KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Kellie Harper prides herself in making sure her basketball team will not check out for the holidays until the last game is over.
The coach of No. 7 Tennessee got the results Monday night with a 112-58 victory over East Tennessee.
”I’m really proud of the way our team handled the last couple days,” said Harper, whose Lady Volunteers (10-1) were coming off a loss to No. 2 Stanford Saturday. ”I was very honest about my expectations. We weren’t going to check out.”
Freshman Sara Puckett came off the bench to score 19 points and Tamari Key added 16 to lead Tennessee against the Buccaneers (1-11).
”We were all locked in from the start,” said Puckett. ”Every single person came in and contributed. We all had points and rebounds.”
Keyen Green contributed 13 points, Kaiya Wynn had 12 and 10 rebounds, Alexus Dye had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Karoline Striplin scored 10 for the Lady Vols. Their bench outscored East Tennessee, 74-15.
”We’re always confident about what we can do,” said Green, another non-starter. ”This game was necessary going into the conference season.”
”A game like this is great for team chemistry,” said Harper. ”It’s really good for (the bench players) to get these game minutes.”
Jakhyia Davis scored 17 points and Aaliyah had 12 for East Tennessee (1-11). Davis, at 6-foot-3, was the only Buccaneer taller than 6-foot. That allowed 6-6 Key to have several opportunities down low. Tennessee won the battle of the boards, 61-27.
”Tennessee scoring 70 points in the paint, you don’t see that every day,” said ETSU coach Simon Harris. ”(Tennessee) getting 26 offensive rebounds is another stat (that hurt). That’s where (the game) got away.”
Tennessee had a pair of 15-0 runs – one late in the first quarter and into the second quarter, and the other to start the third quarter – that put the game well out of reach.
The Lady Vols struggled from the perimeter, hitting 6 of 20 (30%) from behind the arc.
East Tennessee: Struggling with just one win in its first 12 games, East Tennessee, which started three freshmen, will try to take away some positives from its loss to Tennessee to build on as the start of its defense of its Southern Conference championship begins. The Buccaneers had just eight players available. ”We’re working with those who do what they’re supposed to do on and off the court,” Harris said of his short bench.
Tennessee: It was important for Tennessee to get a positive experience after the frustration that came with the loss to Stanford in its last game. The Lady Vols played just 10 minutes of quality basketball against the Cardinal. Associated Press poll voters must have appreciated the effort since Tennessee remained at No. 7 despite the setback.
East Tennessee: After the date with Tennessee, the Buccaneers still have one more game before a Christmas break. They entertain St. Bonaventure Thursday.
Tennessee: Before the Lady Vols get started in Southeastern Conference competition at home against Alabama on Dec. 30, they entertain Chattanooga Monday, Dec. 27. Harper let her players go home after the game. They will return Dec. 26, but will not practice as a team until the shoot-around the day of the Chattanooga game.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25