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.