- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee produced its lowest point total in the program’s modern era, yet the Lady Vols said their defensive deficiencies played as big a role in their demise as their scoring woes.

Vanessa Panousis scored 21 points and shot 5 of 8 from 3-point range while Virginia Tech continued its fast start with a 57-43 upset of No. 8 Tennessee on Sunday.

The Lady Vols (6-2) posted their lowest single-game point total since former coach Pat Summitt took over the program in 1974.

“We’re not a very good basketball team right now,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “We’ve just got to get better.”

Panousis helped Virginia Tech (7-1) outscore Tennessee 18-2 down the stretch. The Hokies shot 9 of 19 on 3-pointers and held Tennessee scoreless for the game’s final 6:27.

“”We struggled offensively, but really defensively is why we lost,” Tennessee guard Diamond DeShields said. “We couldn’t get out on their shooters. They hit like nine 3-pointers and that’s definitely unacceptable. Even though we did have a pretty low-scoring game, we still could have had a pretty good outcome if we would have just played defense.”

DeShields scored 15 points for Tennessee, all in the first half. Mercedes Russell added 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.

Tennessee (6-2) missed 13 of its final 14 field-goal attempts, including each of the last 10, in a rare home loss against an unranked foe.

The Lady Vols had won their last 44 home games against unranked foes since falling 72-71 to Arkansas in overtime on Feb. 23, 2012. This loss came exactly one week after Texas beat Tennessee 64-53 to end the Lady Vols’ overall 27-game home winning streak.

Making Sunday’s result all the more surprising is that Virginia Tech went 12-20 and won just one Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season game last year.

“I don’t want to say we’re back, but we’re heading in that direction,” Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff said.

Tennessee was playing at less than full strength.

Reserve guard Alexa Middleton joined the list of injured Lady Vols - she arrived for Sunday’s game wearing a walking boot on her left foot. Warlick said after the game that Middleton had a bruised ankle. Tennessee already was without forwards Kortney Dunbar (sprained ankle) and Jasmine Jones (head injury), center Nia Moore (ribs) and guard/forward Jaime Nared (broken hand).

While the Lady Vols did have seven available players, only two of them provided much offense. DeShields and Russell shot a combined 10 of 16 for 23 points in the first half, while their five teammates combined to shoot 1 of 14 and score two points.

Tennessee still led 25-22 at halftime, but its dependence on DeShields and Russell allowed Virginia Tech to pull ahead once that duo cooled off.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies won despite shooting just 10 of 20 from the free-throw line.

Tennessee: Former Lady Vols star Tamika Catchings was in the stands. The Indiana Fever forward drew a standing ovation when she was introduced during a second-quarter timeout.

KEY STATS

After shooting 6 of 11 in the first half, DeShields missed all seven of her second-half shots. DeShields said she was hit in the face at one point in the second half but indicated it didn’t cause her slump down the stretch. … Before Sunday, Tennessee’s previous low single-game point total was in a 72-44 loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 23, 2012. … Tennessee shot 1 of 19 from 3-point range. Since shooting 9 of 19 from beyond the arc in its season opener, Tennessee has gone 23 of 115 from 3-point range.

QUOTABLE

“The issue was we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” DeShields said. “We stopped cutting. We stopped getting the ball inside. We stopped getting inside shots. I know personally I started shooting 3s, where in the first half I was getting in the paint and driving more. I believe we definitely shot ourselves in the foot. It’s definitely a learning experience.”

NEXT UP

Virginia Tech: Hosts Morgan State on Wednesday.

Tennessee: At Wichita State on Friday.

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