Combine ingredients, add an enthusiastic crowd of 15,409 eager to see the Lady Vols after a long road trip, and it added up to a box score of post-Christmas presents for Tennessee.
Tennessee (8-3) rolled over Old Dominion (3-10) in the last game of 2011.
"I was pleased," Head Coach Pat Summitt said. "We played hard on both ends of the floor. Overall, I thought we did some nice things and got minutes for a lot of people."
The Lady Vols will start conference play on the first day of 2012 at Auburn.
"Opening up SEC play at Auburn is going to be a real challenge for us," Summitt said. "Auburn is tough, and I know Nell (Fortner) is going to have them ready to play.
"Could we have been better than our 8-3 record heading into conference play? Probably. But right now we have to move forward and focus on what is coming up in the SEC."
Summitt received a gift at shoot-around before the game from former Lady Vol Chamique Holdsclaw who collected letters to the head coach from former players and bound them into a book.
Several former Lady Vols were in attendance from Sidney Spencer (2003-07) to Michelle Marciniak (1993-96) to Cindy Boggs (1974-75).
Carla McGhee (1986-90) also was in town for the gift presentation, but she had leave before the game because she is an assistant coach at Auburn and is not allowed by NCAA rules to scout an opponent in person.
The current team then went out and played as if they wanted Summitt to have time afterwards to read the letters rather than fret over breakdowns on the game film.
Tennessee dominated in every category in the box score from rebounds (54-32) to points in the paint (46-8) to assists (26 to 8) to steals (16 to 3) to points off turnovers (26 to 1) to bench points (34 to 4).
"We focused tonight on, ‘It was about Tennessee. It was about what was across our chest,' " Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "We really focused on getting better. The last two days in practice we really concentrated on our defense, and I thought tonight our defense was outstanding."
The Lady Vols showed various defenses after opening in man and then worked on the matchup zone and presses.
"I think our 2-3 looked pretty good," senior forward Glory Johnson said. "Most teams go into their 2-3 when they're tired, but we want our 2-3 to be as aggressive as our man-to-man defense, and when teams hate when we go into our 2-3, I think we're doing a really great job."
A different starting lineup also debuted for Tennessee. Junior guard Taber Spani was already out because of a sore left knee that has kept her out of practice this week. Senior guard/forward Alicia Manning was rewarded for her recent play and practice, especially on the glass.
Summitt announced the change before tipoff, and it surprised Manning.
"It was my call for her to start," Summitt said. "Alicia has been such a team player and a productive player for us that it was time to reward her.
"It was all her; she earned her starting assignment tonight. A-Town is such a workhorse."
Manning grabbed a career-high 15 boards – seven on the offensive end off teammates' misses.
"Rebounding is a lot of heart and effort, and that's what Alicia Manning has," Warlick said. "She had two really good days of practice, and we felt like she deserved to get the start.
"She's relentless, and that's what you want players to be. She's an overachiever. She's relentless. As I've said, boards are just effort. Fifteen boards is outstanding for her, but that's her game and that's what we love about her game."
In addition to her board work, Manning tallied nine points, six steals, five assists and zero turnovers.
That is a great night," Summitt said.
Manning was assisted on the highlight play of the game late in the second half. She got the defensive board and passed ahead to Briana Bass, who went behind the back with the right hand to Cierra Burdick, who went behind the back with the left to Manning, who was trailing the play.
Manning hit the layup and ended up sprawled on the baseline after the foul as the Lady Vols bench erupted in celebration. She hit the free throw to complete the three-point play for the 90-37 lead with 44 seconds remaining in the game.
That turned out to be the final as ODU missed two jumpers, and Burdick got the rebound and passed to Bass, who dribbled out the clock deep in the backcourt.
The assist to Manning was the ninth for Burdick in the game, part of 26 helpers for Tennessee on 37 baskets, with five each from Manning and Ariel Massengale.
Massengale returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the Texas game on Dec. 4 – also the last time Tennessee played at home – after she suffered a finger dislocation in practice on Dec. 8.
"Great to have Ariel back in the starting lineup," Summitt said. "Absolutely. She is on her way to being completely healthy. When you have a player like Ariel, she just sees the floor so well and is so unselfish."
