Updated at: 11/15/2012 8:05 PM
By STEVE MEGARGEE
(AP) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Meighan Simmons scored 22 points to lead four Lady Vols in double figures Thursday night as No. 24 Tennessee trounced Rice 101-48 in the first home game of the post-Pat Summitt era.
Bashaara Graves added 18 points for Tennessee. Isabelle Harrison scored 16 points with 12 rebounds, and Kamiko Williams added 12 points.
Jessica Kuster scored 16 points and Megan Palmer had 15 for Rice (1-1).
Summitt, who led the Lady Vols to eight national titles in 38 seasons, stepped down in April after announcing last year she has early-onset dementia. She watched Thursday’s game from a midcourt seat as the Lady Vols delivered the type of dominant performance they produced so often during her tenure.
Since getting stunned 80-71 at Chattanooga in Holly Warlick’s head coaching debut, the Lady Vols (2-1) have had two straight one-sided victories. Tennessee followed up the Chattanooga game Sunday by winning 71-54 at Georgia Tech, which was ranked 22nd at the time.
Although the final result Thursday was a blowout, Tennessee actually had to come from behind. Rice surprised Tennessee early by playing virtually flawless basketball.
The Owls shot 9-of-14 to start the night and didn’t commit a turnover for the first 9:17 of the game to build a 22-16 advantage. Jessica Kuster, the Conference USA preseason player of the year, made her first five shots and had 12 points barely six minutes into the game.
Tennessee took control with an 18-0 run, holding Rice scoreless for nearly seven minutes. Cierra Burdick scored five points during that stretch, including a jumper that put Tennessee ahead for good with 9:05 left in the first half.
Once the Vols pulled ahead, they never looked back.
Tennessee led 45-27 at halftime and ran away from Rice in the final 20 minutes. The Vols went on an 11-0 run early in the second half and reeled off 16 consecutive points later in the game. Simmons scored 15 points in the first eight minutes of the second half, and the Lady Vols shot 65.7 percent (23 of 35) after the intermission.
After shooting 9-of-14 to start the game, Rice went 9-of-43 the rest of the way.
And after taking such good care of the basketball early in the game, Rice couldn’t accomplish anything on offense the rest of the night. Rice was helpless once Tennessee turned up its defensive intensity.
Tennessee outscored Rice 32-0 on points off turnovers and 20-0 on fast-break points. The Lady Vols dished out 24 assists and committed only seven turnovers, while Rice had 22 turnovers and only four assists.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)