Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Alyssia Brewer also scored 14 points and Vicki Baugh had 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Lady Vols (10-2). Coach Pat Summitt now has 993 wins in her quest to become the first NCAA coach—male or female—to win 1,000 games.
Heather Bowman led Gonzaga (11-4) with 19 points and Courtney Vandersloot had 13 points and 10 assists.
The Zags played without Jami Schaefer, Bjorklund’s older sister, who is out for six weeks with a knee injury. The game pitting the two sisters against each other was arranged two years ago after Bjorklund signed with Tennessee.
Tennessee, the two-time defending national champions, shot 50 percent and made 6-of-14 from 3-point range. Gonzaga made only 3-of-13 3-point attempts.
After a slow start, Gonzaga made 6-of-7 field goals to take a 23-20 lead, helped in part by eight Tennessee turnovers. But Glory Johnson’s layup tied the score at 24, and Bjorklund’s long 3-pointer put the Lady Vols up 27-24 and they never relinquished the lead.
Tennessee led 38-33 at halftime despite 11 turnovers. Gonzaga shot 43 percent in the half after starting just 4-of-18.
That five-point margin held into the second half, until Tennessee scored seven consecutive points for a 53-41 lead with 11:51 left. The Zags, plagued by poor shooting in the second half, could not make up the difference. They made just 9-of-30 shots in the second half.
The Lady Zags, who average about 1,900 fans per game, sold out the 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center for the first time.
Many in the crowd wore t-shirts saying “TennZaga,” a nod of support for the popular Bjorklund. Gonzaga traveled to Tennessee last season, and Bjorklund scored 23 points in the Vols’ 93-73 victory.
Tennessee was coming off a 79-69 overtime win over Stanford.
The Bjorklund sisters were both stars at University High in the Spokane Valley. Angie became Tennessee’s first recruit from Washington. She scored 2,103 points in high school, averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. She started as a freshman at Tennessee last year.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
She led Tennessee to a second straight national championship in women's basketball, was the first pick in the WNBA draft, took the league's MVP and rookie of the year awards, and helped the U.S. win a fourth-straight Olympic gold medal.
Now Parker has been selected female athlete of the year by members of The Associated Press.
"Wow, that's amazing," the 22-year-old Parker said. "It's been a great year from so many standpoints. I haven't really had a chance to sit back and let it all sink in."
Her selection Tuesday ended a five-year run in which a golfer (Annika Sorenstam, then Lorena Ochoa) won the award - the longest streak of any sport. Parker's accomplishments weren't lost on Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.
"Talk about hitting all the high points of one's life. She enjoyed an incredible run of back-to-back national championships, Olympic gold and all of her individual accolades," the Hall of Famer said. "It was an exceptional year for an exceptional athlete and person."
Parker received 36 votes from members of The Associated Press, barely edging Ochoa, who had won the previous two years. Ochoa won seven times on the LPGA Tour, including her second major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and led the money list for the third consecutive season.
Ochoa finished one vote shy of becoming only the fourth three-time winner of the award. Rounding out the top five were gymnast Nastia Liukin, swimmer Dara Torres, and gymnast Shawn Johnson.
Liukin took home the biggest prize in her ongoing rivalry with Johnson, edging her teammate and Olympic village roommate for the all-around title in Beijing. The gold medal had extra meaning for Liukin, coming 20 years after her father and coach, Valeri, finished a close second to his teammate at the Seoul Games. Liukin finished with five medals, one more than her father won in 1988.
The 41-year-old Torres won three silver medals at the Olympics. Johnson won four medals, saving the best for last. After getting silvers in the team competition, all-around and floor exercise, she finally won gold on balance beam, the last event.
Michael Phelps was a runaway selection for the AP's top male athlete, announced Monday. Besides Phelps, only Olympic sprinting sensation Usain Bolt and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning got more than a single vote. Phelps was named on 172 ballots, becoming just the third swimmer to claim the award.
Parker, the sister of Toronto Raptors guard Anthony Parker, is only the third basketball player to win the women's award, joining Sheryl Swoopes in 1993 and Rebecca Lobo in 1995. Parker averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in leading Los Angeles to the Western Conference semifinals before the Sparks lost in three games to the San Antonio Silver Stars.
"Losing has made me hungry to get better for next year," Parker said. "It's been on my mind since we lost to San Antonio."
She had a high of 40 points and grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 17 games. She led the league in double-doubles with 17, led the league in rebounding and led rookies in scoring, blocks (2.3) and minutes (33.6).
Losing is one thing that Parker didn't do often at Tennessee. Playing with a bruised and braced shoulder, she helped the Lady Vols win consecutive championships. She became the fourth player to win back-to-back Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four honours and left Tennessee with a year left of eligibility. She was clearly ready for the next level.
"Candace has invested so much time in her game and her skills. That's been the difference. Candace has separated herself by her competitive drive and her hard work," Summitt said. "She spends countless hours in the gym on her own. She knows her roles being the go-to player and a great teammate. How much more can one person accomplish in a year?"
Parker joined the short list of rookies to win the MVP in their first year in the major sports. Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld did it in the NBA, Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki in major league baseball, and Jim Brown in the NFL.
"I had no idea coming into the season that I would have the chance to be an MVP," said Parker, who became only the second player ever to dunk in the WNBA. "There are so many talented players in that league that I idolized growing up."
More than just a star on the court, Parker has become the face of the league. Her jersey was the WNBA's top seller and being a role model to so many young fans is important to the young star.
"It means a lot to me and is a huge responsibility," Parker said. "You want to continue to carry yourself in a positive way. I was lucky to have Pat Summitt as a coach and she taught us how to be role models."
Parker's already had a busy off-season, getting married to Sacramento Kings forward Shelden Williams. She also plans to head to Russia next month to play overseas.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
"I'm a 100 percent now," she said after carrying the 11th-ranked Lady Vols through overtime in a 79-69 upset of No. 3 Stanford on Sunday night.
Stricklen, who sat out Tennessee's win at Old Dominion on Thursday, scored eight of her season-high 25 points in the extra period of the 2008 national championship game rematch.
"She had a big game," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. "I guess she was kind of sick for the last game. She made me sick in this game."
Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 68 with 54 seconds left.
"I definitely felt set and I felt like my feet were under me and I wasn't off balance," Pohlen said.
Tennessee's Glory Johnson attempted a layup with 23 seconds left, but was charged with a foul. Lady Vol Alicia Manning blocked a shot by Melanie Murphy with 3 seconds left, but Stricklen couldn't get a shot off before time expired.
Stricklen entered the extra period hot, though, knocking down a long jumper and two 3s in succession to give the Lady Vols a 76-69 lead with 2:48 left.
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said she thought her players grew from a loss at No. 5 Texas a week earlier.
"In the first half against Texas, we came back to tie the game then we had some players who hit the wall. A lot of that was because of youth," she said. "We're getting better at understanding how to compete."
Angie Bjorklund added 16 points for Tennessee (9-2), and Stricklen and Vicki Baugh had seven rebounds each.
Jayne Appel lead the Cardinal (8-3) with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Pohlen added 16 points, and Kayla Pedersen added 15.
Stanford led early as Tennessee's shooting was cold for the first two minutes, but the Lady Vols slowly built and held onto a lead with help from four first-half 3s, three from Bjorklund.
Tennessee had a scare when Johnson collided with Nnemkadi Ogwumike and Stricklen and hit the floor, grasping her leg. She struggled to get up even with the help of trainers, but a checkup revealed a right thigh contusion instead of a major injury.
"We might have just dodged a big bullet there," Summitt said.
The game was similar to last year's regular-season meeting between the teams, a 73-69 Stanford win that broke the Cardinal's 11-game skid to Tennessee. The Lady Vols later avenged that loss — one of only two losses last season — with a 64-48 win in the national championship game for their eighth title.
The win prevented the young Tennessee team from dropping three games against ranked opponents before the end of the year. The Lady Vols haven't done that since the 1996-97 season.
Stanford takes home two losses from a three-game road trip through the South this week, having also dropped a game at No. 8 Duke.
"We missed a lot of five-foot shots, and we missed a lot of free throws. You can't make those mistakes," VanDerveer said. "We paid for it."
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tennessee (8-2), coming off a 73-59 loss at Texas that knocked it out of the top 10 after a record 211 consecutive weeks there, won for the 13th straight time in the series between two of the schools that first brought women’s college basketball to prominence.
Old Dominion (5-3) got 17 points from Tiffany Green and 14 from Jasmine Parker, but couldn’t overcome a major size deficiency as the Lady Vols outrebounded them 56-58.
Tennessee scored 23 second-chance points, and Old Dominion had just 13.
Jessica Canady’s putback and Jazzmin Walters’ layup gave the Lady Monarchs a 67-65 lead with 4:56 left but, just as the crowd whipped itself into an upset-minded frenzy, Bjorklund’s fifth 3-pointer put the Lady Vols back in front. It was the first of her two daggers.
The second came with 1:51 to play, after Shadasia Green’s putback gave the Lady Monarchs the lead at 71-70, again igniting the crowd. This time, Bjorklund connected from deep on the left wing to restore Tennessee’s lead to 73-71. She added a 15-footer with 1:03 to play, pushing the Lady Vols’ lead to four, and Old Dominion couldn’t recover.
Alyssia Brewer added 15 points for Tennessee and Glory Johnson had 10. Vicki Baugh and Alex Fuller each grabbed 12 rebounds for the Lady Vols, who had 26 offensive boards.
Canady and Jen Nuzzo added 11 each for Old Dominion.
Tennessee led 50-45 with 14:12 to play before Tiffany Green scored inside on a feed from Nuzzo, and Parker’s fourth 3-pointer 36 seconds later pulled the Lady Monarchs even.
Neither team led by more than four the rest of the way.
The Lady Vols led 24-18 until Tiffany Green’s two free throws with 6:39 left in the half sparked a 14-4 run for Old Dominion capped by consecutive 3-pointers by Parker.
The burst gave the Lady Monarchs a 32-28 lead, but just as quickly, Tennessee responded with an 11-4 spurt to end the half, getting two 3-pointers from Bjorklund in the run.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
“I think the Texas loss was really an eye-opener for our entire basketball team. It was a tale of two halves. The first half we managed to close it out and tie the game. Then Texas did a much better job in the second half and we didn’t defend well in transition. I think the experience they had versus our youth showed and you have to give them all the credit for how they played in the second half. Looking at Old Dominion, this is going to be quite a challenge. Watching their team, size, quickness, they do a great job of putting pressure on you in transition and that was something we struggled with a bit at Texas. They have a senior point guard that is a great advantage, which is where I think we really have to identify the ball and match-up and be better overall in transition game and in our board play. I haven’t had a chance to see Stanford except for the game last night at Duke, which was a heartbreaker for them at the end. We know Stanford is always going to bring in a team that is going to play well in the high-low, they space really well, and they can shoot the ball from the three, as well as focus on going inside. Certainly, coming off of our championship win over them last year, I can’t imagine them not being motivated to the max and we, obviously lost our starting five, so it could be a challenge for this young team from the standpoint of taking on a team like Stanford, who is so talented and well-coached, with I’m sure some revenge on their mind. But, we’ll take them one at a time and hopefully get better. We’ve had some good practices. I think our team is much more focused now and I think they better understand what you have to do for 40 minutes. We’ve yet consistently perform for 40, so it’s a big challenge.”
