KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mercedes Russell had 19 points and 10 rebounds Thursday night as No. 12 Tennessee trounced CentralArkansas, 77-34, to remain undefeated.
The Lady Vols are off to just their second 7-0 start in Holly Warlick’s six seasons as coach. Tennessee started 10-0 in 2013-14 and went on to finish 29-6 with a loss in the NCAA regional semifinals.
Tennessee held Central Arkansas (3-2) scoreless for the game’s final 11 minutes, 4 seconds, and capitalized on its depth tooutscore the Sugar Bears 17-0 in the fourth quarter even after emptying its bench. Central Arkansas scored just two points inthe last 15:36 of the game.
Tennessee was playing its first game since going 3-0 in last week’s Cancun Challenge, an event that included a 101-99overtime squeaker over Marquette.
This game didn’t have nearly as much suspense.
Central Arkansas had won a 106-23 blowout of NAIA program Crowley’s Ridge just two nights earlier but struggled againstmuch tougher opposition Thursday. After the Sugar Bears grabbed a 6-5 lead midway through the first quarter, Tennesseescored the next 15 points and never looked back.
The 6-foot-6 Russell capitalized on her height advantage over a Central Arkansas team that didn’t play anyone taller than 6-2. Tennessee also got better production than usual from Meme Jackson, who scored all 11 of her points in the first half.
Jackson scored in double figures for the first time since a 10-point effort against Vanderbilt on Jan. 5. Anastasia Hayes added14 points for Tennessee.
Taylor Baudoin had 11 points and seven rebounds for Central Arkansas.
The Sugar Bears entered the night shooting 50.4 percent from the floor this season to rank seventh among all Division Iteams, but they struggled to get open looks against Tennessee’s superior size and athleticism. Central Arkansas shot just23.7 percent (14 of 59) from the field and went 5 of 30 in the second half and 0 for 15 in the fourth quarter.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols capitalized on another fast start. Tennessee owned a 22-8 lead after the first quarter and hasoutscored opponents 152-87 in the opening quarter of its first seven games.