LOS ANGELES — With each shot, the basket got bigger and bigger for Tennessee on Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Vols looked like they were aiming at the Pacific Ocean by halftime against UCLA. No matter who was shooting, they seemingly couldn't miss.
"I wish I could say I was the shooting coach tonight,'' UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said. "It was awesome. It was awesome. It was exciting to see."
The sixth-ranked Lady Vols (7-2) made 18 of their first 20 attempts. They never dipped below 60 percent accuracy in an 85-64 women's basketball victory before a crowd of 2,025 at the John Wooden Center.
The final tally was 69.2 percent — 36-for-52, which threatened the school single-game record of 70.9 set in 1979.
Guard Meighan Simmons, who lugged a 28.9 percent shooting percentage into the game, scored a team-high 18 points, hitting eight of 14 attempts.
Glory Johnson scored 17 on 7-for-9 shooting while Vicki Baugh and Taber Spani had 14 apiece. Shekinna Stricklen bounced back from a stomach ailment to round out the double-figure scoring with 11 points.
Other than Simmons, no Lady Vol missed more than two attempts. Stricklen missed just once (5-for-6) and Alicia Manning made all three of her attempts.
And this wasn't a layup drill, either. While the Lady Vols scored 36 points from close range, they also shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point arc (7-for-14).
"We were taking good shots,'' Warlick said. "We're a very good offensive basketball team when we're taking shots like that.''
UCLA (5-4) had enough shot attempts, thanks to 19 offensive rebounds, but couldn't keep pace with Tennessee's accuracy. Rebekah Gardner gave the Bruins their best shot with her attempts from all points on the floor. The senior guard scored a game-high 24 points.
The Lady Vols set the tone for their day by making their first seven attempts. The baskets were a mixture of layups, 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers.
"I think when we're on, it brings our team together,'' Simmons said. "In the first five to 10 minutes, it got our momentum going."
The ripple effect didn't carry over to Tennessee's defense, at least not as far as guarding Gardner was concerned.
"This young lady is the real deal,'' UCLA coach Cori Close said. "The pros better take a look real fast. Don't miss out on Rebekah Gardner."
UT's rebounding also wasn't up to its usual standards, particularly against the smaller Bruins. Despite often deploying five guards, the Bruins outrebounded Tennessee 31-28 and had a 17-4 edge in second-chance points.
"We don't like those long rebounds,'' Johnson said. "We don't get them most of the time."
Said Simmons: "That's the guards' responsibility."
UT also was hurt by the absence of Stricklen, who played just six minutes in the first half because of a stomach ailment.
"After a while, we started going on a roller coaster,'' Simmons said. "We were going up and down."
Except when they were shooting.