Lady Vols pound Old Dominion, 74-44

NORFOLK, Va. - The beach setting was familiar - though far colder on the Virginia coast - but this time it was Tennessee turning the tempo with pressure in a case of what a difference a week makes. Meighan Simmons tied Candace Parker's freshman record for double-figure debut scoring - Pat Summitt joked Simmons should call Parker to tell her - and Tennessee pounded its way to a 74-44 win Sunday.

Tennessee, 8-1, righted its ship in the backyard of Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base, after last week's loss to Georgetown in the Virgin Islands and used its own version of pressure on the ball-handlers to open up the game against Old Dominion, 3-3, at the Ted Constant Center. The team stayed at a waterside Marriott, but it's unlikely any Lady Vol headed to the beach as the team did last week.

The team arrived Saturday by charter flight, stayed overnight - likely with mandatory study time since exams are underway - and headed home Sunday after the game, also by charter flight. In between, Tennessee broke up a close game with Old Dominion before a record crowd of 7,774 at the Ted with some withering pressure and led at halftime 40-22.

ODU handled the press better in the second half, but Tennessee also got its turnovers well under control - 13 in the first half, just five in the second - and was never threatened in the second half, especially since the transition game got in gear.

The pressure was particularly effective with Pat Summitt rotating her guards and forwards to keep fresh legs on the court. Her intent was to slow down ODU, and it worked.

"I thought we needed to press," Summitt said. "Just watching tape on them they push the ball really hard in the open floor. We thought just because of our length - we're long and rangy - we could have a better impact in our zone. I thought the team made it work.

"We get lazy at times and we reach and foul, and we play out of control a little bit, but all in all it was a really good win for us. I thought that second half we picked up the pace much, much better."

Glory Johnson, an incredible athlete - her rebounds continue to wow crowds when she plays, especially those likely seeing her in person for the first time - handles the top of the press and it's disruptive when a rangy and long forward can pick up the ball.

"Right here," Summitt said, motioning to Johnson and Meighan Simmons, "is our two best athletes. When they really get after it and don't reach and take themselves out of position, they are really, really very special when it comes to our presses and pushing tempo up and down the floor."

Kamiko Williams, Alicia Manning and Angie Bjorklund also helped to set deep traps and the team capitalized when the ball squirted free. Williams, who can raise Summitt's ire with sporadic effort, especially in practice, had an effective game against Old Dominion both offensively and defensively.

"She's found a pulse," Summitt said while Johnson and Simmons broke out in laughter. "I don't know where she went, but she's found a pulse. She's been terrific."

Williams twice got offensive rebounds off teammates' missed free throws, along with one defensive board and added 10 points on 4-5 shooting from the field and 2-2 from the line, plus three steals.

"When she plays she can rebound offensively and defensively, score," Johnson said. "It's crazy. She crashes the boards just like I do. And on defense I believe she can stop anybody if she really wanted to when she's up to it. When she's all in and ready to play and ready to give her all, she's incredible.

"It kind of hits her when she gives in to fatigue every once in awhile but as long as she keeps her energy up and we stay on her constantly she'll be all right. She's a great player. It comes out."

While Summitt loved Johnson's work on press, she wants her to set up shop on offense on the low block.

"Hopefully Glory will understand where the low block is," Summitt said, doodling the spot on a box score while Johnson sat beside her and smiled. "She really loves that free throw line and likes to shoot from there, but Coach Summitt is not impressed, even if it goes in, because they don't have an answer for her on the low block because of her athleticism, her quickness, her skill set.

"Dean (Lockwood) has worked with her an awful lot, and it's paying off for her."

One player who is more than willing to stay on the blocks is Kelley Cain, who logged 13 effective minutes for the game with eight points and two rebounds. Cain has been limited by mobility issues because of a hip injury.

"Her presence is really huge for our team," Summitt said. "The thing about her she knows where she can be the most effective and that is on the low block or running to the rim. She's not trying to be someone she's not. With that said I just think she's going to get better and better.

"We've got to get her up and down more and that right now limits sometimes her minutes."

Tennessee planted Cain in the middle of the matchup zone and the benefit was twofold - Cain will talk the defensive action to her teammates and act as a quarterback in the paint and she alters the shots of penetrators. Cain had three blocks, including one that sent the ball straight down.

