Sunday, December 29, 2013

#5 Lady Vols 110, Lipscomb 42

A week after suffering their first loss of the season, the #5 Lady Vols returned to their winning ways with a dominating 110-42 victory over Lipscomb on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee improved to 11-1, with the one blemish coming last Saturday at #4 Stanford.

The point total of 110 was the most since UT posted a 110-45 win over Alabama on Jan. 6, 2011. The margin of victory of +68 was also the largest a 68-point win over Princeton (107-39) on Dec. 20, 2005.

Junior Isabelle Harrison had her fifth double-double of the season with a career-high 26 points and 15 rebounds. She also had four steals and three blocks. Harrison did that all in just 18 minutes.

Six Lady Vols scored in double-figures. In addition to Harrison, Meighan Simmons (15), Cierra Burdick (13), Mercedes Russell (12), Bashaara Graves (11), Nia Moore (11) all scored 10-plus. Burdick grabbed 10 rebounds for her eighth-career double-double. Jordan Reynolds had a career-high eight assists.

Tennessee shot a season-high 57.9 percent from the floor and held Lipscomb to 22.4 percent. The Lady Vols outrebounded the Lady Bisons, 61-31, a 30-rebound margin.

The Lady Vols opened a 62-29 lead at halftime, scoring their most points in a first half since netting 62 vs. Western Carolina in the 2005 NCAA Tournament First-Round (3/20/2005). The 62 first-half points tied for the fourth-most in a first half in UT history.

Harrison had a double-double in the first half alone with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Simmons led all scorers with 14 points in the first half.

Tennessee raced out to a 25-4 lead less than eight minutes into the game including 15 consecutive points. The Lady Vols' defense held the Lady Bisons scoreless for more than six minutes.

UT was blazing hot from the floor making 15-of-19 to begin the half including a streak of six made baskets in a row as UT took a 39-14 lead with eight minutes left in the half.

Lipscomb started 1-of-16 and missed 12 shots in a row for one span.

Tennessee took a 31-point lead at 51-20 on a 3-pointer by Simmons with 5:12 left in the half.

The Lady Vols shooting was sensational in the first half, making 23-of-36 for 64 percent. Their field goal defense was equally impressive. Lipscomb was held to just 10-of-35 from the floor in the first half for 28.6 percent.

All 10 active Tennessee players had scored less than 21 minutes into the game after Ariel Massengale's layup went through the net less than a minute into the second half.

The lead ballooned to 50-plus at 87-36 on a Russell layup with 10:40 left in the game.

A 20-2 run by the Lady Vols expanded the lead to 95-38 on a layup by Harrison with 6:34 left in the game.

Tennessee went ahead by 70 points on a bucket by Burdick in the final minute.

Harrison's 14 second-half point were more than all of the Lady Bisons in the final 20 minutes (13).

Lipscomb (3-8) with led by Danay Fothergill with 13 points.

The Lady Vols are back in action on Thursday, Jan. 2 as they open SEC play vs. LSU. That special night will feature the jersey retirement of Candace Parker's #3 will take place prior to the 7 p.m., tip-off at 6:45 pm. The game will air on CSS and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jannah Tucker Arrives and Hoops Report

An 11th Lady Vol joined the 2013-14 roster on Friday and began workouts with the team on Saturday morning, as No. 5/5 Tennessee (10-1) continued preparations to host Lipscomb (3-7) on Sunday at 2:05 p.m.

Freshman guard Jannah Tucker, a Randallstown, Md., native, was welcomed with open arms as the team's newest member and was on the court displaying the skills that made her the No. 8-ranked player in the high school class of 2013.


Tucker had planned to enroll in the fall, but due to personal reasons delayed her arrival. Now that she's in Knoxville, though, Warlick says everyone is excited about the addition of Tucker. "I'm excited for Jannah," Warlick said. "She's had a long road, and I'm thrilled and our team is, too, to have her here and present and a part of our team. She's a great kid and we're excited for her to be here."

Tucker had surgery on her ACL in September 2012 and missed her senior basketball season at New Town High School. Time has passed since that procedure and her last stint playing, so it may take a while to shake off the rust while gearing back up for a highly-competitive level of play. The plan is for Tucker to practice, watch and learn from the bench and be ready to go next season.

