KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss wrote on the board before the fourth-ranked Lady Vols took the court against Chattanooga, “If you’re open, do not hesitate.”
Not a problem, coach.
Meighan Simmons led four players in double-digit scoring with 26 points as Tennessee hit a school-record 15 3-pointers in a 103-43 romp over Chattanooga on Monday night.
“My teammates are always encouraging me and telling me, ‘When you’re open, shoot the ball,’” Simmons said. “I think that kind of boosts my confidence up.”
The freshman, who was rewarded for her 22-point performance in her first game as a Lady Vol with a starting role against Chattanooga, got things rolling with a 3-pointer 9 seconds into the game. The Lady Vols (2-0) never let up as they hit four more 3s during their opening 19-0 run.
Smothered by Tennessee’s pressing defense, Chattanooga (0-2) didn’t score until 14:22 in the first, when Alex Black fought for a jump shot to make it 19-2. Simmons immediately answered with yet another 3-point shot, and the Lady Mocs went through another 4-minute scoring drought.
“When you shoot the ball as well as we did, that gives us a lot of confidence, but I was more excited about our commitment on the defensive end,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. “You never know when you’ll have an off night shooting the ball, so you have to be ready to go in all aspects.”
Tennessee baited the Lady Mocs by going inside to its tall posts and then shooting the ball outside to whichever sharpshooter was wide open. The Lady Vols grabbed a 36-point lead off a Sydney Smallbone jumper with less than a minute to go before the break, but a free throw by Chattanooga’s Tenisha Townsend cut it to 51-16.
By then the Lady Vols had shot 58.8 percent from the field, made 11 of 18 from behind the arc and had three players in double-digit scoring. Angie Bjorklund finished with 20 points, Taber Spani had 14 and Kamiko Williams added 12.
“It’s kind of like pick your poison,” Bjorklund said.
The Lady Mocs, who have won the past 11 Southern Conference championships, couldn’t match the effort after committing 17 turnovers and making only 21.7 percent of their shots from the field. Whitney Hood led Chattanooga with 22 points.
“It is definitely a learning experience,” Hood said. “All we can do is get better, and when we practice on Wednesday we have to focus on the next game.”
An uncontested 3-pointer by Bjorklund was Tennessee’s 14th of the game, breaking the school single-game record of 13. The Lady Vols squads had hit 13 three times, most recently by Summitt’s eighth national championship squad in a 98-55 win over Arkansas on Jan. 24, 2008.
The Lady Vols led by as many as 36 points in the first half and by 61 late in the second half.
It’s Tennessee’s 18th consecutive win in the series, one it leads by a 23-6 margin. Chattanooga hasn’t won since before Summitt began coaching the Lady Vols in 1974 but came extremely close in the last meeting, a 66-63 victory by Tennessee at Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2008.
“Today it wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said. “I knew they were going to present a whole lot of problems for us.”