Lady Vols, Tar Heels to tangle

Tennessee and North Carolina both want to run, board and defend. Something has to give when the two teams square off Sunday afternoon. Go inside to get ready for the game.

No. 16/14 Tennessee (5-1) takes on No. 22 North Carolina (7-0) at 1 p.m. Eastern (TV: FSN) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Lady Vols will be off the hardwood for two weeks afterwards, as the next game is not until Dec. 16 at Texas, and the interim will be filled with a break for final exams and practice and sessions.

"We definitely want to come out Sunday and leave it all out on the floor for the best 40 minutes we can and then give our kids the opportunity to get prepared for finals," Assistant Coach Jolette Law said.

Law prepared the scouting report for the Tennessee-North Carolina game and saw a team very similar to the Lady Vols.

"Definitely," Law said. "We're going to have to control the boards. The team that wins the war on the boards and the fewest turnovers will probably win the game."

North Carolina has wins over Ohio State – with 21 turnovers – and Georgetown – with 35 turnovers. Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell has said miscues don't bother her. She wants her team playing up-tempo.

The box score with 35 turnovers definitely caught the eye of Law.

"In most coaches' minds that would be like, ‘Oh, my God,' but Sylvia is OK with that," Law said. "She wants them to play fast. She wants them to get up and down and their goal is to get at least 100 possessions a game."

The Tar Heels average 22.1 turnovers a game. The Lady Vols average 16.7. Toss out the 26 at Chattanooga, which is looking more like an aberration, and Tennessee coughs up the ball just 14.8 times per game. In 25 minutes against Middle Tennessee – the second half and overtime – the Lady Vols lost the ball just four times.

"This is one of the first years that I have not put on the board or said anything about turnovers," Coach Holly Warlick said. I don't know if that matters or not. In practice we say you can't turn over the ball but I haven't before a game gone in there and said, ‘We have to limit our turnovers.'

"I have been wanting to put it on the board, and I haven't. I don't know if that's helped or not. I hope it has."

Turnovers make Warlick want to pull out her hair, sometimes literally. A lazy pass or loose handles will get Warlick storming down the sideline. She cares very much about taking care of the ball.

"Yes, I do," Warlick said. "I understand the value of the basketball. And the value of the basketball wins games for us. We're going to run, but we're going to make sure we value the basketball.

"She wants to run, run, run. We have a similar style but turnovers drive me crazy. That is all they want to do. There may be a total of 50 turnovers, but we're both going to run."

Hatchell also is expected to toss an assortment of defenses at Tennessee. Carson-Newman played an exhibition game in Chapel Hill before coming to Knoxville, and coach Mike Mincey mentioned the variety of looks the Tar Heels presented.

"They're pressing 94 feet," Law said. "They'll do a 1-2-1-1. They'll face guard, just not letting you get it. They'll do a full one-on-one man press. They'll do a 1-3-1 half-court trap and scramble out of it into a man.

"They will occasionally do some zones but they are looking to trap, press and make you play fast."

Warlick also wants to play fast, but she won't hesitate to switch styles if she sees the ball squirting all over the arena.

"We're going to play a style that gives us the best chance to win the game," Warlick said. "What I want to do and winning the game are two different things. If I see we are going to have to do something different, I am not too proud (to change).

"We want to win the game and then I am going to worry about it afterwards."

The coaches will be keeping an eye on the boards. Tennessee averages 45.3 rebounds a game. The Tar Heels average 50.7.

"Sometimes they'll send five to the boards," Law said, so part of her scouting report emphasized the need to box out.

"They are just very aggressive. What they want to do is try to make you play fast. They want to create a 40-minute game of chaos. They can press up to 94 feet, change up defenses, make us think.

"The main thing they want to do is get out and run in transition. They don't have to run a half-court offense. They want to run a transition offense, second-chance points, rebounding and make us turn the ball over."

Junior guard Meighan Simmons is intrigued by the game, not surprising since a premium is being placed on speed.

"I am expecting a very good game," Simmons said. "I've been waiting for us to play a team who actually gets out and runs. I know that is something that is going to test us to see where our mentality is as far as are we going to let down or are we going to fight back?

"I think it is going to be a very, very good game."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5-6 sophomore guard, No. 5, hails from Bolingbrook, Ill. (9.2 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game); Meighan Simmons, 5-9 junior guard, No. 10, hails from Cibolo, Texas (15.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 steals per game); Cierra Burdick, 6-2 sophomore forward, No. 11, hails from Charlotte, N.C. (7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg); Bashaara Graves, 6-2 freshman forward, No. 12, hails from Clarksville, Tenn. (15.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg); and Isabelle Harrison, 6-3 sophomore forward, No. 20, hails from Nashville, Tenn. (9.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.8 blocks per game).

