Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tennessee Lady Volunteers/Temple Owls Recap

(1) Tennessee 75, (22) Temple 50

PHILADELPHIA -- Candace Parker is glad her pride was hurt more than her foot.

Parker overcame an ankle injury to score 16 points and Shanna Zolman added 14, leading top-ranked Tennessee to a 75-50 victory over No. 22 Temple on Wednesday night.

Tye'sha Fluker had 12 points, and every player scored for the Lady Vols (11-0).

Candice Dupree had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Khadija Bowens scored 14 for Temple (8-3).

Tennessee survived an early scare when Parker left the game for nearly eight minutes with a sprained left ankle. But the injury wasn't serious and Parker laughed about the way she got injured.

"I got beat defensively," she said, before turning to coach Pat Summitt to try to explain her rare mistake. "I was sliding over and I stepped on Nicky Anosike's foot. I knew it wasn't broken. When I went back to the locker room, I knew I was fine."

Once Parker, the team's second-leading scorer, returned, the Lady Vols never looked back.

Tennessee began pulling away with a 21-6 run that closed out the first half and gave the Lady Vols a 31-17 lead. After Temple went ahead 11-10, Tennessee scored 11 straight points, including 3-pointers from Alex Fuller and Zolman.

"We were pleased we are able to get the tempo up at times," Summitt said. "You have to control the paint and we did that."

The Owls got within 44-30 in the second half after a layup by Bowens, but Anosike scored five straight points to spark a 16-4 run that put the game out of reach.

"There were too many instances in the game we weren't ourselves," Temple coach Dawn Staley said. "We didn't have enough fight. We had too many lapses to complete."

Tennessee already has beaten five ranked opponents, including four teams in the top 16. The Lady Vols have another tough challenge at No. 12 Notre Dame (9-1) on Saturday.

Temple has lost three of five after a 6-0 start.

It was Tennessee's second game since starting guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood left the team. Wiley-Gatewood, a sophomore, started eight of nine games and was the team's fourth-leading scorer.

In their previous meeting last November, Temple nearly became the second team to beat the Lady Vols at home since the AP poll started in 1976. The unranked Owls fell 52-48 to then-No. 1 Tennessee.

"We remembered that. They had the ball and every opportunity to beat us in the last seconds," Summitt said. "You want your team to respect every opponent regardless of record. Our team really respected this team."

Temple came in averaging 62.7 points, but shot just 18-for-54 in its worst offensive performance of the season.

"We attacked, but we couldn't get anything to fall," Staley said.

With the clock winding down and the game far out of reach, Temple fans urged Summitt to put Parker back in to dunk. Parker won the McDonald's high school dunk contest in 2004, but sat out last season as a freshman to recover from knee injuries.

"Candace makes everyone on the floor better," Summitt said. "She does a great job."

Lady Vols turn to Hornbuckle

Sophomore called meeting after Wiley-Gatewood left

PHILADELPHIA - Tennessee begins in earnest to assess life without Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood tonight.

Fittingly, the Lady Vols first real women's basketball test since their former starting point guard decided to transfer comes on the road against Temple.

Tipoff is at 7 o'clock at the Liacouras Center.

A team on the move is closing ranks and moving on. Top-ranked Tennessee (10-0) better do it quickly, too. After last week's reprieve against Princeton, a date with No. 22 Temple (8-2) signals a return to the familiar grind.

"It's not about what we don't have,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "It's what we do have. You ask some players to do more.''

Sophomore Alexis Hornbuckle has been handed a request list to rival Santa Claus'. Everything from handling the basketball and running the offense to being the lead defender will be shoehorned into her job description. At least, she's not being asked to play a new position. Hornbuckle has been playing point guard since last season and knows the territory.

It was Hornbuckle, not the seniors, who called a team meeting after Wiley-Gatewood's announcement last week to assess the fallout.

"Somebody you love and care for and tried to help suddenly up and leaves, that's a big blow to you,'' senior Shanna Zolman said. "You've lost a sister.''

In the process, the Lady Vols might have gained a stronger leader. Regarding Hornbuckle, Summitt said, "She likes being in a leadership role. Seldom do I have to say, 'turn the volume up.' ''

Instead, the coach more likely will turn to fellow starter Zolman or freshman Lindsey Moss and say, "Be ready." While finding a backup point guard is less daunting, it's no less important.

"It's not my favorite position,'' Zolman said. "I'm willing to do it. I'm going to have to do it to give Alexis a breather or if she gets into foul trouble.

Moss, meanwhile, has work to do before she'll be trusted with many meaningful playing minutes.

"I think sometimes she thinks she has to do something spectacular to stay on the floor,'' Summitt said. "Quite the opposite.''

Interestingly, the ripple effect from Wiley-Gatewood's departure will be felt more initially in the frontcourt. Candace Parker will start tonight's game at small forward. Summitt is having a hard time, though, letting go of the redshirt freshman's Tim Duncan-like performance at the other forward spot.

"She's been so efficient there,'' Summitt said.

Parker's biggest adjustment figures to be on offense. There are post-up options to ease the transition. Parker also can create scoring chances off the dribble and by being active.

Still, Summitt said that she might try a starting lineup with junior Sidney Spencer at small forward and Parker back inside next to Nicky Anosike.

"If we have a tight game, typically she'll be at that spot (power forward)," Summitt said of Parker.

Scoring-wise, 30 of the 72 points Wiley-Gatewood scored this season came on 3-pointers. She helped UT set a record pace with an average of seven treys per game.

At 30.3 percent, Wiley-Gatewood wasn't UT's most accurate sharpshooter, but her 33 trey attempts reflected a willingness to pull the trigger. She nailed three 3 pointers in a game last season. And not just any game either. The baskets helped Tennessee end a six-game losing streak against Connecticut, which pays a visit Jan. 7.

Some of Wiley-Gatewood's scoring might shift to the frontcourt. Or Spencer might expand on her 3-point effort. She's shooting a dazzling 55 percent behind the arc (better than her overall shooting percentage of 41.7) but is fourth in overall attempts with 20.

The Lady Vols have their options. The players are not lacking for versatility. Any questions at this crucial juncture concern their resolve.

"Individually, we have to set our goals higher,'' senior center Tye'sha Fluker said. "We have to bring it every game."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Number One Lady Vols In Philadelphia To Face 22nd-Ranked Temple

The last time the Tennessee Lady Vols played a game at Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, they advanced to the 2005 NCAA Final Four.

Tomorrow’s game with 22nd ranked Temple on their home court in Philadelphia doesn’t have any post-seasons implications yet for the nation’s number one team.

However, the Lady Vols will be seeking its eleventh straight victory in remaining undefeated when they face the Owls in a 7 p.m. skirmish that will be televised by Comcast Sports South on tape delay at 9 p.m.

Tennessee is embarking on a two game road trip that will conclude on Saturday when they travel to South Bend to face 12th ranked Notre Dame.

This will be just the second meeting between the Lady Vols and the Owls. In the series opener last November, Tennessee came from behind to edge Temple 52-48.

The Owls are coached by former University of Virginia great and current WNBA Houston Comet star Dawn Staley.

Staley, who is in her sixth season as Temple’s leader, was the Most Valuable Player in the 1991 NCAA Final Four despite the fact that the Lady Vols defeated the Cavaliers in overtime to win its third national championship at the time. It was the first NCAA women’s title game to go beyond regulation.

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt, who is eight wins shy of attaining her 900th career victory, is an ardent admirer of Staley’s, whose 8-2 team upset 17th ranked Georgia on the 19th.

“I have tremendous respect and admiration for Dawn’s playing ability and her competitiveness” she said in a Lady Vol press release. “You could see her leadership then on the court and now you see it on the sidelines as a coach. I believe that what allowed her to be a special basketball player has also allowed her to be a successful coach.”

“She possesses the knowledge of the game and has great composure. She obviously knows the game and with the communication and leadership skills gained from her playing days, she now shares that with her team. It’s great to see players coaching the game and giving back to help build on the success of our sport.”

Summitt, who is the all-time winnningest coach in NCAA history, has only added to her infinite legacy with the 2005-06 Lady Vols which is a team that is winning games by an average of almost 30 points per outing.

Senior guard Shanna Zolman is having a memorable final season at Tennessee becoming the team’s leading scorer averaging 17.3 points per game thanks in part to her Midas touch from the three point line and her near perfection at the free throw stripe.

Zolman has scored 87 of her 173 total season points from the outer line as she has nailed 29 of 61 attempts. The 5-10 native of Syracuse, Indiana connected on five of six three-pointers in the 68-point victory over Princeton last week.

As impressive as her three point shooting has been, her free throw performance has been almost immaculate. The 5-10 Zolman has missed just two of 24 charity shots this season.

As Zolman is in the twilight of her Lady Vol career, for redshirt freshman sensation Candace Parker her Tennessee memories are just starting.

Parker, the 6-3 forward from Naperville, Illinois who arrived in Knoxville amidst unprecedented media coverage befitting a two time national high school player of the year, has already been tabbed the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week two times this young season.

Parker leads in Lady Vol rebounding with 9.5 per game and is second in scoring behind Zolman averaging 15.6 points. The Princeton game was the first in which she failed to score in double figures. She has had three double-double games in the wins against Texas, Stanford and Stetson.

Alexis Hornbuckle, who inherited the point guard position following the departure of Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood, is averaging 10.3 points per game. Hornbuckle had a career high six steals against Princeton and leads the Lady Vols with 31.

Joining Zolman, Parker and Hornbuckle in the Lady Vol starting lineup will be senior center Tye’sha Fluker and sophomore forward Nicky Anosike.

The Owls are led by a pair of forwards in senior pre-season All-American Candice Dupree and junior Kamesha Hairston. Dupree is tops in both scoring and rebounding for Temple averaging 16.3 and 9.8 respectively. Hairston is averaging 13 points a contest.

After the Notre Dame game on Saturday, the Lady Vols return to Knoxville to host Old Dominion on Monday.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Loss of Wiley-Gatewood will change Lady Vols' look

KNOXVILLE -- Sometimes it's just not a fit.

Sophomore Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood's announcement this week that she will not continue her college career with the Tennessee Lady Vols shouldn't be a surprise when you consider the nature of the program and the caliber of players who are recruited to join it.

