Simmons scored 32 points, including eight 3-pointers, to lift the third-ranked Lady Vols to a 76-67 win over Virginia on Thursday in the opener of the Junkanoo Jam.
“I like gyms like this,” Simmons said. “I like warm kind of gyms. My energy is always there.”
Simmons, who hadn’t scored more than 14 points in a game this season, finished two off her career high.
“That’s Meighan Simmons,” said teammate Ariel Massengale, who had a career-high 13 assists. “She’s been having a tough time shooting, but shooters have to shoot their way out of it.”
The Lady Vols (6-0) will face unbeaten SMU (7-0) on Friday.
Simmons helped save Tennessee from another slow start and kept shooting in the second half, when the Lady Vols led by as many as 12 points before hanging on down the stretch. The Cavaliers cut it to 72-67 with 1:23 left but could get no closer.
Ataira Franklin scored 19 of her 25 points in the first half to lead Virginia (3-3), which led by as many as 10 before the break.
“We let them do whatever they wanted to do,” Massengale said. “We weren’t in a stance. We were fouling. We were getting frustrated with the refs.”
The first half ended with a two-foul sequence that included a technical on Tennessee coach Holly Warlick. The Cavaliers converted three free throws for a 39-35 lead.
“She said I disrespected the officials,” Warlick said. “I didn’t think I said enough. It’s her opinion. Stupid on my part.”