Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spani Leads UT Past Rutgers, 87-51

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Rutgers' trouble reaching Knoxville and fifth-ranked Tennessee's refusal to reschedule the game left coach C. Vivian Stringer fuming after the Lady Vols routed her Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers' players were scattered around the country during their 11-day holiday break and bad weather in the Northeast delayed many of them from returning to campus. After Tennessee dominated the Scarlet Knights 87-51 Thursday, an angry Stringer said she sought to reschedule the game when it became clear Rutgers would have to charter a plane to Knoxville late Wednesday without holding a single practice.

"They never saw a tape (of Tennessee) or anything," Stringer said of her team. "I tell you we could have had far better representation of ourselves. It could have been worth the money, worth the time to come here if we'd had a little bit more (time)."

Tennessee women's athletics director Joan Cronan said she spoke with Rutgers athletics director Tim Pernetti about rescheduling the game, but said it wasn't feasible with the upcoming schedules of the school's men's and women's teams.

"I called Tennessee, and you see we're playing, don't you?" Stringer said. "They couldn't do it. I would have done it anyway. I would have done it if we played every day back to back. I back down from no one."

The lack of preparation became clear early as Tennessee (12-2) jumped out to a fast lead, and a 3-pointer at the baseline from Angie Bjorklund with 18:34 left in the first half capped a 9-2 run to open the game. That shot gave Bjorklund her 267th career trey, pushing her past Shanna Zolman and making her Tennessee's career leader in 3s.

The Lady Vols used strong shooting to build an 18-point margin but cooled off with about four minutes left before halftime. Leading scorer Taber Spani had 12 of her career-high 22 points in the first half.

Rutgers (7-6) found some rhythm and used a 11-4 run to close out the first half, cutting Tennessee's halftime lead to 40-29, but the Lady Vols scored nine unanswered points out of the break and gradually pulled away.

The Scarlet Knights were playing without Khadijah Rushdan, who averages 14.3 points per game. Rushdan bruised her knee in Rutgers' 79-50 loss to then-No. 8 Texas A&M in the Maggie Dixon Classic on Dec. 19.

Rutgers also got only one half of play out of leading scorer April Sykes, who had cramps early in the second half. Sykes still led the team with 15 points, while Nikki Speed had 11 and Erica Wheeler had 10.

Without Rushdan, the Scarlet Knights were without one of their better defenders, and Tennessee took advantage of its size inside. The Lady Vols outrebounded Rutgers 46-27 and scored 36 points in the paint and 20 second-chance points.

Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen added 12 points each for Tennessee, and Bjorklund and Kelley Cain both had 11.

"Our bench outscored Rutgers' bench 24-1," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "That was a key -- our depth."

Tennessee's uniforms sported patches with a No. 35 on them in honor of former Lady Vol guard Melissa McCray-Dukes, who died Monday after a battle with breast cancer. McCray-Dukes played on four consecutive NCAA Final Four teams and started on Tennessee's 1987 and 1989 national championship teams.

Summitt, who wore a No. 35 pin on her lapel during the game, spoke at McCray-Dukes' funeral Thursday.

"Once you're a Lady Vol, you stay a Lady Vol," Bjorklund said. "You continue to be a part of this family, and (McCray-Dukes) will always be a part of our family."

Tennessee owns a 17-3 advantage in the series with Rutgers and has won the last seven meetings. The rivalry hasn't been without controversy or close games, though.

In the last meeting at Thompson-Boling Arena on Feb. 11, 2008, then-No. 1 Tennessee got the win on two free throws by Nicky Anosike with 0.2 of a second left. Television replays showed the game clock seemed to pause when Anosike came down with the ball and was grabbed by Kia Vaughn.

Officials reviewed the play, but only to determine whether or not Vaughn's foul came before the buzzer.

The following season, the Lady Vols trailed 33-13 at halftime at Rutgers on Jan. 3, 2009. Rutgers led by as many as 23 points in the second half before Tennessee rallied for the 55-51 win.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Melissa McCray-Dukes Passes Away

She was a Two-time Lady Vol Basketball National Champion

The University of Tennessee Lady Vol basketball family learned on Monday, Dec. 27, that Melissa Ann McCray-Dukes had lost her long and hard fought battle with cancer. McCray-Dukes was 43 years old.

Nicknamed "Emma" by her Tennessee teammates, McCray-Dukes played on four consecutive NCAA Final Four teams (1986-87-88-89) and started as a guard on coach Pat Summitt's first two national championship teams in 1987 and 1989.

"Melissa was one of the most incredible people you could ever meet," Summitt said. "She fought cancer with the same determination and tenacity she showed on the basketball court. She went into every single day of her life as a winner. Melissa had incredible optimism but she also knew she was in God's hands at the end of her fight. She has taught me so many life lessons over the last four years and she will be missed.

Our prayers and thoughts go out to her family and many friends."

McCray-Dukes lived in Knoxville and remained close to her former teammates over the years. It wasn't unusual for her to drop by practice.

When she played, her teammates called her the "mother hen." Said Lady Vol teammate Sheila Frost on Feb. 11, 1989, "She kind of pulls us together as a family," Frost said of McCray. "We need a core like that. She's been called the mother of our team since she was a freshman." In the same interview about McCray, Summitt said, "She exemplifies so much of what I want Tennessee women's basketball to be all about."

The biographical sketch in the 1989 Tennessee Lady Vol Media Guide summed up number 35 in a nutshell. "If there was a war, the first person you would want in your foxhole was Melissa McCray...A durable player, she has not ever missed a game...When you think of Tennessee pressure defense, the picture that pops up is Melissa hawking the ball from sideline-to-sideline and all 94-feet of the basketball court...She does the little things that don't always pop up in an NCAA box score...Her aggressive defensive style of play causes great consternation for her opponents...Usually they are totally denied the ball and if they happen to get a pass there is nowhere to go with it because Melissa is like glue...From the first day of practice of her rookie season, it was apparent that Melissa was special."

McCray-Dukes was special. Even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2006, she wanted to fight it privately at first and not "burden anyone" with what she was going through. However, her friends and former teammates coaxed her into revealing her fight and she served as an inspiration to others. She was the guest speaker many times at churches, women's cancer support groups and at the UT Cancer Institute. When the cancer returned in 2009, she shared the importance of always fighting to the young 2008-09 Lady Vol basketball team - "whether it was basketball or your life, you fight." She was always the Lady Vol.

She started her foray into the world of hoops at Rutledge High School after her parents moved from Miami, Fla., to East Tennessee when she was in middle school. She was lucky to have Coach Doug McBee, father of current Vol basketball player Skylar McBee, as her head coach. She said the lessons she first learned from Coach McBee about toughness and not giving up served as life lessons later reinforced by Science Hill High School Coach Gary Scheuerman and Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt.

McCray's family moved to Johnson City after her sophomore year of high school. Melissa didn't think she wanted to play at Science Hill but she said her guidance counselor and Coach Scheuerman persuaded her to continue the sport. Behind her play, the Lady Toppers fashioned a 28-7 record and made its first appearance in the state tournament. McCray averaged 18.3 ppg and 11.3 rpg and was named the Upper East Tennessee Player of the Year beating out Jefferson County's Carolyn Peck. As a senior, SHHS repeated at state with a 28-5 record as McCray averaged 19.9 ppg and was offered a scholarship to play for the Lady Vols.

Her teammates voted her as the "Best Defensive Player" for four consecutive seasons at UT. She didn't throw up gaudy numbers in the box score but she was always the one to get a critical basket or make a game-changing play. She was a member of the first class of players (men or women), to play in the NCAA Final Four all four years of her career joined by Lady Vol classmates Bridgette Gordon and Sheila Frost.

As a rookie at Tennessee, she nailed a bucket against Georgia putting the Lady Vols ahead to stay in the upset win over the Lady Bulldogs in the 1986 NCAA Regional. In the 1987 NCAA Final Four semifinal game against Long Beach State she played lockdown defense and surprised the 49ers with 14 points. As a senior, she unselfishly dished out 10 assists against Auburn in the 1989 NCAA Final Four Championship game in her final collegiate appearance. Always giving, she averaged an incredible nine assists per game in the Final Four in Tacoma, Wash.

For her career, she scored 874 points, grabbed 376 rebounds and handed out 289 assists in 139 career games with 87 career starts. McCray-Dukes was always precise and took pride in the way she played and tried to keep her teammates accountable. It is no surprise that for her career, as a guard, she committed a total of just 164 turnovers in 2,892 minutes of unmatchable statistic.

She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor's in political science in 1989 and was a longtime employee of Knoxville law firm Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C., and served as the Client Services and Marketing Director. She also was very active in her husband's churches, the New Life West (Knoxville) and Faith Temple (Morristown).

She was the wife to the Reverend Johnny Dukes and mother to daughter Stephanie McCray, 20, and son Chandler Dukes, 16. She was the daughter of Charles McCray Sr., the late Reverend Fred Kyle (stepfather) and Mrs. Clara Kyle. She is survived by sisters Sharon Perez and Kim Williams and brother, Charles McCray, Jr. She was born on Jan. 27, 1967 in Savannah, Ga.

Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tyler Summitt Stepping Out of Legendary Mom's Shadow

When Tyler Summitt was playing high school basketball at Webb School in Knoxville, he could hear the chants from the stands.

"Ma-ma's boy! Ma-ma's Boy!"

Road games, home games. Didn't matter.

His mother, the winningest coach in the history of college basketball, she heard them too. And on more than one occasion, Pat Summitt would go over and have a seat in the section where all the noise was coming from.

"It didn't seem to have the same spirit after that," Pat Summitt said.

Uh, yeah.

It doesn't bother Tyler Summitt that he's got perhaps the most famous last name in town, or even that his last name is painted on the court where he practices every day.

His perspective about legacy is as clear as his future goals. Pat Summitt's only son, the boy who was nearly born on a recruiting trip and was practically raised in Thompson-Boling Arena, is a walk-on on at the University of Tennessee basketball team.

His goal is to become a coach like his mom. He is willing to absorb the ribbing and the doubts that come with his ambitions, particularly when they are countered by the unbridled support of his teammates and his coach.

"I think it works both ways," Tyler Summitt said. "I know the ins and outs around here. I know there might be fans or friends talking behind my back, saying I don't deserve to be on the team. It's the same for Steven Pearl (coach Bruce Pearl's son, who is also on the Vols' roster). We are probably in the biggest spotlight you could possibly be in.

"But I think I've earned the respect of my teammates and I honestly don't care if I play another minute on the team. I love being a part of this."

Tyler Summitt is at practice every day, running scout defense, paying undivided attention to the X's and O's on the white board. He hustles, he lifts, he puts in the same time as stars Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris.

