Ariel Massengale leads Lady Vols

The Lady Vols passed both road tests to start the season and will open at home this week with a 2-0 record after Monday's win over North Carolina. Go inside for analysis from InsideTennessee.

Tennessee has been waiting for the Ariel Massengale that ran the show Monday night in Chapel Hill, and the junior point guard delivered with a career-high 20 points, including a career notch of five three-pointers. The result was an 81-65 win for Tennessee (2-0) over North Carolina (1-1) and its highly touted freshman class that struggled in primetime.

The Lady Vols, on the other hand, got a measure of redemption with a solid performance on national television, despite the two teams combining for 51 fouls and 47 turnovers.

"We did some good things," coach Holly Warlick said. "We did some kind of crazy things."

Warlick sounded happy on her post-game radio show, and she had reason to be. The Lady Vols successfully navigated a tough opening and now return home to face Chattanooga on Thursday and then Georgia Tech on Sunday.

The difference for Tennessee at Carmichael Arena was the play of Massengale, who went the distance and played like the point guard Pat Summitt declared was her starter when Massengale was still in high school. Most importantly, Massengale hit shots – teams are leaving her open until she shows she can connect from the arc – connecting on 5-9 from long range. She also had six boards, seven assists and three steals.

The one blemish was her five turnovers, but Massengale had plenty of company as the Lady Vols combined for 24 as a team. The Tar Heels turned loose of the ball 23 times. The pace of the game was one factor, but carelessness on the part of both teams was another.

"There was a time it was just sloppy basketball," junior forward Cierra Burdick said. "We've got to maintain control of the game, stay patient, stay poised."

Both Warlick and Massengale mentioned that a challenge was issued to the junior point guard before the game to control the court.

"She led the team," Warlick said. "She led by example and she was vocal.

"Coach Warlick challenged me in front of the whole team," Massengale said. "She challenged me to lead the team to victory. Scoring, attacking, shooting, passing, I was going to do whatever I could. If you are in a drought, you have to shoot out of it."

For the second game in a row, redshirt freshman guard Andraya Carter came off the bench and oozed energy on the court.

ESPN announcer Carolyn Peck is an early arrival to the Carter bandwagon – it will fill up soon – and noted that she brought an intense level of play to Tennessee that had been missing in recent years.

Carter also bought some offense and defense on Monday. She tallied 10 points, three rebounds and a steal with no turnovers in 19 minutes of play. Massengale and Carter's marksmanship from the arc in the first half created the separation Tennessee needed and gave the Lady Vols a 40-28 halftime lead.

"I definitely think the shots gave us momentum, and we just had energy," Carter said.

"I love having Andraya Carter back," Massengale said. "She can attack, she can shot the three, she has improved her jump shot greatly."

Tennessee got production in the paint from Burdick, who had nine boards; Bashaara Graves, who had eight rebounds; and Isabelle Harrison, who tallied 14 points and six boards in just 18 minutes of total play after picking up two fouls in the first half.

"You talk about productive," Warlick said.

Freshman post Mercedes Russell struggled offensively - Warlick wondered if she jinxed her by talking about her ability to hit free throws - but she was very effective on defense, her presence in the paint at 6-6 allowing the guards to provide sticky perimeter defense.

Warlick will see plenty of areas for improvement in film – notably North Carolina's 20 offensive rebounds, the turnovers and the occasional lulls once Tennessee built a 53-35 lead and then allowed the Tar Heels to draw within 11 points late in the second half.

"I thought we got ahead and got comfortable," Warlick said.

Warlick didn't sound too upset about it – though there is no doubt that she will address it later – as she was relieved to get two wins after a rough start in Murfreesboro against Middle Tennessee on Friday and then a short turn-around to get to Chapel Hill for Monday's late game.

Tennessee used its three-guard lineup to good effect with Massengale, Carter and Meighan Simmons forming a solid perimeter on both ends. Simmons had eight points and that bodes well for Tennessee because the Lady Vols have additional scorers this season and don't have to put the offensive pressure on Simmons. She scored off the opening tip, settled into the game flow on offense and used her speed on defense.

Warlick is going nine deep in her rotation to start the season – freshman Jordan Reynolds logged just nine minutes, but that was because of how well Massengale was playing – and outside of Massengale's full 40, the minutes were spread among the players. All nine players got in the scoring and rebounding columns.

Warlick will take the win, the 49-44 overall edge on the glass and the 23 points from her bench and get back to Tennessee.

"To come out 2-0 on this trip, I am proud of our team," Warlick said.

Warlick's next game will come against the team that handed her a loss in her debut as a head coach last season. Chattanooga, now coached by old nemesis Jim Foster, will be in town Thursday.

"We are excited to get back to Knoxville and play in front of our fans," Massengale said.


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