Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No. 7 Tennessee routs Old Dominion 90-37

With an ugly loss behind them and an overmatched opponent in front of them, the seventh-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers turned their attention back to the basics.

The Lady Vols spent their practices since last week’s 17-point loss at No. 4 Stanford focused on regaining the defensive excellence that coach Pat Summitt expects of them. The result was a near perfect effort in a 90-37 win over Old Dominion on Wednesday night.

“Tonight, it was about Tennessee,” associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “It was about what was across our chest. We focused on getting better. I think what we did today was indicative of how hard we’ve practiced on the defensive end.”

Warlick estimated the team had spent all of two minutes total working on offense during practices on Monday and Tuesday. The coaches and players used the rest of the time to work on rebounding, pass deflections and preventing transition baskets—all things that haunted them in the 97-80 loss to the Cardinal on Dec. 20.

The Lady Vols (8-3) outrebounded the Lady Monarchs 54-32, limited them to 25 percent shooting, forced 23 turnovers and gave up just one basket on the fastbreak.

Tennessee now has won 16 straight and 31 of the last 32 against the Lady Monarchs, whose 37 points was the lowest total scored by either team in the 45-game annual series.

“We’ve put a lot of time in in the last two days,” Warlick said. “They responded, we got after it, we were aggressive. We were not aggressive in the Stanford game on the ball. I thought we did a total 180 as far as what we can do as far as pressuring the ball and taking people out of how they play.

“That’s the type of defense and that’s the type of Tennessee team we have to be to win, regardless of our opponent.”

Tennessee appeared a bit rusty on the offensive end early against Old Dominion (3-10), which scored the first two baskets of the game.

The Lady Monarchs were leading 8-7 when Alicia Manning hit a jumper with 16:14 in the first half that launched a 14-2 run to give the Lady Vols control of the game. Ariel Massengale, who hadn’t started a game since dislocating her left middle finger in practice Dec. 8, hit back-to-back 3s in the span of 28 seconds during the stretch.

“I was really happy with our play at the very beginning because Tennessee is such a big place to play and it’s really big-time,” Old Dominion guard Jackie Cook said. “I was really proud of how we stepped up and played from the very start. We just couldn’t finish.”

Tennessee took a commanding 50-20 halftime lead against Old Dominion by shooting 50 percent from the field and hitting 6 of 12 from 3. The Lady Vols turned the ball over just twice and posted 15 assists before the break.

Their improved defense led to balanced offense, with Glory Johnson logging 16 points and 11 rebounds. Vicki Baugh, who lost her starting job after poor play at Stanford, had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Meighan Simmons added 12 points, Massengale scored 11, Isabelle Harrison had 10 and Alicia Manning grabbed 15 rebounds.

“I like a game like this because we’re working on ourselves,” Johnson said. `We’re working on ourselves as a team and we’re trying to get better and work on our defense. We have so many things that we have to work on outside of the big games. We only have so much time.”

Cook led Old Dominion with 13 points, as the Lady Vols managed to frustrate Old Dominion’s top player, Tia Lewis. Lewis entered the game averaging 18.1 points and 9.7 rebounds but finished with eight points, eight rebounds and four fouls.

By the end of the game, Tennessee had scored 46 and had 26 points off turnovers. Old Dominion only scored eight points inside and had just a single point off the Lady Vols’ 11 giveaways.

“Right now we have a lot of young players, but we’re very confident,” first-year Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot said. “ODU has a great tradition, and I really have a lot of respect for Pat Summitt. I’m really excited about getting this program built to the top, and we as a staff are going to continue to work hard. I thought it was a great experience for a lot of our younger kids tonight.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No. 4 Stanford women top sixth-ranked Tennessee

Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored a career-high 42 points and dazzled in what might have been the most meaningful home game of her senior season, and No. 4 Stanford beat sixth-ranked Tennessee 97-80 on Tuesday night in one of women's basketballs best rivalries.

The Cardinal extended their school-record home winning streak to 68 games at Maples Pavilion, where a sellout crowd of 7,329 waved red "We Back Pat" rally towels in support of Hall of Fame Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who revealed in August she has early onset Alzheimer's.

