The Tennessee Lady Vols defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 88-45 on Thursday to move to 17-4 and a perfect 8-0 in SEC play.
A big part of the win was the play of senior guard Kamiko Williams, who recorded a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds to go along with six assists and six steals in her first start of the season.
"She had a great game," head coach Holly Warlick said. "One of her best games since she's been here. That's our expectation for her. Six steals was huge, then her assists and rebounding. She was at the point a lot. She needs to put those numbers up every night for us to maintain and be consistent."
Sophomore forward Cierra Burdick, who had missed the previous eight games due to a broken right hand, returned to the lineup on Thursday to a welcoming cheer from the Tennessee faithful as she came off the bench.
"I was all smiles," Burdick said. "Smiling from ear to ear. When basketball is your life since you were five years old and it gets taken away from you for a month, when you get to come back, all you can do is smile. I was so energized on the bench trying to be positive for my teammates, but there's nothing like stepping in between those lines and having the ball in your hand. Our fans are great. The acknowledgement that they showed me was awesome."
The Lady Vols went into halftime with a 42-18 lead and continued to play with a high intensity in the second half just as Warlick encouraged them to do during the break.
"We really emphasized not playing the scoreboards," Warlick said. "We have to get better and we talked about against Notre Dame having lulls, and we can't. We've got to make sure we maintain our intensity and how we're playing and just continue, no matter what the score. We're behind, we're ahead, we've got to get better and focus on us and understand the importance of how hard we're playing, the game takes care of itself."
Tennessee was able to dominate the boards all game (rebound margin of +17) and push the ball out in transition (22 fast break points), which Mississippi State (9-12, 1-7) head coach Vic Schaefer said he knew was a problem coming into the game.
"You've got a great staff over there, veteran staff, they do their homework," Schaefer said. "They're going to know that's an issue for us. Everybody's attacking us in that area."
Freshman center Nia Moore, who was productive (eight points and three rebounds) in stepping in for the injured sophomore center Isabelle Harrison, said tonight was a big confidence boost for her going forward.
"It definitely gives me confidence. With our players going out and being injured, any time I can go out there and help my team is good."
Next up for the Lady Vols is the Missouri Tigers in Columbia on Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. The Lady Vols defeated the Tigers earlier this season 84-39 in Thompson-Boling Arena.