Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Summitt receives Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award

University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt has received the Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award this year, according to

U.S. Sports Academy director of communications Duwayne Escobedo presented Summitt with the award before the third-ranked Lady Volunteers' 89-57 victory over Pepperdine Nov. 13.

Summitt, 59, revealed in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She said she revealed her diagnosis to hopefully help others understand they could still live their lives after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lady Vols rip Middle Tennessee, 82-43

With two losses behind them and a stretch that includes games against four ranked opponents ahead, the eighth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols needed a bit of a boost.

An 82-43 rout of Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night definitely helped with that.

Cierra Burdick had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Ariel Massengale also scored 14 points and Shekinna Stricklen contributed 12 points for the Lady Vols.

"It's a good thing to break that two-game losing streak," coach Pat Summitt said. "We played with high energy, and it came from the players. They challenged each other to come into the game with lots of high energy, and it's obvious that they did that."

The Lady Vols (3-2) were 2-2 for the first time since 1990 and were determined not to have a "letdown game" two days after losing at home to No. 1 Baylor. They already logged one when they lost in overtime at Virginia on Nov. 20.

Tennessee's December schedule will test just how well all of the Lady Vols have responded from the loss to the Cavaliers. The Lady Vols host No. 21 Texas before facing No. 22 DePaul, No. 11 Rutgers, UCLA and No. 5 Stanford on the road.

"This was a big game for us," Stricklen said. "We really needed to win and get back on a winning streak. Coming out with energy like that creates energy for the whole team for the whole game. It's something we have to do for every game."

Stricklen got the energy going when she took an inbounds pass, spun around and sank a jumper with 17:14 left in the first half, launching a 17-0 run. The Lady Vols stole the ball on four consecutive Middle Tennessee possessions in that stretch and got a basket in transition after each one, three of the shots coming from Massengale.

MTSU (4-3) cut the margin to a single digit just once more on a layup by Ebony Rowe that made it 27-18 with 7:13 in the first half.

Tennessee shot 59.3 percent in the first half, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range.

The Blue Raiders struggled to get clean looks at the basket against the Lady Vols' defense and hit just 28.6 percent in the first half, and Tennessee pushed the lead to 48-24 just before halftime.

Kortni Jones led MTSU with 16 points, and Rowe added 10.

"They're better than us, bottom line," MTSU coach Rick Insell said. "They're more athletic at every position, and we've got to learn from this and grow from it."

The bench went to work after the break and finished with 37 points. Burdick and Harrison took control of the boards, each grabbing eight rebounds after halftime. Tennessee finished with a 53-30 rebounding margin.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pat Summitt announces foundation to help Alzheimer's disease research

Dottie Lowe said Sunday would be one Lady Vols game she didn't want to miss. No, not because her team was against #1 ranked Baylor.

"Everyone wants to get in on this," she said. Instead, she wanted simply to "Back Pat." In fact, her orange "We Back Pat" shirt proved it.

In fact, those shirts were worn by thousands of UT fans. In turn, those shirts raised thousands of dollars for the newly formed "Pat Summitt Foundation Fund." It made its debut Sunday at the game.

"What's happening today is inspiring," said Angela Geiger with the Alzheimer's Association. "To see this many people coming together for their coach, their cause and her bravery coming out against her diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease."

Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt was diagnosed of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type in August. Her namesake fund gives grants to organizations connected to Alzheimer's Disease and research.

Alzheimer's Tennessee and the UT Medical Center are the first two beneficiaries of the foundation- each receiving $75,000 each Sunday.

The organization has been getting support by many fans. Even, Governor Bill Haslam was on the sidelines to see the foundation's kickoff.

"Who Pat is makes it easy to support her and understand how serious this early Dementia is. If it could happen to Pat, it could happen to anybody," the Governor said.

Organizers feel the fund is off on the right foot with the big check presentation.

"I think there will be lots of big things ahead," Geiger said.

As fans, like Dottie Lowe, continue to "Back Pat."

"It's something we're already dealing with," Lowe said. "But any little thing that we can do to help them find out and cure this is going to be wonderful."

For more information on the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund, visit the organization's website.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No. 1 Baylor defeats No. 6 Lady Vols, 76-67

Brittney Griner scored 26 points as No. 1 Baylor beat sixth-ranked Tennessee 76-67 on Sunday for its second win of the young season over a Top 10 opponent.