One of the toughest tasks Pat Summitt faces each year is how to mesh the egos of some of the nation's top high school players and develop a chemistry that will sustain the team throughout a very tough schedule and a postseason that nearly always concludes at a Final Four.

Tennessee has lost players before -- guard April McDivitt, forward Michelle Munoz and center Teresa Jeter come to mind immediately. Summitt has also dismissed a few. But the turnover in the program is barely noticeable compared to a lot of others, which is a credit to Summitt and her coaching staff as well as to veteran players who shepherd the newcomers.

Wiley-Gatewood, one of the Super Six signing class of a year ago, said she enjoyed Knoxville and liked her teammates but was unhappy with the style of play at Tennessee, which nearly always forces players who are used to taking over a game and carrying a team on their shoulders into supporting roles.

Upon her arrival at UT, Wiley-Gatewood discovered she had a small ligament tear in one knee. On advice of the team physician, she tried to rest and rehab it so she could play while teammates Candace Parker and Alex Fuller sat out with more severe knee problems. It didn't work and ultimately she had surgery to correct the tear.

Prior to the start of this season, she admitted having been frustrated by the loss of a year of eligibility. That was compounded this fall when she felt confined by the offense she ran. Simply put, she could not adjust to the lower profile required and said goodbye.

Ironically, her sudden departure will be noticeable because she had assumed such a prominent role in the offense so quickly.

The California product was a true point guard -- a rarity in the program since the days of Kellie Jolly. In running the offense, she brought a remarkable amount of energy to the floor, something Summitt has alluded to several times in the last couple of months. With her passing skills and floor vision, Wiley-Gatewood was also a player to build an offense around.

Without her, the Lady Vols will again look to Alexis Hornbuckle as the primary floor general, and Shanna Zolman, who has been free to focus on scoring and defense, will return to more ball-handling duties. That's basically how the offense was run last season, what Summitt called a point guard by committee approach.

The loss of Wiley-Gatewood also makes it more critical for Parker to continue her adjustment to playing the three position instead of inside.

One thing is certain. With one less potential starting guard, Summitt will now have to alter the rotations she has been using, and the chemistry of the team will no doubt be affected. Fortunately, this loss comes well before the opening of the SEC season and with time to regroup and bridge the gap.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Princeton Tigers/Tennessee Lady Volunteers Recap

(1) Tennessee 107, Princeton 39

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee satisfied its toughest critic -- coach Pat Summitt.

Shanna Zolman scored 23 points and Tye'sha Fluker had 15 points and eight rebounds to lead No. 1 Tennessee to a 107-39 victory over Princeton.

The win came five days after a victory over Louisiana Tech that left Summitt critical of her team's performance.

"I think they talked about some things since the Louisiana Tech game," she said. "I was extremely disappointed with how we played (against Louisiana Tech), but I'm extremely proud tonight."

Tennessee (10-0) shot 59.7 percent from the floor, hit 11-of-15 shots from 3-point range and out-rebounded Princeton 52-22.

"We came out here and just stressed playing with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion, which made the game fun for 40 minutes," guard Alexis Hornbuckle said.

Princeton (6-4) shot 29.3 percent from the floor, 4-of-23 from 3-point range.

Hornbuckle and Dominique Redding had 12 points each and Sidney Spencer 11 for the Lady Vols. Candace Parker led the team with 10 rebounds.

Becky Brown scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting for Princeton in its first game against the Lady Vols.

"Tonight our main focus was to get back to playing Tennessee basketball, with rebounding, defense and playing with a lot of energy," Zolman said. "That's what we did."

It was Princeton coach Richard Barron's return to Knoxville, where he attended high school and where his parents still live.

Tennessee's victory came a day after starting guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood announced she was leaving the team. Wiley-Gatewood, a sophomore, started eight of nine games and was the team's fourth-leading scorer.

In her absence, Fluker started her fourth game at center and Hornbuckle started at guard. Hornbuckle and Wiley-Gatewood had shared the point guard job.

Tennessee started pulling away five minutes into the game. The Lady Vols led 12-8 with 16 minutes left in the half and went on a 12-0 run. Two free throws by Fluker gave the Lady Vols a 24-8 lead with 10:46 left in the half. Their lead grew to 20 when Parker scored a fast-break layup with 6:42 to play in the half.

Fluker's two foul shots with 1:07 left in the half gave the Lady Vols a 47-17 lead.

Tennessee opened the second half with a 13-2 run. Hornbuckle's drive and layup gave the Lady Vols a 60-21 lead with 16:24 to play.

"Obviously I'm very pleased with the intensity, the enthusiasm on the bench and everyone who got on the court," Summitt said. "We played well together."

Hitting the boards

Lady Vols show Princeton how to rebound in lopsided victory

While Tennessee got the message about rebounding, the Lady Vols didn't limit themselves to one statistical achievement Tuesday night.

A 107-39 women's basketball thrashing of Princeton before a crowd of 10,650 at Thompson-Boling Arena was a triumph on several fronts. Against the overmatched Tigers, No. 1 Tennessee (10-0) set season highs for not only rebounds (52) but also points, field goals (40) field goal percentage (59.7) 3-point field goal percentage (73.3) and assists (25).

The eight turnovers, on the other hand, were a season low.

"Aside from Texas,'' said UT coach Pat Summitt, referring to a 102-61 victory over the Longhorns earlier this month, "this was as much energy as we've had one through 10 (players).''

The Lady Vols showed no ill effects from being rebuked for their rebounding after last Thursday's win over Louisiana Tech or from the departure this week of teammate Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, who plans to transfer.

Instead, they made a conscious effort to enjoy themselves and it showed in their performance.

"We worked hard in practice, but we were going out in games and not having as much energy or fun,'' said UT guard Shanna Zolman, who scored a game-high 23 points. "We were not playing to our potential. Our main focus was to get back to playing Tennessee basketball with defense, rebounding and a lot of energy.''

In the process, the Lady Vols didn't give Princeton (6-4) much chance for enjoyment. The Tigers' best highlight was a team-high 12 points from center Becky Brown, who is from Nashville. Brown said she had at least 30 family and friends in attendance. She estimated that her grandfather brought half of his East Tennessee hometown of Erwin.

The Brown fan club saw a lot of Becky but a lot more of the home team.

"I thought they came out with a real sense of purpose tonight,'' Tigers coach Richard Barron said of UT. "The worst thing to happen to us is for them to have a reason to play hard.''

The rebounding was the obvious point of emphasis. Offensive rebounding helped jumpstart the scoring and the overall effort eventually created plenty of transition chances.

With the Tigers scrambling back to defend the basket, the Lady Vols sharpshooters were able to take aim from the wings and shoot 11-for-15 on 3-pointers. Zolman was 5-for-6, hitting 5 treys in a game for the third time this season.

Tennessee was shooting so well that center Sybil Dosty beat the shot clock with a 10-footer off the dribble in the second half.

"I know Ty (Fluker) and I were on the court,'' said UT's Alexis Hornbuckle, describing their reaction to downtown Dosty's shot. "We jumped up.''

The Lady Vols also were feeling good about their efficiency. Three players -- Hornbuckle, Candace Parker and Lindsey Moss had at least five assists. Hornbuckle, who was calling more sets, had a team-high six.

"(Summitt) put a lot of confidence in me to run plays; she told me to mix up sets,'' Hornbuckle said. "Actually it made my job a little harder because I was having to think a little more. I think I've always had the freedom, I just haven't used it as well. I had to get a little smarter.''

Two of Parker's assists were highlight quality, particularly a pass she wrapped behind her head to a cutting Fluker for a layup.

In the process, Parker appeared to pass up at least one chance at a dunk highlight.

"No,'' said Parker, when asked afterward. "Well, maybe.''

Notebook: The Lady Vols did a running workout after the game in order to leave earlier today for Christmas break. ... UT's next game is Dec. 28 at Temple. ... Country star Kenny Chesney was a guest coach for the game.

Wiley-Gatewood stressed to limit

Point guard left UT looking for fresh start

Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood said Tuesday that basketball was just part of the reason why she’s transferring from the University of Tennessee.

"There were other factors that were stressing me out,’’ the sophomore women’s basketball point guard said. "I really can’t say. There’s a lot of stuff going on off the court and on the court. It’s a lot of stuff people don’t know about.’’

Wiley-Gatewood would not comment specifically on the non-basketball issues, other than to say she was stressed out to the point of being sick and needed a fresh start.

She was ill during last Thursday’s game against Louisiana Tech and missed two subsequent practices before telling UT coach Pat Summitt of her decision after a team dinner on Sunday night.

The Lady Vols played their first game without Wiley-Gatewood on Tuesday night against Princeton.

Wiley-Gatewood, who said she planned to attend Tuesday’s game, was more specific about feeling out of place as a player at Tennessee.

"Pat has her ways,’’ she said. "I’m a point guard that likes to penetrate.

"I didn’t fit the program. It wasn’t a good fit for me."

Wiley-Gatewood, who was sharing point-guard responsibilities with classmate Alexis Hornbuckle, started eight of nine games and was the team’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging eight points per game. But she had only 12 assists.

Wiley-Gatewood said that she’s started to compile a list of schools where she might transfer. Two schools already under consideration are Oklahoma and North Carolina. Wiley-Gatewood has to sit out a calendar year from the time she enrolls at a new school before becoming eligible.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Lady Vols' starter Wiley-Gatewood leaving school

KNOXVILLE – Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt announced today that sophomore point guard Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood will transfer from Tennessee effective immediately.

Wiley-Gatewood, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Pomona, Calif., was the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 8.0 points per game and had started eight of nine games this season for the top-ranked Lady Vols (9-0).

“Sa’de didn’t feel like she could play her game here,” Summitt said in a release. “We hate to see her leave the Lady Vol family, program and university. I hope she can find great success with her basketball career, academics and life.”

Wiley-Gatewood's future plans, to include where she might transfer to, were not immediately known.

She played in 13 games as a freshman last season until finally having surgery on her left knee, which had suffered from patella tendonitis all season.

“I want to thank everyone at Tennessee – my coaches and teammates, the athletic and academic departments, the fans and the boosters – I really appreciate all of their support,” Wiley-Gatewood said in the release. “The Lady Vol fans were great to me.

“I also want to thank Pat for helping me to improve as a player and to grow as a person. I love my teammates and appreciate their support while I was going through this.”

