In the second of two nationally televised Top-25 matchups Monday, the No. 4 Lady Vols shot the lights out from downtown on their way to an 81-65 rout of No. 12/11 North Carolina at Carmichael Arena.
The Lady Vols (2-0) shot a sizzling 8-of-19 on 3-pointers, led by Ariel Massengale's career-best five treys. The junior guard tallied a career-high 20 points, while grabbing a career-high-tying six rebounds and handing out seven assists.
Junior post Isabelle Harrison netted 14 points on near-perfect shooting, knocking down four-of-five from the floor and six-of-six from the line. Redshirt junior guard Andraya Carter did not miss a shot all evening, knocking down all three of her field-goal attempts, including two from long range, and hitting both of her foul shots to finish with 10 points.
Cierra Burdick led the Lady Vols on the glass with nine rebounds as Tennessee outrebounded UNC, 49-44.
The Tar Heels (1-1) were led by freshman Allisha Gray, who notched a double-double of 15 points and 10 boards. Junior guard Brittany Rountree added 13 points but coughed up five turnovers, sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel contributed a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Stephanie Mavunga, another member of North Carolina's top-ranked incoming class, also notched an 11-point, 12-board double-double. But a stifling Tennessee defense limited UNC as a team to just 30.4 percent (21-69) from the floor and a meager 22.7 percent (five-of-22) from beyond the arc. Freshman sensation Diamond DeShields showed moments of brilliance, but on the whole, struggled to score, netting only three of her 15 field-goal attempts and just one of her seven long balls. She fouled out late in the game with just eight points to her credit, and though she did grab three steals, she gave them all back with five turnovers.
Mavunga also fouled out in the game's final minutes, as did Tennessee's Burdick, in a game that at times seemed to be played mostly at the charity stripe. The officials, charged with the duty of enforcing new rules and "points of emphasis," handed out a combined total of 51 personal fouls, resulting in a cumulative 58 trips to the line. The rules and enforcement changes are designed to protect the ball handler by limiting hand checks and a good deal of what used to be considered within the bounds of acceptable contact. But the symphony of whistles appeared to frustrate the crowd and generally slowed the pace of play.
Tennessee had struggled in its season opener at Middle Tennessee State Friday, grinding out a 67-57 win despite getting off to a slow start that saw them trailing by double digits at halftime. Not so on Monday. The Vols opened the game hot from beyond the 3-point arc, leading North Carolina by as many as 14 points with 8:36 left in the half on the first 3-point field goal of Jordan Reynolds's college career. Though the Tar Heels battled back, Massengale knocked down four 3-pointers and Carter connected on both of her long-distance attempts to propel Tennessee to a 40-28 halftime lead. UT made seven of their 15 attempted 3-pointers in the first half, while UNC converted just two of 10 attempted treys.
Massengale (12) and Carter (10) combined for more than half of Lady Vols' first-half point total.
Tennessee continued to swell its lead in the second stanza, scoring the first seven points of the second half. Both the pace and the accuracy of the Tennessee 3-point barrage slackened, however, as the Vols knocked down only one of their four second-half three point attempts. That three-ball, Massengale's fifth trey of the game, put Tennessee up 45-28. Harrison added a jumper for a 19-point lead.
The Tar Heels missed their first eight shots from the field in the second half and were held without a field goal for more than eight minutes bridging the halves (0-of-12).
Simmons' layup with 13:51 left in the game put the Lady Vols ahead by 20-plus points for the first time, 53-32.
North Carolina chipped away, cutting a lead that had reached its peak at 21 points down to 11 on a 3-pointer by Mavunga with 5:46 left in the second half, 68-57. But Tennessee answered, regaining a 15-point lead minutes later and holding on to it for the remainder of the game.
The Lady Vols return home to host their regular-season home opener on Thursday night at Chattanooga comes to Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. The Tar Heels, who lost sophomore reserve Megan Buckland to a right knee injury in the second half, take to the road against No. 25 UCLA Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. local.