"If I was a guard I don't think I would try to drive on her," Johnson said. "She blocks a lot of shots, and she's huge inside. When she gets her hands up it's crazy. Her being confident with her game and her stepping in willing to give minutes and go hard, I think that will help a lot."

Cain didn't start and was stretching beside the bench a few minutes before she headed to the scorer's table in the first half. Manning started in her place, and took the opening tip from Johnson to score a layup five seconds into the game.

Jasmine Parker, who tallied 16 points, and now has 1,001 for her ODU career, tied the game at 4-4 at the 18:17 mark of the first half with a transition jumper off a Tennessee turnover.

Johnson picked up an offensive foul that appeared to be a block and and-one, and when ODU's Shadasia Green hit one of two free throws after a drive on the other end, ODU led 6-5 with 17:24 until the break.

Simmons put Tennessee back ahead, 7-6, with a jumper six seconds later but ODU got its second, and last lead, 8-7, with a Jo Niquia Guilford jumper with 15:14 left before halftime.

Shekinna Stricklen scored off an offensive board to give Tennessee an 8-7 lead with 14:10 to play in the first half, and the Lady Vols never trailed again.

Since moving off the ball Stricklen has spent time at the small and power forwards spot and when Tennessee played a four-out, one-in scheme for a few possessions in the second half, Stricklen was the one in the paint at the center position.

Stricklen scored 11 points on 5-9 shooting and didn't attempt a three-pointer. She hit midrange shots and a nifty turnaround in the paint, along with a layup in transition off a sweet feed from Simmons.

"Mismatches, good pull-up game," Summitt said. "And she loves to move off the point guard position. We do know that. And I never realized that she was going to love the paint that much. She really did a nice job of getting inside and getting paint points for us."

After Stricklen's go-ahead basket, Williams scored Tennessee's next six points with a turn-around, two made free throws after a foul on a drive and then scooping us a loose ball for a 14-8 lead with 11:35 left before halftime.

ODU trimmed the lead to five points, 16-11, with a three-pointer by Parker. Bjorklund, one of Tennessee's better one-on-one defenders, had been guarding Parker while Tennessee was in its man, but with Bjorklund getting a breather on the bench, Parker got loose.

The Lady Vols then unleashed their full court pressure and got easy baskets off steals and turnovers.

"I think we were impatient a little and timid in the first half," Green said. "(Coach Wendy Larry) told us to settle down a little bit and do what we practiced. I think that was the difference."

Tennessee switched into its zone defense to close out the first half, and Old Dominion's offense sputtered.

The lead was in double digits for good with a 24-13 lead with 6:46 before the break after Stricklen posted up on the low block and hit the layup. Simmons banked in a short shot right at the buzzer after scooting down the court, and the Lady Vols took a lead that had swelled to 18 points, 40-22, into the locker room.

There was a stat snafu - Sydney Smallbone was shown as shooting 0-2 with three rebounds but she didn't enter until the second half - and the box scores were not available until five minutes into the second half. When Summitt received hers, she scowled, likely at the 13 first half turnovers. Vicki Baugh, Johnson, Simmons, and Cain logged two miscues each.

"To be honest in the beginning I was a little overanxious," Simmons said. "I turned the ball over a couple of times. I was rushing things. No matter what the atmosphere is I have to go out there and play hard 24/7."

ODU had plenty of its own issues with ball security with 13 turnovers that resulted in 10 Tennessee first-half points compared to three for Old Dominion.

"I think running our press the majority of the game it kind of determined their offense and it kind of made then rush a little bit," Johnson said. "I think it made their guards a little uneasy and their four player taking the ball out she didn't really like to dribble as much so it made them change the way they were taking the ball out, how they were pushing in transition. We needed to stop that early."

Parker had five turnovers before the break and totaled 10 for the game.

"I played passive," Parker said. "I had a lot of unforced turnovers. Taking care of the ball was an Achilles heel for me and also for some of my teammates. I wish we had some of those possessions back, and I would have changed a lot. Their pressure wasn't as aggressive, it was us. It really just always goes back to us a team.

"I feel like it was decision-making. Our practice team is way bigger, way stronger, way faster than them, and we have times in practice where we won't turn it over against them. I could have taken care of the ball a lot better than what I did."

