"That's exactly what we wanted," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "We wanted to get everybody playing time and rest our legs, because we've been on a pretty wicked run. Auburn was a tough game.
"We traveled, came back home and played this game. Now we're playing Thursday. That's difficult."
Tennessee (10-3) dispatched Chattanooga (8-4) in rather efficient fashion with the game essentially over by halftime when the Lady Vols led 50-16.
The Lady Mocs went 12 minutes without scoring, and a 10-8 Tennessee lead at the 16:33 mark swelled to 40-8 before Chattanooga's Kayla Christopher hit a 10-footer with 4:28 remaining before halftime.
"Embarrassing. Humbling," Chattanooga Head Coach Wes Moore said. "Again, they are great. They're a great team. They're long, athletic, but things we talked about – they'll turn you over to shoot layups, they get offensive boards and get put-backs. You have to limit those. You have to control the things you can control, and we didn't do that.
"I know it's hard to come over here and compete with this team, but like I said, we had the deer-in-the-headlights look. We were shaky. We were making mistakes that we would normally not make."
The Lady Vols, when engaged on defense, can do that to a team, and the starting five set the tone in the game, especially Glory Johnson, who hurdled a Lady Moc for a loose ball after it came free against the pressure defense and took the ball to the rim.
"We've worked really hard in the last four days on our defense, and I thought when we held them to 20.7 percent in the first half, I thought what we've done in practice has really paid off," Warlick said.
It was a game that Tennessee dominated statistically, much like its last home game against Old Dominion.
"We have been putting so much time and effort into rebounding and defense the past couple of practices, and knowing that that's something that as a team we want to work on, and individually we want to get better defensively, and we need to get better," Johnson said.
"Everyone needs to get better defensively. Shutting them down was huge for us because it showed that everything we did in practice carried over into the game."
Tennessee's defense was enhanced by its board play.
"We had 55 rebounds, and we've really emphasized our defense and our rebounding," Warlick said. "As a coach to see what you do in practice go into what you do in a game, it's so positive. I was proud of our players."
Tennessee won the glass battle, 55-28. The Lady Vols got 41 points from the bench compared to 20 for Chattanooga, and 17 of those came from former Lady Vol Faith Dupree, who transferred a year ago and just recently became eligible to play.
"It was good to see Faith," Warlick said. "It was good to see her back on the floor. I would have liked her to not have made so many shots against us.
"Yeah, I was proud of Faith. I thought she played hard. I don't think her minutes have been as much as she played tonight just because she's just coming back, but it was good to see her on the basketball court."
Tennessee also had 30 second-chance points compared to nine for Chattanooga, as the Lady Vols grabbed 24 boards on the offensive end.
Williams' first basket was a stick-back – she darted in from the baseline – of a teammate's miss just 15 seconds after she checked in at the 7:05 minute of the first half.
"It was good to see Kamiko back out on the floor," Warlick said. "She has worked so hard coming back from her torn ACL. I know she was excited when she was cleared to play. I thought she looked good and played on-balance."
Williams tore the ACL last July on a drive to the basket in the summer Rocky Top League. She had surgery July 22 and made a remarkable recovery, earning praise for her attitude and work ethic during the brutal rehab process.
"We were concerned; Kamiko's never been injured," Warlick said. "An ACL injury is obviously a very serious injury, and we were concerned about how she would rehab, but she's been unbelievable. Hasn't missed a day with Jenny (Moshak), and has come back. Her knee is so much stronger.
"I'm just proud of how committed she is to getting back on the basketball court. I know tonight was exciting for her. She's probably had this day to come back marked on her calendar a long time, so I was glad they released her, and she had an opportunity to play this year."
Williams had been practicing with the team for the past month, and she was released for more activity incrementally after evaluations of the left knee.
With Taber Spani out with a bone bruise – she is officially listed as day to day but that type of injury can need some time to fully heal – the return of Williams became more necessary, as she can play all three positions on the perimeter.
The official clearance came Tuesday from medical personnel. Williams had made it clear last October that she would follow the advice of the doctors and Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine, but she wanted to play this season.
"With Taber out, we didn't know if we were going to possibly redshirt her still or play her," Warlick said. "With Taber out, it kind of pushed the issue for us. She really wanted to get back out on the court, and I thought for the most part, outside of getting winded, it was great to see her back.
"You see what we missed. She came up with a huge rebound. It's good to have her back, and she's worked so hard this summer for this day to come. I was excited for her to get back on the floor."
When Williams checked into the game, the crowd – announced at 11,754 but closer to 9,000 on a bitter cold night – cheered the return, and her teammates stood and applauded.
