Destinee Wells saw the Troy defender flying towards her at the arc.
The Lady Vols basketball point guard hit a pump fake and the defender flew by her. Wells took a dribble inside and pulled up. The senior drained the shot to give No. 20 Tennessee a 17-point lead in the third quarter, and it was clear Wells had her swagger back.
Wells had a season-high 18 points in UT’s 100-73 win over Troy (0-3) on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center. It was a dominant showing for Tennessee (3-1) after going to overtime against Memphis.
Wells hadn’t shown what she was fully capable of in Tennessee’s first three games, but she looked like the player everyone saw at Belmont the last three seasons on Sunday. Wells looked confident running the offense and was hunting for her shot. She got to the rim with ease and ended with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, along with eight assists and four rebounds.
Tennessee down three players, including Rickea Jackson
Star senior forward Rickea Jackson missed a second straight game due to a lower leg injury. She’s day-to-day, per Tennessee athletics, and was wearing a boot on her right foot again Sunday. Senior point guard Jasmine Powell was also out with a wrist injury and a brace on her right hand, and sophomore guard Avery Strickland is in concussion protocols, per Tennessee athletics.
Strickland has played limited minutes off the bench, but Jackson and Powell have been crucial to Tennessee’s success. Jackson is averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes per game and Powell is averaging 10.3 points, three rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Both players are significant presences on defense and on the boards, where Tennessee has struggled as a whole to start the season.
Post players step up for Tennessee
Lady Vols juniors Sara Puckett, Karoline Striplin and Jillian Hollingshead all played key parts in Tennessee outscoring Troy 25-9 in the second to build a lead.
Striplin scored eight of her 15 first-half points in the second and added 10 rebounds to help Tennessee outrebounded the Trojans 36-18 in the first half. Striplin ended with 19 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks.
The trio of posts played on the court together for stretches, but they all contributed consistently throughout the game. With the players Tennessee had out, their production was crucial to dominate the game. Puckett ended with 14 points, eight rebounds and Hollingshead had 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Kaiya Wynn provides spark off the bench
Junior guard Kaiya Wynn was the spark off the bench Tennessee needed Sunday. When Troy made a push in the third to cut the lead to 13 points, Wynn fueled a Tennessee run with back-to-back layups in transition.
Wynn’s defense also had a significant impact with Troy’s athleticism and speed on the perimeter. Wynn helped Wells push the pace in transition and had a presence on the boards, and her effort and energy were needed by Tennessee. Wynn ended with 10 points, five rebounds and an assist in 21 minutes.
Her scoring production was also key in an uncharacteristic game from senior Jewel Spear, who scored only three points Sunday after averaging 19 points through Tennessee’s first three games. Spear added four rebounds and an assist.
Cora Hall covers University of Tennessee women’s athletics. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @corahalll. If you enjoy Cora’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that allows you to access all of it.