Wiley-Gatewood left the court due to illness during the second half of Tennessee’s 83-59 victory over Louisiana Tech on Thursday. She practiced briefly on Friday before being sent home to rest and did not participate in Saturday’s practice.

The Lady Vols next play tomorrow night, at home against Princeton.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters/Tennessee Lady Volunteers Recap

(1) Tennessee 83, Louisiana Tech 59

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Top-ranked Tennessee wasn't good enough to please Pat Summitt.

The Lady Vols were, however, much better than Louisiana Tech.

Shanna Zolman scored 21 points and Candace Parker had 18 points Thursday night to lead the Lady Vols to an 83-59 victory over Louisiana Tech and improve to 9-0 for the first time since the 2001-02 season.

"Obviously it was a win, but I didn't see a lot of things that were favorable out there tonight," Summitt said. "Our bench play was poor in the first half."

The Lady Vols took advantage of 22 turnovers by the Lady Techsters (5-3). Nicky Anosike added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting for Tennessee. Zolman was 5-of-7 from 3-point range.

It was Tennessee's fifth straight victory in the series.

Aarica Ray-Boyd scored 15 points for Louisiana Tech. Tasha Williams had 13 and Shan Moore 10.

Tennessee shot 46.6 percent from the floor and Louisiana Tech shot 38.5 percent -- but hit 53.8 percent in the second half.

"She's really upset with (me) defensively and just how we performed defensively as a team," Zolman said of her demanding coach.

The Lady Techsters didn't arrive in Knoxville until Thursday afternoon despite leaving Ruston, La., on Wednesday morning. They were scheduled to arrive in Knoxville on Wednesday afternoon, but inclement weather forced their flight to be canceled and they traveled by bus.

It was a tight game for the first 13 minutes. Parker's layup with 14:15 left in the half gave the Lady Vols a 12-10 lead, and they never trailed again.

With seven minutes left in the half, Tennessee led 17-14 when they started a 13-0 run. Zolman's 3-pointer gave the Lady Vols a 30-14 lead with 3:30 left in the half.

The Lady Vols outscored Louisiana Tech 23-6 in the last seven minutes of the half and had a 40-20 halftime lead.

Louisiana Tech shot 23.1 percent from the floor in the first half -- hitting 6-of-26 shots -- and committed 15 turnovers. Tennessee shot 50 percent and made nine turnovers in the first half.

"Tennessee is a great team," Louisiana Tech coach Chris Long said. "They're No. 1 for a reason and they make you pay for your mistakes. We went through a stretch and didn't score, and a lot of it had to do with turnovers."

Zolman had 16 points at halftime on 5-of-10 shooting and was 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Parker scored 13 in the first half on 4-of-5 shooting and made all four of her foul shots.

"I think having Candace and Shanna and their ability to score inside and outside, that's tough," Summitt said. "Obviously they've given us a lot of stability offensively."

Tennessee built the lead to 25 early in the second half. The Lady Techsters rallied briefly with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 49-32 on Eboni Mangum's layup with 15:30 to play.

The Lady Vols were back up by 25 with just less than 10 minutes left and never threatened.

Tennessee's 40-35 advantage in rebounding wasn't enough to satisfy Summitt.

"If this team doesn't understand that is has to rebound, then someone is going to drill them and they'll figure it out," Summitt said.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lady Vols increase lead in polls

Tennessee’s support as the No. 1 team in women’s basketball is growing.

The Lady Vols (8-0) led The Associated Press poll by an even-wider margin over No. 2 Duke, receiving 31 of 45 first-place votes from a national media panel and finishing with 1,109 points.

Duke (7-0) had 12 first-place votes and trailed Tennessee by 21 points. A week ago, Tennessee had a 26-18 edge in first-place votes and a 13-point lead.

LSU (4-0), which will play Tennessee in Knoxville on Feb. 9, remained third with two first-place votes and 1,014 points.

Sellout: Tennessee has helped Notre Dame achieve the earliest sellout in program history in the 11,418-seat Joyce Center when the teams play Jan. 31. The sellout will be the third in Notre Dame history. The other two, versus Connecticut and a senior night game against Georgetown, came during the school’s national championship season of 2000-01.

Fuller Update: Tennessee redshirt freshman forward Alex Fuller returned to practice after being sidelined since last week while recovering from a strained right hip flexor. Regarding Fuller, UT coach Pat Summitt told Lady Vols athletic trainer Jenny Moshak: "If she limps, she’s out of practice.’’ That wasn’t the case on Monday. "She looked good,’’ Summitt said. "She has spring in her legs now."

Summitt not pleased with work in the post

Lady Vols’ three centers still lacking production

KNOXVILLE — Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt called Tennessee’s post play “unacceptable” after the season opener against Stetson.

More than three weeks later, it’s only slightly more tolerable.

While Candace Parker, Shanna Zolman and Alexis Hornbuckle have led the Lady Vols to an 8-0 start and the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press and coaches’ polls, there still are a few post players who aren’t happy with their early season performances.

In Summitt’s mind, the other players need to do everything they can to make them happy.

“I’ve always believed if you don’t get post players the ball, they’re not going to do other things for you,” Summitt said. “If you don’t get the ball inside, and they don’t get touches and they don’t get the ball, they’re going to stand and watch. And some of them pout.

“Then they come out and somebody else gets to go in and stand and watch. That’s pretty much the gist of it.”

Tennessee has knocked off four ranked opponents in its first eight games, but the primary post players have had only minor roles.
Parker and the starting guards have helped the Lady Vols win by an average margin of 25.3 points.

Progress has been made in recent games, although not enough to say the problem has been addressed. Tye’sha Fluker, Nicky Anosike and Sybil Dosty — the three natural centers on the team — have combined to score less than 15 points per game.

Anosike’s 15-point performance in the Nov. 25 win over Gonzaga has been the Lady Vols’ only double-digit scoring effort this season from a center.

“I think teams are doing a good job of trying to take us away,” said Fluker, a 6-foot-5 senior who has started twice in the last seven games.

“But we’re working on it in practice as far as getting open and the guards getting it to us. It’s just a matter of time before it’s going to open up for us.”

Many of Tennessee’s inside deficiencies have been overshadowed by a strong start from Parker, a 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman. After the Nov. 20 season opener, Summitt abandoned a lineup that featured both Anosike and Fluker in favor of a three-guard lineup that put Parker at power forward.

The results have been better since the switch. The Lady Vols, who play host to Louisiana Tech on Thursday, are even dominating the boards — mostly because of Parker’s team-high 9.8 rebounds per game.

If they expect to be celebrating their first national championship in eight years, though, Summitt said the Lady Vols need more improvement across the board from their biggest players.

“(Earlier in the season) I don’t think they got involved,” Summitt said. “We quick-shot the ball a lot. We didn’t really establish the inside game, and now we want to do that.”

In particular, Summitt said she expects big things from Fluker, who ranks seventh on the team in scoring (5.9 ppg) and fifth in rebounds (3.4), and Anosike, who has emerged as the usual starter at center.

But Fluker pointed to UT’s win this past Wednesday at George Washington as a sign of better things to come. With the rest of the team struggling on offense, Anosike scored eight points and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds to help the Lady Vols to a 59-43 win.

“It’s just a matter of working on it in practice and transferring it over to the game,” Fluker said. “We’re going to transfer it over to the game and there won’t be anything to talk about, really.”

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mystics and Pat Summitt part ways

Washington Mystics Chief Operating Officer Curtis Symonds announced today that Pat Summitt will not return to the Mystics as the Player Personnel Consultant.

"Coach Summitt will no longer serve as the Mystics' Player Personnel Consultant," said Symonds. "She helped us build a strong system and we thank her for her guidance over the past several years."

Symonds added, "Going forward, with Linda Hargrove entering her second season as General Manager, we feel that the Mystics are in good hands and will continue to recruit and develop strong talent for the team. We look forward to the possibilities that await us in 2006."

Summitt joined the Mystics basketball operations staff in 2002. She was instrumental in helping Washington draft notable players such as All-star Alana Beard, 2005 Rookie of the Year, Temeka Johnson and Connecticut Sun 2005 WNBA finalist Ashja Jones.

"Management wanted to go into a different direction; Linda (Hargrove) is General Manager. I enjoyed my years with the organization and wish the Mystics the very best", said Summitt.

Summitt became the winningest coach in college basketball when she recorded her 880th win on March 22, 2005. She has won 24 SEC tournaments and six NCAA titles (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997 and 1998).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tennessee Lady Volunteers/George Washington Colonials Recap

(1) Tennessee 59, Geo. Washington 43

WASHINGTON -- Candace Parker and the rest of No. 1 Tennessee thought they played poorly in the first half. Focusing on rebounding and defense, they went out and did something about it.

Parker had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Tennessee held George Washington scoreless for 8 1/2 minutes after halftime en route to a 59-43 victory Wednesday night.

"At halftime, we were disappointed by how we were playing," Parker said. "Every game, there's somebody new watching us for the first time, and we're letting them down if we don't show them what Tennessee's about and how we're supposed to play. Because we may never get that opportunity to show that one person that again."

She tore a ligament in her left index finger in a victory at Stanford on Sunday and played with that finger taped to her middle finger, but said it didn't hamper her.

Shanna Zolman added 12 points for the Lady Vols (8-0), who were closing a five-game road trip in which they will have logged more than 13,000 miles by the time they return home.

Jessica Simmonds led George Washington (2-3) with 13 points, but Kimberly Beck was held to five points one game after scoring a career-high 20 against Villanova.

"We hung with them a majority of the time," Beck said. "We know we can play with anybody in the country now. We just proved that."

Before the game, there was little reason to think it would be as close as it was. The Lady Vols came in having outscored opponents by an average of 26.7 points this season and without a loss to an unranked opponent in 3 1/2 years. Tennessee moved atop the AP rankings this week for the first time since early last season, when it reached the Final Four.

The Colonials, meanwhile, never had lost by fewer than 14 points in five previous games against Tennessee, and were 0-3 against No. 1 teams.

But the Lady Vols were shaky for stretches, committing 23 turnovers in the game and shooting just 43 percent in the first half. That helped George Washington make a game of it, leading for most of the first 10 minutes, then staying within range into the second half.