"We were too happy," Johnson said. "We know what she's been through and how much work she's been putting in off the court.
"(Williams was excited just to) be able to help us in practice when she was barely back in, and to see her actually go back out there on the floor was amazing, so we were really happy about that."
Williams made her comeback in a little over five months – there was no visible swelling in her left knee last October – and was aided by the fact the injury was isolated to the ACL with no other ligament or meniscus damage. She also expected to play this season.
"Yes, with the workload that JMo gave me since day one," Williams said. "She was kicking my butt every day, and because I had an isolated ACL, I didn't have too much to worry about.
"I just took it a day at a time. JMo said everything was looking good, and of course she knows what she's talking about, so I had all my faith in J-Mo and God, so it worked out."
Williams was part of the relief corps from the bench that accounted for 41 points in the game, led by a career-high 13 points from freshman Isabelle Harrison with senior Briana Bass connecting on three 3-pointers, much to the delight of the crowd, and Vicki Baugh posting a pair of nines in points and rebounds.
"I was pleased the bench got some really good minutes," Coach Pat Summitt said. "Izzy had 13 points and eight rebounds. She could have scored more if she had finished some of her shots at the rim.
"Good to see great balance from Vicki with nine points and nine rebounds. She played hard at both ends and really got on the glass for us.
"Our fans just love Bree, and they get excited when she lines up to shoot a three ball."
Tennessee started off a tad slow – the score was 7-6 at the 17:13 mark after Dupree connected at the rim – but then Meighan Simmons and Ariel Massengale connected on back-to-back long balls – both assisted by Johnson who fired to Simmons out of a triple team and then drove and kicked to Massengale – and Tennessee led 13-8 at the 16:10 mark of the first half.
Massengale would ultimately go 6-6 from the game and 4-4 from the arc.
"If Ariel shoots the ball the way she does, we're a very, very good basketball team," Warlick said. "She obviously distributes the ball and runs our team on the floor, but when she's shooting the ball the way she is, it takes a lot of pressure of our post players.
"It takes a lot of pressure off Shekinna and Meighan, who are supposed to make shots. I don't think people consider Ariel a shooter. They think she's a point guard who passes and gets everybody where they should go. I've always thought she could shoot the ball well, but tonight, she was feeling it."
The offensive output from Massengale – she had a career-high 19 points – was one more reason for the coaches to want her on the court.
"Obviously, it was good to see Ariel have a game like this," Summitt said. "She took some tough shots but was really efficient.
"Most importantly, she gets everyone to their spot. I can't tell you how important that is to our coaching staff. She really makes a difference for us."
"I love her being aggressive, and I love her looking for her shot," Warlick said.
"I mean, just another threat on offense," Massengale said by way of explaining the effect of her shooting. "You know you have great perimeter players in Miko, Strick, Taber and Meighan, who can put the ball up.
"So, I think it just makes it harder for other people to defend us because you can't help off the other, because you know everyone else is such a threat."
Tennessee, as a team, was accurate in the first half and shot 56.3 percent en route to scoring 50 points by halftime.
Chattanooga, meanwhile, misfired from all spots on the court. The Lady Mocs also were turning loose of the ball and after Johnson stripped a player at center court, she hurdled a Lady Moc, snared the ball and went in for a layup.
Baugh entered the game at the 12:30 mark of the first half, grabbed a rebound and fired it to Massengale, who found Johnson for a catch-and-release layup and a 23-8 lead.
Tennessee kept pouring in the points, fed by its offensive and defensive rebounding and defense. Johnson got another block under the basket, darted to the other end, received a pass from Massengale and got fouled. Johnson hit both free throws for a 34-8 lead.
Cierra Burdick made it 40-8 when she glanced up, saw the shot clock at six seconds, sidestepped her defender and hit the wing jumper with 5:46 left before halftime.
Fellow freshman Harrison ended the first half with a flurry of scoring, as she hit three layups and connected on two free throws.
"Hats off to them; they shot the heck out of it in the first half," Moore said. "I told our team at halftime that we have to get back to competing in games like this.
"There was a time, even when Tennessee was winning national championships, we could compete with them and we are going to try our best to get back to that point. The first half was humbling, but the second half I thought we competed much better."
Chattanooga was noticeably more vocal in the second half and focused on execution instead of paying attention to the scoreboard.
"I thought we competed a lot better in the second half, executed our four-out offense a little better than we did in the first half, so we have to build off of that," Christopher said.
"From here on out there is no more non-conference games, so it's business from now on. I think we need to build off of that this coming weekend on our road trip."
