Tennessee Lady Vols Score Huge Upset Over No. 10 Ranked Stanford Cardinal 59-51: Five Takeaways

Nov 11, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; General view before the game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Chattanooga Mocs at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; General view before the game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Chattanooga Mocs at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tennessee Lady Vols shocked the No. 10 ranked Stanford Cardinal 59-51. Here are five takeaways from the Volunteers women’s basketball team’s victory.

Holly Warlick’s team finally showed up to play for 40 minutes against a ranked opponent. The Tennessee Lady Vols took a 40-38 lead with two and a half minutes left in the third and never relinquished it, winning a huge game at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville Sunday afternoon.

Early in the game, the women’s basketball Volunteers fell behind 15-4 and looked like they would be in for another long day.

But they never gave up and fought back to take the lead in the second quarter before going into halftime with a 29-29 tie.

Then, they took control in the third to pull out the huge victory.

With the win, Warlick’s team improved to 6-4 on the year, and they gave the Cardinal only their second loss of the year. Stanford is now 8-2.

Here are five takeaways from the Tennessee Lady Vols’ victory.

1. Mental toughness is not to be questioned with this team.

There are plenty of factors contributing to the Tennessee Lady Vols struggling early this year, and it’s mainly lack of depth. But this team is doing everything it can to make up for that lack of depth with mental toughness. Just like they did last week, they fell behind and fought back. But unlike last week, they were able to continue the fight.

And in the process, the Lady Vols got a huge win. Down 15-4, they could have rolled over. But this very thin team exerted all it had to get this win, and they deserve a ton of credit for that. It took a lot of mental toughness and heart to do it with only seven players.

2. Mercedes Russell got tough again.

Last week, we questioned Mercedes Russell’s toughness after she got abused inside against the Texas Longhorns. Well this week, the reverse is true. She dominated on the inside and held her own against a very physical and tough Erica McCall on the other side. McCall is an amazing defender and shot-blocker, but Russell went five-for-nine with 11 points.

She also added 13 rebounds and had a block on her own, while McCall had zero blocks. Sure, Russell also had four turnovers, but she still played aggressive and tough. And that’s what Warlick and the Tennessee Lady Vols need from her every night.

3. Decent three-point shooting made the Tennessee Lady Vols dominant.

We know that the bread and butter of the Tennessee Lady Vols is going inside to Mercedes Russell, but part of that requires decent three-point shooting. When Holly Warlick can get that from her guards, it draws out the defense, and then they can play their offense.

In this case, the Lady Vols were able to slow it down and play smart in the process, and they kept control of the game. Hitting five three-pointers while shooting just over 40 percent was all they needed to keep this offense dynamic. And it worked to perfection. They also had help from a specific guard.

4. Diamond DeShields is an X-Factor. 

The entire offense worked through Diamond DeShields, and she was exactly what the Tennessee Lady Vols and Holly Warlick need her to be in the backcourt. DeShields finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and three blocks.

Sure, she was only five-of-17 from the field, which is abysmal. But she kept the offense together and remained aggressive, which was extremely important. At the same time, she was clutch. She nailed a three-pointer late to keep the Lady Vols in control. And then she hit Russell for a beautiful lay-in pass a few plays later to make sure her team wouldn’t blow the game with lack of offense.

5. Jordan Reynolds finally stepped up!

The one senior who sees significant action for the Tennessee Lady Vols finally showed what she needed to show on Sunday. Jordan Reynolds scored a 14 points and went six-for-15 shooting. She has got to be a reliable scorer to complement DeShields the same way Jaime Nared does with Mercedes Russell (Nared had 10 points, by the way).

When Reynolds can do that, it opens of the offense just as much as solid three-point shooting does. It also allows the Lady Vols to play their style and slow the game down so they don’t get fatigued. Reynolds also had three assists. She needs to be aggressive like this on more nights.