Glory Johnson set the encore bar pretty high with her Tennessee women’s basketball debut Thursday night.
After scoring 33 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 135-55 exhibition victory over Carson-Newman College, what more can the freshman forward do?
Well, how about starting for starters.
“I really don’t want to be on the bench,” the former Webb School star said. “I don’t really need to be there. It was something I was trying to prove.”
She made her case rather emphatically, coming in to shoot 11 for 18 from the floor and amass her impressive totals in just 28 playing minutes before a crowd of 11,781 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Glory is one of the best athletes that we’ve ever had in our program,” UT coach Pat Summitt said. “I would compare her to (former UT All-American) Tamika Catchings with her speed and aggressiveness. She shot the ball well tonight, considering that we haven’t spent a lot of time on her face-up game. … She has a lot of pride in her game. She definitely changes the way we play.”
All of Tennessee’s freshmen introduced them in impressive fashion. Four others scored in double figures with Alicia Manning getting 19, Shekinna Stricklen 17, Amber Gray 16 and Alyssia Brewer 14.
Manning filled out her stat line with six rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. Brewer, a 6-foot-3 forward, had 13 rebounds and gathered a team-high seven steals, one more than Stricklen.
First-year point guard Briana Bass had four assists and zero turnovers.
Add redshirt freshman center Kelley Cain’s 18 points and nine rebounds to the potent mix and it added up to the second-highest scoring total in UT’s exhibition history. The Lady Vols’ 72 rebounds were four short of the school single-game record.
Carson-Newman College coach Dean Walsh offered a frame of reference for seventh-ranked Tennessee’s performance. Two nights earlier, the Lady Eagles played at No. 6 North Carolina, losing to the Tar Heels 114-64.
“As I told Coach (Summitt) in the hallway out there, at this point in time it’s not close, she’s better than Carolina,’’ he said. “It’s not even close. We were able to get looks against Carolina. We were able to do a lot of things we wanted to do against Carolina. And tonight we couldn’t get the looks that we wanted that we felt were open.”
UT’s effort affirmed the demanding nature of preseason practice. Even with the rout in full swing at 119-50, Summitt took a quick timeout to give Brewer an earful.
Afterward, she was lamenting the Lady Vols’ 25 for 49 free throw shooting, albeit in a joking manner.
“I’m not sure who our free throw coach is,’’ said Summitt, listing the names of assistant coaches Dean Lockwood, Holly Warlick and Daedra Charles-Furlow, “but it wasn’t me. That was unacceptable. We can work on that, though.”
On the other hand, Summitt was serious about deploying Johnson as a reserve. Last week, Summitt had listed the 6-3 high school All-American as a starter but then backtracked based on Johnson’s practice effort.
“Glory can change her role when she brings it in practice every day,” Summitt said. “She’s a special player. I have different expectations for her.”
Walsh’s joking referred to the exhibition gauntlet he put his team through this week.
“I think anybody that knows the game of basketball knows there isn’t a sane coach who would play North Carolina on Tuesday and then turn around and play the Lady Vols,” he said.
In all seriousness, from this point forward it’s bound to get better.
Said C-N guard Ashley Tipton: “It makes our (other) games seem really easy.”