FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP)—Tennessee coach Holly Warlick knows success for the Lady Vols is very simple. Play good defense and rebound and good things will happen.
The third-ranked Lady Vols got both in an 87-47 rout of SMU on Friday night to win the Junkanoo Jam.
“Defense and rebounding starts our whole offense,” Warlick said. “Tonight they saw the end result of what we’ve been trying to do.”
Tennessee (7-0) outrebounded SMU 54-31 and held the Mustangs to just 26 percent shooting.
“Our defense was solid tonight,” Warlick added. “We probably had too many fouls in the first half, but I think we shut down a very talented young lady in (Keena) Mays. She’s a great player.”
Mays scored 12 points—all in the first half to lead the Mustangs (7-1).
Ariel Massengale scored 16 points and Bashaara Graves added 10 points and 10 assists to lead Tennessee, which scored eight of the first 10 points in the second half to blow the game open after leading by 12 at the break.
It was the Lady Vols’ first holiday tournament championship since they won the Paradise Jam in 2005. Tennessee which had been getting off to slow starts lately, led from the beginning in this game.
Assistant coach Dean Lockwood reminded the team before the game of their slow beginnings.
“Dean said in the locker room that this was one of the many championships that hopefully we’ll play for,” said Meighan Simmons, who was the tournament MVP. “We have to go out and play like champions. That’s what we did at the beginning of the game. We started off strong and finished strong.”
The Lady Vols scored 21 of the first 26 points to take an early lead. SMU (7-1) rallied to within 23-15 before Tennessee led 39-27 at the half. Simmons had consecutive 3-pointers in the run before the half.
“I feel like we took the tempo early in the game,” Simmons said. “We knew they’d come out hard and prove a point.”