How is this coaching experience different for you from the past few years?
“It’s made me really have to think about how I can be patient, patient, patient, because I am not a real patient person. I knew going into this year that it was going to be a different experience and that it would be a teaching experience. And as I’ve told our staff that every moment is a teaching moment. We must be very mindful of that as opposed to losing our patience as coaches. Of course that happens from time to time. It is important that we teach and re-teach, show film, challenge them to watch game tape as well, and invest in preparation. I think they are starting to get it. I think the loss at Texas hurt them. It hurts coaches all the time because it’s our livelihood, but sometimes players can walk away from it and not feel what the coaches feel. I think the loss at Texas really got the attention of our team. I think because of that, once they got over being very down because of the loss and how they played in the second half, they’ve responded in practice pretty well throughout our workouts.”
Is it similar to parenting younger children as opposed to teenagers?
“Yes, it could definitely be that. I think that I’ve already calling in individuals one-on-one and encouraging them to not get down and discouraged, and just focus on the things they can control every day. And that’s coming to practice every day and trying to understand being a student of the game, and investing. Investing in the system, your teammates and keeping things very, very positive.”
Reflect back on the championship game, and how much did UT feel disrespected going in and how much did that factor in:
“Our team gave our staff confidence and it started with our preparation on the floor and having that day to prepare, and then in pregame. They were so loose, and I just thought they’re either going to be awful or they’re going to be great. You never know. As a coach sometimes you think the worst, but I liked the fact that they were pretty loose. When we got to the arena, even before we went, I just felt like our defensive pressure, if we could sustain it, would give us a chance to be right in the game and have a chance to win. Stanford looked so strong and was so good. We knew that if we had a chance to win, we had to definitely make Candice Wiggins our priority. As we put together the game plan, Dean Lockwood was in charge of that scout and I thought he did a phenomenal job, but players have to make that commitment. I just thought defensively, they did everything we asked them to do. I felt very good going in to the game, but it’s never like ‘hey, we’re going to go in and win this game’. It’s always touch-and-go until you see how they play on the floor. I have so much respect for Tara and her team, but for us it was one of our better performances of the year.”
How much did experience factor in there?
“There’s no doubt that we had a lot of experience on our team and I thought that was a key for us. We graduated five seniors so that’s very telling when you have that experience on the court. Even when we went to the bench and played Vicki Baugh, playing with four seniors gave Vicki Baugh a lot of confidence. I think that there is no doubt that experience matters. It was a real key for us in that game. Now that we don’t have experience, it shows you how much it can affect a team.”
On the Old Dominion series and Thursday’s game:
“I think the series has been a great one. We always know when we go to Old Dominion that we are going to have a battle. Their preparation, what they bring on the court and their toughness; just watching them I know we have our hands full in the paint with Tiffany (Green) and Jazzmin (Walters), having a senior point guard being able to step up and dribble and create, not only for herself but for her team, and watching how hard they push the ball, this is typical to me. This team reflects how Old Dominion typically plays the game and they play with great passion. Wendy has done a tremendous job, year-in, year-out. No question it’s going to be a challenge for our young team. For us to hang 40 minutes of effort and intensity and execution because we’ve yet to prove we’re a 40 minute team, that’s going to be key, going to be real key. And our bench is going to be key because we’re playing a lot of people. I think that could be a positive for us if the players coming off the bench can step in and be very effective for us.”
On playing time and the lineup:
“We’ll probably tinker with this all year. We’re starting now Vicki Baugh and Glory Johnson inside and Briana Bass at the point. I think that’s really been a good move in terms of having a point guard that reminds me an awful lot of Shannon Bobbitt, certainly not the experience that Shannon brought to the program. Her quickness, her speed with the basketball is as good as we’ve had. I’m encouraged by that. Angie Bjorklund in the lineup gives us a couple veterans in there and I think Angie is gaining more and more confidence from early on, but she seems to be committing more to getting open and is getting better at creating shots. I think she’s a better player all around. Shekinna Stricklen will be on the other wing. She’s young, but she is certainly a very gifted player and can play multiple positions, and will probably have to because Cait McMahan right now, we’re giving her some time to rest. It will be up to Shekinna and Alicia Manning to help fill in behind Briana.
“Cait is having some knee issues. She has her fair share of swelling and pain to go along with it. So I said ‘that’s it. Let’s rest.’ We’re going to rest her as long as it takes. She will not play tomorrow night.”
You were the last team to beat Old Dominion at home. Would that be motivation for you if the shoe was on the other foot?
“I hate you mention that. I’m not real good with numbers, Debby can tell you that. I just move on and live in the moment. I’m sure that’ll be great motivation. And as coaches we always try to use anything that is going to inspire our team and have a reason for revenge. That’s just another incentive, as if they need any, because any time we play, those teams bring great competitive intensity.”
Coach Wendy Larry said playing teams like Tennessee is to see what it’s like to play like the best:
“You just look at the parity in our game now. It’s probably the best ever as far as the depth on a given night that can knock off the top-ranked teams. Obviously, we’re experienced in that with such a young team. I knew that there would be a lot of growing pains, but felt like going and playing Old Dominion on their home floor, that’s going to be a huge test. I don’t see us going into a lot of gyms as top dogs anymore. We’re going to be underdogs and we’re going to have to fight because of our youth. We struggled at UTC, but we were able to close that one out. We struggled at George Washington and managed to win that game. We lose to Virginia on our home court. We go to Texas and play 20 minutes of good basketball and then we struggle. I think that’s going to be something, that right now, I’m focusing on what we have to do, but I’ll tell you that Old Dominion as a team, if you’re not ready to play against that kind of pressure, it’s going to be a long night, because they do a great job of getting pressure on you both ways, offensively and with their defense.”
On matching up with Stanford and it looked like Stanford struggled with the Duke pressure:
“Well, that was an interesting game and I’m not going to comment on anything that happened in the end. I watched that game closely. Stanford is very skilled and spread you out. They’ve got size on the inside. Last year, when we lost at Stanford, their high-low game just wore us out. They got so many good looks in the paint. I think they couldn’t afford to lose a point guard. At this point, all of us, each and every day, we can’t lose players. I think that with Duke’s pressure really did bother them, but you’re talking about a Duke team that has some experience. We don’t have that kind of experience, but we certainly will press because we’re too young. You have to give it every game. I don’t think we’ve played a game in years that we haven’t pressed at some point in time.”
On the rivalry with Stanford:
“I think it’s been great for us. Obviously, Palo Alto is a place we love to go and get some decent shopping out there. At the same time, we know we’re going to play an opponent that most likely we can see in the postseason and it’s going to be a great challenge. I love playing out there; I don’t like losing out there, or anywhere. I think Tara does such a great job. It’s good for us to play against a team that has the skill and the discipline and the competitive edge to them that Stanford does. They’ve made us better. I doubt that Tara would think the series hasn’t made them better. Again, it’s a team that last year that lost to our team, but our team is different team now. But good sets of players don’t forget. I know they don’t just forget what happened and I’m sure they are coming here very fired up with a score to settle.”
On Glory Johnson playing the three:
“I think it’s something we’re going to wait and see. It all depends on how the game unfolds with Old Dominion and Stanford and where we think we need Kelley Cain and Vicki Baugh to play inside together. We know that Glory can get to the rim any place on the floor in a timely fashion and rebound for us. She just has to keep herself out of foul trouble and have more composure at both ends. She’s an incredible athlete, but at times, she is over-anxious, and just has to learn to have more composure and settle down.”
“We are very excited to bring one of the best players in Tennessee women’s basketball history to our roster,” said Team President & COO Bill Bolen. “The excitement this will bring to our fans is huge.”
Holdsclaw had a legendary career at the University of Tennessee where she was a four-time Kodak All-American. She finished her collegiate career with 3,025 points and 1,295 rebounds, making her the all-time leading scoring and rebounder in school history (men’s and women’s), the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in SEC women's history, and the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in the history of the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Holdsclaw won the Naismith player of the year trophy twice (1998 and 1999) and posted a 134-17 win/loss record during her remarkable career as a Lady Vol. In 2000, she was named Naismith's Player of the Century for the 1990s.
University of Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summit echoed the sentiments of Meadors. “I’m excited for her [Holdsclaw] and I’m excited for the Atlanta Dream,” she said. “Great players usually make everyone around them better and I see Chamique doing that for Atlanta right away. She will bring a different dimension to the court for her team. She is tremendously skilled, she knows how to win, and she is an exciting competitor.”
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Lady Vols’ streak of 211 straight weeks in the top 10 ended Monday when they were ranked 11th in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. Tennessee, which lost at then-No. 6 Texas 73-59 on Sunday, was last out of the first 10 on March 3, 1997. The run went 56 weeks longer than the men’s record of 155 set by UCLA.
Meanwhile, Connecticut remained an unanimous No. 1 choice for the third straight week.
North Carolina, which stayed No. 2 this week, now has the longest active streak in the Top 10 with 70 consecutive weeks. It would take them nearly eight years to match the Lady Vols’ run.
Stanford and Texas A&M remained third and fourth. The Cardinal will visit Duke on Tuesday night. Texas switched places with Oklahoma after its win over Tennessee. The Longhorns are 9-0 for the first since 1987-88. It’s the first time they’ve cracked the first five since Dec. 27, 2004. Texas will host No. 21 Arizona State on Thursday.
Baylor, Duke, Louisville, and Auburn each moved up three places to round out the first 10.
It’s only the second time Tennessee has been ranked so low since opening the season at No. 3 in 1986—an almost unbelievable run for the Lady Vols, who have won all eight of their national titles during the stretch.
The Lady Vols schedule doesn’t get easier. They visit Old Dominion on Thursday before hosting Stanford on Sunday.
California fell three places to 12th after blowing a 26-point halftime lead to Oklahoma on Saturday. Notre Dame dropped five spots to 13th following an overtime loss to Michigan.
Rutgers was 14th, followed by Maryland, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Ohio State. Vanderbilt moved up one spot to 19th. Florida climbed three places to No. 20.
Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU and Georgia Tech rounded out the top 25. TCU fell five places after losing at Oklahoma State on Sunday. Georgia Tech entered the poll for the first time this season. The Yellow Jackets were in it for one week last season at No. 23 before falling out the next week.
Purdue was the lone team to fall out after losing to Valparaiso 71-60.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Still, there’s no measuring stick quite like the Tennessee Lady Vols, the defending national champs and winners of eight titles overall.
The No. 6 Longhorns measured up in every way Sunday, thumping No. 7 Tennessee 73-59 behind 21 points from Brittainey Raven and a dominant effort on defense and rebounding.