Massengale also got in the scoring column early by hitting three treys in the first half.
"Tonight, they left her open a couple of times, and she can knock down shots," Summitt said.
Massengale did what she does best – she got Tennessee's running game in gear early with the beneficiaries being anyone who ran the floor with her. She swiped the ball on ODU's end and fired a long pass to Johnson that settled into her hands right at the rim, and Johnson easily converted the layup.
"It's what we want to do," Warlick said. "If we can score in transition, that's what we want to do and that's what she does very well.
"We want to score off our turnovers. We want to score off our defense, getting turnovers. We want to get in transition off made baskets. That's what we do.
"Massengale gets it and she goes, and everyone runs with her. That's the style of play we want to play."
Manning and Massengale also were on the same page early as Massengale drove and found Manning open on the baseline and on the next possession Manning drove and then passed out to Massengale. Both hit the assisted shots.
It is a style of play well suited to both Manning, who will hustle at all times on the court, and Johnson, a high school sprint champion who is difficult to cover in the open court.
"I love it," Manning said. "That's my kind of game: getting up and down the floor, not having to set up plays, just playing basketball.
"I think last year a lot of times we hurt in that department, and since we picked up this girl, it's been looking really nice for us," said Manning, who was speaking at the post-game press conference and patted Massengale on the back.
The game started a tad slow for Tennessee – two missed jumpers from Meighan Simmons, one from Shekinna Stricklen and another from Johnson. Stricklen rebounded Johnson's miss, got fouled and hit both free throws.
"I definitely thought as a team we stepped up, and I was really happy with our play at the very beginning because Tennessee is such a big place to play and it's really big time," Cook said.
"I was really proud of how we stepped up and played from the very start. We just couldn't finish and didn't play the full 40 minutes, but I was happy with how we started."
Stricklen's offensive board was a sign of things to come – ODU, even with the 6'4 Vicki Baugh coming off the bench, couldn't physically match the Lady Vols inside.
"We rushed, missed a lot of shots, and offseason training is going to be important for us because we see the physical play," ODU Coach Karen Barefoot said. "I really felt they really dominated all the way around. They look stronger to me than last year on tape. It was hard for us to match their strength and intensity on the boards."
Barefoot and Cook also saw a difference with Tennessee on tape when Massengale was on the court.
"She is so aggressive," Barefoot said. "Jackie and I were just talking about it. Down the stretch she really took over and the rebounding was one thing we couldn't match, the strength, the physical play."
Cook led ODU with 13 points. Senior forward Tia Lewis, who entered the game averaging 18.1 points, was a focal point inside for the Lady Vols' defense. Lewis was held to six first-half points and got just two more after the break.
"They (the post players) are so strong, and we didn't match them physically," Cook said. "We had great shots and just missed some easy shots but down the stretch they will fall for us and tonight they didn't."
Barefoot is trying to rebuild a once-storied ODU program that had epic battles with Tennessee, especially in the 1990s, dominated the Colonial Athletic Association and made regular appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
"Right now we have a lot of young players, but we are very confident," said Barefoot, a former Lady Monarchs assistant.
ODU's home court, the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., is a host site for first/second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
"I have yet to play in the first round of an NCAA Tournament and having that at our home court is amazing," said Cook, who is a junior. "We are definitely going to get a chance to do that this year."
Barefoot had success as a head coach, her last stop was Elon University, before taking the helm at ODU last spring.
"ODU has a great tradition, and I really have a lot of respect for Pat Summitt," Barefoot said. "Seventeen years ago when I was 22 years old, I had an opportunity to be a young head coach, a college coach, and didn't know what to do and I wrote a letter to her not thinking I would get a response.
"She wrote back saying all these positive things and for me, to play here and play against her, thank you isn't enough to say for what she has done for me 17 years ago. She really gave me a positive message saying to go out there and teach and be a life coach and that changed my life.
"Seventeen years later I'm a Virginia girl and at Old Dominion, and I know the rivalry between both. I'm really excited about getting this program built to the top, and we as a staff are going to continue to work hard. I thought it was a great experience for a lot of our younger kids tonight."
