Albany nearly upsets Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, TENN. >> Mercedes Russell scored 12 points Friday as No. 4 Tennessee held off several Albany threats down the stretch, outlasting the Great Danes 63-55 for its 27th straight home victory.
The Lady Vols (4-1) haven't lost at home since a 75-71 defeat to Kentucky on Feb. 16, 2014.
Albany (4-1) had the ball with a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but Shereesha Richards missed a leaner from about 10 feet away with 17.2 seconds left. Richards then fouled Bashaara Graves, who made two free throws to give Tennessee a four-point cushion.
After Albany missed two 3-pointers on its next possession and committed a technical foul, Tennessee sank four free throws with 1.3 seconds left to account for the final margin.
Richards had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead Albany. Imani Tate added 15 points and Erin Coughlin scored 12. Diamond DeShields had 11 for Tennessee.
This game continued Tennessee's recent trend of surviving close games at home. After blowing out Central Arkansas 102-47 in its season opener, the Lady Vols have won their last four games by a combined total of 20 points.
Even before that missed shot by Richards with 17.2 seconds left, Albany had three earlier chances to tie it in the final four minutes.
Richards and Zakiya Saunders missed shots from close range with Tennessee leading 53-51. Saunders missed a shot with Tennessee up 55-53. Albany got the ball back with the score 55-53, but an offensive foul on Tate nullified what would have been a tying basket.
Tennessee led by as many as 12 points in the first half because of its improved outside shooting.
The Lady Vols had shot a combined 5 of 42 from 3-point range in the three games leading up to this one. They matched that total of 3-point baskets Friday in the first half alone and ended up 7 of 21 from beyond the arc.
Albany clawed back into the game and briefly took the lead 32-30 early in the third quarter before Tennessee pulled ahead for good later in the third.
Albany: The Great Danes entered the day as one of only two Division I programs with Tate averaging 22.8 points per game and Richards — the school's all-time leading scorer — averaging 20.5 points per game. Minnesota was the only other school to have two players scoring at least 20 points per game.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols were outscored 28-20 in the paint. Tennessee had outscored its first four opponents 180-94 in the paint.
Albany: Hosts Providence on Tuesday.
Tennessee: Hosts No. 8 Texas on Sunday.
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