“We knew we could win,” said Kat Nash, who scored 12 points and hit a big 3-pointer in a 10-1 Texas run in the second half. “We knew if we played our hardest, we would win.”
Texas is 9-0 for the first time since the 1987-88 season.
“We are growing,” Goestenkors said. “We are going to be a national power and a team to always be reckoned with.”
Tennessee (7-2) lost five key players, including national player of the year Candace Parker, from last year’s national title team that pounded Texas 92-67 last season. The loss left Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt 10 wins shy of career No. 1,000.
“Night and day,” Summitt said in comparing this Texas team to last season.
A quick look at the stat sheet showed just how far the Longhorns have come.
Texas held Tennessee to 33 percent shooting, forced 18 turnovers and dominated the rebounding 52-41, including 19 offensive boards that led to 17 second-chance points.
“We missed so many, easy, easy shots in the paint,” Summitt said. “You’ve got to give Texas an awful lot of credit. They were tough.”
The young Lady Vols hurt themselves with fouls and 11 of 24 free throw shooting. Freshman Glory Johnson, Tennessee’s leading scorer this season, played less than three minutes of the first half because of foul trouble and was 7-of-14 from the line with several key misses in the second.
Johnson picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and went to the bench for the next 13. She was back in the game only 44 seconds before she picked up her third and went right back to her seat.
“I just had to play smarter,” Johnson said. “I just wasn’t as physical, wasn’t as aggressive.”
Texas started fast, hitting four of its first five shots, then went cold, going 5-of-26 for the rest of the half. The Lady Vols, even with Johnson spending most of the half on the bench and Angie Bjorkland picking up three fouls in the half, rallied from eight points down to make it 31-31 at halftime.
Johnson gave Tennessee it’s only lead the first time she touched the ball in the second and had eight of the Lady Vols’ first 10 points of the half. The game was tied 41-all when Texas cobbled together the big run that changed the game.
Raven started it with a baseline layup off a nifty no-look pass from Carla Cortijo before Raven and Nash hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Texas up 51-42.
“That’s what we’re known for, driving in and kicking it out to our shooters,” Raven said. “Once we got that going in the second half, we hit those threes,”
Another 3-pointer by Nash made it 57-46. Tennessee got back within six before Johnson and Vicki Baugh missed four straight free throws that could have pulled the Lady Vols back into the game.
After the misses, Texas steadily built its lead to put the game away. Raven made a pair of free throws and Cortijo drove for a layup to push the lead back to 11.
Cortijo, who played only six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, finished with 11 points and five assists and Ashley Lindsey had 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
“This was a big win for us,” Raven said. “We’ve been waiting for a big game like this.”
Saturday, December 13, 2008
'We just decided that with both of our schedules, it would be better to elope,' Williams told the newspaper.
Parker, who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks, was named MVP and Rookie of the Year in September by the WNBA.
The newlyweds live in Sacramento with their three dogs.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The young Tennessee squad had its best shooting game of the season, including a career-high 20 points by freshman Shekinna Stricklen, in an 81-52 victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday night.
“We devoted one whole practice this week just to shooting. We were able to get in a lot of reps,” Summitt said. “We’ve been doing so much teaching that I think we’ve suffered a little bit time-wise not getting reps.”
The result was a season-high 52-percent effort from the field and 77-percent shooting at the line by the Lady Vols (7-1). Angie Bjorklund added 16 points for the Lady Vols, and Glory Johnson had 11.
The improvement came as Summitt fielded her youngest starting lineup in history with freshmen Stricklen, Johnson and Briana Bass and sophomores Vicki Baugh and Bjorklund.
“I think we as a team, we’re about to shock the world,” said the 5-foot-2 Bass, whose play energized both her team and the fans. “Even though we’re young, we’re about to bring some heat, so they better get ready for us.”
Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Tennessee return to the Final Four, even after losing all five starters from last year’s national championship team.
“They’re one of the youngest teams in the country, but I thought tonight they played a lot better than I’d seen them on film,” he said.
Despite the Lady Vols’ improved shooting, Insell’s Blue Raiders (5-4) never let them get too comfortable, especially thanks to Alysha Clark’s 28 points. Brandi Brown added 11.
“We knew (Clark) was going to be tough to defend,” Summitt said. “She’s a tough-minded player. She’s tough with the ball. She’s a player that keeps them in the game.”
Tennessee missed its first four shots—grabbing the offensive rebound each time—before Baugh hit a jumper. The Lady Vols jumped out to a 20-6 lead on a jumper by Johnson with 11:58 in the first half.
Middle Tennessee starting making shots as Tennessee began missing, hitting 13 straight to cut the Lady Vols’ lead to 20-19 with a jumper by Clark with 6:21 to go in the first half.
Tennessee responded with a 12-1 run.
Alyssia Brewer grabbed two steals in the last minute before the half, using one to set up Stricklen and driving the other to the hoop. Stricklen hit a 27-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving Tennessee a 41-23 lead, the largest of the half.
The Blue Raiders threatened again after the half, going on a 17-2 run. Chelsia Lymon’s layup in the paint cut Tennessee’s lead to 55-44 with 8:56 left, but it was as close as Middle Tennessee got.
Lymon fouled out with 7:43 left in the game, leaving the Blue Raiders with sophomore Anne Marie Lanning and freshman Tina Stewart to play at the point.
“We’ve just got to have other players step up,” Clark said. “We can’t have inexperience there. They’re going to have to grow up quick.”
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
'I think our DePaul game was a good challenge for us and we responded very well. Overall, I am pleased with the exception of not closing out the first half. I thought we brought a lot of energy. We probably had better spacing in that game than we had prior to that. That was good because I really felt like DePaul was coming in playing very, very well; I was pleased there. Last night was a different kind of challenge for us. George Washington, certainly, brought a lot of energy and played us tough. The physicality in that game was a challenge at times. I thought it really affected the inside game defensively, took us out of what we wanted to do. We didn't do a good job of running to the rim. We got pushed off the block. I thought our post people were over anxious, but at the same we found a way to win. I thought our defense really had to have it. We did some good things, particularly the margin we had on the boards. Not that we were missing shots, but getting 25 offensive rebounds was a big help for us. We have a long way to go to get where we need to be as a team. Some of our freshmen didn't seem to be ready for the intensity and the pace of that game, so we definitely shortened our bench. Now we're on break for exams; we're off today, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we'll probably practice three of those four days. I'll probably give them another day off to prepare for exams. It's a good time for them to re-focus, not only for basketball, but for exams coming up and what they have to do to heading into exam week.'
'Middle Tennessee beat LSU so that speaks to what they are capable of doing as a team. We have to be ready. It's like when we played at UT-Chattanooga and you playing teams in your state, it's always a hard-fought, intense game. Preparation will be key. In particular, you know you're trying to play as we've been trying to play a number of players, I'm not sure that our bench is going to be as deep as I've anticipated, so we have to get ready for a tough Middle Tennessee team. Going on the road at Texas and at Old Dominion, having those games, will be a tremendous test for us. Probably, without question, in terms of road games, that should be the two toughest to date. I think we have a lot of work to do between now and then.'
On the team's shooting:
'Watching the tape, and watching the game tape and the breakdown tape and just focused on our inside game, that's probably my biggest disappointment. The lack of composure against the size and it was physical game in the paint. I really felt like Vicki and Glory both, as well as Kelley, just really rushed. A lot had to do, I'm sure, with the physicality of the post game and what they were doing a lot of times. They dribbled two, three, four times to try and make something happen as opposed to catch and read. We talked about it on the plane and I'm sure Dean will be right on top of that. We ran to the block, we didn't run to the rim, we were so inconsistent in establishing the paint points that we typically have been much better at. Again, we talked about it as a staff, we've got to be more mindful. When that happens, our eyes have got to be on it, see it and correct it right away. I thought that was costly for us. And I think that's why our posts shot so poorly because they were having to dribble too much to create scoring opportunities and we got in to rushing and forcing. That obviously hurt us. I was a little disappointed with our perimeter game. Angie was two for six, but hit a great three for us. Cait didn't score'we need a little bit more scoring out of our point guard, particularly if they're going to be left open, and she got some good looks. We just didn't shoot the ball well. Does that happen on the road' Yes. More so than at home, but at the same time, I thought we had a lot to do with it. They played tough defense on us and we were impatient offensively and didn't screen, didn't assist, didn't work well together.
On being over-anxious:
'First and foremost, they didn't run to the rim. They got pushed off the block early. That's where I take responsibility for that. I just did not feel in watching the game we ever really got the kind of post-up opportunities and I think that we settled for just going on the block and trying to score from there as opposed to just beating people down the floor. That's where Glory and Vicki have been so good and we have to re-visit that every day in practice as we want to run rim to rim. We didn't do that consistently.'
Free throw and outside shooting has improved, is this reason to believe this is a way this team will evolve:
'I think it's obviously going to take time and its going to take on the part of the people that I got frustrated last night with'lack of help that I felt like we got from Brewer, Manning'I didn't give Manning a chance, so I told her last night 'I got really focused after Brewer and Gray' and decided early on to shorten the bench. I don't regret that because I thought we had to have some people that had been producing and that's why I wanted to go with Baugh, Johnson and Cain. Stricklen, once she got re-focused, I thought she stepped up and was key for us. If you look at point guard play, we didn't get a lot of scoring there. That kind of put even more pressure on our post game.
On point guard play:
'I think looking to be more aggressive and looking for their shots. Like I said Cait didn't shoot well and Briana only took two shots. I didn't mind the fact that we went inside, but I do think we have to establish some balance on the perimeter. We've got to have inside-outside. There are a lot of people, just like last night, they're just going after our post game.
On post play:
'They were sagging off and felt like our perimeter game could've really helped us just by knocking down a couple shots. That's where Angie's got to get in a better rhythm and probably should've played Syd more just looking at the tape. She's really starting to play with confidence and not forcing things and knocking down some shots for us. We're still learning as we go and sometimes it's wait and see, and its wait and see during the game who is going to be driven. I thought at the end Angie stepped up and made big three for us and Stricklen came back in and definitely had an impact. It's there it's just a lack of consistency.'
If last night was good preparation for future road games:
'Certainly it was a good challenge for us and we know we have those road games that are going to be a huge test for our basketball team. Being in that environment was probably a good thing for us in terms of preparation and hopefully it did things for the players that didn't come ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work right away. Hopefully it will have a positive impact when we get ready to play again on the road.'
On finding a way to win:
'In both of those (road) games we found a way to close it out. The little bit of difference in last night's game is being able to answer everything they came at us with. In the end, being able to close out the game we did. At Chattanooga, we're down and fighting to get back. Last night we're fighting to hold on to the lead. I think both were valuable learning experiences for our basketball team and that's good. At the same time, because of the lack of performance in certain areas, I think, we won, but it still gives us an opportunity to teach because they know we did not play the way we wanted to play. Granted, George Washington had something to do with it. They were physical, aggressive and tough-minded. They played inside and outside. It was a good challenge for us, but also good preparation for the future.'
