Lady Vols win home opener for Harper
Head coach Kellie Harper won her home debut as Lady Vols head coach with a 63-36 victory Thursday night over Central Arkansas.
The Lady Vols, unranked for the first time since the mid 1970's jumped out to a 10 point first quarter lead only to see the Sugar Bears Rally. In fact, Central Arkansas would take a 23-22 lead, but the Lady Vols would regroup.
Tennessee would close out the first half with a flurry and take a 33-25 lead into the locker room. More offense and especially defense from from coach Harper's team creating all kinds of problems for the outmatched Sugar Bears, who scored only 11 second half points.
After allowing 18 points to the Sugar Bears (0-1) in the first quarter, Tennessee (2-0) surrendered just 18 points the rest of the way to give UT Head Coach Kellie Harper her first regular-season win on The Summitt. The effort enabled the Lady Vols to improve their record in home openers to 43-3 all-time.
In her first career start in a Lady Vol uniform, freshman guard Jordan Horston posted a team-leading 17 points on 7-of-9 accuracy from the field and 2-of-2 shooting from the three-point arc. She also pulled down five rebounds and dished out three assists in 27 minutes of duty.
Sophomore guard Zaay Green tossed in nine points, while freshman Tamari Key and sophomore Rae Burrell chipped in eight each. Key was one of five Lady Vols pulling down five rebounds and once again led UT with three blocked shots. She is averaging four per game through her first two contests.
Along with Horston, Key also had her first career start, and the two newcomers scored UT's first 14 points to give Tennessee a 14-6 lead halfway through the first quarter. Redshirt senior Lou Brown, a graduate transfer from Washington State who sat out last season with a knee injury, also got her first start for Tennessee. She tied Key and three others for the team lead in rebounds.
Horston started the game off hot by scoring the first two buckets for the Big Orange, giving UT an early 5-0 lead. The freshman duo put up a perfect 6-for-6 showing in field goals, as Horston finished with eight points and Key contributed the other six during the early spurt. The Lady Vols finished the first quarter with 20 points, with Horston tallying 13 of them.
Horston continued her scoring streak by making the first bucket in the second frame, followed shortly by a three-pointer from sophomore Zaay Green. Another fellow newcomer, Jessie Rennie, also reached a milestone by scoring her first career points as a Lady Vol, draining a clutch three-point bucket with less than two minutes remaining in the half to extend UT's lead to 31-26.
To finish off the first half, sophomore Jazmine Massengill scored a last-second bucket, pushing the Big Orange's lead to 33-26 entering the locker room. The newcomers combined for 22 points in the first half.
The Lady Vols came out storming in the third quarter, shooting a blazing 64.3 percent from the field and jumping to a 51-32 lead after 10 more minutes of play. Horston opened up the second half with another jumper and brought her scoring total to 17 points in three quarters of play. Defensively, UT only allowed the Sugar Bears seven points in the quarter and 16.7 percent shooting from the field.
In the final stanza of the non-conference game, Green and sophomore Rae Burrell each scored four points. Freshman Emily Saunders also scored her first career bucket and collected three rebounds in just four minutes of play.
Tennessee also had an impressive showing from the bench with 21 points scored by reserves. The Lady Vols dominated the paint, scoring 44 points, and only allowed 14 by UCA. UT also led in the rebounds column, outworking the Sugar Bears, 41-36, in rebounds.
The Lady Vols improve to 2-0 on the young season and will next travel to South Bend for a showdown with perennial power and 16th ranked Notre Dame on ESPN2.