Summitt was not what you would call a high school star. He was cut from the sixth-grade basketball team in middle school, as a matter of fact. Last year, he spent his time as a practice player with the women's team, traveling with the team, sitting on the bench during games, participating in workouts.

But he knew that at some point, he would like to walk on with the Vols' men's team. He and his mother sat down with Pearl to talk it over. Pearl was wide-open to the idea, knowing that Tyler Summitt wants to parlay the experience into a coaching career.

"Part of our job is to provide opportunities," Pearl said. "I see him taking notes. He's always evaluating and studying and watching."

Every class he takes, he said, he is trying to relate to a future career in coaching. He has been keeping a folder full of drills since he was in high school. Call his time on the Vols' roster a kind of interactive research project.

"I want to coach, but I'm not done playing," Summitt said. "I'm not done pushing myself."

He's made two appearances so far, playing the closing minutes of an exhibition game and a decisive win over Middle Tennessee State.

In each game, he hit a 3-pointer. Summitt is 2-for-2 from beyond the arc.

His mom got to see the first shot, not the second. She's been busy with her own team, ranked No. 5 in the country and preparing for a big weekend with a game against No. 3 Stanford.

Pat Summitt was a proud mother in the stands the day she watched Tyler hit that first shot.

"I told him he better quit shooting," Pat Summitt said with a chuckle. "I know this is something that he's wanted to do since he was a little boy. Bruce has one of his best teams here, but he funny thing is, when Tyler hit those shots, his teammates were hugging him. He's a hard worker."

Pearl said Summitt has been an important contributor to his program, a positive influence in the locker room with a strong ethic on the court and in the classroom as well. Tyler is in the Honors Program at Tennessee.

"It goes without saying that Pat Summitt's son would be a hard-working kid," Pearl said. "We are getting something out of this as well. He says the right things, he does the right things. He takes care of his business in the classroom. That stuff can be infectious in the locker room, just being around people like that."

Pearl said he's already testing Tyler's coaching instincts. At one point, he asked the sophomore to come up with three things that his mother does that coach Pearl does not and vice versa.

"It's been everything I could have hoped for," Tyler Summitt said. "My end goal is to do anything I can do to become a Division I college basketball coach."

He knows the next question.

"I don't know yet whether I want to coach women or men. I do know that I want to stay in the men's game as long as I can, because it's easier to go from being a men's coach to women's basketball than from the women's game to men's basketball."

Lady Vols Drop ETSU 102-53

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt thinks the Lady Volunteers got a good reminder that all opponents, ranked or otherwise, need to be respected.

Three days after playing passionately in an overtime win against then-No. 3 Stanford, the Lady Vols (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) came out flat against an East Tennessee State team that had only won one of its last five games. They turned up the heat in the second half and pulled away for a 102-53 rout on Wednesday night.

"I lit into everybody at halftime," Summitt said. "They didn't come in with the level of respect that they should. They had one foot out the door."

Tennessee (11-2) scored the first five points and used a 9-0 run to take a 23-11 lead with 12:30 in the first half. The Lady Buccaneers missed some open shots but were able to make it inside to the basket and pulled within eight points twice, but a 3-pointer by Kamiko Williams with 1:42 in the first half helped the Lady Vols take a 46-32 halftime lead.

That wasn't good enough for Summitt.

"Halftime was ... it wasn't pretty," said Angie Bjorklund, who led Tennessee with 16 points. "She definitely got on us, which we needed. Before she even came in we were getting on each other. She basically said we didn't come out with any energy and that the second half needed to be different."

It was definitely different. The Lady Vols turned up the tempo and did a better job of getting the ball inside, where they had a definite size advantage and scored 42 points. After shooting 44.1 percent in the first half, they shot 60 percent after the break.

Bjorklund hit her fourth 3 of the night with 12:30 to go, which tied her with Shanna Zolman as Tennessee's all-time 3-point shooter with 266 treys.

Taber Spani got a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Kelley Cain joined her with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Glory Johnson added 15 points and Meighan Simmons had 13, extending the number of games she's scored in double figures to 13.

ETSU (3-6) struggled with Tennessee's physical play in the paint and was called for 25 personal fouls -- 10 more than the Lady Vols, who hit 21-of-33 from the foul line.

Tennessee outrebounded the Lady Bucs 53-34 and got 20 second-chance points. ETSU also committed 20 turnovers, which Tennessee turned into 26 points.

"We came out and did three of the four things I told them we had to do and that was be smart, play hard and take care of the basketball," Lady Bucs coach Karen Kemp said. "The fourth one unfortunately we were not able to accomplish, and that was knock down open shots. Overall I was pretty happy with the majority of the ballgame."

Destiny Mitchell and Gwen Washington led ETSU with 10 points.

It was the 21st meeting between the two teams, whose rivalry dates back 1924, when the Lady Vols were known as the Volettes. Still, schools took a break from playing after a 98-39 victory by Tennessee on Jan. 8, 1986, and a string of 10 games under Summitt in which Tennessee outscored ETSU by an average 38 points.

"Honestly, I like playing ranked teams because I like the spotlight on our team," Washington said. "Even though Tennessee is the home team, the crowd does get our team into it too. I just like playing in the big crowds. It doesn't make us nervous or anything like that."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lady Vols Beat Stanford 82-72 in OT

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt had plenty of strong messages for her players in practice this week following an embarrassing loss at Baylor. After the Lady Vols had squandered away their lead against Stanford, she called a timeout to give them one more.

"She just said, 'We're not going to lose this game,' " Meighan Simmons recalled. "I just think that everybody thought about what they needed to do to help the team win, and we just brought all of that together."

Simmons did her part with 23 points and by hitting a 3-pointer to force overtime, and No. 6 Tennessee used free throws to pull away in the extra session and beat Stanford (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP) 82-72 on Sunday night.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was denied her 800th career win again after the Cardinal lost at DePaul (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) on Thursday. Her next chance comes Wednesday against San Francisco.

The Cardinal (6-2) held a 63-57 lead with 6:21 to go in regulation, but the Lady Vols' defense gave them trouble and several players drew their fourth fouls as time ticked off the clock. After Toni Kokenis was called for her fourth, Simmons hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 63 with 4:59 to go.

"I was very, very proud that we didn't panic when they went up by six," Summitt said. "We kept our composure."

Jennette Pohlen, who led Stanford with 24 points, hit a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:07 to go to give the Cardinal a 70-67 lead, but Simmons charged down the floor and answered with her own 3 that sent the crowd of 14,197 into a frenzy.

Glory Johnson stole the ball back on a sloppy pass from Kayla Pedersen, but Stanford got the ball back on a tie-up when Shekinna Stricklen lost control of it. VanDerveer called a timeout, and Kokenis drove the court and attempted a mid-range jump shot just before the buzzer against Kelley Cain, who blocked it.

Stanford struggled with sloppy play early in overtime. Pohlen fouled out less than a minute into OT, and Sarah Boothe committed two turnovers before committing her fifth foul and joining Pohlen on the bench 16 seconds later.

"We just needed to lock down on defense, not foul," Pohlen said. "We needed to keep our hands up, box them out and not let them get second shots."

The Lady Vols (10-2) went 8 of 14 from the foul line in overtime. Cain missed back-to-back foul shots with 2:41 left but grabbed the rebound off the second and hit a jump shot in the middle of the lane to give Tennessee a 75-70 lead that again had the crowd screaming. The Cardinal's only overtime points came on a pair of free throws by Pedersen.

"I thought we got some good looks, and we didn't knock down shots that we needed to," VanDerveer said. "When they got good looks, they made shots."

Early in the game, it was all Tennessee. The Lady Vols were coming off a brutal loss at Baylor (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) when they shot 25 percent, the worst percentage in program history.

Against Stanford, they hit five of their first six 3-point attempts and grabbed a 30-16 lead -- their largest of the game -- on a jumper by Kamiko Williams with 7:21 in the first half. Tennessee shot 48.5 percent in the first half but cooled off to 35.5 percent in the second.

Both teams went cold for 3 minutes, but a 3-pointer by Pedersen broke the spell and a pair of baskets by Pohlen helped chip away at the margin some more. By halftime, Tennessee's lead was 39-31.

Stanford used 62.5 percent shooting in the second half after hitting just 33.3 percent of its shots in the first to cover the rest of the margin, and a 3-pointer from Pohlen tied the game at 49 with 13:25 left.

"The way Stanford came out [of halftime], I thought they had been shot out of a cannon," Summitt said. "They came to play. We didn't respond well."

Angie Bjorklund added 16 points, Stricklen had 15 and Taber Spani 10 for Tennessee.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Stanford. Pedersen added 10 points.

These two teams have gone to overtime in six of their 28 meetings. The Cardinal's last visit to The Summitt court at Thompson-Boling Arena went into overtime, with Tennessee winning that one 79-69 in a similar manner.

In that game it was Pohlen who knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game, but Stanford didn't get a single point in OT.

The Lady Vols lead the annual series 22-6, although the teams have split the last five meetings.

"I think it just shows we both have really competitive teams, and they are hard-fought battles that are disappointing to lose," VanDerveer said.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lady Vols Fall 65-54 at No. 2/3 Baylor

Brittney Griner and No. 2 Baylor were too big of an obstacle for No. 6 Tennessee.

Griner had 21 points, nine blocks and disrupted nearly everything the Lady Vols wanted to do, lifting the Lady Bears to a 65-54 victory Tuesday night in a game that was rarely even close.

Playing before a crowd of 10,569 -- the most ever for a basketball game at Baylor, men's or women's -- the Lady Bears (10-1) never trailed. They broke it open for good with an 11-0 run to close the first half and led by as many as 15 points.

Tennessee (9-2) never got closer than seven points in the second half.

Odyssey Sims led Baylor with 24 points. She scored 14 in the second half, while Griner had only five. Melissa Jones scored eight points, Brooklyn Pope and Kimetria Hayden both had six and Pope had four blocks and nine rebounds.

Meighan Simmons led the Lady Vols with 22 points and Angie Bjorklund had 10. No one else had more than five. Tennessee shot only 25 percent from the field.

Fans lined up more than three hours before tipoff, excited by the matchup and lured by free bobbleheads of coach Kim Mulkey. Griner gave them plenty to shout about from the start.

The 6-foot-8 center had 16 points and six blocks by halftime. The Lady Vols had only eight field goals at the break, their accuracy snuffed by the shots she swatted and those she altered.

Part of her inspiration was seeing the majority of the football team sitting behind the basket Baylor defended that half. She growled toward them a few times, sometimes flashing a smile and a little wave in their direction. Star quarterback Robert Griffin and all-conference safety Byron Landor swept the court during one break, with Griffin taking a microphone and firing everyone up by saying, "We're here to support the Lady Bears. We know you're here to support the Lady Bears. This is our house!"