"Our plan is to redshirt her," Warlick said. "But I'm just happy she's here, and we'll just see how things go. I don't think she's physically ready, and I think her knee needs a little bit of work (to see how it responds to daily workouts). She just hasn't played, so just getting her to practice and some game prep (will be the focus)."

Not just the coach, but Tucker's new teammates are also glowing with excitement to have another teammate on the court with them.

"It's great having her," Massengale said. "Just to have her here, we can go five-on-five now, and if someone goes down, we have a sub. She's a great kid with a great personality and we're glad to have her here and excited for her to start her career with us."

Not just Tucker's arrival has sparked the team's interest. Her work ethic and potential has let everyone know they can count on her.

"It's very uplifting," Massengale continued." It shows that when we get on the court, we know we can count on her and we know that she's going to fight through. She's not going to give up on us and she's going to give everything that she has."

Lady Vol fans will get their first look at the 6-foot guard Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"She's just an excited young kid," Warlick said. "For her, it's like every day is Christmas. I just want her to get back and get used to college and the flow and just enjoy getting back into basketball."


The Lady Vols are back in action after a seven-day winter break, as they take on Lipscomb Sunday. The hiatus came following a trip to Stanford on Dec. 21, and Holly Warlick says that her team "got better" following a loss to the (then) No. 6/5 team in the country.

"Our defense for the most part looked solid, we just had a couple of breakdowns," Warlick said. "We put ourselves in great positions, but you have to finish what you do. It was a great environment and a great learning experience for us. Stanford is a great team. We'll get better as a result of that game."

With just the Lipscomb game remaining before SEC play begins Thursday, the players know what they have to focus on first. Not even the pregame retirement of Candace Parker's jersey or showdown with No. 16/16 LSU at 7 p.m. Thursday have stolen the players' attention.

"We haven't even started talking about LSU yet," said junior guard Ariel Massengale."We're aware that the SEC is starting up very soon, but first and foremost, we play Lipscomb tomorrow, and that's what we have to prepare for."

Echoing her player, Warlick continued on their preparation for the Lady Bisons.

"We haven't even addressed LSU or Candace's jersey," Warlick said. "We watched 30 minutes of Lipscomb on tape earlier. This team is really good about focusing on the present and making sure we take care of business. That's our job as coaches - to not look ahead, and we keep them in the moment."

Both Warlick and Massengale used the Stanford game as a positive learning experience heading into the second half of the season.

"I think we just have to be consistent," Massengale said. "We have to put together a 40-minute game. We had a lot of good possessions and then some where (Stanford) just out-worked us. We had to work through fatigue, and we have to get better with that.

"This team is filled with great shooters, and we have to work our way through it and stay in the gym and stay confident and keep shooting," Massengale said. "We're still very confident. (Stanford) was a great test for us, and now we know where we stand. We see where we are, and we know what we have to do to be successful in SEC play."


After what Warlick said was the Lady Vols' first true test of the season, it was back to the drawing boards when the team arrived back in Knoxville. Massengale said she noticed the relationship between guards and posts when it comes to shooting; Warlick said she saw it in the difference in offense and defense.

"We did see in film that it's a two-way street when it comes to getting the ball inside," Massengale said. "The posts have to post hard on the inside and want the ball. The guards have to get it to them when they're open, and we both have to do better about that.

"Posts have to want the ball and work for it and the guards have to look at them and give them the opportunity. If we don't look at them when they're inside, then they're going to stop posting."

And ball-handling was on Warlick's radar over the Christmas holiday as well.

"In the Stanford game, we needed to get the ball inside a little bit more," she said. "We talked about that and looked at it today. We did get open and moved the ball. We're an inside team - we're going to get the ball inside. We didn't get the ball inside, but we got some eight-foot jumpers, and we just didn't make them.

"We're going to be in the gym a little bit more and putting up more shots, and we just have to work on it. We'll incorporate it in practice and get them in the gym on their own," Warlick said.

When asked about a potential last-second shot, Massengale says that they're prepared for everything, but performing when the time comes is key, as she saw against Stanford.

