Given a choice between all of her 3-pointers and one steal, Taber Spani didn't dither over her preference.
"The steal, absolutely,'' she said. "The threes are the easy part."
Tennessee's junior guard made the treys Tuesday night as if she was pitching pebbles into the sea, swishing seven as part of her game-high 25 points in the Lady Vols' 93-45 women's basketball exhibition victory over Union University.
Anticipating a first-half pass in front of UT's bench and knifing across the court for the deflection and then the turnover doesn't come so naturally. But she made it look easier before an announced crowd of 11,332 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Along with the points, Spani also shared the team lead in steals with four as the Lady Vols — in their final dress rehearsal before the regular-season opener against Pepperdine on Sunday — demonstrated that they've got a good shot at playing more aggressive defense.
Overall, UT gathered 16 steals and helped force 31 turnovers by Union, which
is ranked No. 2 in NAIA. The resulting mayhem helped create 37 Tennessee points.
"We've put a lot of time into our press,'' said associate head coach Holly Warlick, who again handled the post-game press room session. "It makes us very aggressive. We're an athletic team and we should be very good at it and right now we are very good at it."
Tennessee was good at a lot of things against Union. Along with Spani, who shot 8-for-12 from the floor, three other players scored in double figures. Shekinna Stricklen had 17, Isabelle Harrison 11 and Meighan Simmons 10. Overall, Tennessee shot 55.2 percent from the floor (32-for-58) and 40 percent (8-for-20) on 3-pointers.
Glory Johnson's game-high 10 rebounds led a 39-23 advantage on the boards.
UT barely missed a beat without senior center Vicki Baugh, who missed the game to attend a class.
"We have a game next Tuesday night (vs. Miami) and we didn't want her to miss two weeks in a row,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "I thought it was good that other players, actually the team as a whole, stepped up and filled her leadership role."
The Lady Vols were particularly good in the first half. Pressing after virtually every made basket and on inbounds plays, UT helped force 20 of Union's turnovers by halftime and held the Lady Bulldogs to 16 points.
"I was really excited we were only down six rebounds, but then I remembered we didn't shoot very much,'' Union coach Mark Campbell said.
Tennessee's shooting and offensive play reflected the greater presence of point guard Ariel Massengale, who started, played 22 minutes and recorded a game-high six assists.
"She makes a whole lot of difference,'' said Stricklen, who shot 7-for-11 from the floor. "Just her tempo and pushing the ball up (the court), she sees the whole floor very well and she's looking for the open player. She really looks to get us open, and she knows when she can drive. She is a good point guard, a true point guard. That's what we really need and we finally have that."
While Massengale's play contributed to UT's 19 assists, her influence didn't stem the tide of turnovers, which reached 17.
"I think we have a tendency to get a little complacent,'' Warlick said. " We've got to get better at that."