Lady Vols romp in exhibition opener

The visiting team wore "We Back Pat" T-shirts, and the home head coach visited the opponent's locker room after the game, but other than that it was a typical exhibition opener for Tennessee basketball with Pat Summitt on the sideline and a 105-40 win over Carson-Newman.

All three Tennessee freshmen made their debut, including point guard Ariel Massengale, who entered the game with 8:35 remaining in the first half. The team physician had cleared her Monday for contact after Massengale suffered a concussion on three weeks ago, causing her to miss most of practice in the month of October.

Massengale was a tad winded and a little rusty – she had been on the court with her teammates for about one hour in full contact situations for the past three weeks – but she logged 15 minutes and scored five points on a trey and two made free throws.

"It was a wait-and-see situation if we would be able to play Ariel," Coach Pat Summitt said after Tuesday's game. "The doctors cleared her yesterday and I was glad we were able to get her in the game.

"She had some good minutes in practice yesterday and it was good for her to get up and down the floor tonight. Her parents were here tonight and she was really eager to get into the game."

Cierra Burdick was the first freshman to take the floor, entering at the 12:26 mark of the first half. Her overall game was on display as she hit some shots, got on the boards and distributed the basketball.

"Cierra plays all over the floor," Summitt said. "She is a great passer and you could see that with her five assists. I also like the balance she had tonight with seven rebounds and 15 points. Probably the thing that caught my attention the most was her tough defense. You know that sticks out to me the most."

Isabelle Harrison took the court at the 5:07 mark of the first half and tallied a block by halftime. She finished the game with a team-high five swats and showed her athleticism on both ends of the floor.

"It was great to get the three freshmen in the game tonight and get rid of some of those first game jitters," Summitt said. "I know they were excited. Izzy Harrison tried to play a little too fast, but I was impressed with her eight rebounds and five blocked shots. I'd rather try to slow her down than speed her up.

"These three freshmen are so passionate about the game. They are going to help this team. They listen … they want to improve daily and they are invested in everything we do. At the same time, I have to credit the upperclassmen for taking them under their wing and getting them prepared."

Senior guard/forward Alicia Manning worked over the summer on her midrange game, and it showed Tuesday. She was 10-14 from the field and led all scorers with 23 points.

"Across the board, I was pleased with the way we played," Summitt said. "I was really pleased with Alicia Manning coming off the bench tonight. She was really focused and made some great things happen in 21 minutes – she had 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals. She had excellent offensive efficiency shooting 10 of 14 from the field."

Another storyline of the evening was the return of redshirt senior forward Vicki Baugh, who has undergone two ACL surgeries. On Tuesday, she sprinted the floor and played the way she did as a freshman before she injured her left knee.

"It was great," Baugh said. "It's just good to be on the floor and building that chemistry with my team, and I haven't had to miss any practices. Not only do I look it, but I feel good. I feel like I did freshman year, prior to my injuries."

A season-long storyline is likely to be Summitt on the sideline after she revealed last August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. An exhibition game usually draws a few photographers, but both ends of the court were packed full in the spots where photographers sit during games.

The announced crowd in terms of ticket sales was 11,500 and while that was a stretch, there were noticeably more fans than in years past at exhibition games.

The Carson-Newman Lady Eagles wore orange "We Back Pat" T-shirts as their warm-up attire after a graduate assistant made a quick shopping trip.

"I think our graduate assistant, Laura (Elliot), it was her idea to wear the T-shirts for the game," senior forward Zoriah Williams said. "I think she went around to a bunch of CVS's and Walgreens to try and find the shirts for us."

After the game, the visiting team presented Summitt with a plaque to thank her for scheduling the Lady Eagles in an exhibition. This was the eighth consecutive year Carson-Newman has made the short trip to Knoxville from Jefferson City, Tenn.

"We just wanted to give her a little plaque from our team," Carson-Newman Head Coach Mike Mincey said. "This is a guaranteed game for us. We wanted to thank her for allowing us to come. The money that Tennessee provides to us certainly helps our budget."

The gracious gesture of wearing the shirts was a way to acknowledge Summitt.

