Freeport, BAHAMAS -- Meighan Simmons drained a career-high-tying eight three pointers and finished with a season-best 32 points to help #3/4 Tennessee win its opening game in the Junkanoo Jam over Virginia, 76-67,Thursday afternoon at St. George's High School Gymnasium.
The Lady Vols remained unbeaten at 6-0 and now have won 14 straight against unranked opponents.
A 5-foot-9 senior guard, Simmons nailed 11 of 20 shots from the field, including 8 of 17 from long range, to help Tennessee overcome a four-point halftime deficit and being down by as many as 10 in the first half.
Junior point guard Ariel Massengale
had a hand in the Big Orange charge back against the Cavaliers, dishing out a career-best 13 assists and scoring 10 points for her second career double-double. Her assist total tied for the third best in school history behind 18 from Dawn Marsh (3/6/88 vs. Georgia) and 14 from Holly Warlick
(2/12/78 vs. Memphis State). Massengale equaled the totals of Shannon Bobbitt
(12/16/07 vs. Gonzaga) and Marsh (1/11/87 vs. Kentucky).
Junior forward Cierra Burdick added 10 points and six boards for the Lady Vols, who improved to 14-3 all-time vs. Virginia and 6-1 at neutral sites.
UVa (3-3) was paced by 25 from Ataira Franklin, 16 from Faith Randolph and 12 from Kelsey Wolfe, as the Cavaliers outscored UT in the paint, 26-18.
After shooting 44.8% in the first half, UT limited the Cavaliers to 32.4% in the second half, while the Lady Vols improved their marksmanship from 48.3% in the opening 20 minutes to 58.3% in the second frame and 52.8% for the game.
Tennessee now will face the winner of the Kansas State-SMU game on Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern for the Junkanoo Jam Lucaya Division championship.
The Lady Vols suffered through a foul-plagued first half, as they were whistled for 14 to only six for Virginia and trailed at the break, 39-35. Seven different Lady Vols went into the locker room at the half with two fouls.
Simmons willed UT back from several deficits in the first 20 minutes, including a 7-0 start by UVa, with 17 points. She had already achieved her season high at that point.
Head coach Holly Warlick also drew a whistle, picking up a technical with 2.9 seconds remaining in the first frame. It was her first as head coach.