Lady Vols romp past Chattanooga, 103-43

The offensive eruption was hard to overlook – the Lady Vols set three-point records for attempts and makes and the 103 points were the most scored since 2005 – but Pat Summitt was particularly pleased with the way her team played defense and shared the ball in Monday's 103-43 win over Chattanooga in the home opener.

Tennessee, 2-0, had 12 assists to go with its first 12 baskets and all 10 players in the box score finished with at least one helper. Three players, Kelley Cain, Angie Bjorklund and Meighan Simmons, had four assists each, and the team finished with 25 to just eight turnovers. Simmons and Bjorklund also led the scoring for Tennessee with 26 points for the freshman speedster and 20 for the senior sharpshooter.

Cain had a hand in Tennessee's first two threes as she drew a double team to start the game and kicked out to Meighan Simmons, who buried the shot from the top of the key just 12 seconds into the game. When Angie Bjorklund got a pass in the right corner from Simmons off the in-bounds play, she dribbled once to her left, ran her defender right into Cain, who stepped out to set a screen, and nailed the shot.

With Cain on the floor at the opening tip and her unselfish attitude when the ball reaches her hands, Tennessee's three-point shooters got off to a fast start and never looked back.

"Having Kelley as a threat inside is huge for us, because not only is she going to score in there, but if they double, triple team her, it opens a lot of things up for us with the three-point shot," Bjorklund said. "It's kind of like pick your poison. Are you going to go for Kelley inside or the three-point shooter on the outside? And we were knocking down shots tonight, so it was good."

Cain also was effective around the basket as she scored seven points and four rebounds and tallied two blocks and two steals in just 17 minutes on the court.

"Inside-out is a really good action for us," Coach Pat Summitt said. "Kelley has got great hands, she's got a soft touch. I'm really, really pleased with her development, and I think she makes a big difference for us in the paint."

Cain, who has been eased into playing time while she recovered from a sore hip and also doesn't need to absorb an overload of pounding on her knee, was inserted into the starting lineup for the Chattanooga game, along with Simmons, who has had an outstanding freshman debut, first on the road and now at home.

"Meighan has really demonstrated a commitment on both sides of the ball," Summitt said. "She can push the basketball, and she's obviously never seen a shot she didn't like. I like most of what I've seen from Meighan. I think she's inspired our teammates, as well. That's the main reason why I wanted to get her in the lineup.

"Coming off our last game I thought Kelley really did a good job of running the floor, and she got a lot of good touches inside and using the ball really well, so that was our thinking as a coaching staff."

Summitt was smiling when she mentioned Simmons' shooting, and Chattanooga, 0-2, inexplicably left her open in the corner on two possessions in the second half.

"Actually, yes, I was surprised," Simmons said. "But, when you're open, you're open. You've got to shoot the open shot, and you've got to focus on that shot at that moment."

On one possession, the Lady Mocs had shifted to the other side of the floor to track Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen. No defender was within 15 feet of Simmons. On the second possession, Chattanooga still didn't get a defender on Simmons, Stricklen noticed it, called for the ball back and whipped a pass to Simmons. Simmons drained both shots. That led to a timeout by Chattanooga Coach Wes Moore, who was clearly exasperated.

On a foggy, rainy night in Knoxville the Lady Vols left Chattanooga behind in a barrage of three-pointers – Tennessee started off shooting nearly 70 percent from long range – that left the crowd of 10,808 happy it had ventured into poor weather to watch a stellar performance.

The fans also got to see an almost-dunk as Glory Johnson broke away early in the second half after a steal but missed on the throw-down. Even the miss was applauded by the crowd.

"Oh, my gosh, to be honest I was not expecting that," Simmons said. "But when she did I was like, Wow.' One day she's going to get it."

"She said she's got to go off her left foot, and she went off her right foot," Taber Spani said. "She's athletic."

Johnson tallied 10 points, eight rebounds, one assist and four steals in 17 minutes of play – she spent just five minutes on the court in the second half – and spent the rest of the game sitting on the floor with Cain at the corner of the bench and taking in the action.

Summitt used all 10 players – three were out in Alyssia Brewer (Achilles tendon surgery), Vicki Baugh (resting knee) and Lauren Avant (right ankle injury in Sunday's practice, in a boot and on crutches per protocol) – and nobody logged more than 29 minutes. With two more games this week, Virginia on Thursday and Arizona State on Sunday, that was an ideal situation for Tennessee.

