The Lady Vols open their two-game West Coast road swing at Stanford on Wednesday evening, followed by Oregon State on Saturday. InsideTennessee talked to assistant coach Dean Lockwood, who handled the scouting report for both matchups. Go inside for the latest on the Lady Vols.
Tennessee (7-2) will square off against Stanford (6-2) on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern (TV: ESPNU). Both teams played their last game on the road. The Lady Vols are coming off a 58-51 win over Wichita State, while Stanford fell to Texas, 77-69, a team that also beat Tennessee.
Assistant coach Dean Lockwood chatted by phone with InsideTennessee to answer questions about the upcoming matchup with Stanford.
InsideTennessee: Tennessee has taken some great teams on the road to Stanford, including ones with Candace Parker and Glory Johnson, yet it’s been 10 years since the Lady Vols last won in Palo Alto, California, dating to Dec. 4, 2005. Why is it so hard to win at Maples Pavilion?
Dean Lockwood: First of all, you have got to credit Stanford. They have had some terrific teams – the Ogwumike sisters were part of those wins. They were just outstanding players, dominant players. They were always up to play Tennessee, and we got their best game. I don’t remember Stanford ever playing poorly and beating us. They played very well, and it’s a credit to them.
It’s a tough environment. You’ve got a full house of predominantly Stanford fans. It really challenges you mentally, as well as physically. It’s like any home court advantage in any sport. They’re up for it. You know it’s one of the circled games on their schedule. It’s going to be tough. It’s a challenge.
IT: What has to happen for Tennessee to end the losing streak in Maples?
Lockwood: It never hinges on one thing. We are definitely going to have to defend well. We are going to have to be somewhat disruptive of what Stanford does and particularly their multiple ball screening actions. They do so much off of that. That’s important.
Lili Thompson, their leading scorer (19.5 ppg), we’ve got to keep her in check. We’ve got to guard the arc. They are making 10 threes a game, shooting about 24. We have got to defend the arc well. They are going to shoot some. We have to define the quality of shot and not let them get great looks. That’s important.
Rebounding, too. It’s a Tennessee thing. There is a reason Pat (Summitt) clung to that philosophy for 38 years: Rebounding is a huge factor in determining outcomes many times. We definitely have got to keep them from getting second-shot opportunities, and we’ve got to dig up a few of our own.
From the offensive end, we’ve got to take care of the ball. You can’t turn the ball over against good teams, let alone on the road and in a tough environment. We have to limit our turnovers. And we have to get good shots. Our shot selection has to continue to improve.
IT: Speaking of rebounding, Bashaara Graves has 847 career boards and needs 11 to pass Daedra Charles Furlow for 14th place on Tennessee’s all-time list. She’s also within range of the top 10 list with Nicky Anosike (914) and Bridgette Gordon (915). Granted, Daedra played three years, but Bashaara is closing in fairly early in her fourth year. Those are legendary names. What does that say about Bashaara’s efforts right now?
Lockwood: It’s a tremendous list and record. It speaks to Bashaara’s continued work ethic and her drive to be a good rebounder for us. She came in knowing that was a strength, and even when she has had offensive struggles, she has tried to make that a constant and contribute that way.
That is one of her trademarks for four years. We are just so proud of her. She is really starting to assert herself and play with the urgency of a senior who is on a mission. We just need to get more on that side of the fence. It’s really a credit to her work and her toughness. Bashaara is a tough kid.
IT: Bashaara Graves has returned to beast mode. How timely has her resurgence been?
Lockwood: Words cannot adequately convey how much it’s needed for this team. She is one of the players right now that we point to as a coaching staff privately and in front of our team and say: This is how we play. We need this type of effort.
Bashaara is giving all right now. She is giving every calorie of energy. Every fiber of her being is pouring into games, and you can see it. I don’t know soccer. I really don’t know the sport. But if you put me at a soccer match to watch, I can tell you who is putting out and who’s not. That is what Bashaara is doing right now. She is really putting out for this team, and we respect her for it. We need to have more people come to her side of the fence that way.
IT: Andraya Carter emerged as a difference-maker against Wichita State. Her defense and board play are never in question, but she has been offensively passive. However, she led from the point guard position, was a significant factor in the outcome and scored. Can she sustain that mind-set?
Lockwood: We hope she can. We really hope she can. Andraya has really been defending well, and she is drawing the toughest (perimeter) assignments. She has been doing that so well and so effectively. Her energy? I put her right there with Bashaara. Those are the two kids, right now, we don’t question them. Day to day, game to game, they are bringing it.
The real bright spot for us against Wichita State is that Andraya stepped up and made some offensive plays. That was really big for us. So, we hope that she can continue to do that – bring that defense and rebounding. She is playing point guard for us right now so her offensive rebounding might go down a little bit. (Carter keeps possessions alive with her ability to tip the ball over opposing posts to her teammates, but in the point guard spot, she will more often be at the top of the floor or on the perimeter and will be the first one back on defense.)
That’s part of the tradeoff. But she’s given us a lot of stability at that point position right now. Her energy and her resolve, that’s what we need. We have got to go to that well and find more water in that well that they’re drinking from.
IT: What are the biggest takeaways from Wichita State?
Lockwood: To put it in plain language, we have not been playing hard enough defensively. We have not been playing with the traditional Tennessee toughness that we have come to expect and our fans and people who have watched this program over the years. That has been evident. We are not rebounding (as a team) with the same energy and toughness that Tennessee kids rebound. Those two staples, we’re behind right now. We’re not where we need to be.
On the offensive end, we haven’t taken care of the ball. The biggest thing is our possessions. We can’t have a lot of empty possessions. That’s been plaguing us. We have had so many turnovers. It’s a little bit like household income. For most of us, there is the limit to that. You have got so much money and if you squander it, you’re going to be in a hole. That is what happens to us at times. We squander possessions, and we’re in a hole.
We’ve got to be much more efficient. We’ve got to play with greater toughness and determination on the defensive end.
IT: Andraya Carter has earned the start at point guard based on her fourth quarter play against Wichita State. But Te’a Cooper and Jordan Reynolds also need to play major roles.
Lockwood: We haven’t locked in. But the way we practiced today, I think you are going to see her (Carter) at the point. We’ve got Te’a and Jordan, and we need those players to produce for us. But right now, Draya seems to have the greatest comfort and command of the position. She understands what we are doing from a strategic and schematic standpoint, and she also is very poised and composed. Those two factors have made her the odds-on favorite for right now.
IT: Who else is expected to start?
Lockwood: We have not set the full starting lineup for (Wednesday) night. Holly (Warlick) is still mulling that over. We are going to talk more as a staff about that. There is no lineup set in stone. It’s who earning it and who’s earning our trust and Holly’s trust in particular. That is huge. Starting is a privilege that has to be earned.