Monday, December 31, 2012

Lady Vols' Graves named SEC Freshman of the Week

Lady Vols' forward Bashaara Graves has been named the SEC Women's Basketball Freshman of the Week.

The a 6'2" forward/center from Clarksville also picked up the honor on Nov. 12 and Dec. 3. She is the first player this season to earn either SEC Player or Freshman of the Week distinction on three occasions.

Graves posted a pair of double-doubles in wins over Davidson and Rutgers. She extended her streak of double-doubles to three-straight games and now is tied for the SEC lead this season with six. For the week, she averaged 13.5 points, 12 rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist. She shot 50% from the floor and 90% from the free throw line. Graves has now scored in double figures in 11 of 12 games.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tennessee 66, Rutgers 47

No. 13 Tennessee used a strong defensive performance and balanced scoring to defeat Rutgers 66-47 Sunday.

The victory was the 1,200th in Tennessee's program history, an NCAA best. It was also the ninth consecutive win over Rutgers for the Lady Volunteers (9-3).

Tennessee led by as many as 28 points in the second half after leading 33-13 at halftime.

The Scarlet Knights (8-4) shot 34.6 percent (18 of 52) from the field and just 22.2 percent (6 of 27) in the first half.

Rutgers' 13 first-half points were the fewest Tennessee has allowed in a first half this season. Rutgers missed its first seven shots as the Lady Vols jumped out to an early 8-0 lead.

Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison recorded a double-double with a game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Kahleah Copper led the Scarlet Knights with 13 points.

Rutgers cut Tennessee's lead to 33-16 to start the second half but never got any closer after the Lady Vols went on a 7-0 run to take a 40-16 lead.

A jumper by Meighan Simmons with 13:06 left gave Tennessee a 48-20 lead, its largest of the day.

Simmons scored 11 of her 15 points in the first half. Tennessee's Bashaara Graves had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

The Lady Vols shot 44.1 percent (26 of 59) from the field, and outscored the Scarlet Knights 30-22 in the paint and 19-12 in fast-break points.

Tennessee scored 24 points off 24 Rutgers turnovers, while the Scarlet Knights managed just eight points off 18 Lady Vols turnovers.

Rutgers' leading scorer and rebounder, Monique Oliver, injured her left ankle midway through the first half and didn't return. She played just nine minutes and had no points or rebounds.

Erica Wheeler, with 11 points, was the only Scarlet Knights player besides Copper in double figures.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tennessee 75, Davidson 40

Bashaara Graves and Cierra Burdick recorded double-doubles Friday as No. 13 Tennessee trounced Davidson 75-40 to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 1986.

Graves scored 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the fifth double-double of her freshman season despite resting for the game's final 10 minutes, 47 seconds. Burdick added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Isabelle Harrison played only 19 minutes, but she nearly gave the Lady Vols a third double-double before finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Tennessee (8-3) had fallen 76-53 at No. 3 Baylor and 73-60 to No. 1 Stanford in its last two games. The Lady Vols haven't dropped three straight games since losing 68-54 to No. 8 Mississippi, 66-60 to No. 11 Auburn and 59-56 to No. 3 Louisiana Tech on Feb. 5-10, 1986.

Sophia Aleksandravicius had 12 points and seven rebounds to lead Davidson (4-7) in both categories. Laura Murray added 11 points, but she shot just 4 of 15.

Graves and Harrison helped the Lady Vols dominate under the basket all night. Tennessee outrebounded Davidson 48-26 and outscored the Wildcats 22-0 in second-chance points. The Lady Vols also had a 26-5 edge in points off turnovers.

The victory over Davidson also allowed the Lady Vols to gain some revenge against the Southern Conference. Tennessee had opened the season with a stunning 80-71 road loss to Southern Conference member Chattanooga.

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick had criticized her team's effort after the Stanford game and responded Friday by overhauling her starting lineup. Graves and junior guard Meighan Simmons were the only starters from the Stanford game who remained in the starting lineup Friday.

