Can Lady Vols Rediscover ‘A' Game?
Winning at home, where they are unbeaten this season and undefeated in their long history of NCAA play, makes surviving a foregone conclusion against 16th seed Alabama State. In fact, that's exactly what Tennessee did in the SEC Tournament against Auburn and Mississippi State, but that level of play wasn't enough to survive LSU and it won't he enough to advance far in the NCAA. That's why rediscovering the energy the Lady Vols had at the height of their 19-game run is a top priority. They need to revive their game to point it was during a three-game run vs. Georgia, at LSU and vs. Vanderbilt when they won games by 27, 3 and 20 points, respectively. That was the pinnacle of a win streak that began after a 63-62 overtime loss at UConn to an overwhelming 18-point loss to LSU. Nearly two weeks off and time to reflect on how they reached both points is probably enough to revive Tennessee mentally and physically, after going undefeated during a rugged regular season tour of the always tough SEC. Now the Lady Vols need to use this early opportunity to fine tune their game, to get rhythm back into their motion offense, to find their stride in the transition game and to restore energy to their man defense. Tennessee also needs senior forward Gwen Jackson to reestablish herself on offense after a sub par performance in the SEC Tournament. Jackson's presence in the high post opens opportunities inside, on the perimeter and for penetration. Likewise point guard Loree Moore needs to be more proactive making intrusions to the interior of the defense, breaking it down and kicking the ball out. The Lady Vols also need Ashley Robinson or Tye'sha Fluker to become a scoring threat in the low post. This would also to take some of the pressure off Jackson and to provide another dish option for Moore. The other key is to get solid contributions from the bench particularly sophomore forward Shyra Ely and freshman guard Shanna Zolman. Overall these components working together will give Tennessee what it needs to win its seventh national championship. And putting them together in round one will give the Lady Vols momentum to potentially breeze through four straight home wins on the road to the Final Four in Atlanta. Alabama State (20-10) should provide Tennessee a challenge in small forward Shmeka Jackson (19.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg) who is tough off the dribble and in transition. The Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament champion also has some depth up front but playing its first ever NCAA game against UT in Knoxville isn't the best way to begin.
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