FREEPORT, Bahamas – Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons left the mainland and found her jump shot.
The Lady Vols senior guard tied a career high by hitting eight 3 pointers and scored 32 points, leading Tennessee to a 76-67 women’s basketball victory over Virginia Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the Junkanoo Jam.
Simmons, who hadn’t scored more than 14 points in a game this season, finished two points shy of her career high.
After trailing by four at halftime, No. 3 Tennessee (6-0) scored the first six points of the second half and led by as many as 12 points in the final 20 minutes.
Ataira Franklin led Virginia (3-3) with 25 points. The Cavaliers cut UT’s second-half lead to 72-67 with 1:23 left but couldn’t get closer.
After talking all week about getting off to a better start, Tennessee again stumbled out of the starting blocks, falling behind 19-10 within the first eight minutes.
Although the Lady Vols rallied quickly to within two points, Virginia was playing hard to get.
Franklin, who came into the game averaging 11.8 points per game had 19 by halftime as Virginia pushed its advantage back to as many as 10 points. The Cavaliers mixed up their zone alignments, coaxing the Lady Vols into committing 10 turnovers by the break.
UT’s problems were further compounded by early foul trouble. Seven different players had two fouls by the break. Bashaara Graves played just three minutes.
Simmons, who came into the game shooting a chilly 19.2 percent from long range, swished three consecutive 3-pointers, helping Tennessee close within a point.
A bizarre two-foul sequence to end the half, which included a technical foul on UT coach Holly Warlick, enabled Virginia to hit three free throws and go the locker room with a 39-35 lead.