Lady Vols' coach Holly Warlick
The Tennessee Lady Vols were their own toughest critics Thursday night.
A renewed emphasis on defense meant a 104-44 exhibition victory over Carson-Newman College before an announced crowd of 10,647 at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night wasn't up to their expectations for the coming women's basketball season.
"It would say it was inconsistent," guard Taber Spani said. "I think our effort level was there at times and at others not. As a senior, I take responsibility for that.
"We saw some transfer of what we want to do, but we have a long way to go."
Otherwise, UT's maiden voyage featured a lot of junior guard Meighan Simmons, who scored a game-high 24 points, and good long look at Tennessee's four freshmen, who all played at least 21 minutes.
Freshman guard Andraya Carter started in place of sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale. She has a case of tendinitis in her left Achilles' tendon and was rested as a precaution.
"We felt like rest would be good for her,'' said UT coach Holly Warlick, who was making her coaching debut after serving 27 seasons as Pat Summitt's assistant. "That was my call. I wanted her to rest. I wanted Andraya to start and get the experience."
Two of Carter's classmates made strong first impressions. Forward Bashaara Graves, for example, got stronger as the game progressed and finished with 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
"At the beginning I was a little nervous; you could probably tell," she said. "In the second half, the nervousness went a way. I just played my game."
Warlick was particularly impressed with Graves' rebounding.
"You have to have some kind of effort if you have 15 rebounds," Warlick said.
Fellow freshman Jasmine Jones, meanwhile, made her first six shots and finished with 16 points. One of her baskets came on a veteran-like move in the first half, when she cut across the foul lane to catch a pass and hesitated long enough to fake a defender before continuing to the rim.
"She was 6-for-6 and (assistant) Dean (Lockwood) made the comment that Jasmine hadn't missed a shot," Warlick said. "And about that time, she missed one so I blamed him and said he jinxed her."
Overall, Tennessee had five double-figure scorers, shot 55.2 percent from the floor (37-for-67) and amassed a 55-32 rebounding advantage.
Still, the Lady Vols have made it clear that they intend to be all about effort, particularly on defense. So holding C-N to 20 percent shooting from the floor (11-for-55) and gathering 16 steals wasn't good enough. From their perspective, the mitigating factor was 23 team fouls. Five players finished with at least three fouls.
"It's going to be one of those things where we have to be very disciplined," Simmons said. "Our coaches always tell us to play with your feet and not your hands. It has to be a mentality."
Carson-Newman scored 16 of its points at the foul line. Reserve Chante Markus scored a team-high 12 points.
Tennessee plays its final exhibition against Coker College, at 2 p.m. on Sunday. After starting Carter, Simmons, Spani, Cierra Burdick and Isabelle Harrison against C-N, Warlick intends to experiment more with the starting lineup.
"We'll start a different group on Sunday," she said. "I'm just trying to get a feel for them. I want to see who plays well together."