CHATTANOOGA – A new women’s basketball era for Tennessee started in shocking fashion Friday night.
Chattanooga took a lead early in the second half and never let it go, beating the Lady Vols 80-71 before a crowd of 8,468 at McKenzie Arena in the first game for UT head coach Holly Warlick.
The Lady Mocs snapped a 19-game losing streak against Tennessee and scored their first victory in the series since Jan. 26, 1973. The victory had their fans chanting “UTC” and rushing the court afterward
Former Morristown West star Taylor Hall scored a game-high 24 points for Chattanooga, which shot better than 50 percent from the floor for the final 20 minutes in scoring 52 points.
Meighan Simmons scored 23 for Tennessee but needed 25 shots for her production and missed seven of her eight 3-point attempts. Freshman forward Bashaara Graves scored 14 before fouling out with 2:07 left
Tennessee should’ve felt at home at the outset. Roughly 40 percent of the crowd was comprised of their fans. Head coach emeritus Pat Summitt was holding court, signing autographs and posing for photos with dozens of fans.
Instead, the Lady Vols looked lost, committing five turnovers in the first five minutes and missing five of their first six shots.
Ariel Massengale, who didn’t start at point guard, was hustled into the game within the first two minutes.
UT achieved some scoring traction thanks to its ability to get to the rim. Graves scored five of her nine first-half points at the foul line.
But the turnovers kept mounting, reaching 17 by halftime and betraying any hope for consistency. After forging a 20-11 lead, the Lady Vols went without a point for more than six minutes.
Chattanooga rallied to lead by four before a Massengale 25-footer beat the halftime buzzer and sent the teams to the locker room tied at 28.
Chattanooga started the second half by making six of its first seven shot. Tennessee went to a zone alignment and got some stops. But the Lady Mocs got a second wind and eventually opened a 52-42 lead after Alex Black blew up Massengale with a wicked cross-over dribble and swished a pull-up jumper.