"We started out lackadaisical," Zolman said. "The lack of intensity that we showed turned up in the turnovers that we had. They pressured us a lot coming out of their zone. They did a good job switching up and keeping us on our toes."

Trailing 40-35, GW had a chance to cut its deficit to three, but Simmonds -- a 29 percent free throw shooter -- missed both attempts from the line.

Six minutes into the second half, Jazmine Adair's baseline jumper drew the Colonials to 42-37. That's when Tennessee turned up its defense, forcing poor shots, air balls, shot-clock violations and steals.

By the time GW scored again, on Simmonds' jumper with 5 1/2 minutes left, Tennessee had a double-digit edge it wouldn't relinquish.

"Tonight was a great game for 30, 35 minutes," GW coach Joe McKeown said. "Tennessee makes you have to make plays every possession. That's what happens when you play a team like that -- they find your weaknesses."

The Lady Vols held George Washington to 22 percent shooting in the second half and finished the game with 12 steals, five by Alexis Hornbuckle. Tennessee outrebounded GW 39-27, and had 18 second-chance points to the Colonials' two.

"That's significant," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "We've been really trying to get this team to pound the glass. We haven't been relentless on the boards -- a trademark of ours for years -- but I think this team is starting to commit to rebounding."

Tennessee missed its first four shots -- three by Parker -- and had three early turnovers, allowing the hosts to score the game's first five points.

The Lady Vols didn't take their first lead until more than 9 1/2 minutes had elapsed, on Sidney Spencer's jumper near the foul line that made it 15-14. It was the longest Tennessee had played this season without being ahead.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lady Vols Replace Duke Atop AP Poll

Two more victories over ranked teams finally did it for Tennessee. The Lady Vols are back at No. 1 in The AP women's basketball poll.

Tennessee replaced Duke at the top of the poll on Monday, the 97th time a Pat Summitt team has led the rankings. Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma have 94 appearances at No. 1.

Another longtime power, Texas Tech, dropped out after its fourth loss in five games, ending the school's string of consecutive appearances in the poll at 248. North Carolina State returned at No. 25 after being out for two weeks.

Tennessee (7-0) had run a close second to Duke (6-0) in the first three polls this season, but the Lady Vols' two victories this past week pushed them past the Blue Devils. First, they overwhelmed then-No. 16 Texas 102-61 in Knoxville. Then they flew to the West Coast and beat then-No. 12 Stanford 74-67 three days later.

Tennessee received 28 of 46 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,128 points. Duke was a strong No. 2 with 16 first-place votes and 1,115 points. LSU (4-0) was third with two first-place votes and 1,042 points.

Duke led by seven points last week even though Tennessee had a 22-21 edge in first-place votes.

Carl Adamec of the Manchester, Conn., Journal Inquirer had been voting Duke No. 1, but changed his mind after what Tennessee did to Texas. The Lady Vols jumped to a 17-0 lead and never gave the Longhorns a chance.

Duke also played Texas, winning 84-70 in Austin in its only game last week.

"They've just been so impressive," Adamec said of the Lady Vols. "To do what they've done, obviously they're the best team. That's not to take anything away from Duke. They're terrific, too. But the Texas game, seeing that on national TV was a eye-opener."

Tennessee also has defeated No. 9 Maryland and No. 13 Michigan State this season. Michigan State was ranked ninth when it lost to the Lady Vols 83-55 in the Virgin Islands.

It has been a full year since Tennessee last held the No. 1 ranking. The Lady Vols led the first three polls last season, fell as low as 10th in early January and finished third.

Tennessee is on a run of 362 consecutive appearances in the poll. The Lady Vols have been unranked only 14 times in 503 polls.

Starting with LSU, there were no changes through No. 9. Ohio State was fourth and Baylor fifth, followed by Rutgers, North Carolina, Connecticut and Maryland. Notre Dame moved up one spot to 10th.

Stanford, which beat Pacific 109-58 in its other game last week, climbed one place into a tie for 11th with DePaul, which moved up three spots. Michigan State held at No. 13 and was followed by Minnesota, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and Temple.

Vanderbilt, UCLA, Utah, Purdue and North Carolina State held the final five places.

Oklahoma made the biggest jump within the poll, moving up four places to 16th after beating TCU and Oral Roberts. Minnesota fell four places to 14th after splitting a pair of games — a 62-44 loss at New Mexico and a 78-70 win over Nebraska. Texas slipped three spots to 19th.

Texas Tech (2-5) ended a three-game losing streak with a 63-53 victory over Sacramento State, then lost at Penn State 78-72 in two overtimes. The Lady Raiders are unranked for the first time since Jan. 12, 1992.

North Carolina State (5-2), which started the season at No. 21, dropped out after an early loss to Saint Joseph's. The Wolfpack have won three of four since then, including a victory over Vanderbilt.

Freshman's a presence

Tennessee beat Stanford Sunday for the 10th straight time, but enough about Stanford.

What about Candace Parker?

Answer: No dunks Sunday, but a quietly spectacular game anyway for the Lady Vols' superstar freshman.

The world, at least the portion of it that pays even slight attention to women's basketball, is busy discovering Parker. As soon as the other Lady Vols discover her, they're going to be a very good team. And they're not bad now -- 7-0 record, three of the wins over ranked teams.

Parker, who is creating a Reggie Bush-like buzz in women's college basketball, took only nine shots Sunday, averaging one every four minutes. Nine shots, and she scored 21 points.

The Vols station Parker on a low block and give her an occasional glance, and the odd feed. She is college basketball's most glamorous pick-setter.

The Vols toss her crumbs and walk off the court at the end of the game with a seven-layer cake.

And she's OK with that. I get the impression that Parker, stepping into the lead-dog role in the most glamorous program in the country, is almost trying to live down her rep.

She is The Dunker, even though she has yet to officially dunk.

Parker, a freshman who red-shirted last season with an injury, is listed at 6-foot-3 but is 6-5. She won a slam-dunk competition against boys when she was a high school senior, making her instantly world famous.

Recently in a pickup game, Parker dunked on a 6-9 member of the Tennessee men's basketball team, a fellow who now skulks around campus wearing a Groucho Marx disguise.

Only three women have dunked in a college basketball game, the most recent being Tennessee's Michelle Snow in 2001.

Parker figures to be the next, and when she does, it will be a big deal. But when you're a freshman playing for Pat Summitt, you don't go around crowing about your dunking skills. When asked about dunking, you say you don't think about it.

"I'm really not thinking about it, to be honest with you," Parker said, and she does have an honest face, upon which is attached the most photogenic basketball smile since Magic Johnson's.

While the world is waiting for her dunk, she's busy adjusting to the college game, and the adjustment is going smoothly. Halfway through the first half Sunday, Parker was 3-for-3 from the field and the rest of the Lady Vols were 2-for-10.

In a very tough game on the road, against a strong inside team, Parker wound up with 21 points (9-for-9 free throwing), 12 rebounds, three steals, one huge block, and a freshman-like six turnovers.

Parker's game has been compared to that of Tim "The Big Fundamental" Duncan, and the comparison is apt, although if Duncan had Parker's crossover dribble, ambidexterity in the paint and lateral mobility, he'd average 45 points, not 25.

And not to second-guess Summitt, one of the great basketball coaches of all time, but, uh, will Parker eventually get more touches?

"In tight games" Summitt said in her postgame news conference, "we want the two players sitting up here with me (Parker and senior sharpshooter Shanna Zolman) to get as many touches as they can."

The problem with that as a game-long strategy, Summitt said, is that "the other players quit rebounding and working and playing defense because they're not involved."

The only player on the court Sunday who could match the incandescence of Candace was Candice -- Stanford point guard Candice Wiggins.

These two played together on the 2004 U.S. Junior National Team, went undefeated together, roomed together.

"Candice is a great player," Parker said of Wiggins. "I call her 'Ice.' "

OK, does Wiggins have a nickname for Parker?

" 'Ace,' " Parker said, and realizing she was speaking to sportswriters and not a roomful of "Jeopardy" champions, she added an explanation: "Because her name is spelled with i-c-e, and mine with a-c-e."

With Magic Markers, Parker writes "ABC3" on her sneakers. If she were a guy, it might be a tribute to a teammate who was suspended for choking the coach, or a shout-out to his agent, or a tribute to himself.

With Parker, the A is for herself (Ace) and her uniform number is 3, but the B and C are for the last names of two of the Lady Vols' student managers who helped Candace make it through last season's tough injury-rehab, so she salutes them publicly.

When/if Parker dunks, she won't swing on the rim for 20 seconds, thump her chest to salute her courage, or run to a courtside TV camera and dunk-snarl into the lens.

She'll run back down the court and play defense.

Strange behavior, but somehow charming.

Summitt scouts top area recruit

Pat Summitt had never visited Sacramento on a recruiting trip before Saturday. But there had never been a Vicki Baugh to recruit.

Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA history and winner of six NCAA titles at Tennessee, watched Baugh during Sacramento High School's 69-27 nonleague win over Valley.

Baugh was an all-state underclass selection last season and is one of the top juniors in the country.

NCAA rules prohibit Summitt, who was joined by former Tennessee player and current Monarchs guard Kara Lawson, from commenting on the 6-foot-4 forward.

Dragons coach John Langston said Baugh hasn't shown any signs of being distracted by the attention she is receiving from some of America's top programs.

"It's amazing to see a player with her talent and still so grounded," Langston said. "She hardly lets you know (she might be distracted). She comes to play."

Baugh's skills are guard-like with her ability to dribble the ball, but she also can score inside. She averaged 16.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game last season and was named one of the 10 best sophomores in the country by USA Today.

Tennessee was not the only big-time program represented Saturday night. LSU assistant coach Carla Berry also was at the game.

Pat Summitt Post-Game Quotes

She walked into the media room at Maples Pavilion immediately cracking jokes and hiding none of her displeasure for the tight officiating of the afternoon. Pat Summitt had plenty to say after her Lady Vols defeated Stanford on Sunday, 74-67. Topics ranged from foul trouble to her bench failures. From Candace Parker to Candice Wiggins.

