KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — On a night dedicated to saluting Pat Summitt, Meighan Simmons delivered a performance to honor her former coach.
Simmons scored 21 points and shot 5 of 10 from 3-point range Thursday as No. 11 Tennessee trounced Florida 89-69 to hand the Gators their third consecutive loss. After shooting 2 of 9 in the first half, Simmons was 4 of 4 with three 3-pointers in the second half.
Before the game, the Pat Summitt Foundation received three checks totaling $30,000 in honor of the SEC's "We Back Pat" Week, an initiative focused on recognizing the foundation's fight against Alzheimer's disease. Summitt watched the game from her usual front-row seat across the court from the Lady Vols' bench and received flower bouquets from Tennessee coach Holly Warlick and Florida coach Amanda Butler. During a second-half timeout, Summitt received a standing ovation as the crowd chanted "We Back Pat."
"There was some extra oomph to the game, knowing that today was Pat's day," said Simmons, who played for Summitt during her freshman and sophomore seasons. "I think that was the mentality for a lot of us. We just played hard. We knew if we were going to go out there and play, we had to play for her on her special day."
Summitt led Tennessee to eight national titles and 1,098 victories before stepping down as the Lady Vols' coach in April 2012, one year after announcing she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Although she remains on Tennessee's staff as head coach emeritus, Summitt now devotes much of her time to her foundation.
The Lady Vols (15-4, 4-2 SEC) responded to the pregame festivities by delivering one of their most complete performances of the season. They even withstood an injury to starting point guard Ariel Massengale, who didn't return to the game after getting hit in the face while making a steal late in the first half. Warlick said Massengale was undergoing evaluation after the game.
"My first thought was it was a concussion, but at this point, I don't think it is," Warlick said.
Tennessee managed to thrive even without Massengale. The Lady Vols shot 10 of 21 from 3-point range and dished out 27 assists in a game that could provide them a confidence boost heading into Sunday's game at No. 17 Texas A&M.