The Lady Monarchs cut those mistakes to nine in the second-half and held onto the ball better against pressure, though the Lady Vols still got 10 more points off turnovers for a total of 20 for the game compared to eight for ODU.

"It was huge," ODU Coach Wendy Larry said. "We were real tentative and very intimidated at first. Second half, we collected ourselves a little bit."

Bjorklund opened the second half scoring for Tennessee after getting fouled on a fade-away jumper and hitting both free throws for a 42-24 lead with 19:27 left after Tia Lewis hit a layup for ODU. Bjorklund scored Tennessee's first eight points of the second half.

Bjorklund, who has had considerable success at the Ted, including a career-high 29 points two years ago, finished with eight points after drawing considerable attention from ODU's defenders. But this season that means Simmons can get loose.

"She's probably their most versatile offensive player in that she can take it off the dribble, she's got a midrange game and she's got the long ball," Larry said. "It's real difficult to play her anything but straight up just because she has it kind of all.

"Not to say that Angie hasn't gotten much better putting the ball on the floor but if her feet are set she's pretty deadly. If you make her put it on the floor and get her a little bit off balance she's not nearly as effective, but she's worked hard on that we know. She's worked very hard on her midrange game. But I would like to think we limited the number of looks that she got."

Bjorklund got six total shots and was 2-5 from behind the arc. Simmons got 13 shots and led the team with 14 points and four assists. Her stint at point guard remains a work in progress and Williams and Briana Bass also got reps at that spot.

"We've got some growing pains there," Summitt said. "We hope that Meighan is going to do what she needs to do and Kamiko what she needs to do and that is going to free up Stricklen to just be a player. I think she is a lot more confident in that role."

Tennessee coaches called some sets - Simmons can call an assortment with the ball in her hand - and also allowed the players to set up three out and two in and four out and one in and allow the ball-handlers to make the decisions.

Cain also played some extended second half minutes and that allowed the ball to move through her. During their minutes on the court, Simmons, Williams, Stricklen, Manning and Smallbone made it a priority to get Cain some touches.

"We do have a lot of length," Summitt said. "With Kelley we've got size. I felt like our post game could be very effective but to also give the guards some freedom. We were running some sets but at the same time when things broke down, we were just playing three out, two in and then we went to four out.

"A lot of good things happened for us because we played well together."

Tennessee either increased or more or less maintained its lead in the second half, and ODU matched its first-match output with 22 points. The Lady Vols got scoring from nine players, and Summitt had emptied the bench with five minutes to play.

Bjorklund hit her first three-pointer off an in-bounds play with a hand in her face and connected on the second from deep on the wing. She now has 255 for her career, just 11 behind Shanna Zolman's career mark of 266.

Stricklen continued her work on the glass - the box score credited her with one offensive board but she had at least two - as did Johnson, who had five on that end.

After Simmons was fouled on a drive to the basket, she missed the first free throw and Larry shouted, "Box out!" to her team. Simmons made the second for a 60-39 lead with 8:52 to play and after Simmons missed on a drive a minute later, Stricklen got the offensive board for a 62-41 lead with 7:58 left.

A Smallbone lob to Cain and a three-pointer from Smallbone finished the scoring at 74-44.

Tennessee got 37 points in the paint compared to 14 for ODU. The Lady Monarchs rely on getting to the line, but the Lady Vols' pressure and matchup zone - with Cain patrolling the rim - prevented most of their dribble drives.

"Paint points and turnover points, aside from the free throw differential, you couldn't win a game," Larry said. " … Our execution was inadequate and such is the result."

ODU also was missing forward Alena Voronina, who watched warmups with her left arm in a sling after an injury that at first was not expected to sideline the 6'2 senior turned out to be torn ligaments.

"We were in a pretty good groove with Alena Voronina in the lineup and we lost her at the Florida game," Larry said. "It seems like prior to going into this Tennessee game we lose somebody that's playing really well for us and giving us a lot of energy and getting in a groove to compete. We found out she had ruptured some ligaments in her elbow so we're looking at trying to create chicken salad right now, and we were already kind of slim in our frontline.

"And by no means am I'm telling you that this was the difference in the game. I am just saying that we weren't really, really comfortable."

ODU shot 30.9 percent overall (17-55), 19.0 percent from behind the arc (4-21) and 75.0 percent (6-8) from the line. The Lady Monarchs had seven steals and six assists.