Griner shot a few glances toward the guys during the second half, too, when Baylor was shooting at that basket. Things weren't all that intense, though, because Tennessee could never mount much of a rally.

The Lady Bears simply cruised to their second straight victory over one of the premier programs in women's college basketball, another reminder of what a force they have become. Their only loss was by one point at No. 1 Connecticut.

Tennessee's only other loss was by 11 to Georgetown, which is now No. 20.

At game's end, Mulkey got the microphone and told the crowd, "Thanks for doing this. ... Football team, go win a bowl game. Thank you!"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lady Vols Beat Texas 92-77

Tennessee's tough, two-game Texas swing got off to a rousing start.

Angie Bjorklund scored 20 points in the first half and Meighan Simmons added 18 and the eighth-ranked Lady Vols pulled away in the second half to coast to a 92-77 victory over No. No. 21 Texas on Sunday.

Bjorklund provided the early punch with four 3-pointers in the first half, then Simmons took over in the second as the Lady Vols (9-1) sent Texas (5-3) to its third consecutive loss.

As soon as it was over, the Lady Vols turned their attention to their big Tuesday night showdown with No. 2 Baylor just 100 miles north in Waco. Baylor knocked Tennessee out of the NCAA tournament last season.

"We've been looking forward to (Baylor) for a while," Bjorklund said. "When that game ended, my mind went to Baylor. I'm not going to lie."

Kathleen Nash scored 21 points to lead Texas, which committed its season average of 20 turnovers that led to 23 Tennessee points. The loss also snapped Texas' 27-game non-conference winning streak at home.

Texas was hamstrung by suspensions and illness and coach Gail Goestenkors used only seven players. The Longhorns didn't have the stamina to keep up with the deep and talented Lady Vols, who had five players score in double figures.

"The guard play we have allows us to be out and bring the heat early. Watching them on tape, Texas does a great job of pushing tempo. We knew we had to match that intensity," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "Our depth definitely helped us in this game, being able to rotate and keep people fresh."

Tennessee shot 51 percent in the first half. Bjorklund made a variety of shots, hitting 4 of 8 3-pointers or driving at will. Her reverse dribble around the perimeter and burst along the baseline for a reverse layup put the Lady Vols up 38-29.

Tennessee led by as many as nine points in the half and kept finding the shots it needed to end Texas rallies. The Longhorns got within 40-37 on Yvonne Anderson's 3-pointer before Bjorklund made her fourth 3-pointer of the half in a 6-0 run.

Nash kept making the shots that kept the Lady Vols from pulling too far away. Nash was 6 of 8 from the field in the first half with four 3-pointers. A defensive lapse by the Lady Vols let Nash slip into the right wing for a wide-open 3-pointer with 5 seconds left to pull the Longhorns within 48-42.

"We made them pay for being in their zone. In the second half, we made too many turnovers and that led to transition for them," Nash said.

Texas clamped down on Bjorklund in the second half, holding her to just one shot over the first 12 minutes. But the Lady Vols finally pushed to their first double-digit lead on consecutive fast breaks after Texas missed shots.

Bjorklund fired a long pass to Simmons for an easy layup and 20 seconds later, Simmons was out front on another break. She missed the contested layup but Kelley Cain was there for an easy putback and a 65-54 lead with 13:43 to play.

The lightning-quick Simmons was on the run in just about every Tennessee break. Her layup started an 11-1 Tennessee run that put the game away. Taber Spani made a 3-pointer from the left corner and Shekinna Stricklen had a fastbreak layup and a three-point play to put the Lady Vols up 82-64 with 6:38 left.

Simmons is from the San Antonio suburbs about 60 miles away. She played in three high school state tournaments on Texas' court but never won a title.

"I was nervous" about the chance to play so close to home in front of a lot of family, Simmons said.

She didn't look it when she had a steal and layup for the Lady Vols first basket of the game and hit a 3-pointer moments later.

Simmons said she always dreamed of playing at Tennessee for Summitt and never considered signing with Texas.

"When I first saw her in high school, I was like 'Wow.' If we could get a player like her, she could be a difference maker," Summitt said.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Lady Vols Cruise Past Old Dominion 74-44

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has seen just about everything in her career. She still takes delight in the success of her freshmen.

Meighan Simmons scored 14 points and Tennessee (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) cruised past Old Dominion 74-44 on Sunday, closing the first half with a full-court press that fueled a 30-14 run.

"It's been pretty amazing to see a freshman that is just fearless and just loves the game," Summitt said. "Did I think Meighan would come in and be a freshman and start? No. I thought, 'It'll take her a while.' It didn't take me long to figure out we didn't need a while.

"We needed yes," Summitt said, "right now."

Tennessee (8-1) led 40-22 at halftime after holding Old Dominion (3-3) almost 3 minutes without a basket during its big run. The Lady Monarchs opened the second half with more energy but still struggled from the field, shooting just 31.6 percent and going 4 for 21 on 3-pointers.

"I have surprised myself," Simmons said. "Like Pat said, she didn't expect it, and neither did I. I don't know. I really can't explain it."

The Lady Monarchs (3-3), who opened the season with a 65-63 win at Georgia Tech and beat Louisville 69-65 on Nov. 26, shot 32 percent for the game and were outrebounded 41-33.

Tennessee, by contrast, heated up behind senior guard Angie Bjorklund, who was scoreless in the first half. She hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Lady Vols' lead to 48-29 about 4 minutes into the second half. Kelley Cain's basket stretched the lead to 21 with 13:10 left.

Simmons, who was 5 of 13 from the floor, came into Sunday's game shooting 48 percent from the floor and 37 percent from long range. She scored 28 points in Tennessee's 99-55 win against Lamar on Dec. 1, setting a single-game record for the Lady Vols with eight 3-pointers.

"She's probably their most versatile offensive player, in that she can take it off the dribble, she's got a mid-range game, and she's got the long ball," Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry said. "It's real difficult to play her anything but straight up."

Shekinna Stricklen had 11 points and Kamiko Williams added 10 for the Lady Vols, who shot 47 percent and committed 18 turnovers -- but forced 22 of them.

Simmons, leading Tennessee with 17 points per game, has scored in double figures in all nine games. Her performance Sunday, which also included a team-best four assists, was highlighted by a spectacular off-balance jumper while falling out of bounds in the first half.

Simmons scored 28 points in Tennessee's 99-55 win against Lamar on Dec. 1, setting a single-game record for the Lady Vols with eight 3-pointers.

Tennessee is now 35-9 all-time against Old Dominion, which got 16 points from senior guard Jasmine Parker. That made her the 28th player in school history to score 1,000.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lady Vols Cruise Past Lamar, 99-55

KNOXVILLE -- Meighan Simmons opened the game with consecutive 3-pointers. When the final buzzer sounded, the freshman had broken Tennessee's single-game record for 3s, most recently set by teammate Angie Bjorklund.

Simmons, making her first career start at point guard, scored 28 points and sank her eighth and final 3 with 2:03 left as the Lady Volunteers (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) beat Lamar 99-55 on Wednesday night. She surpassed the previous record of seven, most recently set by Bjorklund against Arkansas on Jan. 24, 2008.

"I think we'll have a little competition now to see if Angie can get Meighan a little fired up and pass her back," coach Pat Summitt joked after the game. "[Simmons] is so light on her feet, so aggressive offensively and defensively. That just speaks volumes to have a freshman do that. She just loves the game of basketball. I think she really inspired everyone else."

Simmons has scored in double-digits in every game this season, and her shooting helped Tennessee overcome a sloppy start wrought with the kind of turnovers that plagued it in a 69-58 loss to No. 12 Georgetown on Saturday in the Paradise Jam, the Lady Vols' first loss of the season. They committed 29 turnovers in that game and had 10 in the first half against Lamar.

But the Lady Cardinals couldn't convert them into points, and Tennessee (7-1) jumped out to a 12-0 lead. Lamar, a team that returned three starters from last year's squad that reached the NCAA tournament, missed its first nine shots before Monique Whittaker hit a layup with 15:12 left in the half.

Lamar had problems hanging onto the ball, committing 29 turnovers that led to 33 points for Tennessee, which also got 26 second-chance points by outrebounding the Lady Cardinals 54-40.

"We are not a bad rebounding team, but I had people standing under the basket instead of pushing and fighting and clawing," Lamar coach Larry Tidwell said. "In our five-game winning streak we outrebounded everybody."

The Lady Vols' early points came mostly from the perimeter and mostly from Simmons, who had 17 points by halftime on 6-of-10 shooting and five 3s. The Lady Cardinals (5-2) couldn't keep up, and Tennessee took a 49-27 lead into halftime.

"[Simmons] is one of the most confident players I've played with, and I have complete respect for her on the court," Bjorklund said. "When she's hitting like that, it opens up a lot for everyone else."

After the break, Simmons cooled off a bit, giving her teammates a chance to light up the scoreboard. Shekinna Stricklen fought her way into the paint, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Kamiko Williams had 13 points, and Glory Johnson had 12 rebounds.

Bjorklund, who came off the bench, took over in the backcourt with 15 points and set a record of her own. Her nine attempts from 3-point range gave her 633 career tries, breaking Shanna Zolman's previous record of 626. She needs 13 3-pointers to tie Zolman's career record of 266.

Tennessee pulled away in the second half and led by as many as 45 with 2:10 left as Lamar shot 30.6 percent. Ang Green led the Lady Cardinals with 15 points.

"I wouldn't say we were nervous, but maybe a little anxious," Whittaker said. "We just wanted to do our best. We really couldn't control what they were doing, but we have to make sure we play within ourselves."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turnovers, Threes Doom Lady Vols, 69-58

ST. THOMAS, U.S VIRGIN ISLANDS - The fourth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team got a taste of its own medicine on Saturday night at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center in the final game of the "Reef Division" at the 2010 Paradise Jam.

The No. 12/13-ranked Georgetown Hoyas forced the Lady Vols to commit 29 turnovers, resulting in 31 points en route to a 69-58 victory.

Heading into this matchup, Tennessee had committed just 25 turnovers in two games on the island and forced the opposition (Missouri and Georgia Tech) into committing 49 turnovers that resulted in 60 points.

"They had 31 points on turnovers," Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt said. "Our team did not come to the gym on a mission to win. I'm very disappointed. I think Georgetown came in here and was tougher and more aggressive."

The Lady Vols drop to 6-1, while the Hoyas improve to 5-1. Georgetown captured the "Reef Division" title behind the play of guard Sugar Rodgers, who scored 28 points against the Lady Vols and was named MVP.

