Lady Vol bench produces huge minutes versus Vandy
KNOXVILLE — The Lady Vol bench isn’t deep, but it’s effective.
Of the five bodies available to sub in, none impacted the sixth-ranked Lady Vols’ 86-73 win over Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon like Cheridene Green and Anastasia Hayes did.
″(I’m) really, really proud of our players coming off the bench,” UT head coach Holly Warlick said. “They stepped up, and that’s why we talk a lot about our team and being ready. They did a great job. Cheridene and Annie (Hayes) were just solid.”
Green, playing in her first year at Tennessee as a JUCO transfer, tied a career-high 21 minutes and snagged a new-career best 17 points, with her previous best of 16 points coming last month versus Troy on Dec. 6.
The London native notched five rebounds, where one of those ignited an 11-4 run to end the third quarter for a 65-62 lead.
“It was awesome. She’s a really good player,” said UT redshirt senior Mercedes Russell, who scored a career-best 33 points, of Green. “In practice you can see how strong and physical she is. She’s a great rebounder. It was a career night for her which was awesome, and she came up really huge for us rebounding and making layups.”
Green was on the receiving end of one of Hayes’ seven assists in the fourth quarter that gave the Lady Vols a 71-63 lead with 8:17 remaining, forcing a Vanderbilt timeout.
It was such a pretty pass that it warranted Warlick embracing Hayes, as she came off the court for the ’Dores timeout.
“We are talking point guard to point guard. She had an unbelievable pass,” Warlick said, “and it was on the money. It got us fired up. I know we scored, but immediately my mind went, ‘That was a great pass!’
“I wanted to make sure she knew that. It was hard. It was leading. It was a quarterback throwing to a wide receiver. (Green) caught it and laid it up. Beautiful. It was just a great fast break. I wanted to make sure she understood that.”
Starting point guard Evina Westbrook didn’t have a great day, drawing four fouls and scoring just two points, but Hayes picked up the slack. The freshman scored just three points, but her turnover-to-assist ratio was stunning.
Hayes directed the offense by tossing seven assists to just two turnovers, while snagging two steals and a rebound in 29 minutes.
“I absolutely love her coming off the bench because she has energy,” Warlick said. “She’s quick. She is a dart. She is somebody we don’t start off with. She comes, in and you have Evina Westbrook out, but now you have to guard somebody different, who is quick, fast, and attacks the basket. Annie is getting better, and all that is experience and playing time.”
INJURY UPDATE: Jaime Nared missed the practice before the Vandy game Sunday, but the senior didn’t miss a beat, playing every minute except two. Nared said there was a small doubt she wouldn’t play versus the ’Dores; however, it was very slim. The Portland, Ore., native didn’t play like she was dealing with a lower body extremity, bucketing 15 points, grabbing five rebounds and tossing four assists.
“I’m all good,” Nared said. “Unless I can’t walk, nothing is going to keep me from playing. I love this game. I’m a tough player and nothing is going to keep me out.”