- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Auburn couldn’t slow down Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons until it was too late to matter.

Simmons scored 26 points and sparked an early 19-0 run Thursday night to continue her career-long mastery of Auburn in the 10th-ranked Lady Vols’ 93-63 victory. Simmons, a 5-foot-9 guard, averaged 26.5 points in Tennessee’s two victories over Auburn last season.

“(I’m) very happy she’s a senior,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “I’ll look forward to watching her in the pros.”

Simmons scored 25 points in the game’s first 21:42. She made 10 of her first 15 shots Thursday before missing her last seven attempts with the game well out of reach.

After the game, Simmons struggled to pinpoint the reason for her history of success against Auburn.

“No explanation,” Simmons said. “I just try to come out and play hard. It’s not ever about me. It’s really about the team. I just want to do whatever I can to kind of help the team win, just do my role and pay attention to what I need to do out there on the floor and just be a leader.”

Tyrese Tanner scored 15 points for Auburn (14-12, 5-8 SEC). Tra’Cee Tanner had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Brandy Montgomery scored 12 and Hasina Muhammad added 10.

Cierra Burdick added 19 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Vols (21-5, 10-3). Andraya Carter had 12 points. Isabelle Harrison added 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Tennessee has won 23 of its last 25 games in this series. Auburn has lost 16 straight road games to Tennessee since winning 71-68 in Knoxville on Jan. 9, 1988.

Auburn has lost two consecutive games since capping a three-game winning streak last week with a 68-62 road upset of Vanderbilt, which was ranked 16th at the time. Tennessee bounced back from a 75-71 home loss to No. 15 Kentucky - ranked 18th at the time of their Sunday meeting - and avoided its first two-game skid of the season.

“We knew they would be angry and upset coming off the loss, and they would be ready to go against their next opponent, which just so happened to be us,” Williams-Flournoy said.

The Lady Vols were coming off a 22-turnover performance against Kentucky. The Lady Vols spent the week emphasizing the importance of taking care of the ball against Auburn, which entered the night with an SEC-leading 11.2 steals per game in league competition.

“We are a pressing team,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We cause turnovers against some of the best teams in the SEC. That is who we are.”

As it turned out, Auburn’s turnovers proved more costly.

Tennessee broke open a 13-11 game by going on a 19-0 run during which Auburn committed five turnovers in a 6½-minute stretch. Tennessee outscored Auburn 29-10 in points off turnovers.

“We weren’t really thinking about what we could do with them,” Carter said. “We just wanted to play Lady Vol basketball, and that ended up forcing turnovers because when we’re all playing hard and all playing together, that’s the result.”

Simmons scored Tennessee’s last 10 points during the 19-0 spurt. She also scored seven straight points during the closing minutes of the first half. She capped that flurry by converting a midcourt steal into a fast-break layup. By halftime, Simmons had 19 points to help Tennessee take a 54-33 advantage.

Simmons added a pair of 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half. She scored just one more point the remainder of the game, but the Lady Vols still led by as many as 38 and ended up with their largest margin of victory in an SEC game this season.

After Simmons sank a 3-pointer to give Tennessee a 57-35 lead early in the second half, Williams-Flournoy called a timeout with 18:54 remaining to try finding some way to slow her down the rest of the night.

“We couldn’t let her go off for 40 tonight,” Williams-Flournoy said.

That was about the only measure in which Auburn succeeded Thursday.

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