The preseason All-American had nine first-half points but came alive in the paint after halftime.

The Lady Volunteers took a 39-31 lead on Glory Johnson's free throw with 17:39 left, but Griner had a pair of layups in an 11-2 run for the Lady Bears. The second gave Baylor a 42-41 lead with 15 minutes left.

Another Griner layup with 8:32 to play gave Baylor its ultimate lead, and the Lady Bears (6-0) relied on smothering defense to limit Tennessee to just 29.3 percent shooting.

Another preseason All-American, Shekinna Stricklen, led the Lady Vols with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Vicki Baugh added 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Odyssey Simms added 23 points for the Lady Bears.

Tennessee (2-2) outrebounded Baylor 55-42.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

No. 1 Baylor aims for rare 3rd consecutive victory against No. 6 Tennessee

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey phoned Tennessee’s Pat Summitt recently to check on the Hall of Fame coach and to ask if it was still OK for her Lady Bears to try and beat the Lady Vols.

“My last comment to her was, ‘Am I supposed to come up there and try to beat you?’ And she laughed and said, ‘You better,’” Mulkey recalled. “And that’s what Pat expects from all of us. She knows that we’re all competitors, and she’s still Pat Summitt.”

Summitt has been diagnosed with early onset dementia but has said she wants the focus on basketball.

It will be Sunday when the top-ranked Lady Bears (5-0) visit Knoxville looking for a third consecutive victory against No. 6 Tennessee (2-1).

Few teams have managed three wins in a row against Tennessee during Summitt’s 37 seasons at the helm, and that significance isn’t lost on Mulkey.

“They’ve done a heck of a lot more in women’s basketball than we have at Baylor. And we’re trying to do what they’ve done over a long period of time, and we’re just getting started,” Mulkey said.

Baylor is aiming for the national championship that eluded it a season ago as a top-seeded team. A national title would mark the second for the program, a feat achieved by just five other teams, including the eight-time national champ Lady Vols.

The Lady Bears solidified their early grip on the top spot of the AP Top 25 with a win over then-No. 2 Notre Dame and are coming off a 109-59 rout of Yale on Tuesday night.

With the way returning starters Brittney Griner, Destiny Williams, Odyssey Sims and Jordan Madden are playing, the Lady Vols know nothing will come easy for them.

Griner “does not give you anything easy in the paint,” Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss said. “She can stand over on one block and block a shot on the other block. They’re just very talented. They’ve got some very talented guards. ...

“They don’t really have a weakness.”

The Lady Vols showed some weaknesses of their own in a 69-64 overtime loss at previously unranked Virginia on Nov. 20. They couldn’t get the ball inside to the post and struggled to hit shots.

Tennessee shot 40.7 percent against the Cavaliers and hit just 5 of 24 from 3-point range. The Lady Vols no longer have the kind of height inside to compete with the 6-foot-8 Griner.

“We’re going to have to stretch them a little bit,” Summitt said.

DeMoss added: “There are some games where you say you want to go inside and then outside. This is probably one game that you’re probably going to say you’ve got to hit some outside shots. (Griner) can stand over on one block and block a shot on the other block.”

Tennessee is just as hungry for a national title this season as Baylor. The Lady Vols’ current senior class hasn’t even made it to a Final Four, let alone a national championship game, and the players have said they’re even more determined to “cut down nets” since they learned of Summitt’s dementia diagnosis in August.

The Lady Vols are encouraging fans who attend Sunday’s game to wear “We Back Pat” T-shirts in honor of Summitt. Sales of the shirts have raised more than $150,000 for Alzheimer’s research programs, and the Tennessee athletic department will present checks to Alzheimer’s Tennessee and UT Medical Center before the game.

The Tennessee players know if they want to honor Summitt with her ninth championship, they need to first prove themselves against a tough schedule of opponents. They’ve already claimed over ninth-ranked Miami but have 10 more games against currently ranked opponents after facing Baylor.

“Coming to a program like Tennessee, we play one of the toughest schedules in the game. I’ve always wanted to play against the best, and to play the best you’ve got to beat the best, and that’s our goal,” Tennessee freshman point guard Ariel Massengale said.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cavaliers stun No. 3 Lady Vols, 69-64 in OT

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — There's nothing like a reward to reinforce that hard work is paying off.

