KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Lady Vols opened the 2020-21 season with an impressive 87-47 win over Western Kentucky in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Junior guard/forward Rae Burrell led Tennessee with 18 points and a career-high seven assists. Four other Lady Vols found their way into double digits with redshirt junior guard Jordan Walker adding 13, freshman guard/forward Marta Suárez scoring 11, and senior forward Rennia Davis and freshman guard Destiny Salary each pitching in 10. Davis also tallied 11 rebounds to record her 30th career double-double.
WKU was paced by Ally Collett who finished the day with 16 points and three rebounds. Meral Abdelgawad was the second-leading scorer with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Tennessee started the game with a balanced attack, with seven Lady Vols contributing to UT's 17 first-quarter points. Davis scored Tennessee's initial points of the season, hitting a layup in the opening seconds. She followed it up with a second layup a couple minutes later to fuel a 7-4 Lady Vol lead by the media timeout. Immediately following the break, Jordan Horston snagged a steal and found Suárez in transition to put Tennessee up 9-4 with 5:48 remaining in the half.
The Big Orange built their lead to 15-7 before Collett answered with a 3-pointer to close the gap to 15-10 at the 2:38 mark. Horston fired in two free throws for Tennessee, but Myriah Haywood countered with a three, cutting the Hilltoppers' deficit to 17-13 by the end of the period.
Both teams started the second quarter in a shooting slump, playing more than two minutes before Davis put in a layup off a Burrell assist. Burrell followed it up on the next possession with a 3-pointer, and Walker added a fast-break layup to extend UT's lead to 24-13 with 6:35 remaining in the half. A Walker trey and a Suárez layup extended Tennessee's run to 12-0 bridging the first and second stanzas before Haywood knocked down a jumper, moving the score to 29-15 with 4:36 on the clock. WKU countered with a 5-0 run of its own, but Burrell and Salary each responded with 3-pointers for UT, and the Lady Vols headed into halftime up 38-20.
Collett opened the scoring in the second half, knocking down a trey for WKU. The teams traded buckets in the opening minutes until Walker scored on back-to-back possessions to push UT's lead to 20 at the 6:36 mark. Tennessee maintained its 20-point advantage through the media timeout and launched into a 10-0 run coming out of the break, fueled largely by six-straight points in the paint from Kasiyahna Kushkituah. A Fatou Pouye 3-pointer ended the run and cut the Lady Vols' lead to 27 at 63-36, but Salary scored on back-to-back possessions, including a buzzer-beater three to send UT into the final stanza up 68-36.
Tennessee continued to build its lead in the fourth quarter with eight Lady Vols combining to score 19 points while holding the Hilltoppers to just 11, giving Tennessee a 40-point win to open the season.
Next Up: The Lady Vols will host ETSU on Tuesday. Tip time is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be available for streaming on SECN+ and carried on Lady Vol Radio Network stations.
New Faces: Three Tennessee newcomers earned starting spots in their debuts - freshman Marta Suárez and graduate transfers Jordan Walker and Keyen Green. Prior to this, only two transfers had started in a season opener (Shannon Bobbitt and Jaiden McCoy) in the NCAA era. Suárez became the 23rd freshman to start in her first game as a Lady Vol.
Double-Digit Debuts: Redshirt junior Jordan Walker and freshmen Marta Suárez and Destiny Salary found their way into double digits, scoring 13, 11 and 10, respectively. They are three of just 45 Lady Vols all-time to score 10 or more points in their debut.
Balanced Attack: Of the 12 players active for the Lady Vols against WKU, 11 contributed points to Tennessee's win and five were in double figures.
Dishin' and Swishin': Rae Burrell led UT in scoring with 18 points while also dishing out a career-high seven assists. Her previous career-high assist total was four against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 26, 2019.