Tennessee's new-look lineup featured three freshmen: Graves and forwards Jasmine Jones and Nia Moore. Jones and Moore were making their first career starts. The lineup also included senior guard/forward Taber Spani, making her third start of the season.

That combination wouldn't stay on the floor very long. Warlick returned to her usual starting five of Graves, Simmons, Burdick, Harrison and Ariel Massengale less than three minutes into the game with Davidson leading 7-5.

Tennessee took control of the game by going on a 12-0 run while holding Davidson scoreless for a stretch of nearly six minutes midway through the first half. That spurt turned an 11-11 tie into a 23-11 Tennessee lead, and the Lady Vols maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the night.

After leading 41-21 at the intermission, Tennessee opened the second half on a 9-0 run and remained in front by at least 25 points the remainder of the game.

Davidson has never beaten a Southeastern Conference team in 11 attempts.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stanford 73, Tennessee 60

Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike has at least one career achievement that eluded her older sister.

Ogwumike had 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds Saturday and Stanford remained undefeated with a 73-60 victory at No. 10 Tennessee, giving the top-ranked Cardinal only their second win at Knoxville in 13 attempts.

Stanford won at Tennessee for the first time since an 82-65 victory on Dec. 15, 1996.

Ogwumike's older sister, Nneka Ogwumike of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, scored 42 points in Stanford's 97-80 win over Tennessee last year.

But the No. 1 pick in the most recent WNBA draft never won at Tennessee during her college career.

''One thing Nneka didn't do was get a win here at Tennessee, so I wanted to one-up her,'' Ogwumike said. ''It was a great game.''

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick questioned her team's effort after the game and was more disappointed in this performance than she was after a 76-53 loss at No. 3 Baylor on Tuesday.

''This will change,'' Warlick said. ''As coaches, we'll make some changes too. It's time to grow up.''

Bashaara Graves had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Tennessee (7-3). Meighan Simmons added 12 points, while Ariel Massengale and Cierra Burdick had 11 points each.

Stanford's Amber Orrange scored 14 points. Toni Kokenis and Bonnie Samuelson each added 11 points and Joslyn Tinkle had 10 points for the Cardinal, who host No. 2 Connecticut in their next game Dec. 29.

''The most important thing now is that we keep improving and stay healthy,'' Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. ''We've got great leadership and great chemistry. I'm hoping that we'll be playing better in March and April.''

Tennessee was seeking its first home win over a top-ranked opponent since a 77-72 victory over Louisiana Tech on Jan. 22, 1996. The Lady Vols are 14-32 against top-ranked opponents, and they're 2-11 when facing No. 1 teams at home.

Stanford (11-0) was coming off a 53-49 squeaker at No. 21 South Carolina on Wednesday, but the Cardinal never trailed Tennessee and owned a double-digit lead most of the way.

Facing a national title contender for the second straight game, the Lady Vols again struggled to make shots.

Tennessee missed its first 11 shots against Baylor to fall behind 17-0 and went on to trail 41-16 at the intermission, its largest halftime deficit in school history.

The Lady Vols shot 31.9 percent against Stanford and missed their first 12 attempts from 3-point range.

Stanford grabbed a 33-21 halftime lead by relying on Ogwumike and capitalizing on Tennessee's cold shooting.

Ogwumike, who entered the game averaging 21.9 points and 12.2 rebounds, had 13 points and 12 rebounds by halftime.

The 6-foot-4 junior finished the game with a career-high five assists to go along with her eighth consecutive double-double.

''The most important thing was that she didn't get in foul trouble,'' VanDerveer said. ''It was disciplined basketball. She does everything for us. She's a leader. She puts the team on her back. She made her big sister Nneka proud today.''

After a Burdick jumper tied the score 8-8 with 14:44 left in the first half, Stanford went on a 13-2 run. Tennessee missed 12 consecutive shots at one point during that Stanford run.

