Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Three Lady Vols Earn All-SEC Honors

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Southeastern Conference announced its annual women's basketball awards today and three University of Tennessee Lady Vols earned honors.

In a vote by the league's 12 coaches, Tennessee graduate student and post Glory Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) was selected as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Johnson was also named to the eight player SEC First Team, the five player All-SEC Defensive Team and was the SEC Community Service representative from UT.

Senior forward/guard Shekinna Stricklen (Morrilton, Ark.) was selected along with Johnson to the eight player SEC First Team while rookie guard Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook, Ill.) was placed on the eight player SEC All-Freshman squad.

"Obviously, I am excited for Glory, Shekinna and Ariel," Lady Vol head basketball coach Pat Summitt said. "They are players we count on to step up and lead our team in each and every game.

"I am particularly proud of Glory and her selection as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. She has raised her level of play this season on both ends of the floor and has been an anchor for us defensively.

"Glory is very deserving of this recognition," Summitt said.

This marks Johnson's second appearance on the All-SEC First Team after also earning the same honor in 2011. Last season, she was a member of the five player 2011 SEC All-Defensive team for the first time. As a rookie, she was named to the 2009 SEC All-Freshman Team. The 6'3" leaper was UT's second leading scorer in SEC games at 13.9 ppg while posting 9.7 rpg.

"There hasn't been a better rebounder than Glory Johnson, night-in and night-out, in SEC play this year," Summitt said. "I think grabbing almost 10 rebounds per game speaks to her commitment to controlling the glass."

Johnson, who graduated in just three years in global studies, is now in graduate school pursuing a master's in communication and information studies. Despite her demanding schedule and maintaining a 3.6 GPA, she also made time to be involved in the community.

This year, she has read to youngsters at a day care center... found time to volunteer at Children's Hospital...been involved with West New Elementary School, Habitat for Humanity and the Knoxville "Extreme Home Makeover." She also assisted with the Knoxville Humane Society's Adopt-a-Pet drive and the UT FCA Girls Night Out.

Stricklen, a 6'2" guard/forward/center for the Lady Vols, was the 2011 SEC Player of the Year. This year, she earned All-SEC First Team honors for the second time (2012, 2011) after placing on the Second Team in 2009 and 2010 and All-Freshman team in 2009. Stricklen led her 2012 Tennessee team in SEC scoring (15.8 ppg) while adding 6.1 rpg.

The 5'6" Massengale has been a dynamic quarterback for the Lady Vols. She has run the team as the rookie point guard from day one and along the way broke the Lady Vol freshman assist record with 137 helpers on the season.

She averaged 7.7 ppg in both SEC and overall play while grabbing 2.7 rpg (SEC) and dishing out over five assists per contest.

The number two-seeded Lady Vols (21-8, 12-4 SEC) open play in the 2012 SEC Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on Fri., Mar. 2 at 2:30 p.m. CT (SportSouth). Tennessee will take on the winner of no. 7 seeded Vanderbilt (21-8, 9-7 SEC) and no. 10 seeded Mississippi State (14-15, 4-12 SEC) who play in opening round action on Mar. 1.

The complete 2012 SEC Women's Basketball Postseason Awards:

First Team All-SEC C'eira Ricketts, Arkansas Jennifer George, Florida Anne Marie Armstrong, Georgia A'dia Mathies, Kentucky LaSondra Barrett, LSU Glory Johnson, Tennessee Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee Christina Foggie, Vanderbilt

Second Team All-SEC Sarah Watkins, Arkansas Jasmine Hassell, Georgia La'Keisha Sutton, South Carolina Jasmine Lister, Vanderbilt Tiffany Clarke, Vanderbilt Ieasia Walker, South Carolina Markeshia Grant, South Carolina Valencia McFarland, Ole Miss Diamber Johnson, Mississippi State

All-Freshman Team Calli Berna, Arkansas Hasina Muhammad, Auburn Erika Ford, Georgia Bria Goss, Kentucky Martha Alwal, Mississippi State Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina Ariel Massengale, Tennessee Kady Schrann, Vanderbilt

All-Defensive Team Anne Marie Armstrong, Georgia Porsha Porter, Mississippi State Glory Johnson, Tennessee A'dia Mathies, Kentucky La'Keisha Sutton, South Carolina