Parker was the only player in double digits with 16 points. Jackie Cook added seven points while Green and Lewis had six points each.

Parker finished the scoring for ODU with a jumper at 8:22 to make the score 60-41 and a three-pointer at 2:55 for a 69-44 score.

"It puts her in very elite company," Larry said. "We don't play a pansy schedule. We play a very difficult non-conference schedule and our league has gotten better and better and better. I think it's become more difficult to put yourself in that company and certainly that means she has worked hard to get there. It hasn't come easy."

The late trey put Parker over 1,000 for her career, and she got a loud round of applause when the feat was announced.

"I never even thought it about as a freshman. I didn't even know it was coming today," Parker said. "I'm honored."

Summitt added of her team, "I wanted them to see Jasmine Parker play. She was terrific. I think she is really a terrific guard."

Tennessee and ODU have played each other since 1977 when the Lady Monarchs were an AIAW powerhouse and Summitt wanted to upgrade her schedule and play top competition.

"With Wendy we've been greats friends for a long time as well," Summitt said. "I love coming to this part of the country. I have a lot of respect for what Wendy's done."

Larry expressed an interest in keeping the longtime series intact. Tennessee has now won the last 15 games.

"We're grateful because it's a measuring stick for us," Larry said. "Sometimes we've competed better than we competed this afternoon. Obviously the results are very lopsided, but it's still important to play ranked teams. It's still important where you have to go to be one."

Parker added, "Playing the best competition I feel like prepares us for the conference. Being a player and a competitor, I want to play nothing but the best. It shows us our weaknesses and our strengths as a team and as players. It gives us a base of where we are in the season as well."

Tennessee needed the past two games to get steered back on course after the loss last week to Georgetown in which the Lady Vols never led. ODU did make panic plays against Tennessee's pressure but the Lady Vols also had some effective traps and scrambles to the ball.

"It's really more about scouting report," Summitt said when asked if it could become a staple. "When we watch teams and we scout teams then that's when we get our game plan. There is plan A, B, C, sometimes D. If it's working we're going to stick with plan A."

Johnson indicated the overall defense still needed to get much better.

"I think every year we have points in time where we need to play 40 minutes games, and we don't," Johnson said. "This year it's a lot harder because our defense is slacking. On account of everybody on our team I think we all need to improve our defense.

"On offense we can score but when the other teams are scoring and we're not scoring, our defense has to be there. We've got to focus on improving our defense."

Tennessee had 13 steals to go with Cain's three blocks and prevailed on the boards, 41-33. The Lady Vols bench outscored ODU's, 25-9. Tennessee had 15 second-chance points to eight for ODU and scored 37 in the paint compared to 14 for the Lady Monarchs.

Simmons led Tennessee with 14 points while Stricklen and Williams also were in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively. Manning added nine points on 3-4 shooting and 3-5 from the line.

Simmons tied Candace Parker's freshman record for consecutive double-digit scoring efforts to start a career.

"We need to call her when we get on the bus and let you talk to Candace," Summitt teased Simmons. "What do you think?

"That's fine with me," Simmons said.

I'm sure she'll take your call," Summitt said.

Chamique Holdsclaw holds the record at 14 games. Simmons is one behind Johnson, who started with 10 such games two years ago.

"I'm pulling for her," Johnson said. "She's my teammate. She's here with me now. I love the way she plays, because she's so quick. Once she has the ball I tell her to go. She goes from one speed to three different speeds, and I think that's impressive."

Simmons was asked about her first-year debut by the media covering the game from Virginia who wondered if she was surprised.

"I have surprised myself," Simmons said. "Like Pat said just a minute ago she didn't expect it and neither did I. I really can't explain it."

"It's been pretty amazing to see a freshman that is just fearless and loves the game," Summitt said. "As I said, these are the two quickest players on our team (referring to Simmons and Johnson at the post-game press conference), and they make a difference because of their length and their athleticism and their competitiveness. That has really made a difference.

"Did I think Meighan would come in and be a freshman and start? No. I thought, ‘Well, it will take her awhile.' It didn't take me long to figure out that we didn't need awhile. We needed yes right now."

VIDEO COVERAGE: Post-game press conference video coverage.

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt

Lady Vols Glory Johnson and Meighan Simmons

Old Dominion Coach Wendy Larry with Shadasia Green and Jasmine Parker


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