''We let our offense dictate our defense,'' Burdick said. ''I feel like I'm a broken record because I said the same exact thing against Baylor. You would think we would have gone back to the drawing board and fixed that, but apparently we haven't. That's what hurts so bad. We had a great opportunity in front of us to beat the No. 1 team in our house and we just couldn't get the job done.''

Tennessee cut the lead to 10 early in the second half, but Stanford answered with an 11-2 run.

The Lady Vols chipped away at the 19-point deficit and got the lead down to nine when Burdick made one of two free throws with 8:43 left. Ogwumike answered with a putback on Stanford's next possession, and the margin didn't drop below 10 points again.

Even though Tennessee's offense improved in the second half, the Lady Vols couldn't make enough stops to have a realistic shot at pulling the upset.

''We would make a stop, then give up an offensive rebound,'' Warlick said. ''If you can't do those things, then you had better hope you're going to shoot in the 50s or 60s (or) you're not going to win the basketball game. This program was built on defense and rebounding, and that is not a typical Tennessee team right there. That's not going to get it done. That's not acceptable, and I'll take responsibility for that. They will be ready.''

While Tennessee searches for answers, Stanford continues playing with the sense of purpose that accompanies a No. 1 ranking. Stanford's 71-69 victory over defending national champion Baylor on Nov. 16 has helped the Cardinal believe they're capable of anything.

''It gave us a lot of confidence,'' Ogwumike said. ''This year, we lost my sister Nneka. The people outside and inside the team doubted how well we'd do this year.''

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Baylor 76, Lady Vols 53

Third-ranked Baylor raced out to a 17-0 lead as the Bears ended Tennessee’s seven-game win streak, handing the No. 10 Lady Vols a 76-53 defeat on Tuesday night.

Baylor moved to 9-1 overall as Brittney Griner tallied 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Kimetria Hayden netted 16 points. Brooklyn Pope corralled a game-best 16 rebounds to go along with 11 points.

Tennessee (7-2) was led by Meighan Simmons, who scored 16 points. Kamiko Williams had a season-high 15 points, two off her career-high of 17. Williams posted her first-career double-double with a career-high 10 rebounds.

Tennessee played without 6-3 center Isabelle Harrison, who was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

The loss of 23 points equalled the eight-largest in school history.

Baylor outrebounded the Lady Vols, 54-47.

The Lady Vols missed their first 11 shots of the game before scoring for the first time, with 13:05 left in the first half, on a Cierra Burdick jumper to make it 17-2.

Tennessee tried to climb out of the early hole, but it proved to be too tall of a mountain.

UT cut the deficit to 12 at 21-9 and 23-11, but Baylor continued its sharp shooting in the first half and regained a 20-plus point lead at 32-11 on a 3-pointer by Hayden with 6:49 left in the first half. The run expanded to 13-0 to gave Baylor a 36-11 lead with five minutes left in the half. Taber Spani ended the drought with a 3-pointer at the four-minute mark.

Tennessee trailed 41-16 at halftime. The 25-point deficit was the largest at halftime in school history. The previous largest margin was 20 against Rutgers in 2009 as the Lady Vols rallied from down 33-13 to win 55-51 on the road.

Both Griner and Hayden had 11 points at halftime.

The Lady Vols began the second half scoring eight of the first 12 points as Simmons canned a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 45-24.

Tennessee continued to battle and chip away, but the margin never got below 19 points in the second half. A Williams’ jumper made the score 70-50 with three minutes left. Nia Moore’s layup with 93 seconds left, cut the score to 72-53.

The Lady Vols return home to host No. 1 Stanford on Saturday at 4:00 PM.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

No. 13 Tennessee women defeat No. 18 Texas 94-75

Meighan Simmons poured in 18 points to lead six Tennessee players in double figures as the 13th-ranked Lady Vols roared past No. 18 Texas 94-75 on Sunday in Austin.

Tennessee (7-1) shot 46.8 percent from the floor and held the Longhorns to 34.3 shooting in winning for the fourth straight year against Texas.