Chelsea Shine and Virginia learned that on Sunday afternoon, outlasting No. 3 Tennessee in overtime to give new coach Joanne Boyle a big victory in just her fourth game as coach. Could be that a national ranking is just around the corner, too.

"This goes to show that the hard work and the program that we're buying into is worth it and it's real," Shine said after scoring 18 points, including a basket early in overtime.

"Everyone on this team is totally sold out on what the coaches want us to do."

The Cavaliers (4-0) came into the game allowing just over 42 points a game, and dictated the pace against a Lady Vols team averaging 90.5 points and accustomed to playing at a fast pace.

And in the overtime, it was Virginia that dominated, scoring 11 consecutive points to answer an opening 3-pointer by the Lady Vols' Taber Spani. With each turnovers forced, rebound secured or added points to their tally, the crowd of 6,450 loudly expressed its appreciation.

"I just saw us mature in those last five minues," Boyle said of the overtime, saying seniors Ariana Moorer and Shine took over, with some help from junior point guard China Crosby. "They punched and we punched back. They played a chess match and we played a chess match."

Moorer scored 10 points, but had a driving try at the end oif regulation slapped away. She finished 3 for 16 from the field, but said the rejection did nothing to alter her approach.

"It's all about the next play," she said. "I got my shot blocked. That's fine, but you still have to be in attack mode."

In the extra period, she hit a pair of free throws, then put Virginia ahead to stay with a jumper from the free throw line.

Taber Spani led the Lady Vols (2-1) with 22 points, including a 3-pointer 59 seconds into overtime that gave Tennessee a 61-58 lead, but by the time she hit another one, only seconds remained and the Cavaliers were celebrating their third victory in 16 tries in the series.

Crosby had 13 points, Ataira Franklin 12 and Lexie Gerson 10 for Virginia.

Shekinna Stricklen had 16 and Glory Johnson 15 for the Lady Vols.

In the overtime, after Spani's 3-pointer, Moorer hit a pair of free throws, and then a foul-line jumper. Shine followed a turnover the Tennessee with a short baseline jumper, and Crosby hit 3 of 4 free throws to make it 67-61.

The Lady Vols never had an answer, and each time they failed to score and Virginia came away with the ball, the crowd of 6,450 at John Paul Jones Arena got louder and more excited.

Stricklen had a chance to give the Lady Vols the lead near the end of regulation when she was fouled while scoring, but she missed the free throw, one of 10 misses in 21 tries for Tennessee. The Lady Vols also had 24 turnovers that the Cavaliers turned into 27 points.

Crosby broke a 56-all tie with 36.6 seconds to go in regulation, hitting a desperate shot from the baseline with the shot clock running down. After a timeout, Spani calmly swished a 12-footer from the left baseline with 22.8 seconds to go, pulling Tennessee even again.

The Cavaliers tightened their defense and Tennessee continued to be sloppy early in the second half as Virginia opened the half on a 14-6 run. The Cavaliers led by as many as nine and by 47-40 when the Lady Vols began asserting themselves on the offensive glass and rallied.

Tennessee scored eight straight points, taking its first lead since the first half, but Shine scored inside and Crosby's three-point play boosted the Cavaliers' edge back to 52-48.

The Lady Vols pulled even three times, but only led once thereafter.

It was the first road game for Tennessee since coach Pat Summitt announced in the offseason that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She received a warm welcome when she came out onto the floor just before the game.

Virginia used a 12-2 run to take a 24-20 lead in a sloppy first half. The Lady Vols turned the ball over at least seven times in the drought, and went almost 5 minutes without scoring.

Spani, who hit the floor hard at one point and went back to the locker room, led Tennessee with 12 points in the half, and Gerson led the Cavaliers with eight.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pat Summitt recipient of AARP Inspire Award

Tennessee's Pat Summitt is among a dozen recipients of AARP The Magazine's Inspire Awards in the wake of the coach's announcement that she has dementia.

According to AARP, the awards pay tribute to people who inspire action in others.

Summitt, 59, has said she decided to reveal she'd been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, because she wanted others to understand that they could continue to live their life with the disease.

Coach Summitt has led the Lady Volunteers to eight national championships and says she is determined to continue to coach as long as she is able.

Other Inspire Awards recipients include: conservationist Jane Goodall, late Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and country music singer Toby Keith.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Third-ranked Tennessee holds off No. 7 Miami 92-76

Pat Summitt has fielded plenty of questions about her health lately. Certainly nothing has changed about her ability to grill her players at halftime when she’s disappointed in their performance.

