On Tuesday night inside a packed Thompson-Boling Arena, the Lady Vols wrapped up their preseason play in impressive fashion by defeating the Union Lady Bulldogs 93-45. With the win, the Lady Vols finished preseason play at 2-0, after defeating Carson-Newman in their first preseason scrimmage 105-40.
“I thought it was much better than how we played last week, thought we were much more focused,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. “We obviously played everyone, and our bench came in and responded well.”
Junior guard Taber Spani led the way for UT, scoring 22 of her game-high 25 points in the first half. She was a presence from behind the arc early and often throughout the game, draining 7-of-10 3-point shots.
The blowout win was even more impressive considering the Lady Vols were without of one of their five seniors, 6-foot-4 forward Vicki Baugh. She did not play due to missing the exhibition contest to attend class.
“I was extremely pleased with our defense tonight,” associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “Scoring 37 points off turnovers is exciting for us. We’ve worked very hard on our defense. I thought the play of Taber Spani was outstanding as well.”
Spani quickly found her form as she hit two 3-pointers in a row to start the game, and her fourth of the first half, assisted by freshman forward Cierra Burdick, put the Lady Vols up 25-10 with 10:16 left to go until the break.
“Taber was in a ‘zone’ in the first half and forced them to pull a little bit out of their zone defense,” Summitt said. “It was good to see her shoot the ball like that.”
The Lady Vols continued to cruise into the half, as their hot shooting and full-court trap defense were too much for the Lady Bulldogs to handle. UT closed out the first half on a 26-8 run and had the game all but over, leading 51-16.
The Lady Vols shot 16-of-30 in the first half of play, including 7-of-15 from behind the arc and 12-of-16 from the free throw line.
 The start of the second half of play was no different from the first; UT claimed a 61-18 lead after Spani was assisted by Ariel Massengale for her seventh and final 3-pointer of the game with 16:09 left to play.
The Lady Vols soon kicked into cruise control in front of their home crowd and outscored the Lady Bulldogs 42-29 the rest of the way to take the victory by the final score of 93-45.
 All-American senior guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen finished second in scoring, behind Spani, with 17 points on 7-of-11. She also was UT’s second-leading rebounder behind senior Glory Johnson’s 11, with six of her own.
Spani not only led the team with 25 points but also played lights out on the defensive end with four steals, four rebounds and one block. Freshman center Isabelle Harrison had a big night on defense as well, recording four steals and a team-high four blocks. Senior forward Alicia Manning also recorded four of the team’s 16 steals on the night.
“I think (developing defense) is our focus and the coaches’,” Spani said. “That’s what this program is built on. That’s what we take pride in, and that’s what we’re going to have to do to get where we want to go.”
Harrison and sophomore point guard Meighan Simmons finished behind Spani and Stricklen in scoring on the night, with 11 and 10, respectively.
 All in all, Summit’s squad was hitting on all cylinders throughout the night. The Lady Vols finished the game shooting 32-of-58 (55 percent) from the floor, went 8-of-20 from 3-point range, forced 31 turnovers and out-rebounded their opponent 39-23.
 Summitt acknowledged the 11,000 fans who showed up to the two exhibition games.
“Hats off to the Lady Vol fans,” she said. “Our crowds have been great in the first two exhibitions, and our players really feed off their enthusiasm.”
The Lady Vols will tip off this Sunday against Pepperdine at 4 p.m., and the game will be aired on Sports South.