HARRISONBURG, Va. — Redshirt junior Mercedes Russell recorded the 12th double-double of her career in No. 13/14 Tennessee’s 81-69 win over James Madison Friday night at the JMU Convocation Center.
Russell finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the game en route to the Lady Vols’ 1,300th win in program history, which is the most in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history.
With the win, Tennessee (1-0) snapped the Dukes’ 16-game homecourt winning streak.
Juniors Jaime Nared and Alexa Middleton both enjoyed strong outings. Nared finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, including connecting on a career-high 3-of-6 shots from behind the arc. Middleton’s 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting was the most she has scored since her first game as a Lady Vol.
James Madison’s Precious Hall dropped 39 points on 15-of-35 shooting from the field, including 7-of-14 on 3-pointers. She also had six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
After a 3-pointer by redshirt junior Diamond DeShields to open scoring for the game, the Dukes jumped out to an early 14-6 lead. The Lady Vols battled back, though, going on a 27-9 run to end the first quarter and begin the second.
Tennessee’s offense found a spark in the second stanza, firing in 28 points on the Dukes. The effort was UT’s third-highest scoring quarter ever. The team also found success in scoring from the charity stripe, converting 13-of-16 of their free throws.
Forty-six first-half points were the most the Lady Vols have scored in an opening half since scoring 63 against Central Arkansas in last season’s opener. Nared led UT in the half with 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting and five rebounds.
The Lady Vols started slow to begin the second half, scoring only 12 points and shooting 24 percent (4-of-17) from the field in the third quarter, but UT held a two-point lead going into the final period.
After a 3-pointer by James Madison gave the Dukes a 59-58 lead with 9:52 remaining in the game, Tennessee would bounce back with a 16-4 run over the next four minutes of play. The Lady Vols shot 75 percent (6-of-8) from the field during the stretch. UT would never look back after run, cruising through the remainder of the quarter to win its season opener.
The Lady Vols return home Sunday to face Navy at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. ET and will feature an online-only broadcast through SEC Network + on WatchESPN. The contest is military appreciation day.
What the win meant
• Tennessee won the 1,300th game in program history. The Lady Vols are ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history for wins at 1,300-300. JMU is fourth at 1,045-524.
• UT won its fourth straight opener and the 16th in the last 17 years.
• The Lady Vols improved to 4-1 in season openers during the Holly Warlick era and to 39-4 since 1974.
• With the victory, Tennessee is now 7-1 in openers on the road.
• UT snapped JMU’s 16-game homecourt winning streak.
• During Tennessee’s season opener, several Lady Vols enjoyed career-high nights.
• Redshirt junior Mercedes Russell recorded her 12th career double-double, with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Her nine free throws made was a career-high.
• Junior Alexa Middleton set new career highs in threes made (4) and steals (5).
• Sophomore Meme Jackson set personal bests in points (8), threes made (2) and steals (2). She also tied highs in assists (2) and field goals made (2).
• Redshirt junior Diamond DeShields finished with a career-best three blocks.
Middleton’s Success in Openers Continues
• Alexa Middleton’s three best games as a Lady Volunteer have come in season openers.
• Tonight, she scored 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting, five steals, three rebounds and two assists.
• In last year’s game against Central Arkansas, she finished with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists.
• In 2014, she dropped a career-highs in points (20) and assists (11) to go along with six rebounds against Penn.