JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – In its only exhibition game of the season, Carson-Newman rides west to Knoxville to tangle with 14th-ranked Tennessee Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. inside of Thompson-Boling Arena.
"These girls were a Pat Summitt fan or a Lady Vol fan," Carson-Newman Mike Mincey said. "They kept up with them during those years when they were winning national championships. Even now, they want to Tennessee do well. Now you get a chance to go and compete against them. We have been a lot of different places – Duke, North Carolina, MTSU. Stepping in that arena it's just got a different feel, a different vibe. It can be a little overwhelming to someone that has never been there.
"It's really great for our kids. It's great for our program. The notoriety we get out of it even just recruiting is second to none."
C-N is coming off of its 18th 20-win season in the history of the program and first since 2009-10. The Lady Eagles are looking for back-to-back 20-win campaigns since 1991-92 and 1992-93, a span of 25 years, when the program went 44-18 over the two-year span and qualified for the NAIA District 26 Tournament.
Mincey's sixth season at the helm netted a fourth-place finish in the regular season of South Atlantic Conference play while falling to Lincoln Memorial in the tournament semifinals. The Lady Eagles finished just outside of the NCAA Playoffs finishing the year ranked No. 10 in the Southeast Region, two spots out of a tournament bid.
In 2016-17, Carson-Newman was sixth in the country out of 307 schools in scoring offense at 80.7, eighth in turnover margin at plus-seven and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.27. The unit was 11th in assists per game at over 17 per night while shooting just shy of 45 percent, 22nd in the country.
Tuesday marks the 14th straight season that Carson-Newman and Tennessee will meet in an exhibition contest since the first meeting on Nov. 7, 2004. The Lady Volunteers have won each contest scoring at least 100 points in 10 of the 13 outings. Three of C-N's top four scoring outings have come over the past three seasons.
The overall series between the two programs, led by Tennessee at 27-2, dates back to Feb. 26, 1920 when the Lady Eagles captured a 14-13 victory. Following two UT wins, C-N picked up a 36-16 win at Mossy Creek on Feb. 9, 1925. The two teams did not meet again until Jan. 29, 1969 as the Lady Vols have won 25 straight meetings and 20 of the 21 contests played in Knoxville.
"We have gone done there and played terrible and started 16-0," Mincey discussed. "We have played terrible and started our year 11-0. We have gone down there and played really well and not had as good of a year. For us it depends on if our shot is falling. If we can shoot like we have the past couple years we can make it competitive and leave there with some momentum."
A year ago, the Lady Eagles trailed by 11 at halftime, 41-30, before the Lady Volunteers shot 53 percent in the second half outscoring their foe 54-26 down the stretch en route to a 95-56 win.
Katie Stubblefield led the way for C-N with 15 points and six rebounds while Briana Smith finished with 12 points. Diamond Deshields finished the night with 24 points and 10 rebounds as one of five players to finish in double figures. Mercedes Russell added 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jamie Nared had 17 points and eight rebounds while Alexa Middleton and Meme Jackson each added 10 points.
Tennessee finished last season 20-12 overall and finished fifth in the Southeastern Conference. The Lady Vols fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament but held wins over three Final Four teams (Stanford, national champion South Carolina, Mississippi State).
The Lady Vols were selected to finish fifth in the league this season by the coaches and are ranked 14th in the AP poll to begin the year. Warlick's team returns five players and welcomes five newcomers after seeing Jordan Reynolds selected in the second round of the WNBA draft and Deshields sign a professional contract.
Holly Warlick returns a pair of starters and preseason first-team All-SEC picks in Russell and Nared that will lead a team that includes the No. 1 recruiting class in the country of four McDonald's All-Americans led by the No. 2 recuit in the nation, guard Evina Westbrook).
Russell, a second-team All-SEC pick, was an honorable mention All-American by AP and the WBCA after averaging 16.1 points and a team-high 9.7 boards. Nared posted 15.6 points and 6.9 rebounds making 37 triples, second on UT.
Broadcast coverage begins 15 minutes prior to the 7 p.m. opening tip on the Eagle Sports Network's flagship station Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tip-Off. SEC Network+ will have the video stream online with the required login information.
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