One player’s misfortune turned out to be another’s opportunity Tuesday night.
“Very proud of Lyssi,’’ Lady Vols sophomore forward Glory Johnson said.
No. 6 Tennessee (6-0) had to be relieved as well that the 6-foot-3 Brewer converted 11 of 15 field-goal attempts and also grabbed seven rebounds before a crowd of 12,840 at Thompson-Boling Arena that included former Lady Vols star Candace Parker and her baby daughter, Lailaa.
Cain’s absence magnified the lack of depth in UT’s post game. The 6-foot-6 center joined an imposing cheering section on the team bench that already included 6-4 Vicki Baugh (knee), 6-3 Faith Dupree (back) and 6-1 Amber Gray (shoulder, brain surgery).
Brewer recalled how the circumstances were similar in last season’s NCAA first-round tournament game against Ball State. Cain went out in the first half with a knee injury and Brewer’s scoring response was rather feeble by comparison — four points in a stunning 71-55 loss.
“When Kelley went out, I knew I had to step up,’’ Brewer said. “Last year it was the same scenario against Ball State and I didn’t step up like I needed to.”
As Brewer was piling up her points, UT coach Pat Summitt joked that “I had to take a look to see who that was out there.”
The coach was more serious in praising a player who has been a frequent target of her criticism.
“She did a great job of posting up and using the glass offensively,’’ Summitt said. “She was begging for the ball. If we can rely on that, along with Kelley and Glory and Taber (Spani) doing some good things in the mix, I feel better about our post game.”
There was no official word on Cain’s availability for Sunday’s game against No. 17 Texas, but Summitt said, “The coach expects her to play against Texas.”
Along with Brewer, guard Shekinna Stricklen scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in bouncing back from a sub-par effort against UCLA on Saturday. Johnson also had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Guard Kay-Kay Allums scored a team-high 16 points for George Washington (2-4).
Brewer got started with a nice entry pass from Alicia Manning, who recorded one of her career-high six assists in setting up her teammate for a layup. Brewer’s next basket was a reward for running the floor. She beat the defense to the rim and Stricklen fed her for another layup.
A hustling steal by Stricklen was a prelude to Brewer pulling off one of the top highlights: a spinning bank shot and a conventional 3-point play after a foul, giving UT a 36-18 lead.
“It’s all in my hands if I carry it over or not,’’ Brewer said of her performance. “I plan on doing that but I need to stay consistent.”
Brewer scored 14 points in the second half, taking advantage of the 14 playing minutes the rout afforded her after halftime.
“They lose a player (Cain) and replace her with another high school All-American,’’ George Washington coach Mike Bozeman said. “That is tough. It is tough. Brewer had a great game.”
Brewer’s McDonald’s All-American days in Sapulpa, Okla., often have seemed like days gone by as she struggled with the daily demands of Tennessee’s program. She was suspended for a Nov. 17 game against Texas Tech for a violation of team policy.
Her play ought to provide a welcome boost.
“I think she needed this game,’’ Johnson said. “Watching her struggling in practice and even sometimes she does good things in practice and dwells on the negatives. I think having a great game will boost her confidence.”