On zone play:
'I thought there was an important change'I was a little hesitant to go to it. I felt like they were in such a rhythm going against our man, trying to break us down off the dribble. I thought we did a really nice job in particular defending Booker. I thought we extended pretty well.'
On the team's communication:
'I think there was a sense of urgency in our zone, when we went to it, and that hasn't always been the case. Because we play so much man-to-man, there are times we've been in zone and it seems like a resting defense. It wasn't last night, I thought it was a very active defense for us last night. It did make a difference and it was a good change at that time.'
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Seventh-ranked UT (6-1) was leading 64-59 with 84 seconds remaining, but Angie Bjorklund, playing in just her second game this season after being afflicted with back spasms, and Alex Fuller each sank three-pointers to end GWU's hopes of getting their first win over the Lady Vols in 10 meetings.
Glory Johnson, who was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday for the second time this young season, had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds along with four steals.
Fuller, the lone Lady Vol senior, added 13 points while freshman Shekinna Stricklen scored 12 to go with her five steals.
Bjorklund added eight points and Vicki Baugh had 10 rebounds.
Three GWU players finished in double figures led by Tara Booker's 14 points followed by Jazmine Adair with 12 and Tiana Myers' 10.
The Lady Vols will host Middle Tennessee Thursday night in Knoxville at 7 p.m. in an intrastate showdown that will be televised on FSN South.
Monday, December 01, 2008
The Lady Vols (5-1) also got 16 points from freshman Shekinna Stricklen and 12 from freshman Kelley Cain as coach Pat Summitt notched career victory No. 988.
DePaul (5-2) put four players in double figures, but shot 37.3 percent from the field. Sam Quigley led the Blue Demons with 15 points and Deirdre Naughton added 14.
It was the third time this season Johnson, a freshman from Knoxville, has hit the 19-point mark. She added seven rebounds.
Tennessee made an early statement with a 13-0 run to begin the game, but DePaul managed a 10-0 run and trailed 44-34 at the half.
Tennessee improved to 18-0 in its series against DePaul.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Lady Vols (4-1) rallied from a sluggish start to pull away late in the first half and give coach Pat Summitt her 987th victory in 35 seasons.
The two-time defending national champion Lady Vols trailed 19-18 midway through the first half, but outscored the Lady Catamounts 31-7 in the final nine minutes for a 49-26 halftime lead.
Tennessee sophomore Vicki Baugh added her second consecutive double-double with 11 points and a team-high 14 rebounds.
Western Carolina (2-2), coached by former Lady Vol Kellie Jolly-Harper, now has two losses to top-10 ranked teams. The Lady Catamounts dropped their season opener at No. 4 North Carolina.
Lauren Powell led Western Carolina with 14 points.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Baugh reached the double-double before sitting down for good to rest her knee with 14:52 to play. Amber Gray and Alyssia Brewer each had 16 points to lead the Lady Vols. Glory Johnson added 12.
Whitney Jones, the only starter who didn’t get in early foul trouble, led Louisiana Tech with 23 points. Keshia Warren grabbed 10 rebounds.
Ahead 40-33 at the half, Tennessee (3-1) came out on a 19-3 run, punctuated by a jumper plus one by Glory Johnson to give the Lady Vols a 52-36 lead with 16:40 left.
With just over 10 minutes left Louisiana Tech starters Jasmine Bendolph, Tiawana Pringle, Adrienne Johnson and Shanavia Dowdell had four fouls apiece. The Lady Vols wore down the Lady Techsters (1-2) from there.
The first half was marked by hot-and-cold streaks, and both teams struggled with sloppy play and ball control. Tennessee had 34 points off 28 Louisiana Tech turnovers, and the Lady Techsters had 12 points off 16 Lady Vols turnovers.
Louisiana Tech went cold for 3 1/2 minutes and Tennessee went on a 13-0 run to go ahead 34-19 with 5:10 to go before halftime on a free throw by Gray.
The Lady Techsters answered with their own 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 38-33 just before the break.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
For example, the Lady Vols could have played terrible defense and lost, to boot.
Instead, they only got a scare until Vicki Baugh made a tiebreaking free throw with 53.7 seconds remaining and No. 5 Tennessee beat Chattanooga 66-63 on Friday night to avoid a major upset.
“Probably everyone in the building had the opinion that we haven’t worked on defense not a day,” the Tennessee coach said. “That’s about the most miserable defense that a team could play when it comes to the 3-ball.
“Believe it or not, we did work on it this week.”
Glory Johnson scored 19 points for the Lady Vols (2-1), who trailed 61-53 with 6 minutes remaining after building a 10-point lead earlier in the half.
Alicia Manning drilled a wide-open 3-pointer from the left corner to tie it at 63 with 1:22 left.
Baugh, Cait McMahan and Shekinna Stricklen each made a foul shot in the final minute for Tennessee, which has won 17 straight against Chattanooga (1-1).
Shanara Hollinquest scored 17 for Chattanooga, which squandered its final chance at an upset.
With 3.7 seconds left, Baugh missed a pair of free throws and the Lady Mocs used their final timeout with 2.6 seconds remaining.
But Chattanooga’s Megan Rollins, unable to find an open player from her spot on the baseline, called a timeout to avoid getting a 5-second violation.
She got a technical foul for calling a timeout when her team didn’t have any remaining, and Chattanooga never got a chance to win the game.
“I didn’t realize we didn’t have any timeouts left,” Rollins said. “I thought the previous timeout was a media timeout.”
The whole affair was far too close for Summitt’s comfort, especially after the Lady Vols were upset earlier in the week by Virginia.
“I’m just wondering how many more of these I got in me,” Summitt said.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
(on Tennessee’s search for a go-to player): “Obviously, we don’t have an established go-to player. We have to do this as a team. They (Virginia) have two go-to players. I have to remind myself that we’re young. Someone has to step up. Kelley Cain has not been in practice. She battled hard, but she was not as efficient tonight. We were playing without Vicki Baugh and Angie Bjorklund. We haven’t lost that much in this arena, and we don’t want it to be a habit.”
(on Tennessee’s Glory Johnson being assessed with a technical late in the game): “I didn’t see what happened. I thought she threw an elbow. I told her that it’s not about her. She has to keep her composure. It was a very physical game. There was a lot of physical contact in the game.”
(on teams feeling they have a better chance to beat Tennessee this year): “I think people feel that they have a chance to beat us this year because we’re young. The bad part for our coaching staff and our players tonight is that we didn’t play as hard. We have to commit to great defense. We took possessions off tonight. There will be a lot more repetitions us. We’ve got to grow up. We definitely had a chance. Is that youth? Some of it is. . .We lost our composure at times. We played in a little bit of a panic as opposed to being composed and executing. We’ve got to practice our late-game situations.”
(on sophomore Sydney Smallbone): “Sydney’s really been great. She’s really getting her shot off quicker. She does it in a very quiet way, and I’m OK with that. I thought she did a good job defensively, at least until I watch the film, which I will over and over. We’ve got to change our mindset defensively. We competed in stretches. We can’t win against a veteran team like this by playing in stretches. We’re not doing what we need to do.”
(on Tennessee’s defense): “As far as our inside game, we were caught out of position. (Alyssia) Brewer, (Glory) Johnson, and (Alex) Fuller let them get way too many touches on the low block. We just weren’t tough enough. We didn’t have a consistent drive on every possession.”
Cait McMahan (on the loss): “You always learn more from a loss than a win. We’ll go to practice and just rebuild.”
“We hate to lose. We weren’t supposed to lose. I think averything happens for a reason. We’ll get better. We just have to rebuild. We’ll learn lots from this game. It will make a huge difference.”
(on Virginia’s Monica Wright): “She played outstanding. I knew in high school that she was a great player. We knew coming in what she could do. It’s our fault. We knew from the scouting report that she’s a great player.”
Glory Johnson (on being assessed a technical foul): “It was a tough call. It was a physical game on both sides. It just happened that I got the technical. We were tied up, and I got the call.”
(on the loss): “We know that Virginia is a great team. We didn’t play our best. A loss is a loss. We have a lot of talent on our team, and tonight, we weren’t using it as much.”
(on Virginia’s Monica Wright): “She had a lot of open shots. Our helpside (defense) needed to get there faster against her. We need to get there quicker.”
Sydney Smallbone (on the reaction to the loss in the Tennessee lockerroom): “Obviously, we were quiet. There wasn’t much to say. We’ve got to learn to fight through adversity down the stretch. We didn’t respond. Give Virginia credit.”
(on Tennessee’s need for a go-to player): “Candace (Parker) was a great player, and teams keyed on her. Kelley Cain needs to get more touches for us. She’s a big body down low. In the first half, if we had gotten her more touches, she could have set the tempo. That could have made the difference for us.”
(on maturing as a team): “You’ve got to play for 40 minutes. You’ve got to make plays. We’ve been in pressure situations. We have to mature a lot more. The turnovers broke us.”
Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan
(On returning to Thompson-Boling Arena): “My memories of being here in this arena and in this locker room are not very good. I told my team before the game started that I was in this exact same locker room back in 1990. That was my first Final Four and I was very nervous and we didn’t know how to act. We didn’t win that game against Stanford here, and ever since then when I’ve returned it was usually just a complete drubbing, so I was pretty surprised to see our team step up like they did.”
(On the youth of Tennessee): “I think the Tennessee team is very talented. I think Glory Johnson is a special talent. I think all their kids are going to be very special. Really at this time of the year it comes down to who has the most veterans out there at once. I think we played the boards well and that’s what I was most concerned with. We also defended well towards the end of the game and that’s what it came down too.”
(On coming back from an eight-point halftime deficit): I reminded my team before we started the game that we couldn’t afford to have a lot of turnovers. After halftime I just really wanted them to settle down and stop the turnovers. We only had six (turnovers) in the second half. I felt like being down eight points wasn’t that bad and we would give them a game. I thought Monica Wright’s performance was absolutely incredible. She just put us on her back and carried us.”
Virginia junior Monica Wright
(On staying poised): “I would say we are team that’s come a long way and grew up tonight. Coach reminded us in this house, we are not going to get anything handed to us. We had it in our mind that we were going to have to be tougher mentally, be tougher physically and be poised at the end of the game.”
(On Tennessee’s tradition): “Coach Ryan reminded us not to be intimidated by the names on the jerseys. She reminded us to just play our game. This place is definitely legendary. They’ve had so many great players here that have made it to the WNBA and are in coaching. It was really important for us to play the team we were playing and not be intimidated.”
(On scoring 35 points): “I was just trying to play relaxed and not force anything. Coach Ryan settled me down a few times when I was doing too much. She told me to just play within myself and I stay relaxed. I had my team to rebound me if I missed.”
Saturday, November 15, 2008
“That is the calmest I ever have been in 35 years in a locker room,” Tennessee women’s basketball coach said.
But her team, composed of six freshmen, was glaringly uptight.