"We do different situational things in practice and in the case of (a last-second shot), you just have to look for the best shot or try to get it inside. If not, we're filled with great shooters and if we get the chance, we just have to knock it down."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

#6 Stanford 76, # 3 Tennessee 70

STANFORD, CA -- Bashaara Graves tried to keep Chiney Ogwumike off the boards on both ends of the court any way she could to no avail.

For a Tennessee team so well accustomed to owning the rebounding advantage against opponents, Ogwumike's dominance on the glass made all the difference in the third-ranked Lady Vols' 76-70 loss to sixth-ranked Stanford on Saturday for Tennessee's first defeat.

Ogwumike had 32 points, a season-best 20 rebounds -- 11 on the offensive end -- and three blocks as Stanford held off a late Tennessee rally.

"Everything I tried to do, I tried to box her out, it just didn't work," Graves said. "There's no way she should have had that many offensive rebounds."

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer had one simple message for her players before tipoff that rung true: "If we rebound, we win."

Amber Orrange scored on a left-handed layin and was fouled with 25.8 seconds left and converted the free throw, helping seal the win.

Andraya Carter's baseline 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining cut the Cardinal's lead to 70-68 but Stanford kept possession with 36 seconds to go on a jump ball in a big break, and Orrange came through.

Stanford (10-1) has its first three-game winning streak in the rivalry between perennial national powers.

"It's going to be a great teaching tape for us when we get back from break," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.

Ariel Massengale scored 17 points and Meighan Simmons 15 to lead the Lady Vols (10-1), who were hurt 35.8 percent shooting.

Tennessee has lost its last four matchups at Maples Pavilion since its last win on Stanford's home floor on Dec. 4, 2005. The Lady Vols have lost 13 straight road games against Top 10 teams dating back to 2008.

The Cardinal held a 24-19 rebounding advantage in the first half and wound up with a 43-40 edge on the boards -- the first time all season Tennessee has lost in rebounding. The Lady Vols had a 52.1 to 36.3 mismatch on the boards entering the game.

"We're a very strong rebounding team but we can't allow somebody to dominate on the boards like we did Chiney," Warlick said.

While Ogwumike did her part with a fourth 30-point game of the season, she had plenty of support on both ends with teammates crashing the boards and hustling for loose balls -- just the kind of balance and energy VanDerveer has been calling for from her young team.

"We didn't bring that Tennessee pressure we know we're capable of playing," Massengale said. "We knew we would have to disrupt them on the offensive end for us to win this game. We did that in spurts but not for 40 minutes."

Ogwumike had 18 points and 11 rebounds by halftime and shot 15 for 25 overall for outsized Stanford, which needed a big second half to hold on for its ninth straight victory.

"I have a great support system," she said. "It's just being aggressive. It's those little things."

After Graves scored to cut the Cardinal's lead to 38-33 with 18:10 remaining, Orrange and Thompson hit consecutive 3-pointers for Stanford.

But Massengale then scored five straight points to keep Tennessee close.

Ogwumike drove the lane for easy layins, converted athletic putbacks or plain out-jumped Tennessee to catch high lob passes into the paint before pivoting around to score.

"This game really boiled down to we had Chiney," VanDerveer said. "Chiney had a monster game."

The Cardinal, who haven't lost since a 76-57 defeat at No. 1 Connecticut on Nov. 11, have won five of the last eighth meetings and four of five.

Tennessee, facing just its second ranked team of the season, missed a chance for its first win over a top-10 opponent since beating No. 10 Georgia in the Lady Vols' SEC home opener last Jan. 6.

Stanford snapped Tennessee's five-game winning streak here last Nov. 20, 2012, 97-80 loss for the fifth-most points allowed in program history.

Tennessee began the game 6 for 23 and never recovered despite making things interesting down the stretch with Simmons taking charge.

"I thought we got good looks," Warlick said. "You've got to make free throws, layups and free throws. If you don't make those you're not going to win games. At crucial times we didn't make free throws, and at crucial times we gave up the 3-point shot. Little things for us got magnified today."

After Tennessee jumped to a quick 4-0 lead, Stanford then scored 13 unanswered points for a 13-4 lead that forced a Lady Vols timeout at the 14:54 mark of the opening half. Tennessee missed seven straight shots over a nearly 3 1/2-minute stretch.

"We don't give up," Warlick said. "We could have really folded when we got down by 12. For that I'm extremely proud of them."

CHS Wins "We Back Pat" Game

CLARKSVILLE, TN — “We Back Pat” shirts filled William Workman Gym for a special girls’ basketball game on Friday between La Vergne and Clarksville.

The Lady Wildcats defeated the Lady Wolverines 68-34, but more importantly, all proceeds from the game, T-shirts, and raffle – which allowed one lucky fan to win a basketball signed by the current Tennessee Lady Vols coaching staff – will be donated to the Pat Summitt Foundation to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. Summitt was diagnosed with the disease in 2011, and while the coaching legend that totaled 1,098 wins in her career was unable to attend, her family sat courtside throughout the contest.

“I do think what they’re trying to do will help in the long run,” Hazel Head, the mother of Summitt, said about finding a cure. “She’s not bad now, and we’re thankful, but she’s young. Most that have it are when they get older. But we just have to hope and pray that she’s going to wait a long time before she gets a lot worse.”

Kenneth Head, who graduated from Clarksville High School, said Summitt is doing “pretty good, but not great.” Head said they appreciate the support from everyone, and Pat does as well.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#3 Lady Vols, 94, Tennessee St. 43

Tennessee hasn't started a season this well since its last national championship.

Bashaara Graves scored 17 points to lead five Tennessee players in double figures and the third-ranked Lady Vols remained unbeaten with a 94-43 victory over Tennessee State on Tuesday night.

The Lady Vols (10-0) have won each of their games by at least nine points. Tennessee also started 10-0 in 2007-08 before losing 73-69 in overtime to Stanford, which happens to be the Lady Vols' next opponent.

"We knew we were 9-0, and we knew we wanted to take another step to get to the national championship level," Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons said.

Tennessee will put its perfect record to the test Saturday when it heads west to face the sixth-ranked Cardinal. The Lady Vols' only previous game against a Top 25 foe was an 81-65 victory Nov. 11 at No. 14 North Carolina, which was ranked 12th at the time. They've outscored their 10 opponents by an average of 24.8 points.

"For the most part, we've played hard," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "The opponent shouldn't matter. You're working on yourself and how you get better, and get better as a team."

Tennessee benefited Tuesday from a balanced attack.

Graves made all six of her shots from the floor and was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. Simmons added 13 points. Cierra Burdick, Isabelle Harrison and Mercedes Russell had 12 points apiece. Rachel Allen also scored 12 points to lead Tennessee State (3-8).

All nine of Tennessee's healthy players scored at least six points. A facial injury prevented Jasmine Jones from playing against Tennessee State, though Warlick expects the sophomore forward back for the Stanford game.

"We definitely wanted to come out and play Lady Vol basketball," Burdick said. "That's something we've been struggling with in past games, playing down to our competition. We can't do that. We've got to come out and play to our potential every single night. That's the sign of a great team."

Tennessee sprinted to a 14-1 lead in the first four minutes and never looked back. The Lady Tigers missed 23 of their first 26 shots and trailed 42-9 with 6½ minutes left in the first half.

Tennessee State shot just 1 of 22 from 3-point range and was 14 of 74 overall.

The Lady Vols seemingly could do whatever they wanted Tuesday. At one point, Simmons tossed an inbounds pass off the backside of a Tennessee State player and retrieved the ball for an easy layup.

"I think we were just having fun," Burdick said. "Lately we've been so uptight, worrying about not doing the wrong things. It takes away from our play and takes away from what we can do as players. We just tried to go out, have fun, enjoy the game. We keep being reminded this is a gift. It's a gift to lace up these sneakers. It's a gift to put on this jersey. We don't take that for granted."

Tennessee State had won its last two games by double digits, over North Florida and NAIA program Martin Methodist, but the Lady Tigers were facing an entirely different level of competition Tuesday.

A look at the rosters underscored the challenge facing Tennessee State.