Toni Kokenis scored a career-high 26 points with five 3-pointers and Ogwumike dominated for Stanford (8-1) in another physical, back-and-forth game like those that have defined the storied series with Tennessee (7-3).

Shekinna Stricklen scored 27 points to lead the Lady Vols, who had their five-game winning streak snapped.

Glory Johnson added 18 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals and Meighan Simmons scored 13 for Tennessee on a night Ogwumike put on a show for national television.

With her father, Peter, in the stands fresh off a business trip to his native Africa, Ogwumike hit from long range and aggressively drove to the basket for layins. She jumped for joy after powering in for one score and drawing a foul. She jumped for 17 rebounds, too.

After coach Tara VanDerveer called for her other players to do more after a Saturday win against Princeton, it was all Ogwumike yet again. She scored six straight points for the Cardinal to open the second half.

VanDerveer hugged Ogwumike after her spectacular night.

The performance marked Stanford's first 40-point scorer since Jayne Appel went off for a school-record 46 in a win against Iowa State in the NCAA tournament regional finals at Berkeley on March 30, 2009. Candice Wiggins had a 44-point game.

Ogwumike's basket that hit the rim and bounced in with 10:59 left gave the Cardinal their first double-digit lead of the game at 65-55 — and they only built on that the rest of the way. Ogwumike's two free throws with 3:49 left topped her previous best outing of 38 points on April 4, 2010, against Oklahoma.

Her sophomore sister, Chiney, added 14 points as the Cardinal shot 53.6 percent.

Tennessee shot a sizzling 61.5 percent in the first half to stay within 48-41 at the break before going a cool 37 percent in the second half to finish at 49.1 percent.

The Cardinal, riding a streak of four straight Final Fours without a championship, haven't lost on their home floor at raucous Maples Pavilion since falling to Florida State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on March 19, 2007.

Stanford has beaten Tennessee three times during that span — also a 73-69 win on Dec. 22, 2007, and a 67-52 victory on Dec. 19, 2009. There also was that monumental 71-59 victory last Dec. 30 that snapped top-ranked Connecticut's record 90-game winning streak.

Summitt walked onto the court a few minutes before tipoff to a rousing standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

Fellow Hall of Famer VanDerveer was shown on the main elevated center-court scoreboard offering her support to Summitt while acknowleding how much Stanford cherishes the rivalry and regular non-conference meetings with the Lady Vols.

VanDerveer said Stanford's program "is behind her 100 percent." Summitt was not yet on the court with her team to see the presentation.

"Pat, we love you, we care about you and we wish you the very best in your battle with Alzheimer's," said the video with VanDerveer, who walked to the opposite bench to greet Summitt. They posed for a few photos together.

Stanford freshman starter Jasmine Camp missed the game with a left foot injury sustained in Sunday's practice. Kokenis played in her place and made back-to-back baskets midway through the opening half to get her team back within 16-13.

Stanford scored 40 or more in the opening 20 minutes against the Lady Vols for the first time since getting 41 on Nov. 27, 1999.

The Cardinal began the game 3 for 13 to 6 of 8 for Tennessee, which jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the opening 2:50.

The Lady Vols were whistled for a technical foul at the 11:18 mark of the first half for having six players on the court. Stanford converted both free throws to cut Tennessee's lead to 16-15.

Tennessee freshman guard Ariel Massengale, who had missed last three games nursing a dislocated middle finger on her left hand that required minor surgery, entered the game for the first time with 10:45 left. The Lady Vols beat DePaul and won at both Rutgers and UCLA without her. Massengale practiced Monday in the Bay Area.

Stanford football coach David Shaw and some of his players atteneded the game and men's basketball coach Johnny Dawkins sat courtside. Four-time Olympic luger Brian Martin participated in a halftime hoop shoot.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pat Summitt faces down Alzheimer’s by fighting and laughing

By Sally Jenkins

Pat Summitt and the Tennessee Lady Vols travel with an uninvited guest. Alzheimer’s crouches in a corner of the locker room, and sits at the end of the bench. Everyone wants to know, How is she doing with it? I’ll tell you: She refuses to be a good hostess. She’s ignoring the guest.

Pat is still Pat. She gets tired more easily than she used to, but frankly, as a friend who talks with her almost daily, I can report that what really wears her out is all the premature sympathy. She’s still here, and still coaching, and when you ask her why she doesn’t take a day off from work, here’s what she says: “I don’t want to be a sissy.”

On the court, she’s enjoying one of her fightingest teams in some time. Last week, the No.6 Lady Vols beat two ranked opponents away from home in the space of four days: No. 20 DePaul at Madison Square Garden by double digits, followed by a bruising comeback victory at No.11 Rutgers. In the same exhausting week she also power-shopped at Macy’s, ran up a couple of impressive tabs at Manhattan restaurants, and accepted Sports Illustrated’s Sportswoman of the Year award.

The last was a lovely honor, but it was not the most solemn occasion of her life. Her staff begged her to give the following acceptance speech: “When I got the call that Sports Illustrated wanted to photograph me, I was so excited and so honored to think that I finally made the swimsuit issue.”

Pat giggled at the idea, but was too well-mannered to say it. So Tennessee’s director of basketball operations, Kathy Harston, doctored a copy of the magazine by superimposing a swimsuit model reclining in a thong, and pasted Pat’s head on it. She showed it to the entire squad on the team plane. There was a momentary shocked silence: Harston’s artwork was so good they thought it was real. Then came the shrieks and squeals and stamping feet. “We busted out,” guard Shekinna Stricklen says. Summitt threw back her head and laughed helplessly as a schoolgirl.

Assistant Holly Warlick said, “You need to get that framed, Summitt.”

Pat replied: “I think I will. I never looked so good in a bathing suit.”

Not every day is a comedy, of course. There are undeniable difficulties, and obvious changes, times when their hearts feel like anvils. Back in August when Pat first accepted the diagnosis, she realized she needed to redistribute her in-game coaching duties. She struggles to follow rapid shifts in schemes, and her perceptions are a beat slower.

“She doesn’t multitask like she used to,” Warlick says.

In practices, Warlick handles the defense, while Pat and her assistant of 28 years, Mickie DeMoss, handle the offense, and third assistant Dean Lockwood manages the post players. During games they consult in timeouts, and Warlick delivers the instructions to players with the clipboard. It’s an experiment that could work only on a staff made up of the closest friends, and it’s not without problems and glitches. But for the most part, it’s operating well enough.

“The only thing that’s different is the messenger,” Warlick says. “The message hasn’t changed.”

Just because Pat doesn’t hold the clipboard, it would be a mistake to suppose that she is not an acute presence. “She still has a huge imprint on this team,” junior forward Taber Spani says. But it’s in a different way. In certain respects, she is as perceptive on the floor as ever. In the pressured final minutes against Rutgers she was intensely aware, not without amusement, that Warlick was sweating so hard it soaked her blond hair dark. Pat watched the droplets trickle down her neck.

Pat, by contrast, was uncharacteristically cool. When sophomore guard Meighan Simmons nailed consecutive three-pointers to finally put the Lady Vols ahead, Pat merely leaned over and said with a sardonic mildness to her staff, “That helps.”

The demeanor, partly a result of the need to manage stress for her health, is a startling role reversal. It used to be that Pat was the most intense member of the bench and her assistants softened her blows. Now it’s Pat who is the softer presence. “More motherly,” Spani says. “Obviously she still gives us the stare when we need it, but she’s had a very calming effect.”

It was Pat, the Lady Vols say, who restored the confidence of Simmons, a frenetic young guard who was in the grip of a bad slump. In the days before the Rutgers game, Pat corrected her shooting motion in individual teaching sessions and kept a consistently comforting arm around her — while refusing to tolerate any pouting. The result was a timely, explosive performance.

“Pat had a lot to do with those shots,” Spani says. The light went on for Simmons just in time. “Hallelujah,” Pat says.