And for the first half of the Lady Vols’ 68-39 season-opening win against San Francisco at Thompson-Boling Arena, it showed.
“They put so much pressure on themselves,” Summitt said, “it was obvious they were kind of like a deer in the headlights.”
Summitt had an idea why.
Before the game, the Lady Vols celebrated last year’s national championship, raising their eighth NCAA banner to the rafters before a cheering crowd of 13,400.
“I’m sure (the players) were thinking, ‘That’s what we’re supposed to do,’” Summitt said.
In attendance for the occasion was former All-American and reigning WNBA MVP Candace Parker, whose presence may have added to the nerves of the newcomers, Summitt said.
“The combination of having Candace, having the banner go up and having the crowd here, I think it was a little overwhelming for some of us,” Summitt said.
After jumping to a 9-3 lead with a 3-pointer from freshman Shekinna Stricklen, the Lady Vols struggled to find a rhythm in the first half. San Francisco (0-1) tied the game at 24 with 1:59 left before the break.
“I think we all went into the locker room at the second half and said we need to calm down and play more together,” Lady Vols senior forward Alex Fuller said. “We were kind of rushing our shots, just rushing our offense. We needed to settle down.”
And they did.
Leading 32-24 at the half, Tennessee convincingly pulled away, stretching its lead to 31 with 2:32 left in the game.
Freshman forward Glory Johnson had a team-high 17 total points and 12 rebounds.
Dons guard Shay Rollins led her team with 17 points, though she was held to one field goal in the second half. She is the sister of Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who was at the game.
Stricklen added 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The freshman wasn’t lacking in effort, either. In a second-half play, she dived into the first-row seats for a loose ball.
“I told her don’t ever go over a chair again,” Summitt said. “This is the second time. She didn’t listen to me after the first. I said, ‘Unless we’re in the national championship game and that could be the difference.’”
“She lays it on the line whatever you ask her to do.”
By necessity, Tennessee’s freshmen had a large role in the game, scoring 53 total points. As expected, sophomore Angie Bjorklund sat out with back spasms along with sophomore Vicki Baugh, who is still rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee suffered in last season’s national championship game. Redshirt freshman Kelley Cain was unavailable with a head injury.
Even without them, Tennessee eventually overmatched San Francisco with its size advantage.
“I think what caught up to us was their physical dominance,” said San Francisco coach Tanya Haave, who played at Tennessee from 1980 to ’84. “I think they’re going to be very good, and I’m very proud to come back here as an alumnus and see that.”
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The Hall of Fame coach will lead one of her youngest teams ever this season after losing 2008 player of the year Candace Parker and four other key players from last season's national championship squad that finished 36-2.
"The big thing right now is that we are trying to teach six true freshmen how we do things here at Tennessee,'' Summitt said.
Tennessee, ranked 7th, is always expected to make a run at the NCAA title - Summitt has won two straight and eight overall - but hardly anyone expects the Lady Vols to win a third straight with so much youth on the floor.
They weren't even picked to win the Southeastern Conference this season during the league's annual preseason media days. Instead, they were pegged to place second behind rival Vanderbilt.
A national title three-peat might be just out of reach, but there is one landmark to achieve this season. Summitt is only 17 wins away from amassing 1,000 in her career and could reach the mark as soon as mid-January.
"When I think about a thousand wins ... I can't believe I've been doing it this long and we've had the success we've had. But there's a correlation there to winning. The success comes from having the best talent,'' Summitt said.
She prefers talent over experience.
Forward Alex Fuller is Tennessee's only senior, and sophomore guard Angie Bjorklund is its only player with significant starting experience. Bjorklund's 8.4 average points per game and 68 3-point shots last season make her the most productive returning player.
Summitt is looking to both Fuller and Bjorklund to be more vocal team leaders, a role that isn't completely natural for them.
"This year is definitely going to be different - a reloading year - but I'm looking forward to taking that role on,'' Bjorklund said.
Aside from Fuller and Bjorklund, sophomore forward Vicki Baugh and sophomore guard Sydney Smallbone are the only other two players who saw significant playing time last season.
Summitt brought in the top 2008 recruiting class, chock full of McDonald's All-Americans, to fill the gigantic hole left by Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta Auguste. The quintet combined to average 55.2 points last season.
For Summitt, teaching freshmen players how to train, practice and communicate at a higher level is a role she relishes.
"Some catch on a little more quicker than others. A lot of that has to do with just the environment they're coming from,'' she said.
The ones who have caught on most quickly are guard Shekinna Stricklen and forward Glory Johnson, who played for high school teams with a similar up-tempo style to Summitt's. Both players have a shot at making a big impact early.
Stricklen said there's still plenty of lessons she's learning about playing defense and communicating with her teammates.
"In high school you're the best player on the team, and they look to you to do everything. But when you come to the University of Tennessee everyone is good and you need to learn to rely on each other,'' she said.
Tennessee's freshman class also features point guard Briana Bass and forwards Amber Gray, Alicia Manning and Alyssia Brewer.
Other players Summitt will lean on early are a few Lady Vols who have spent much of the off season rehabbing injuries. Sophomore point guard Cait McMahan and freshman center Kelley Cain are returning after taking redshirt seasons to recover from knee surgeries.
Baugh, whose 4 rebounds per game and 29 blocks last season are the most of the returning players, also spent the offseason recovering from a knee injury she sustained in the NCAA title game. Baugh will be out for at least the first two weeks of the season as she continues to rehab.
The Lady Vols will celebrate last year's national championship by raising their NCAA banner to the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena when they open their season Saturday against San Francisco.
Tennessee's schedule is as tough as ever with non-conference games at Texas, Old Dominion, Gonzaga, Rutgers and Oklahoma. The Lady Vols will host their NCAA title game opponent, Stanford, at home, as well as DePaul and Duke.
They also play defending SEC regular season champion LSU at Baton Rouge and face Vanderbilt twice.
"We're going to have to grow up in a hurry,'' Summitt said.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
A bigger, more experienced opponent tried to impose a speed limit on the Lady Vols on Sunday afternoon but succeeded for only about 10 playing minutes.
Love & Basketball barely resembled a speed bump as UT pulled away to an 85-50 victory before a crowd of 11,149 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
UT coach Pat Summitt has been specific with her marching orders and the Lady Vols are doing their double-time best to comply.
"They're really trying to stay in the up-tempo mode,'' Summitt said. "That's what we want to do."
UT took the lead for good at 12-11 with 11:08 left in the first half and bolted to 29-point advantage by the break (42-13) against a team of former collegiate players who reside in Southern California.
Despite some performance lapses, the lead grew to as many as 40 points on two second-half occasions in Tennessee's final tune-up before Saturday's regular-season opener against San Francisco.
Shekinna Stricklen finished with a team-high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting. She was one of five Lady Vols scoring in double figures. Kelley Cain and Sydney Smallbone each scored 12. Alyssia Brewer scored 11 and Amber Gray added 10.
Brewer grabbed 11 rebounds and Cain 10 as UT built a sizable 54-36 advantage.
The 6-foot-3 Brewer came off the bench to record double-doubles for points and rebounds in both exhibitions.
"What Lyssi Brewer has brought has been solid,'' Summitt said.
Charlee Underwood led the opposition with 16 points.
Sunday's outcome was noteworthy when compared to Love & Basketball's 83-74 loss at Vanderbilt on Friday night. The Commodores, the preseason SEC favorite, led by just three points with 1:57 left.
"I think it's a very interesting selection," Love & Basketball coach Colleen Matsuhara said of the media and coaches both picking Vanderbilt to win the conference. "They are very talented. I think the Lady Vols probably go a little deeper in terms of athleticism and quickness.''
The Lady Vols used those attributes and their size to advance their fast-paced agenda against Matsuhara's team. With redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan resting her surgically repaired right knee, Stricklen and Briana Bass took turns at point guard, combining for 11 of Tennessee's 24 assists and just two of the 16 turnovers.
"I'm really getting comfortable with it,'' said Stricklen, who is new to the position. "I have great teammates. When I'm pushing the ball, they're running the floor. They're open. They're making it easy."
Although Stricklen had five assists, she was a receiver on the game's prettiest play - a behind-the-back pass from Gray for a transition layup during the first-half surge.
"I kind of looked at her and she was looking at me,'' Stricklen said. "I was like 'oh, she's about to do something.' So I was kind of looking for it."
Gray said her decision had a calculated dimension.
"People think it's a fancy pass but at that time it was the easiest pass to make,'' she said. "If you have someone running side by side the (defender) can't stop. It was something I practiced all the time in high school."
Bass' vapor trail was conspicuous in the second half as she pushing the basketball up the floor. The 5-2 freshman recorded five of her six assists in the final 20 minutes. Most of them came on transition plays.
"I believe she's faster than (Shannon) Bobbitt,'' said Summitt, referring to UT's economy-sized point guard of the past two seasons. "She doesn't shoot the ball as well, but she's trying to prove me wrong on that, too.
Bass hit three of Tennessee's eight 3-pointers. Smallbone hit a pair, showing a quicker release than last season.
On the flipside, Brewer committed five of her six turnovers during the second half, contributing to UT's intermittent lulls. Fellow freshman Glory Johnson, meanwhile, was topping off a 2-for-11 shooting effort. At times, Tennessee was hurt by deploying an all-freshman lineup.
Senior forward Alex Fuller was missed. She took a blow to her upper body early in the second half and had to be helped off the court. She finished the game as a spectator on the bench.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Freshman Johnson scores 33 off bench
Glory Johnson set the encore bar pretty high with her Tennessee women’s basketball debut Thursday night.
After scoring 33 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 135-55 exhibition victory over Carson-Newman College, what more can the freshman forward do?
Well, how about starting for starters.
“I really don’t want to be on the bench,” the former Webb School star said. “I don’t really need to be there. It was something I was trying to prove.”
She made her case rather emphatically, coming in to shoot 11 for 18 from the floor and amass her impressive totals in just 28 playing minutes before a crowd of 11,781 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Glory is one of the best athletes that we’ve ever had in our program,” UT coach Pat Summitt said. “I would compare her to (former UT All-American) Tamika Catchings with her speed and aggressiveness. She shot the ball well tonight, considering that we haven’t spent a lot of time on her face-up game. … She has a lot of pride in her game. She definitely changes the way we play.”
All of Tennessee’s freshmen introduced them in impressive fashion. Four others scored in double figures with Alicia Manning getting 19, Shekinna Stricklen 17, Amber Gray 16 and Alyssia Brewer 14.
Manning filled out her stat line with six rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. Brewer, a 6-foot-3 forward, had 13 rebounds and gathered a team-high seven steals, one more than Stricklen.
First-year point guard Briana Bass had four assists and zero turnovers.
Add redshirt freshman center Kelley Cain’s 18 points and nine rebounds to the potent mix and it added up to the second-highest scoring total in UT’s exhibition history. The Lady Vols’ 72 rebounds were four short of the school single-game record.