Joining her on the all-tournament team were RaeShara Brown, of Missouri, Alex Montgomery, of Georgia Tech, Monica McNutt, of Georgetown, and Tennessee's Glory Johnson and Meighan Simmons.

Johnson had her second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 12 boards, while Simmons scored 11 points.

Johnson averaged 11.7 ppg and 13.0 rpg during the three-day tournament and Simmons led Tennessee with 13 ppg on the island. The 5-9 freshman guard from Cibolo, Texas has started her career with seven straight double-figure scoring games.

"We need to bounce back pretty quickly," Johnson said. "We let Georgetown's up-tempo play dictate how we ran our offense and defense."

Georgetown came into the game shooting just 27-percent from three, but hit three treys in the first two minutes, 15 seconds of the game and raced out to a 29-22 lead at halftime.

The Hoyas took advantage of Tennessee's 2-3 zone by shooting 50 percent (7-14) from behind the arc in the first half. Georgetown finished the game shooting 55.6 from three (10-18) - the best a team has shot against the Lady Vols this season.

Georgetown stretched the lead to as much as 17 points, 59-42 in the second half when point guard Rubylee Wright found Alexa Roche for a layup on a backdoor play with 7:14 left in the game.

The Lady Vols fought back to within nine, 65-56, with 59 seconds left in the game on a layup by Johnson, but the Hoyas, who never trailed, held on for the victory.

Tennessee junior guard Shekinna Stricklen was fouled on a shot attempt with 1:01 left in the contest and took a hard fall. She was taken off on a stretcher as a precaution, and as a result of the fall suffered back spasms.

Tennessee returns to action on Wednesday when it hosts Lamar at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lady Vols Win 66-42 Over Georgia Tech

ST. THOMAS, U.S VIRGIN ISLANDS - Just before the start of the second half on Friday night, the power went off and it took several minutes for the lights to come back on at the University of the Virgin Islands' Sports and Fitness Center. With 11:28 remaining in the contest, they went out again. And again two more times in the second half.

The fourth-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball team had already said good night to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets long before the first blackout, however, racing out to a 46-17 halftime lead en route to a 66-42 victory in the "Reef Division" of the Paradise Jam tournament in a game that gave new meaning to "Black Friday."

An island-wide power outage caused delays of 13:32, 11:30, 10:45 and 7:45 for a 43:15-minute total delay.

"At first, I really didn't mind the stoppages in the second half," Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt said. "It gave us some breaks but it was hard to stay focused when they became more frequent. But what are you going to do? It was happening around the Island."

Relying heavily on its zone defense, Tennessee (6-0) held the Yellow Jackets (3-4) to just one field goal over a 13-minute, 28-second span of the first half and rattled off a 27-2 spurt before the halftime buzzer.

No Yellow Jacket reached double figures in scoring and junior forward Glory Johnson grabbed a career-best 18 boards and scored a game-high 15 points.

"This was one of Glory's better games," Summitt said. "She played hard on both ends of the floor and she was efficient on the glass. Overall, she did a super job. This was a great team win. We had a lot of people step up and contribute. I liked the way our zone looked because everyone was active and helped out."

Tennessee led 12-11 before junior point guard Shekinna Stricklen blocked a Tyuanna Marshall layup, grabbed the rebound, pushed the ball past half court and pulled up for a three-pointer to spark the 27-2 run.

Freshman Meighan Simmons continued her stellar start, scoring 14 points. She has started her career by reaching double figures in all six games. Tennessee held the Yellow Jackets to just 30.4 percent shooting and 11.1 percent from three in the first half.

Neither team drew much iron in a second half that was choppy because of delays.

Still Johnson and the Lady Vols were in high spirits after another blowout victory, having opened the tournament with an 82-44 win over Missouri on Thursday night.

"The blackouts were rough, but at the same time I'm in the Virgin Islands," Johnson said. "I'll take a couple blackouts to play in the Virgin Islands any day."

UT wraps up the tournament at 8 p.m. Saturday against No. 12/13 Georgetown.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lady Vols Roll Past Missouri, 82-44

ST. THOMAS, U.S VIRGIN ISLANDS -- The fourth-ranked University of Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first five minutes, 15 seconds of the opening stanza and never looked back, racing to an 82-44 victory over Missouri in their first game of the "Reef Division" at the 2010 Paradise Jam tournament at the University of the Virgin Islands' Sports and Fitness Center.

The Lady Vols improve to 5-0 on the season, while the Tigers drop to 1-2.

All 10 Lady Vols that played made a basket, and Meighan Simmons was UT's leading scorer with 14 points.

The 5-9 freshman from Cibolo, Texas, has now started her career off by reaching double figures in her first five collegiate games.

"Oh, we keep our foot on the gas and we keep going," Simmons said. "Especially when we have a lead. We always want to keep the momentum going."

Raeshara Brown, of Missouri, led all scorers with 18 points, but the rest of the Tigers couldn't muster anything offensively.

UT used stifling defense throughout the game to hamper Missouri's attack throughout the game.

The Tigers missed six of their first seven shot attempts, and committed 15 turnovers to just four for the Lady Vols in the first half.

"I think our depth played a big part," Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt said. "Our zone defense also played a big part. We're long and there's some range there. People came off the bench and everyone did a nice job."

After racing out to an 11-2 lead behind three buckets by 6-6 junior center Kelley Cain, the Lady Vols allowed six straight Tigers' baskets.

Tennessee answered by going on a 17-3 run to take a commanding 28-11 lead. During the run, UT's top sub played a critical role, with sophomore Taber Spani hitting the game's first three-pointer and classmate Kamiko Williams hitting jump shots and playmaking.

Spani and Williams each scored 10 points, while fellow sub - junior Alicia Manning - scored a season-high 11 points and recorded a career-best five steals.

The superb bench play allowed Summitt to rest some of her key starters such as Cain (12 minutes), senior Angie Bjorklund (22 minutes) and junior Shekinna Stricklen (19 minutes). Redshirt junior Vicki Baugh also didn't play for a fourth straight game, as Tennessee continues to monitor her minutes after a 20-month layoff because of two knee surgeries.

"We have two very tough games coming up so it was important to rest some starters and give everyone a chance to play," Summitt said. "We wanted to share the minutes the best we could. I didn't play Baugh, but she will be ready tomorrow."

Tennessee scored 10 straight points to open the second half, taking a 53-24 lead at the 17:19 mark. The Lady Vols made six of their first seven shots after intermission, while preventing the Tigers from making a basket until a Brown three-pointer 6:30 into the second stanza.

Tennessee finished the game shooting 50.8 percent, while holding the Tigers to 34.1 percent from the field.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lady Vols Win Over Sun Devils 80-64

Pat Summitt was looking for a better defensive effort from fourth-ranked Tennessee. When she wasn't getting it early against Arizona State, she benched her best defensive player, Glory Johnson, for a few minutes.

"She had to step up for us," the coach said. "She was blending in. I got on to her at halftime probably a little tougher than I should have, but she responded. We need her. She can affect the game in many, many ways."

Johnson returned to the game and affected it by turning up the pressure, grabbing 15 rebounds and scoring 14 points inside as the Lady Volunteers beat Arizona State 80-64 on Sunday.

Summitt was irate with her players after their 85-73 win over Virginia because of what she said was an ugly defensive performance and a mediocre rebounding effort that they covered up with strong shooting from Angie Bjorklund.

"At first I didn't understand, but when I was sitting down on the bench, I was like, 'There's a lot I can do to help my team. Stay focused. Even though I'm getting yelled at, I'm still going to play my game I can take that and make things positive," Johnson said.

Both Tennessee and Arizona State used smothering defense in the first half, but the Sun Devils' shooting efforts fell apart halfway through under pressure by the Lady Vols.

The Sun Devils wouldn't score again in the half after taking an 18-17 lead on a jumper by Adrianne Thomas with 8:38 to go. The Lady Vols used a 16-0 run during that time to grab a 33-18 lead heading into halftime.

Tennessee (4-0) took advantage of 11 first-half turnovers by Arizona State, turning them into 12 points.

Instead of relying on Bjorklund, their senior shooting guard, the Lady Vols spread the ball around. Shekinna Stricklen led the team with 18 points, Kamiko Williams and Taber Spani each added 12 and Meighan Simmons had 10.

The Sun Devils (2-1) have relied on their own defense and rebounding to carry them this season. They limited their first two opponents to 33 percent shooting from the field while forcing a combined 46 turnovers and outrebounding their opponents an average 53-30.5.

Instead, it was Lady Vols who won the rebounding battle, 45-36, as they hit 45.6 percent of their shots from the field.

"I'm just very disappointed in our defense," Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "We're not a team that's a score-more team."

Arizona State shot 51.9 percent in the second half, but it wasn't enough to overcome their 28.6 percent first-half shooting, and the Lady Vols' lead never dropped below 13 points after halftime. Dymond Simon, who has returned to the Sun Devils' lineup after sitting out the 2009-10 season recovering from a second major knee injury, was the only Arizona State player in double digits with 13 points.

"I think in the first half we were rushing, taking a lot of off-balanced shots," Simon said. "When we went into halftime, our coaches really emphasized running the offense all the way through, make sure you look at all your options -- especially the post players. I think we did a very good job in the second half."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Three Hoopsters Ink with the Lady Vols

Knoxville, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer Basketball Coach Pat Summitt confirmed that she had received all final paperwork from signees Cierra Burdick, Isabelle Harrison and Ariel Massengale on Friday.

The NCAA early signing period began on Wed., Nov. 10, and all three players inked her papers that day and faxed their signed letters-of-intent to Tennessee.

"We are very excited to have signed this outstanding class of student-athletes to come to the University of Tennessee," said Summitt. "Individually and collectively, they are regarded as some of the top prospects in the nation. All three players will be an excellent fit and a complement to the players on our roster.

"Our coaching staff and team are thrilled that these talented young women will be wearing Tennessee Orange and White next season."

A number of pollsters, who rate signing classes, have given Tennessee the nod for the nation's best recruiting class. Burdick and Massengale were early commits and Harrison joined the fold with a verbal on Oct. 28.

"As a coaching staff, we talked about the fact that this would be the best recruiting class in the country. Certainly one of the reasons that we felt like we wanted to sign three in this class was the quality of the players that were in it," said Summitt.

The Lady Vols lose only two seniors after the 2010-11season, starting guard Angie Bjorklund and reserve guard Sydney Smallbone but will have a seven-player senior class in 2011-12. The incoming class of three signees will shore up key needs on the coaches' wish list.