Coach of the Year Tom Collen, Arkansas

Player of the Year A'dia Mathies, Kentucky

Freshman of the Year Bria Goss, Kentucky

Defensive Player of the Year Glory Johnson, Tennessee

6th Woman of the Year Deana Allen, Florida Keyla Snowden, Kentucky

Scholar-Athlete of the Year Blanche Alverson, Auburn

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lady Vols 75, Florida 59

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With all five seniors in the starting line-up on Senior Day, the No. 10/9 Lady Vols rolled past Florida, 75-59, on Sunday afternoon before 18,563 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Lady Vols (21-8, 12-4 SEC) enter SEC Tournament as the No. 2 seed and will face the winner of the No. 7-No. 10 seed game in the second game of the second round on Friday, March 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT. That game will be televised on Fox Sports Net and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.

In her final regular-season home game, Glory Johnson led the Lady Vols with 21 points and 10 rebounds. It was her 10th double-double of the year. Senior Shekinna Stricklen added 15 points and Meighan Simmons tallied 12.

Alicia Manning made the most of her Senior Day as she scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had five assists.

It was also the final home game for Vicki Baugh and Briana Bass.

Lily Svete led the Gators (18-11, 8-8 SEC) with 12 points while Jennifer George had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Tennessee jumped out to a 15-3 lead to start the game and never trailed the rest of way despite Florida staying within in striking distance throughout the game.

The Lady Vols sealed the game on a Johnson breakaway lay-up with 2:05 left in regulation putting UT ahead 70-57. Manning's jumper gave the Lady Vols a 15-point lead.

Back-to-back hoops by Manning and Stricklen regained a double-figure lead for the lady Vols at 59-48 with six minutes left. The teams then traded 3-pointers by Jones and Stricklen for a 62-51 UT lead with 5:18 left in game.

Florida continued to hang around and cut the deficit to seven at 51-44 on a jumper by Ndidi Madu with 9:43 left in the second half.

Johnson opened the second half with a quick lay-up just 14 seconds in, as the Lady Vols equalled their largest lead of the first half of 12 at 37-25.

Tennessee led 35-25 at halftime as Johnson tallied 12 points prior to intermission including a last-second lay-up for the double-figure advantage.

After Florida opened the game with a 3-pointer by Jones, the Lady Vols ran off 15 points in a row to take a 15-3 lead 6:07 into the action. Johnson had eight of those 15 points.

Florida showed grit as they retaliated with a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to four at 17-13 on another 3-pointer by Jones with 10 minutes left in the first half.

Up next for Tennessee is a trip to Nashville for the Southeastern Conference Tournament where the Lady Vols will await the winner of the first round matchup between Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. The Orange and White looks to defend its 2010 and 2011 SEC Tournament crowns.

Senior Day marks the first time all five members of this senior class started together. Tennessee is now 1-0 when the seniors line up for the opening tip.
The win over Florida pulls head coach Pat Summitt closer to her next win plateau. Eight more wins will put her at the 1,100-win milestone.
UF opened scoring with a three-pointer, but UT broke into a 15-0 run from there, taking a 15-3 advantage early; all 15 points contributed by the senior class.
With five assists versus Florida, freshman point guard Ariel Massengale set the Tennessee freshman record for assists. She has tallied 137 assists in her rookie campaign.
With 18,563 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena for today's game, Tennessee set a new season-high mark for attendance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Arkansas upsets Lady Vols 72-71 in overtime

Arkansas had learned a few things about not giving up thanks to its first game against Tennessee this season.

Those lessons paid off as the Lady Razorbacks pulled out a 72-71 win against the 10th-ranked Lady Vols in overtime, handing them a program-worst third home loss for the season. Tennessee had beaten Arkansas 69-38 on Jan. 8 in Fayetteville.

"These kids came in here believing that they could win this game despite the fact that we got beat badly by Tennessee," Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. "The further along we went in the game, the more they believed. They just made a lot of great plays down the stretch to finish it off."

The Lady Razorbacks snapped an 18-game losing skid to Tennessee and became the second Southeastern Conference team this season to win in Knoxville, a place where the Lady Vols previously had not lost a conference game for nearly four years. South Carolina got its first win in Knoxville on Feb. 2.

For Tennessee, it was the third loss at home this season -- the most the program has ever had in a season. The Lady Vols also lost to No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 27.

Shekinna Stricklen hit a layup for Tennessee with 48 seconds left to play to cut Arkansas' lead to 70-69. The Lady Vols got the ball back when Keira Peak lost it out of bounds under the Arkansas basket.

