The No. 4 Lady Vols showcased their size down low and easily blew past the Carson-Newman Lady Eagles 115-31 in UT's first and only exhibition this season at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night.
With one of the tallest rosters in all of Division-I women's basketball, Tennessee dominated in the paint where the team scored 60 points and outrebounded its in-state opponent 58-32.
The size difference was notable from the start and on paper as six Lady Vols measured in at 6-foot-2 or taller, while the Lady Eagles possessed 10 players listed under 5-foot-10 in height.
"I thought our post players rebounded really well but our guards Andraya Carter and Jordan Reynolds rebounded really well too," Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick said of the two guards who combined for 13 total rebounds. "We're not going to shoot 100 percent, so we have to make a game out of the rebounding part of it. When we get second and third chance points it improves our chances of winning a lot and field goal percentage."
Sophomore Bashaara Graves led the way on the offensive end with 21 points and led the team in rebounds (11) and steals (5).
"I wasn't surprised by her performance," Warlick said. "She goes to work everyday and gets rebounds, and-ones and stops when we need her. She is just a gritty kid and is what a Lady Vol is all about."
Tennessee jumped out of the gate strong with a 20-0 run, which was capped off by junior Cierra Burdick's driving layup off an assist from freshman Mercedes Russell.
The Lady Eagles then answered back with their largest run of the night as two Tennessee natives – Lashwanda Peacher and Kaitlyn Cupples – scored off a pair of free throws and their first made field goal of the night.
But Carson-Newman wouldn't see many open looks or freebies the rest of the evening.
Russell, one of the two freshman on the Lady Vols roster from Oregon, brought the crowd inside Thompson-Boling to their feet with a big rejection with five minutes to play in the first half.
The length of the 6-foot-6 center was on strong display throughout the night, as she led the team with four blocks. She also scored 16 points in her preseason debut.
"I've never been this nervous for a game before," Russell said. "I have never played in front of that many fans before, but once it got going it went really well and I enjoyed it."
Minutes after, freshman point guard Jordan Reynolds dished out one of her three assists on the night to Graves who blew past her defender to kiss her layup gently off the glass and into the basket.
Graves led all scorers at halftime with 15 points while UT's defense limited Carson-Newman to just 17 in the first half on 3-of-28 shooting from the field and forced 18 Lady Eagle turnovers.
The second half was highlighted by Reynolds' play on the offensive end where she scored 13 of her 17 points.
Warlick and her team will now move on and prepare for their season opener on Friday when they take on Middle Tennessee at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., at 8 p.m.
"This team has a new attitude and togetherness that I haven't seen in a long time at Tennessee," Warlick said. "I think those things play a big part in our success and what we should expect Friday night."