"It was great," Summitt said. "I wanted to distribute the minutes. My coaching staff helped us do that. I wanted to look at everyone and give everyone a good opportunity to show us what they could bring.

"We got a lot of people playing time, which is good. We're off (Tuesday), and we've got some games coming that are going to be very, very challenging, so looking forward to that."

Baugh initially warmed up with the team and likely could have played if needed, but a sore knee, brought on by the damp and cool weather, kept her on the bench.

"It's day-by-day," Summitt said. "Obviously, I think with the weather that's not favorable for her. We're not taking any risks whatsoever."

Moore was quoted Monday in the Chattanooga Times Free Press as saying that playing Tennessee sounds like a good idea for 364 days of the year. He managed a smile when reminded of the quote in the post-game press conference.

"Today it wasn't a whole lot of fun," Moore said. "I knew they were going to present a whole lot of problems for us. We're short-handed right now, we're really small inside, really inexperienced on the perimeter. We've got a lot of things that are going to have to get better in the next few weeks if we're going to compete in January and February.

"I told the team afterwards we're going to work our tail ends off, do what we can this year and down the road. I could easily call Pat up and say, ‘Let's don't do this anymore,' but we're not going to do that. We're going to try to get back where we can compete. Two years ago, it ended up a three-point game and even the year before that I think we got beat over here by about 18. But you take away about two three-minute stretches and we played toe to toe with them. Obviously I know you can't take away two three-minute stretches, but as a coach you can live with that and know that you competed.

"Tonight, we didn't compete. I think our kids had good intentions, but we've got a big gap to close."

Moore got a visit from Faith Dupree, a 6'3 Lady Vol forward who is practicing with the team this fall but is not playing and will transfer to Chattanooga at the end of the semester.

"The sooner, the better," Moore said when asked if he was looking forward to getting Dupree to Chattanooga. "In fact she came by the locker room right after the game and I told her, ‘I need a hug and a post player.' She said, ‘Well, I can deliver both.' I am looking forward to that addition obviously."

Summitt wasn't particularly happy last Friday with her team's defensive performance – she did like the final score in the 63-50 opening win over Louisville – but she was ready to talk about the defense Monday. Her first post-game question was about the three-point shooting. That warranted one initial sentence.

"When you shoot the ball as well as we shot the ball, that gives us a lot of confidence," Summitt said. "I was probably more excited about our commitment on the defensive end. That's where we've put a lot of emphasis on our defense and our board play. Obviously that's going to be priority.

"You never know when you'll have an off night shooting the ball, so you have to make sure you're ready to go in all aspects."

Tennessee set two school records for made 3-pointers with 15 and attempts with 33. The previous records were 13 makes – set four separate times against Auburn in 2010, Arkansas in 2008, Ole Miss in 2005 and Army in 2002 – and 30 shots, set once against Arkansas in 2008.

Tennessee went for 100 points for the first time in a regulation game since the 102 points scored against Old Dominion in 2009. The 103 points are the most since 2005 against Princeton, a 107-39 win, and the last time Chattanooga saw the scoreboard hit triple digits against Tennessee was Nov. 12, 2006, in a 102-72 win for the Lady Vols.

"I think after the Louisville game, we really watched a lot of film," Bjorklund said. "I thought the guards did a great job of moving without the ball more and playing more inside-out instead of one-on-one. We were playing more as a team and also running and getting some transition points. I thought we did a great job."

Tennessee got all facets of its offense going against Chattanooga starting with the opening three from Simmons, followed by a Johnson turn-around to the middle of the paint and a three-pointer from Bjorklund.

The Lady Vols had a 13-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. Summitt was ready to make use of the check-in area of the scorer's table less than four minutes into the game when Spani entered for Stricklen and then a little more than a minute later Alicia Manning checked in for Cain.

Before Stricklen checked out, she had zipped down the left side of the court on a fast break and found on the right side a streaking Simmons, who converted the high-speed layup. Bjorklund and Simmons kept the transition scoring going when the senior found the freshman behind the arc for a 16-0 lead.