Peak fouled Stricklen, who missed both of her free throws with 10 seconds left. Kamiko Williams then fouled Harris, who sealed the win for Arkansas (21-6, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) with a pair of free throws with 6 seconds left to play.

"I think we all definitely wanted to forget about that first game," Harris said. "We know we played bad that game. We are confident in oru abilities offensively, and I think we were able to stick shots."

Peak then fouled Ariel Massengale to keep the Lady Vols from attempting a 3-pointer to tie the game. Massengale hit both of her foul shots, and Quistelle Williams missed a pair of free throws for Arkansas with 3 seconds left, but Stricklen couldn't get a half-court shot off before the buzzer sounded.

"I have to sink the free throws," Stricklen said. "We had a bad first half, but we came back in the second half. We fought. We just had to step up, and we didn't make the free throws in the end."

The Lady Vols held a 62-60 lead with 48 seconds left in regulation but let C'eira Ricketts run right by them and dish the ball to Sarah Watkins, who hit a layup to tie the game at 62 points with 9 seconds left and force overtime.

Watkins had 18 points, and Ricketts finished with 16 points.

Stricklen led Tennessee (20-8, 11-4) with 17 points, all scored after halftime. Glory Johnson scored all 13 of her points in the second half.

Both teams struggled with hanging on to the ball. Arkansas committed 21 turnovers and Tennessee 19.

The Lady Vols defense had some success frustrating the Lady Razorbacks, who committed four shot-clock violations.

But when Arkansas could get a shot off, it often was a good one. The Lady Razorbacks shot 11 of 19 in the first half and finished 50 percent from the floor.

Watkins drained a 3-point shot and followed with a long jumper to give Arkansas a 21-16 lead with 7:29 in the first half, and the Lady Razorbacks entered halftime with a 31-26 lead -- nearly matching their points total in their 69-38 loss to the Lady Vols on Jan. 8.

Arkansas managed to keep Tennessee off the boards and out of the paint in the first half. The Lady Razorbacks outrebounded the Lady Vols 14-8 and limited them to 9-for-20 shooting before halftime.

Tennessee found some life after halftime from Stricklen and Johnson, who were a combined 0-for-4 with no rebounds in the first half.

"We dug ourselves a hole in the first half," Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick said. "You can't have two of your best players not scoring and not rebounding."

Stricklen sank a pair of 3s to pull Tennessee within two points, and Ariel Massengale stole the ball from Ricketts and hit a layup to tie it at 44 points with 12:08 to go. Johnson came up with key rebounds and found her way to the rim and free-throw line to help the Lady Vols keep a slight edge until just before the end of regulation.

Tennessee had entered the game tied with Kentucky for first place in the SEC, but the Wildcats regained sole control of the conference with a win against South Carolina on Thursday night with one game left to play. The Lady Vols dropped to second place.

Arkansas moved into a tie for third place with Georgia.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pat Summitt to receive AARP "Inspire Award"

At this year's senior game for the Lady Vols, the AARP will celebrate Pat Summitt's "inspiration".

Since her diagnosis of early onset dementia, she has worked as an advocate for those with Alzheimer's, and created the Pat Summitt Foundation for Alzheimer's research.

This year's senior game is on Sunday against Florida.

At that game, AARP will present the national "Inspire Award" to Coach Summitt.

AARP says Summitt has inspired others through her innovative thinking, passion and perseverance.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

No. 13 Tennessee women beat Mississippi 66-56

Glory Johnson had 13 points and eight rebounds as No. 13 Tennessee beat Mississippi 66-56 Sunday.

Shekinna Stricklin added 12 points for the Lady Volunteers (20-7, 11-3 Southeastern Conference.) Johnson and Stricklin each shot 5-for-9.

Valencia McFarland had 21 points for Mississippi (12-15, 2-12).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stricklen leads Lady Vols over Mississippi State

Road wins are never an easy proposition, but this one was particularly ugly.

No. 13 Tennessee overcame 19 turnovers and shot only 38.7 percent (24 of 62) from the field, but still managed to beat Mississippi State 57-41 on Thursday night.

“We didn’t get a lot of transition looks because we were turning the ball over,” Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “If we learned anything it’s that we’ve got to take care of the ball more.”

Shekinna Stricklen scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols (19-7, 10-3 Southeastern Conference). Stricklen was 8-for-18 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line after a slow start.

