Nov. 9, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
Kelley Cain breezed to a double-double Monday night in a 79-46 exhibition victory over Delta State in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Cain, who finished with a game-high 20 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocked shots in just 19 minutes of play, loomed large over the Lady Statesmen, whose tallest player still gave up four inches to Tennessee's 6-foot-6 center.
"When she's playing that way, you can't stop it," Lady Vols guard Angie Bjorklund said. "Having that inside presence really helps us, especially in the outside game. Coach (Pat) Summitt says that you win with rebounding and defense and she's a huge part of that."
But the challenge gets tougher - and bigger - this weekend.
The Lady Vols begin the regular season Sunday against No. 7 Baylor and 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner.
The true freshman boasts a 7-foot-4 wingspan and dunked 52 times in 32 games as a senior at Nimitz High School in Houston. Griner, a consensus national player of the year coming out of high school, dunked in the Lady Bears' exhibition win over Incarnate Word on Saturday.
"Games like that are why you come to Tennessee," Cain said. "We want to show how hard we worked in the summer and get a head start on the competition. It's going to be fun."
Monday's exhibition was seemed like plenty of fun. For the most part, anyway.
Tennessee opened on an 11-0 run and used another 11-0 run to take a 22-5 lead early in the first half. Delta State, ranked No. 4 in Division II, made a couple charges in the second half but never seriously posed a threat.
Despite coming off the bench in favor of sophomore Glory Johnson, Spani notched a double-double of her own with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Seven of those boards came on the offensive end.
"Taber is just a player," Summitt said. "She just wants to play. It doesn't matter where. She has a great feel for the game." Angie Bjorklund scored 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, while Shekinna Stricklen added 10 points and nine boards.
Johnson finished with seven points on 2-of-6 shooting with two blocks and five rebounds.
Freshman Faith Dupree made her Lady Vols debut Monday, but failed to score in 10 minutes on the court. She did record a block and two steals.
"It was really exciting to be able to play in front of family and friends," Dupree said. "It was a lot faster than I'm used to, and I have to get used to that. My post game needs to step it up."
Point guard Bug Cooper paced Delta State with 15 points, but the Lady Statesmen shot just 26 percent from the field and turned the ball over 19 times.
Tennessee and Delta State last played in 1979 before Monday's exhibition, but the two programs met in the 1977 AIAW Final Four where the Lady Statesmen defeated Tennessee to claim their third consecutive AIWA national title.
Counting Monday's exhibition, the Lady Vols are 5-2 all-time against Delta State.
The Lady Vols return to the court Sunday for a 5 p.m. tipoff (TV: ESPN2) against the Lady Bears in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols defeated Baylor 71-69 in the 2004 NCAA tournament, their only previous meeting.
And while Delta State provided a little tougher test Monday, Bjorklund knows it will get a lot tougher against the Lady Bears on Sunday.
"It's going to be a battle," she said. "I know they're going to come in ready to play, and it's going to be a fight until the end. We are really looking forward to it. We're going to have a few days of really good preparation and be ready."