The third-ranked Lady Vols came into halftime tied at 42 with seventh-ranked Miami after being manhandled on the boards. Summitt got onto them hard during her halftime speech, and they responded with a 92-76 victory on Tuesday night in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic.

“If you ever doubt if Pat Summitt is still coaching, look at how our team responds coming out in the second half,” associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “She got on them pretty hard. We all did as a staff about our rebounding effort, our hustle plays that weren’t there. We challenged them for 20 minutes, and I think they responded.”

It was the first big test of the season for two veteran teams, and the matchup lived up to its billing in the first-ever meeting for the programs.

Though the game pitted preseason All-Americans Shekinna Stricklen and Shenise Johnson against one another, the spotlight was stolen by Taber Spani and Meighan Simmons, who together hit 7 of 13 from 3-point range.

The Lady Vols (2-0) came out after intermission and unleashed an 18-4 run to take control. Glory Johnson, who struggled in the first half against Miami’s inside defense, hit a layup that made it 60-46 with 16:19 to go.

The Lady Vols got sloppy, committing three turnovers that helped the Hurricanes charge back with nine unanswered points to cut the margin to seven, and with 7:31 to go, Shenise Johnson hit a jumper to cut the Lady Vols’ lead to 73-68.

Miami (1-1) would get no closer. Two possessions later, Spani took an inbound pass with 10 seconds on the shot clock and launched a 3-pointer that hit nothing but net as the buzzer sounded.

“I thought that was the turning point of the game, as we were struggling kind of to get back in it,” Miami coach Katie Meier said.

A couple of minutes later, Spani rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Shenise Johnson and launched the ball across the court to Simmons, who charged to the basket for a layup to make it 84-68. The basket capped an 11-0 run that began with Spani’s trey and sent the orange-clad crowd into a frenzy.

“I think it’s more mental than anything else,” said Spani, who played 39 minutes. “Obviously all of us have shot millions of shots throughout our careers, so it’s just a mindset going in and knowing that you can knock down shots.”

Simmons scored 18 points, Glory Johnson finished with 16 and nine rebounds, Stricklen added 15 points and Ariel Massengale had 11 points and nine assists.

“I thought across the board, everybody contributed in certain ways,” Summitt said. “It’s just a matter of who’s coming in. At any given moment, we’ve got enough people that somebody’s going to step up.”

The Tennessee coaches expected a strong rebounding effort by the Lady Vols, so they instead asked the players to focus on not turning the ball over. By halftime, Tennessee had just six turnovers but had 13 fewer rebounds than Miami.

By the end of the game, the Lady Vols had put enough an effort on the boards to trail the Hurricanes 45-38 in rebounding, and it was Miami that was struggling to hang onto the ball. The Hurricanes turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 23 points for the Lady Vols—10 more than Miami got off giveaways.

Riquna Williams, who led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring a season ago, sank 24 points for Miami. Shenise Johnson added 17 and Morgan Stroman scored 11.

The stingy defensive play by both teams forced the ball to the hands of the outside shooters during the first half, leading four lead changes and two ties.

Miami took an early edge after scoring eight unanswered points. Williams and Stefanie Yderstorm each had a 3, while Stroman hit a pair of free throws to take an 8-2 lead, their largest margin of the first half.

A few minutes later, Tennessee went on an 8-0 run of its own, capped by a 3-pointer by Simmons off a dish by Massengale. The basket gave the Lady Vols an 18-16 lead—their first since the opening basket. They slowly built their margin to 38-31 on a jumper in the paint by Alicia Manning with 4:52 in the first half, but Miami scored the final five points of the half to tie it at the break.

“Our confidence was high,” Shenise Johnson said. “(The score) was zero-zero.”

The teams launched a flurry of long shots during their streaks, and the Lady Vols hit 7 of 13 and Miami 6 of 14 from behind the arc in the first half. Tennessee finished 11 of 22 from long range, while Miami missed all nine of its second-half attempts.

The Lady Vols have now won 38 straight games at home on the court named for Summitt, dating to a 62-54 loss to Duke on Feb. 16, 2009. They travel to Virginia on Sunday before hosting No. 1 Baylor at The Summitt on Nov. 27.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

No. 3 Tennessee beats defensive Pepperdine 89-57

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has been waiting for the season to start, ready to get the attention off her dementia diagnosis and back on her Lady Volunteers.

