The Associated Press
The Meridian Star
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ariel Massengale had 23 points and a career-high seven rebounds Thursday night as No. 8 Tennessee defeated Mississippi 94-70 on a night when the Lady Vols surpassed 5 million in all-time home attendance.
Tennessee (13-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) beat Mississippi (9-7, 0-2) for the 25th consecutive time.
Massengale, coming off a career-high 28 points in a win at Georgia on Sunday, reached 20 points in consecutive games for the first time in her career.
Isabelle Harrison added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee. Andraya Carter had 14 points and Meighan Simmons added 12 points. Diara Moore, Shequila Joseph, Gracie Frizzell and Amber Singletary scored nine points each for Mississippi.
The announced crowd of 10,382 increased Tennessee's all-time home attendance to 5,006,586.
NCAA spokesman Rick Nixon said earlier in the week it's a "safe assumption" that Tennessee is the first women's program to reach the 5 million mark based on the Lady Vols' attendance history, but there isn't a way to officially verify that because the NCAA doesn't measure each school's all-time cumulative attendance.
Amanda Humphrey, a 29-year-old kindergarten teacher from Hampton, Tenn., was the 5-millionth fan and won a prize package that included two 2014-15 season tickets, courtside seats to Thursday's game and a basketball autographed by Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick.
Humphrey had earned the tickets to Thursday's game earlier in the day by winning a trivia contest. On its official Twitter account, the Tennessee women's basketball team offered two free tickets to the first person who correctly answered which Lady Vol was on Ole Miss' coaching staff and how many national titles she won in her college playing career. Humphrey knew that Ole Miss assistant Alex Simmons had played on two national championship teams at Tennessee.
Humphrey's lucky day continued when she coincidentally entered the arena at the exact time to be named the milestone fan.
"I think we're going to go buy lottery tickets when we leave here," Humphrey quipped.
Mississippi wasn't nearly as fortunate.
The Rebels had shown they could challenge a Final Four contender last month when they led by 10 points in the first half of an 87-80 loss at Baylor, which was ranked ninth at the time of their Dec. 18 meeting. But Mississippi couldn't sustain an early advantage Thursday. After Mississippi took an early 4-3 lead, Tennessee pulled ahead for good with a 16-4 run.
Mississippi's upset hopes dwindled when starting forward Tia Faleru picked up three fouls in the first 6 minutes, 45 seconds of the game. Faleru entered the night leading the SEC with 9.9 rebounds per game and tied for sixth in the conference with 16 points per game. She ended up with eight points and nine rebounds despite missing most of the first half.
Tennessee led 45-29 at the midway point after closing the first half on a 9-2 run. Mississippi made the first two baskets of the second half to cut the lead to 12, but Tennessee gradually pulled away from there.