"All the girls are fans," Mincey said. "We're all fans of Tennessee. We're all fans of Coach Summitt."

Summitt spoke to the team after the game, and the session turned into one of interaction.

"She actually came back and signed every one of our shirts," Mincey said. "She took a lot of time. I know she is very busy and a lot of people want things from her, but I think it was very nice of her. All of these girls got to get a picture with her."

Summitt handled her post-game radio show while Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick took the post-game press conference.

"Let me say this," Warlick said. "I thought it was really a great gesture for Carson-Newman's players all to have ‘We Back Pat' T-shirts. That was special. To see those kids do that and to come up to Pat afterward, that's special to see.

"That's the impact Pat has not only around the country but just up the road in this state. That was really nice to see."

Summitt appeared to be the same as always on the sidelines – yelling instructions to her team and getting input from her staff.

"Pat was great," Warlick said. "She was into it. Her deal is rebounding and hitting free throws, so at times she was not very happy with the free-throw situation. But Pat was Pat in the huddles, very active on the sideline. When you have four coaches that are involved with this team, all four of us people who can teach, that is a great sign for our kids.

"And Pat was no different tonight than she has been in the past. She was on all cylinders and doesn't like turnovers. Pat was Pat."

Tennessee had 10 turnovers in the first half and 19 for the game, some unforced – such as traveling – and a few the result of bad decision-making as the Lady Eagles tallied 10 steals.

The Lady Vols played point guard by committee with Meighan Simmons (four turnovers) and Briana Bass (one miscue) taking the helm to start the game. Massengale (one turnover) has been observing at practice for two weeks and participating in some drills, but Tuesday was her first extended chance to get up and down the court.

"I asked her after the game, `How are you doing?' " Warlick said. "She said, ‘A little tired.' She has missed a lot of our press, the breakdowns of our offense, our 2-3 zone (in practice). So in all fairness to her, you didn't see a 100 percent Ariel Massengale – and shouldn't have because she hasn't practiced.

"But she's the type of competitor, the type of point guard who can come out and pick things up. So at times, I would want to call something on defense – she had already called it. That's just the sign of a great point guard and she's only going to get better with practice."

Burdick, who has played USA basketball with Massengale, was happy to see her "freshmate" – as she calls the three newcomers – on the court.

"It was a relief," Burdick said. "I'm glad to see my teammate and my roomie and my freshmate out there on the court with me.

"We've just been trying to get her healthy and I think she's really going to start getting in the flow of things and she's going to be doing some damage on the floor."

Burdick certainly showed her potential with a line score of 15 points on 4-9 shooting, including 7-8 from the line, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. Freshmen, besides point guards, don't typically pass very well, because they are so used to the ball coming to them in high school, but Burdick has shown a deft touch in practice throughout preseason, and that carried into Tuesday's game.

In the first half, she got deep under the basket and with barely a peek she found Shekinna Stricklen cutting from the opposite side for a layup and a 25-9 lead at the 9:45 mark of the first half. In the final two minutes before halftime, Burdick had the ball knocked away on a drive, got it back and fired a pass out to Manning on the wing for a 45-15 lead and then found Manning cutting to the basket for a 48-15 lead at halftime.

"I was pleased with Cierra," Warlick said. "She missed some shots she normally would hit, but Cierra's always going to have a stat line like Manning. She had seven rebounds and she was 7-for-8 from the free throw line, so she's the type of player who does things that go unnoticed."

It was just Burdick's second time to see the arena on game day, and she played as if she were right at home.

"I was just excited," Burdick said. "It felt good to put a Lady Vols jersey on. I was telling someone earlier that that was only my second Lady Vol game period. I was at the Vanderbilt game last year and this was my second one, and it felt good to actually be on the court.

"I'm just blessed to be able to put on the jersey and play with these guys."

It was a Manning-type effort with the added benefit from both of filling the scoring column, too. Burdick plays with Manning's intensity on defense and has displayed a work ethic not common among first-year players.