Yet, these Lady Vols are one of Pat’s most characteristic teams in the way they battle, too. After they overcame a five-point deficit in the final minutes in front of a roaringly hostile crowd, Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer remarked ruefully, “They’re playing in her image.”

It was a gratifying comment. Pat has worked for four years to instill her brand of fight in the senior class, a group led by Stricklen that has failed to reach a Final Four, and in the past exhibited a lazybones quality, but no more. Pat used to tease Stricken about her lack of intensity and complained she would rather sit by a pond with a fishing pole back in Arkansas. But against Rutgers, Stricklen went 40 minutes without a blow, led the team in scoring, provided lockdown defense grabbing three steals, and played so hard her calves cramped in the final minute.

“I love who they’ve become,” Pat says. “We were on our toes instead of our heels. Aggressive. I haven’t always seen that from them.”

The uninvited guest that is Pat’s diagnosis isn’t going away, and the Lady Vols know that.

“It’s become a part of our lives,” sports information director Debby Jennings says. But they can try to chase the intruder into a corner with winning, and laughter. Spani says, “She’s not making light of it. But she’s making it something positive.”

Pat’s way of going about this will disconcert some. It’s not comfortable. There are those who wish she was frozen in time, 20 years younger, her eyes flashing bright as her diamond championship rings, her high heels clattering on the hard wood like machine guns, her mouth open and shouting fire. But Pat is 59, and she’s been doing this for 38 years, and with or without Alzheimer’s, she was going to experience some diminishment. We all do. It’s our fate.

“She’s fighting, and she stands strong,” Stricklen says. “And the best thing we can do for her is go out there and play hard like that, play the way she wants us to.”

Pat is always tearing down with one hand and building up with another. She has always torn down conventions, ideas of appropriate conduct for women, and built up a different version with her other hand.

Now she’s tearing down the stereotype of what it is to have Alzheimer’s and building up a new version and the new version is that you don’t crawl into a hole. You don’t disappear from public view. You don’t be afraid of somehow looking less than totally in command. You don’t retire and go to bed and act sick. You live and you work and you fight. And you laugh.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hot-shooting Tennessee women beat UCLA 85-64

Tennessee set a new standard in the first 16 minutes Saturday when it comes to hot shooting.

The No. 6 Lady Vols stunned the UCLA women by making 18 of their first 20 shots—many from long range—in rolling to an 85-64 triumph over the dazed Bruins before a sellout crowd of 2,025 at the John Wooden Center.

As might be expected, Tennessee cooled off a bit, shooting just under 70 percent (36 of 52) behind a balanced attack in which all five starters scored in double figures.

“Obviously we shot the ball really, really well,” coach Pat Summitt said after the Lady Vols threatened to break the school record of 72.1 percent shooting against Old Dominion on Jan. 4, 1989 before cooling off. “When you shoot like that, you feel good. I think that gave them a lot more energy and a lot more confidence.”

Meighan Simmons scored 18 points; Glory Johnson added 17; Vicki Baugh had 14 points and 12 rebounds; Taber Spani scored all 14 of her points in the first half; and Shekinna Stricklen added 11 despite dealing with an illness for Tennessee.

“It was awesome, it was exciting to see,” associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “It was a special day for everybody. We got stops when we needed to, we played well together, we distributed the basketball.

“They took great shots. I really don’t recall as a coach them taking a bad shot. We took good shots. I can’t say enough about that.”

Rebekah Gardner scored 15 of her career-high 24 points in the first half for UCLA (5-4). Markel Walker had 11 points and eight rebounds and Thea Lemberger added 11 points and six assists for the Bruins, who outrebounded Tennessee 31-28 and had 19 offensive rebounds to only four for the Lady Vols.

Of course, when a team shoots like the Lady Vols did, there aren’t many offensive rebounds to be had.

“When we’re on, it brings the team together,” Simmons said. “Today, it got our momentum going. When it mattered, we really hit some good shots.”

The win was the fourth straight for the Lady Vols (7-2) and their 18th in 19 meetings all-time against UCLA. It also raised Summitt’s career record to 1,078-201.