“I didn’t have my composure,” Stricklen said. “I was rushing and playing at a fast pace, not my own pace. My teammates really helped me get it back under control.”

The win pulls Tennessee even with No. 7 Kentucky atop the SEC standings after the Wildcats’ loss tonight to Alabama.

Tennessee has won three of its last four games and five of its last seven.

Cierra Burdick added 10 points and Glory Johnson grabbed 15 rebounds for Tennessee.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game,” Warlick said. “It was a grind for us and we found a way to win.”

As poorly as Tennessee shot, Mississippi State (14-12, 4-9) shot even worse.

The Bulldogs shot only 24.2 percent (16 of 66) from the floor and trailed by double digits the entire second half.

“We forced enough turnovers and I felt like we really scrapped,” Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “But we missed some shots and you have to rebound the ball defensively. You’ve got to get some put-backs and some and-ones, and we’re just not there yet.”

The Bulldogs are now 0-33 all-time versus the Lady Vols.

“Our defense played hard enough for us to win the ballgame,” Fanning-Otis said. “They have awfully good athletes, with great size, at all positions.”

Both teams struggled to find offense, starting the game a combined 1-of-21 from the floor. The Lady Vols led 22-13 at the half.

“We played rushed,” Warlick said. “Once we settled down and got into a rhythm I thought we did well.”

Kendra Grant scored a career-high 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting to lead Mississippi State and Porsha Porter added 15 points.

Diamber Johnson, Mississippi State’s leading scorer this season, finished with three points on 1-of-15 shooting.

“Tennessee’s always been known as the top team in the SEC, but tonight they escaped with a win,” Johnson said. “They hit shots and we didn’t, but I think this proves that we are a good team.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No. 13 Tennessee routs No. 7 Kentucky women 91-54

Meighan Simmons scored a season-high 25 points and No. 13 Tennessee routed No. 7 Kentucky 91-54 on Monday night.

Shekinna Stricklen added 18 points for the Lady Volunteers, who shot 59 percent while holding Kentucky to 33.3 percent and held a 45-27 rebounding advantage.

Tennessee (18-7, 9-3 Southeastern Conference) never trailed. Simmons hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 10-2 and blocked a 3-point attempt by Keyla Snowden at the other end, one of six rejections by Tennessee in the first half.

The Wildcats (21-4, 10-2) pulled within 21-16 on a steal by Azia Bishop and a transition layup by Bernisha Pinkett with 9:20 in the first half, but they wouldn't get any closer. The loss marked the first time this season Kentucky has lost consecutive games.

Vicki Baugh scored on a putback and was fouled by Bishop. She missed the free throw but charged through the lane and converted the rebound that put Tennessee up 29-18.

Those baskets launched a 14-0 run by the Lady Vols across a 3:21 stretch. During that time, Kentucky missed two free throws and two shots from the field and turned the ball over four times.

Tennessee led 46-28 at halftime after shooting 60 percent. Both teams had 10 turnovers, but the Lady Vols had scored eight more points off giveaways than the Wildcats.

Tennessee's lead reached 40 points with 4:37 to play.

Bria Goss led the Wildcats with 15 points. A'dia Mathies, who scored 34 points in the last meeting with Tennessee, had 12 and Pinkett finished with 10.

Even with the loss, Kentucky, which hasn't played since a 61-51 loss at LSU on Feb. 5, remains alone in first place in the SEC and Tennessee is second with two weeks left in the season. The Lady Vols would have had a shot at pulling into a tie with the Wildcats but lost Thursday at Vanderbilt.

Kentucky snapped Tennessee's 36-game SEC winning streak with a 61-60 victory in Lexington on Jan. 12.

That game turned out to be part of an uncharacteristic 5-4 stretch for Tennessee. After losing to the Wildcats, the Lady Vols dropped games at Notre Dame and Vanderbilt and lost to South Carolina at home, their first SEC home loss in nearly four years.

During that stretch, Stricklen, a preseason All-America and Tennessee's leading scorer for the season, has shot just 41.8 percent while the usually sharpshooting Simmons has shot just 37.2 percent.

This time, Simmons was 10 of 17 from the field and had three 3s, while Stricklen was 8 for 12.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lady Vols lack a loathing for losing

Click here to read John Adams: Lady Vols lack a loathing for losing

As Pat Summitt’s role at Tennessee appears to diminish, No. 11 Lady Vols continue to struggle

As legendary coach Pat Summitt’s role with Tennessee seems to be diminishing, her 11th-ranked Lady Volunteers continue to struggle.