Tennessee State didn't have a single starter taller than 6 feet. Six of Tennessee's 10 players are 6-2 or taller. The Lady Vols were coming off a 103-64 victory over Troy in which they had pulled down 74 rebounds, the second-highest total in school history. Tennessee entered the night with a plus-15 rebound margin, while Tennessee State was at minus-6.7.

The Lady Vols outrebounded Tennessee State 58-35 and outscored the Lady Tigers 54-24 in the paint. Tennessee's block total (11) nearly matched Tennessee State's basket total (11). Russell, the Lady Vols' 6-foot-6 freshman center, had six blocks.

"Of course, their size, I thought that was the big difference in the game," Tennessee State coach Larry Joe Inman said. "I thought like it affected what we did. I thought their transition game hurt us. I thought they exploited a lot of our weaknesses."

In the teams' two previous games, the Lady Vols also breezed to easy victories: 114-63 in 1985-86 and 104-51 in 1987-88.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

#3 Tennessee 103, Troy 64

The Lady Vols put up a season-high 103 points behind six double-digit scoring efforts in a 103-64 thrashing of Troy Saturday afternoon in front of 11,358 people at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The 103 points were the most since a 110-45 victory over Alabama on January 6, 2011 while the six players with 10+ points marked the first time since March 8, 2013 vs. Florida in the SEC Tournament.

With the win, the Lady Vols improve to 9-0, the first time the UT has begun the season winning the first nine games since 2009-10. Tennessee has now won 12-straight home games.

The Lady Vols are now 1-0 all-time vs. Troy winning the inaugural meeting between the two teams.

Meighan Simmons and Bashaara Graves led the way with 16 points each, while Cierra Burdick, after tallying just two points in the first half, finished with 15, Isabelle Harrison had 13 and Nia Moore and Mercedes Russell each had 10.

Moore, Harrison, Burdick and Jasmine Jones each finished with double-digit rebound efforts tallying 13, 12, 10, and 10 each as Tennessee recorded the second-most rebounds in school history with 74, the most since 1988.

Harrison recorded her second double-double of the season, eighth career, Burdick notched her first double-double on the year and seventh career and Moore had her first career double-double on the night.

The three double-doubles by Lady Vols marked the sixth time in history that Tennessee has achieved the feat, the last coming vs. Florida on Feb. 26, 2006 when Candace Parker (34 pts, 15 rebs), Tye'sha Fluker (22 pts, 16 rebs) and Shanna Zolman (22 pts, 10 assts) did so.

Tennessee finished the game with a season-high 28 turnovers, the most since recording 31 vs. Kentucky last season.

The Lady Vols started the game off hitting a free throw off of an administrative technical foul as Troy did not get their line up in time and never looked back.

UT began the game on a 15-2 run fueled by five points by Isabelle Harrison and finished out the half on a 12-3 run thanks to four points each by Nia Moore and Meighan Simmons

Tennessee took a 49-28 lead into the locker room at half time scoring a season-high 49 points at the half, besting their 44 scored against Georgia Tech. The Lady Vols also took down a season-high 40 boards before halftime (33 vs. GT).

The 49 points were the most since the Lady Vols put up 49 vs. Alabama on Jan. 20, 2013.

However, Tennessee also turned the ball over 18 times, a first half high on the year.

Both Simmons and Graves tallied 10 points before the half while Harrison netted nine. Simmons notched her sixth double-digit effort of the season and 85th of her career while Graves tallied her fourth of the year, 34th career.

Harrison hit the double-digit mark on the first basket of the second half and less than three minutes into the second she completed the double-double, pulling down a defensive rebound.

Troy came out fighting in the second half, but the Lady Vols matched them point for point, eventually pulling away with less than 10 minutes remaining using a 16-0 run holding Troy scoreless for over five and a half minutes from 9:46- 4:01.

After scoring 16 today, Meighan Simmons now needs 12 points to move into 14th place all-time among UT scorers.

Tennessee has still not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 38% from the field this season as Troy finished with a 33.3 % shooting percentage.