The 59-year-old Hall of Famer, in her 38th season at Tennessee, is the only coach in NCAA men’s and women’s basketball history to reach 1,000 wins. She remains on the job despite having been diagnosed last May with early onset Alzheimer’s.

First-year UCLA coach Cori Close was upbeat afterward despite the one-sided loss.

“We’re going to learn a lot from this,” she said. “Our goal as a defensive team is to force them to take one hard shot. They made them. I give them all the credit in the world for the hard shots.

“We didn’t get rewarded by the win today, but it’s a step in our process.”

The Lady Vols never trailed, making their first eight shots, including three 3-pointers, for a 19-8 lead. The Bruins went on a 10-3 run to draw within four points before Tennessee had a 21-9 burst to make it 43-27. The Lady Vols then missed five of six shots, leaving them shooting 19 of 25 (76 percent) and with a 45-34 lead at halftime.

Tennessee outscored the Bruins 9-2 to begin the second half for a 54-36 lead. UCLA wasn’t closer than 13 points after that. A layup by Baugh with 7:29 remaining made it 74-52, with Tennessee shooting 32 of 43 (74.4 percent) from the field at that stage.

There were only four fouls called and just one free throw in the first half, and 17 fouls and 18 free throws in the game.

“It was like a college men’s game. It’s crazy,” Gardner said of Tennessee’s hot shooting. “If we take what we learned from this game, we’ll do good things in the Pac-12.”

The Lady Vols conclude a two-game trip through California on Tuesday night against No. 4 Stanford (7-1), an 85-66 winner over Princeton earlier Saturday.

Tennessee played its third straight game without starting point guard Ariel Massengale, who dislocated her left middle finger during practice earlier this month. Warlick said she believes Massengale will return to action soon.

The game was supposed to pit former Tennessee star Nikki Caldwell against her former team and mentor, but that changed when Caldwell quit as UCLA coach last summer to take the LSU job. The Bruins lost to Caldwell and the Tigers 58-41 last Tuesday night in Baton Rouge.

UCLA, ranked 22nd in the preseason AP poll, is playing without senior forward Jasmine Dixon, its second-leading scorer and top rebounder last year. Dixon tore her Achilles tendon before the season.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Johnson leads No. 7 Tennessee women over DePaul

Glory Johnson scored 16 points and Cierra Burdick added 15 to help No. 7 Tennessee beat No. 20 DePaul 84-61 on Sunday in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Shekinna Stricklen added 12 points while Alicia Manning had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Lady Vols (5-2), who saw their 12-point halftime lead cut to 41-37 before using an 15-4 run to take control. Stricklen had six points during the burst.

Her layup made it 56-43 with 11:19 left and DePaul (8-2) couldn't get within single digits the rest of the way.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was honored during No. 1 Baylor's 73-59 victory over St. John's with the Maggie Dixon Courage award. Summitt announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Both the Lady Bears and Red Storm came out of their timeouts to applaud the winningest coach in college basketball.

Jasmine Penny scored 16 points and Keisha Hampton added 14 for DePaul.

It was the second time Tennessee played in the Classic named for the former Army women's coach. The Lady Vols beat Rutgers two years ago. The Scarlet Knights had played in all four of the previous Garden events. Army hosted Ohio State at West Point the first year.

The 28-year-old Dixon died April 6, 2006, of arrhythmia, probably caused by an enlarged heart. Her death came three weeks after she finished her first season as Army coach. She won the admiration of the academy and all of college basketball for leading Army to its first NCAA berth, where the Cadets lost in the first round to Summitt's Lady Vols.

While this was DePaul's first appearance in the Classic, the school has played in the Maggie Dixon Surf'N Slam Classic in San Diego. The Blue Demons have also hosted a tournament in honor of the coach the past few seasons. She got her start as an assistant coach at DePaul under Doug Bruno before she went to Army.

Both Tennessee and DePaul will stay in the Tri-State area after the game. On Tuesday night, the Lady Vols play at No. 11 Rutgers while DePaul visits Princeton.

