There was nothing understated about Nicky Anosike's performance Thursday night.
A career-high 20 points, 12 rebounds, five steals, four assists and two blocks spoke loudly on the Tennessee center's behalf in the Lady Vols' 85-52 women's basketball victory over Auburn before an announced crowd of 14,025 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The postgame assessments, on the other hand, were a different matter. Teammate Alexis Hornbuckle all but apologized before paying tribute to the 6-foot-4 Anosike's brute force.
"Nicky don't get mad, but you're thick; you do what you do,'' Hornbuckle said.
Even Anosike seemed a bit perplexed in explaining the motives behind such a consummate showing.
"I don't know what gets me into that mindset,'' she said. "I guess I wanted to come out and work hard and play hard, and I did it."
Anosike's teammates followed her determined lead, turning the SEC opener into Tennessee's most aggressive performance of the season.
For a change, Tennessee's offense was upstaged by its blue-collar exploits. Other than Anosike, Candace Parker was the only other double-figure scorer for No. 2 Tennessee (13-1, 1-0 SEC) with 18 points.
On defense, the Lady Vols left their mark on both halves, holding No. 22 Auburn (12-4, 0-1) scoreless for more than seven minutes in the first half and then limiting the Tigers to 24.2 percent field goal shooting (8 for 33) after halftime.
"Tennessee's overall size and length is hard to get around,'' Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "It's hard to pass through that. We didn't do a good job of getting anything going tonight."
Every Lady Vol contributed at least two rebounds to a 50-38 advantage. Along with Anosike, Parker reached double figures with 11. UT coach Pat Summitt had been preaching the virtues of defensive boards and the Lady Vols responded with a 29-22 advantage.
Six Lady Vols had a hand in recording a season-high 12 blocks. Hornbuckle and Parker engaged in a playful first-half shoving match after Hornbuckle beat her teammate to a rejection.
"Candace was on the help side and she wanted the block,'' Hornbuckle said. "She was being greedy."
Greed is good when it translates into such a ruthless effort.
"It goes back to practice,'' Summitt said. "If we don't reach specific goals in practice, they have to run. It makes a difference. That's where it starts. I told our staff and I've challenged myself that we've got to raise the bar for this team. They are expected to compete in every possession."
Thursday's performance made for a long night for Auburn. The only real highlight was DeWanna Bonner's 19 points. Point guard Whitney Boddie, who missed the game for academic reasons, was missed. Her replacement, freshman Alli Smalley, had nine turnovers.
After scoring the first three baskets at the outset, the Tigers' side of the scoreboard froze until that early lead had dissolved into a 19-6 deficit.
Anosike converted a pair of first-half steals into impressive driving baskets and three-point plays. On the first, she absorbed a hip check from Auburn's Sherell Hobbs and converted the shot while tumbling to the floor. Later, she shook off Smalley to score standing up.
By halftime, Anosike had stormed her way to 13 points, setting the stage for her record-book rewrite.
"I never think about stuff like that,'' Anosike said. "But Candace let me know at halftime. So I guess I was aware of it."
Summitt's awareness was tempered by her memory of freshman Angie Bjorklund's ill-fated attempt at setting a single-game record for 3-pointers earlier this season.
"We were trying desperately without telling her (Anosike),'' Summitt said, "because when we told Angie Bjorklund, she couldn't shoot a BB in the ocean. So I didn't want to tell Nicky."
Mission accomplished, thanks to an Anosike free throw with 2:14 left.
"Nicky came out and we just tried to follow suit,'' Hornbuckle said. "She had an all-around game tonight."