The Lady Vols are determined to bring home the program’s ninth national title in honor of their coach. First they’ve got to get through a blistering nonconference schedule, which began with an 89-57 win against a tough Pepperdine team on Sunday in both teams’ season opener.

The focus was still on Summitt briefly before the game as U.S. Sports Academy director of communications Duwayne Escobedo presented Summitt with the Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award.

The award is presented annually in honor of an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport. Summitt disclosed her diagnosis in hopes of helping others understand they could still live their lives after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a tremendous honor. Obviously, I appreciate it, and I’m humbled by it,” Summitt said.

Summitt didn’t address the media after the game and plans to rely on her longtime assistants to handle postgame news conferences among their other expanded duties this season.

Associate head coach Holly Warlick channeled Summitt easily during her interview, criticizing the Lady Vols’ defensive efforts.

“I thought today we played in spurts,” Warlick said. “We came out in the second half and shot the ball really, really well, but I’m really disappointed in our one-on-one defense. We put a lot of time in on that, and we just weren’t very good.”

Like Summitt and Warlick, Pepperdine coach Julie Rousseau stresses defense to her team, which returned 10 letter-winners and all five starters from last year’s team, which reached the WNIT tournament. The Waves, who finished fourth in the nation last year in turnover margin and fourth in steals per game, smothered the Lady Vols, keeping them uncomfortable on every single shot and forcing 22 turnovers.

“We leave here with a great experience that I think sets the table for us for the rest of the season,” Rousseau said.

It took over two minutes for the first shot to finally fall. Pepperdine never led, but kept within two baskets until an 8-0 run capped by Meighan Simmons’ jumper with 10:32 left in the first half gave Tennessee a 20-9 lead.

The Waves got a pair of free throws followed by a layup from Skye Barnett to get the margin within seven points with 7:23 before halftime, but it was as close as they would get. Tennessee went on another 8-0 run before the break and scored 18 unanswered points early in the second half to put the game out of reach.

“Something we talked about at halftime was having that constant high energy at all times, and we just got committed to that. We came out and fired,” point guard Briana Bass said.

Summitt played her entire bench in the first half, including freshmen Cierra Burdick and Isabelle Harrison, and the Tennessee reserves scored 20 points.

Glory Johnson led the Lady Vols with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Shekinna Stricklen and Simmons each had 13 points, Taber Spani contributed 11 points and Briana Bass had 10.

Pepperdine’s tough defense came at a cost. The Waves had 14 personal fouls in the first half, though the Lady Vols were uncharacteristically sloppy at the charity stripe, making just two of six foul shots before halftime.

Still, it forced Rousseau to go deep into her bench, which was responsible for just four points in the first half and 19 total. Jazmine Jackson had 17 points for the Waves, who shot 28.4 percent to the Lady Vols’ 49.2 percent shooting.

“I feel like we attacked them fairly well, but I also think that we settled for a lot of outside shots,” Jackson said.

Tennessee outrebounded Pepperdine 54-34, but couldn’t turn them into points. The Lady Vols gained control of the game with their 20 fast-break points and by sinking eight of their 10 3-point baskets in the second half.

Summitt gave a starting nod to point guard Ariel Massengale, making her just the 14th Lady Vol to start her very first career game. The coach was so convinced of Massengale’s talent and frustrated by a lack of a bona fide point guard last season that she dubbed Massengale a starter back in March.

Massengale sat for more than 13 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls and finished with just one field goal, but had five assists to just one turnover and came up with two steals and three rebounds in 20 minutes.

The Lady Vols, who were visited by former standouts Chamique Holdsclaw and Kara Lawson, have a quick turnaround with a Tuesday game scheduled against No. 7 Miami.

“We’ve got to get a whole heck of a lot better before Tuesday,” Warlick said.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Summitt hopes new season will be about hoops

Pat Summitt wants her 38th season at Tennessee to be all about the Lady Vols and not her public battle with dementia.

Considering what the Hall of Fame coach means to so many, it may be difficult for her to fully get her wish.

"That's what I want to talk about, basketball, not dementia," Summitt said. "I don't want a pity party, because it is what it is."

Summitt is sure to get rousing ovations of support when the Lady Vols are on the road, not to mention when they play at home beginning with Sunday's opener against Pepperdine.

