KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After watching yet another slow start by Tennessee, coach Holly Warlick had a terse message for the fourth-ranked Lady Vols at halftime against Chattanooga.
"Yeah, I just said they don't need to come in tomorrow if they don't win the game because I'll make their lives miserable," Warlick said. "That was the short of it."
The Lady Vols heeded the warning, turning up the heat in the second half en route to an 80-56 victory over the Lady Mocs on Thursday night.
Ariel Massengale, who picked up two early fouls in the game, got a sense of her coach's frustration as she sat on the bench for most of the first half, watching as her teammates struggled. After Warlick's halftime warning, they went into the paint to start the second half and drew three quick fouls.
Massengale opened the half with a quick 3-pointer and four free throws during a 12-2 run that put the Lady Vols up 44-34 with 16:59 left.
"Nobody wants to sit on the bench," Massengale said. "It's hard to lead your team from the bench. But sitting on the bench you're able to watch and see what's open and what's not being done and get the coaches' feel."
A minute later that run, Meighan Simmons wrestled the ball from the hands of Taylor Hall and dished it to Bashaara Graves, whose layup pushed the lead to 48-36. Massengale, who finished with 16 points, hit another 3 and Jasmine Jones made a layup for Tennessee, and the Lady Mocs never recovered.
"We weren't aggressive in the second half at all," Chattanooga coach Jim Foster said. "We didn't step up and meet that challenge. We flat out knew they were going to (come out pressing). We talked about it at halftime. Talking about it and playing against it are two different things."
Mercedes Russell added 15 points for the Lady Vols (3-0), who finished with a 28-point advantage in the paint. Graves scored 11 and Simmons had 10.