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."