The Lady Vols, on the other hand, have been in every NCAA tourney it began in 1982, but are trying to reach their first Final Four since 2008. They also were coming off a loss to Stanford, something the coaches had five days to chew on over the Christmas break.
"They were embarrassed," Warlick said. "I said this earlier: We were a good team and Stanford was a great team. We've got to match their intensity. They were frustrated, as the coaches were."
"Yeah, there's a chip on our shoulder, but I think there's always a chip on our shoulder and target on our back," Manning said. "Knowing that we've got to come into every game no matter what the competition is and play hard, and that's what we did tonight.
"It felt good. Everyone got to play. Everyone got good solid minutes. The scoring was pretty spread out. That's what makes a good team."
Tennessee was down to just nine available players so one starter had to be on the floor throughout the game. Manning logged the most minutes at 29. Stricklen, who averaged 37.1 minutes over the four road games, checked in at just 24 against ODU with eight points, four boards, two steals and a block.
Tennessee didn't need much from the All-American because everyone contributed – five players were in double figures, three starters and two off the bench – and Vicki Baugh got back on track.
"It was good to see Vicki play the way she did tonight," Summitt said. "She hasn't been playing as well as I know she'd like to, and it was good to see her attack the glass and rebound."
The fifth-year player shouldered the blame for the loss at Stanford and responded off the bench with 11 points and 12 rebounds in just 23 minutes of play with two assists and two blocks.
I knew (Summitt) was going to get them fired up for sure after that loss," Barefoot said. "I thought overall they had a great team effort. We started off strong but we missed some baskets and all of a sudden they really took over and had a lot of people contribute tonight."
Tennessee took the lead after Manning grabbed an offensive board and kicked the ball out to Stricklen, who buried the 15-footer for a 7-6 score at the 17:15 mark, and the Lady Vols never trailed again.
Manning and Massengale traded baskets after finding each other for a 12-8 lead and then the ball moved from Massengale to Johnson and back to Massengale for a 15-8 lead at the 15:18 mark of the first half, and an ODU timeout.
But Massengale had hit her stride on both ends and the Lady Vols were pesky on defense and efficient on offense. They scored in the paint, in transition and off turnovers. Even when ODU got a stop, the Lady Vols didn't let up.
A Lady Monarch got a defensive rebound near the baseline and was triple teamed. She tried to pass out of it, the ball was tipped, and Johnson scooped it up and scored the layup for a 25-10 lead with 9:22 left before halftime.
Baugh entered at the 7:42 mark and scored on a drive and floater for a 30-14 lead. Johnson finished an and-one play – she appeared to travel after likely being fouled, too – for a 33-14 lead. Baugh led the break on the next possession and hit Simmons for a layup and 35-14 lead. Isabelle Harrison followed up with a layup of her own for a 37-17 lead at the 3:20 mark.
Then, a hard foul against Baugh sent her to the line. She made the first for a 38-17 lead and missed the second, but Harrison grabbed the board and tossed the ball to Simmons for a short jumper and a 40-17 lead.
A nice in-bounds pass from Burdick to Baugh resulted in a layup and a 42-17 lead and then Briana Bass nailed a three for a 45-19 lead, which delighted the crowd.
Tennessee called timeout with 32 seconds left before halftime and Simmons stroked a three in the corner on a designed play. Simmons then forced a travel on the ODU in-bound, and Burdick found Baugh again for a layup at the buzzer and a 50-20 lead at the break.
The second half was more of the same with the coaches working on the press defenses early, which disrupted ODU, and then backing off with the game well in hand. Defense had been the buzzword since practice resumed Monday.
"Just overall team defense," Warlick said. "They responded. We got after it. We were aggressive. We were not aggressive in the Stanford game on the ball. I thought we did a total 180 as far as what we can do as far as pressuring the basketball and taking people out of how they play.
"That's the type of defense and that's the type of Tennessee team we have to be to win, regardless of our opponent. Regardless if they're ranked No. 1 or whatever. We've got to bring our game. We've built this program on defense and rebounding."
The 30-point halftime lead grew to 40 when Harrison hit a layup on a pass from Burdick with 10:46 left to play and reached 50 on yet another Burdick-to-Harrison feed for an 87-37 lead with 1:06 left. That was followed by the double behind-the-back play to Manning and the final score.
Cook was the only Lady Monarch to reach double figures with 13 points on 5-10 shooting. Ashley Betz-White added nine, and Lewis had eight. Lewis led the team with eight rebounds while four players, Cook, Betz-White, Guilford and Myeisha Hall, had four boards each.
ODU shot 25.4 percent (15-59) overall, 25.0 percent (4-16) from the arc and 50.0 percent (3-6) from the line. The Lady Monarchs had 23 turnovers, eight assists, three blocks and two steals.
Tennessee had five players in double figures led by Johnson with 16 points. Baugh and Massengale tallied 11 each, while Simmons added 12 points and Harrison chipped in with 10.
Three Lady Vols reached double figures in boards led by Manning's 15, 12 from Baugh and 11 from Johnson.
Tennessee shot 49.3 percent (37-75) overall, 35.3 percent (6-17) from the arc and 71.4 percent (10-14) from the line. The Lady Vols had 26 assists, 11 turnovers, 16 steals and five blocks.
While the offensive stats were impressive, it was defense that the coaches were really seeking.
"We recruit these kids, and they're great offensive players," Warlick said. "When they get here, we're turning them into defensive players and we're asking them to be outstanding on the boards.
"Yesterday, we only spent maybe 30 minutes on our offensive end, and I thought from the beginning, it was a little rusty but we have scorers on the team – we just have to get them to play both ends. That's been our emphasis, and I thought we did that tonight."
Tuesday's practice session wasn't typical of one the day before a game. It was lengthy and full court and the 0-5 mark from the arc in the second half after starting the game 6-12 may have been the result of legs getting tired.
But the sting of the Stanford loss set the tone for the two practices after Christmas, and the staff wanted to emphasize the defensive side of the ball.
"I like a game like this because we're working on ourselves," Johnson said. "We're working on ourselves as a team, and we're trying to get better.
"We're working on our defense. Our defense in man, playing one-on-one and our 3-2, our 2-3. We're trying to make it so it's not easy to catch in the middle of the floor and our presses, too.
"If we can press teams for the majority of the game, we're going to be successful."
INSIDE TENNESSEE'S TAKE
What a difference Ariel Massengale makes.
Anyone wondering if the Lady Vols missed the freshman point guard on its recent road swing got the answer, even against an overmatched opponent in Old Dominion.
She set the tone from the beginning on both ends – called the plays, got the ball where it needed to go, got the team in its defenses and, for good measure, hit all three trey attempts for nine quick points.
A play very early in the game underscored how Massengale approaches the point position. The ball was on the right side of the court, and Manning had popped free on the baseline on the left side and had her arm up calling for the ball.
Massengale, who didn't have the ball yet, was on the opposite baseline but saw Manning with a quick glance. She headed to the top of the court, got the ball from the wing, drove to pull the defense to her, which had sagged a bit to the basket, and fired the ball across the paint to Manning, who stuck the baseline shot.
"Massengale, as you can see, she knows who to give the ball to at the right time," Holly Warlick said. "I keep saying this: That's the sign of the point guard. You can't teach that, and that's what she does."
Massengale played 21 minutes and tallied 11 points, five assists and zero turnovers. She has played in just eight games for Tennessee – and she barely played against Stanford after missing two weeks on the court with a grotesquely dislocated finger – and has 41 assists to just 15 turnovers.
Despite the time off the court – she also missed three weeks in preseason because of a concussion, sat out the scrimmages and played with her new teammates for the first time in the exhibition game – Massengale immediately took charge Wednesday on both ends.
"She's not in the best condition because she had to sit out, but she still hasn't lost it mentally," Warlick said. "She's still got that mental game. If you sit out, you don't lose that."
Warlick, a former Lady Vol point guard, can't help but smile when she talks about Massengale. When Pat Summitt announced Massengale was the starter last season – at the time the Bolingbrook, Ill., teenager was in high school – Warlick just smiled and said to wait and watch her play and then it would make sense.
Whatever gifts the basketball gods bestow on point guards, Massengale got them in abundance.