Pat Summitt, Tennessee Head Coach

Opening statement:
When we got in foul trouble early, it really affected how we wanted to play the game and what we wanted on the floor. In spite of the foul situation, the poor shooting from [Sa'de] Wiley-Gatewood and [Alexis] Hornbuckle and the lack of rebounding, we found a way to win. This is a very tough place to play and a very fine Stanford team. We did a better job at getting the ball to two people who were making plays. I think Candace [Parker] and Shanna [Zolman] stepped up big. Candace was huge on the boards. We only had one person play well off the bench and that was [Tye'sha] Fluker. I was really proud of her, and she took a huge charge for us. She played big.

On shutting down Brooke Smith:
We talked about limiting touches, and they do a great job in their sets, getting her the ball. We didn't come in here, saying we were going to foul people and get out of the game early. We just tried to limit her touches, and if you can play in front, play in front. If not, play behind and make her beat you over the top. She's a very skilled smart player. She's got good moves, nice touch.

On changing the strategy after the early foul trouble:
I felt really handicapped because we hadn't been in that situation our previous six games. Our bench had played pretty well, and we go to our bench and [Dominique] Redding comes in, and it was like hot potato. She took five shots before I could get her out. Sometimes when you come off the bench, you have to learn how to play off the bench, and they had been doing a pretty good job of it. With the nature of how the game unfolded and the foul trouble, I think she played overanxious. Sid [Spencer] didn't play well of the bench. We couldn't seem to get our inside people going, Alex [Fuller] or Sybil [Dosty], as far as making shots. We were limited. I did not want to go back and risk getting any of our starters with three fouls heading into the locker room.

On Candace Parker's role with the team as the season progresses:
Here's my thought as far as our offense goes: I'd like to push the tempo; we'd like to share the basketball. But in tight games, the two people sitting up here with me [Parker and Zolman] are going to get as many touches as they can, and everyone on the floor needs to know that. I think they do. They look for them. I don't want to start off the game that way. We talked about the two-man game, which was too early on. What happens is too many people quit working hard, rebounding and playing defense because they aren't involved.

What Summitt liked about Stanford:
I think their inside game and the play of Candice Wiggins. Obviously, they anchored down with their post game and [Kristen] Newlin played really well. You got it right down the middle with two great inside players, a good point guard, shooters on the wing. I think they have done a great job of blending in their young players.

On why Tennessee won today's contest:
That's a good question. I was thinking about that as the game went on: How are we going to win this one? Obviously, we managed to get to the free throw line and make our free throws. One thing about this team is that they are aggressive enough to get there, and we've shot the ball well from the free-throw line. We came up with enough big plays and key board plays to keep possessions alive.

On the play of Alexis Hornbuckle:
She came up with some good plays at the end. I wanted to go back to her in the first half, to make sure she got back into the game, but I wasn't comfortable putting her or Nicky [Anosike] back in because I thought we would need them in the second half. I think she went in and tried to do too much. I just told her to just create for other people and get them involved. She wasn't playing with a lot of confidence at that time, and I just told her that we're going to feed off her leadership. I thought she stepped up and made some huge plays.

On the physical nature of the game:
I will tell you that in our league [Southeast Conference] you are allowed to play a more physical game. We are a physical league. We don't play a lot of Pac-10 schools. Obviously, we play Stanford. I thought the second half was what we normally see.

On Tennessee's tough schedule this year:
I'm really proud of this team. When I looked at the schedule, I thought to myself, “What have you done?” We do have some young players, but we understand that we're going to be better if we put them in situations where they have to play back-to-back games. We played five games in seven days, and then we brought them out here early. Then we go back home for one night and then we travel to Washington D.C. to play George Washington. We get a break, which we'll need – they do have exams! And then we're back on the road again.

On whether or not playing Stanford is a benefit, despite leading the series 18-4:
I think playing against a team like Stanford, I think you win, whether you win the game or not. One thing that I've tried to do is play teams from the East and West Coast because you see different styles of play. I didn't realize that we had won nine in a row because it seems like every time we play them, it's such a struggle and it goes down to the wire. I typically am just looking towards the next game we play.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Tennessee Lady Volunteers/Stanford Cardinal Recap

(2) Tennessee 74, (12) Stanford 67

STANFORD, Calif. -- Unbeaten Tennessee's first month has resembled an NCAA tournament run with four ranked opponents, and the Lady Vols have calmly handled each challenge.

Candace Parker had 21 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, two assists and a blocked shot, and No. 2 Tennessee ended 12th-ranked Stanford's 23-game home winning streak with a hard-fought 74-67 victory Sunday.

The Cardinal's streak in Maples Pavilion started immediately after their 70-66 overtime loss to Tennessee on Dec. 14, 2003, then it was the Lady Vols who spoiled things again with a late second-half run to beat Stanford for the 10th straight time dating to a 1996 Cardinal win.

After Kristen Newlin's basket with 6:05 left pulled Stanford to 52-51, Tennessee took over. Shanna Zolman also scored 21 points for the Lady Vols (7-0), who are determined to make an early statement this season after blowing a 16-point lead to Michigan State in the second half of the national semifinals last March.

Newlin finished with a career-high 20 points and had 10 rebounds for Stanford (4-2), which made too many mistakes in crunch time to pull off an upset.

A sellout crowd came out to witness the first collegiate showdown between Candace and Candice -- Tennessee's Parker and Stanford sophomore sensation Candice Wiggins, the reigning Pac-10 player of the year and conference freshman of the year.

The two have been playing against each other since middle school in tournaments across the country and also were teammates on the U.S. junior national team, and they call each other "Ice and "Ace" as a reference to the spellings of their first names. Parker was in uniform but didn't play against Stanford in a last-second 70-67 Tennessee win last season during her redshirt year as she recovered from two surgeries on her troublesome left knee.

Wiggins had 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks but also committed eight turnovers.

Brooke Smith, Stanford's second-leading scorer behind Wiggins, scored nine points after missing all four of her first-half field goals and making only one free throw, but committed several crucial turnovers down the stretch and also missed an open layup. She had five turnovers in all.

Clare Bodensteiner's baseline 3 with 16:35 to play began a 10-2 spurt by Stanford that also featured a 3 by Krista Rappahahn from the same spot and back-to-back layups by Wiggins off steals, the first by Bodensteiner and the next when Wiggins sneaked behind Parker to take the ball away on the way to a 40-39 lead with 14:50 to play.

Tennessee began the second half 3-for-13, two of those field goals by Nicky Anosike, while the Cardinal made six of their first nine shots in the final 20 minutes, but the Lady Vols made 12 of 17 free throws after halftime.

Tennessee has also beaten ranked opponents in Michigan State, Maryland and No. 16 Texas after a 102-61 win over the Longhorns on Thursday night.

Freshman forward Jillian Harmon gave the Cardinal a boost with her rebounding effort in the first half -- getting in position on the boards was a top priority from coach Tara VanDerveer coming into the game on the heels of a 109-58 victory at Pacific on Thursday.

Harmon had five boards and Stanford wound up getting outrebounded 36-34.

The Cardinal went just 5-for-11 from the free throw line in the first half and Tennessee used a 7-0 spurt over the final 1:39 of the half to overcome foul trouble for a 35-28 lead at the break.

Court Is a 'Stress-Free Zone' for Tennessee's Parker

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 3 - Had the teenage journalist not stopped her newspaper column to focus on what many believe could become the greatest career in women's college basketball history, Candace Parker might have begun her opus Wednesday by talking about the stress.

"Oh, definitely, the stress," said Parker, the 19-year-old, 6-foot-3-inch redshirt freshman forward for the Tennessee Lady Vols. "Yes, that's where I'd start the column."

Parker, who had written a weekly column for The Chicago Tribune during her senior year at Naperville Central High School outside Chicago, was a two-time USA Today national high school player of the year, leading her team to two state Class AA championships. Then, after being perhaps the mostly highly recruited high school player in the country, Parker chose to attend Tennessee, a program that has reached 16 Final Fours and won 6 national championships, though none since 1998.

But in the summer of 2004, she sustained a meniscus and cartilage tear in her left knee (the same knee in which she tore the anterior cruciate ligament before her senior year in high school. She missed 11 games before returning to average 24.3 points a game). She sat out her freshman year at Tennessee, but has returned to help the No. 2 Lady Vols get off to a 6-0 start heading into Sunday's game at No. 12 Stanford.

"The expectations are so high, for her to perform, for her to lead us to a national championship," said Jenny Moshak, the assistant athletic director for sports medicine at Tennessee, who has worked with Parker to get her back in shape after the knee injury. "You just wonder how she handles it."

This is not lost on her teammates. "Every game, every team is keying on her," Tennessee guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood said, "and sometimes they double- and triple-team her. I know it frustrates her at times."

But not enough to slow her down. Playing here against No. 16 Texas on Thursday, Parker scored 17 points, slightly above her average, pulled down 14 rebounds, and had 3 blocks and 3 steals in Tennessee's 102-61 victory.

Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, who recruited her, said, "Candace could have gone to a smaller school, or one with less of a tradition of winning than ours, but she wanted to be on the big stage, and compete."

So what is Parker stressed about? "I'm stressed out because it's finals week," she said. "I've got tests in all my courses: accounting, philosophy 110, business applications, history of rock - that's a music, not a geology, course - and statistics."

She earned a 3.5 grade point average last year and is doing well in her current classes, so well in statistics, for example, "that I was invited to the statistics pizza party, for the kids who are at the top of the class."

"One of them said to me, 'You're smart; stop trying to act like you're not,' " she said.

Parker, who was also a high honor-roll student all four years in high school, laughed. "I wasn't trying. I didn't think I was, anyway," she said.

So Parker is not stressed out because of the pressures of basketball?

"When I go out on the basketball court, it's fun," she said. "It's actually my stress-free zone. Especially after what happened last season. I was denied that all last year. Now when I'm on the court, it's like a wonderful gift. Of course, when we have a practice at 7 in the morning, and I have to get up at 5:45, I have to remind myself of that."

She has been an avid student of the game, as her family tells it, since she was 4 years old. She broke down film with her father, Larry, who played for Lute Olson at Iowa; and her two older brothers, Anthony, who played for three years in the N.B.A. with Philadelphia and Orlando, and Marcus, who was a high school player but is now a resident in radiology at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore.

When she was 10 or 11, she said, she and her mother, Sara, drove up to Milwaukee to see Anthony play with the 76ers. It was there she met her idol, Allen Iverson.

"He was so nice," Parker said. "I had just played a game in which I had scored 20 or so, but our team lost and I was distressed about it.

