DeShields helps No. 13 Lady Vols blast Stetson 90-56
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee's Diamond DeShields is getting closer to full strength just in time for the start of Southeastern Conference play.
DeShields had 30 points Wednesday as the 13th-ranked Lady Volunteers ended a scoring slump with a 90-56 victory over Stetson in their last game before starting league competition. The North Carolina transfer has been working her way back into peak form after sitting out last season and recovering from shin splints.
''I feel a lot better. I do,'' said DeShields, who indicated she still isn't at 100 percent. ''I was definitely elevating a lot better than I have been all season.''
The Lady Vols (9-3) had averaged just 52.3 points over their last four games and hadn't exceeded 58 points in any of them. Tennessee reached 59 points with more than four minutes left in the third quarter Wednesday and never trailed.
Te'a Cooper scored 13 points, Jaime Nared had 12 and Mercedes Russell added 11 as Tennessee posted its highest point total since a season-opening 102-47 blowout of Central Arkansas. Although Tennessee went just 5 of 21 on 3-pointers, the Lady Vols made two-thirds of their shots from inside the arc.
''I thought we attacked the basket,'' Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. ''We moved the ball. I thought our passing was really, really good. When you move the ball and cut, you get open looks.''
Brianti Saunders scored 15 points and Myka Johnson-Matthews added 12 for Stetson (8-5).
Tennessee had won by an average margin of 53.2 points in its five previous meetings with Stetson, which has never beaten a Top 25 team in 27 attempts. This one was a bit closer, but Tennessee maintained control the whole way.
DeShields scored the first eight points of the game and had the first 10 points for Tennessee as the Lady Vols took immediate command. DeShields had 18 points in the game's first 13 minutes, 40 seconds.
''She's one of the best players in the country,'' Stetson coach Lynn Bria said. ''She can do this to any team she wants to play, not just to us. She's just that good. They've probably been waiting for her to do this because she's just that good and talented.''
Stetson: The Hatters have lost all five games this season in which they've given up at least 70 points. They're 8-0 when allowing fewer than 70 points.
Tennessee: Reserve guard Alexa Middleton returned to action Wednesday after missing four games with an ankle injury. She had eight points and three assists in 17 minutes.
The Lady Vols used their fourth different starting lineup in as many games, as DeShields was joined in the starting five by Andraya Carter, Kortney Dunbar, Bashaara Graves and Russell. Although DeShields has made five starts this season, she came off the bench as Nared started instead in Tennessee's last game.
DeShields mentioned in Tennessee's postgame press conference that her collection of Christmas gifts included a white Mercedes from her brother, Texas Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields.
Stetson: Hosts Hampton on Friday.
Tennessee: At No. 23 Missouri on Monday.