Carson-Newman College coach Dean Walsh offered a frame of reference for seventh-ranked Tennessee’s performance. Two nights earlier, the Lady Eagles played at No. 6 North Carolina, losing to the Tar Heels 114-64.
“As I told Coach (Summitt) in the hallway out there, at this point in time it’s not close, she’s better than Carolina,’’ he said. “It’s not even close. We were able to get looks against Carolina. We were able to do a lot of things we wanted to do against Carolina. And tonight we couldn’t get the looks that we wanted that we felt were open.”
UT’s effort affirmed the demanding nature of preseason practice. Even with the rout in full swing at 119-50, Summitt took a quick timeout to give Brewer an earful.
Afterward, she was lamenting the Lady Vols’ 25 for 49 free throw shooting, albeit in a joking manner.
“I’m not sure who our free throw coach is,’’ said Summitt, listing the names of assistant coaches Dean Lockwood, Holly Warlick and Daedra Charles-Furlow, “but it wasn’t me. That was unacceptable. We can work on that, though.”
On the other hand, Summitt was serious about deploying Johnson as a reserve. Last week, Summitt had listed the 6-3 high school All-American as a starter but then backtracked based on Johnson’s practice effort.
“Glory can change her role when she brings it in practice every day,” Summitt said. “She’s a special player. I have different expectations for her.”
Walsh’s joking referred to the exhibition gauntlet he put his team through this week.
“I think anybody that knows the game of basketball knows there isn’t a sane coach who would play North Carolina on Tuesday and then turn around and play the Lady Vols,” he said.
In all seriousness, from this point forward it’s bound to get better.
Said C-N guard Ashley Tipton: “It makes our (other) games seem really easy.”
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
The event will be held 11:15 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Conference Center at Water’s Edge, 608 Mabry Hood Road, in West Knoxville. It is open to the public and sponsored by the Rodefer Moss accounting firm.
“This is a chance for West Knoxville business people to meet, get to know each other, support a great cause and meet and hear Coach Summitt, one of Tennessee’s true athletic and inspirational treasures,” Jimmy Rodefer, chief executive officer of Rodefer Moss, said in a press release.
There will be a chili cook-off, $5 hotdog lunch, silent auction and door and game prizes. Some auction items include two national championship basketballs autographed by Pat Summitt, a weekend get-away at Fontana Village, guitar autographed by Darius Rucker, a spa package, and others.
For more information, call 865-583-0091.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"Here at Tennessee, we don't rebuild it. We reload,'' the sophomore guard said Tuesday at the team's annual media day.
Either way, coach Pat Summitt has a lot of work to do after losing five key players from last season's national championship squad, including 2008 player of the year, Candace Parker.
It's one of the youngest teams the Hall of Fame coach has ever led: one senior, four sophomores, a redshirt freshman and six true freshmen. Only one player - Bjorklund - has regular starting experience.
Filling the holes left by Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta Auguste could be a tall order for this youthful team.
"The fact that we lost five starters from the postseason play, we know we're going to have to grow up in a hurry. We're not going to expect anything less,'' Summitt said.
The challenge to grow up goes beyond the freshmen, which was rated the top 2008 recruiting class. Summitt is looking to senior forward Alex Fuller and Bjorklund for leadership this season.
It's not necessarily a natural role for Fuller and Bjorklund, who have been among the quieter players in the lineup. They've been working on getting more vocal in practices and scrimmages and getting accustomed to their teaching roles with the younger players.
"I've enjoyed it because it hasn't only helped them, it helps me learn how to speak to people and learn how to help people,'' said Fuller, who teammates have jokingly dubbed her "grandma'' for her elder status among so many freshmen and sophomores.
Much of Summitt's work now is devoted to teaching the new players how to practice and perform at the level she expects of her Lady Vols squad. Many freshmen aren't accustomed to the intensity level of practice when they first arrive at Tennessee.
That's not necessarily true with two freshmen, forward Glory Johnson, of Knoxville, and guard Shekinna Stricklen, of Morrilton, Ark.
Johnson and Stricklen, both McDonald's All-Americans, had intense high school coaches and practices that put them ahead of their Lady Vols classmates, and both have a shot at making an impact early in the season, Summitt said.
"I'm probably not set on anything right now other than Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson will be in the lineup,'' she said.
Other freshmen, like forward Amber Gray, from West Chester, Ohio, are "learning to find a different gear,'' but are making process, Summitt said.
Despite winning the last two national championships, Summitt is happy to be able to teach young players who are hungry to learn. That was sometimes a stretch last season as she struggled to motivate a group of seniors who had already won one title.
"There's something to be said about having a young team. It certainly fires me up,'' she said. "I look forward to practice, I say this all the time - it's my classroom, it's my favorite time of the day.''
A national title three-peat might be just out of reach for this team, but there is one landmark to achieve this season. Summitt is only 17 wins away from amassing 1,000 in her career and could achieve that by mid-January at the earliest.
"I know one thing, I hope we can get there in a hurry and get it over with,'' Summitt said.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
“How’s it going?” Summitt asked first-year assistant Daedra Charles-Furlow.
“Not good,” Charles-Furlow replied bluntly.
Little changed when Summitt arrived.
“Even when I got here, they may have picked it up a little bit, but they had already pretty much established how they were going to practice that day,” said Summitt, whose team includes six true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.
Summitt said she was particularly disappointed with the team’s low energy and lack of respect for coaching.
“It’s unacceptable. It’s not like all those freshmen have all the answers yet,” she said.
Because of the lackluster performance, Summitt added a 6 a.m. practice Thursday to one scheduled in the afternoon.
With senior Alex Fuller and sophomore Angie Bjorklund attending media days with Summitt, redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan was one of four returning players at Wednesday’s practice.
“I’m glad it happened because we learned a lot from that day,” McMahan said. “It needed to happen, and we learned from it.”
One result has been more physical practices.
“We’ve picked up the intensity five times as much since Wednesday,” said McMahan, whose arms were dotted with a patchwork of bruises before practice Friday.
“We just go at it. It’s physical, and we have to bring it.”
Former Lady Vol Alberta Auguste can attest. A member of last year’s national championship team, Auguste has recently aided in workouts to help the six newcomers adjust to the demands of a college program.
“(The freshmen) work hard, and they don’t give up,” Auguste said. “They’ve got a lot of fight in them. It’s just discipline right now. They need a lot of discipline.
“They just have to listen. It’s more about getting feedback and listening to what coaches have to say, and learn from it and grow from it.”
But to prevent mental lapses like Wednesday’s practice, Summitt said she wants upperclassmen and returning players to be assume more assertive team leadership roles.
That includes McMahan.
When the point guard wasn’t taking an active role in a drill during Friday’s practice, Summitt verbally reprimanded her.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The award, the idea of former St. John’s player and longtime high school coach Gus Alfieri, was established to recognize basketball coaches who have shown the character and coaching ability of Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick, who coached at St. John’s and with the New York Knicks.
Other recipients being honored at at the Nov. 20 ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York City will be Hall of Fame coaches Lou Carnesecca of St. John’s and Dean Smith of North Carolina.
“There could not be a better time to focus attention on character in sports but the present and Joe Lapchick is the model for the person we should look to,” said Alfieri, who was on Lapchick’s 1959 NIT Championship team.
Summitt, who enters the 2008-09 season with a 983-182 career record in 34 seasons at Tennessee, is the winningest coach in college Division I basketball history. Every student-athlete Summitt has coached and finished her eligibility at Rocky Top has graduated. She is very involved in the community and continues to be a spokeswoman for the United Way.
“It is an honor to have been selected as the first recipient of the Joe Lapchick Character Award. He was a legendary figure on both the collegiate and professional level of our game,” said Summitt. “I am humbled to accept an award which bears his name.”
Lapchick was enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1966 after a successful playing career with the Original Celtics and Cleveland Rosenblums. He won four NIT championships in 20 seasons at St. John’s and led the NBA’s New York Knicks to three NBA Finals.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Anosike, who just completed her first season as a member of the WNBA All-Rookie team while playing for the Minnesota Lynx, was unfortunately unavailable to attend. She is spending the off-season playing basketball in Israel and her Elizur Ramla team opened the season today versus Maccabi in Ashdod, Israel.
Anosike received the award--one of the most prestigious that the NCAA bestows--at the 18th annual NCAA Woman of the Year Awards Dinner at the Murat Centre Egyptian Room in Indianapolis. Accepting the award on her behalf was her mother, Ngozi Anosike and her head coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt. The award honors female student-athletes who have completed their eligibility and demonstrated academic and athletic excellence, as well as community service and leadership.
"We are all so excited for Nicky," exclaimed Summitt. "She is one of the hardest working student-athletes I have encountered in my 35 years of coaching.
"Nicky worked tirelessly in the classroom and wanted to be challenged every day. When one major wasn?t enough, she picked up another one. That stimulated her to tackle a third major and while juggling life and being a student-athlete at Tennessee, she turned in a 3.74 GPA. Academically, she was truly amazing," said Summitt.
Her coach also saw Anosike transfer that quest for knowledge on the basketball court. "I don't think Nicky had any idea how much potential she had or gifted she was as a basketball player when she came to Tennessee," said Summitt. "For four years, Nicky worked on every aspect of her game to improve daily. Her tenacity and unfailing will to succeed helped us to win two NCAA titles.
"Nicky Anosike is a winner in life and she embodies all of the traits of the NCAA Woman of the Year. We are so honored and proud of her!" Summitt said.
The original list of candidates of 130 female student-athletes for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award was narrowed down to a top three list for each division (I, II, III). A committee comprised of representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences selected the top 30 honorees and then nine finalists were named, three from each division. The Committee on Women's Athletics selected Anosike from the nine finalists. An hour-long broadcast of the event will air on ESPN2 at 4:30pm on Dec. 5.
Anosike, a Staten Island, N.Y., native, is the third NCAA Woman of the Year from the University of Tennessee and joins Lauren McCalley, diver, 2005 and Catherine Byrne, swimmer, 1992 as recipients. In the 18 year history of the award, Anosike is just the second basketball player to earn the honor joining 1995 honoree Rebecca Lobo of Connecticut. Anosike was a triple major at UT studying political science, criminal justice and legal studies and earned a 3.74 GPA.
The NCAA Woman of the Year Award was created to honor a senior female student-athlete who has distinguished herself throughout her collegiate career excelling academically and athletically in addition to demonstrating strong community service and leadership. To be eligible, the female student-athlete must have earned a varsity letter in an NCAA-sponsored sport and competed during the 2007-08 academic year. In addition, each individual must have completed intercollegiate eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2008 spring season and must have a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.5. The Award has been given by the National Collegiate Athletic Association since 1992. The prior recipients of the NCAA Woman of the Year Award are:
1991 Mary Beth Riley, Canisius College
1992 Catherine Byrne, University of Tennessee
1993 Nnenna Lynch, Villanova University
1994 Tanya Jones, University of Arizona
1995 Rebecca Lobo, University of Connecticut
1996 Billie Winsett-Fletcher, University of Nebraska
1997 Lisa Coole, University of Georgia
1998 Peggy Boutilier, University of Virginia
1999 Jamila Demby, University of California, Davis
2000 Kristy Kowal, University of Georgia
2001 Kimberly A. Black , University of Georgia
2002 Tanisha Silas, University of California, Davis
2003 Ashley Jo Rowatt Karpinos, Kenyon College
2004 Kelly Albin, University of California, Davis
2005 Lauryn McCalley, University of Tennessee
2006 Anne Bersagel, Wake Forest University
2007 Whitney Myers, University of Arizona
2008 Nicky Anosike, University of Tennessee
The first official practice of the 2008-09 season for the defending NCAA Champs saw 11 players go through a lively and spirited session. Only sophomore Vicki Baugh, who is still somewhat limited following surgery last May to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, served as a sideline spectator while rehabbing her knee.
