Lady Vols to host Hurricanes

Ariel Massengale can't even remember the last time she was in foul trouble, and the freshman point guard broke into a smile when asked if the coaches had mentioned they needed her on the court longer for tonight's Top 10 matchup between Tennessee and Miami in the Tipoff Classic.

No. 3 Tennessee (1-0) and No. 7 Miami (1-0) meet Tuesday night at 6 p.m. Eastern at Thompson-Boling Arena in an early season clash of top teams – the Lady Vols were picked to win the SEC while the Hurricanes received the nod to take the ACC.

The game is available on television at ESPN2, via the radio on the Lady Vol Network and online if offered by cable provider at watchespn.

Ariel Massengale, a freshman so talented that Coach Pat Summitt decreed her the starter last spring – while the Bolingbrook, Ill., point guard was still in high school – played just seven minutes of the first half in Sunday's opening 89-57 win over Pepperdine after picking up two fouls.

"Usually, I never get into foul trouble," Massengale said. "I don't know what happened. It was very hard. I went to the bench and (staff member Daedra Charles-Furlow) said, ‘Are you upset?' I said, ‘Yes!' And she said, ‘Well, it's OK, you've got the second half to redeem yourself.' "

Massengale played a solid second half with five assists, two steals, three rebounds and just one turnover. She knows her team needs her to stay on the floor tonight against Miami.

"I feel like it is very important," Massengale said. "I feel like I wasn't able to help my team out. We were getting trapped with the pressure that Pepperdine was giving us, but credit to them, they took care of the ball, maintained the lead."

Meighan Simmons and Briana Bass took over the point duties in the first half and while Tennessee had 11 first-half turnovers, none came from Simmons or Bass. Massengale also didn't have a miscue in her limited first-half minutes.

Massengale played 13 minutes in the second half and didn't pick up another foul. Early in the second half, a player drove to the basket on Massengale and she eased off – even pulling her arms in so as not to give an official any reason to blow the whistle – since she didn't want to quickly pick up a third foul. Shekinna Stricklen slipped to the baseline and drew the charge.

"Second half I knew I had to come out there and play smart," Massengale said.

That doesn't mean she backed off every time. Later in the half, Massengale was the only one back and had two Pepperdine players closing in on her from either side of the basket on a fast break. She made an athletic defensive play when she leaped and tipped away a pass between the two that looked like it was about to lead to an easy layup.

Senior forward Glory Johnson is someone who can relate to getting into foul trouble, especially early in her career. But Johnson also is one of the team's best defenders, so she knows a balance has to be struck.

"She is so aggressive, and I don't want to take that aggressiveness away from her," Johnson said. "So if she gets a foul here and there, I can handle that. We all have to pick it up."

Massengale is a somewhat unusual freshman in that she likes to play defense. She also doesn't mind when an opponent presses her, and Tennessee will need her poise against Miami, a veteran team with two WNBA-worthy guards.

It is a marquee matchup – several WNBA scouts are expected to be in attendance because of the seniors on both sides – and a tremendous challenge for a freshman playing in her second career game.

"I think it's a nervous excitement," Massengale said. "To be our second game we're playing a top-ranked team on ESPN2 so everyone is going to be watching us. It's a test to see where we are right now. It's still early in the season, and we know we have a lot of work to do.

"But this will check out our competitive edge. We're just going to give it our all and go out there and play."

Massengale will be playing in front of family – they made the trip from Illinois for Sunday's game and stayed in town for this one – and that puts a smile on her face.

"It helps a lot to look into the stands and know that they're proud of me, and they're here watching me," Massengale said. "It is something that I have worked so hard for her, and now it's finally here."

Massengale also has an assortment of scowls, such as when she sees something happening on the court that she doesn't like. Freshman Cierra Burdick, a forward, got double-teamed in the backcourt, and the guards had already headed down the floor. Massengale jumped off the bench pointing at Burdick and motioning for help to come back.

Massengale missed three weeks in October to recover from a concussion so she needed time to find her voice with her teammates. It is a role the coaches want her to embrace, and early indications are that she will.

It is not easy for a freshman to take a leadership role – especially on a team with five seniors – but the players also know that Massengale fills a position that has been run by committee the past three seasons.

"The team has been great letting me know, ‘Ariel, you are the point guard. This is what we need from you. This is what we expect from you,' " Massengale said. "So if my team is telling me that, I just feel like I have to do my best to give them what they need for us to be successful."

Massengale is looking forward to the game – she noted the experience was tremendously beneficial for a first-year player – and she would also rather take on a top team than one Tennessee knew it could beat before the ball was even tipped.

"Coming to a program like Tennessee you come to play against the best," Massengale said. "I feel like we have one of the toughest schedules out there in the country and all it is doing is preparing us for March."

Massengale also is prepared now for what specifically to do in the pre-game introductions. She started the second exhibition game – she came off the bench in the first one because she had just been cleared to return post-concussion – but the players are introduced off the bench in those contests.

During regular season home games, the players emerge from a tunnel of lights and smoke from one corner and run onto the court. Massengale didn't have a teammate to watch. Her name was called first Sunday.

"I didn't know what to do," Massengale said. "After we watched the Jumbotron and I hear them start talking and say, ‘5'6 guard from Bolingbrook … ,' I was like, ‘That's me. That's me. What do I do? What do I do?'

"Everybody was like, ‘Run!' So I just took off running through the tunnel. The lights are off and to see the fans in the crowd … it's a feeling that you can't put into words."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (2.0 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, 5.0 assists per game); Taber Spani, 6'1 junior forward/guard, No. 13 (11.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior forward/guard, No. 40 (13.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (17.0 ppg, 13 rpg); and Vicki Baugh, 6'4 redshirt senior center/forward, No. 21 (8.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg).

Sophomore forward Meighan Simmons, who started 36 of 37 games last season, came off the bench against Pepperdine and was very effective. The Lady Vols could vary the starting lineup at times this season, a decision that likely hinges on defensive matchups.

Miami Coach Katie Meier is expected to start: Riquna Williams, 5'6 senior guard, No. 1 (16.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg), hails from Pahokee, Fla., preseason All-ACC team, led the conference in scoring at 21.7 ppg last season; Shenise Johnson, 5'11 senior center, No. 42 (20.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 9.0 apg), hails from Henrietta, N.Y., preseason All-American and ACC Player of the Year, has started all 100 games of her career; Morgan Stroman, 6'1 junior forward, No. 32 (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), hails from Hopkins, S.C., started every game last season, led the team with 12 double-doubles; Stefanie Yderstrom, 5'8 junior guard, No. 3 (12.0 ppg, 1.0 apg), hails from Ostertalje, Sweden, started every game last season, played for Sweden last summer in the World University Games; and Sylvia Bullock, 6'2 senior forward, No. 34 (5.0 rpg, 5.0 blocks per game), hails from Anchorage, Alaska, started every game last season, Miami with play later this month in the Great Alaska Shootout.

"It's a big deal, not only for our team but for the University of Miami in general," Johnson said. "It's going to be fun. It's probably one of the highlights of the year for women's basketball.

"We both like to run up and down, they like to press, we like to press. I think it's going to be a very intense, competitive, hard-fought chess match. I think it's going to be a great game, honestly, we're going to play our hearts out, and we're going to leave it out there on the floor."

Miami returns every player from last season. The Hurricanes finished 28-5 and earned a share of the regular season ACC title.

Meier heaped praise on Summitt in the days leading up to the game. A story from the local paper in Miami can be read HERE.

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Miami game.

Offensively, Miami is inclined to use its speed and swarming defense to create its offense.

"They are probably one of the fastest teams in the country, if not the fastest," DeMoss said. "It's going to be a fast game. They want to play fast, fast. They want to continue to press you, and they want to continue to turn you over.

