Ariel Massengale scored a career-high 20 points to help the Lady Vols beat the Tar Heels 81-65 on Monday night, a strong performance in which they led by double figures most of the game.
Isabelle Harrison added 14 points for the Lady Vols (2-0), who led by 12 at halftime then scored the first seven points of the second half to blow the game open. Tennessee shot 40 percent but knocked down eight 3-pointers, while its defense harassed the Tar Heels (1-1) all night.
Freshman Allisha Gray had 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead UNC, which shot 30 percent (21 for 69). Freshman Diamond DeShields, the top recruit in a heralded rookie class, finished with eight points on 3-for-15 shooting before fouling out with 2:10 left.
The Tar Heels were again without coach Sylvia Hatchell, as the recently inducted Naismith Hall of Famer focuses on treatment for leukemia.
Hatchell, who was released from the hospital last week, addressed the team during their pregame meal and longtime assistant Andrew Calder led the team from the sideline.
Massengale, a 5-foot-7 junior, finished 5 of 12 from the field with all of her baskets coming from 3-point range. She matched her career-high with six rebounds to go with seven assists and three steals in 40 minutes. Harrison went 4 of 5, including a key jumper at the 5-minute mark after the Tar Heels had cut a 21-point lead down to 11.
The Tar Heels beat Air Force 87-26 in Friday night’s opener, with DeShields and fellow freshman Stephanie Mavunga saying afterward that they were focused on taking advantage of those 40 minutes to get ready for the Lady Vols.
But it turned out the Carolina kids weren’t quite ready for the early test. The Lady Vols’ physical defense locked down on the Tar Heels, frustrating the youngsters to the point that UNC’s offense began devolving into a lot of 1-on-1 play. At one point, Calder wandered out onto the court during a stoppage and screamed at his team to “Run the offense!”
Mavunga finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore Xylina McDaniel had 12 points and 10 rebounds.