KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee’s Nia Moore seems intent on making a bigger contribution in her junior season.
And the fourth-ranked Lady Vols suddenly might need her more than they may have expected.
Moore had 24 points and 14 rebounds to set career highs in both categories Friday as the short-handed Lady Vols opened their season with a 97-52 victory over Penn. The 6-foot-3 junior had scored a total of 103 points over her first two seasons.
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”I’m excited,” Moore said. ”My focus is just to go out there and contribute and help the team out in any way possible.”
The victory may have come at a cost.
Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison appeared to hurt her right leg while battling for a loose ball with 3:26 remaining. Harrison, a first-team all-Southeastern Conference selection last season, was down for several minutes before getting helped to the locker room. Forward Jasmine Jones played just seven minutes before her head appeared to collide with the head of a Penn player.
There was no immediate word on the severity of either injury.
”I’m sure they will be evaluated tonight and in the morning,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.
The Lady Vols had only eight available players because Warlick handed down one-game suspensions to guards Ariel Massengale and Andraya Carter and two-game suspensions to Jannah Tucker and Cierra Burdick last week. Massengale was suspended for missing one class and Tucker was punished for missing two classes. The penalties for Carter and Burdick were due to missing curfew.
Tennessee still had enough firepower to trounce Penn.
Freshman guard Alexa Middleton had 20 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and no turnovers. Bashaara Graves had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kortney Dunbar scored 15 points. Harrison had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
This marked the first time ever four Lady Vols had double-doubles in the same game.
Beth Brzozowski had 11 points for Penn. Sydney Stipanovich added nine points and six blocks.
Penn led 20-17 before Tennessee outscored the Quakers 30-5 over the last 11 minutes of the first half. The Lady Vols outrebounded Penn 60-30.
”When we couldn’t score for a while, I think we lost control of the pace of the game,” Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said.
Tennessee had three freshmen score in double figures in a season opener for the first time since 1985-86. Middleton had 20 points, Dunbar had 15 and Jaime Nared had 10. Middleton’s 20 points represented the fifth-highest total ever by a Tennessee freshman in an opener. ”First game, you’re a little jittery, but I think that went away right after the tip,” Middleton said.
SIGN OF PROTEST
A couple of Tennessee fans behind one basket wore shirts that had athletic director Dave Hart’s name in a circle with a line through it to protest the school’s decision to phase out the Lady Vols nickname or logo for all sports other than basketball. Tennessee announced Monday all women’s teams other than the basketball squad would be named the Volunteers and would have the ”Power T” logo starting in 2015-16.
Penn: The Quakers return four players who made at least 13 starts for a team that reached the NCAA tournament last year. … Stipanovich is the niece of former Indiana Pacers center Steve Stipanovich.
Tennessee: After missing all six of her 3-point attempts Sunday in a preseason victory over Carson-Newman, Dunbar was 3 of 8 from 3-point range Friday. …. The Lady Vols had 27 assists and only eight turnovers.
Penn: The Quakers host La Salle on Wednesday.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols host Oral Roberts on Monday.