KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s depth makes it easier for Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick to challenge her players to become better rebounders.
The 10th-ranked Lady Vols showcased their bench strength and their rejuvenated rebounding ability in a 98-77 victory over Murray State on Friday night. Seven Lady Vols scored in double figures and Tennessee capitalized on a 56-24 rebounding advantage.
Since getting outrebounded by a combined 20 boards in a victory over No. 13 Texas and a loss to No. 6 Stanford this month, Tennessee has a 106-57 rebounding edge in its last two games.
“Getting outrebounded for us is something that we consider unacceptable,” said Rennia Davis, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead Tennessee in both categories. “In practice and even in games, there were consequences for not going to rebound, so I think tonight everyone went and rebounded a little bit better.”
Those consequences involved benching any players who didn’t s how enough effort on the boards. Tennessee’s bench strength enabled Warlick to offer that kind of challenge.
“I just said if you don’t go to the boards twice, then you’re coming out,” Warlick said. “I gave you a don’t-go-to-the-boards-free pass once and then you’re coming out. They responded. Playing time’s a good thing (to use as an incentive) when you’ve got 10 people that can play.”
Tennessee (10-1) shot a season-best 50.6 percent and withstood a season-high 23 turnovers.
Meme Jackson, Rae Burrell and Mimi Collins scored 11 points each. Jazmine Massengill, Cheridene Green and Evina Westbrook had 10 points apiece. Massengill also had eight assists.
Evelyn Adebayo scored a career-high 28 points for Murray State (4-7), which lost for the sixth time in its last seven games. Janika Griffith-Wallace had 14 points, Brianna Crane scored 12 and Lex Mayes added 11 for the Racers.
Murray State entered the night with a plus-4.9 rebound margin for the season but knew it would have a tough time competing on the boards against Tennessee.
“They’re just so athletically superior to us. … The rebounding margin was something we knew would be an issue,” Murray State coach Rechelle Turner said.
The Lady Vols’ depth helped them overcome some adversity.
Tennessee played extended minutes without two of its three top scorers early in the game as Westbrook picked up her second foul midway through the first quarter and Davis left after slipping later in the opening period.
The Lady Vols had an 11-10 advantage when Davis joined Westbrook on the bench. Tennessee’s lead had grown to 30-21 by the time Davis and Westbrook returned.
Tennessee had four freshmen on the floor for much of that stretch when Davis and Westbrook were on the bench.
“We’re all really close, so I feel like there is a lot of chemistry and connection when we play together,” Burrell said about Tennessee’s freshman class.
Murray State: Adebayo has shown in the last two games that she can play effectively against anyone. She followed up a 20-point, nine-rebound performance in an 88-49 loss at No. 18 Kentucky with another big effort against Tennessee. The Racers need to give her more help. Adebayo has owned or shared the team lead in points in all but one game this year. This was the first time all season that Adebayo wasn’t the Racers’ leading rebounder.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols must take better care of the basketball and play tougher defense as they approach the start of Southeastern Conference competition. Tennessee allowed Murray State to score 48 second-half points.
“I know personally for me, I had to hold back the tears walking on the court,” Turner said.
Turner, a longtime Kentucky high school coach in her second season at Murray State, grew up admiring former Lady Vols coach Pat Summit and considered it a life-long dream to coach a game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee had a 22-7 edge in second-chance points and a 38-4 advantage in bench scoring. … Tennessee had 25 offensive rebounds, while Murray State had 24 total rebounds.
Murray State: Hosts Morehead State on Thursday.
Tennessee: Hosts Belmont on Sunday.
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