Photo by Riley Haltom (@rileyhaltom on X)
By Gabriel Daniel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn- No.11 Tennessee (1-0, 0-0) opened its season with a blowout win over Florida A&M (0-1, 0-0) 93-64 in Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center Tuesday.
The Lady Vols focused on shooting the three, putting up 29 shots from behind the arch but only converting eight of them. On the other hand, the Rattlers put up 19 threes and converted on nine of them.
A huge reason for the Lady Vols’ success from three was new addition Jewel Spear. The senior transfer from Wake Forest quickly showed her scoring ability, going five of nine from three in the first half. Spear added another three in the second half and finished the game with a tie for the team high in points with 20.
“I thought my teammates were looking for me … I just think just me making those baskets is credit to my teammates.” Spear said.
The play of Spear at the guard position is a welcomed addition for the Lady Vols after Jordan Horston, their second best scorer in 2022-23, was drafted by the Seattle Storm.
The Lady Vols offense was a force down low, scoring 42 points in the paint. The success in the paint gave way to plenty of free throws for the Lady Vols, getting to the line 30 times and hitting on 21 of their attempts.
In addition to their offensive performance, the Lady Vols also dominated the boards.
Tennessee out rebounded the Rattlers 47-25. Karoline Striplin provided seven of those rebounds on top of 20 points and two assists. Striplin led the team with a plus 28 when she was on the court.
Rebounding was one of the biggest areas coach Kellie Harper thought the team could improve on in the preseason.
“I think we’ve gotten a little better, you know slowly but surely. I don’t think we have arrived by any stretch of imagination. I thought we opened the game and gave up a few too many offensive boards, I thought we cleaned that up in the middle of the game,” Harper said.
Striplin’s play was a positive sign for the Lady Vols, who are in need of production from their forwards. If Striplin can keep up this scoring output to compliment Rickea Jackson, it could be a dangerous combination for the Lady Vols.
“Just when you look back all the extra hours you put in … it’s just exciting to start the season off with a win,” Striplin said.
After a tight first quarter, the Lady Vols controlled the rest of the game.
The Lady Vols defense suffocated the Rattlers offense, forcing 18 turnovers. The defense also held the Rattlers to 25-60 from the field while avoiding foul trouble, only sending the Rattlers to the foul line eight times.
The Lady Vols are right back at it on Thursday night with a matchup on the road against No. 18 Florida State. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. ET and the game will air on ESPN 2.