Ariel Massengale and Taber Spani had 15 points apiece for Tennessee and Cierra Burdick and Bashaara Graves scored 14 each. Graves also had 10 rebounds. Jasmine Jones added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Lady Vols.

Chassidy Fussell led the Longhorns (6-2) with 31 points.

Texas shot 25 percent and trailed 45-27 at halftime. The Longhorns cut the Tennessee lead to 78-68 on Fussell's 3-pointer with 6:57 to play before the Lady Vols finished the game with a 16-7 run.

Lady Vols ready for tough stretch

Now that Tennessee has made a case that it won’t go backward in the post-Pat Summitt era, the 13th-ranked Lady Vols have a chance to deliver an even bigger statement.

Tennessee (6-1) carries a six-game winning streak into the toughest portion of its schedule. The Lady Vols play at No. 18 Texas on Sunday, visit No. 3 Baylor on Tuesday and return home to face top-ranked Stanford on Dec. 22.

“We’ve been saying how it can get us back in the national championship talk again, which we haven’t been in for a while,” sophomore guard Ariel Massengale said. “It’s good for the program.”

Tennessee hasn’t reached the Final Four since its 2008 national championship season, which represents this storied program’s longest drought since the NCAA began running the tournament in 1982.

Skepticism surrounded this team before the season as Tennessee replaced Summitt, who led the Lady Vols to eight national titles before stepping down in April with early-onset dementia. Tennessee was 20th in the preseason Top 25 — its lowest ranking since 1985 — and raised more doubts with a season-opening 80-71 loss at Chattanooga in Holly Warlick’s head coaching debut.

The Lady Vols haven’t lost since. Their winning streak includes double-digit victories over Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina, who all were ranked at the time.

They’re ready to test themselves against the nation’s best.

“I think beating three Top 25 teams has somewhat given us a head start at proving our point, but at Tennessee, we always have a point to prove because we’re Tennessee and there are a lot of expectations for us,” junior guard Meighan Simmons said.

Tennessee also must worry about showing signs of rust. The Lady Vols haven’t played since a 102-57 blowout of North Carolina on Dec. 2. That 13-day layoff represents the Lady Vols’ longest break during a season since 2008-09, when they had 14 days off between the Southeastern Conference tournament and the NCAA tournament.

“The way we played against Carolina, I would have wanted to start (playing again) a couple of days afterward, but we don’t have that benefit,” Warlick said. “We’ve tried to shorten practice and focus on certain things each day.”

Tennessee’s players say the practices have remained grueling enough to prepare them for what they’ll face over the next week.

“That’s what our coaches try to do, they try to prepare us and make us so physically exhausted and mentally fatigued in practice that the games seem a little bit easier,” senior guard/forward Taber Spani said.

Tennessee has focused primarily on improving its rebounding and transition defense. The Lady Vols have been at their best this season when they’ve forced a flurry of turnovers that lead to easy baskets.

The Lady Vols are entering this difficult stretch shorthanded. Freshman guard Andraya Carter underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in her right shoulder Thursday after averaging 5.3 points and 20.6 minutes in the Lady Vols’ first seven games.

“It’s going to hurt us as far as our depth,” Warlick said.

Carter’s injury presents one more obstacle to a team beginning the biggest test of its season thus far.

The Lady Vols look forward to the challenge.

“We all come to Tennessee to play against the best,” Massengale said. “This is a great opportunity for us.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pat Summitt honored at Toledo-Marquette game

Pat Summitt was honored on Saturday night during a "We Back Pat'' ceremony at halftime of the Toledo-Marquette women's basketball game.

The ex-Tennessee coach and her son, Tyler, a Marquette assistant coach, spoke briefly at the Al McGuire Center.

"It's a special night to have my son here and to have everybody backin' Pat,'' Summitt said before receiving a standing ovation.

Many of the fans were wearing "We Back Pat'' T-shirts bought to honor Summitt, who had 1,098 victories - more than any college coach, male or female - and won eight national championships.