The women's basketball season starts Friday for 14 of the preseason Top 25, including No. 1 Baylor and Brittney Griner. It ends in Denver _ the first time the Final Four will be held in the Mountain time zone.

Tennessee is clearly the sentimental choice to make it there and her Lady Vols players seem focused to win a ninth national championship for their coach.

"She's taking care of me as far as making me become a better person, a better athlete," Tennessee sophomore Meighan Simmons said. "I feel like now it's our turn to return a favor to her."

To reach Denver, the Lady Vols will have to end a three-year Final Four drought _ long by Rocky Top standards. This talented group of seniors, led by preseason All-America Shekinna Stricklen, is trying to avoid being the first Tennessee class to not make the Final Four in their careers.

The class of 1995 came the closest, as they didn't reach it until their senior season when they fell to Connecticut _ the first of Geno Auriemma's seven titles.

UConn's group this year is still a major contender despite the graduation of four-time All-America Maya Moore. Auriemma is happy to head into a season and not have to talk about streaks any more after the Huskies' NCAA record 90-game run came to an end last season.

"Could you imagine if they had kept that thing going?" Auriemma said. "It would have been so unfair to this new group to have to worry about that. Now we can just focus on basketball."

Auriemma has a talented freshmen class to complement the four returning starters, and a fifth straight trip to the Final Four isn't out of the question. He feels, for the first time in a few years, there's no obvious favorite to win it all.

"Clearly Baylor, Tennessee, and Notre Dame all have a lot of talent back," Auriemma said. "But everyone has some question marks. It will make the regular season more interesting and exciting."

It's already the first time in five years that neither UConn or Tennessee sits atop the preseason Top 25 poll. That honor falls on Baylor. The Lady Bears are led by junior phenom Griner. The 6-foot-8 star worked hard in the offseason to improve her game, spending 12 days with the U.S. women's national team, which is coached by Auriemma.

"She is definitely a unique talent," he said. "She's so hard to guard in so many ways, and she's just beginning to tap her ability."

Baylor has a tough schedule early with a potential matchup against No. 2 Notre Dame in the Preseason WNIT final in mid-November. The Lady Bears also play the Lady Vols and Huskies before the New Year. With Griner, coach Kim Mulkey feels her squad is ready.

"If you have a team capable of playing them, go play them," Mulkey said. "This schedule's extremely tough _ the toughest since I've been at Baylor."

One team that Mulkey won't play after this season is Texas A&M. The defending national champions are the biggest name in women's basketball to change conferences, with the Aggies heading to the SEC next season.

Mulkey said at the Big 12 media day that she won't play them anymore. That's unfortunate given the two rivals had four riveting games last season, including a NCAA regional final game that drew more than 11,500 fans.

The Pac-10 has undergone a major change this season, growing to the Pac-12 with the addition of Colorado and Utah. The new conference name probably won't effect the standings much as Stanford is the favorite to win its 12th straight league title.

Stanford will be looking to tie Connecticut and LSU with a fifth straight trip to the Final Four. The Cardinal have made it to the title game twice and lost in the semis twice.

While Stanford has been a Final Four mainstain the last few years, the Big Ten has been absent. No team from the conference has made the national semifinals since Michigan State lost to Baylor in the 2005 title game. It's the longest drought of any of the six major conferences.

Notre Dame fell just short of winning its second national championship last season, losing to Texas A&M in the title game. The Irish became the first team to beat both Tennessee and UConn in the same NCAA tournament.

Sensational junior guard Skylar Diggins became a fresh face for the sport during the Irish's tournament run, gaining nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter.

With Diggins return along with stars Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame was picked to win the Big East for the first time in a decade.

The Fighting Irish have bigger goals in mind.

"It definitely still hurts," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I think that when we look at the last game, we decided then that we had to get ready for next year. We've got some unfinished business is the way we're looking at it. It's a different type of chip on our shoulder."

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Spani's 25 leads No. 3 Lady Vols past Union, 93-45

Junior guard Taber Spani scored 22 of her 25 points in the first half and the Tennessee women's basketball team cruised to a 93-45 exhibition win over five-time NAIA champion, Union, Tuesday evening at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Spani set the tone early, draining two of her seven three-pointers to open the game's scoring. Averaging 13 points per game last season, Spani shot 8-of-12, including a 7-of-10 mark from downtown. Her 22 first-half points outscored Union (16), while her seven treys were more than the Lady Bulldogs had combined (5). The Lady Vols never left this one in doubt, heading into halftime with a 51-16 lead. In two exhibition games, UT allowed an average of 15.5 points in the opening 20 minutes.

