketball.

“We just have to go back to those things that is Tennessee basketball which is rebounding and defense,” Puckett said. “We have got to want it more than the other team and that’s where we just got to find our way as who we are. We have our own identity as this Tennessee team but as a program we definitely have to get back to out rebounding our opponents and getting defensive stops consistently.” 

The highlight of the game for the Lady Vols was center Tamari Key, who  delivered nine points in 16 minutes on three of four shooting to go along with four rebounds and two blocks.

“She’s been a different player over the last two practices” Harper said about Key.

Sitting at .500% (4-4) is where The Lady Vols stand and things are not expected to get any easier as SEC play has yet to begin.

The next matchup for The Lady Vols is Wednesday against Middle Tennessee (6-3) at a neutral site in Huntsville, AL.  Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET and the game will air on ESPN + and The Lady Vol Network.