Proceeds from sale of the shirts go to the Pat Summitt Foundation to fight Alzheimer's disease, which forced Summitt to end her 38-year career after last season.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lady Vols lose Carter for rest of season

Tennessee freshman guard Andraya Carter will undergo season-ending surgery on her right shoulder Thursday, limiting the 13th-ranked Lady Vols’ backcourt depth as they enter the toughest portion of their schedule.

Carter hurt her shoulder initially Nov. 18 in a 79-67 victory at Miami. She hurt her shoulder again and was helped off the court Nov 28 in an 88-81 overtime victory over Middle Tennessee. When she returned to action Dec. 2 in a 102-57 triumph over North Carolina, Carter aggravated the injury.

The 5-foot-9 guard had injured the same shoulder late in her senior season at Buford (Ga.) High School.

“She hurt it in high school, and it just kept popping out,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.

Warlick said Carter was given the option of continuing to play and hoping the injury didn’t get worse. Carter and her family chose to have surgery.

“I think it’s the best decision,” Warlick said. “I didn’t tell her one way or another. I wanted them to make the best decision, but I totally understand it.”

Carter had been averaging 5.3 points and 20.6 minutes per game. She started each of Tennessee’s first five games before coming off the bench in the last two contests.

Warlick said the Lady Vols plan to seek a medical redshirt for Carter.

Her injury comes as Tennessee (6-1) begins a demanding stretch of games against No. 18 Texas, No. 3 Baylor and No. 1 Stanford. The stretch starts Sunday at Texas.

“She’s a great leader,” Warlick said. “It’s going to hurt us as far as our depth. We may not be able to run as much as we have been because we could sub people in and out.”

Carter’s injury creates some uncertainty behind starting point guard Ariel Massengale.

This could create an expanded role for senior Kamiko Williams, who has averaged 5.1 points and 15 minutes per game this season. Junior Meighan Simmons, the Vols’ leading scorer and first-team shooting guard, also can help out at point guard.

“We’re going to have to do it by committee,” Warlick said. “I hate it for Ariel. I think Andraya helped Ariel kind of relax and think, ‘You know, I don’t have to do this by myself.’ It’s going to be great for Andraya to stick around and be around Ariel and make sure she gives support watching the games and when (Massengale) comes off the court. Guards are going to have to step up.”

Pat Summitt receives Naismith contributor award

Pat Summitt is the recipient of the 2013 Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Women's College Basketball Award, an honor given annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The award goes each year to an individual who made contributions of outstanding significance and created a long-lasting positive impact on women's college basketball. Anyone eligible for consideration must have been involved with the sport in a capacity related to coaching, broadcasting, college administration or the media.

Summitt stepped down as Tennessee's coach in April after announcing last year that she had early onset dementia, though she remains on staff as head coach emeritus.

Summitt led Tennessee to eight national titles in her 38-year tenure. Her 1,098-208 career record makes her the winningest Division I men's or women's college basketball coach in history.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tyler Summitt takes family legacy to Marquette

When Marquette coach Terri Mitchell picked up the phone to talk with Tyler Summitt about the opening on her staff, it figured to be little more than a courtesy call.

Mitchell knew his pedigree -- who didn't? The son of Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, who won eight national titles and more games than anyone else in NCAA college basketball in 38 years at Tennessee, Tyler Summitt has been around the game longer than some veteran coaches. But he was just finishing his senior year at Tennessee and, now 22, was barely older than many of the Marquette players.

Forty-five minutes later, Mitchell had asked Summitt to come to Marquette for an interview. By the end of the interview, he had the job.

"From the second I started asking him questions, he was on it. Just his philosophy, his passion," Mitchell said. "Coming from Tennessee, watching his mom, all the national championships -- he's embraced all that knowledge and said, `How can I translate that into Marquette being a championship program? I will bring a championship environment every day because that's all I know.'

"He's going to be a star in our profession."

