The Meighan Simmons show drew more rave reviews Monday night, even though the stage was more crowded.
Tennessee’s freshman sharpshooter had a women’s basketball scoring ensemble to complement her game-high 26 points in the Lady Vols’ 103-43 rout of Chattanooga.
Four other Lady Vols scored in double figures before a crowd of 10,808 at Thompson-Boling Arena. Angie Bjorklund had 20, Taber Spani scored 14, Kamiko Williams had 12 and Glory Johnson 10. Four players also collaborated on a team single-game record 15 3-pointers. Bjorklund led with six 3-pointers.
Simmons still was front and center, however. If anything, she was more polished than her 22-point debut at Louisville last Friday. The 5-foot-9 guard shot 10 for 16 from the floor, including 5 for 8 from 3-point range. She had four assists, three steals and one turnover. And she crammed another grand performance into just 17 playing minutes.
“I didn’t know she’d have this kind of impact,’’ UT coach Pat Summitt said. “I knew she was a great athlete but I didn’t know about her skill set. She is very skilled and she is very confident for a freshman.”
Simmons’ confidence is growing, too.
“My teammates are always encouraging me,’’ telling me, ‘when you’re open, shoot the ball,’ ’’ Simmons said. “I think that kind of boosts my confidence up, especially in a game because then I know they are depending on me to hit open shots.’’
Simmons and Kelley Cain joined a reconfigured starting lineup for No. 4 Tennessee (2-0) and their presence played a part in a vastly improved offense.
After recording just 11 assists against Louisville, the Lady Vols had 12 on their first 12 baskets against the Lady Mocs (0-2) and finished with 25.
The 6-6 Cain was one of three Lady Vols with four assists as the basketball often went through her on its way to open perimeter shooters.
“I think after the Louisville game, we really watched a lot of film,’’ Bjorklund said. “I thought the guards did a great job of moving without the ball more and playing more inside-out instead of one-on-one. We played more as a team.”
While Simmons was surprised to find herself open, she didn’t waste her opportunities.
“When you’re open, you’re open,” she said. “You have to shoot the open shots. You have to focus on that shot.”
Tennessee’s accuracy topped 60 percent for much of the first half before finishing at 53.2 percent (41 for 77). The Lady Vols’ 3-point accuracy took a beating after halftime but still was 42.9 percent (15 for 35).
Despite the deadeye shooting, one miss drew some post-game attention. After a second-half steal, the 6-3 Johnson dribbled in from halfcourt and tried to throw down a dunk. She lost the ball on the way up and ended up grabbing the rim.
“I was not expecting that,’’ Simmons said. “I was like ‘wow.’ One day, she’s going to do it.”
The game’s one-sided nature enabled Tennessee to play 10 players. Everyone played at least 13 minutes and nobody played more than Bjorklund and Alicia Manning, who each logged 29.
Freshman guard Lauren Avant, who suffered a sprained ankle during Sunday’s practice, sat out the game and is listed as day to day. Junior forward Vicki Baugh, who is coming back from multiple knee surgeries, also didn’t play.
“Obviously, I think the weather isn’t favorable for her,’’ Summitt said of Baugh. “We’re not taking any risks whatsoever.”
Forward Whitney Hood scored a team-high 22 points for Chattanooga, which had just five first-half field goals and shot 29.4 percent from the floor for the game (15 for 51).
Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore saw former Lady Vol Faith Dupree afterward and said, “I need a hug and a post player.”
Dupree, who will be transferring to Chattanooga for second semester, said: “I can give you both.”
“It wasn’t a whole lot of fun,’’ Moore said. “I knew they were going to present a whole lot of problems for us.”
Dan Fleser covers UT Lady Vols basketball. He may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/@fleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser/