Thursday, February 28, 2013

(8) Tennessee 82, (13) Texas A&M 72

Forgive Tennessee coach Holly Warlick if she wasn't quite sure how to respond Thursday night.

"It was a little bit of disbelief," said Warlick after her eighth-ranked Lady Vols beat No. 13 Texas A&M 82-72 to clinch their 17th Southeastern Conference regular-season title.

This may seem like an annual tradition in Knoxville, but Warlick hadn't experienced it before as a head coach. She spent the last 27 years as an assistant on Pat Summitt's staffs before taking over the program this season.

"I guess I didn't know how to act. ... It's a little surreal to me right now."

The Lady Vols (23-5, 14-1) had already wrapped up a share of their 17th conference crown Sunday and with the win earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament that begins Wednesday in Duluth, Ga.

Warlick is the second SEC rookie women's coach to win a conference title, matching the 2005 accomplishment of former LSU coach Pokey Chatman.

Tennessee, a perennial conference favorite, wasn't expected to win the SEC title in the first year of the post-Summitt era.

Summitt, who led the Lady Vols to eight national titles in 38 seasons, stepped down last April after announcing in 2011 she had early-onset dementia. She remains on staff as head coach emeritus and is in the stands for virtually every home game, though she was out of town Thursday.

The Lady Vols also didn't return a single player who started an NCAA tournament game last year in their run to the regional finals. SEC coaches predicted Tennessee would finish fifth in the league and Tennessee was fourth in the preseason media poll.

"Holly deserves all the credit," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "She's got the hardest job in America. Remember how many people tried to replace John Wooden? They're still trying to replace him. You've got the right person in Holly. She's doing a great job, because Pat Summitt is our John Wooden."

The Lady Vols outperformed preseason expectations by scoring in bunches and relying on a balanced attack. That formula worked again Thursday.

Kamiko Williams scored a career-high 18 points to lead five Lady Vols in double figures. Cierra Burdick added 15 points and 14 rebounds to help Tennessee outrebound Texas A&M 44-27. Meighan Simmons scored 17 points, Bashaara Graves had 14 and Isabelle Harrison added 10.

"We're finally proving to everybody that this is a team that means business," Burdick said. "We're here to win championships, and that's what we plan on doing."

This represented the final regular-season home game for Williams and Taber Spani, who exchanged high-fives with fans in the front row as the Lady Vols cut the nets to celebrate their title.

Both seniors were honored before the game with their families in a ceremony that included Spani's brother-in-law, 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist and former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. Williams responded by shooting 8 of 13 and pulling down seven rebounds to go along with her 18 points.

"I think it was her best game by far," Warlick said. "She had to play long minutes. She was tired, but she battled back. Any other game (earlier) in her career, she'd have been pulling her shirt to come out. She didn't do that today. She didn't want out."

The Lady Vols overcame injuries to point guard Ariel Massengale and center Isabelle Harrison, who both appeared to hurt their right knees in the second half. There was no immediate word on the extent of their injuries.

"Our team was pretty upset, especially right after Izzy (Harrison) went out, to have two of our players go down," Warlick said. "Some of them were crying or upset, but they held on, and that's the resilience of this team. They've been hit and knocked down, and they just keep getting back up."

Adrienne Pratcher scored 20 points, Kelsey Bone had 14, Courtney Williams 13 and Courtney Walker 12 for Texas A&M (21-8, 11-4). The Aggies lost for the third time in their past four games.

Tennessee and Texas A&M have spent the season battling for the SEC lead with No. 10 Kentucky, so it came as no surprise that Thursday's game went back and forth.

"It was as good of a basketball game as you're going to see in the SEC," Blair said.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Holdsclaw indicted on aggravated assault charge

Prosecutors say former WNBA player and Olympic gold medalist Chamique (shuh-MEE'-kwuh) Holdsclaw is being indicted in a November 2012 shooting in Atlanta.

Fulton County District Attorney's spokeswoman Yvette Jones said Wednesday that a six-count indictment charges the 35-year-old with aggravated assault, criminal damage and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Holdsclaw was arrested after an argument with Tulsa Shock player Jennifer Lacy, who told police she was Holdsclaw's ex-girlfriend. The two were also Atlanta Dream teammates in 2009. Police say Holdsclaw broke the windows to Lacy's car and shot at it. No one was injured.

After a late-November court appearance, Holdsclaw's attorney said he talked with Lacy and they were trying to resolve the case. The attorney said Wednesday he wasn't aware of the indictment.

Holdsclaw is out on bond.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book excerpt: ‘Sum It Up,” by Pat Summitt with Sally Jenkins

Click here to read an excerpt from Sum It Up, by Pat Summitt with Sally Jenkins.

(11) Tennessee 60, Arkansas 54

Meighan Simmons scored 18 points as No. 11 Tennessee rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to defeat Arkansas 60-54 on Sunday.

The Lady Vols (22-5, 13-1 Southeastern Conference) extended their winning streak to five games and remained atop the conference standings. It also follows a shocking overtime win last season by the Lady Razorbacks, their first win in Knoxville.

Simmons, the SEC's leading scorer, had 11 points in the second half to lead Tennessee back from a 28-19 halftime deficit. Taber Spani added 14 points for the Lady Vols, while Bashaara Graves had 11.

Quistelle Williams led Arkansas (17-10, 5-9), which has lost seven of its nine games to ranked teams, with 15 points.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pat Summitt's memoir was a team effort

ESPN Announces Pat Summitt as Subject for "Nine for IX" Documentary

ESPN has revealed this year's upcoming documentaries for its "Nine for IX" initiative (a series of documentaries like the 30 for 30 series; the name comes from these films being focused on "captivating stories of women in sports told through the lens of female filmmaker").

ESPN has revealed that the subject for one of these documentaries will be former Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, in a documentary produced by Robin Roberts.

The summary as follows from the release:

Pat XO (Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern / Produced by Robin Roberts)

On April 18, 2012, Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in the history of the NCAA basketball, did the unimaginable and announced her resignation from the University of Tennessee. On the very same day, her son Tyler was named assistant coach of the Marquette’s women’s basketball team, his first job out of college. While the sports world reeled from the news of Pat’s early on-set Alzheimer’s, the coach and her son quietly set out to beat this challenge just as they had every other – with grace, humor and most of all, each other. Pat XO tells the remarkable story of Pat Summitt as it’s never been told before. This raw, authentic portrait takes the camera from the filmmaker’s hands and places it into those who know her best. With Tyler as the lead storyteller, moving recollections are shared by assistant coaches, players like Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Michelle Marciniak, fellow coach Geno Auriemma, and such admirers as Peyton Manning and Kenny Chesney. The archival footage and statistical records woven into the film provide their own insights into a woman who cared about winning, but also about elevating her players and her university. If it’s possible to do justice to Pat Summitt, Pat XO does it.

The series is scheduled to premiere on July 2 on ESPN and the films will air over consecutive Tuesday evenings at 8pm ET.

I'm not sure if the order in which they will air has been announced yet.

ESPN Films and espnW Announce Nine for IX

Thursday, February 21, 2013

(11) Tennessee 83, Auburn 61

Meighan Simmons scored 24 points and Cierra Burdick had a double-double Thursday night as No. 11 Tennessee trounced Auburn 83-61 to remain in sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference.

Simmons had 11 points in the first 8 minutes and made three 3-pointers in a 67-second span early in the game. Burdick had 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for the Lady Volunteers (21-5, 12-1 Southeastern Conference). Taber Spani added 16 points and Bashaara Graves had 14 points.

Tyrese Tanner scored 20 points, Blanche Alverson added 15 points and Chadarryl Clay had 10 points for Auburn (14-12, 3-10), which lost for the ninth time in its last 10 games.

Tennessee went 6 of 7 from 3-point range in the first 7 minutes of the game and eventually owned a 33-7 lead. Auburn never threatened the rest of the way.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

(12) Tennessee 83, Vandy 64

Meighan Simmons scored 17 points and was one of five Tennessee players to reach double figures Sunday as the 12th-ranked Lady Volunteers defeated Vanderbilt 83-64 to clinch their 37th consecutive 20-win season.

Tennessee (20-5, 11-1 Southeastern Conference) hasn't failed to win at least 20 games since going 16-11 in 1975-76. This latest victory gave Tennessee a half-game lead in the SEC standings over No. 11 Texas A&M (20-5, 10-1), which hosts No. 9 Kentucky (22-3, 10-2) on Monday.

The Lady Vols have never lost at home to Vanderbilt in 28 contests. Tennessee leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt 62-8.

Ariel Massengale scored 14 points, Bashaara Graves had 13 points and Jasmine Jones and Taber Spani each added 12 points for Tennessee.

Jasmine Lister matched a career high with 24 points for Vanderbilt (16-9, 6-6), while Morgan Batey and Heather Bowe each added 10 points.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pat Summitt given New York Athletic Club Legends Award

University of Tennessee women’s head coach emeritus Pat Summitt was given the New York Athletic Club Winged Foot Legends’ Award on Tuesday.

“We are privileged that Coach Summitt has accepted our Legends’ Award,” James W. O’Brien, Chairman of the Winged Foot Award Committee, said in a news release. “If there is any coach who merits the title ‘legend,’ it is certainly she.”

“To be the recipient of the NYAC’s Winged Foot Legends’ Award is quite humbling,” Summitt said. “I find myself in the company of six very distinguished gentlemen, several of whom I consider dear friends, and who have certainly made their mark on the game of basketball.

"Over the years, I have learned that you win in life with people. Life is much about relationships, and throughout my playing and coaching careers, I was blessed to be surrounded by incredibly talented student-athletes, coaches, staff members and the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Martin campuses that supported me. It has been an amazing journey and to receive this award from the NYAC is a very special honor for me.”

Other recipients are Dean Smith, John Wooden, Lou Carnesecca, Al Maguire, Ray Lumpp and Bob Knight.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

(12) Tennessee 97, Ole Miss 68

Meighan Simmons scored 24 points and four of her teammates also reached double figures Sunday as No. 12 Tennessee rolled to a 97-68 victory over Mississippi.

The Lady Vols shot 59.4 percent (38 of 64) and beat the Rebels for the 24th consecutive time. Ole Miss (8-15, 1-9 Southeastern Conference) hasn't beaten Tennessee since a 78-72 victory on Feb. 4, 1996.

Bashaara Graves had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Tennessee (19-5, 10-1). Taber Spani and Nia Moore each added 12 points, while Kamiko Williams had 11 points. Spani hadn't scored and Moore hadn't played at all in Tennessee's last game, a 64-62 victory at LSU on Thursday. Moore's 12 points represented a career high for the freshman center.

Diara Moore scored 16 points, Gracie Frizzell had 12 points and Danielle McCray added 11 points for Mississippi, which lost for the ninth time in its last 10 games.

Friday, February 08, 2013

No. 12 Tennessee 64, LSU 62

Bashaara Graves made a late steal and soon after scored inside with a second left to help No. 12 Tennessee narrowly avert a second-straight upset with a 64-62 victory over LSU on Thursday night.

Coming off a stunning 80-63 loss at Missouri, Tennessee (18-5, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) trailed 62-59 after Theresa Plaisance's baseline jumper put LSU (13-10, 4-6) in position to give coach Nikki Caldwell her first victory over her alma mater in four tries.

Then Graves, a 6-foot-2 freshman who has quickly established herself as one of Tennessee's go-to players, rescued the Lady Vols.

First Graves scored inside in transition to make it 62-61 with 15 seconds left. Tennessee then fouled Plaisance, who uncharacteristically missed the front end of one-and-one free throws.

Tennessee's Cierra Burdick tied it by making one of two free throws with 7 seconds left, then Graves stole the ball as LSU's Bianca Lutley tried to corral an inbound pass. Graves' initial shot was blocked by Plaisance, but Tennessee got her the ball again underneath and her next shot rolled in as she fell backward and teammates started to pile on her in celebration before realizing they still had to defend LSU's final inbound pass. The Lady Vols' lapse allowed Adrienne Webb to get off a desperation shot from just a few feet outside the 3-point line, but it fell short, allowing the Lady Vols to carry on with their celebration as the stunned LSU crowd groaned.

Graves finished with 17 points, a performance made even more impressive by the fact that LSU did not have to defend Tennessee's 6-3 front court player Isabelle Harrison, who averages 10 points and 8.3 rebounds, but missed her third straight game with a knee injury. Meighan Simmons led Tennessee with 18 points and Burdick, in only her third game back from a broken hand, narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.

The finish was a cruel one for Plaisance, who nearly led the Lady Tigers to a thrilling upset with 20 points and nine rebounds.

Lutley had 13 points and Danielle Ballard 10 for LSU, which has lost two straight and three of four. The lead changed 14 times, there were five ties and neither team led by more than 3 in the second half. Early on, however, it hardly looked to be a thriller.

The Lady Vols raced to a 9-0 lead while LSU missed its first eight shots.

Plaisance finally got LSU on the board with a basket inside, but Tennessee's lead grew as large as 11 when Simmons' jumper made it 13-2.

It looked like the Lady Vols would have an easy night when suddenly the game turned on its head. Web and Lutley hit consecutive 3s and Kenny added a baseline jumper, sparking a stunning 20-5 LSU run.

