KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee's Andraya Carter picked an ideal time to end her shooting slump.
Carter matched a career high with 16 points and shot 3 of 6 from 3-point range Friday as the eighth-ranked Lady Vols outlasted Missouri 63-53 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. Carter had been shooting 2 of 18 from beyond the arc before this game.
"I think I just finally decided to just shoot the ball and not worry about it," Carter said. "It's really a testament to my teammates and coaches. They've stuck behind me. ... All of my teammates and all my coaches just kept telling me to keep shooting it."
Tennessee (11-2, 1-0) needed someone to pick up the slack because it didn't get much from senior center Isabelle Harrison, the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Harrison played just seven minutes due to foul trouble. She made the game's first basket and didn't score again.
Harrison and Missouri guard Juanita Robinson had to be separated as they exchanged words after battling for rebounding position with less than 3 minutes remaining. Both players received flagrant-2 fouls, resulting in their automatic ejections. Tennessee reserve center Nia Moore also was ejected after officials determined she left the bench during the incident.
"They just got tangled up," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "Emotions got involved. I think once they calmed down, it was fine. But Izzy's got to control that."
The Lady Vols trailed by seven points late in the first half before going on a 14-0 run midway through the first half to pull ahead for good. Ariel Massengale scored 14 points and Jordan Reynolds added 10 as Tennessee earned its seventh straight victory.
Jordan Frericks scored 23 points and Morgan Eye added 18 for Missouri (10-4, 0-1).
The Lady Vols figured to have a huge matchup advantage inside against a Missouri team that generally relies on 3-pointers and has lost forwards Kayla McDowell and Bri Porter to torn anterior cruciate ligaments.
But the complexion of this game changed when Harrison picked up two fouls in the first 2 minutes and sat out the remainder of the first half.
Tennessee trailed 25-18 before Reynolds' 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in the first half made it 25-21 at the intermission. The Lady Vols then scored the first 11 points of the second half and eventually built a 10-point advantage.
Missouri kept chipping away and got the margin down to two midway through the second half, but the Tigers couldn't come all the way back as Carter continually delivered big plays down the stretch. She scored 13 of her 16 points in the second half.
"You've got to pick and choose when you're playing a team as good as Tennessee," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "You've got to roll the dice a little bit. We certainly weren't planning on her shooting 3 for 6 from the 3-point line."
Missouri: Eye made five 3-pointers to extend her career total to 325, 67 shy of the NCAA Division I record shared by former Kansas State player Laurie Koehn (2002-05) and former UT Martin player Heather Butler (2010-14).
Tennessee: The Lady Vols improved to 27-6 in SEC openers. Tennessee lost 80-77 at home to LSU in its SEC opener last season.
Carter was averaging 6 points per game before Friday. She had scored a total of 10 points over her last five games. ... Missouri leads the SEC in 3-pointers, but Tennessee outscored the Tigers from beyond the arc Friday. Tennessee was 9 of 24 and Missouri was 7 of 19 from 3-point range.
Missouri: Hosts Mississippi State on Sunday
Tennessee: At Vanderbilt on Monday