It was business as usual for the 12th-ranked Lady Vols on Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena, defeating UNC-Asheville 73-46.
“It was a game of spurts,” Holly Warlick said following the win. “Our energy level was kind of up-and-down. I had to step back and realize we are a young team, and we are not there yet. So, we are going to continue to work. We did some good things, but when I watch the tape, I am sure there’s going to be some things that I understand we need to go back and work through.”
Tennessee (2-0) got off to a hot start in its second game of the season, starting on a 13-2 run and never looking back. The Lady Vols led for 39:21 of the 40 minutes and led 21-8 at the end of the first quarter. UNC-Asheville (0-2) was held to 3-of-10 shooting from the floor in the opening 10 minutes as the Lady Vol defense swarmed.
The Tennessee defense continued to play well in the second quarter, once again holding the Bulldogs to eight points in the quarter. Shooting 47.1-percent from the field, the Lady Vols increased their lead to 44-16 at the break. Tennessee ended the half on a 13-0 run.
After scoring just 16 points in the first half, UNC-Asheville scored 12 points within the first five minutes of the third quarter. The Bulldogs forced Tennessee into three early turnovers and took advantage of it, shooting 5-of-10. UNC-Asheville would go on to win the quarter 18-8 due to six Tennessee turnovers. The six turnovers would lead to the Lady Vols not scoring in the final 6:07 of the frame.
“It’s our effort and our energy,” Warlick said. “I thought it was very low, and when we have low energy, we’re not very productive.
“I want high-energy, and in the third quarter, we didn’t have it.”
Evina Westbrook would jump-start the fourth quarter with a three-pointer, Tennessee’s first of the second half. The Lady Vols were much better on offense in the fourth quarter, out-scoring UNC-Asheville 21-12 on their way to the win.
Here are our observations from the Lady Vols’ win over the Lady Bulldogs of UNC-Asheville.
Put the Hard Hat On
The last thing the Lady Vols wanted to do was lose to an inferior opponent. They didn’t, winning by 27, but Tennessee played ugly basketball for the majority of the game. Quite frankly, UT was lucky to be playing the level of competition it was. Against the top teams in the SEC, the Lady Vols would have been run out of the building.
This is the second game in a row Tennessee has benefited from playing lower-level opponents to start the season. The Lady Vols will play Florida A&M on Sunday before heading to the Bahamas to take on better competition. It’s crucial Tennessee starts playing better basketball or it’ll be a rough Thanksgiving.
The problems primarily fall on the offensive side of the ball, and that’s to be expected when seven of the nine rotation players are freshmen or sophomores. But right now, Tennessee has no sense of rhythm, and its largely self-inflicted. They’re turning the basketball over, deferring, missing free throws, and missing bunnies at the rim.
Defensively, the numbers have been good, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. UNC-Asheville shot 32 percent from the field, but it wasn’t because Tennessee’s defense was locked in at all times. The Bulldogs missed several wide open shots on the perimeter and bunnies at the rim, as did Presbyterian in the season-opener.
Tennessee has talent everywhere, but it’s young talent. It looks like it may take a while before it all clicks and gels together.
Rennia Davis Returns
After missing the season-opener due to injury, Davis returned to play 28 minutes.
“She was an up to the minute decision,” Warlick said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play her or not because her foot has been sore.”
Though Davis returned to the starting lineup, the Preseason 1st Team All-SEC member had a night she would like to forget. In the first half, Davis was 0-of-4 from the field. Though she grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists, she was limited to 11 minutes of action due to two personal fouls.
“The first quarter, I was a little winded,” Davis said. “My teammates did a great job of picking me up.”
With 6:28 remaining in the third quarter, Davis once again had to take a seat on the bench due to foul trouble as she picked up her third foul. The sophomore wouldn’t score her first points until 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Davis would heat up in the final frame, scoring all 10 of her points. She finished 4-of-10 from the field on the night and grabbed eight rebounds.
“I didn’t feel we played the full 40 minutes tonight,” Davis said. “Simple as that.”
Kamera Harris Suffers Injury
Lady Vols’ junior forward Kamera Harris left the game in the first quarter after falling to the floor on the offensive end. The ref was forced to stop play, and Harris was helped off the floor. She went straight to the locker room and did not return to the game, though she was riding the stationary bike for the majority of the second half.
“She’s fine,” Warlick said following the game. “Bumped her knee. We brought her out for precaution. She’s going to be fine.”