Dupree went 2-3 in the first half and finished 7-10 from the floor for 7 points.
I'm happy for Faith," said Moore, who joked that he had asked Tennessee to send Johnson, Dupree's former high school teammate, to Chattanooga, too, to ease the transition process.
"That was a good homecoming for her. That was probably the only silver lining I could find."
Most of Dupree's shots came on short and midrange jumpers that she lofted over Tennessee's post players.
"I didn't expect having those open shots," Dupree said. "I expected posting up and trying to do moves against their post players."
Dupree was prepared to face Johnson because they had played together in high school, AAU basketball and college.
"I guess I was familiar with her so I wasn't as anxious to play against her as I was Vicki or Izzy," Dupree said.
Dupree was very familiar with the playing surface. She had practiced there for a year while taking a redshirt year to rehab her lower back. It was unusual to be playing against former teammates.
"It was awkward," Dupree said. "I was anxious at the beginning, definitely. I think making those first couple of shots helped me calm down a little bit."
Her first shot bounced and rolled around the rim, but it fell.
"I was just saying please go in, please go in," Dupree said. "It finally went in so I had to think get back, get back, get back because that is what we were talking about before the game, getting back in transition."
Dupree and her Lady Mocs teammates acquitted themselves well in the second half, while things got a tad sloppy for the Lady Vols.
When Chattanooga was about to score a layup, Simmons sprinted past everyone and blocked the shot with about nine minutes left. Massengale followed that with a trey, and the Lady Vols led 68-30.
The coaches emptied the bench, and the second wave went to work and closed out the 90-47 win.
"Shekinna was a little sore," Warlick said. "All our players were a little sore, so we got a chance to rest them. We got Izzy a lot more playing time, Cierra more playing time, Kamiko in, Bree in.
"We got some players a lot of well-needed playing time and experience."
Burdick provided the final fireworks while sprinting for a long rebound. She tracked it to the sideline and knocked the ball off a Lady Moc before slamming in to Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood on the bench.
Burdick missed Warlick, who had sustained a broken hand from one fall last October and toppled unhurt to the court Sunday while walking to the locker room at halftime.
"Dean is learning to jump in my path so I won't get injured," Warlick said. "I'm just glad she didn't hit Pat. If she took Dean or me out and didn't hit coach Summitt, we're in business."
Chattanooga was led by Dupree with 17 points. Whitney Hood also got in double figures with 10 points, and Kylie Lambert added eight.
The Lady Mocs shot 30.4 percent (17-56) overall, 17.6 percent (3-17) from the arc and 83.3 percent (10-12) from the line. Chattanooga had 11 assists, 17 turnovers and seven steals.
Tennessee had four players in double figures led by Massengale's 19 points while Harrison also hit a career high with 13. Johnson and Simmons added 10 points each, while Baugh and Bass tallied nine each. All 10 Lady Vol players scored.
The Lady Vols shot 47.2 percent (34-72) overall, 9-20 (45.0 percent) from the arc and 76.5 percent (13-17) from the line. Tennessee had 19 assists, 13 turnovers, 10 steals and nine blocks.
It was another high-energy game for Johnson, who energized her teammates with a block in the first half. A teammate leaned the wrong way on a backdoor cut, and the Lady Moc had an open layup. But Johnson sprinted over from the opposite side and sent the ball emphatically in the other direction.
Massengale had the best view from the top of the floor.
"I was a little nervous because we had no help-side on that backdoor," Massengale said. "But Glory came out of nowhere and saved the day, so it was all good."
Johnson tallied another double-double with 10 points and 13 boards. She also had two blocks, two assists and three steals.
"She is in a good place, because Glory has worked on her game, worked on her offensive scoring ability, but Glory is an athlete who loves to rebound," Warlick said.
"That's hard to teach. She just has a knack for the ball, and Glory plays hard, and that's Glory's nature. You can't teach that. I was proud of Glory. She was coming out of nowhere to get the rebound. She was very impressive tonight."
INSIDE TENNESSEE'S TAKE
The media – yours truly, included – could have filmed one of those Snickers' "you're not yourself when you're hungry commercials" before the game.
When SEC play starts, as it did Sunday at Auburn, Tuesday is typically an off day with another league game coming up on Thursday.
But Tennessee had to squeeze in Chattanooga on Tuesday so the media had an extra game to cover in what is a long week, and fatigue and grumpiness set in early.
The game wasn't helping to keep the media engaged – Tennessee led by 28 points late in the first half and Chattanooga could not score – but then Kamiko Williams walked to the scorer's table.