The Lady Vols will continue their run of three games in eight days when they return home vs. Tennessee State on Tuesday at 7 p.m. followed by a trip across the country to face #6/4 Stanford on Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Lady Vols 75, Texas 61

Tennessee has played only one ranked team so far, but the third-ranked Lady Vols still believe they've been tested plenty of times this season.

It happened again Sunday.

Isabelle Harrison had 18 points and eight rebounds Sunday as Tennessee rallied from its customary slow start for a 75-61 victory over Texas. Although the Lady Vols (8-0) never trailed, they only led 28-27 at intermission.

Tennessee has been tied or behind at halftime in three games this season, yet won them all by at least nine points.

"I think in all the games we've played up to this point, there have been times when our backs have been against the wall," Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale said.

Tennessee switched its lineup, giving 6-foot-6 freshman center Mercedes Russell her first start and sophomore forward Jasmine Jones her second career start.

Sophomore forward Bashaara Graves, who entered Sunday's game averaging 11.1 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds, was held out of the starting lineup for only the second time in 42 career games. Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said she made the changes because Jones had a great week of practice and Graves didn't perform as well.

"I said, 'Bashaara, I can't start you,' and she said she understood," Warlick said. "It's not a disciplinary thing."

Graves finished with seven points and six rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. Massengale had 15 points and seven assists, Meighan Simmons scored 13 points and Cierra Burdick had 10 for the Lady Vols.

Tennessee improved to 8-0 for the first time since the 2009-10 season. The Lady Vols beat then-No. 12 North Carolina 81-65 on Nov. 11, but struggled in the first half before pulling away.

"They're legit, there's no question about it," Texas coach Karen Aston said. "Watching a lot of film, they're a legitimate top-five team."

Nneka Enemkpali led Texas (6-3) with 12 points and 11 rebounds. All but two of her points came in the first half. Chassidy Fussell added 12 points, despite shooting 1 of 10 from 3-point range.

Krystle Henderson had 11 points and Empress Davenport added 10.

This game was a contrast in styles between a Tennessee team that likes to run and a Texas squad that prefers low scores. Tennessee entered the day averaging 80.3 points, while Texas was allowing 49.5 points.

In the first half, Texas controlled the tempo.

After taking an 11-2 lead in the first 5½ minutes of the game, Tennessee struggled the rest of the first half. The Lady Vols had a one-point lead at intermission mostly because Texas missed open 3-point attempts. Texas was 1 of 7 on 3-pointers in the first half and finished 4 of 20 from beyond the arc.

"I think we came into this game with nobody expecting us to win," Henderson said. "We kind of had that chip on our shoulder from the beginning."

But once again, Tennessee came up big in the second half. Massengale said Tennessee's season-long penchant for playing better in the second half helped players believe they could do it again Sunday.

"It gives us a lot of confidence," Massengale said. "We need to get off to better starts. We're still trying to figure out what's going to make us go in the first half, but it's a long season and hopefully we figure that out soon."

Texas trailed 35-34 with 15:20 remaining when Fussell missed a 3-pointer that would have given the Longhorns their first lead of the game. But Tennessee went on a 9-0 run to build a double-digit advantage. Massengale started the momentum shift with a driving layup and assisted on baskets by Graves and Burdick in Tennessee's 9-0 spurt.

Texas regrouped and cut Tennessee's lead to 54-50 on Davenport's 3-pointer with 8:32 remaining, but the Lady Vols scored the next 11 points to put the game away.

The game's dominant player in the first half, Enemkpali scored just two points in the second before fouling out with 2:58 left. After fouling out, Enemkpali picked up a technical foul when she tossed the ball in frustration and it landed on Burdick, who had fallen to the floor on the play.

"It wasn't (done) purposely," Enemkpali said. "It was the wrong move on my part. It wasn't a reflection on who I am as a person or my program. It was just the wrong call."

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Pat Summitt and Son Taking Poignant Journey Together

There was a Summitt meeting in Las Vegas on Friday as day turned into night. It happened behind the big black curtain at the South Point Arena, after the Marquette women beat Tennessee Tech in the Las Vegas Shootout.