Simmons swung the ball to Spani on the next possession, and Tennessee led 19-0 at the 15:12 mark of the first half. Chattanooga got on the board, 19-2, at the 14:14 mark with a short jumper from Alex Black. Tennessee answered with another three as the ball swung around the perimeter and found Simmons for a 22-2 lead with 13:58 left before halftime.

Summitt got two more new players in the game in Briana Bass at the 13:39 mark and then Kamiko Williams with 11:22 left.

Tennessee continued the ball movement – Spani delivered inside for Cain for a 24-2 lead and when Spani put the ball back inside Cain was doubled and kicked out to Bass, who hit the three for a 27-2 lead with 10:35 to go in the first half.

"I do think we have some really good three-point shooters," Summitt said. "And that covers up a lot of warts, but I think overall we're going to still be committed to playing inside-out, but I think we can get a lot of good looks with our inside-out action, because we do have players that (get) in the gym. I think they are really committed."

The scoring kept coming in bunches for Tennessee – Spani for a three-pointer, Johnson found Spani in the corner for another three, a Johnson drive and short jumper and then a Spani steal and layup for a 37-6 lead with 8:22 left before the break.

At the 7:47 media timeout, Tennessee was 9-13 from behind the arc (69.2 percent) and 14-23 overall (60.9 percent). Chattanooga, meanwhile, was 0-3 from long range and 2-12 overall.

"I think when you're surrounded by so many great players, it really helps," Bjorklund said. "If someone is having a tough game someone else is going to step up. Especially our bench came in and did a great job, too, with scoring. It was an overall team effort.

"I think our entire team came in ready to play, ready to shoot the ball. That's what Mickie (DeMoss) said before the game started. She wrote on the board, ‘If you're open, do not hesitate,' and I think all the shooters came in ready to play."

Chattanooga, a team that relies on three-point shots to win games, finally hit its first one at the 6:48 mark of the first half when Tenisha Townsend connected for a 37-9 deficit. But the Lady Vols weren't slowing down before halftime.

Sydney Smallbone entered the game at the 6:11 mark, got a defensive board, pushed the ball down court and found Bjorklund on the wing for yet another three and a 44-11 lead with 5:00 left before the teams went to the locker room.

Simmons hit a short jumper in transition, the ball went from Johnson to Bass to Bjorklund for another three-pointer, and Smallbone hit from 18 feet for a 51-15 lead with 18 seconds on the clock. Townsend was fouled by Bass with 2.7 seconds left before the break and hit one of two free throws for the 51-16 margin at halftime.

Tennessee had 15 assists on 20 first-half baskets and had shot 58.8 percent (20-34) overall and 61.1 percent (11-18) from behind the arc.

"I thought we were very unselfish and we kept the ball moving," Summitt said. "It didn't get stuck in many players' hands … for the most part I thought they really shared it and I think they have to feel good about themselves and how they played tonight."

Tennessee started the second half the way it opened the game. Simmons hit a jumper after 12 seconds had elapsed, and Johnson hit a short turn-around in the paint for a 55-18 lead at the 19:20 mark.

The Lady Vols continued to run and Summitt kept the players rotating in at the scorer's table. Tennessee did cool off from behind the arc at 4-17 in the second half but still shot 48.8 percent (21-43) overall after halftime.

Tennessee got its running game going and after being down one on the boards 17-16 at halftime, started cleaning up the glass, too, for a final 49-31 rebounding margin over the Lady Mocs.

The second-half margin swelled to 60 points, 90-30, with 6:05 left after Williams hit a stick-back of a teammate's missed three-pointer and scored three times in that fashion, including the last basket for Tennessee and the 103-43 final score with 1:20 left in the game. Manning rebounded her own miss on Tennessee's last possession and kicked the ball out to Bass, who held the ball for the final 27 seconds.

"You've got to start by giving them a lot of credit," Moore said. "They came out and knocked down shots, especially from the three-point line. When you come in to play Tennessee you hope that maybe they don't shoot the ball well that particular night, and you can do a decent job of trying to keep them off the boards.

"But unfortunately they filled it up, shot the ball extremely well and also on the other end of the floor just unbelievable defensive pressure in the passing lanes, really took us out of running any semblance of offense. I've got to try to do a better job of helping our kids handle that type of pressure.

"But you've got to give Tennessee all the credit. Unbelievable on both ends of the floor and it's going to be a special year for them."