Tyler Summitt was hired at Marquette in April, the very day his mother stepped down at Tennessee. She had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, in May 2011, a month shy of her 59th birthday.

Marquette is hosting a "We Back Pat" night to raise Alzheimer's awareness Saturday, when it hosts Toledo. Pat Summitt plans to be there.

Because Tyler Summitt is so close to his mom, leaving Knoxville wasn't easy. But Pat Summitt remains in good health -- whenever Tyler Summitt calls, she's usually just finishing a workout or doing one of the many memory quizzes or puzzles she has on her iPad -- and she encouraged him to go.

"She's prepared me for this and she knows I'm prepared and she believes in me and she's taught me so much," Tyler Summitt said. "So it's fun to go and be doing kind of what she's taught me to do and doing things the right way and mentoring young athletes while she's right there watching.

"I think a part of her philosophy is living on in me, so I hope that I can continue to make her proud."

Basketball has been part of Tyler Summitt's life for, well, forever. While other kids were playing video games after school, he was hanging out at Tennessee practices. Instead of going to sleepovers or parties on weekends, he was taking road trips with the Lady Vols.

Some kids might rebel, seeking as different a career path as possible. But Summitt was captivated, never once considering doing anything else with his life.

"Basketball," he said, "is just part of me."

He was coaching basketball camps when he was in high school, and served as a student-assistant for the Lady Vols as a freshman. A walk-on at Tennessee his last two years, he coached AAU teams in his free time. When his mom watched game film, he'd pull up a seat and watch with her.

"Eventually, he saw everything I was seeing," Pat Summitt said in an email. "I knew he had a gift to coach."

Tyler Summitt was like a sponge with anyone he came in contact with -- his mother; Billie Moore, the Hall of Famer who was Pat Summitt's Olympic coach; John Wooden; Bruce Pearl and Cuonzo Martin, both of whom Tyler Summitt played for at Tennessee. He made notes of everything he learned, and has them stored on his computer.

Not just Xs and Os, either, but tips on leadership and building chemistry, ideas for dealing with discipline issues and on and on.

"You name a topic, bam! He can go in and start looking at ideas," Mitchell said.

Though technically Summitt is responsible for Marquette's guards, the position he played, Mitchell has always encouraged her assistants to jump in wherever they feel they can contribute and Summitt is no different. He's an active voice at practice, and doesn't hesitate to suggest plays or drills. If he's got thoughts on offense, defense, transition, she wants to hear them.

"She has that trust and that's something so great about her, she puts people in their strengths and lets them spread their wings," Summitt said. "I don't think my assistant's role is like 99 percent of other assistants in the nation because she's given me so much freedom."

But Summitt has earned that, Mitchell said.

"Some coaches, as they come up through the ranks, think things are owed to them. You have to work at it. You've got to work for the corner office," she said. "But he's the complete opposite. He's worked his tail off. So much so that I need to get him to relax."

Summitt is well aware of the impact his mother had on the women's game -- on all of women's sports, really. Pat Summitt's Lady Vols were the first women's team to go mainstream, and others -- in basketball and beyond -- soon followed. There's not a day that goes by without someone emailing or calling Tyler Summitt to tell him about meeting his mom, getting her autograph or just seeing her at a game.

"I realize the impact she's had. But I don't think I'll ever fully grasp the multitude of what she's done," he said.

He does, though, have greater admiration for the way she did it.

Yes, Pat Summitt won more games than any other coach, male or female, finishing with a 1,098-208 record at Tennessee. But it was the relationships she built with her players, the time she made for her family, the lessons she taught that could be carried from the court into every other corner of life, that stuck most with her son.

"There are countless opportunities for a coach to be power-hungry and get a `win-at-all-costs' attitude, and she never did that," Tyler Summitt said. "As competitive as she was, she resisted that. She always did things the right way. She always treated people the right way. She always put the relationships of her players first. And she always put discipline above winning.