Plaisance added a three-point play on a strong inside basket as she was fouled by Burdick, and Ballard's jumper gave the Lady Tigers their first lead at 17-16 with 8:39 left in the opening half.

The rest of the half was close thereafter, with Burdick's bucket in the paint giving the Lady Vols a 28-26 lead going into the locker room.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Tyler Summitt talks about leaving home at a difficult time

On April 19, 2012, Pat Summitt announced she was stepping down as the head coach of the Lady Vols.

On that same day, her son Tyler announced he was leaving the only home he ever knew in Knoxville, to come to Marquette and be an assistant for the women's basketball team.

While he says the decision was hard, he knew he had to go.

"It was a crazy day for her to step down and for me to accept the job in the same day. But as far as the decision going for me to move 11 hours away, it wasn't as tough as you would think, because my mom has such a great support system around her. She's got my fiancee AnDe, she's got all her friends, she's got the Tennessee Lady Vols family. There's just so much loyalty that I felt comfortable leaving."

Tyler admits it's tough being away, but says he knew he'd get kicked out sooner or later.

"I think with my goals, and my aspirations to be at a major D-1 program, I'm kind of like my mom. I'm kind of a go-getter, so I just saw the opportunity, and I took it. She was going to kick me out eventually."

"I definitely miss my parents. I miss my fiancee. But that's just part of it. I know they're proud of me. And I'm happy to make them proud."

His mom has been to three of Tyler's games this season, including the "We Back Pat" game against Toledo. And like all moms, she still offers her words of wisdom.

"Absolutely. I'll talk to my mom. I'll talk to my dad, and also my mom's Olympics coach Billie Moore, because that was really my mom's main mentor and my mentor now. Billie and I watch every film together. So between my mom and Billie I get some great advice on basketball."

Pat Summitt's coaching advice could fill a library, but Tyler says the most important lesson, boils down to one word.

"Accountability. If you don't have accountability, you don't have anything. It's not what offense you run, what defense you run, what you system is. If you don't hold people accountable every single day, and you let them take short cuts. It doesn't matter what you do."

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Injuries continue to hinder No. 12 Lady Vols

Tennessee's Holly Warlick has been of the Lady Vols' staff for more than 27 years and the first-year head coach says she has never encountered an injury situation quite like the one her team currently faces.

Senior guard Kamiko Williams sprained her right ankle and Jasmine Jones hurt her right knee Sunday, leaving the Lady Vols with only seven healthy players by the end of their 80-63 loss at Missouri. Jones returned to practice Tuesday, but Williams remains unlikely to play Thursday at LSU (13-8, 4-4 SEC).

The 12th-ranked Lady Vols (17-5, 8-1) lost freshman guard Andraya Carter to season-ending shoulder surgery in December. Sophomore center Isabelle Harrison underwent surgery on her left knee Friday, leaving her status for the rest of the season uncertain.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Missouri women upset No. 9 Tennessee 80-63

Kamiko Williams scored 14 points to lead the Lady Vols (17-5, 8-1 SEC) before leaving with 16:59 left with an ankle injury. Tennessee has lost two of three and had its 12-game winning streak in the SEC snapped.

Williams scored all of her points and grabbed six rebounds in the first half, helping the Lady Vols keep up with Missouri's six 3's. She fell to the floor after clutching her leg three minutes into the second half after attempting to grab a defensive rebound and remained there for a few minutes before being helped off the court. She sat on the bench for the final 10 minutes after a brief visit to the locker room.

Missouri took advantage, outscoring the Lady Vols 41-22 with Williams off the floor.

''I thought she was getting inside their defense, I thought she was getting good looks,'' coach Holly Warlick said. ''Her rebounding brought us energy on the defensive end. When she went out, nobody picked up the slack.''

Williams started for the second consecutive game in place of injured center Isabelle Harrison, who averaged 10.0 points per game before injuring her left knee and undergoing surgery Friday.

The team also lost reserve forward Jasmine Jones late in the game to a knee injury after only having nine available players to start the day. Warlick said after the game there was no update on the status of either Williams or Jones.

''I don't care if we play six people, seven people, five people,'' Taber Spani said. ''It doesn't matter.''

Simmons scored 13 points and Spani added 12 for Tennessee, which beat the Tigers 84-39 on Jan. 10 in Knoxville. Spani said she played in front of about 60 family and friends in her first game back in Missouri since growing up in the Kansas City area.

''I was extremely excited,'' Spani said. ''Obviously, it was the perfect time for MU to come into the league. I had a lot of family and friends come over from Kansas City. It's always fun to play in front of your hometown. I just wish we had put on a better performance.''