Bashaara Graves. Courtesy: UT Sports
By STEVE MEGARGEE / AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee realizes its chances of winning a Southeastern Conference title depend on whether it can start playing championship-caliber defense consistently.
The 11th-ranked Lady Vols (20-5, 11-1 SEC) lead the conference and rank fifth nationally with 79.2 points per game, but their defense hasn't been quite as consistent. Three of Tennessee's last four opponents have shot at least 50 percent in the second half.
Tennessee will try to stop that trend Thursday when it hosts Auburn (14-11, 3-9).
The recent struggles on defense have coincided with the absence of starting center Isabelle Harrison, who has missed the Lady Vols' last four games since undergoing knee surgery. Tennessee coach Holly Warlick is optimistic Harrison will return at some point this season, but no target date has been set.