No. 11 Tennessee dominated Carson-Newman 128-59 in an exhibition matchup on Monday night from Thompson-Boling Arena.
For the 15th consecutive year, the Lady Vols linked up with the Lady Eagles for a preseason game. This year, Holly Warlick’s squad was led by a pair of freshmen, while eight out of the 10 Lady Vols who saw action reached double-figures.
“We focused on three things tonight,” Warlick said following the win. “One was turnovers, and I thought we did a very good job from that end. Defensive pressure, we caused them to turn the ball over quite a bit, and rebounding. We did a good job.
“Overall, really, really pleased with our effort and our ability to turn people over.”
Here’s what we took away from UT’s tune-up game before Sunday’s season-opener against Presbyterian.
Another year, another tremendous freshmen class for Warlick and the Lady Vols’ coaching staff.
Last year, it was Rennia Davis and Evina Westbrook who took Thompson-Boling by storm. This year, I expect all four freshmen to be key contributors in the rotation.
Warlick’s 2018 recruiting class ranked No. 4 in the country when it was all said and done, with all four of Tennessee’s signees being ranked inside the top-50. Texas native Zaay Green was the gem of the class and was ranked No. 10 in the country. Jazmine Massengill, who is the first native of Chattanooga to ever play for the Lady Vols, was the N0. 25 overall player in the country. Fellow freshmen Rae Burrell and Mimi Collins were ranked No. 43 and No. 49, respectively.
In their first “game” as Lady Vols, the freshmen accounted for 67 points, 33 rebounds, eight steals, and nine assists. That’s 53 percent of the team’s scoring.
“The freshmen have impressed me since they’ve been on campus,” Warlick said. “They play hard, they play without fear, they just play relentless. And that’s what has separated them.”
Green led the way, scoring 28 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, picking up three steals, recording three assists, and blocking a shot. Collins added a double-double as well, scoring 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting while grabbing 10 boards.
“She (Green) has a great spirit about her,” Warlick said of Green. “She’s that kid that energizes us. She can shoot the three, she can penetrate, she’ll turn it over, but then she’ll turn around and get it back. Those kind of players, they’re contagious.”
“I was really surprised,” Green said. “I didn’t think I was going to score that many points. I thought I would have a couple, but I’m really excited about moving forward.”
As for the other two freshmen, Massengill scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting and hauled in nine rebounds. Burrell was everywhere despite a poor shooting night. She scored 11 points, but also added three assists and three steals.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re down by 50, or up by 50, we’ll always get after it,” Collins said. “That’s what we plan on doing this year, to compete.”
Take What Is Given
Tennessee missed far too many “free” ones on Monday night.
Carson-Newman committed 24 fouls, leading to 36 free throw attempts for the Lady Vols. But UT made just 19 of them, shooting 52.8 percent from the free throw line. Every player who saw action except for junior guard Meme Jackson attempted a free throw, but not a single one of them made all of their free throws. Sophomore point guard Evina Westbrook had the roughest night from the charity stripe, making just three of her eight attempts.
“That’s a concern,” Warlick said of the free throws. “It’s focus, it’s muscle-memory. We’re going to shoot 500 free throws a week for the rest of the year. We’ve gotta step up to the line and make free throws.”
The Lady Vols may have scored 128 points on the night, the fourth-most in an exhibition game for the program, but against a legitimate opponent, leaving 17 points on the floor will get you beat every single time.
Defense Sparks the Win
Carson-Newman committed 25 turnovers on the night.
Tennessee’s defense was tremendous. It was active, it was disruptive, and it brought a ton of energy. Not only does the crowd feed off of the play on the defensive end of the floor, but it sparks the Lady Vols’ defense. Of the 25 turnovers Tennessee forced, 17 of them were steals that led to 49 points off turnovers.
“My goal is to turn people over,” Warlick stated. “We wanna get easy shots, and when we turn people over, we tend to get easier shots.”
Westbrook led Tennessee’s defense with four steals, while five other Lady Vols had double-digit steals.
UT also out-rebounded Carson-Newman, 72-31, 32 of which were offensive rebounds.
“41 rebounds, I don’t care size they are, that’s good,” Warlick said. “It’s a great start, it’s a great measuring stick. We’re going to have to get rebounds.”