Lady Vols fall in double overtime to Georgia

University of Tennessee‘s Diamond DeShields (11) battles for the ball against Notre Dame‘s Kathryn Westbeld (33) during a game between University of Tennessee and Notre Dame University at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee on Monday, January 16, 2017. (Photo: Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel)

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ATHENS, Ga. – The finality of a women‘s basketball game that seemingly wouldn‘t end was etched on Diamond DeShields‘ face Sunday afternoon.

Two Tennessee winning streaks ended with one agonizing loss, falling to SEC rival Georgia 81-78 in double overtime before a crowd of 3,885 at Stegeman Coliseum. When Jordan Reynolds‘ 3-point attempt rimmed out, the Lady Vols lost for the first time in five games. They also were beaten by the Bulldogs for the first time in 11 games, a streak that extended back to 2010.

DeShields described the outcome as “a minor setback.” But the redshirt junior guard also said, “It is honestly tough for us because we have been on a roll these past four games.”

A game that featured 13 ties and 14 lead changes revisited one of the Lady Vols‘ most nagging problems: turnovers. They matched their season high with 24, which corresponded with 23 Georgia points. Three occurred in the final 1 minute, 34 seconds of regulation, when Tennessee let a 58-52 lead slip away.

No. 25 Tennessee (15-8, 6-4 SEC) also didn‘t have a defensive answer for Georgia‘s Caliya Robinson. The 6-foot-3 sophomore forward came off the bench to score 28 points, shooting 13-for-17 from the floor.

Robinson, one of four double-figure Georgia scorers, was instrumental in the Bulldogs scoring 42 points from close range. Her putback with 33 seconds left in the second overtime broke the final tie.

“I took this game personal and knew I had to come out and give it my all,” Robinson said.

The prolonged drama elevated the smallest contribution. Georgia guard Haley Clark‘s lone basket in six shot attempts came when she dribbled the length of the floor in seven seconds. Clark drove past two UT defenders to score a game-tying layup with two seconds left in regulation.

The marathon also vexed one of the most productive players. DeShields scored a game-high 34 points, shooting 14-for-28 from the floor. She hit a game-tying jumper with 22 seconds left in the first overtime, which capped a five-point UT rally inside the final 1:30 of the extra session.

But DeShields also was charged with a season-high 10 turnovers, including the aforementioned three.

“I have to be better handling the basketball,” she said. “I was trying to create for my teammates and it wasn‘t going our way.”

Along with DeShields, center Mercedes Russell scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Otherwise, six other Lady Vols accounted for only 20 points and shot a collective 3-for-26 from the floor.

The latter group included Jaime Nared, who had averaged 26.5 points the previous two games and had scored in double figures for 19 consecutive games. The junior forward shot 1 of 6 from the floor and scored just five points before fouling out in the first overtime.

“I thought it was physical and for some reason she didn‘t handle it tonight,” UT coach Holly Warlick said.

Warlick accounted for the turnovers by saying “that means nothing good is going to happen.”  But she also thought the Lady Vols weren‘t sufficiently sharp or aggressive throughout, particularly regarding defense and rebounding.

“At times, I thought we looked like we were going through the motions and if you want to be a solid basketball team, you‘ve got to do everything right all the time,” Warlick said. “So as well as we played against South Carolina, we couldn‘t bring that energy tonight. A lot of that had to do with Georgia and how hard they played.”

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