Despite shooting only 40 percent, and committing 29 turnovers, the Vols upended a young Louisville squad 63-50 in front of a Big East-record crowd of 22,124 in the first game at the KFC Yum! Center.
Tennessee used their size and experience to pound Louisville on the glass, out-rebounding the Cardinals 53-29. The Vols had 18 second chance points, 12 more than the Cardinals.
"We had to defend and get the ball inside," Tennessee coach Pat Summit said. "Defense and rebounding is how we built the program at Tennessee. If you play great defense and get on the glass you can find a way to win on a bad shooting night."
"Meighan Simmons is one of the quickest guards to ever play at Tennessee," said Summit. "She came up big for us. She's quick on quick."
Louisville cut the lead to five at 55-50 on two Shoni Schimmel free throws, but couldn't get any closer. Tennessee tightened their defense and held the Cardinals scoreless for the final 4:08.
"We played hard and we competed," Monique Reid said. "We had them on their heels when we cut it to one with seven minutes remaining. We're a better team [than last season]. We play hard for each other."
Reid led UofL with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Schimmel, Louisville's touted freshman point guard, struggled in the first half with seven turnovers, but showed flashes of her talent in the second half. Schimmel finished with nine points, three assists and eight turnovers.
"It was her first game," Walz said. "She was over excited and tried to make the great pass up the court. They were enticing her to throw the length of the court pass. She's a quick learner. She turned it over seven times in the first half, but only one time in the second half. She got herself together and showed some glimpses of what she can do."
Walz hopes his team's experience against the Vols will pay dividends the rest of the season. Louisville now travels north to play Ohio on the road Sunday.
"I thought we competed and gave a good effort," Walz said. "There's no question this team can get better. We're going to be competing at a high level soon. We've got players that can play. We have more offensive weapons than we had last year."
Simmons led UT with 22 points and eight rebounds. Shekinna Stricklen contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Vols.
"We got killed on the glass and that was a big factor for us," Walz said. "They went after it. We've got to do a better job at getting some boards at crunch times."