"He said to me, 'Happens to me all the time. You gotta keep your head up. You never know when the pieces will come together.' That meant so much to me, coming from him, who is a phenomenal player, who gives everything all the time."

Iverson gave her a black finger band with, in white, his number, 3, and his initials on it. "I used to never take it off," she said. "I'd sleep with it. People would say, 'What's wrong with you?' And I still wear it every time I play." She also wears his number.

True to her word, the black band was on the middle finger of her left hand Thursday night against Texas.

Parker works, on and off the court. In the last year, she has put about 10 pounds of muscle on her 180-pound frame. "Last year, you might be able to push her around in the paint," Wiley-Gatewood said, "but no more. She's gotten too strong."

Even after her knee injury, and staying here over the summer, she has increased her vertical leap by 2 inches to 28 inches, according to Moshak. (She won a slam-dunk contest during festivities surrounding the 2004 McDonald's All-American Game.) The extra vaulting inches came from labor in the weight room and industrious rehabilitation.

A low point for Parker? "I think it was the first game of last season," said Wiley-Gatewood, Parker's close friend. "I was sitting on the bench next to her. And she cried. And you know, it wasn't totally that she wanted to play herself, but she said, 'I think I can help the team.' And you know, by the way she had worked to get back, I think she did help the team, in spirit."

And she has already made an impression. "What you have to love about her as much as anything is that when the score is tight, she wants the ball, she has that confidence," Summitt said. "She can make big plays, either rebounding or defense or taking the last shot, and not worrying about being the hero or the goat."

High praise, though it is the kind of high expectations that Parker welcomes. She said her goal was to win four national championships, "and to help keep women's basketball improving and making it more exciting."

"Sure, we keep the traditional pure game that a lot of people like, but add that fast-paced game, the athletic game, some hip-hop with style," she said.

Then, this fundamentally sound basketball star and fervent competitor left her locker, where she has taped a picture of her with Allen Iverson, her sometime basketball model.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Texas Longhorns/Tennessee Lady Volunteers Recap

(2) Tennessee 102, (16) Texas 61

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee had lost to Texas four straight times, and Shanna Zolman was tired of it.

Zolman, a senior, scored 23 points to help the second-ranked Lady Vols beat No. 16 Texas 102-61 Thursday night, ending the streak and handing the Longhorns their sixth-worst loss in school history.

It was only the fifth time Texas (3-2) allowed an opponent to score over 100 points, the last time coming in 1999 in a 106-76 loss at Tennessee (6-0).

"I've never won against them. This team has never won against them, and coach was saying they're really the only team that's had a winning streak like they had against us," Zolman said. "That was definitely in the back of our minds this entire week."

Candace Parker added 17 points and 14 rebounds, Sidney Spencer had 12 points and Alexis Hornbuckle and Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood each added 11 points for Tennessee, which outrebounded Texas 45-25. The Longhorns had seven assists and 20 turnovers.

It was the Lady Vols' second blowout of a ranked team this season. They beat then-No. 9 Michigan State 83-55 a week ago in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

The Lady Vols increased their lead at the beginning of the second half to 23 by outscoring Texas 15-6. Zolman hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the span. And Tennessee kept pouring it on.

Lindsey Moss came off the bench and hit her first basket, a 3-pointer, with 8:57 left that put the Lady Vols up 79-49.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt improved to 16-11 over Texas and longtime rival Jody Conradt. The two are the winningest coaches in women's basketball. Summitt leads all men's and women's coaches in the NCAA with 888 wins, while Conradt is fourth at 872.

Conradt has seven freshmen, who made up what was considered the nation's top recruiting class. The Lady Vols have one freshman, Moss, and Parker and Alex Fuller, who both redshirted last year to recover from knee injuries.

The Longhorns took advantage of Tennessee's young players last season in a 74-59 victory in Austin, Texas.

"The players that lived through that night and saw what happened to us, they just wanted to get better," Summitt said. "We grew a lot."

Hornbuckle was a freshman in last year's game.

"I don't want to say I have pity for them, but I understand where they're coming from," she said.

Texas' lack of experience was glaring.

"They got us on the mat and we never got up," Conradt said. "I felt like we were going to have to ask permission to get a rebound."

Tennessee ran out to a 17-0 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes and were ahead by as many as 22 points twice in the first half.

The closest the Longhorns got before halftime was 37-24 after Earnesia Williams hit a jumper and Nina Norman had a 3, but Tennessee answered with Zolman's 3.

Norman and Tiffany Jackson each scored 13 points to lead Texas, and Carla Cortijo added 12.

(Way) Inside College Hoops: Pat Summitt's Office

Asking for entry into Pat Summitt's office is like trick-or-treating at a mansion. Intimidating, sure, but you just know there's something akin to a platinum Baby Ruth bar inside. With fingers crossed, SIOC knocked. With arms open, Summitt answered. (Between us, she really digs that door, "because I can close it.")

45-inch Philips plasma TV

"I'm always watching film or practice. I can watch movies, but I don't really have the time. Somebody asked me what my favorite movie was, and I said The Sound of Music. That's how long it's been since I've watched a movie. I'm big on watching practice. [Former Tennessee men's coach] Kevin O'Neill got me into watching practice video. I didn't listen to everything Kevin said, but that's one thing I listened to."

Coffee-table replica of Pat Head Summitt Court

"When something like this happens (Summitt's alma mater, UT-Martin, named its court in her honor), you go down memory lane. UT-Martin was a great place for me. I never thought I'd be a part of a sorority (Chi Omega)."

Commemorative 880-win ball

"That [win] was very special. The first thing I did was take care of my family. My mom got [the game ball from win] number 100. [My husband] R.B. and [son] Tyler got 880, and my brothers and sister got 200, 300, 400 and 500. People talk about trophies and basketballs, but it's the people I come into contact with who mean so much."


"Pictures are special because they tell the story. More than anything it's the relationship you have with those young women. When my father passed [a month ago], I heard from Ashley [Robinson, '04] and Tasha [Butts, '04], and they're playing out of the country. I heard from Shyra [Ely, '05] and Loree [Moore, '05]. It's not all about the good times. Sometimes you see the best of players during a time of adversity. They're great kids, and they're like my kids now."


"It's nice to be alone in my office sometimes, where I can just think about what's going on and not be bothered. That's why I like my window shades, too, because I can close them."

Heavy reading

"All of my basketball books and notebooks are important. But I'm real fond of [former UCLA] Coach John Wooden and John Maxwell when it comes to leadership books. And I have volumes of notes from clinics that are a great resource for seeing how other people do things."

Showdown In K-Town: Lady Vols Seek First Victory Over Texas In 5 Years

Contest To Be Nationally Televised

The top-ranked and unbeaten Tennessee Lady Vols have a five-year score to settle with the 16th-rated Texas Lady Longhorns Thursday night in Knoxville when the teams face off at Thompson-Boling Arena in a highly anticipated showdown that will be televised on ESPN2 (Chattanooga Comcast 29) starting at 7 p.m.

The Longhorns (3-1) have won the last four meetings against the Lady Vols (5-0) dating back to February 2002. Texas’ 74-59 victory in Austin on Thanksgiving night 2004 was Tennessee’s worst setback of the season

For Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in basketball history who is only 13 wins from reaching an unprecedented 900th victory, it will be another opportunity to match with her Longhorns counterpart Jody Conradt, who is second to Summitt with 872 wins.

The Lady Vols have had an opportunity to relax albeit briefly after a hectic opening week of the 2005-06 season in which they won five games in seven days including triumphs over top-10 teams Michigan State and Maryland at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

In her weekly teleconference, Summitt told reporters the Caribbean journey was worthwhile for her team’s development.

“I thought it turned out to be a great trip for us on and off the court,” she said. “The challenge of playing five games in seven days and those three games back to back (Michigan State, Gonzaga and Maryland) allowed us to really learn a lot about our basketball team. Hopefully we can capitalize on what we are doing well and continue to do so. We have a lot of aspects at which we need to get better and that is what we learned.”

Summitt said she was not happy about Tennessee’s transition game against Maryland (“a glaring weakness”) and is concerned entering the Texas game.

“Texas is a team that loves transition basketball.” She remarked. “They push tempo as well as anyone that we have played thus far.”

She also had praise for Longhorn All-American forward Tiffany Jackson and freshman guard Erika Arriran who are leading the Texas scoring so far this season averaging 12.8 and 11.3 points respectively.

“Tiffany is a great inside player and will be a challenging match up for us”, Summitt said of the 6-3 junior. “Erika brings a lot of confidence and stability from the perimeter. She shoots the ball well and is really a nice passer. She’s the type of player that will make their inside game better with her passing skills and stretch the defense with her shooting skills.”

Texas lost the season opener to New Mexico, but like the Lady Vols, they traveled to the Carribean Thanksgiving weekend, where they participated in the Junkaroo Jam in the Bahamas scoring wins over South Carolina and George Washington.

As for the Lady Vols, Summitt has been pleased with the progress of mega-freshman Candace Parker, who will be making her first ESPN appearance wearing the Tennessee orange.

“She has been adjusting to the intensity and tempo possession after possession at the college level for an extended period of time.” Summitt said of the 6-3 starting forward who leads Tennessee scoring (15.6 average) and rebounding (8.8 average). “That has probably been her biggest challenge.”

“As much as I think she can bring on the offensive end, I think she can bring just as much or more with her defensive presence based on her ability to defend on the perimeter and at the basket as well.”

Expected to join Parker in the Lady Vol starting lineup are senior guard Shanna Zolman (14.6 points per game), sophomore guards Alexis Hornbuckle (11.4 ppg) who scored a career high 19 against Maryland and Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood (9.6 ppg), who posted her career best of 12 in the Michigan State win and sophomore forward Nicky Anosike (6.8 ppg).

As for Texas, starters are expected to be Jackson, Arriaran, senior point guard Nina Norman, senior forward Daria Mieloszynska and sophomore forward Katrina Robinson.

On Sunday, the Lady Vols will be in Palo Alto, Cal., to face 11th-ranked Stanford.

Rookies have helped Texas control UT

Longhorns, after four in a row over Lady Vols, seek another

Several eyes of Texas will take their first close look at the Tennessee Lady Vols tonight.

Seven freshmen accompany the other UT for a women's basketball date at 7 at Thompson-Boling Arena. One Texas rookie, guard Erika Arriaran, starts. Five have played at once this season.