In a matter of eight days, they’ve lost twice in the Southeastern Conference, a prospect backed off her longtime commitment to the program and they’re out of the top 10 for the first time this season.

It’s been tough to watch — and not just for the fans.

“They let us down,” Summitt said of her team on her radio show after the Lady Vols’ 93-79 loss at Vanderbilt on Thursday night. “As coaches, we’re not happy and (the players are) not happy. At least they better not be happy because we got more basketball to play. But this one, man this one hurts. It really does.”

Summitt announced in August that she was facing a diagnosis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, after 37 seasons of coaching. The Hall of Fame coach said she would continue coaching as long as she was able to but would turn over more responsibility to her assistants.

Her decision to rely more on her assistants has become more and more evident as the season has gone on. The assistant coaches run most aspects of practice and associate head coach Holly Warlick takes the lead on the bench and in huddles during games while handling postgame news conferences.

“Pat is Pat. I’ll say this, she still gets up and has a voice when we need to make a point, and that’s what I love about her,” Warlick said after Tennessee beat Auburn on Sunday. “She may pick and choose when she does, but when she does, it’s pretty powerful.”

Though Summitt still gives referees or her players an earful in some games, she is completely removed from the team in others.

During a late huddle against South Carolina on Feb. 2 and with the game still in contention, Summitt stepped back as her team huddled without her. The Lady Vols ended up losing 64-60 as the Gamecocks got their first-ever victory in Knoxville.

Against Vanderbilt with a late tipoff, Summitt sat on the bench while her Lady Vols were manhandled on the boards, the type of poor play that in the past brought the coach to her feet with her withering glare forcing them to play better.

With each loss, Summitt is being watched even more closely during games.

Fans debated on Friday on the Knoxville News Sentinel’s website whether it was time for Summitt to retire. Kaela Davis, a high school junior from Buford, Ga., had been committed to playing at Tennessee for several years and announced last week she was looking at other colleges.

Davis’s parents did not respond to a request by The Associated Press seeking comment about the decision, but her mother, Kendra Davis, told she is reconsidering her decision because of concern over Summitt’s future with Tennessee.

“She’s not washing her hands (of Tennessee) or decommitting,” Kendra Davis told ESPN. “Nobody could have foreseen (Summitt’s illness), nor could the effects be foreseen.”

Summitt’s colleagues within women’s basketball have honored her request from the beginning of the season to keep the focus on basketball rather than her or her illness. Still, it’s been hard for her friends to watch her confront her condition.

“It’s been real tough on coach Summitt I know, so I hate to talk about how tough it’s been on me because that takes the focus off of Pat,” said Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell, who spent the 1999-2000 season as a Tennessee graduate assistant. “But I think all of us who are close to her or all of us who have had significant contributions made to our lives by her are struggling with this situation.”

The Lady Vols (17-7, 8-3) have struggled in record fashion this season. They scored the fewest points in program history in what was the second-largest margin of defeat in a 72-44 pounding at No. 2 Notre Dame on Jan. 23. Stanford’s Nnemkadi Ogwumike dropped 42 points on Tennessee on Dec. 20 — the second most by a player.

And Vanderbilt’s 93 points on Thursday were the most the program has ever scored against the Lady Vols.

In those losses, Tennessee has struggled with the style of play that Summitt made the hallmark of her program. The coach always has preached defense and rebounding wins national championships, and Summitt has eight to back her approach.

“Until these guys understand or these young ladies understand the importance of those two things, we’re going to continue down this road of going up and down,” Warlick said.

The road continues Monday night when Tennessee hosts No. 7 Kentucky (21-3, 10-1). Before the Lady Vols’ loss to the Commodores, the game was shaping up to be a contest for control of the SEC. Now the Wildcats are back in control of their own destiny, even as they come off a 61-51 loss at LSU.

Kentucky beat Tennessee 61-60 in Lexington on Jan. 12, and junior guard A’dia Mathies, who hit the winning shot, knows just how much another win against the Lady Vols would mean for the program.

“Being at the top and knowing Tennessee is usually at the top is a great feeling. It’s kind of like you’ve finally arrived, but we haven’t really, because if we lose the next ones, we won’t get the SEC championship,” she said.

