Lady Vols improve to 2-0 in Italy

PONTE BUGGIANESE, Italy  (School Release)– The Tennessee women’s basketball team forced 22 turnovers and controlled the boards, earning a 71-61 victory over the Lithuanian University Teams Select Sunday night at Palazzetto dello Sport Sandro Pertini.

The Lady Vols improved to 2-0 on the trip and will play their final game on Tuesday in Rome vs. Selezione Dream Team Italy (7 p.m. CET / 1 p.m. ET). It will be the squad’s first tilt in a big city after playing the last two in smaller towns between 45 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes outside the cites of Mestre and Florence. The gym in Ponte Buggianese reflected that community’s agricultural landscape, with a large cornfield situated just outside the back door.

UT raised its record 15-7 in games played on foreign soil, winning its sixth in a row and improving to 3-0 in Italy (the other win came against Pesaro in Viterbo in 2003).

Redshirt junior Jasmine Jones led the attack Sunday evening, hitting six of 11 field goal attempts and four of four free throws to tally 16 points. The 6-foot-2 forward also grabbed eight rebounds and forced three steals, helping Tennessee total 18 steals and initiate 22 Lithuanian miscues as well as outrebound their opponents, 48-26. UT had 18 offensive boards on the night.

Senior Nia Moore also played a significant role in those stat categories, grabbing a game-high 11 caroms. The 6-3 center had seven of the Lady Vols’ 18 offensive boards and contributed a game-high five steals and six points in a very assertive performance.

Redshirt sophomore Mercedes Russell and freshman Te’a Cooper also scored in double figures. The 6-6 Russell, while dealing with a Lithuanian center standing at least 6-7, scored 12 points, including 10 in the second half. The 5-8 Cooper also tossed in 12 points.

Tennessee led 20-13 at the end of the first period, thanks to a Nia Moore tip-in before the half. The Lady Vols pushed the lead the 11 twice in the second stanza at 30-19 and 32-21 before taking a 32-27 advantage into the locker room. Jones led the way in the opening 20 minutes with 10 points and six rebounds.

The UT lead ballooned to 18 midway through the third stanza, thanks to consecutive treys from Cooper, Kortney Dunbar and Meme Jackson, and a two-pointer from Jaime Nared. Lithuania narrowed the gap to 57-43 heading into the final frame.

In the fourth quarter, Russell and Reynolds scored quick buckets to build the lead back to 18, but the opposition outscored Tennessee the rest of the way, 18-10, to reach the final count.

Up next for the Lady Vols is a bus ride to Rome on Monday, with a stopover in Pisa on the way to see the Leaning Tower, Piazza del Duomo and Field of Miracles. On Tuesday, the group will visit Vatican City, making its way to the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel before playing that night.