Recent history suggests that at least one or two of these new Longhorns will not be blinded by the brighter shade of orange.

"Young players just go play,'' Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.

Several have played key roles in Texas' four-game winning streak in the series, the longest active run of domination by a Lady Vols' opponent.

The streak began here on Feb. 12, 2002, when then-freshman Kala Bowers scored a game-high 22 points and classmate Heather Schreiber scored several clutch baskets in a 69-66 Texas victory.

The following season in Austin, guard Nina Norman, playing in the eighth game of her Texas career, nailed a 3-pointer with one second left, the winning basket of the Longhorns' 63-62 victory.

Back here in 2003, the trend continued with forward Tiffany Jackson introducing herself to Tennessee with 13 points and 12 rebounds in a 70-60 Texas victory.

The freshman siege stopped last season but not the Longhorns' stampede. Jackson, who was a mere four games removed from her first season, fast-forwarded to All-American candidate with 19 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks in a 74-59 Thanksgiving rout of the Lady Vols.

Texas coach Jody Conradt said most first-year players start early preparing for these games. She said Arriaran, already the team's leading scorer at 12.8 points per game, was on every school's recruiting radar as an eighth grader.

Conradt also gives credit to No. 2 Tennessee (5-0) and its high profile for helping to inspire the Longhorns' heroics.

"I expect them to come out and play out of their minds,'' Lady Vols senior guard Shanna Zolman said of the Texas newcomers, "just like every team we play.''

The Lady Vols would be doing the No. 16 Longhorns (3-1) a favor by inspiring such a response. Ushering such a large group of freshmen through a first season is a big challenge, one requiring a shepherd-like touch.

"Have you ever had a litter of seven puppies and tried to keep them in the basket at the same time?'' Conradt asked. "They are eager and athletic and they're very talented, even though it's difficult to see at times.''

Complicating matters is the fact that three of the rookies -- Carla Cortijo, Aubry Cook and Mariana Mergerson -- suffered anterior cruciate knee ligament injuries during their senior years in high school. Mergerson hasn't been cleared to start the season. Another player, Earnesia Williams, suffered the injury as a ninth grader and has been bothered by knee swelling.

The extensive medical history of the class, rated No. 1 by the All-Star Girls Report recruiting service, recalls Tennessee's celebrated class of two years ago. Conradt said the circumstances have impacted her brood's development, although she noted distinct improvement last week at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas.

In the meantime, she's directing her gaze, as well as her players' attention, toward the bright horizon.

"Some day this team will be good,'' Conradt said. "I don't know what day that will be. It could be the next day.''

Given Tennessee's recent struggles against Texas, it behooves the Lady Vols to scramble for some high ground on the youth front.

The Lady Vols do start a redshirt freshman (Candace Parker) and three sophomores (Alexis Hornbuckle, Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and Nicky Anosike).

They did lose their composure for stretches of last Saturday's 80-75 Paradise Jam championship victory over Maryland.

Summitt can imagine how this sounds to the casual observer or to anyone who watched the Lady Vols play like veterans down the stretch against the Terrapins.

"They're probably thinking I'm poor mouthing,'' she said. "That's OK."

What's not OK is Tennessee's rebounding struggles and lapses in transition defense. The deficiencies were glaring at times in the Virgin Islands and could be exploited by Texas, which likes a fast pace and spreads double-figure playing minutes among 12 players.

In this regard, Summitt is a concerned observer. She wants her players to feel the same way, regardless of their experience level.

"It doesn't change my expectations,'' Summitt said. "It probably causes me to be more cautious and have a sense of urgency for doing things a certain way."

McMahan likely done with ACL tear

Lady Vols signee suffers second injury to right knee

Before it really even got started, Cait McMahan's senior season is all but over.

A preliminary examination conducted Tuesday indicates the Heritage High School All-American guard and UT Lady Vols signee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a game Saturday.

McMahan was evaluated by University of Tennessee orthopedist Dr. Bill Youmans and underwent an MRI exam on Tuesday. Results of the test won't be known until later this week, but Heritage coach Rick Howard said he expects McMahan's season is finished.

"As of right now, we've been told it's an ACL (tear)," Howard said. "It'd be a miracle if she got to come back. Hopefully that MRI might show it's a partial tear or something, but I just don't see it happening."

A torn ACL means surgery and likely six months of rehabilitation.

McMahan injured the knee as she went up for a reverse layup near the 6-minute mark of the fourth quarter in a 68-63 victory over Austin-East. She initially was cleared by trainers and returned to the game for one play before the knee gave out again.

Last season, McMahan sprained the medial collateral ligament in the same knee during the last game of the regular season. That injury didn't require surgery, but McMahan, who averaged 20.9 points a game last season, missed the rest of the playoffs.

This injury is the ultimate low after a month of highs for McMahan and the Lady Mountaineers.

McMahan, a two-time Class AAA Miss Basketball finalist, signed scholarship papers with Tennessee earlier this month. She also was named a preseason All-American by Street and Smith's, and the Lady Mountaineers began the season ranked No. 15 nationally by USA Today.

"I think she's pretty devastated," said Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who spoke with McMahan by phone Tuesday. "It's her senior year. You go through a lot, no matter when it happens, but it's probably more difficult for her considering the timing."

Still, McMahan should be healthy in time to join the Lady Vols next fall. Tennessee players Candace Parker, Sade Wiley-Gatewood, Alex Fuller and Sidney Spencer all suffered knee injuries and underwent surgery last season.

The Lady Vols managed a trip to the Final Four last season despite the spate of injuries. The Lady Mountaineers would love to experience the same kind of success.

After McMahan's injury last season, Heritage defeated rival William Blount in the District 4-AAA semifinals. The Lady Mountaineers lost their next two games and were eliminated by Karns in the Region 2-AAA tournament.

Sophomore Katie Brooks likely will start in place of McMahan, as she did last season. Guards Hillary Tipton and Karly Stache also will be relied on more heavily with McMahan out.

"It's going to have to be a team effort," Howard said. "They all have to pick their games up a notch, take it up another level and compete."

A longtime family friend, Howard said he expects McMahan to make a full recovery.

"It's devastating, there's no doubt about it," he said. "It's heart-wrenching for her and her family. But she'll survive; she's tough.

"Three or four months down the road, she'll be shooting, getting ready to go to Tennessee."

Stanford seeks to revise script against Lady Vols

Stanford and Tennessee always seem to write the same story, dramatic right down to the agonizing ending for the Cardinal.

If it isn't Tasha Butts scoring with 1.7 seconds left to send the Lady Vols to the Final Four in March 2004, it's Shanna Zolman burying a running, 30-footer at the buzzer to beat the Cardinal last December.

Sunday, when second-ranked Tennessee visits Maples Pavilion, No. 12 Stanford will try once again to revise the script. The Cardinal has lost nine in a row to the Lady Vols, including six that have gone down to the wire.

``It's pretty obvious that Tennessee is the date that's circled on our calendar,'' Stanford star Candice Wiggins said Tuesday. ``We've just got to do it. You either prepare to win or you prepare to lose. I don't think we've prepared to lose in the past, but I think it's all mental, your mindset, going in there knowing that you can beat this team.''

Tennessee (5-0) is richly talented, maybe more so than last season. Candace Parker, who won the McDonald's All-America dunk contest against male counterparts two seasons ago, is healthy again after redshirting to recover from knee surgery. The 6-foot-3 small forward leads the Lady Vols in scoring (15.6 points per game) and rebounding (8.8).

Zolman is Tennessee's top perimeter threat and second-leading scorer. The 5-10 senior guard averages 14.6 points and two three-pointers per game.

And, of course, Pat Summitt is still diagraming the X's and O's. She has more victories (887, with only 172 losses) than anyone in the history of women's or men's college basketball.

``We're excited about the opportunity to play them,'' Stanford center Brooke Smith said. ``They're a really great team and have done really well this year. They're incredibly deep and incredibly talented, so it's a really good challenge. It will give us an idea of where we are.''

Stanford (3-1) is gradually gaining momentum after replacing five seniors from the core of last season's team. The Cardinal won Sunday at then-No. 14 Texas Tech 66-63 and will aim for a third consecutive victory Thursday at Pacific.

``We're just getting better and better,'' Wiggins said. ``Texas Tech was huge for us. It wasn't necessarily our best game, but to be able to play on the road and not play your best game and win says a lot about your team.''

A victory Sunday would say even more. The Tennessee series has become so one-sided that Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer called it ``masochistic'' after the loss last season.

Stanford last beat Tennessee 82-65 in December 1996 at Thompson-Boling Arena. That Cardinal team featured Kate Starbird and Jamila Wideman and was the last from Stanford to reach the Final Four.

Last season at Tennessee, it looked as if the Cardinal might finally beat the Lady Vols again. Stanford overcame an 11-point deficit with 6:51 left and tied the score 67-67 on Kelley Suminski's three-pointer with 5.6 seconds to go.

But then Zolman quickly drove downcourt and, as she said that night, ``just let it fly.''

When her desperation three-pointer went in, the Cardinal had to deal with one more crushing defeat.

``It was tough,'' Wiggins said Tuesday. ``It was hard because we worked so hard, and we were right there. When you're so close, those are the hard losses.

``It's going to be important for everyone to realize that it does come down to one box out or one shot. It's just going to be an intense game, but luckily it will be in the comfort of our own home.''

Summitt, Lady Vols poised for title run, revenge

BRISTOL, Connecticut - Pat Summitt's championship drought entered a new realm in 2004-05.

No longer was Geno Auriemma's Connecticut squad stealing the crown from the other bench. There were no Southeastern Conference rivals getting in the way. And for the fifth straight time, a 30-win campaign failed to yield a trophy.

Despite becoming the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, passing former North Carolina men's coach Dean Smith late last season, Summitt's mastery of the women's field was put on hold for the seventh straight time, while unheralded Baylor came out of nowhere to claim the crown.

The 53-year-old Summitt has not lost her edge, only an ability to win the big one since her sixth career title and third in a row in a remarkable 1998 campaign. Since that 39-0 run with what may be the greatest women's team of all time, she has lost three times in the title game and twice in the semifinals.