Suddenly, there was a news story to cover, and the media perked up on press row.
The positive effect on the attention span of the fourth estate notwithstanding, the benefit to Tennessee of Williams returning to the court is her ability to play all three positions on the perimeter.
"She plays one through three really, being able to take a lot of people one-on-one off the dribble and jump shoot, and her three pointers have looked better than ever … well, besides the air ball today," Glory Johnson said with a smile. "In practice she lights us up."
Williams also can be an excellent on-ball defender and while the coaches had to implore her to play better defense in her first two years, the junior has gotten an eyeful from the bench and is often the one on her feet shouting defensive instructions to teammates.
Williams can play in relief of Ariel Massengale, Meighan Simmons and Shekinna Stricklen, who have logged considerable minutes in a lot of games this season.
Massengale was 6-6 against Chattanooga, including 4-4 marksmanship from the arc, but she was just 1-5 against Auburn this past Sunday.
In the past two games, these are the shooting numbers of the other two starting guards.
Stricklen: 7-25 (28 percent) overall and 2-9 from the arc against Auburn and 0-2 from long range versus Chattanooga. She went 2-7 (28.6 percent) overall on Tuesday.
Simmons: 10-29 (34.5 percent) overall and 1-5 from the arc against Auburn and 2-6 versus Auburn. She matched Stricklen at 28.6 percent by shooting 4-14 on Tuesday.
With Taber Spani out to settle down a bone bruise, the Lady Vols had lost depth on the perimeter for the past two games. Williams restored it the second she checked in at the scorer's table.
Massengale, Stricklen and Simmons will be able to periodically catch their breath on the bench, which should improve their shooting accuracy.
Also, Tennessee wants to press teams. It needs fresh bodies to play that style and once Williams gets back in game shape, she could be a very effective piece of that scheme.
Williams returns to the floor with a new perspective – she had the game taken away from her for the first time in her career. That tends to both energize a player and make her appreciate the fact that playing the sport can end in a nanosecond.
"I had kind of like the jitterbugs at the beginning of the game," Williams said. "I don't know if my team noticed; I was bouncing off the walls. But, yeah, it's great to be back being out for like five, five and a half months.
"It's hard, so just to be back with my teammates, you know (they were) still encouraging and talking and stuff like that, but to be able to get out on the floor with them is a good feeling."
Tennessee hasn't been at full strength all season. When Spani returns – and all indications are that she will return relatively soon and will benefit immensely from rest – the Lady Vols become even more formidable on the perimeter.
Even playing on an ailing knee, Spani was the team leader in three-point accuracy at 48.0 percent and despite missing the past two games and starting the first 10, she is second on the team with 24 made treys, just one behind Stricklen's 25.
Williams also has a point guard mentality while on the floor, even if lined up on the wing. Against Chattanooga, she had four assists to just one turnover in 16 minutes of play.
The coaches are stressing ball and player movement to create great shots, not just good ones. Williams fits very well in this scheme and is also a threat to get to the rim. Her air ball not withstanding – it was on target, just short – she has a smooth jump shot and has been connecting from long range in practice.
Williams' first two years on campus were a major adjustment for a player who had never been asked to play defense in high school and who wasn't used to having teammates on the floor who could contribute. Her directive in high school was to score, score, score.
Needless to say, Williams and Coach Pat Summitt clashed quite a bit as Summitt tried to keep the parts of Williams' game that worked well – driving ability, create her shot – and shed the ones that didn't – porous defense, a tendency to play by herself.
Williams listened and learned. And then she got hurt last summer and was at a crossroads. A player still in the process of losing bad court habits would not top anyone's list of ideal rehab candidates, but Williams plunged into the process and worked as hard as anyone ever has at Tennessee.
She earned Summitt's respect – Summitt tore her ACL in college and had to rehab to get ready for the 1976 Olympics – and Williams likely discovered a reservoir of desire for the game that she had never had to tap into before because basketball had come easily for her.
"It was good to see Kamiko back out on the floor," Summitt said. "She has worked so hard coming back from her torn ACL. I know she was excited when she was cleared to play. I thought she looked good and played on-balance."
Her return also balances the Lady Vols. With 10 available players, the coaches could make wholesale substitutions Tuesday and save legs for Thursday's upcoming SEC matchup against Georgia, the last team to beat Tennessee in league play.
This time, the media should be engaged at tipoff, too.
Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick
Glory Johnson, Ariel Massengale, Kamiko Williams
Chattanooga Coach Wes Moore, Faith Dupree, Kayla Christopher
Game highlights from the Lady Vols' website