Senior Meighan Simmons apparently doesn't like Tigers. She averaged 26.5 points against Auburn last season and torched them Thursday for 26 points with 19 coming in the first half.
"I have enjoyed my time and being able to play against Auburn," Simmons said. "They are a great athletic team, and they have a great coach. I have a lot of respect for her.
"It's been a fun ride playing against them so hopefully next year my teammates will take care of business, too."
Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who acknowledged she was ready for Simmons to don a cap and gown, called a timeout barely one minute into the second half.
"You mean right after Meighan Simmons hit that three in our face," said Williams-Flournoy, who said she told her team to guard the senior and not let her get 40.
It worked. Simmons added just four more points after scoring 22 in the game's first 21 minutes, but that just opened up opportunities for others, and three teammates joined her in double figures with a fourth coming close.
Cierra Burdick was 5-9 from the field and 7-8 from the line for 17 points, while Andraya Carter added 12 and was 2-2 from the arc and 2-2 from the line. Isabelle Harrison notched 10 points with 11 boards, and Bashaara Graves almost hit the double club with eight points. Jasmine Jones and Mercedes Russell added seven points each.
The Lady Vols shot 60.0 percent in the first half and 49.3 percent for the game.
"When we see those first couple shots go in, our confidence just builds," Burdick said. "We get that momentum. We feed off of each other, especially us here."
Burdick was referring to Carter and Simmons, a trio that used the post-game press conference for smiles, hugs and frivolity.
"We love getting hyped. We love the intensity. We love chest bumping, high-fiving," Burdick said. "Once somebody hits one shot, we're all in. We're all for it. It just continues to build. We love playing with passion."
Tennessee also plays better when it takes care of the ball. The final tally of 15 wasn't that bad, as several came late when Holly Warlick had gone as deep into the bench as she could.
"Loved our effort," Warlick said. "I wasn't thrilled about the last nine minutes, but we're still striving to play a perfect game. I guess that's why I have a job right now."
Warlick was kidding – and smiling – but it has been a season-long process, with a few bumps along the way. The breakdowns in the latter part of the second half were primarily on the defensive end.
"We didn't chase. We didn't lock and trail all the defenders and we went over the top and got caught," Warlick said, speaking in defensive terminology. "I think it's just a matter of sticking to the game plan and just finishing the game.
"Obviously our goal wasn't to run up the score, but we just need to make sure we understand what we want on the floor and we have to do it. I thought our bench got in and played some good minutes and I'm very proud of them, but I just know how much better we can be."
Warlick definitely doesn't run up the score. Her team led 54-33 at halftime, and she had used all nine available players. She would like to use 10, but Ariel Massengale hasn't been cleared yet for contact. Massengale did run pre-game drills with the team, including sprinting and shooting.
With Tennessee down a guard, it might behoove Carter to play with more regard for her physical well-being, but she said she is a better player when she doesn't think, a remark that brought giggles from Burdick.
"When I get to thinking too much I feel that's when I don't play very well," Carter said. "That's the only way I think I play well, when I'm out there just playing hard whether that's risking my body or anything like that, it doesn't matter.
"That's the only way I can play. Once I start thinking, it doesn't go well. We have to get me to refocus, and this is just the only way I can play."
Apparently the refocus part is Burdick's job, which brought smiles from Carter as she tried to finish the answer while Burdick laughed.
Carter took a charge against Auburn – the easiest call for the officials all evening – and got called for a foul on an athletic block in what was probably a case of an official not thinking a female athlete, especially a 5-9 guard, could do that.
Carter, a redshirt freshman, is always around the ball, and while the box score credits her with just two steals, she is a disruptive player when the other team has the ball. An Auburn player had an unimpeded fast-break layup until Carter came swooping into the lane, and the Tiger lost control of the ball out of bounds.
Carter also made a head's up offensive play in the second half when the ball squirted free from a teammate, and she retrieved it on the sideline ahead of two Auburn players. She broke out of the double team, headed right for the rim and found a wide-open Russell for a layup.
"That's how Andraya plays," Warlick said. "She plays hard and she dives for balls and that's what I love about her game. That's what we need her to do. That's the kind of energy we need to get the team going."
When Tennessee gets going, the result is 93 points – the crowd wanted 100 – and 29 points off Auburn's 18 turnovers. Tennessee also dominated on the glass, 47-33, and had 18 assists, led by five from Simmons, who also had six rebounds.
"I'm probably more proud of her because she had six rebounds," Warlick said.
Carter had four assists to just one turnover, and Jones and Reynolds had three helpers each.
Auburn put four players in double figures, led by 15 points by Tyrese Tanner, but the Tigers also had those 18 turnovers and managed just 10 points off Tennessee's miscues.
Williams-Flournoy was well aware of Tennessee's track record coming off of losses. Tennessee is now 5-0 in games after defeats.
"They played well against Kentucky," she said. "They didn't play bad. It was a very good basketball game. They both played well. We knew they would be angry and upset coming off the loss, and they would be ready to go against their next opponent, which just so happened to be us."
Tennessee may want to hang onto that mind-set. The Lady Vols' next two games are on the road, starting with Missouri, which beat Tennessee last season in Columbia, and LSU, which won this season in Knoxville.
The Lady Vols fell under a barrage of three-pointers by the Tigers of Missouri.
"We blew them out by 40 when they came here and they returned the favor when we went to their house," Burdick said. "They're a great basketball team. They shoot the ball extremely well. They're some of the best shooters in the SEC.
"They all shoot it, positions one through five. We have to key in on limiting help. We have to focus on one-on-one defense and matching up with their shooters.
"We have to come out with Lady Vol intensity, play lady Vol basketball and I think we'll be just fine."
Game highlights via utsportstv
Coach Holly Warlick
Andraya Carter, Meighan Simmons, Cierra Burdick
Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy