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No. 13 Lady Vols sizzle from 3-point land to beat Navy 85-55

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee is turning one of its biggest weaknesses from last season into a strength.

Alexa Middleton scored a career-high 21 points as No. 13 Tennessee capitalized on sizzling 3-point shooting Sunday to beat Navy 85-55 and win a home opener for the 17th consecutive season. Tennessee (2-0) hasn't lost a home opener since a 69-64 decision against Louisiana Tech in 1999.

The Lady Volunteers shot 12 of 14 from 3-point range, with Middleton going 6 of 7. After making just 25.4 percent of its 3-pointers last season to rank last in the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee has shot 56.4 percent (22 of 39) from 3-point range this season.

"I know a lot of people last year said we couldn't shoot the ball," Middleton said. "We're trying to make sure we can hit those open shots because people are sagging in on (center Mercedes Russell), and she's going to kick the ball out. We've got to be able to hit those shots if we want to do well."

This marks the first time Tennessee has made at least 10 3-point baskets in consecutive games since November 2011. Tennessee shot 10 of 25 from 3-point range Friday in a season-opening victory at James Madison.

Russell had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee. Jordan Reynolds had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Diamond DeShields added 14 points.

Ashanti Kennedy scored 16 points and Taylor Dunham added 14 for Navy (0-2).

This game was a mismatch in terms of height.

Navy's tallest player was 6-foot freshman forward Laurel Jaunich, and its other four starters were 5-8 or shorter. Tennessee's starting lineup included four players taller than 6 feet, including the 6-6 Russell.

Navy still briefly led in the second quarter and only trailed 43-35 at the half, which caused the Lady Vols to receive a stern halftime lecture from coach Holly Warlick.

"My expectations for them are high, and these kids understand it," Warlick said. "I saw things I haven't seen in practice for whatever reason. I'm just not going to tolerate no effort."

Tennessee gradually put the game out of reach as Navy cooled off. After shooting 5 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half, Navy was 1 of 9 the rest of the way.

"Playing against Tennessee, everyone was really excited," Dunham said. "We had a lot of energy and we were hitting shots. Everyone was making big plays. I wouldn't say our energy was that much different in the second half, but Tennessee definitely picked theirs up."

THE TAKEAWAY

Navy: A lack of height will force Navy to rely on its outside shooting this season. Tennessee outrebounded Navy 47-29. Through its first two games, Navy has been outrebounded 94-51 and has shot 19 of 46 from 3-point range.

Tennessee: Middleton has shown remarkable scoring punch in the first two games of the season after averaging just 3 points per game last season and 3.8 points per game in 2014-15. The 5-9 junior had 18 points off the bench against James Madison and was even more productive Sunday. Middleton is 10 of 11 from 3-point range thus far.

PAYING TRIBUTE

Tennessee went through its pregame shooting drills wearing special Veterans Day T-shirts. The back of the shirts said "Thank You" and mentioned the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Navy wore purple T-shirts with the message "We Back Pat" to honor former Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who died June 28 after battling early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

The Lady Vols gave Navy's players miniature basketballs with messages thanking them for their service

"There are so many crazy things going on right now," Warlick said. "We've all got to pull together. ... Our military is there to help us and to make sure I can be a female coaching women's basketball, and these young ladies -- black or white -- can go out and perform, and they have that opportunity and we pay for their education. That comes from people fighting for our freedom."

UP NEXT

Navy hosts Hofstra on Friday.

Tennessee is at East Tennessee State on Tuesday.

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Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee