Lady Vols Go Hog Wild in Second Half

 

Meighan Simmons goes up for one of many baskets against Arkansas
Meighan Simmons goes up for one of many baskets against Arkansas

Coming off the heels of a victory at Texas A&M, the Lady Vols returned to action Thursday night to take on a hungry Arkansas Lady Razorbacks squad. In front of a rowdy Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee embarked on an adventure of two halves before finally claiming a 70-60 victory.

Desperate for a conference win, the Lady Razorbacks came out swinging. The lead changed hands five times throughout the first 7 minutes of the game, but then Arkansas began to fire on all cylinders. They also forced the Lady Vols into several turnovers. After a Keira Peak layup, Arkansas had taken a commanding 30-22 lead and it looked as if Tennessee was in trouble on their home floor.

A timeout from Coach Holly Warlick led to a personnel change, as Mercedes Russell checked into the game. She scored back-to-back buckets to cut the Arkansas lead to four, and Tennessee was right back in it.

Thompson-Boling began to erupt as the Lady Vols clawed back into the game, and with twelve seconds to play, a Jordan Reynolds three-pointer gave Tennessee their first lead since the 14:22 mark. The Lady Vols led 38-36 at halftime.

In the first half, Arkansas made 57% of their shots, but they were getting outscored heavily in the paint. Although the Lady Razorbacks had an edge in rebounding, they were unable to capitalize. Tennessee’s inside scoring proved to be a difference in the game.

As the second half began, the game remained close for a while. Tennessee held on to the lead, but they were unable to extend it until the 8:46 mark when Cierra Burdick buried a three point shot to put the Lady Vols up 7. At 6:04, another three-pointer (this time from Meighan Simmons) did even more damage as Tennessee claimed an 11 point lead.

Arkansas made a run to cut into the lead, but another three-pointer from Simmons at the 4:17 mark, and one from Burdick at 3:46 put the nail in the coffin for the Lady Razorbacks. Tennessee hit free throws late to ice down a 70-60 win over Arkansas.

Simmons and Burdick both came up big for Tennessee, as they finished with 16 points each to lead the Lady Vols in scoring. Isabelle Harrison added 12 points, with another 10 coming from Andraya Carter. Bashaara Graves had four points. Mercedes Russell and Jordan Reynolds were effective off the bench, combining for an additional 12 points.

Cierra Burdick said “I’m just trying to have fun. At the beginning of the season, I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself. I kind of lost sight of what I was doing and I got back to having fun,” when asked about her career-high in scoring.

For Arkansas, Jessica Jackson led the way with 16 points. Jhasmin Bowen, Calli Berna, and Peak also finished in double-digits. Freshman Mckenzie Adams added five, with four coming from Melissa Wolff. Kelsey Brooks had two points.

Surprisingly, the Lady Razorbacks out-rebounded the Lady Vols 31-24. Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said after the game, “If you would have told me we were going to come in and out-rebound them I would have told you we were going to walk away with a victory if we shot the ball well.”

Bowen led the way for Arkansas in rebounding, with 8. Tennessee’s Burdick had seven rebounds.

Although the rebounding edge for Arkansas was surprising, the real difference was in second half scoring. Tennessee shot 64% in the first half, and 60% in the second half. After shooting 57% in the first half, the Lady Razorbacks shot only 31% in the second half for 24 points.

The shooting slump for the Lady Razorbacks may have been due in part to Tennessee’s man defense.

“We decided to guard the basketball. I thought Jasmine Jones coming in and setting the tone on the point guard was huge for us. We just had a totally different mindset from the first half to the second half,” said Warlick when asked about playing man defense.

Jasmine Jones went down late in the game for Tennessee, holding her back. She was able to walk to the bench with assistance. When asked about the injury, Warlick said “I think she pulled a muscle or something. As she was walking off, she was smiling so I assume she’s going to be ok.”

Warlick also mentioned that Ariel Massengale is “day-to-day” after missing last night’s game.

Solid defense and hot shooting proved to be the difference for the Lady Vols in a tale of two halves. With their win over the Lady Razorbacks, Tennessee improved to 17-4 (6-2) on the season. Arkansas fell to 15-6 (2-6). Tennessee also extended the all-time series lead over Arkansas, 25-2.

The Lady Vols will travel to Tuscaloosa in their next game to take on Alabama. The start time is set for 4:30 p.m. on February 2nd and will be televised on ESPNU.

Edited by Will Lomas

Another Surge Leads Lady Vols to Win Over Texas

After another disappointing start the Lady Vols rallied to defeat the University of Texas 75 to 61.

The Lady Vols started Sunday afternoon’s game with another new lineup. Freshman Mercedes Russell recorded her first career start for the Vols while sophomore Jasmine Jones got her first start of this season. While those two players only combined for five points, their impact was much needed.

In the first half both teams were held to low shooting percentages, 36% for the Lady Vols and 37% for Texas. This led to the lowest score for an opponent in the first half with Texas only managing 27 points. Even though they were held to such a low total, the Lady Vols only mustered 28 points, giving them the lead at the half.

Once again, the ladies came out of the locker room with a renewed enthusiasm. They started the half with a 6-0 run that would eventually blossom to a 12 point lead. The Lady Vols never trailed in the game, but Texas applied a lot of pressure throughout. Shooting in the second half was much approved with the Lady Vols hitting 48% of their shots.

