Cheridene Green had 12 points and Mimi Collins added 11 as Tennessee won easily despite getting just two points from leading scorer Evina Westbrook. Micah Scheetz had 15 and Carley Lytton and Erica Haynes-Overton added 11 apiece for ETSU (2-13).
ETSU already has matched its loss total from last season, when the Buccaneers went 20-13. ETSU was the Southern Conference coaches’ preseason pick to win the league but has struggled against a demanding nonconference schedule.
“We’re not going to start backing down off our schedule,” ETSU coach Brittney Ezell said. “You want to be good, play the good teams. We’re picked preseason No. 1 in our conference, and I’m sure a lot of people are looking at our record and going, ‘How in the world?’ Well, we’ll show you. Come watch us in January.”
Tennessee opened on a 9-0 run to pull ahead for good, but the Buccaneers regrouped after taking that opening punch.
The Lady Vols didn’t grab their first double-digit lead until less than four minutes remained in the second quarter. They were only ahead 48-40 midway through the third quarter before ETSU ran out of gas.
ETSU: Give the Bucs credit for how they responded to that early 9-0 deficit. ETSU outworked and outhustled Tennessee much of the night before its shooting woes late in the third quarter enabled Tennessee to pull away.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols spent much of the night experimenting with some unusual lineup combinations that had varying degrees of success. Tennessee pulled away in the third quarter when usual starters Jackson and Westbrook were on the floor with freshman reserves Rae Burrell, Jazmine Massengill and Collins. Massengill had five blocks and nine rebounds to go along with her four points.
Westbrook had nine assists but missed all five of her field-goal attempts, ending a streak of four straight games in which the sophomore guard had scored at least 20 points. She sat out the entire fourth quarter Friday after playing all 40 minutes in each of Tennessee’s two games leading up to this one.
She’s the first Lady Vol to score 20-plus points in four straight games since Candace Parker did it in 2007-08, Tennessee’s last national championship season.
Scheetz returned to her hometown and scored a season-high 15 points, with 12 of them coming in the first half to keep ETSU close. Scheetz played high school basketball at Webb School of Knoxville and began her college career at UAB before transferring to ETSU.
ETSU: Hosts High Point on Dec. 29.
Tennessee: Hosts Murray State on Friday.
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