It will be the Blue Demons' fourth game in seven days. The roster has been depleted by injuries and DePaul had nine players available against the Lady Vols.

Deanna Ortiz was sidelined with a right ankle sprain suffered in Friday's win over SIU-Edwardsville. Taylor Pikes is still recovering from an ACL injury last season. Freshman Shenise Johnson has an injured left foot and classmate Alexa Gallagher hasn't played this season because of knee issues.

Tennessee was playing its first game without freshman point guard Ariel Massengale. She had started every game averaging 7.2 points and 5.8 assists.

She injured a finger on her left hand while diving for a loose ball at the end of practice on Thursday and will be sidelined for a few weeks.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pat Summitt to receive 2012 NCAA Gerald Ford Award

The NCAA will honor Tennessee coach Pat Summitt with the 2012 Gerald R. Ford Award.

The award recognizes a person who has been an advocate for college athletics over the course of his or her career. Summitt has won eight NCAA titles in her 37 seasons as Lady Volunteers coach, and her 1,075 victories is the most by any college basketball coach.

Summitt announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She pledged to continue coaching and show others they can live their lives with the disease.

NCAA President Mark Emmert says the award honors Summitt for "the positive example she continues to set.''

Summitt will be recognized during a Jan. 12 session at the 2012 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Pat Summitt - 2011 SI Sportswoman of the Year

‎2011 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year -- Pat Summitt! She shares the honor with Coach K of Duke. On the cover this week...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

3s & Rebounding Lift #8 Lady Vols Past Texas, 73-57

KNOXVILLE - Clutch 3-point shooting and powerful rebounding lifted #8 Tennessee to a 73-57 victory over #21/22 Texas on Sunday afternoon.

From 3-point range, Tennessee shot 52.4 percent, making 11-of-21 led by Shekinna Stricklen (20 points) and Meighan Simmons (10 points), who combined to make 8-of-16 from behind the arc. Stricklen made a career-high 5-of-9 from 3-point land. The Lady Vols (4-2) outrebounded the Longhorns (5-2), 49-38 led by Vicki Baugh's 11 boards.

Baugh (17 points) and Glory Johnson (11 points and 10 rebounds) both posted double-doubles. Ariel Massengale also scored in double-figures with 10 points while handling out five assists.

The Longhorns were led by Ashleigh Fontenette, who tallied 22 and Chassidy Fussell, who had 14 points.

Stricklen's fifth 3-pointer of the game was the final dagger as it put Tennessee up 64-53 with 6:15 with a trey as the shot clock was winding down.

The Lady Vols held Texas scoreless for 6:20 late in the game as the Lady Vols went on a 10-0 run while forcing the Longhorns into five turnovers during the spurt. Texas ended the draught on Fontenette's jumper with 2:40 left in the game, as the Longhorns had fallen behind by 16.

Down by as many as 14 early in the second, the Longhorns cut the deficit to six at 59-53 on a 3-pointer by Chelsea Bass with 8:50 left in the second half. That would be Texas' final points for more than six minutes. The Lady Vols answered as Johnson scored on a lay-up to start a run of 10 consecutive points.

Tennessee forced Texas into a 30-second shot clock violation with 6:41 left in regulation with furious defensive pressure.

The Lady Vols picked up their shooting early in the second half and began to pull away, taking a 52-38 lead on a Baugh lay-up with 15:31 left in the game.

Tennessee led 41-32 at halftime thanks to some strong shooting from 3-point range as UT knocked down 7-of-13 (54 percent) from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes led by Simmons, who was 3-of-5 with 10 first-half points. Baugh added 11 points in the first half along with five rebounds as the Lady Vols held a 29-18 rebounding edge at intermission.

UT expanded a 27-26 lead with 5:19 left to as big as 11 (38-27) with 1:28 left in the first half. Texas had drawn within one on a 3-pointer by Fontenette before the Lady Vols went on an 11-1 spurt.

The Lady Vols return to action next Sunday as Tennessee takes on #22/21 DePaul in the Maggie Dixon Classic played at Madison Square Garden in New York. Tip-off is set for 1:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.