Six newcomers joined six returnees for the opening day of team practice. The session was punctuated by a great deal of teaching and breakdown drills for the youngest team in Summitt's tenure on Rocky Top. Newcomers Briana Bass, Alyssia Brewer, Amber Gray, Glory Johnson, Alicia Manning and Shekinna Stricklen were sponges absorbing every defensive dictate and drill and all appeared to be quick studies.
The biggest smiles in the gym might have belonged to a couple of players who redshirted last season due to injuries. Redshirt sophomore point guard Cait McMahan was back on the floor after a year's absence following surgery on June 6, 2007, to repair articular cartilage damage in her right knee. "I can tell you it felt great getting back out on the court tonight," said McMahan. "We've got a young team but there is so much talent. It will be an exciting season."
Also sitting out last season was redshirt freshman Kelley Cain, a 6'6" center who was recovering from surgery in December 2007 to address and correct the patella subluxation of her knee. "Finally!" said Cain. "I was so ready for this day to come. I thought we all did a pretty good job for the first full practice."
McMahan and senior forward Alex Fuller are the only upperclassmen in the group. Joining them are a trio of sophomores including Baugh, Angie Bjorklund (the returning SEC Rookie of the Year) and Sydney Smallbone who all benefitted from a great deal of experience playing on the 2008 NCAA Championship team.
The enthusiastic start was not lost on the head coach. "I really liked the pace of practice tonight with this group. They are athletic and have great quickness rim-to-rim," commented Summitt. "The first thing that I noticed was good team speed in the drills. For such a young group, I'm also impressed with their on-court communication. All in all, a good start."
The Lady Vols return to the court at Pratt Pavilion tomorrow morning. A public practice will be held in Thompson-Boling Arena on Sat., Oct. 25. The time will be announced after kick-off for the UT-Alabama football game is set.
Tennessee's first exhibition game is slated for Nov. 6 in Thompson-Boling Arena versus Carson Newman at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Nevertheless, this collection of players takes to the court with the same goal of all other previous Tennessee squads, to join the elite assemblage of the "Lady Vols of the Rings."
The record speaks for itself, that season after season Lady Vol Basketball has a championship ring to it.
During head coach Pat Summitt's 35 years at the helm of the winningest program in collegiate history only 153 women have been selected to join the Lady Vol basketball family, including this season's group of six eager newcomers. Incredibly, every Lady Vol hoopster (since 1976) has enjoyed the opportunity to play in at least one Final Four during her career, and 58 of those accomplished women have earned National Championship rings coming in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008.
The University of Tennessee has turned into the "Ringdom" of women's collegiate hoops.
"The student-athletes who come to Tennessee to play on the Lady Vol basketball team want to join our great tradition and hopefully have an opportunity to win a national championship," Summitt said. "We can enjoy that type of success when each player takes responsibility for her individual game and exhibits a great basketball IQ by sharing the ball and playing together."
As the 2008-09 team begins its quest to attain this elite status, the players realize that a brand new line-up will take to the court replacing the quintet of starters drafted by the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA): 6'4" post Nicky Anosike (8.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), 5'11" forward Alberta Auguste (5.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg), 5'2" point guard Shannon Bobbitt (9.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.3 apg), 5'11" guard Alexis Hornbuckle (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and 6'4" redshirt junior All-American, Olympian, Player of the Year and number one draft pick Candace Parker (21.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg).
The scoring and rebounding firepower contributed by the departed starters helped propel the Lady Vols to consecutive national championships in 2007 and 2008.
"No doubt, we lost some great players to graduation" Summitt said. "Each player contributed something unique to make the past two seasons very special. Candace's incredible all-around game... Big Nick's leadership... Alexis' 'whatever we need - get it done attitude'... Little Bit (Bobbitt) bringing up-tempo basketball every night, and Bird's (Auguste) defensive emergence.
"It's crossed my mind that you don't replace players like these overnight," deadpanned Summitt. "Rather than thinking that 'we're rebuilding and won't be as strong,' I'm thinking how excited we are about our incoming and returning talent. The question I have is, 'how long will it take to mold them into a championship team?'
"Time will tell. But it will be fun for our coaching staff to help each player achieve her individual and team goals."
Like the sparkling jewels adorning each of UT's eight National Championship rings, the 2008-09 edition of Tennessee women's basketball is a team of multi-faceted gems. Six players return from last season, including four who saw time on the court and two who were sidelined following surgeries.
Lone fifth-year senior post Alex Fuller (6.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg) is the elder stateswoman of the group. As a junior, the 6'3" Fuller played in 37 games and averaged 15.8 minutes per contest. In her second-ever start in 2008, she replaced Parker in the starting lineup versus #15-ranked DePaul and turned in a career-high 19 points. Although she plays inside, Fuller is capable of pulling the trigger from three-point land as she connected on 22 of 68 treys last season and more than doubled the output of her first two seasons.
"I expect a great deal of insightful leadership from Alex this season," said Summitt. "She came in with a large and highly-touted class herself and has a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished with a young team. On the court, Alex will play multiple positions for this team," she continued. "Her experience, versatility, great composure and heady play will be an asset for our team in the coming year."
Tennessee's only other upperclassman academically is 5'4" redshirt sophomore point guard Cait McMahan (2.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.4 apg as a rookie), who will be returning to the court this season after undergoing surgery on June 6, 2007, to repair a lesion on the articular cartilage in her right knee and a subsequent clean-up of the knee on Sept. 3, 2008. Other than helping her team to a championship in 2007, McMahan went through a lot. After battling cancer for most of young Cait's life, her mother, Teresa, finally succumbed to the disease. The loss of her mother was followed by the news of additional surgery to Cait's previously ACL-damaged right knee and having to sit out last season.
"I am so excited to get Cait back on the floor and give her the opportunity to be a leader for this team from her point guard position," said Summitt. "Over the past year she has matured tremendously after facing a lot of adversity. She's in a good place in her life right now and is chomping at the bit to contribute to this team.
"Cait needs to get on the court and get some repetitions to be able to run our sets with efficiency. She knows what we expect from her offensively (with all of our options) and defensively as a vocal leader. Cait said she is anxious to drop her cheerleader pom-poms and get back on the floor," said Summitt.
Between Fuller and McMahan, the upperclasswomen have three starts between them, but that doesn't seem to faze Summitt.
"Yes we are young and short on experience overall, and that inexperience could affect us in the early going. But we are not short on talent, and I am thrilled about the talent and depth at every position.
"Coach (John) Wooden has said many times that he'd take talent over experience any day," said Summitt.
One of the talented players from the Lady Vol sophomore class who gained a ton of experience last season was the 2008 Southeastern Conference Rookie of the Year in 6'0" guard/forward Angie Bjorklund (8.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg), who returns as UT's leading scorer. Bjorklund became just the 11th Lady Vol all-time to start her very first game as a UT freshman. In all, Bjorklund started in 30 of 38 games and tied Tennessee's school record for most three-pointers made in a game with seven on three occasions.
"Angie returns for her sophomore season with valuable playing time and experience on the big stage," said Summitt. "Our team is fortunate to have a player like Angie who opens up our offense and stretches the opponent's defense when they are forced to closely guard her from the three-point line. I see her composure and experience helping to guide our freshmen this season," said the head coach.
Last season, Bjorklund was one-half of the "killer B's" along with classmate Vicki Baugh (5.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg). Prior to their rookie season, Bjorklund and Baugh played on the USA U19 World Championship team and gained valuable experience playing with each other. The synergy they developed while winning the gold medal transferred to their time on the court together at Tennessee.
It was never more evident than during the 67-64 win at Duke in 2008 when the duo took over a lethargic Tennessee team to propel them out of a first half slump. A tremendous multi-dimensional talent, the 6'4" Baugh really came into her own down the stretch last season and returns as UT's most accurate shooter, at 55.2 percent, and leading rebounder, at 4.0 rpg.
Baugh made some key plays in the NCAA title game versus Stanford. With a little more than seven minutes to play, her slashing-through-the-key lay-up gave the Lady Vols a double-digit lead (55-44) that they would not relinquish down the stretch en route to NCAA Championship number eight.
Unfortunately for Baugh, on that play she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and required reconstructive surgery on May 13, 2008.
"As a freshman, Vicki played a significant role for our basketball team," said Summitt. "Some of her key contributions came in the six games during our national championship run and in the SEC title game. Things were really starting to come together for her, and it's just so unfortunate that she suffered a torn ACL.
"She has been a relentless rehabber and is anxious to return to the floor. When her knee is 100 percent, I see Vicki playing a big role for us. She plays hard on both ends and has a nose for gathering in rebounds - I can still see her grabbing boards in the Louisiana Tech game when she had 16 in just 25 minutes."
The third member of the sophomore class is 5'10" guard Sydney Smallbone (2.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg), who saw action in 29 games last season while logging 11.3 minutes per contest. Smallbone is slated to provide backup at point guard and help hold down the two spot in the lineup. A tough three-point shooter, her playing time should increase with improved defensive play.
"Syd is a year older and more comfortable with what we're doing on both ends of the court," said Summitt. "She is getting her shot off quicker and can really stretch the defense with her three-point shooting ability. Syd has taken the challenge to become a solid defensive player for us."
A solid player all the way around is 6'6" redshirt rookie post Kelley Cain, who is anxious to restart her Lady Vol career. As a true freshman in 2008, Cain initially missed several workouts due to a concussion suffered in practice. She made her Lady Vol debut in the exhibition game versus Carson-Newman in impressive fashion, scoring 11 points, grabbing a dozen boards and adding four assists, three steals and two blocked shots. Unfortunately, the next week in practice, Cain landed on a defender's foot and suffered a subluxated patella which required surgery on Dec. 11, 2007.
At 6'6", she ties Vonda Ward (1991-95) as the tallest Lady Vols in the history of the basketball program. Cain has been impressive in workouts and is a diligent player who absorbs the nuances of a prowler in the paint every day at practice.
"We are very excited about Kelley's return to the court," said Summitt. "She has the entire post package with size, presence, an advanced skill set and a great shooting touch around the basket. I am challenging her to be a rim-to-rim runner and sprinting the floor on every possession.
