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."