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell is expected to start: Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, 5-10 senior guard, No. 44 (14.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.7 apg), hails from Alexandria, Va., tallied seven assists against Georgetown, was two-time Gatorade player of the year in Virginia, McDonald's and WBCA All-American in high school; Brittany Rountree, 5-9 sophomore guard, No. 11 (7.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg), hails from Jacksonville, Fla., has 17 steals this season, led The Potter's House Christian Academy to the 2010 NCSAA national championship in high school; Krista Gross, 6-0 senior guard/forward, No. 21 (7.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg), hails from Charlotte, N.C., grabbed 15 boards against Georgetown, WBCA All-American in high school; Xylina McDaniel, 6-2 freshman forward, No. 34 (11.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg), hails from Columbia, S.C., tallied 18 points and 12 boards against Davidson and earned ACC rookie of the week honors, South Carolina Gatorade player of the year, McDonald's and WBCA All-American in high school, daughter of NBA standout Xavier McDaniel; and Waltiea Rolle Sr., 6-6 senior center, No. 32 (12.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.0 bpg), hails from Nassau, Bahamas, swatted five blocks against Ohio State, WBCA All-American in high school.

Two key players off the bench are Megan Buckland, a 6-0 sophomore guard from High Point, N.C., and Danielle Butts, a 5-10 sophomore guard from Winterville, N.C. Both have played in all seven games for the Tar Heels. Buckland is shooting 50 percent (13-26) from behind the arc, and Butts averages 4.6 boards and has 10 steals.

MIKO MAKEOVER Kamiko Williams has been a difference maker for Tennessee in the past two games. The guard's talent has never been in question, but her orange career has been checkered with inconsistency. Holly Warlick has credited two assistants, Jolette Law and Kyra Elzy, with steering the senior's final season.

She feels like now, ‘Coach, you really think I can be good?' " Law said. "I said, ‘I am going to ask you a question. How good do you want to be? If I push you, it is not personal. If we push you as a staff, it's not personal.'

"I was like, ‘This is your last year. This is your last hurrah. You might as well leave it out on the floor.' We're just letting her know what we see. We show her positives, and we'll show her some negatives."

Law was the head coach at Illinois during Williams' first three years at Tennessee, so she had no firsthand experience with the player. Law instead went to the tape.

"I watched a lot of film on Kamiko and just pointed out a lot about her strengths," Law said. "I said, ‘You are a pro-sized guard, but you've got to be able to go longer than five minutes, 10 minutes. You've got to get yourself in condition.'

"Every week we watched film, sometimes two or three times a week."

Williams took it to the next level when she sat down with Law for some film study Thursday, the team's scheduled off day this week.

"She was in my office wanting to know about the scout," Law said.

Law smiled at the raised eyebrows of the media members who were interviewing her. That wasn't how Williams approached the game in her first three years on campus.

"She came by just to talk and then she saw me watching some film on North Carolina, and she wanted to watch so I showed her some things," Law said.

JOY FOR JOLETTE: When Jolette Law was dismissed as head coach at Illinois after the 2011-12 season ended, she was devastated and seriously considered a sabbatical away from the game.

But Holly Warlick came calling – with new hire Kyra Elzy also applying pressure – and Law decided to join the staff at Tennessee.

"I thank God daily," Law said. "Sometimes when a door closes he opens windows. I love it here. The environment. I love the kids. My passion for basketball never left me.

"God has called me to coach basketball. I am trying to instill those important values to those kids and continue to fight and continue to learn. That winning culture, fans in the stands, I am happy."

Law has a reputation as an outstanding recruiter – she hauled in top talent for C. Vivian Stringer at Rutgers – and she also enjoys teaching the game. With two weeks between contests after Sunday, practice will shift next week from preparing for an opponent to improving Tennessee.

"We'll have time to work on some things, put some new stuff in," Law said. "We have five (newcomers) so we have been going kind of slow. Now we'll put in some more defensive schemes and some more offenses."

GAME NOTES ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with North Carolina, 14-3. The Lady Vols are 6-0 in Knoxville with the last game on Dec. 2, 2007, at Thompson-Boling Arena, an 83-79 win for Tennessee. The Tar Heels had 57 rebounds in that game. … This will be the first televised game of the season for Tennessee. Fox Sports Net has the coverage, along with Fox Sports Tennessee, Fox Sports Carolinas and local station MyVLT. Going forward all games are on television except home contests with Davidson, Ole Miss and Auburn. Tennessee will show those three games via online webcast. … The Temptations Revue will sing the national anthem and perform at halftime. The tribute features Nate Evans, who performed alongside the original Temptations. Classic hits include "My Girl," "Just My Imagination," "Get Ready," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and "The Way You Do The Things You Do." … Coach Sylvia Hatchell has ties to East Tennessee. She is a 1974 graduate of Carson-Newman and earned a master's degree in physical education from Tennessee in 1975. She coached the UT junior varsity team in 1974-75, the first season for Pat Summitt as head coach at Tennessee.

INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE

Clips from Nov. 27, 2012, practice


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