"Ever since I met Cierra, I knew she's very focused on what she wants to do here," Manning said. "She takes her game seriously, and she puts in time after practice, before practice, getting up shots. It's really going to pay off. Her hard work that she's been putting in all summer, since practice has started, it's really starting to show on the court. It's kind of a debut to the country what she's been doing.

"She brings height to our team. She has long arms and can crash the boards, get some boards for us. She's very crafty with the ball. She is going to be a good offensive threat to us. Defensively, she's going to guard and extend the press with me, and get some stops and get some traps like we were doing today."

Defense was a primary storyline of the game as Tennessee showed what had been missing for the past three seasons – the ability to press and trap for 94 feet. There were lapses that the coaches can correct with film study, but the Lady Vols showed the potential to set a frenetic pace on defense.

"That is the style we want to play," Warlick said. "We want to press, we want to force turnovers, we want to score easily off our turnovers. I thought tonight we did that for the most part. With the athletic team we have, there's no reason we can't create a lot of havoc with our defense."

Carson-Newman had 34 turnovers for the game and at the 3:51 mark of the first half the Lady Eagles had more miscues at 16 than points at 15.

Mincey, who is in his first year as head coach after four years as an assistant for Carson-Newman, noted the presence of the press.

"The good thing about tonight different than last year is we got to see the press a lot," Mincey said. "They threw everything at us, which is good for these girls. They need that."

Tennessee used all 10 available players – junior guard Kamiko Williams is rehabbing an ACL injury – with every player logging at least 15 minutes, so the coaches could see a lot of combinations. The 1-2-2 zone press was deployed the most by Tennessee – that has been a focus at practice – and the Lady Vols also showed the matchup zone, which was just installed Monday for the freshmen.

"We ran a zone press quite a bit, probably more so than we would but it was a time for us to work on it," Warlick said. "I was pleased because we've worked a lot this week on making our traps better, making our defense more aggressive.

"Yesterday in practice, that's all we did was defense and I think it showed. And that's the style we want to play. That's the Tennessee basketball we wanted to get back to – pressing, running. That's the kind of Tennessee basketball I think is exciting and that's what this team can do."

Monday's practice may have had some effect on the offense – though Tennessee still shot 44.0 percent from the field and scored 105 points – because the session was all defense with a lot of drills done full court. That is not typical for a practice the day before a game, but the coaches wanted to send a message after lackluster defense in Saturday's scrimmage.

"They were just trying to say that this is going to be Tennessee basketball," Baugh said. "This is what it takes to compete for a Final Four and a national championship. I think that they thought we were drawing a little too much toward depending on the offensive game, and Tennessee's not about that.

"We all have the ability offensively, but what people have to have is the heart to play defense on every possession. One player who does that every time I look up is A-Town. If we all play like her on every possession, we'll be in great shape."

It is a style of play that Baugh remembers from her freshman year when she watched Nicky Anosike as a model for how to play defense. Manning has that same mentality and while Tennessee will welcome her scoring, the coaches need her grit on defense.

"I think overall we did a pretty good job of extending our pressure," said Manning, who had five steals and harassed whoever she was guarding all evening. "It worked really well for us. We got a lot of turnovers out of it, and it gave us a lot more opportunities offensively to score. I definitely like the aggressiveness. I like how it set the tone from the start."

Tennessee led by double digits less than eight minutes into the game and had a 33-point lead by halftime. That lead was one point shy of being doubled by the end of the game with a 65-point margin of victory.

"Our defense was OK in the first four minutes but I thought as the game went on, especially the first half, we did some really good things," Warlick said. "We've worked really hard on our press, and we forced 21 turnovers the first half. So I'm really pleased with our defensive effort."

Offensively, Tennessee will examine missed layups and free throws, including a 1-2 start from the line before the ball was even tipped. Carson-Newman was assessed a technical foul because the starting lineup wasn't submitted in time. Taber Spani hit the first but missed the second for Tennessee.

The misses came early in the game as Spani misfired again from the line in the first half, as did Simmons, but the Lady Vols recovered to shoot 77.1 percent overall (27-35). They did leave points off the scoreboard with missed layups.

"I thought we missed a lot of layups, so we go back to layups and free throws," Warlick said. "That's been our emphasis, and I'm sure that will be our emphasis tomorrow in practice."