"Kelley rarely misses a shot, and she is a great post presence on defense. She can play behind or in front to force the lob. She has a great basketball IQ and thinks execute on every play," continued Summitt.
Six returning players have already experienced the excitement of joining the exclusive group of the "Lady Vols of the Rings." They will be a ready reference for the talented and multi-faceted gems in Tennessee's rookie class.
Early on, the head coach saw a meshing of the two groups of returning and rookie players. "At first glance, this team appears to have good team chemistry, high energy, commitment to playing together and sharing the ball, and being intense every day in practice. Our returnees have done a great job in relating the culture of our program to our new players - bringing intensity to every possession. They have been fun to watch.
"And fun to coach," related the head coach. Speaking of coaches, Summitt added a gem to her staff in May 2008 when former Lady Vol and assistant coach Nikki Caldwell left UT to become the head coach at UCLA. With Caldwell's departure, Summitt tabbed former Lady Vol Olympian and All-American Daedra Charles-Furlow to join the Tennessee staff. Charles-Furlow, the Wade Trophy winner in 1991, collected two championship rings as an outstanding Lady Vol center in 1989 and 1991.
"We are thrilled to have Daedra rejoin the Lady Vol basketball family as an assistant coach," said Summitt. "She loves the program and our university and will bring a great deal of knowledge and experience to our staff and players. As a former player she understands both the system and the expectations of the Tennessee program. That combination should prove to be a valuable asset." So, what are the multi-facets of this rookie class which possesses many diverse qualities, talents and features? "I love the versatility of this group," said Summitt. "Just about every player in the class can play multiple positions. Shekinna Stricklen and Alicia Manning can probably play both guard spots or at the three; Glory Johnson, Alyssia Brewer and Amber Gray will mix it up at power forward or in the post." Summitt did concede that, at 5'2", Briana Bass would be best suited at her point guard slot.
Bass, a diminutive sparkplug from Indianapolis, Ind., is extremely quick with great handles and will immediately remind Tennessee fans of the recently graduated Shannon Bobbitt. Bass and Bobbitt share the distinction of being the shortest scholarship players in the history of Lady Vol basketball.
"Briana has great floor leadership and seems comfortable and confident to run our basketball team. She loves to push the ball, has great offensive instincts and is vocal and solid on defense," remarked Summitt. "Bri has a lot to learn-her position plus everyone else's-but she is an eager learner and a great communicator."
If Bass is the shortest rookie at 5'2" then high school All-American Alyssia Brewer is the tallest signee at 6'3". The highly-decorated Sapulpa, Okla., native is a rangy lefty who can step out to the three or mix it up inside with her strength.
"Lyssi has size, touch, excellent passing skills and great court vision," said Summitt. "I want her to develop a scorer's mentality. Her offensive package is very versatile, whether it is her face-up game, stepping outside to shoot a three or her post skills from the four...she is a blend player and has a great up side to her game.
"A key for Lyssi is to commit to being a great rebounder for this team," concluded Summitt.
Already turning heads in camp with her rebounding ability is 6'1" Amber Gray of West Chester, Ohio. Another high school All-American, Gray is an undersized post who can step out to shoot the three-ball and has many facets to her game.
"She is a great communicator," said Summitt. "Amber is talking on the court all the time. She has a great offensive skill set and can defend at the four spot. At the same time, she can play the three and shoots the three-ball pretty well. She is another example of a multiple position player for us."
One of the most decorated rookies for the Lady Vols is high school All-American and local talent Glory Johnson, who could be listed as a "Candace Parker-like" forward-center-guard as a 6'3" blend player. Comparisons of Johnson have been made to the talent level of a young Tamika Catchings on either side of the ball.
"Glory is a terrific athlete, and I'm glad she's in orange," commented the head coach. "I'm very excited about the potential of her game. She reminds me of Tamika Catchings in just how hard she plays. Glory runs the floor, she's aggressive to the ball and the paint, and she makes people around her better.
"She is the type of player who recognizes that she has an opportunity to play a big role here as a hard-nosed player, scorer and rebounder."
Besides dipping into its own backyard for Johnson and the states of Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio and Oklahoma, for other freshmen, the Lady Vols also nabbed a rookie from Georgia in 6'1" guard-forward Alicia Manning from Woodstock.
"Alicia is a skilled player with a great basketball IQ who can help us at either guard spot or the three," said Summitt. "While Cait has been sidelined in the preseason, Alicia has been getting a lot of reps at point guard. She doesn't mind playing off the dribble and gets to the paint. I really like her game."
While the entire team, fueled by the enormous energy from the rookies, has looked good in preseason drills, Summitt is quick to point out the need for great rebounders. "As we try to find ourselves offensively in the early going, we need a huge commitment from all 12 players to defense and board play."
Fortunately for Summitt, she won't have to look very far to get that type of production out of 6'2" rookie forward Shekinna Stricklen, a multi-decorated high school All-American from Morrilton, Ark., who possesses a huge game.
"Both Shekinna and Glory came from strong prep high school backgrounds, and it's no wonder why they are two of the most talented freshmen in the country," remarked Summitt. "I wouldn't hesitate a moment to play Shekinna in any position on the perimeter. She has a great all-around game - range from the three, gets to the rim, is a great passer and has a knack for getting on the boards all of the time.
"Maybe our slogan should be, 'no rebounds, no rings'," quipped Summitt. "Honestly, Shekinna can be a great rebounding guard for us."
Over the last two seasons, the Lady Vols knew that running the ball started with rebounding, and that resulted in two championship rings. Whether or not this team collects any baubles is entirely up to them.
"The personnel may change from year to year, but our system won't change," advised Summitt. "We will play up and down basketball...we will press and run...and we'll establish a strong inside game. It's simply Lady Vol basketball. The caliber of players we have year-in and year-out makes that happen and our fans expect that level of excitement.
"Much like last year, our success as a team was a direct result of how quickly we were able to get our freshman class committed and engaged into this style of play and intensity," reiterated Summitt.
Just because the Lady Vols have the youngest team in program history doesn't mean they will shy away from the competition, as another daunting schedule is waiting in the wings. Summitt wouldn't have it any other way.
"We're not going to change the toughness of our schedule regardless of our roster," exclaimed Summitt. "Our schedule has always prepared us for postseason. Our fans expect it, we expect it and that's who we are."
In addition to the familiar faces of the Southeastern Conference foes, the Lady Vols also will run the gauntlet of powerhouses and traditional rivals.
"Once again, I'm thrilled that we'll be playing 17 home dates (including the exhibition games) in our arena," said Summitt. "Our young team will certainly benefit from playing in front of our great fans -- they will be treated to a tremendous home schedule."
Home schedule highlights include a rematch of the 2008 NCAA Championship game versus Stanford in Knoxville, as well as the Kellie Jolly Harper (Western Carolina head coach) and Tanya Haave (San Francisco head coach) homecoming games. "I am glad that we were able to schedule both Kellie and Tanya's teams at home this season," said Summitt. "I am proud of them and the success they have enjoyed as college coaches. It is so gratifying to see 70 former members of the Lady Vol basketball family involved in coaching at the professional, collegiate and high school levels." In all, UT will be facing competition from 10 different conferences, including a pair of universities each from the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, BIG EAST, Southern and the West Coast Conferences.
The Lady Vols officially open the season at home on Nov. 15, facing the University of San Francisco. That's followed by a visit from the ACC's University of Virginia (Nov. 17) and a trip down the road to Chattanooga (Nov. 21). The Lady Vols close out the month at Thompson-Boling Arena with three consecutive home dates, facing long-time rival Louisiana Tech (Nov. 23), Jolly Harper's Western Carolina Catamounts (Nov. 25) and BIG EAST foe DePaul (Nov. 30).
Tennessee starts the December portion of its schedule on the road at George Washington University (Dec. 2) and takes a break for final exams before resuming hoops on Dec. 11, taking on Middle Tennessee State in Knoxville. The Lady Vols will then hit the road for a pair of games, traveling to Texas (Dec. 14) and Old Dominion (Dec. 18). The Big Orange returns home to take on Stanford in a Sunday night (Dec. 21) prime time meeting on ESPN2. The Lady Vols defeated the Cardinal last April in the 2008 NCAA Final Four title game. Following a break for the Christmas holidays, Tennessee will head to Spokane, Wash., for an Angie Bjorklund homecoming game at Gonzaga (Dec. 30).
In January, the Lady Vols open the 2009 side of the schedule on the road against BIG EAST foe Rutgers on Jan. 3 in a marquee CBS showdown. Back in Knoxville, UT starts SEC play battling Kentucky at home (Jan. 8) and then travels to Vanderbilt (Jan. 11) and Mississippi State (Jan. 15) before hosting South Carolina (Jan. 18). UT hits the road again, going to Arkansas (Jan. 22) and Auburn (Jan. 25) before returning to the Arena to entertain Mississippi (Jan. 29).
Sometime in January or February, the Lady Vols should claim their 17th win of the season. That triumph will be a historical milestone for Coach Pat Summitt, as it will mark her 1,000th career victory.
To open the month of February, the Lady Vols step out of conference play for an ESPN2 "Big Monday" meeting at Oklahoma (Feb. 2) and return home to meet Georgia in a key SEC game on Feb. 5. Other February home dates include Alabama (Feb. 12), an ESPN2 "Big Monday" showdown with Duke (Feb. 16), and Mississippi State (Feb. 22). February road trips include jaunts to Florida (Feb. 8), Kentucky (Feb. 19) and LSU (Feb. 25). UT plays a rare March regular season game, entertaining Vanderbilt in the finale on March 1 before heading to North Little Rock, Ark., for the SEC Championship. This season, Tennessee will play home-and-home SEC games with Kentucky and Mississippi State to go along with its annual home-and-home traditional rival contests versus Vanderbilt.
"Once again this year, the SEC - from top to bottom - will be as strong as it has ever been," professed Summitt. "We've had an infusion of some new coaches making a tough league even tougher. To be sure, the SEC schedule will be extremely challenging." Ah, that word "challenging." How about this one Lady Vols, what about a "three-peat" for a challenge? Summitt smiled at the question, "Never say never! It's funny, but it didn't come up until the team photo shoot and some of the players said 'let's do a back-to-back-to-back photo.' I guess that's the exuberance and youth of our basketball team. You've got to love their enthusiasm," said Summitt.
Like the sparkling jewels adorning each of UT's eight National Championship rings, the 2008-09 edition of Tennessee women's basketball is a team of multi-faceted gems. It's almost as if it's a rite of passage when a student-athlete decides to become a Lady Vol basketball player. Chances are more than likely that she will become a member of the exclusive group of "Lady Vols of the Rings." Because Lady Vol basketball always has had a championship ring to it.
POINT GUARDS: Cait McMahan, Briana Bass, Alicia Manning
TWO GUARDS: Angie Bjorklund, Sydney Smallbone, Shekinna Stricklen, Alicia Manning
FORWARDS: Alex Fuller, Glory Johnson, Amber Gray
POSTS: Kelley Cain, Vicki Baugh, Alyssia Brewer