"They want to create a lot of offensive opportunities from their defense and they are utilizing their speed and their quickness by extending the floor, opening the floor."

If the Lady Vols don't want to feed the Hurricane offense, they will have to hold onto the basketball.

"We are really, really going to have to take care of the basketball," DeMoss said. "We cannot have careless turnovers. If it's a turnover it's one that they've earned, not one we've given to them.

"It's hard to talk about their offense without talking about their defense. They want to turn you over to get into their offense, because they don't particularly want to set a half-court offense. They want everything in transition."

If Miami does set up in the half-court, the key is the guard play of Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams, the two leading scorers from last season, who can both run the point position.

"Those are two WNBA players," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said.

"Shenise Johnson, to me, is the real deal," DeMoss said. "She may go one or two in the draft. When they get in their half-court sets, they rely on those two so much. Both of them run in transition really well."

Defensively, the Lady Vols expect constant pressure.

"They press the entire game," DeMoss said. "On a missed shot it may be hard to set it, but traps, half-court, they'll trap you in the corner, they'll randomly go trap you. They keep coming at you."

If the Lady Vols break the pressure and set up the offense in the half-court, they can expect man and zone looks from the Hurricanes, and sometimes "it's hard to tell because they are just running around" to create havoc.

Pepperdine likes to play a similar style as the Hurricanes, but Miami has more talent on the roster.

"It's frenetic," DeMoss said. "They get fired up about steals, blocked shots, any kind of hustle plays."

With the guards' ability to drive, Tennessee might have to deploy its budding 3-2 matchup zone, but the Lady Vols have spent a lot of time on one-on-one defense so installing a new zone that would be effective still needs time.

The Lady Vols used a 2-3 matchup zone last season, but they were in a 3-2 look against Pepperdine on occasion with the two post players on the back and three guard/forwards up front.

"Down the road that could be a good defense for us," DeMoss said. "We haven't had a lot of time to drill it and break it down."

The coaches had noise blasted at various times Monday during practice, a tactic used to get players to communicate better – hand signals, tight huddles and raised voices – under loud conditions.

"We're trying to get our team to become a more focused team," DeMoss said. "We had had a couple of really good practices and we get in the game (Sunday), and we're doing things I haven't seen in a month."

Tennessee also will want to deploy its own pressing style.

"Pressing teams don't like to be pressed," DeMoss said. "They know we're going to throw some presses at them."

SEC ACTION: Five other SEC teams are on the court tonight in the following matchups: Alabama at Central Arkansas; Belmont at Auburn; Georgia at Georgia Southern; Jacksonville State at Kentucky; and Ole Miss at Lamar.

ODDS AND ENDS

This will be the first game ever between Tennessee and Miami. It will be the Lady Vols' 187th all-time opponent. Tennessee currently has a 37-game win streak at home. … Tennessee is 5-1 in games played on November 15. The last win on this date came against Chattanooga, 103-43, in 2010. The first win on this date was against Austin Peay, 80-59, in 1996. The lone loss on this date was against Purdue, 78-68, in 1998. … The State Farm Tipoff Classic is now held in conjunction with the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. This will be the Lady Vols' eighth appearance in the classic with the first showing in 1993. Those who will be inducted into the Class of 2012 are Lady Vol Olympian and All-American Nikki McCray Pinson; Nancy Fahey (Coach); Pamela McGee (Player), Inge Nissen (Player); Robin Roberts (Contributor), and Dawn Staley (Player). McGee will be introduced this evening. … The matchup between Tennessee and Miami will be only one of four games this regular season that feature teams that each have an AP Preseason All-America selection – a team of just five players – on their roster, Shenise Johnson for the Hurricanes and Shekinna Stricklen for the Lady Vols. Tennessee is involved in all four All-America matchups, as the Lady Vols also will face Baylor's Brittney Griner (Nov. 27); Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Dec. 20); and Notre Dame's Skyler Diggins (Jan. 23).


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