"We identified some key needs in the class," Summitt said. "We felt like if we could get a dynamic guard and two frontline players that we could obviously put together a very successful recruiting endeavor, and we did. These players are skilled athletes who are capable of playing multiple positions. I love the versatility in each of their games and their hunger to become the very best."

Cierra Burdick is considered to be the top forward and the consensus No. 3 overall player in the 2011 class...A versatile impact talent with all of the physical attributes to be a top scorer or rebounder...Named to the 2010 USA U17 World Championship Team...She averaged 7.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 16.4 mpg en route to an 8-0 record and the gold medal...Averaged 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg and 1.6 spg in 16.6 mpg to help the USA capture a 5-0 record and gold medal at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women, Aug. 10-14 in Mexico City...Earned 2010 Parade Magazine All-America third team honors...Named the 2010 North Carolina Gatorade State Player of the Year...Selected as the 2010 Associated Press North Carolina Co-Player of the Year...Honored as a 2010 ESPN Rise All-American first team member... Tabbed 2010 Charlotte Observer Mecklenburg County Co-Player of the Year and All-Mecklenburg first team... All-Charlotte Observer All-State first team selection in 2009...Played two varsity seasons at Butler High School in Mathews, N.C., and one varsity season at South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, N.C. ...In her three varsity seasons, has compiled 1,084 points and 737 rebounds...Averaged 18.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.5 spg and 1.6 bpg...As a junior in 2009-10, she helped to lead Butler to the North Carolina 4A state title and a 26-4 record...Named MVP of the 2010 state title game, scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds... As a sophomore in 2008-09, averaged 12.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 2.1 spg and 1.4 bpg to help Butler finish with a 30-2 record... As a freshman in 2007-08, she averaged 10.9 apg, 7.4 rpg and 1.4 apg as South Mecklenburg posted a 9-15 record...Played AAU for Boo Williams, also played for Team Unique from 2007-2009; played for Carolina Comets in 2003 and 2004 and the Queen City Jewells in 2002, 2005 and 2006... Also participates in track and field, was a 2008 North Carolina 4A outdoor state champion and 2010 North Carolina 4A indoor state champ in the high jump... She carries a 4.06 grade-point average and is in her school's National Honor Society...Born on Sept. 30, 1993 in Charlotte, N.C. ...She is the daughter of Lisa Burdick and Derrick Heard; has one brother, C.J. (5) and two sisters Emma (10) and Jillian (10).

SUMMITT ON BURDICK: "I think Cierra is very versatile. She can play on the perimeter if need be, but she's really good in the high-low game whether she is at the top of the key or in the paint. She's a really nice passer, too."

Isabelle Harrison selected the Lady Vols over SEC schools Kentucky and Georgia... As a high schooler, Harrison was considered as the consensus overall No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2011 after being ranked No. 13 by Blue Star Basketball, No. 19 by All-Star Girls Report and No. 29 by ESPN Hoopgurlz...She averaged 16.7 ppg and 11.1 rpg as a junior earning First Team All State honors at Hillsboro High School in Nashville...She won a Class AAA state championship at Hillsboro as a sophomore when her team went undefeated...HHS made the Class AAA sub-state round in her junior season... Harrison also plays volleyball for Hillsboro...Her sister, DeeDee, is a 6'3" redshirt sophomore middle blocker on the Lady Vol Volleyball team... She has been a member of the honor roll all three years at Hillsboro... Harrison was a summer teammate of fellow signee Ariel Massengale in AAU basketball playing for Tennessee Flight... The Flight won the Nike Nationals in Augusta, Ga., July 2010... She was born on Sept 27, 1993 in Nashville, Tenn., and is the daughter of Ida and Dennis Harrison; Has 11 siblings, Idette, 32, Dennis, Jr., 31, Danielle, 30, David, 28, Dianne, 26, Daniel, 24, Della, 22, DeeDee, 21, Isaiah, 18, Ian, 15 and Dorie, 12...

SUMMITT ON HARRISON: "Isabelle has got a nice pull-up game. She's very skilled. She can get up-and-down and move on the floor. She's probably going to play the high post and inside more than outside, but I think she can step away."

Ariel Massengale is a high profile point guard who was an early commit to the Lady Vols...Considered the nation's best point guard in the 2011 class and the consensus fourth best overall prospect...Has been called confident, consistent, and assertive leader on the floor...She started for the gold medalist 2010 USA U17 World Championship Team...Dropped in 22 points in the semis and 20 points in the gold medal game...She averaged 10.1 ppg and 3.3 rpg...Handed out 43 assists and committed just 16 miscues in 22.5 mpg...Previously, she averaged 12.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, a team high 4.8 apg and 1.6 spg and a team high 22.2 mpg to help the USA capture a 5-0 record and gold medal at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women, Aug. 10-14 in Mexico City...Named to the 2010 Parade All-America second team...Tabbed 3A/4A all-state first team by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA), the Associated Press and the Champaign News Gazette in 2010...Selected to the 2010 Chicago Tribune All-State team and the 2009 all-area team...Named the Herald News 2010 Co-Player of the Year and to the all-area team in 2008 and 2009...Named to the 2009 and 2010 ESPN Rise All-America second team...Helped Bolingbrook finish with a No. 5 final ranking in the USA Today Super 25 in 2009 and 2010...Honored as 3A/4A all-state second team by the IBCA, the Associated Press and the Champaign News Gazette in 2009...Selected to the 2008 and 2009 All-Southwest Suburban Blue Conference first teams...Tabbed IBCA All-State third team in 2008...Entering her senior season, she has starred at Bolingbrook High School in Bolingbrook, Ill., where she has started in 81 of 87 career games and compiled 1,124 points, 284 rebounds, 386 assists and 262 steals...As a junior in 2009-10, started in 24 of 26 games played and averaged 13.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.5 apg and 4.0 spg to help her team to a 29-1 record and a state title... As a sophomore in 2008-09, averaged 13.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.0 apg and 2.6 spg to help Bolingbrook to a 25-4 record and the 4A state title... As a freshman in 2007-08, averaged 15.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.5 apg and 3.2 spg to help Bolingbrook to a 28-4 tally and the Class 4A state title game... Played AAU for Tennessee Flight Silver in 2010; played for Illinois Dream Team from 2007-2009... Is a member of school's honor roll ...She was born on June 10, 1993, in Downer's Grove, Ill., and is the daughter of Anita and Carvel Massengale; has one brother, Avery (27).

SUMMITT ON MASSENGALE: "Ariel is a terrific player. She's a terrific guard and a natural leader. I think she's a special point guard because of her mindset and her competitive drive."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tennessee Tops Virginia 85-73

The Tennessee Lady Volunteers overcame sluggish defensive play with accurate shooting against a speedy Virginia team.

Coach Pat Summitt still had an earful for them after their 85-73 win.

"How ugly was that? Goodness," Summitt shouted, carrying her frustration into her postgame press conference. "That was painful to watch. We just came off a 60 point win. We thought we were all that and more. Am I happy that we won? Absolutely. Am I pleased with how we played? Not at all."

Summitt said the struggles on defense could be traced back to a lack of focus in the film room, for which she took credit as coach. She also promised it would improve leading up to Tennessee's meeting with Arizona State on Sunday and that the Lady Vols would learn from their "wake-up call."

"I'd rather have it now than later because we have more tough teams coming up," Tennessee guard Angie Bjorklund said. "ASU on Sunday is going to be a tough game. We have a couple of days to prepare for that and get a lot better on defense."

In the meantime, strong shooting overcame the defensive woes as the Lady Vols shot 53.1 percent against the Cavaliers in the first half. Bjorklund, who scored 24 points in a win at Virginia a season ago, made six 3-pointers and scored 26 points while playing all 40 minutes this time.

Shekinna Stricklen added 15 points for Tennessee, and Meighan Simmons had 12.

Ariana Moorer led Virginia with 24 points, Paulisha Kellum added 18 and Telia McCall had 10 points and eight rebounds.

Virginia got off to a quick start, hitting its first eight shots and used a 9-0 run to take a 17-9 lead with 15:45 in the first half, and controlled the tempo of the game throughout much of the first 20 minutes.

Tennessee switched between their typical man-to-man defense and a zone to slow the Cavaliers down and rally back. A 3-point basket by Stricklen tied the game at 32 with 6:42 in the first half, and the Lady Vols held a 41-39 lead at halftime.

Bjorklund opened the second half with a 3-pointer, launching an 8-0 run that gave Tennessee a 49-39 lead with 15:36 left. Virginia didn't score until a pair of free throws by Ataira Franklin with 14:39 to go.

"I warned my team that they were going to come out with much better intensity, and I knew that they would come out a little more organized, and sure enough they did," Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said. "I felt like that was where they game was decided."

The shooting effort remained cool as the Cavaliers hit only 41.7 percent of their second-half shots. The Lady Vols pushed the margin to as many as 18 points -- enough to sustain a late run by Virginia.

The Cavaliers starters also found themselves in foul trouble early in the second half as Kellum picked up her fourth foul with 16:16 left and Simone Egwu got her fourth with 12:09 to go.

Six of this year's Cavaliers were around for Virginia's 83-82 win over Tennessee two years ago in Knoxville.

"I remembered how our intensity was before and during that game, so I wanted to carry that over to this game," Kellum said. "I think I did that and our team did as well. We showed great leadership on the court."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lady Vols Hit 15 Threes in 103-43 Win

Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss wrote on the board before the fourth-ranked Lady Vols took the court against Chattanooga, "If you're open, do not hesitate."
Not a problem, coach.

Meighan Simmons led four players in double-digit scoring with 26 points as Tennessee hit a school-record 15 3-pointers in a 103-43 romp over Chattanooga on Monday night.

"My teammates are always encouraging me and telling me, 'When you're open, shoot the ball," Simmons said. "I think that kind of boosts my confidence up."

The freshman, who was rewarded for her 22-point performance in her first game as a Lady Vol with a starting role against Chattanooga, got things rolling with a 3-pointer 9 seconds into the game. The Lady Vols (2-0) never let up as they hit four more 3s during their opening 19-0 run.

Smothered by Tennessee's pressing defense, Chattanooga (0-2) didn't score until 14:22 in the first, when Alex Black fought for a jump shot to make it 19-2. Simmons immediately answered with yet another 3-point shot, and the Lady Mocs went through another 4-minute scoring drought.

"When you shoot the ball as well as we did, that gives us a lot of confidence, but I was more excited about our commitment on the defensive end," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "You never know when you'll have an off night shooting the ball, so you have to be ready to go in all aspects."

Tennessee baited the Lady Mocs by going inside to its tall posts and then shooting the ball outside to whichever sharpshooter was wide open. The Lady Vols grabbed a 36-point lead off a Sydney Smallbone jumper with less than a minute to go before the break, but a free throw by Chattanooga's Tenisha Townsend cut it to 51-16.