Isabelle Harrison led the Lady Vols in scoring with an impressive 18-point effort. Ariel Massengale followed her with 15 points and added 7 assists. She has recorded at least five assists in all 8 games this season. Meighan Simmons and Cierra Burdick added 13 and 10 points respectively and led the team emotionally through some rough patches. The most notable of which came when Texas Forward Nneka Enemkpali was whistled for a foul on Burdick, then threw the ball at her earning a technical foul on top of that.

With another win under their belts, the Lady Vols are still looking to play a full game. Thus far no team has capitalized on the slow starts, but perennial powers such as Stanford, LSU and Georgia will be more than happy to exploit that flaw.

Edited by Will Lomas

Second Half Pressure Powers Lady Vols Past Golden Grizzlies

Sunday afternoon the Lady Vols hosted the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in Thompson-Boling Arena. The game was toughly contested through the first half, but the Lady Vols full court pressure and upbeat tempo overpowered the Golden Grizzlies in the second.

The Lady Vols are yet to start any game with the passion that they bring in the second half. The Golden Grizzlies played a close game in the first half, bringing the Lady Vols’ lead to one point with two minutes left in the half. The Lady Vols hit two late three-pointers to escape the half with a 34-27 lead.

Holly Warlick must be an incredible motivator because the Lady Vols came out on fire in the second half. With a few tweaks to the starting lineup, the ladies opened the half with a 19-2 run would help them coast to victory. Bashaara Graves lead the team in scoring with 15 points and added 11 rebounds for a double-double.

Meighan Simmons had an excellent game as well, scoring 14 points and adding a multitude of other stats. Her three steals led to a widening of the deficit for the Golden Grizzlies. Freshman Mercedes Russell had a great game with 10 points and five rebounds. Her 6’6″ presence in the post proved to be too much for the smaller lineup for Oakland. She is quickly emerging as a star for the Lady Vols and will prove to be an asset for the team.

This marks the first time the Lady Vols have started their season a perfect 5-0 since their 2010 season. They head to the Junkaroo Jam in the Bahamas and face Virginia on Thursday and look to continue their hot win streak.

Edited by: Will Lomas

Pat Summitt Plaza unveiled to honor legendary UT coach

The Pat Summitt Plaza was officially dedicated to the former Lady Vols coach. Photo by Nichole Stevens
The Pat Summitt Plaza was officially dedicated to the former Lady Vols coach. Photo by Nichole Stevens

The unveiling of Pat Summitt Plaza took place at 11 a.m. Friday. The plaza includes an approximately nine foot tall statue of the legendary Lady Vols coach along with a sign replicating her signature and her career statistics below.

Director of Athletics Dave Hart gave the opening speech at the dedication ceremony. Although rain may have deterred some people, a crowd packed in for a first look at the new plaza. As the Lady Vols began their walk from Pratt Pavilion, the band started playing from the bridge to initiate the beginning of the dedication.

To the crowd’s surprise, Hart said that Summitt did not think she deserved a statute or a plaza dedicated to her. She told him that she felt she was just a basketball coach.

Pat Summitt exits the plaza after an emotional dedication in her honor. Photo by Nichole Stevens
Pat Summitt exits the plaza after an emotional dedication in her honor. Photo by Nichole Stevens

“To say Pat Summitt is just a basketball coach is like saying Michael Jordan is just a basketball player,” Hart said.

Hart told the crowd that Summitt has won 84 percent of her games, with an impressive 1,098 wins to 208 loses from her time coaching between 1974-2012. Summitt officially retired from coaching the Lady Vols due to early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Tamika Catchings, former Lady Vol and current WNBA player, spoke about learning under Summitt’s tutelage. Catchings graduated from UT in 2001 and won her first Olympic gold medal in 2004 in Athens when she played for the USA’s women’s basketball team.

“Once a Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol and it is so true. I mean, this is a family,” said Catchings about her twitter hashtag #oncealadyvolalwaysaladyvol.

Former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings reflects on the ceremony to local reporters. Photo by Nichole Stevens
Former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings reflects on the ceremony to local reporters. Photo by Nichole Stevens

 

When Summitt’s son, Tyler Summitt, an assistant coach for Marquette’s women’s basketball, took to the podium, he said that Summitt’s impact on people come from three values: a passion to compete, her character and her love for family.

Multiple speakers acknowledged Summitt’s reputation for demanding excellence on the court and in the classroom. The statue personifies Summitt’s famous stance that signified to her team that they need to do their best.

“The statue is awesome,” Catchings said. “I think this moment in itself: the statue, the wall, the purple, the way everything is kind of standing out. I’m just so happy to be here.”

“She really has the right idea. She believes in the student athletes. She believes they’re students first and athletes second. And she believes in the University of Tennessee,” Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said.

Cheek complimented Summitt as being an excellent mentor to young women and men, as Tyler Summitt pointed out in his speech.

Despite her influence and fame, her friends and colleagues seemed to all agree that her integrity outweighs itself. Her colleagues reaffirmed that, for Summitt, the wins were never about her. They were always about the student athletes and the university.

“I just want everyone to know, it’s not about me, it’s about everyone out there who loves the University of Tennessee,” said Pat Summitt during her speech.

Edited by Zach Dennis