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.”