Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No. 8 Tennessee beats Gonzaga 77-58

SPOKANE, Wash. — Angie Bjorklund had a triumphant homecoming with 14 points to help lead No. 8 Tennessee past Gonzaga 77-58 on Tuesday night in the community where she was a high school star.

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

Basketball star Candace Parker selected AP female athlete of year

It's been a whirlwind year for Candace Parker.

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

No. 11 Tennessee upsets No. 3 Stanford 79-69 in OT

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Shekinna Stricklen was so sick with a stomach virus a few days ago that she couldn't play or eat.

"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

Must-Have Books

Bjorklund’s 3s lift Vols past Old Dominion, 81-76

NORFOLK, Va. — Angie Bjorklund matched her career high with 29 points and hit two huge 3-pointers Thursday night as No. 11 Tennessee got back to its winning ways by prevailing in a back-and-forth battle with longtime rival Old Dominion, 81-76.

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

Pat Summitt: Texas Loss Was Eye-Opener For Lady Vols

Pat Summitt Teleconference – December 17, 2008

Opening statement:
“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.”

Dream Acquires Rights to Chamique Holdsclaw

The Atlanta Dream acquired the rights to forward Chamique Holdsclaw from the Los Angeles Sparks today in exchange for the 13th overall pick (first round) in the 2009 WNBA Draft. Holdsclaw, an eight-year veteran, is returning to the WNBA after a two year hiatus.

“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

Tennessee’s record Top 10 streak ends at 211 weeks

Tennessee’s record run in the top 10 is over.

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

Raven’s 21 lead No. 6 Texas over Tennessee, 73-59

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas was already off to its best start in 20 years and shooting up the rankings under second-year coach Gail Goestenkors.

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

Basketball power couple: Candace Parker, Williams are newlyweds

The Sacramento Bee said that former University of Tennessee basketball star Candace Parker and NBA player Shelden Williams, her fiance', eloped Nov. 13 at Lake Tahoe.

'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

No. 7 Tennessee beats Middle Tennessee 81-52

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —Tennessee coach Pat Summitt drilled her seventh-ranked Lady Volunteers this week in shooting, and it showed.

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

Pat Summitt On The DePaul Game And Facing Middle Tennessee

Lady Vol Coach Pat Summitt teleconference

Opening statement:
'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

Lady Vols Hold Off George Washington, 71-59

The Tennessee Lady Vols scored seven unanswered points in the final 1:24 of play and passed their second road test of the season with a 71-59 triumph over George Washington University Tuesday night in the nation's capital.

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

Lady Vols handle DePaul 88-67

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Glory Johnson tied a career high with 19 points and No. 9 Tennessee rolled to an 88-67 victory against DePaul on Sunday.

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.