The Lady Vols know their own chance to win any kind of championship this year could be slipping away. The pressure has been on Tennessee to return to the Final Four, a spot they haven’t been in since 2008, but it won’t happen without an attitude adjustment.

“We have to have discipline,” sophomore guard Meighan Simmons said. “We can’t play well one game and then come out and not play at all (the next).”

Pat Summitt loses grip on Lady Vols

If you’ve been around Pat Summitt very long, you realize she’s unfailingly direct and unflinchingly blunt.

With that as background, I’ll get right to the point:

Was Thursday night Summitt’s last visit to Memorial Gym as coach of Tennessee’s Lady Vols?

Face it: Her future as Lady Vols coach is the elephant in the room. We can attempt to ignore this sensitive situation or steer our conversations elsewhere, but it’s not going away.

Read the article by clicking here.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Vanderbilt upsets No. 11 Lady Vols 93-79

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb sprayed the student section with the ice water from her cup, then slapped high fives before finally heading off the court.

A win over Tennessee is something to celebrate no matter how much the Lady Vols might be struggling.

Tiffany Clarke scored 23 points, and the Vanderbilt Commodores upset No. 11 Tennessee 93-79 on Thursday night for their fifth straight win overall and a very rare victory over their in-state rival.

"It's a rival game, it's Vanderbilt against Tennessee," Balcomb said. "And it's about school pride, and you're still playing the orange. They're 11th in the nation. It's everything it's always been."

For the Commodores (19-5, 7-4 Southeastern Conference), this was their first win against Tennessee since Jan. 11, 2009, and they did it by scoring their most points ever against their rival. It was just Balcomb's second win in 23 games against Tennessee since coming to Vanderbilt.

Tennessee (17-7, 8-3) had won 23 of the last 24 in this rivalry and seven straight. The Lady Vols, who fell out of the top 10 on Monday, now have lost two of three.

Coach Pat Summitt spent most of the game watching from her seat either leaning forward with hands clasped or her legs crossed. She said the Lady Vols were very disappointed.

"I just didn't think we brought the energy early on, and we didn't sustain our runs. We didn't have a whole lot of runs to sustain. We brought the energy early on and we didn't sustain our runs. We didn't have a whole lot of runs to sustain ...," said Summitt on her postgame radio show. "Really just a big, big disappointment. Vanderbilt 93, Tennessee 79. That says everything."

Christina Foggie scored 22 points for Vanderbilt, and Stephanie Holzer added 19. Jasmine Lister had her first double-double with 19 points and a career-high 13 assists.

"We have an inside threat and an outside threat, and not very many teams can guard that," Lister said.

Tennessee sure couldn't.

"We weren't communicating, hands weren't high, we weren't contesting shots," Johnson said. "A lot of wide open 3- point that went in, and there was no one around. At a game like this, you've got to forget about the offense and focus on playing defense."

Glory Johnson led Tennessee with 19 points before fouling out with 5:59 left. Meighan Simmons had a team-high 20 points, and Shekinna Stricklen 17.

Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick was asked afterward if this was Summitt's last game at Memorial Gym. Summitt announced last August she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

“I don’t think so,” Warlick said. “I mean Pat is coaching, she’s still coaching and she’s going to continue to coach. So I hope it’s not the last time, and I have not heard if it is or isn’t. She’s still the head coach of this basketball team.”

The Commodores outworked, outshot and simply outplayed Tennessee from start to finish. They shot 55.7 percent (39 of 70) compared to 45.9 percent (28 of 61) for Tennessee as they drove past the Lady Vols time and again for easy layups with plenty of room to hit jumpers. They also outrebounded the Lady Vols 41-27.

The result was Vanaderbilt’s highest scoring half in this series for a 42-34 halftime lead. The Commodores built that to 48-36 on a layup by Kady Schrann with 17:00 left in the second half when Tennessee finally put together its best stretch.

Johnson hit a jumper starting a 16-4 run. Stricklen, held to two points in the first half, hit a jumper and added a 3-pointer and another jumper. Taber Spani hit a pair of free throws, then Cierra Burdick tied it up at 52 with 12:33 left.

That was the Lady Vols’ first lead since 6-5 and finally gave the fans wearing orange something to cheer. It didn’t last because Vanderbilt didn’t wither.

Foggie hit back-to-back 3s putting Vanderbilt ahead to stay, and her 3-pointer with 8:43 left made it a 65-56 lead with 8:43 left. The Commodores just kept scoring from there and went up by as much as 14 down the stretch. That prompted the home fans to get very loud.

