Welcome to the new Hollywood: Warlick era begins with lopsided win
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — When Holly Warlick walked out of the tunnel at Thompson-Boling Arena for pregame warmups Thursday night, she saw Pat Summitt sitting a row behind the Tennessee bench.
That’s when it hit Warlick. She was the head coach. Summitt wasn’t. But it didn’t take long for Warlick to come back to reality.
“At first it was pretty strange,” Warlick said. “Then I had to snap back into it and get back to reality and understand what I’m doing and why I’m here.
“I had a brief moment, but I then had to come back to reality.”
Reality Thursday against visiting Carson-Newman was Meighan Simmons leading all scorers with 24 points and freshman Jasmine Jones scoring 16 in her Lady Vol debut as Tennessee won 104-44 in an exhibition opener to begin the Warlick era as coach and the Summitt era as Head Coach Emeritus.
“I thought the exhibition game did what we wanted it to do,” Warlick said. “We wanted to get a lot of people playing time in a lot of different situations.”
Sophomore center Isabelle Harrison had 19, freshmen Basharra Graves had a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds and senior guard Taber Spani added 11 points to go with four rebounds and an assist.
“Of course it’s going to be different,” Spani said of playing without Summitt on the bench. “I was telling someone earlier, different isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different.”
Summitt stepped down after a storied 38-year career to the head coach emeritus position in April after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in August of last year.
“I thought Holly stepped in and did a great job and she’s prepared,” Spani said of Warlick. “She’s going to do an amazing job and we believe in her 110 percent. And the thing is, Pat does to. And that helps.”
Jones’ 16 points included just one missed field goal and one free throw attempt, as the 6-foot-2 forward from Madison, Ala. made 6-of-7 shots from the floor and 4-of-5 from the line. Fellow freshman Bashaara Graves had a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
“I thought at the beginning of the game she was pressing,” Warlick said of Graves. “Bashaara plays hard. You’ve gotta have some kind of effort if you have 15 rebounds.” “Jasmine Jones does not disappoint me every time I watch her play,” Warlick added of her freshman forward.
Warlick got a combined 37 points from the freshmen combination of Jones, Graves and Nia Moore. Freshman guard Andraya Carter started in place of a slowed Ariel Massangale but was scoreless on the night.
Massengale missed the game with what Warlick called tenderness in her achilles.
“(I’m) very pleased with our freshmen and what they did,” Warlick said. “Overall, we did some good things but we can be so much better.”
Simmons’ 24-point night included a 16-points second half.
“I should’ve given a lot more than I did,” Simmons said. “First half I didn’t shoot as well. The second half I was a little more patient with my shots.”
Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead before stretching the advantage to 17 at 19-2 early. The Lady Vols led by as much as 28 at 34-6 late in the first half.
“It’s different,” Warlick said of her first game as head coach. “But it’s Tennessee basketball and it’s what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been trained to do.”
“Pat is still supporting us,” Spani added, “no matter where she’s at in the arena.
“We know that.”