When your point guard blocks their star forward, it just might be your night.
The game started tight. Tennessee opened up a brief early lead, but Rice started with hot shooting, making over 70% of their early shots and opening up a 20-16 lead by the under-12 timeout. And that's when the rails came off. From a bucket that made for a 22-16 lead at 11:42 to the end of the first half, Rice made all of one basket (at 3:00 to go) and three free throws. In the meantime, Tennessee scored 29 points to go to the locker room up 45 - 27 and end any thought of an upset. Like against Georgia Tech, the first half was keyed through Isabelle Harrison, who had 12 points and 7 rebounds to lead the team.
When the teams came out of the second half, Andraya Carter provided the play that set the tone for the route: Rice ran a set play to give Kuster an opening for a shot, and Carter hustled over for a block that left everybody amazed. From that point over, Tennessee simply ran over Rice. With 25 second half rebounds, 18 fast break points, 30 paint points, and 23-35 shooting, they showed a killer instinct that has not always been present at Rocky Top. The end of the game was capped off by a three-point shot by Taber Spani, the one Lady Vol who had a rough offensive night (1-7 from the floor overall).
The team had only one turnover in the first half, and six all game long (most of which came late); with 24 total assists, their 4.0 A/TO was one of their highest such marks in a very long time. In other brief stats, Tennessee led in rebounds (41-24), steals (14-1), blocks (5-2), and assists (24-4). It was a very good night for stats that are indicative of good team play, which is one of the brightest signs that Lady Vols fans could hope for. There will very likely be "growing pain" games this year, but overall the team looks like they're committed to Holly Warlick and very enthusiastic about the season.
Team leaders: Bashaara Graves led the team in minutes (26). Simmons led in points (22) on 8-12 shooting from the floor, as well as steals (4). Izzy Harrison had 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. Kamiko Williams gave 6 assists on the night.
Enjoy the eye candy:
Next up is Miami on the road on Sunday at 2 PM EST. A win would go a long way towards making the Chattanooga loss look like a fluke and give a lot of reason to be optimistic about the prospects for this team down the road.