Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Johnson helps Tennessee rout Western Carolina

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Freshman Glory Johnson tied a career-high with 19 points and ninth-ranked Tennessee rolled to an 83-56 victory against Western Carolina on Tuesday night.

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

Tennessee beats Louisiana Tech 94-59

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Vicki Baugh, in only her second game back after knee surgery, scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help No. 5 Tennessee beat Louisiana Tech 94-59 on Sunday.

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

Johnson helps No. 5 Tennessee avoid upset 66-63

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — As unhappy as Pat Summitt was after Tennessee escaped with a win, it could have been a lot worse.

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

Post-Game Quotes After Lady Vols Lose To Virginia, 83-82

Head Coach Pat Summitt: (opening remarks): “I thought Virginia was mentally and physically tougher than we were. I was very disappointed. There aren’t many times in my career that I can say that. (Virginia’s) Monica Wright is a great go-to player. We didn’t limit her touches. She had her way tonight, and (Aisha) Mohammed did as well. We didn’t have the toughness that they did. We made some costly mistakes at the end, and the technical—that better never happen again. Give Virginia credit. They played with composure. They were the tougher team, as much as I hate to say that. We couldn’t depend on our bench. Hopefully, we’ll learn from this. It’s not going to get any easier. We’re young, but if we use that as an excuse, it’s not going to get any better. We can’t use it as an excuse.”

(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

Lady Vols win 68-39

KNOXVILLE, TN — Pat Summitt entered her team’s locker room at halftime Saturday and immediately knew something was wrong.

“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

Tennessee adds young talent in wake of NCAA titles

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Pat Summitt isn't planning on making any excuses for her young Lady Volunteers this season. They're too talented.

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

Lady Vols Win Exhibition 85-50

Judging by its final exhibition, Tennessee wants a running start to its women's basketball season.

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

Tennessee Lady Vols defeat Carson-Newman 135-55

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

Summitt to speak at United Way fundraiser

Pat Summitt, head coach of the defending national champion University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team, will be the featured speaker at a first-of-its kind United Way fund-raiser Wednesday, featuring a chili cook-off, silent auction and other activities.

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.