By then the Lady Vols had shot 58.8 percent from the field, made 11 of 18 from behind the arc and had three players in double-digit scoring. Angie Bjorklund finished with 20 points, Taber Spani had 14 and Kamiko Williams added 12.

"It's kind of like pick your poison," Bjorklund said.

The Lady Mocs, who have won the past 11 Southern Conference championships, couldn't match the effort after committing 17 turnovers and making only 21.7 percent of their shots from the field. Whitney Hood led Chattanooga with 22 points.

"It is definitely a learning experience," Hood said. "All we can do is get better, and when we practice on Wednesday we have to focus on the next game."

An uncontested 3-pointer by Bjorklund was Tennessee's 14th of the game, breaking the school single-game record of 13. The Lady Vols squads had hit 13 three times, most recently by Summitt's eighth national championship squad in a 98-55 win over Arkansas on Jan. 24, 2008.

The Lady Vols led by as many as 36 points in the first half and by 61 late in the second half.

It's Tennessee's 18th consecutive win in the series, one it leads by a 23-6 margin. Chattanooga hasn't won since before Summitt began coaching the Lady Vols in 1974 but came extremely close in the last meeting, a 66-63 victory by Tennessee at Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2008.

"Today it wasn't a whole lot of fun," Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said. "I knew they were going to present a whole lot of problems for us."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lady Vols Open with 63-50 Win

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Nobody else will overlook Meighan Simmons, not after the way the Tennessee freshman helped the Lady Vols pull out their season opener.

Simmons scored 22 points before a record crowd as No. 4 Tennessee beat Louisville 63-50 on Friday night in the first regular-season game at the new KFC Yum! Center.

"It was devastating," Louisville forward Monique Reid said of Simmons. "She wasn't really on the scouting report. We knew she was able. If you go to Tennessee, we know you're a baller. We didn't really expect it. We wanted somebody else to score other than the main ... like [Angie] Bjorklund, Glory [Johnson] like that. Big ups to her. She's a hooper."

Simmons didn't expect to play as much as she did with 31 minutes coming off the bench. She was 9-of-20 from the floor with eight rebounds.

"I think it was the fact of god using his gift and showing it to the world and letting people know I gave this girl a gift and why not use it at this point in time for my first away game with 22,000 people," Simmons said. "That's just crazy to me, just crazy."

Actually, the game set a Big East women's attendance mark of 22,124. That topped the 19,123 that then-No. 1 Connecticut drew in a visit to Freedom Hall on Jan. 12, 2008. Freedom Hall was a dusty old barn with so much hoops history. People may have been curious to check out the gleaming building with the dazzling scoreboard and all the modern comforts down to a bourbon bar overlooking the Ohio River. Louisville also added a new piece of history by retiring the No. 35 jersey worn by Angel McCoughtry before tipoff.

"What a great place," Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said of an arena she compared to Tennessee's home, Thompson-Boling Arena.

Louisville coach Jeff Walz grabbed a microphone at the end and thanked the fans who wore mostly red and not Tennessee orange.

The fans gave him a standing ovation and fans talked of a quick return to the Final Four. He joked later he thought they were standing up to head for the exits.

"They were fantastic. The place got loud," Walz said. Shekinna Stricklen scored 14 points for Tennessee, which improved to 34-3 in season openers in Summitt's 37 seasons.

Reid had 19 points for Louisville in a loss that snapped a five-game winning streak in openers for the Cardinals.

It was a sloppy, physical game as both teams struggled to hold onto the ball or find the basket. Louisville led 8-2 before Tennessee took the lead for good at 11-10 on a layup by Johnson.

This opener pitted experience versus youth.

Tennessee is junior-laden with nearly every player back from a team that went 32-3 last season. The Lady Vols won the championship in 2008 but have made earlier-than-expected exits from the last two NCAA tournaments. Louisville's roster is stocked with the highest recruited group of freshmen in school history. That includes Shoni Schimmel, the highest-ranked player ever to sign with the Cardinals.

But it was tough to tell who had more freshmen as both teams traded turnovers and bad shots throughout.

The Lady Vols wound up with 29 turnovers. Louisville, with the excuse of so many freshmen, had 22.

Early on, it looked as if the Lady Vols didn't realize this game counted. They missed their first seven shots, including a jumper from Stricklen that never came near the rim as it flew over, and they couldn't control the ball, either.

Summitt tried to take advantage of having her two top post players healthy by playing 6-foot-6 Kelley Cain and 6-4 Vicki Baugh early. It didn't help as both picked up two quick fouls. Tennessee did wind up controlling the boards 53-29.

Meanwhile, Schimmel had seven of the Cards' 15 turnovers in the first half despite playing only nine minutes. Walz kept playing her too, and she had just one more turnover to go with all of her nine points in the second half.

Simmons got going in her own debut hit a jumper to cap a 10-0 spurt for a 15-10 lead midway through the first half. She wound up playing 31 minutes.

"I was impressed because Pat let her play," Walz said.

Louisville didn't go away, not with that crowd ramping up the energy every time the Cardinals hit a big basket.

Each time the Cardinals scored to trim the lead, Tennessee answered. Reid's fastbreak layup pulled the Cardinals within 32-31 in the opening minutes of the second half, and Cain scored six straight buckets underneath for Tennessee.

Becky Burke hit a 3 that pulled Louisville within 40-36 with 12:40 left. Simmons took over. She got the rebound of her own miss and scored. She then hit back-to-back 3s before Stricklen's layup gave Tennessee its first double-digit lead at 55-44 with 5:11 to go.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lady Vols Defeat Union 86-53

KNOXVILLE -- The University of Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team cruised to an 86-53 exhibition victory over two-time defending NAIA champions Union (Tenn.) on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Union hung tough for much of the first half and drew to within 21-18 before the Big Orange closed the half on an 18-3 run to take a 39-21 lead into the locker room. Tennessee was keyed by the play of sophomore Glory Johnson, who led Tennessee with 20 points and 11 rebounds, both game-highs.

After being critical of her team's defensive performance on Tuesday night against Carson-Newman, UT coach Pat Summitt spoke much more glowingly about today's defensive effort, but emphasized that the team still has improvements to make.

"I thought our defense was better than it was Tuesday night," Summitt said. "We've got to look at the other team's personnel and have a sense of urgency about finding their best shooters. Our two freshmen will get better, but we expect our upperclassmen to know what to do and communicate."

Tennessee got a spark from the return of Vicki Baugh. A junior forward, Baugh had not played since suffering a second torn ACL on Feb. 3, 2009. She entered the game to a standing ovation from the 11,252 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena, something she said really meant a lot to her.

"It was awesome," Baugh said. "It was just a pleasure to be back on the court. I felt like one of the veterans coming back to play with the young kids. It's just been too long since I've been on the court."

Three other Lady Volunteers scored in double figures, led by Alicia Manning's 13 points. Taber Spani and Shekinna Stricklen added 10. UT pulled down 49 boards (20 offensive) to Union's game total of 23 and forced 19 turnovers.

Union head coach Mark Campbell said he was proud of his team's effort.

"We pride ourselves on being able to play on the same level emotionally no matter what is going on during the game," Campbell said. "I think we competed the entire night."

Kayla Hudson led the Lady Bulldogs with 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-10 from way downtown.

Tennessee will begin the regular season on Friday, Nov. 12 with a trip to Louisville. Tip for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

Fans are reminded to follow the Lady Vols on Twitter at

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Lady Vols Cruise In Opener, 110-66

KNOXVILLE - No. 4 Tennessee began a new women's basketball season on Tuesday night, but a 110-66 exhibition victory over Carson-Newman in Thompson-Boling Arena couldn't silence coach Pat Summitt's usual refrain.

That's defense and rebounding.

"Obviously, we did some really good things," Summitt said. "I guess the one thing that stood out to me in the seven years we have played Carson-Newman, we gave up more points tonight. Why? Because we weren't passionate all the time about playing great defense. I don't know many teams that are going to win championships if they're not passionate about defense and rebounding."

The final score certainly wound up in Tennessee's favor, and the Lady Vols never trailed. Tennessee shot 54 percent from the field, including a 61-percent mark from both the field and from 3-point range in the first half.

"We were hitting offensively," said junior Glory Johnson, who scored a game-high 26 points. "We started struggling with our defense. That's what happens when we still have things to work on. Now we have our defense and our offense to work on."

Exhibition games are all about finding places to improve. And the Lady Vols were without three post players still nursing injuries - Alyssia Brewer, Kelley Cain and Vicki Baugh.

That certainly altered UT's front line, but even without those three (and senior Angie Bjorklund and freshman Lauren Avant) on the court, they still managed to outrebound the Lady Eagles 45-28.

Freshman Meighan Simmons scored 11 points and led the team with five assists in her first game as a Lady Vol.

"I was pretty excited about today," Simmons said. "Just being out there for the first time today, it's a blessing. It's just a dream come true."

Four other Lady Vols scored in double figures Tuesday night as well.

Taber Spani hit four of her six 3-point attempts and finished with 22 points, while Shekinna Stricklen was 4-for-5 beyond the 3-point line and had 15 points.

Forward Alicia Manning didn't have much trouble on the boards, grabbing 13 rebounds and scoring 15 points. Sydney Smallbone also reached double figures, scoring 10 points in 21 minutes.

Tennessee has one more exhibition game left on Sunday against Union at 3 p.m. before beginning the regular season with a trip to Louisville on Nov. 12. That game, like Tuesday night's, should give the Lady Vols plenty to learn from - good and bad.

"This is why we have the exhibition games," Summitt said. "It's a great learning tool. That's the first thing we'll do when we go back to practice. We'll watch tape and do a really good evaluation of why we did what we did and how we can get better."

Friday, October 01, 2010

Summitt Announces Dupree is Leaving

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - University of Tennessee Lady Vol head basketball coach Pat Summitt announced this afternoon that redshirt freshman post Faith Dupree intends to transfer after the fall semester.

"This was Faith's decision to leave the program," Summitt said. "She told me she wants to play basketball at a school where she can have an impact right away. "I support her choice and wish her nothing but continued success both on and off the court."

The 6-3 post appeared in the first two games of the 2009-10 season before it was announced on Nov. 23, 2009, that she would redshirt her freshman year due to recurrent lower back pain. Against #7/4-ranked Baylor she logged four minutes and grabbed a rebound. In San Antonio at the ESPNU Road to the Championship, she played 18 minutes and tossed in five points, grabbed six rebounds and had three assists in 18 minutes against Texas Tech.