"I think she just brings us a lot of confidence on the offensive end, and she makes sure we're getting in the right defensive sets," Warlick said. "So we're very confident with her. Our team's very confident and relies on her to lead, and that's what she does."
Massengale also is humble. Questions asked about her and her ability are followed with short answers.
She also is fearless. Despite the wrap on the fingers on her left hand – she was in a cast two weeks ago – Massengale didn't think twice about diving on the floor for loose balls.
"I didn't," she said. "Once the adrenaline gets going, things like that don't affect you."
She did get animated when asked if she was done with injuries with the ending of the year 2011.
"And 2012!" Massengale said. "Every time we step on the court we just go out there and play hard, and sometimes things happen, but everything happens for a reason. Through all situations you just have to learn from it."
She got a pat on the back at the post-game press conference from Alicia Manning, who has a keen appreciation for hustle and unselfish play. Manning got her first start of the season Wednesday and was asked what her priorities were for the game.
"I was trying to get Bree as many shots as she could get," Manning said, referring to fellow senior Briana Bass.
The remark drew laughter, but Manning was serious.
"I mean really I was," Manning said. "I love Bree. She's such a great player, great attitude. I wanted that for her, so that was one of them."
Bass was 3-8 and tallied nine points. Every shot attempt gets the Lady Vol bench players up and ready to celebrate, and some of the loudest applause Wednesday was for Bass' makes. She is undersized but her effort has not waned – the coaches note she is one of the hardest workers on the team – during her four-year career, and Bass is admired by her teammates for her work ethic and attitude.
Manning got the start because of her practice habits and her knack for getting on the boards and never giving up on a play. The ball pin-wheeled about the paint and perimeter several times, especially in the first half, and Manning always seemed to come up with it. In the second half she swiped the ball four times to finish with six steals for the game.
Manning also will engage in the scrums in the post, especially if a rebound needs to be plucked.
"Alicia Manning is out there helping us on the boards," Glory Johnson said. "She plays a little bit of everything, and then when she's in there with the posts, she lets people know she's in there, is a dominant presence in the paint.
"We love that, and we love Ariel Massengale getting us the ball."
Massengale has a knack for finding Johnson, especially in transition – they connected on a football pass on fast break – and in the paint, where Johnson can sometimes feel like a pinball as she collides with larger bodies.
Johnson was 6-12 from the field with 11 boards to complete the double-double.
Another positive for the Lady Vols in this game was the play of the other two freshmen – Isabelle Harrison and Cierra Burdick. Harrison had struggled on the road, but she brought energy to this game and was back to how she played in November – active on both ends.
Burdick is offensively polished and makes very good decisions with the ball. She had nine assists – two to Vicki Baugh on well-executed in-bounds plays made easier, of course, by the 6'4 mobile post getting little resistance inside – and is also unselfish on the court.
Burdick's learning curve is on defense – she can get rooted to the floor and lose the ball – but that is not uncommon for freshmen and an off-season with Heather Mason to build upper body strength will do her good. Same goes for Harrison.
Baugh recovered from an abysmal game at Stanford and energized the team on both ends.
"Something that you have to look at Vicki Baugh is when she's on the floor, she tries her hardest," Johnson said. "If she gets in foul trouble, that might affect her game a little bit, but whenever she's out there she's going to determine the game."
That is an accurate statement. Baugh's presence on the court is as important as Massengale's. The two are catalysts, one on the inside, one on the outside.
"Sitting on the sidelines was no fun, and so just to be back out here with my teammates, it was a great feeling," Massengale said.
This was an overmatched opponent, but the value of Massengale and Baugh can't be overstated.
If the Lady Vols intend to get to Denver, they need the poise of the point guard and the energy of the post. Johnson is a better player when Massengale and Baugh perform at a high level. Johnson gets the ball where she can score, and has help in the paint, especially on the glass.
Manning again made the case for more minutes. Tennessee is still seeking a defensive identity, and Manning comes ready made with one – relentless effort.
After the loss at Stanford, the reclamation project began on defense. Wednesday's game was a step forward for the entire team.
Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick
Glory Johnson, Ariel Massengale, Alicia Manning
ODU Coach Karen Barefoot, Jackie Cook