The second half was much like the first – it wasn't a question of would Tennessee win but by how much. The coaches continued to spread around the minutes as exhibition games are about acquiring game film for teaching purposes.

"This was a great teaching tape for us," Warlick said. "Yes, it was Carson-Newman, but we need to do things that make us better and improve and I think we've got some good footage for us to get better on."

Carson-Newman won't glean too much from its game tape.

"That's a tough one," Mincey said. "Tonight, we really didn't get into a lot of our sets. … We'll watch the film. We only have one day before we go play East Tennessee State. We'll take a look at it.

"I think that our post game is very strong. I think we can take positives from it. But I don't know they we'll get a whole lot out of the film to be honest. Tennessee is just so long and athletic."

Shannon Depew led the Lady Eagles with 11 points and connected on three treys, while Williams added 10.

"Well, before the game we certainly had some goals in mind," Mincey said. "Obviously, we know we're not going to win this game, but we want to come down here and be competitive, play hard.

"Certainly that's why Coach Summitt wants us down here is to fight against her team hard so that they can learn some things about their team, but one of our goals was to try and hold them to 110. We wanted to be up around 50. From an offensive standpoint we kind of struggled.

"We've been down here before where they scored 124 points. If we can keep it within that 60-point range against the No. 3 ranked team in the country as a Division II school, then we think that we've done a decent job."

Rechelle Dye chipped in with seven points and went 4-4 from the line. She also had five steals, half of the team's 10, and was one of several Lady Eagles playing in her home state.

"It's really nice," Dye said. "I think we're all really excited. It makes us a lot better as a team to play this competition, then go play our competition. It helps us all around."

Tennessee was led by Manning's 23 points with five other players reaching double figures – Burdick, 15 points; Simmons, 14; Spani, 13; Stricklen, 12; and Baugh, 10. Glory Johnson added eight points while Harrison and Massengale had five each.

At times, Baugh and Harrison played as if they were competing for the point guard position, but the posts are encouraged to get the ball up the court.

"We've given our posts the opportunity to dribble up the floor and handle the ball, and when a team does that they are very difficult to guard," Warlick said. "Not too many five players (center position) are going to get out and guard somebody full court. That's what's special about Vicki, that's what's special about Glory and Alicia Manning.

"They handle the ball full court and that's difficult. That's difficult for a team to guard – I know it's hard for us when somebody does that as well."

Baugh is 6'4 but played point guard in high school and has ball skills uncommon at that size.

"That's always kind of been incorporated in my style of game, just kind of pushed back a little when I was injured, but like I said, I feel the same as my freshman year," Baugh said.

"After the rebound, if no one is stopping me, I'm going, and I know if I get stopped, get it in the hands of my point guard. I am just glad the team has my back on that, and that our posts have the ability to dribble."

Besides acquiring game film for player teaching purposes, the Tennessee coaches also had their first live run on the sideline since Summitt's diagnosis. Summitt had said last August that she would delegate things to her staff and that plan has been put in place.

"I think this year Mickie (DeMoss) is focusing more on the offense; I'm focusing a little bit more on the defense and Dean's (Lockwood) kind of chiming in on both ends. I thought it worked out well. Different people are in the huddles and our kids respond.

"And that's the bottom line: If it's confusing to our kids, then we're going to change it. But I thought our kids responded."

Manning indicated that the players have already adjusted.

"It's the same it's always been," Manning said. "We've been asked that about Pat, and I give the same answer. She's got her staff and they're the best in the country. She couldn't ask for a better one.

"They support her and are faithful to her, just as we are to them. There should be no difference in any game because they're going to be there for her."

Warlick added, "I thought Pat was good and it was just a good sign for us and good opportunity for us to work on our game management. I was pleased and I thought it was a great teaching film. We're going to learn a lot from it."

VIDEO COVERAGE

Pre-game

Tennessee Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick

Tennessee's Vicki Baugh, Cierra Burdick, Alicia Manning

Carson-Newman Coach Mike Mincey, players Rechelle Dye, Shannon Depew and Zoriah Williams


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