"Focus on what you can control, do things the right way, be honest and open and communicate -- there's been those principles that aren't written down, but they're a part of me and a part of her," he added.

And they're helped sustain both mother and son since May 2011, when Pat Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, a month shy of her 59th birthday.

Pat Summitt has always been brutally honest -- her glare is legendary -- so going public with her diagnosis was never a question, Tyler Summitt said. She established the Pat Summitt Foundation to raise awareness and funding of Alzheimer's research, and became the public face of what, until now, has been a disease suffered mostly in private.

More than 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association, 200,000 of whom are under 65.

"It's not something people talk about as easily as cancer, AIDS, heart disease," said Angela Geiger, the chief strategy officer for the Alzheimer's Association. "Having a public figure like Pat come forward and say, `I noticed the signs, I sought out a diagnosis,' really helps change the conversation."

The "We Back Pat" campaign has spread across the country -- and across sports. Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams made Summitt the "12th Titan" for the season opener, and Trevor Bayne had "We Back Pat" painted on his car for a Nationwide race at Bristol in August.

"It's just more awareness. There can't be enough," Tyler Summitt said. "People seeing, `Hey, this isn't stopping her, it doesn't have to stop me or my loved one.'

"(This disease) will have as much power as you give it," he added. "You can take its power away by, one, being open like mom was. And then, two, living your life."

Thursday, December 06, 2012

AARP Presents Pat Summitt with the 2012 Andrus Award

AARP today announced that Pat Summitt has been selected as the recipient of the 2012 AARP Andrus Award. The Andrus Award, named after AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus, is given in recognition of those who embody the organization's goal of bringing lifetimes of experience and leadership to serve all generations.

Ms. Summitt, who in her 38-year coaching career led the University of Tennessee Lady Vols to more than 1,000 wins, retired at the end of the 2012 season after courageously announcing her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's disease. She currently serves as Head Coach Emeritus of the Lady Vols.

AARP selected Ms. Summitt as this year's Andrus Award recipient for the incredible work she has done through the Pat Summitt Foundation. The Foundation, which was formed in 2011, gives grants to nonprofits that perform cutting-edge research into the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease and provide support services to patients, their families, and their caregivers.

"The Andrus Award is presented only to those remarkable individuals whose efforts and achievements have effected enormous positive social change," said AARP CEO A. Barry Rand. "AARP is proud to pay tribute to Pat Summitt and her accomplishments. We commend Ms. Summitt and her Foundation for their commitment to raising awareness of Alzheimer's disease and providing caregiving support for families. Ms. Summitt embodies the very spirit of service that is at the core of AARP's mission."

Past recipients of the Andrus Award include Maya Angelou, Tom Brokaw, Norman Lear and General Colin L. Powell. AARP will present the award to Ms. Summitt at a dinner held in her honor on Thursday, December 6 th at The Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

No. 16 Lady Vols rip No. 22 North Carolina 102-57

Meighan Simmons scored a career-high 33 points and exceeded the 1,000-point mark for her career Sunday as No. 16 Tennessee trounced No. 22 North Carolina 102-57 for its sixth consecutive victory.

Simmons shot 12-of-22, including 9-of-11 in the first half. The junior guard scored her 1,000th career point by sinking a pair of free throws with 11:44 left in the first half, becoming the 37th Lady Vol to reach that plateau.

Isabelle Harrison added a career-high 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds for the Lady Vols (6-1). Cierra Burdick scored 15 points, Bashaara Graves had 11 points and Taber Spani added 10 points.

Xylina McDaniel scored 19 points and Waltiea Rolle added 13 points for North Carolina (7-1). The Tar Heels had been allowing only 54.3 points per game and hadn't given up more than 64 points in any of their seven wins.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Freshman Graves emerges as force for Lady Vols

As Tennessee begins a new era in women's basketball, perhaps it's only fitting that a freshman is leading the way.

