No. 11 Lady Vols trounce Presbyterian 97-49 without Davis
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee didn’t need Rennia Davis in the lineup to overwhelm Presbyterian in the season opener for both teams.
Evina Westbrook had 20 points and seven steals for career highs in both categories Sunday as the 11th-ranked Lady Volunteers rolled to a 97-49 victory without their top returning scorer and rebounder.
Davis, who averaged 12 points and 7.6 rebounds last season, wore a walking boot on her left foot as she watched Sunday’s game from the bench. Coach Holly Warlick described Davis’ status as “day to day.”
“It’s a tribute to our team to have one of your best players sitting on the bench, and you come in and make up the points she usually gets and the rebounds she usually gets,” Warlick said. “I love it. I love that they can step in and take up the slack.”
Presbyterian committed 39 turnovers, the most by a Tennessee opponent since Charlotte had 40 in an 89-45 loss to the Lady Vols on Dec. 9, 1992. Tennessee had 22 steals, its highest total since it also recorded 22 in an 85-49 triumph over East Tennessee State on Dec. 2, 2015.
“The biggest thing that (Tennessee’s defense) does that it’s hard to see on film is it wears your guards down mentally and physically over time,” Presbyterian coach Alaura Sharp said.
Westbrook led the way.
The sophomore guard hadn’t scored more than 18 points or collected more than two steals in a game during her freshman season. She reached 20 points before the end of the third quarter Sunday, led the Lady Vols’ tenacious defense and also recorded five assists with only one turnover.
“I just had to do what my team needed me to do,” Westbrook said. “I don’t come out every game thinking, ‘OK, I need to score this many points.’ It’s just whatever my team needs me to do for that specific game at that time.”
Westbrook was one of six Lady Vols to score in double figures.
Rae Burrell had 14 points and freshman classmate Zaay Green had 13 points in their college debuts. Cheridene Green scored 13 points, Meme Jackson had 11 and Kasiyanha Kushkituah added 10.
Freshman Shamani Stafford scored 20 points for Presbyterian.
Presbyterian: Although the Blue Hose likely won’t face any teams nearly as athletic or deep as Tennessee in the Big South, Presbyterian must take better care of the basketball. The good news for Presbyterian was the emergence of Stafford, who scored 12 of the Blue Hose’s first 15 points while making her college debut at one of the most storied venues in women’s basketball. She made all five of her 3-point attempts.
“I knew that I couldn’t come in with fear, or they would see it and come at me,” Stafford said.
Tennessee: Zaay Green continues to show she’s ready to make an immediate contribution. The 6-foot freshman replaced Davis in the starting lineup and shot 3 of 4 from 3-point range and had four assists to go along with her 13 points. Green had 28 points and 10 rebounds in a 128-59 preseason exhibition victory over Division II program Carson-Newman.
PRESBYTERIAN’S NEW COACH
Sharp made her Division I head coaching debut Sunday after working as an assistant at Southern Mississippi (2013-16) and Louisiana Tech (2016-18). Sharp posted a 95-63 in five seasons as a head coach at Lamar (Colorado) Community College (2008-09) and Garden City (Kansas) Community College (2009-13).
Presbyterian outrebounded the taller Lady Vols 23-18 in the first half, but Tennessee had a 30-14 rebounding edge the rest of the game. That helps explain how Tennessee outscored Presbyterian 51-20 in the second half.
Presbyterian is at UNC Wilmington on Wednesday.
Tennessee hosts UNC Asheville on Wednesday.
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