Chattanooga was led by 22 points from Hood, a transfer from Clemson, who played inside and was 8-12 from the field and 6-7 from the free throw line. Townsend chipped in with nine for the Lady Mocs and hit two of their four three-pointers with Bailey Dewart and Kiara Smith connecting on one each.

The Lady Mocs had 22 turnovers, which Tennessee converted into 23 points. The Lady Vols also had 12 steals. As a team Chattanooga was 4-20 (20.0 percent) from behind the arc and 15-51 (29.4 percent) overall, but Hood was a bright spot.

"I was really proud of her, in particular in the second half," Moore said. "I thought she really stepped up and we're going to need that from Whitney if we're going to compete in the conference at all.

"After being off a year, it takes a little bit of time to get back in the groove of a game situation but that's very encouraging the way she played in the second half, so we can build around that. We don't have a whole lot of size, so Whitney is going to play an important role in what we're doing."

"It is definitely a learning experience," Hood said. "The only thing we can do is get better, go to practice Wednesday and focus on the next game."

Tennessee put five players in double figures led by Simmons with 26 points and Bjorklund with 20. Spani added 14 points and Williams was a perfect 6-6 from the field for 12 points. Johnson tallied 10, and Cain tossed in seven points.

Of Tennessee's 15 three-pointers Bjorklund hit six of them with Simmons connecting on five. Bjorklund now has 240 for her career and is just 26 away from tying the school record of 266.

The Lady Vols shot 53.2 percent overall (41-77) and 42.9 percent from behind the arc (15-35). The free throw shooting was especially abysmal by comparison at 42.9 percent (6-14), outside of Bass 2-2 stroke from the line. The Lady Vols started 1-6 from the stripe but finished 5-8.

Tennessee owned the boards again in the second game of the season, led by 10 rebounds from Manning, eight each from Williams and Johnson and six from Bjorklund. Nine of the 10 players who logged minutes had at least two boards.

For the second straight game, too, a major storyline was the play of Simmons, who became the 60th freshman in Lady Vol history to start a game. She scored 11 of Tennessee's first 19 points, including three treys in the first 6:21 of the game.

Summitt had praised Simmons throughout the preseason, but the coach didn't predict this kind of start.

"No, I didn't know she would have this kind of impact," Summitt said. "I knew she was a great athlete, but I didn't know about her (entire) skill set. She is very skilled and she is very confident to be a freshman. You don't see that very often. I think she's the quickest guard.

"I know we've had some dialogue (as to who is quicker) – Shannon Bobbitt or Meighan Simmons (as to who is quicker). Bobbitt had a great shooting touch, great passer but Meighan is just a notch quicker, and she makes a lot of good things happen. I am really pleased that she is at Tennessee."

Summitt raised the praise a notch higher after Monday's game.

"One of the best guards to ever play in this program," Summitt said. "Obviously, it's early. We want her to keep doing what she's been doing and continue to get better. Overall, she's a special player. Our team, they really embraced her when she came in. The one thing about this team is there are no selfish players. They are all givers, and they all want to win, which is really key for us."

Simmons doesn't lack for confidence, and it seems to elevate in games. She also can feel her confidence growing with each game.

"I do," Simmons said. "It's not only in games. It always starts in practice. I think practice makes perfect. I think the harder you work in practice it's not going to be that hard in a game but still you have to work twice as hard in a game."

That attitude has been key in why a veteran team has so readily accepted a talented freshman into the fold who hasn't just excelled but has shown herself to be one of the best players on the roster.

"We have great chemistry, and we're all really close, and we hopefully all want the same goal, and I think we all do," Spani said. "We know that we want to get to Indianapolis and compete for a championship, and we realize that we're going to need every single person to bring their game and their best to the table.

"I think the fact that we are so deep really helps us. We all just try to play to our own strengths and bring what we can. I really think that we're the deepest team in the country by far. We always have someone to go to. That's a huge advantage for us."

VIDEO COVERAGE: Clips of pre-game before the Tennessee-Chattanooga game, including the ceremony to honor Margaret Cox, who was presented with a framed No. 30 jersey to commemorate the 30 years she has sung the national anthem before Lady Vol games.

When Cox started, Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick was the starting point guard. Cox decided to sing one final time before the first home game this season and then retire.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories