KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Ariel Massengale is thriving in an unfamiliar reserve role for No. 4 Tennessee.
Massengale, who has made 73 career starts, has come off the bench in her first two appearances this season. She followed up a 21-point performance in her debut by scoring 20 Friday in an 81-48 victory over Winthrop.
The 5-foot-7 senior said she doesn’t mind how coach Holly Warlick utilizes her. Massengale savors the opportunity to play at all after missing Tennessee’s final 16 games last season with a head injury.
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”I’m just happy to be back on the floor, being able to play with my teammates,” Massengale said. ”Whether I’m starting, coming off the bench or don’t play at all, I’m just happy to be back and happy to be in the atmosphere.”
Massengale entered with 16:34 left in the first half and went 5 of 5 from 3-point range over the next three minutes. Three of those 3s came in a span of 70 seconds during a 17-0 run that gave the Lady Vols a 27-7 advantage. She finished 6 of 10 from beyond the arc to set a career high in 3-pointers as Tennessee continued its dominant start.
Tennessee (3-0) has won its first three games by a combined 130 points. The only time Tennessee outscored its first three opponents by a larger margin was in 1989-90, when it won it won its first three by 140 points.
This marked the first time Tennessee and Winthrop had faced each other since the Eagles beat the Lady Vols 55-53 in the 1974 AIAW Region II semifinals. That represented Tennessee’s last game under former coach Margaret Hutson before Pat Summitt began her remarkable 38-year tenure.
The Lady Vols forced 34 turnovers, marking the first time since 2006-07 that they’ve created at least 30 turnovers in back-to-back games.
”I think Tennessee is a Final Four team, no question in my mind,” Winthrop coach Kevin Cook said. ”They have that kind of ability.”
Bashaara Graves had 15 points and 10 rebounds for her third straight double-double for the Lady Vols. Nia Moore added 14 points and Jaime Nared had 10.
Schaquilla Nunn had 12 points and 15 rebounds for Winthrop (1-2). Erica Williams had 13 points and Zoe Vernon had 10.
The Lady Vols capitalized on the foul trouble of Nunn, who had averaged 29 points and 14 rebounds in Winthrop’s first two games. Winthrop trailed 12-7 when the 6-foot-3 junior went to the bench after picking up her second foul. When Nunn returned four minutes later, the score was 25-7.
Winthrop: The Eagles’ 34 turnovers more than doubled their previous season total. The Eagles had six turnovers in a 117-43 win over Gallaudet and nine turnovers in a 73-55 loss to Furman.
Tennessee: Senior forward Cierra Burdick made her first appearance of the season after sitting out two games for a curfew violation. Although she missed all eight of her shots, she had 10 rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes.
Winthrop: At North Carolina Central on Tuesday.
Tennessee: Hosts Tennessee State on Monday
Tennessee played a second straight game without senior center Isabelle Harrison and junior forward Jasmine Jones. Warlick said Harrison sprained a knee and Jones sustained a mild concussion in a season-opening victory over Penn last week. Warlick said after the game that ”they’re still kind of day to day.”
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
”When they have more McDonald’s All-Americans than you have McDonald’s in Knoxville, it’s pretty tough.” – Cook on the difficulty of facing Tennessee.