Balcomb called the environment the best she’s seen since she’s been at Vanderbilt.

“There was more black and gold than there’s ever been,” Balcomb said. “Marketing did a great job, and the students coming out means everything to this program and to the environment and the atmosphere. And I can tell you, if the students came to every game like that, we wouldn’t lose a game.”

Tennessee led only twice in a first half where the Lady Vols struggled and bounced off the Commodores at times. The Lady Vols took far too many jumpers, especially early that came up short. Only Johnson scoring 15 points with Simmons adding 13 kept them from being blown out early.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Auburn women lose 82-61 at No. 8 Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Auburn coach Nell Fortner could see just enough mistakes in eighth-ranked Tennessee’s game to know that the Tigers had a chance. They just couldn’t do enough against the Lady Volunteers’ size and pressure to get the win.

The Tigers’ 23 turnovers led to 21 points for the Lady Vols, who got the 82-61 win on Sunday.

“I thought we had good looks at the basket,” Fortner said. “I don’t know how many layups we missed, but there were way too many. Tennessee has always been known as a good defensive team. We tended to find some gaps and seams in things they were doing but still had a difficult time finishing the shot. That comes from their size.”

Tennessee had shown plenty of defensive lapses in a rare SEC loss at home to South Carolina on Thursday night. The Lady Vols saw a late seven-point lead slip away in that game as they struggled to cover the Gamecocks’ guards and committed costly turnovers.

Frustrated with the passive effort, the Tennessee coaches went back to the pressure scheme that’s worked so well for the Lady Volunteers in the past.

It appeared to be more of the same early against the Tigers, who hit six of their first nine shots and jumped out to a 9-4 lead quickly.

The Lady Vols (17-6, 8-2) buckled down, coming up with steals and making shots more difficult. By the end of the game, Auburn had 23 turnovers that resulted in 21 points compared to 11 turnovers by Tennessee.

“Mainly it’s us mentally,” Auburn guard Morgan Jennings said. “We just have to slow things down and make good decisions.”

The miscues gave the Lady Vols more of a chance in transition, where the Tigers struggled to guard them. Tennessee finished with 16 points on the break compared to just four by Auburn (11-13, 3-8).

The Lady Vols also dominated the paint, outscoring the Tigers 52-28 there.

“Actually, after the game the kids said, `That was actually fun,”’ associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “When they think it’s fun, we’re going to do it more often, but they’ve got to buy into it. We got success, and when you have success with something you do, it seems to give you more energy.”

Glory Johnson, who had spent much of the South Carolina loss in foul trouble, led the way inside with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Ariel Massengale also scored 14 points, Meighan Simmons added 13 points and Shekinna Stricklen had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Simmons sank a 3 to knot the game at 14 points with 14:22 in the first half. The basket launched a 7-0 run that put Tennessee ahead for good, and the Lady Vols led 44-31 at halftime.

Tennessee outshot Auburn 50 percent to 37 percent after halftime. Stricklen stole the ball from Blanche Alverson, and Massengale got a layup on the break to make it 56-39 with 13:24 to play.

The Tigers fought back, finding a few paths to the rim as the Lady Vols eased up on their defense late in the game. A short jumper by Hasina Muhammad with 6:54 to play cut Tennessee’s lead to 61-53, but it was as close as Auburn would get.

“We play good for about 34 minutes and then kind of break down,” Fortner said. “It was an eight-point game with 6:51 left, and I think we only had eight turnovers in the half at that time, and it just kind of fell apart on us.”

Simmons answered with a layup. Massengale stole the ball from Muhammad on the next possession, and Johnson rebounded a missed shot by Stricklen and hit a layup to help Tennessee pull away again.

Camille Glymph scored 13 points to lead Auburn, which outrebounded Tennessee 42-39. Tyrese Tanner scored 11 before fouling out with 4:52 to play, and Muhammad finished with 10.

Turnovers cost the Tigers in the first meeting of the teams this season, a 73-52 victory by the Lady Vols at Auburn on Jan. 1. The Lady Vols forced 25 turnovers in that game with their pressure.

“We like that style,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of hard work. You can see when everyone gets tired, but we talk to each other. We know that it shakes the other team, especially with our presence on the full court. It makes them change their offense, and we like that.”