"I have been thinking about this all summer," said Dupree. "There is never a good time to make a decision like this, but I feel like it will be in my best interest to pursue an opportunity where I can be major contributor in the post.

"I will finish this semester at UT in order to transfer in good standing to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in January 2011."

Dupree signed with the Lady Vols in 2009 following an impressive career at the Webb School in Knoxville. During her 124-game career as a Spartan, she scored 1,724 points, snagged 802 rebounds and recorded 244 blocks to go along with 208 assists and 169 steals. Coached by former Lady Vol Shelley Sexton Collier, Dupree averaged 16.7 ppg and 7.4 rpg as senior and was selected as an honorable mention All-American by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

She earned recognition as a three-time all-state honoree (2007, 2008 and 2009) and as a member of two all-state tournament teams (2007 and 2008).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Brewer Has Successful Surgery

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Jenny Moshak, University of Tennessee Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, announced this afternoon that Lady Vol basketball junior forward Alyssia Brewer had undergone successful Achilles tendon surgery.

Brewer suffered the freakish non-athletically related injury on August 19 when a candle base broke on the floor in her apartment and a shard of glass cut her leg. Brewer received stitches and was held out of individual workouts. The injury was reevaluated after she continued to feel discomfort in the leg.

"Drs. Greg Mathien and Russell Betcher, UT team orthopaedists, performed surgery on Lyssi's left Achilles tendon this afternoon," said Moshak. "The surgery repaired a tear to her Achilles as a result of her non-athletically related mishap."

According to Moshak, Brewer's surgery went well and she will begin rehabilitation in two weeks. "I anticipate that Lyssi should be able to return to the court this season."

Brewer, a 6-3 junior from Sapulpa, Okla., emerged as a key member of the 2009-10 team earning 13 starting assignments while averaging 10.2 ppg and 5.9 rpg -- practically doubling the scoring output of her rookie campaign. The southpaw registered 17 games in double-figures including a career high 23 points against George Washington University. She was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament leading her Lady Vol team to the title averaging 14.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg and connecting on 70.4 percent of her field goal attempts in the three game set. Brewer also claimed the 2010 SEC 6th Woman of the Year award.

"The unexpected injury Lyssi suffered is really unfortunate for both Lyssi and our team," said Lady Vol head basketball coach Pat Summitt. "She really worked hard in the off-season and we were hopeful that she could build on the momentum she generated at the end of the 2010 season. This is a tough setback for all of us."

The Lady Vols officially open the 2010-11 campaign on Nov.12 at the University of Louisville in the brand new KFC Yum! Center.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lady Vols Release 2010-11 Hoops Schedule

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers released the basketball schedule for the 2010-11 season this afternoon.

In addition to the Southeastern Conference slate of 16 games, the Lady Vols will also face a number of non-conference formidable foes, tangling with Baylor, Lamar, Virginia, Arizona State, Texas, Rutgers, Louisville, Stanford and Old Dominion. UT will also welcome in-state rivals UT-Chattanooga and East Tennessee State to the schedule.

A Thanksgiving junket takes the team back to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the first time since 2005 with a three-game appearance in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas from Nov. 25-27. The Lady Vols will take a trip down memory lane facing Missouri (Nov. 25) for the first time since 1978, when associate head coach Holly Warlick was quarterbacking the team, and Georgia Tech (Nov. 26) who appears on UT's schedule for the first time since 1989. Tennessee wraps up the tournament facing first time opponent, Georgetown (Nov. 27).

"This is another aggressive and demanding line-up of opponents for the coming year," said Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt, who is beginning her 37th season at Tennessee and is the NCAA's all-time winningest coach starting the campaign with a 1,037-196 overall record. "This schedule is also exciting and challenging and will help to prepare us for post-season play."

Twenty of UT's 25 opponents in the coming season participated in 2010 post season play appearing in the NCAA or WNIT Tournaments. In all, UT will be facing competition from nine different conferences in the coming year including the Atlantic Sun, ACC, Big 12, BIG EAST, Colonial, Pac 10, Southeastern, Southern and Southland Conferences.

"Once again, I'm thrilled that we have the opportunity for 17 home dates (including the exhibition games) in our arena. Our great fans will be treated to a tremendous home schedule," said Summitt.

The season gets underway with a pair of exhibition tune-ups in Knoxville as Carson-Newman comes to town on Nov. 2 and two-time defending NAIA National Champion Union University (Jackson, Tenn.) heads to Rocky Top for a game on Nov. 7. Following the dress rehearsal contests, the Lady Vols officially open the season on the road taking on BIG EAST foe Louisville in the basketball opening of the brand new 22,000 seat KFC Yum! Center on Nov. 12 in the "Derby City." Tennessee kicks-off the home portion of the 2010-11 slate against visiting UT-Chattanooga on Nov. 15 in Thompson-Boling Arena.

The remainder of the November schedule features contests at home against Virginia (Nov. 18) and Arizona State (Nov. 21) before the Lady Vols jet to the Caribbean over Thanksgiving for the Paradise Jam and three tough games.

Tennessee opens the December edition of the schedule at home facing its 185th all-time opponent, Lamar University on Dec. 1. The Lady Vols will then travel to meet Old Dominion (Dec. 5) before taking a week off for final exams. UT will resume playing hoops with a swing through the state of Texas taking on Texas on Dec. 12 and then traveling to Waco for the first time ever to meet the Baylor Lady Bears (Dec. 14) on ESPN2. Prior to the Christmas holidays, Tennessee will welcome 2010 NCAA runner-up Stanford (Dec. 19) on ESPN2 and East Tennessee State (Dec. 22) to Thompson-Boling Arena. Following a break for the holidays, UT concludes the 2010 portion of the non-conference schedule with a game against Rutgers in Knoxville on Dec. 30.

In January, the Lady Vols open the 2011 side of the slate with another aggressive SEC line-up traveling to LSU (Jan. 2) before opening conference play at home on Jan. 6 against Alabama. The first month of the year continues with home games versus Mississippi (Jan. 9), Vanderbilt (Jan. 15) on ESPN and Mississippi State (Jan. 27). UT will hit the road to play at Florida (Jan. 13), South Carolina (Jan. 20), Auburn (Jan. 23) and Arkansas (Jan. 30).

Tennessee opens the month of February with a pivotal game on ESPN2 at Kentucky on Feb. 7 followed by away games at Vanderbilt (Feb. 13) and Mississippi (Feb. 24). February home dates include Florida (Feb. 10), South Carolina (Feb. 17), a "Big Monday" meeting with Georgia on ESPN2 (Feb. 21) and the Senior Day Celebration on Feb. 27 against LSU.

In the 16-game SEC schedule, the Lady Vols play home-and-home games with Florida, LSU, Mississippi and South Carolina once again this season, to go along with its annual home-and-home traditional rival contests versus Vanderbilt.

"The SEC will be as strong and unpredictable as it has ever been," professed Summitt. "From the top team to the 12th team, everyone is going to have to bring its' A game every night in this league. Great coaching minds and some more incredible young talent are going to make an always tough league, even tougher."

In the postseason, the 2011 SEC Tournament returns to the Music City in Nashville, Tenn., Mar. 3-6. When the height of March Madness begins and the NCAA Tournament is announced on Mar. 14, four teams will be heading to Thompson-Boling Arena as women's basketball fans will be treated to NCAA First/Second Round action in Knoxville, Tenn., Mar. 19 & 21. Other NCAA First/Second Round games will be played at 15 additional sites from Mar. 19-22. The NCAA Regional Championships will be contested, Mar. 26-29 and the season will culminate with the 2011 NCAA Final Four at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind., April 3 and 5.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Update on Lady Vol Basketball Player Amber Gray

The University of Tennessee Women's Athletic Department announced today that after careful consideration and consultation with medical experts, Lady Vol redshirt sophomore basketball student-athlete Amber Gray will not be cleared by the department's medical staff to resume team-related athletic activities with respect to intercollegiate competition at UT.

"Amber is a courageous young woman, and we hope she will remain at UT as a student," women's athletic director Joan Cronan said. "If she decides she would like to pursue a playing opportunity at another university, we will support her decision to do so. We only want what is best for Amber."

Friday, May 07, 2010

Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell's Cruisin' For A Cause Heads to Niagara Falls

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - University of Tennessee Associate Head Basketball Coach Holly Warlick and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Head Basketball Coach and former Lady Vol Nikki Caldwell are back on their motorcycles once again! The duo is proud to announce the Fourth Annual Cruisin' For A Cause presented by FedEx Office - a long haul motorcycle ride dedicated to raising funds and awareness for a cure for breast cancer - as part of their partnership in founding the charitable organization, Champions For A Cause.

This year, for their Fourth Annual Crusin' For A Cause trip, Warlick and Caldwell have their collective sights set on a ride to Niagara Falls, N.Y., with stops along the way on the ride out to Washington D.C. and New York City.

"Our goal is pretty simple," said Warlick. "We want to ride thousands of miles to raise thousands of dollars to recruit thousands of people to join the fight against breast cancer." Also a passionate crusader for breast cancer awareness and research, Caldwell noted, "More than 185,000 women are diagnosed and more than 41,000 women die from breast cancer every year. This ride is one of our advocacy efforts to encourage the health community to advance their work on finding a cure for this life threatening illness."

Kicking off Cruisin' For A Cause is Knoxville's local fundraising event, the TaTa Tour on Saturday, May 8. Warlick and Caldwell are inviting local motorcyclists to join them on a short ride beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET at the Wild Wing Café (Campbell Station Road, I-40), including a special stop at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame at 10:45 a.m. Following the ride, participants and supporters are welcome to join Warlick and Caldwell back at the Wild Wing Café at approximately 12:30 p.m. ET for the TaTa Tour Celebration. Slots are limited for the Knoxville ride and online registration is encouraged.

Following the TaTa Tour ride, Warlick and Caldwell, along with the Cruisin' Crew, an entourage of supporters, will hop back on their bikes at 2:00 p.m. at Wild Wing Café to start the first leg of the 2010 Cruisin' For A Cause, an 1850-mile round-trip to Niagara Falls and back. The motorcycle ride will begin in Knoxville and the crew will stop to host fundraisers and meet fans along the route, including planned events in Washington D.C., at the National Institutes of Health at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, May 10; in New York City on May 11 with an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America (8:30 a.m. segment with GMA host Robin Roberts); at the U.S. Military Academy on Wednesday, May 12 and in Niagara Falls, N.Y. on Thursday, May 13. The route home will take them through Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday, May 14 where they will be recognized at the St. Louis Cardinals at the Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball game before their return to Knoxville on Saturday, May 15.