The Lady Vols have lost to the eventual champion or runner-up six of the seven title-less seasons, often making them the team to beat in order to have a chance at later glory. This season, Summitt's squad again may be the gateway for club's seeking the promised land, if not the champs themselves.

"What happened last year is history," Summitt said of her team's mindset heading into the season. "It's more about us getting ready to play a quality opponent."

The Lady Vols are young but loaded, and finally graced with the presence of Candace Parker, perhaps the most decorated high school player of all time.

Along with fellow 6-3 forward Alex Fuller, Parker redshirted her freshman season after a pair of surgeries on her left knee, and early results on her progress are astounding.

Parker, well-known for being awarded the title at the McDonald's high school dunk contest in 2004, scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Tennessee to a win in her debut and added 14 and nine rebounds in another victory the following day.

"She's had a great offseason," Summitt said of Parker. "While the injury is not something any of us were excited about a year ago, I think she's stronger, both mentally and physically."

Parker, Fuller, fellow recruit Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and standout frontliner Sidney Spencer all missed some or the entire season with injury, making Summitt's 30-win campaign a remarkable feat and giving her plenty to build on in 2005-06.

Shanna Zolman, a spectacular outside shooting threat and the club's top returning scorer, teams in the backcourt with Alexis Hornbuckle, who averaged 8.6 points and led the Lady Vols in assists (110) and steals (64) last season.

Up front, Summitt will lean heavily on 6-5 senior Tye'sha Fluker and sophomore Nicky Anosike.

"Tye'sha and Shanna were ready to be in the leadership role," Summitt said. "Shanna is fairly soft-spoken, not quite as expressive, but she leads in her own way and in a very effective manner. (Fluker) has provided valuable leadership and teaching to post players."

With enough guidance from her limited upperclassmen, Summitt has enough to be successful with the nation's most talented crew of youngsters. Whether or not they can handle the pressure late in the season will go a long way toward Summitt's chances at a seventh career title.

Baylor, whose win over an equally surprising Michigan State squad in the last April's championship game marked a potential shift away from the perennial powers, will be in the mix again with Player of the Year candidate Sophia Young.

Young teamed with since-departed Steffanie Blackmon in a formidable tandem last season, combining to average nearly 34 points. Now the undeniable star, Young will get more looks and should be among the nation's leading scorers, along with Louisiana State's Seimone Augustus, the 2005 National Player of the Year.

Augustus averaged 20.1 points and 4.6 rebounds to lead the Lady Tigers to their second consecutive Final Four. They opened No. 3 in the national rankings, a slot below Duke, the team LSU knocked off in the Elite Eight.

With three solid seniors - Monique Currie, Lindsey Harding and Mistie Williams - in their starting lineup, the Blue Devils are eyeing a run at their first national crown.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lady Vols Have Score To Settle With Texas

The answer is December 22, 2000 and the score was 67-59.

The question you ask? When was the last time the University of Tennessee Lady Vols defeated the University of Texas Longhorns on the basketball court?

It’s not a misprint and is a great sports trivia question. Almost five years have elapsed since the Lady Vols have emerged victorious against the Longhorns. It does seem unbelievable considering that the Lady Vols are customarily the dominators instead of the dominated. That’s how legendary head coach Pat Summitt became the winningest college coach of all time and is on the way to capturing an unfathomable 900th victory later this season. How many programs can only dream of what Texas coach Jody Conradt, who herself is a legend having amassed 755 wins in 29 seasons at Texas (overall, she has 872 wins including 869 entering this season), and her players have accomplished during their last four meetings with Tennessee?

When the Longhorns defeated Tennessee by 16 in Austin on Thanksgiving night 2004, the 74-59 loss was Tennessee’s worst defeat of the season. While four straight losses to the Longhorns was nothing to be proud of, it paled compared to six consecutive setbacks to the enemy opponent of the Big Orange Nation otherwise known as Connecticut. Then January came and so did UConn to Thompson-Boling Arena where Tennessee triumphantly sent the Huskies back to Storrs with a loss much to the ecstasy and relief of Big Orange loyalists.

Let’s do a quick review of how the number one Lady Vols celebrated this past Thanksgiving playing at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. One foe was the Michigan State team that ended Tennessee’s aspirations of a seventh national championship at April’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

Coach Summitt didn’t have to motivate her players for this rematch. Just ask Shanna Zolman, one of two seniors on this year’s squad along with Tye’sha Fluker.

“We were so hyped.” Zolman told reporters following Thursday night’s game. “We wanted Michigan State so bad.”

The Spartans were ready to redefine paradise after losing by 28 to the Lady Vols with Zolman leading the way with 19 points in the 83-55 shellacking.

The Lady Vols returned from the Virgin Islands still unbeaten at 5-0. However, Maryland gave Tennessee its toughest battle before the Lady Vols emerged victorious 80-75 Saturday.

Now Tennessee is preparing for a much awaited visitor on Thursday night at 7pm for a showdown that will be nationally televised on ESPN2 (TalkRadio 102.3 locally).

Texas is coming to Knoxville.

The 18th–ranked Longhorns are 3-1 since losing to New Mexico in the season opener. Texas is led by junior All-American Tiffany Jackson, who along with Zolman is a pre-season candidate for the Wade Trophy, awarded to the national player of the year.

Jackson has averaged 11.3 points and 6.8 points in the Longhorns’ wins over Sam Houston State and future Tennessee opponents George Washington and South Carolina.

The leading scorer for Texas has been freshman Erika Arriaran who has averaged 12.8 points an outing.

Meanwhile, Tennessee’s redshirt freshman sensation Candace Parker has lived up to her much publicized credentials. The 6-3 forward whose every move on the court is being photographed in anticipation of her first collegiate dunk, leads Lady Vol scoring with a 15.6 average as well as rebounds with almost nine per game.

On the defensive front, Parker has had 15 blocks and seven steals.

Zolman is averaging 14.6 points while sophomore Alexis Hornbuckle, who scored a career high of 19 against Maryland, is the third Tennessee player averaging double digits with 11.4.

Hornbuckle is also leading the team in steals with 14.

Sidney Spencer is averaging 7.6 points per game but the junior reserve forward has been perfect from the free throw line connecting on all eight attempts.

No Lady Vol has played less than 39 minutes total in the first five games this season, a testimony to the unending Tennessee depth. They have outscored the opponents 417-278.

This Tennessee team is traditionally living up to all of the expectations to which it is so accustomed to season after season.

Come Thursday night, one streak may continue or a new one might start.

If Candace, Shanna, Alexis and their Lady Vol teammates have it their way, it won’t be five losses in a row to the Longhorns.

A new streak will begin at one for Tennessee against Texas.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Paradise visit left message

Lady Vols realize what lies ahead this season

ST. THOMAS, VIRGIN ISLANDS -- In this warm, idyllic setting, Tennessee got a glimpse of the cold, foreboding women's basketball season that lies ahead.

Make that an eyeful.

Maryland, alone, supplied a 40-minute object lesson in the final of the Paradise Jam, leading for nearly 10 minutes of the second half and leading by as many as eight points before UT prevailed, 80-75.

"Maryland gave us a heads-up of what we're walking into,'' sophomore guard Alexis Hornbuckle said.

UT coach Pat Summitt was more blunt in saying, "We got our cage rattled tonight. It's a good thing for us."

Michigan State and Gonzaga gave Tennessee their best shots here as well. But the performance of No. 10 Maryland (4-1) was worthy of a NCAA regional final or a Final Four.

"They're a good team,'' UT guard Shanna Zolman said. "They played extremely well.''

By comparison, No. 2 Tennessee (5-0) wasn't too shabby either. Redshirt freshman Candace Parker, who averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for the three games, was the event's most valuable player. Hornbuckle deserved equal consideration, or at least a spot on the all-tournament team. In the final two games, she gathered 31 points and nine steals. While few of the Lady Vols seemed particularly inspired against Gonzaga on Friday, Hornbuckle, by UT's count, was recording 14 deflections.

"She was the best defender in this tournament at the guard position -- in my opinion,'' Summitt said.

The Lady Vols had an idea of what they were getting into this season. Now it should be as clear as the Caribbean waters that UT's bull's-eye has been magnified by the presence of Parker and all of the preseason hype surrounding her and the team.

Afterward, Zolman and Parker already were talking about No. 18 Texas and No. 15 Stanford, the next stops on UT's journey. The Longhorns, who have won four in a row against Tennessee, visit Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night. Tennessee plays at Stanford on Sunday.

"I didn't really realize how tough our schedule was until you step back and look at it,'' Parker said.

Or start wading into it. The season doesn't figure to get any easier, particularly if UT doesn't adjust its response.

The Lady Vols need to become better rebounders. Maryland owned the boards by a 41-32 margin. Michigan State also outrebounded UT on Thursday.

"There's no reason why we didn't rebound," Parker said after the Maryland game. "There's no excuse, in that game, for me to only have eight rebounds.''

Nice thought but Tennessee also needed more from centers Tye'sha Fluker and Nicky Anosike, who combined for six points and four rebounds against the Terrapins. Their production barely exceeded their nine combined fouls. They were eclipsed totally by Maryland's powerful post duo of Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper (32 points, 23 rebounds).

Conversely, UT could've gotten by with a little less from Zolman, who shot 4-for-16 from the floor against Maryland and was 14-for-45 for the three days.

Take away Zolman's numbers and the Lady Vols' team shooting percentage for the Jam was above 46 percent (68-for-147). Of course, they don't want to subtract any of Zolman's contributions. Still, the totals need to change.

"She has forced more this year than she has her entire career,'' Summitt said. "She's a senior. It's the grand finale. But she's a smart player. She'll understand and learn.''

Summitt's tone wasn't one of concern. Zolman tried to echo the sentiment.

"I don't feel any pressure to go out and score double digits every night,'' she said. "I'm not trying to force myself to do that.

"My eyes get so big when I get the ball. I'm getting good looks. I want to knock them down. I need to relax more.''

She had her chance to chill out Sunday. The team was scheduled to visit St. John and the island home of country music star Kenny Chesney.

For the occasion, she and Lady Vols could wear the Paradise Jam championship caps they received Saturday night. The caps were appropriately colored orange. Considering UT's play, they were a good fit as well.

Notebook: Three games in three days didn't adversely impact any of the Lady Vols who had knee injuries last season. Forward Alex Fuller was limited not by a sore knee but by a strained hip flexor.