The emergence of freshman forward Bashaara Graves has helped the 16th-ranked Lady Vols win five consecutive games in Holly Warlick's debut season as coach. Graves headed into the weekend as the Southeastern Conference's third-leading scorer (15.8) and sixth-leading rebounder (7.8). No other freshman ranked among the conference's top 18 scorers or top 14 rebounders.

Graves' rapid rise hasn't surprised anyone at Tennessee.

Her coaches and teammates knew all along she'd be a major factor. Even Graves herself believed she could contribute right away. She remembered what Warlick told each of the freshmen before the season.

''She basically told us that we don't have time to be freshmen, which is understandable because we're a younger team,'' Graves said. ''Being freshmen, we don't have that option. We had to come in and make an impact immediately.''

Tennessee (5-1) needs Graves to continue making an impact as it enters the toughest portion of its schedule. The Lady Vols host No. 22 North Carolina (7-0) on Sunday in the first of four consecutive games against currently ranked teams. After taking two weeks off, Tennessee travels to No. 13 Texas on Dec. 16 and No. 3 Baylor on Dec. 18 before hosting top-ranked Stanford on Dec. 22.

The 6-foot-2 freshman seems ready for the challenge.

Graves had just finished the second game of her career - an 18-point, 12-rebound performance in a 71-54 victory at Georgia Tech - when sophomore forward Cierra Burdick referred to her as a ''beast.'' Junior guard Meighan Simmons calls Graves a ''silent assassin'' because the freshman doesn't talk much but delivers big performances. Simmons also says Graves is ''like another Glory,'' which may be the greatest compliment of all.

Glory Johnson closed her Tennessee career last season with 1,218 career rebounds, the second-highest total in school history. She averaged 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds as the SEC defensive player of the year in her senior year. Johnson went to the Tulsa Shock with the fourth overall pick in the most recent WNBA draft. By comparing Graves to Johnson, Simmons is letting the freshman understand her extraordinary potential.

''It just reminds (her), 'You can be an All-American just like Glory Johnson was,' '' Simmons said.

That's quite a responsibility to place on a newcomer, but the Lady Vols believe Graves has the personality and the game to handle it.

Graves certainly has backed up her teammates' faith in her so far. She recorded her second double-double Wednesday by collecting 15 points and 12 rebounds in an 88-81 overtime triumph over Middle Tennessee.

 ''Bashaara is a workhorse,'' Warlick said. ''She's old-school. She works hard she works on every possession. She competes. She's not the tallest. She's not the fastest. She just gets it done.''

That's apparent from Graves' consistency.

Graves isn't the typical newcomer who offers glimpses of potential while also making freshman mistakes. Graves instead has the steady approach of a senior. She has scored in double figures in every game and hasn't wilted under pressure.

''She's just one of those girls who doesn't speak as much, but she does put her best foot forward and gives 100 percent every day, whether it be a workout with (associate strength coach) Heather (Mason), in the classroom, on the floor or off the floor,'' Simmons said.

Graves adopted that work ethic long before she arrived in Knoxville.

The former Clarksville (Tenn.) High star developed into one of the nation's top five recruits in her class by constantly working to get better. She adopted a well-rounded game by focusing on rebounding and passing as much as scoring. Early in her high school career, Graves even began eating and opening doors with her left hand in an attempt to feel equally comfortable with both hands each time she stepped on the court.

''She's just one of those kids who's always looking for ways to better herself,'' Clarksville coach Brian Rush said. ''She has such a competitive nature on the court. She always wants to win in the worst way.''

She also wants to represent her home-state team in the best way possible. During the Lady Vols' 2008 national championship season, Graves watched just about every game that was televised. She remained committed to Tennessee even after former coach Pat Summitt announced last year she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

''I always wanted to be a Lady Vol,'' Graves said. ''Even if Pat wasn't here, you're still a Lady Vol. You still carry on her tradition. It makes it even better because I committed under her, so I continue the tradition with her. Holly's a great coach and I (am playing for) Holly, but I'm still carrying on the tradition.

''I'm still part of the legacy.''