Warlick and Caldwell, along with the Cruisin' Crew, stop by Children's Hospital in Knoxville before celebrating their Knoxville homecoming back at the Wild Wing Café on May 15 at 3:00 p.m.

Past Cruisin' For A Cause events included the inaugural ride in 2007 from San Francisco to Knoxville; a 2008 round-trip from Knoxville to Key West, Fla., and last year's ride, a 1500-mile round-trip along the Natchez Trace. Since 2007, the Cruisin' Crew has traveled more than 6,000 miles and the annual event has contributed to the nearly $100,000 raised by the charitable organization, Champions For A Cause.

Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Champions For A Cause has raised and donated nearly $100,000 to help support the fight against breast cancer. The money raised through these events supports efforts such as the University of Tennessee Breast Health Outreach Program, Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, and The Wellness Community of East Tennessee. These organizations have provided thousands of mammograms, countless treatments, and hours of education for those who could not otherwise afford these life saving services. Champions For A Cause is a non-profit (501(c)-3) fundraising organization started by UT Associate Head Basketball Coach Holly Warlick and UCLA Head Basketball Coach Nikki Caldwell, with the mission to advance and support the cause of charitable organizations who advocate and act to better the quality of life and health for individuals at risk or in need. For more information, visit Champions For A Cause at and on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mickie DeMoss Returns to the Lady Vol Basketball Sidelines

After seven years away from the University of Tennessee, Mickie DeMoss has decided to return to the university and the women's basketball program she called home for 18 seasons as an assistant and associate head coach.

The announcement was made by Tennessee Lady Vol Head Coach Pat Summitt this morning.

DeMoss replaces Tennessee staffer Stephanie Glance who became the head coach at Illinois State University on April 20, 2010.

"I guess Mickie had the `seven-year itch'," joked Summitt. "Seriously, we are thrilled to have Mickie back in the Lady Vol program. She is tied in to so much of our championship success throughout the years. She is a tremendous recruiter, teacher of the game and a great bench coach as well.

"While she was away, she had a chance to be a successful head coach at Kentucky and also to serve on the staff at the University of Texas. Mickie's forte has always been recruiting and working with the post players. Her résumé is so much richer now as a result of her experiences over the past seven years.

"She is excited about coming back and helping us to continue to compete for championships," said Summitt.

DeMoss and current Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick both joined Tennessee's coaching staff prior to the 1985-86 season. For the next 18 years, the coaching trio of Summitt, DeMoss and Warlick, posted six NCAA Championship titles (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997 and 1998) while advancing to 12 NCAA Final Fours. During this span, the Lady Vols had a 554-77 overall record (.878). In 2000, DeMoss was promoted to associate head coach at Tennessee.

"It is just great to be coming back to Knoxville," said DeMoss. "When I left Tennessee to become the head coach at the University of Kentucky, it just seemed to be the right time in my development and growth as a coach. Following that, the opportunity I had to become an assistant coach at the University of Texas was what I needed at the time. As a result, I gained a different perspective and grew a great deal as a coach and person from those experiences.

"Now, I really feel like I'll be coming home. The University of Tennessee, the Lady Vol family and the Knoxville community have always been such a big part of my life. I was honored and excited when Pat asked if I would be interested in coming back to Tennessee," said DeMoss.

DeMoss, who just finished her 33rd season on the sidelines as a women's basketball coach, left the Lady Vols after the 2002-03 season to take the head coaching job at Kentucky. In four seasons, she guided the Wildcats to a 71-56 record including consecutive 20-win seasons (for the first time in 16 years) and three postseason appearances (one NCAA and two WNIT) for the first time in school history.

In 2005-06, DeMoss was named the SEC Coach of the Year, a first for a UK coach, as she guided the 22-9 Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven seasons and punctuated the trip with an NCAA win. This breakout year also included a victory over number one ranked Tennessee, 66-63, in Rupp Arena in front of a school-record crowd of 13,689. It marked UK's first win over a top-ranked team in school history. In 2006-07, UK was 20-14 and advanced to the WNIT. That season, DeMoss' Cats attracted a school record attendance of 5,863 fans per game.

She elected to step aside as head coach at Kentucky in April 2007.

Her coaching hiatus ended when she accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Texas in the summer of 2007. Since then, she has been the Longhorns' top recruiter while also coaching the post game.

Prior to joining the Tennessee staff in 1985, she had been an assistant coach at Auburn University (1983-85), a head coach at the University of Florida (1979-83) and an assistant at Memphis State (1977-79).

DeMoss received her undergraduate degree in physical education from Louisiana Tech University in 1977, where she starred at point guard. She then received her master's degree in education at Memphis State University in 1979. She is a native of Tallulah, La.

The Mickie DeMoss File

Full Name: Mickie Faye DeMoss
Hometown: Tallulah, La. (Delhi High School)
Education: B.S. (Physical Education), Louisiana Tech, 1977; M.S. (Education), Memphis State, 1979

The University of Texas
• Assistant Coach (July 2007-May 2010)
The University of Kentucky
• Head Coach (April 2003-April 2007)
• Four-year record: 71-56
• Led UK to first back-to-back 20-win seasons in 16 years (22-9 in 2005-06, 20-14 in 2006-07)
• Led UK to 2006 NCAA Tournament and to the 2005 and 2007 WNIT
• 2005-06 SEC Coach of the Year
The University of Tennessee
• Associate Head Coach (July 2000-03)
• Assistant Coach (July 1985-July 2000)
• Assisted in helping program to a 554-77 overall record
• Helped Tennessee to 12 NCAA Final Fours, six NCAA national championships (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998) and three NCAA finals (1995, 2000, 2003)
Auburn University
• Assistant Coach (1983-85)
The University of Florida
• Head Coach (1979-83)
• Four-year record: 45-68
Memphis State University
• Assistant Coach (1977-79)
• Louisiana Tech (1973-77)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bjorklund and Stricklen Earn Associated Press All-America Honors

University of Tennessee junior Angie Bjorklund and sophomore Shekinna Stricklen have both been named Honorable Mention Associated Press All-American.

They become the 11th and 12th Lady Vols to earn All-America honors from the Associated Press.

"I'm very proud and happy for both Angie and Shekinna. This honor is a testament to the hard work and energy that both have invested in improving their game," said Head Coach Pat Summitt. "Angie has really elevated her game. She's been devoted to getting in the gym and getting in extra shots, which has keyed her success. Angie was really a difference maker for us. Shekinna did a great job of running the point and her size out front is a definite advantage. She has learned to attack the paint, and when you factor that in with her pull-up game and her three-point shooting, she is a complete package."

Bjorklund was a unanimous choice to the First Team All-SEC by the league coaches and was also selected First Team All-SEC as chosen by the Associated Press. In addition, she was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was tabbed to the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Team. The Spokane Valley, Wash., native has climbed through the Tennessee record books in her third year at Rocky Top. Bjorklund has moved into third place on the career three-pointers list with 232 triples made and finished the campaign in second place in UT's single-season record books with 201 threes made. She led the team with 13.9 ppg, dished out 2.9 apg and grabbed 2.7 rpg.

Stricklen was named Second Team All-SEC by the conference coaches and the AP. She is a finalist for the Wooden Award, is a candidate for the Naismith Award and was named to the State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List. Stricklen recorded only the second triple-double in Lady Vol history when she scored 17 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out a career-best 12 assists against #14/15-ranked Oklahoma on Jan. 3, 2010, at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Morrilton, Ark., native was second on the team with 12.7 ppg, third with 6.1 rpg and boasts a team-high 3.9 apg.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lady Vols Fall to Baylor, 77-62, in NCAA Sweet 16

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Freshman sensation Brittney Griner has grown up a lot this season -- just ask Tennessee. Kim Mulkey knew her Lady Bears would be a good team some day. That day arrived Saturday in the Sweet 16 as Baylor toppled No. 1 seed Tennessee. Story Griner scored 27 points and blocked 10 shots, leading fourth-seeded Baylor to a 77-62 win over the top-seeded Lady Vols on Saturday to advance to the NCAA tournament regional finals.

"She was the X factor," said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, whose team was taken out in the first round last season.

Baylor's only other appearance in the round of eight was in 2005, the same year it won the national championship. The Lady Bears (26-9) will face either No. 2 seed Duke or 11th-seeded San Diego State on Monday night.

The Lady Vols' loss spoiled the highly anticipated matchup between Tennessee and Connecticut, which could have happened in this year's national semifinals. The Lady Vols, who lost in the first round last season, haven't missed out on back-to-back Final Fours since 1993-94.

Tennessee (32-3) successfully limited the 6-foot-8 Griner in its 74-65 win over Baylor in the first game of the season but couldn't do it again even with as many as four players on her at a time. Griner hit several shots while double-teamed or passed to an open Lady Bears teammate for an easy layup.

"You're watching a phenom out here play above the rim," Mulkey said. "That's what needs to be written in every article from this day forward, because she's such a sweet child as you can see."

Griner had been somewhat tentative on offense since she was suspended for two games after throwing a punch against a Texas Tech player in early March. She was back to her dominant self on both ends of the court.

"I just knew I had to come out and play my game and go back to the old Brittney," Griner said. Griner's 26 blocks in the NCAA tournament ranks her second in history. Duke's Alison Bales holds the NCAA tournament record with 30 in 2006, and Connecticut's Rebecca Lobo's 22 now ranks third.

The teams went back and forth throughout the first half and early in the second, trading the lead 10 times and tying four times. With both 6-foot-6 Kelley Cain and 6-foot-3 Alyssia Brewer on the floor to guard Griner, Tennessee found some success inside and was up 55-50 with just under eight minutes left.

The Lady Vol orange-clad crowd fell silent as Griner hit back-to-back layups and had a three-point play as part of a 21-1 run as Tennessee's defense unraveled.

Tennessee (32-3) turned to its shooters in desperation. Though Angie Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen managed to hit jumpers in traffic and knock down a few 3s in the first half, they missed left and right in the second half.

The Lady Vols managed to hit only 32.9 percent, only slightly better than their season-worst 32.8 percent against Stanford, and finished with 22 paint points. The Lady Vols allowed the Lady Bears 49.1 percent shooting -- a season high for a Tennessee opponent -- and 36 paint points.

"I can't believe it. I'm just really excited that to get to the Elite Eight we had to go through the best, and the best in this region was Tennessee," Baylor's Morghan Medlock said.

Stricklen led Tennessee with 18 points, and Bjorklund added 12.

"I think anytime you play against a 6-8 player, it's is going to be tough to shoot over her," Bjorklund said. "At the same time, I thought when our posts did have the ball they did a good job. Going against her, we just needed to give the posts more touches."

Tennessee fell to 23-5 in regional semifinal games.