Pat Summitt was there. So was her son, Tyler. Hall of Famer Billie Moore. And Adam Waller, director of community relations for the Pat Summitt Foundation, which is trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

Among Pat Summitt and Tyler Summitt and Billie Moore there were 1,534 victories and 10 national championships behind that big black curtain.

Pat Summitt won eight national titles at Tennessee and 1,098 games, more than any other college basketball coach, male or female, who ever lived. More than Bob Knight. More than Coach K.

Billie Moore, Pat Summitt's coach on the first U.S. Women's Olympic basketball team in 1976, won 436 games and two national championships, one at Cal State Fullerton and one at UCLA.

Tyler Summitt hasn't won any games or national titles, but he's working on it. Pat Summitt's only child is in his second season as an assistant coach for the Marquette women.

The way many see it, 23-year-old Tyler Summitt, who appears even younger than that — he still has rosy red cheeks, for cryin' out loud — has something more enduring than wins and national titles, as nice as those are for a coach, and for a personable young man who aspires to be a head coach some day soon.

He has a special bond with his mother.

It began before he knew it, from the day he was born — from long before the day he was born, actually, because Pat Summitt had suffered seven miscarriages before she gave birth to Tyler. During our conversation, Tyler Summitt must have mentioned his faith and God's plan a half-dozen times. It's understandable.

So Tyler Summitt always felt a closeness to his mother. He had a great relationship with his father, too, though his mom and R.B. Summitt divorced in 2007, when Tyler still was playing ball in high school.

"It was different," he says about his childhood. "Instead of going to sleepovers, I was in locker rooms and at the end of the bench. Instead of going on field trips, I would be going on away games. People say I've been an assistant coach since I was 5 years old."

But two years ago, when he was 21, he became more than that.

He was with his mom at the Mayo Clinic when the doctors told her the grim news. As she described it in her book, Pat Summitt had "a ticking time bomb" in her head. She knew it. She knew for as long as five years before that something was wrong.

When the doctors told her she had early-onset Alzheimer's disease, she told Tyler at least it wasn't cancer.

Then they didn't talk about it for a long time.

That bothered Tyler until late one night, the story goes, when he walked into his mother's room in tears, and he told her she didn't have to go through this alone.

And from that night, she didn't.

Tyler was with his mom every step of the way after that, was with her when she made the difficult decision to step down at Tennessee; was with her every step of the way, even when he took the job at Marquette, because now he calls his mom every day, sometimes even twice a day, just to hear her voice. And to know she's OK.

He was with her last week in Knoxville, too, when they unveiled a larger-than-life statue of his mom on the Tennessee campus. The two of them struggled to lift the shroud from the 8-foot-7-inch bronze likeness, and so one of the current Tennessee players, one of the really tall ones, had to help.

And when his mom was asked to say a few words, she did, and the first person she mentioned was Tyler, because Tyler is always there for her. Every step of the way.

Pat Summitt mostly talks in short sentences and smiles these days. When we spoke after the game behind the black curtain, she mostly replied to my questions with one-word answers. At 61, she still looks great. I kept expecting her to get after Chamique Holdsclaw or Tamika Catchings for not blocking out or not getting back on defense or something, that's how good she looks.

At halftime, people kept coming up to her, to say hello, to shake her hand. Some were Tennessee Tech people. Pat Summitt may have forgotten some of the scores because of this terrible disease, but people back in Tennessee sure do remember them.

She watched her son coach basketball while sitting in a wheelchair under one of the baskets, because she recently had minor surgery on her ankle. By the end of the game, she had ditched the wheelchair. The determination still is there.

"The way that we look at it is that God has a plan," Tyler Summitt said before introducing me to his mother. "We're just gonna take one step at a time."

There were so many things I wanted to ask his mom. But sometimes, as Pat Summitt knows, adjustments are called for. So Billie Moore mostly answered for her former player, except when I asked about Tyler's budding career. And whether he might go on to be as successful as his mother, which, no offense to Tyler, ain't gonna be easy.

Before Billie Moore could answer, Pat Summitt interrupted and said "Yes!"

You could hear the exclamation point at the end. And then it wasn't about the 1,098 wins, or the eight national titles, or even about living with this terrible disease. It was only about a mother being proud of her son.