ATLANTA — Andraya Carter isn’t likely to forget her first college game any time soon, although the memory is an unpleasant one.
“We didn’t play like a Tennessee team is supposed to play,” the former Buford standout said.
What the freshman will remember more, though, is her first game back in Georgia with the Volunteers.
It was her first college victory and the first for coach Holly Warlick as the successor to the legendary Pat Summitt.
“This feels so good because we played with heart,” Carter said.
Bouncing back from an embarrassing 80-71 loss at UT-Chattanooga in Warlick’s debut, No. 20-ranked Tennessee defeated No. 22 Georgia Tech 71-54 before a crowd of 5,517 at McCamish Pavilion on Sunday.
“She didn’t deserve what we did Friday,” Carter said. “We didn’t make her look like a good coach. Today, we made her look like the coach she is. We made her look like the coach who deserves this job and she does.”
While Warlick received congratulations after the victory, no one had a bigger smile after the victory than Carter. The point guard punctuated the celebration by leaping high to chest bump taller teammate Cierra Burdick at midcourt before heading to the lockerroom.
It was surprising that Carter had the energy left after playing the entire second half and 36 minutes overall — nine more than any other Tennessee player.
“I didn’t even realize she played (that much),” Warlick said. “I have a lot of confidence in Andraya. She doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes and she makes things happen. We’ve needed her to step up for us and she has.”
Carter’s stat line wasn’t impressive. In fact, she made just one of her seven shots while scoring three points. But she had four assists to a single turnover and set the tone for Tennessee’s strong defensive effort by taking a key charge early in the first half.
“The coaches told me to be energetic and play as hard as I could,” Carter said. “I wasn’t thinking about offense. I just wanted to be that energy source.”
“I love her athletic ability. I love her knowledge of the game,” her new coach said. “She does the right things.”
Warlick singled out Buford coach Gene Durden for that. Durden was at the game with the present Wolves and some of Carter’s former teammates.
“I saw them in the stands and heard them in warm-ups,” Carter said “It meant the world to me. I can’t explain how awesome it was to have all of them here. I wanted to make them proud. I wanted to make everyone proud.
Down 45-30 at halftime, Georgia Tech scored 13 straight points to start the second half. Tennessee didn’t flinch, though, and put the game away with 18 straight points of its own to counter the Yellow Jackets’ streak.
The Volunteers, who played a zone defense most of the game, held Georgia Tech, which was playing its opener, without a basket for nine minutes.
Freshman Bashaara Graves led Tennessee with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Burdick, a sophomore, scored 16 -- going 3-for-4 on 3-pointers -- and freshman Jasmine Jones pulled down 11 rebounds.
Ariel Massengale joined Carter with four assists and the Volunteers had 17 assists on their 28 baskets. Tennessee had 40 points in the paint.
Tyaunna Marshall had 18 points and eight rebounds for Georgia Tech. Dawnn Maye scored 12, but the Yellow Jackets had just eight assists compared to 20 turnovers and were 4-for-21 from behind the 3-point arc.
“Everything we didn’t do in Chattanooga we did this time,” Carter said. “We knew everything was correctable. It was really just a lack of energy. We were determined to move forward and I think it brought us closer together.”
And a loss in her first game couldn’t temper Carter’s good feelings about going to Tennessee, even though Summitt is no longer the coach.
“I love Tennessee,” Carter said. “I’m having the time of my life. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”