Hoyas sink Lady Vols in Virgin Islands

The Paradise Jam became Paradise Lost for the Lady Vols as Georgetown unleashed its pressure defense and Sugar Rodgers connected on three-pointers launched from the vicinity of the Caribbean Sea in a 69-58 loss for Tennessee that Pat Summitt called one of the most disappointing performances that she had seen in awhile.

Pat Summitt did manage to joke on her radio show – though the tone of her voice indicated it was no laughing matter – that the ball squirted free so often that she had trouble finding it during the game.

"The ball was going all over the place," Summitt said. "I had a hard time following the ball."

No. 4 Tennessee, 6-1, accumulated 29 turnovers – most against the trapping half-court pressure of the Hoyas – and trailed the entire 40 minutes in the loss to Georgetown, 5-1, which claimed the Paradise Jam Tournament title because it matched the Lady Vols 2-1 island record and won the head-to-head matchup. Glory Johnson and Meighan Simmons were selected to the all-tourney team.

Johnson tallied her second double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn't enough as Sugar Rodgers went 10-18 from the field and 5-7 from behind the arc to lead all scorers with 28 points, one below her career high.

In the final minute of play, Shekinna Stricklen drove to the basket and collided with a Georgetown player. She twisted awkwardly in the air and landed hard on her right side. She was placed on a backboard and taken off the court on a stretcher as a precaution. After the game, Summitt said Stricklen was taken to a local hospital for X-rays. The Lady Vols later issued a news statement that Stricklen had sustained back spasms.

The win came after No. 12/13 Georgetown dropped a game to Missouri – a team Tennessee pummeled 82-44 during the Thanksgiving tourney on the Virgin Islands.

(Saturday) was a great win for us, but I'm happier that we played better and got back to what we do," Georgetown Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "We played defense and played our game and that allowed us to win."

Summitt spoke to Williams-Flournoy after that Missouri loss.

"She was as mad as I am right now," Summitt said to Mickey Dearstone on the radio show after the game. "I knew that they were going to come out and be on fire. I knew they would be and we didn't match that intensity.

"We are a veteran team. That's the disappointment. We didn't have the leadership. We've got to have great leadership, and we don't have it."

The Lady Vols started in their man defense, and Georgetown launched and made threes. They switched to the matchup zone, and Georgetown still launched and made threes. They assigned players to track the three-point shooters and they either got free or stuck a shot with a defender on them.

Georgetown shot 55.6 percent from behind the arc with Rodgers' five makes and a 4-8 line from Monica McNutt for 13 points.

Meanwhile, Tennessee struggled to score after initially getting the ball inside to Kelley Cain, who was 3-4 for six points.

"I tried to kind of talk to my teammates about it," Johnson said. "Shots weren't falling on the outside. That was clear. Georgetown's shots were falling. Ours weren't. They weren't even worried about getting it into their inside game because they were hitting so many outside shots.

"On the other hand ours was the opposite. We weren't hitting the outside shots and we weren't getting it inside either. That kind of hurt us a lot. When they're scoring over and over and over, specifically threes, and we're not even getting shot off, that hurts us a lot."

The Hoyas pressured Tennessee's ball-handlers, and the Lady Vols struggled the entire game to get into their offenses. The 29 turnovers – it matched the miscues against Louisville – came in a variety of ways via steals, bad passes and traveling calls. Many were forced but several were the result of panic plays, something Summitt found particularly troubling from her veteran team.

"We were like stuck in mud," Summitt said. "We didn't have the energy. We didn't communicate as well. Our team had done very well here and they had been on a good run. Maybe lack of leadership but throughout the game it just deteriorated. I think they got into panic mode and when you get in panic mode, no good things are going to happen.

"That's when we started to force. We had turnovers. We didn't have a lot of good help off the bench either. That would have probably helped us if we had a couple of people spark us off the bench."

Tennessee got seven points from Kamiko Williams off the bench, but she also struggled to cleanly get the ball past the Hoyas' guards. Vicki Baugh logged 14 minutes – a positive development for the Lady Vols – and tallied six points and four rebounds.

Tennessee left points at the free throw line with an 11-22 stat (50.0 percent) while Georgetown went 13-19 (68.4 percent) from the stripe.

Tennessee trailed 29-22 at halftime and was outscored 40-36 after the break for the final 69-58 outcome.

"Obviously very, very disappointed, and I did not think our team came out and played the way that they had played in the previous two games," Summitt said. "They learned a valuable lesson. It's very, very disappointing for our coaching staff, for our program.

"We weren't ready. We weren't ready to defend. They made us play a lot faster than we were wanting to play. We turned the ball over. We didn't play well together. It's just a very, very disappointing loss."

Simmons joined Johnson in double figures with 11 points but was 1-7 from behind the arc. Bjorklund was 2-7 from long range for six points and now has 250 treys for her career. The senior had just one shot attempt in the first half.

"This has been a pattern at times," Summitt said. "That is what I told her. That concerns me as much as anything because she's been our go-to player. And when she doesn't step up and demand the ball then she's not doing her job, and she didn't do her job (Saturday)."

Summitt didn't like all the shots being lofted from the perimeter, but she also noted that the Lady Vols struggled to get the ball inside.

"We just really got out of sync," Summitt said. "We didn't go inside because we had a hard time getting the ball inside. They did a great job from a defensive standpoint of really identifying the ball."

Johnson, who Dearstone selected as player of the game for the second time in the Paradise Jam, said on the radio show that the team let the early bad start affect them, along with the pressure from Georgetown.

"I agree somewhat," Johnson said when asked if the pressure was the difference in the ball game. "You can't get the calls you want all the time, but you've got to work through that and that's something we didn't do. We let the calls and their pressure basically determine how we were going to play on offense and defense, and we shouldn't have done that.

"We have to bounce back. We've just got to buckle down and play one-on-one defense, and we didn't do that. Our defense wasn't here (Saturday)."

Tennessee dominated the boards 45-27, a margin that kept them within striking distance throughout the game, and despite the 29 turnovers still had 55 shots attempts compared to 57 for Georgetown, which had 17 miscues. The Hoyas were 23-57 overall (40.4 percent) while Tennessee was 22-55 overall (40.0 percent). But the 16.7 percent performance from behind the arc and misfiring on 11 free throws – including the front end of one-and-ones – were too much for the Lady Vols to overcome.

"It's one of the most disappointing losses I can remember in awhile, and I hope we can learn," Summitt said. "Every moment is a teaching moment, but this team was not a team on a mission to take care of business."

When Dearstone asked what lesson she hopes was learned, Summitt replied, "To come to every game as a team on a mission and do whatever you have to do to find a way to win the game. They've got to find a way and make no excuses."


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