Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) A year after being upset at Chattanooga, the Lady Vols made sure the Lady Mocs' visit to Knoxville didn't end with a similar result. After being tied at halftime, Tennessee pulled away for an 80-56 victory on Thursday night.
The #4/3 Lady Vols were led by junior guard Ariel Massengale, who scored 13 of her game-high 16 points in the decisive second half. In her regular-season home debut Mercedes Russell posted a career-high 15 points. Bashaara Graves chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds. Meighan Simmons scored 10.
Tennessee moved to 3-0 while Chattanooga evened its record at 1-1. Last season, the Lady Mocs pulled off the 80-71 stunner to spoil Holly Warlick's head coaching debut. On Thursday, Holly Warlick won her 30th game as a head coach.
The Lady Vols shot 48.5 for the game including 52.9 in the second half, making its first five 3-point attempts in the final 20 minutes. UT's bench combined for 37 points. The Lady Vols out rebounded UTC, 50-33, led by Cierra Burdick's eight.
Chattanooga was led by Ashlen Dewart (13) and Taylor Hall (12).
Tennessee opened the second half on a 21-4 run keyed by seven consecutive points by Massengale to start the game's second stanza. After scoring just three points in a foul-plagued first half, Massengale had 10 of the Lady Vols' first 21 points. UT led 53-36 less than seven minutes into the second half and never looked back.
UT's pressing defense forced the Lady Mocs into several violations and poor shooting. Chattanooga shot 22.9 in the second half and forced UTC into 16 total turnovers.
The lead expanded to 21 on Russell's layup with 12 minutes left in the game, putting the Lady Vols ahead, 59-38.
Jasmine Jones' gave Tennessee a 75-50 lead with three minutes left.
Tennesse outscored Chattanooga, 48-24, in the second half after the teams stood deadlocked at 32 at halftime.
Through three games, UT has outscored its foes 134-84 in the second half after standing tied at 94 in the trio of first halves.
In the first half, Chattanooga attacked primarily from long distance, going 6-of-16 from 3-point range. Faith Dupree led UTC with nine first-half points on 4-of-7 shooting. Tennessee did much of its damage in the paint, scoring 14 of its 32 first-half points inside. Isabelle Harrison had six points and four rebounds at the half while freshman Mercedes Russell went 3-for-3 for six points in just 10 minutes.
Chattanooga's Alex Black made a 3-pointer with 1:01 left in the first half and Simmons answered with a short jumper from the right side 20 seconds later. Ka'Vonne Towns drove for a layup with 13 seconds remaining to knot the game at 32-32 heading into the break.
Lady Vol freshman Mercedes Russell had back-to-back buckets in the paint with under four minutes until halftime to push UT's lead to 26-23. The 6-6 rookie swished a smooth turnaround jumper from 10 feet out with 3:10 left to excite the home crowd.
Andraya Carter nailed a three pointer from the left wing at the 7:44 mark to tie the game at 18-18. That shot sparked a 7-0 Tennessee run to push UT ahead. Carter hit a pair of free throws with 6:08 left to give UT a 20-18 lead. Simmons followed with a steal and a layup to give the team a four-point advantage.
Down seven points, the Lady Vols started climbing back. Jordan Reynolds hit a jumper from the top of the key at 10:31 and Harrison connected on a long jumper from the left side a minute later to pull UT to within 16-13. Harrison knocked down a jump shot from the right side to make it a one-point game with 8:25 left in the half.
Massengale got into foul trouble coming out of the first media timeout. With UT down 8-7, Massengale charged down the lane and drew an offensive foul at the 14:28 mark. With two fouls, she went to the bench. With Carter running the point, Chattanooga went on an 8-2 run to build a 16-9 lead.
Tennessee took the lead when Graves made a layup 42 seconds in to the game. On the Lady Mocs' ensuing possession, Graves and Harrison picked up fouls before Taylor Hall sunk a jumper to even the game at 2-2.
Tennessee will next host Georgia Tech on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on FOX Sports South/FOX Sports Tennessee. The Lady Vol Network will also carry a radio broadcast.
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