KNOXVILLE – In the first meeting between long-time rivals in five years, No. 16/14 Tennessee dominated No. 22 North Carolina, 102-57 at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Lady Vols (6-1) extended their winning streak to six games, while the Tar Heels (7-1) lost their first game of the season. Tennessee has now beaten three ranked teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, including road games at Georgia Tech and Miami.
“It was awesome,” first-year Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “It was a great team effort. We talked about playing as a team before the game, and you can look at the stats and understand it was a team effort. We had several people score in double figures. We had 21 assists. So when you have 21 assists, you’re sharing the basketball. I’m proud of the team. I thought they’re defensive effort was outstanding, holding North Carolina to 57 points. Overall, I’m extremely pleased.”
Junior Meighan Simmons, who scored her 1,000th career point in the game, led all scorers with a career-high 33. Her point total was the most since All-American Candace Parker scored 34 vs. Notre Dame on March 30, 2008.
“There was an expectation that North Carolina was going to beat us,” Simmons said, “and we took that to heart. I wanted to go out there and help my teammates out with rebounds and getting assists. I wanted to continue and push the tempo and playing as hard as I could and make sure I did what the coaches told me. I think the tougher teams that we play, the better we play. I think we have to continue to play like this from here on out.”
Sophomore Isabelle Harrison scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for her third double-double this season.
“You’re seeing the results of her playing and learning behind an All-American last year and then going to work in the summer, and you’re seeing the result,” Warlick said of Harrison. “The thing, last year, you saw Izzie. She played in spurts and she was not in good shape. The times when she would not play hard, is because of fatigue. I think now, this year, we’ve made her fight through fatigue and practices. I mean, she’s had some pretty tough practices. I think us making her, forcing her to understand this is the tempo we’re going to play. I think now she gets it.”
Freshman Bashaara Graves tallied 15 points, as she has scored in double-figures in all seven of her college games.
Sophomore Cierra Burdick netted 15 and grabbed 10 rebounds for her second-career double-double. Taber Spani had 10 points.
The 45-point margin of victory over a ranked team was the largest since UT beat No. 22 Illinois, by 49 points (111-62) in Hawaii on Nov. 25, 2000.
The 102 points vs. the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels were the most by UT against a ranked team since beating No. 15 DePaul, 102-68, on Jan. 2, 2008.
The Lady Vols opened the game with a 10-2 lead and never looked back. A Simmons’ 3-pointer just over seven minutes into the action put the Lady Vols ahead by 10 at 17-7 and UT never let UNC cut the margin below double-figures for the remainder of the game.
Tennessee led by as many as 46 on a 3-pointer by Burdick with 44 seconds left in the second half. The closest the Tar Heels got in the second half was 16 points on two occasions, but UT opened up the jets midway in the second half to blow open the game.
Tennessee out-rebounded UNC, 54-40, with Harrison leading the way with 11 boards.
The Lady Vols closed the first half on a 14-4 run to lead 49-28 at intermission. Simmons had 22 points in the first half on the way to her career day.
Simmons became the 37th Tennessee player to score 1,000 career points with a free throw with 11:44 left in the first half. She achieved the plateau in just her 80th college game.
Lady Vols went on an 8-0 run capped by a Taber Spani 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Tennessee ahead, 22-7, with 12:36 left in the first half.
Sunday’s game was the first meeting since Lady Vols beat UNC, 83-79, five years ago to the date on Dec. 2, 2007.
The Lady Vols have two weeks off before their next game at Texas on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. That game will air on Fox SportsNet and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.