The Lady Vols basketball team had a different feel to it Thursday night in their preseason home opener against Carson Newman. For the first time in 39 years a head coach other than Pat Summitt took over the reigns.
First-year head coach Holly Warlick and the new look Lady Vols wasted no time on the hardwood against the Lady Eagles, as their up-tempo play led them to a 104-44 victory.
Junior guard Meighan Simmons led the offensive attack for UT. The leading returning scorer from a season ago scored a game-high 24 points to go along with five assists and five rebounds. Five others also scored in double figures on the night propelling the team to a 1-0 start in preseason play.
"The first half I didn't shoot as well, but in the second half I was a little more patient with my shots," Simmons said. "My teammates continue to pick me up when it seemed like I was down. I feel there's a couple of things we still need to work on, but today was a good start. This is the beginning and we will only get better each and every game."
Right out of the gate the Lady Vols defense came out executing on all cylinders.
After placing a great deal of importance in practice on the defensive end they held the Lady Eagles scoreless for the first five minutes of the game and caused numerous turnovers.
Freshman center Nia Moore converted a layup off of her steal, one of the team's 11 in the first half, to advance the UT lead to 19-2 with 11:59 left in the first half.
The Lady Vols were also effective on the offensive end, dominating in the paint. Freshman Jasmine Jones converted a three-point play and put several moves on her defender in the first half that had the UT sideline up off their feet.
The Madison, Ala. native, who was ranked as the No. 39 prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, scored 11 points in the first half and was a perfect 4-of-4 shooting and 3-of-3 from the free throw line.
With the strong attack down low and quick defense in the first half Tennessee held a commaning 47-15 halftime lead over their in-state opponent.
The Lady Vols finished with a strong second half outscoring the Lady Eagles 57-29, which made for nothing but smiles in Warlick's first preseason game as head coach.
With only two seniors on the team the new head coach will be reliant on many younger players to play pivotal roles this season, as they did in the opening preseason victory.
"I thought that the exhibition game did what we wanted it to do," Warlick said. "We wanted to get a lot of people playing time in some different situations, different people played different positions. Overall we did some good things but we can do so much better. A lot is going to come from this. We are going to watch the tape and this is a chance for us to see us on film and get better."
Three of the four Lady Vol freshmen got on the scoring board and Bashaara Graves finished the night with a double-double, posting 17 points and 15 rebounds.
"I'm so proud of our freshmen," senior guard Taber Spani said. "We understand that we really don't know what everyone's roles are yet because it's still new and everything. But we are very excited about what they can do and what they can bring. We believe in them 110 percent."
Sophomore Isabelle Harrison put together an impressive performance as well. The center finished with 19 points, seven boards and three blocks.
The Lady Vols next preseason game will be Sunday at Thompson Boling Arena against Coker College, as they will look to tune up their game before they tip-off the regular season on Nov. 9 against University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.