The No. 9-ranked Lady Vols showed little mercy to a former player and assistant coach Thursday night during a 65-56 victory over visiting LSU.
The reason for the hostility was simple. The former Lady Vol was on the opposing sideline.
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt's warm pre-game greeting of her former understudy, and first-year LSU coach, Nikki Caldwell signified the end of the evening's pleasantries.
“I though tonight you saw two very physical, up-tempo teams, hard fought, just battle.” UT associate head coach Hollie Warlick said. “And I wouldn't expect anything different from a team coached by Nikki or a team at UT.”
Playing without leading scorer Shekinna Stricklen, the Lady Vols relied heavily on sophomore guard Meghan Simmons. She paced the team with 19 points as a crowd of 13,107 watched Summitt's squad improve to 14-4 (5-1 SEC) on the year.
“I didn't know she had 19 points until I looked at the score sheet,” Warlick said. Her scoring ability and her making plays is almost a given for us and we rely on that.”
Entering the contest, the Lady Tigers (13-5, 4-2) led the conference in points allowed, holding SEC opponents to an average of just 48.4 points per game.
Through one half the score was tied at 26-all.
“I knew from the beginning that this was going to be the scrappiest game of our SEC experience,” Simmons said. “Hollie (Warlick) pulled me aside at practice the other day and told me I would really need to play defense this game. I took that as a way of testing me to see how my defense has really improved over the year and this game I think I showed it. I came out there and played as hard as I could to help my team win.”
UT responded with a 10-0 run in the middle of the second half to gain a lead it would not relinquish.
Freshman forward Cierra Burdick chipped in 15 points, including 11 in the second frame.
The Lady Tigers were led offensively by senior forward Courtney Jones with 16 points.
In addition to the scoring of Simmons and Burdick, four other Lady Vols contributed between five and ten points to atone for the absence of Stricklen.
Caldwell was a member of UT's 1991 national championship squad. Following a stint as an assistant at Virginia, she returned to Knoxville where she was under Summitt from 2002 to 2008.
“It was a knockdown, drag-out type of fight,” Caldwell said. “But it was a very competitive fight,” Caldwell said. “You saw two teams really playing every possession like it was their last. And we also had some breakdowns, and a very good Tennessee team was able to capitalize on them.”  
 The Lady Vols will play their next three games on the road before returning to Thompson-Boling Arena to host South Carolina on Feb. 2.