Friday, February 03, 2012

South Carolina women beat No. 8 Tennessee 64-60

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — South Carolina honored Tennessee coach Pat Summitt pre-game with a $20,000 donation for Alzheimer’s research. The Gamecocks’ goodwill ended there.

With a career-high 27 points from Markeshia Grant and strong performances from the rest of the team’s guards, South Carolina beat No. 8 Tennessee 64-60 on Thursday night for its first win over the Lady Volunteers since 1980.

“I’m just glad our players got a chance to experience this experience, knowing the tradition of Tennessee,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “By far, this is the biggest win of my career.”

The Gamecocks (18-5, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) were down 60-55, when Ashley Bruner hit a layup with 3:18 to play. The basket launched a 9-0 South Carolina run to close out the game, and Ieasia Walker hit the go-ahead layup with 2:15 to play.

The Lady Vols had led 57-50 with 5:02 to play in the back-and-forth game, but a layup by Walker and a 3-pointer by Grant, one of seven by the senior, fired up the Gamecocks bench. Tennessee remained flat the rest of the way and missed five shots during South Carolina’s game-ending run.

In the final three minutes, the Gamecocks forced a turnover by point guard Ariel Massengale and tied the ball up twice. South Carolina gained possession on the second jumpball, preventing Tennessee a chance at a game-tying shot with 47 seconds left to play.

Tennessee outshot South Carolina 41.4 percent to 39.4 percent and held a 44-36 advantage in rebounding but had little answer for the Gamecocks guards. La’Keisha Sutton added 12 points, and Walker had 11.

“We didn’t have an answer for them the last four minutes of the game. We didn’t have an answer for their runs,” Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “We continue to let star players put up big numbers against us, and that’s been a focal point for us, but obviously it hasn’t been good enough.”

Glory Johnson scored 13 points in 26 minutes for Tennessee (16-6, 7-2), but foul trouble kept her from being the force in the paint the Lady Vols have come to rely on. Ariel Massengale scored 12 points, and Shekinna Stricklen grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Lady Vols hadn’t dropped a SEC game at home since a loss to LSU on Feb. 14, 2008, but have struggled in the first season since coach Pat Summitt announced she’d been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

“We have the fan support. We have home-court advantage. We’re sleeping in our own beds before the game. We’re having a great pregame meal. We’re completely prepared with the scouting report from our coaches, so this loss is on us. There are no excuses,” Johnson said.

It was the first victory for South Carolina in Knoxville and the Gamecocks’ first win against Tennessee since a 56-52 victory on Jan. 23, 1980, when Warlick was a point guard for Tennessee. The Lady Vols had won 40 straight meetings since then.

It was the second longest active winning streak by one opponent over another. Stanford has beaten Washington State 52 straight times.

South Carolina has been laying the foundation for one of its strongest seasons ever. It now owns the program’s best record since the 2001-02 season which saw the Gamecocks finish 20-3 and reach the NCAA regional finals.

The Gamecocks have managed the feat with the same kind of sharp focus on defense that has been the hallmark of so many Summitt-coached teams. They entered the game ranked second in the nation in limiting opponents to 47.5 points per game and top in the nation with 20.1 3-point shooting defense.

That defense frustrated the Lady Vols all over the floor. They struggled to get second-chance points, hit just one 3-pointer and turned the ball over 11 times.

The Gamecocks’ last win over a top 10 team came in a 71-52 decision over then-No. 6 Vanderbilt on Jan. 3, 2002, in Columbia. The highest ranked team the Gamecocks have defeated in Staley’s four seasons was then-No. 14 Georgia on Feb. 25, 2010, when South Carolina left Athens with a 52-42 victory.

“I really can’t put it into words because I don’t think it has hit me yet,” Sutton said. “I’m really happy for our team, coach Staley, our coaching staff for preparing us and just every player who ever put on a Gamecock uniform.”

During the team shootaround on Thursday, Staley, South Carolina assistant coach and former Lady Vol Nikki McCray and the rest of the Gamecocks presented to Summitt’s son Tyler a $20,000 check to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of the Hall of Fame coach.

Soon after that, Staley’s own college coach, former Virginia coach Debbie Ryan, spoke to the Gamecocks about believing in themselves. With Staley as her point guard, Ryan’s Cavaliers beat Summitt’s Lady Vols in the 1990 NCAA regional finals.

“We had my college coach Debbie Ryan come talk to our team about everyone believing on one accord and being on one accord and anything is possible,” Staley said. “I think our team took that to heart.”