The Lady Volunteers kicked off their 2022 season with an explosive exhibition match against Carson-Newman Sunday afternoon, defeating the Eagles 108-63. Tennessee’s offense did not skip a beat, shooting 12-28 (42.9%) from the three point line and 14-20 (70%) from the field.
Tennessee controlled the court for the duration of the game, only trailing for 25 seconds in the beginning of the first quarter. Carson-Newman stood their own in the first few minutes of regulation, but the Vols turned up the pace of the game, pressing a 17-0 scoring run with 2:32 left in the second quarter. By the fourth quarter, the Lady Vols had sealed their unstoppable offensive run, boasting a 46 point lead with 5:31 left in the 4th.
The Lady Vols dominated on the defensive side of the ball as well, holding Carson-Newman to 24 of 61 from the field, totalling 28 defensive rebounds and converting 10 steals into 42 points on turnovers.
Marta Suarez returned to the active roster after suffering a season-ending injury, putting her on the sidelines for the duration of the 2021-2022 season. Suarez was vocal on the court and demanded attention from Carson-Newman’s defense, scoring 14 points, securing two offensive rebounds, and one assist, all with a big smile on her face.
“Marta loves playing basketball. This is her favorite world. She played with great poise, was efficient. She didn’t force things,” head coach Kellie Harper said. “Her practice stats have been excellent… She’s very motivated. She just loves it.”
Senior forward Rickea Jackson was a menace to Carson-Newman, shooting five for nine from the field, shooting four for four (100%) from the free throw line, for a total of 14 points, partnered with three assists and two steals in merely 14 minutes of play. Jackson was simply unstoppable.
“I’m glad she’s on our team. She’s difficult to guard. You have to have great size, great athleticism, strength, and toughness to be able to guard her,” Harper said. “She requires so much attention.”
Sophomore guard Sara Puckett was another Tennessee offensive force to be reckoned with, going three of five from the three-point line and six of nine from the field. In addition to putting up 15 points, Puckett dominated the board, securing three rebounds.
“What Sara did today is nothing new to us because she does it in practice,” teammate Rickea Jackson said. “She goes hard everyday. She does the little things. She’s such a gritty player, but she can shoot the ball really well. She’s willing to do whatever for the team. She really just works hard.”
Seniors Jordan Horston was a visible leader for the Lady Vols in her 11 minutes on the court. Horston shot eight of 13 from the field, leading the team with 17 points, and tailed her impressive sharp shooting with four rebounds, three assists, and one rebound.
The Lady Vols were cohesive on offense, totalling 25 assists and 108 points. Every player on the active roster saw a chunk of playing time in the exhibition matchup, and intense roster depth will continue to be Tennessee’s strong suit headed into the regular season.
Tennessee will open its regular season on the road against No. 14 Ohio State next Monday. Tip off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST.