Tennessee turned to its bench and once again found a hero in waiting.
Alicia Manning headed for the scorer's table Thursday night against South Carolina as if she was coming out of a phone booth. The junior forward scored a game-high 22 points in an 82-60 SEC women's basketball victory before a crowd of 11,849 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Alyssia Brewer, who had been a reserve, made her first start of the season and grabbed 10 rebounds, sharing game honors with teammate Shekinna Stricklen.
No. 4 Tennessee (25-2, 13-0 SEC), which clinched a tie for the conference regular-season championship, got relatively close to the usual from Stricklen, who added 12 points to her rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season. Meighan Simmons scoring 17 points wasn't out of the ordinary either.
But Manning and Brewer crowding onto the marquee was something different, something more for the already voluminous Lady Vols' scouting report.
"It's hard to scout us,'' Brewer said. "You could put anyone in the game and they could give you anything."
Manning's previous season high had been 11 points against Alabama on Jan. 6. She hadn't hit a 3-pointer all season, missing all four of her attempts, before shooting 3 for 4 from long range.
Brewer, who was out until December recovering from Achilles' tendon surgery, hadn't grabbed more than four rebounds in any of her previous appearances. Nor had she logged anything like the 17 minutes she played against South Carolina.
"They have a lot of people who can step up at any time,'' said South Carolina guard Ieasia Walker.
She stepped up for South Carolina (15-11, 7-6) with team highs for points (16) and rebounds (7). But she didn't have enough help. Valerie Nainima was the only other double-figure scorer with 15 points. The Gamecocks were outrebounded, 51-30. It was the same margin as in UT's 71-56 victory in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 20
"We tried to cut that in half," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said.
The Lady Vols' mission, on the other hand, was to start better than they had in their three previous games. They were better in opening a 40-29 halftime lead. But they weren't good enough to build on an early 14-point advantage or rise above a first 20 minutes that featured 20 total fouls. Stricklen received a technical when she got tangled up with a South Carolina player during a free-throw attempt.
UT again sorted through its players in a search for the right combination. Freshman point guard Lauren Avant, whose 11 points and four steals helped save a victory at Vanderbilt on Sunday, didn't produce a comparable encore and played just 14 minutes.
Brewer scored seven early points before picking up two fouls, which limited her to six minutes before halftime. She was replaced, though, by Manning.
"I paid her five bucks to do that,'' Manning said jokingly.
Manning and Brewer logged a combined 23 minutes in the second half, when Tennessee shot 56.7 percent from the floor (17 for 30) and led by as many as 24 points. While Manning was topping off her stat line, which also included five rebounds and three steals, Brewer was adding two assists and two blocks. Her outlet pass to Simmons started a transition play that ended with the freshman guard's behind-the-back pass to Stricklen for a layup.
"Lyssi, she's getting more and more confident and playing better and better,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "That makes a big difference to have the size, and she battles on the boards."
She added to UT's performance and to all future scouting reports.