Tennessee's offense flowed smoothly early and often, as the Lady Vols shot 55.2 percent from the field and had four players in double-figures. Senior preseason All-American Shekinna Stricklen scored 17 points, while freshman Isabelle Harrison had 11 and sophomore Meighan Simmons chipped in 10.

But for as good as the Lady Vols were offensively, it was their defense that led the way.

Tennessee's full-court pressure was disruptive all night as it forced 31 turnovers and took advantage, scoring 37 points off of those opportunities. Four Lady Vols had at least three steals: Alicia Manning, Harrison and Spani all had four, while senior Glory Johnson recorded a trio.

Freshman Ariel Massengale stepped in for her first opening tip as a Lady Vol versus Union. The true point guard, who was announced as Tennessee's starting point guard while she was still in high school in March, dished out a game-high six assists with four points and a steal.

UT pulled down 39 boards, led by Johnson's game-best 11, to the Lady Bulldogs' 23. Lavanda Ross led the Lady Bulldogs in virtually every statistical category with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Union came to Knoxville unbeaten in two regular-season contests this season and ranked second among NAIA schools.

Tennessee will open the regular season Sunday, Nov. 13 when it welcomes Pepperdine to Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Pat Summitt: From Tow-Headed Tot to Women's Basketball Powerhouse

Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in college basketball, sat down with Robin Roberts to talk about her toughest opponent yet -- Alzheimer's. Take a look at rarely seen photos of Summitt throughout her childhood and early career. Watch the full story on "20/20" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

Lady Vols crush Carson-Newman in exhibition opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT) - No. 3-ranked Tennessee women's basketball team used a 27-2 run across the end of the first half and start of the second to pull away from Carson-Newman in a 105-40 exhibition win at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday evening.

"I thought we did some good things tonight," head coach Pat Summitt said. "It's always good when you get to play everyone. Exhibition games are great to get the kinks out and to get some game footage you can use in teaching. Our players will learn a lot from watching the tape (Wednesday). Across the board, I was pleased with the way we played."

Led by senior Alicia Manning's 23 points, the Lady Vols had six players in double-figures: Cierra Burdick (15), Meighan Simmons (14), Taber Spani (13), Shekinna Stricklen (12) and Vicki Baugh (10).

Leading 31-15 with 6:13 remaining in the opening half, the Lady Vols scored the final 17 points of the first period to take a 48-15 lead into intermission. The scoring spree was bolstered by seven points from Manning, who shot 10-of-14 from the floor.

Tennessee came out of the locker room continuing its run, scoring 10 of the second half's first 12 points, cumulating in an overall 27-2 spurt as UT led 56-17. In her Tennessee debut, Burdick took advantage of her opportunities at the free-throw line to record 15 points as UT's second-leading scorer.

Outrebounding Carson-Newman 65-30, Tennessee was led by Baugh, who pulled down a game-high 14 boards.

Tennessee never allowed the Lady Eagles to get into an offensive flow, forcing 34 turnovers and blocking 10 shots. Manning also led the Lady Vols with five steals, while freshman Isabelle Harrison was disruptive in the paint with half of UT's rejections (five).

Freshman Ariel Massengale also made her UT debut, draining one of Tennessee's four three-pointers to score five points off the bench.

As a whole, UT's freshman class combined for 25 points and 16 rebounds in its debut.

"These three freshmen are so passionate about the game," Summitt said. "They are going to help this team. They listen...they want to improve daily and they are invested in everything we do. At the same time, I have to credit the upperclassmen for taking them under their wing and getting them prepared."

The Lady Vols' scoring started early as they took the lead before the opening tip with a free throw on a Carson-Newman technical foul. The Lady Eagles were late turning in their starting lineup and Spani took advantage, sinking one-of-two free throws for the 1-0 advantage.

The final score, 105-40, was Tennessee's largest lead. The advantage ballooned to 50 (80-30) with 9:28 remaining in the game on a pair of Glory Johnson free throws. Tennessee will play its second exhibition game next Tuesday, Nov. 8, against Union at 7 p.m., before beginning the regular season by hosting Pepperdine on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 4 p.m.