The Lady Vols’ West Coast road trip got off to a sour start with a 69-55 loss to Stanford, but Tennessee found a gamer – and starter – in Jamie Nared. Go inside for the latest on the Lady Vols.
Tennessee (7-3) continued its losing streak at Maples Pavilion – the Lady Vols last won in Palo Alto in 2005 – but managed to cut a 21-point lead to seven points in the fourth quarter thanks to the play of sophomore Jaime Nared against Stanford (7-2).
The Lady Vols started Nared, who made her season debut after breaking her hand in practice in October. That a rusty Nared earned a start is an indicator of a coaching staff unhappy with overall effort within the regular starting pool.
Nared tallied 12 points and connected on two three-pointers. Nared picked up two fouls in the first quarter, but sparked the Lady Vols in the fourth quarter despite missing the last seven weeks because of her hand.
“I’m not using that as an excuse at all,” Nared said.
The issues that have plagued Tennessee this season – poor shot selection and freelancing on offense – were in abundance for the first three quarters.
Coach Holly Warlick noted off-balance shots – “we are just hoping they go in” – and a tendency to go off script on the offensive end. Diamond DeShields, Te’a Cooper and Jordan Reynolds shot a combined 8-29 against Stanford with two attempts for Reynolds (one point from the line), 11 attempts for Cooper (four points) and 16 for DeShields (12 points), and it’s become a pattern. All three can be capable scorers – and defenders – but they haven’t been able to get on track this season.
Post players Mercedes Russell and Bashaara Graves, meanwhile, got just six attempts each and tallied seven and 10 points, respectively.
“Instead of doing our own thing, stick to what we want, and we will put you in position to win the game,” Warlick said. “We are not taking good shots.”
Tennessee trailed by six points, 17-11, after the first quarter after shooting 29 percent to Stanford’s 58 percent. The Cardinal took advantage of the Lady Vols’ focus on the arc by getting to the paint. By halftime, Stanford had extended the lead to 35-20 with 20 of the Cardinal’s points coming in the paint. The Lady Vols guarded the arc – Stanford was 0-5 from long range before halftime – but the Cardinal found its scoring punch inside and via midrange jumpers.
The Lady Vols, meanwhile, shot 26 percent from the field before the break, while Stanford stayed hot at 52 percent and prevailed on the glass, 22-15, in the first 20 minutes.
Andraya Carter got the start at point guard but opened 0-3 from the field, and, as is her wont, got tentative on offense. She would finish 1-5 for the game.
As a team, the Lady Vols shot 20-63 (31.7 percent) for the game, while Stanford connected at 50 percent (24-48). Tennessee was out-rebounded, 42-31, a particularly galling stat for a team in orange.
The offensive woes were accompanied by breakdowns in man defense.
“We couldn’t keep anybody in front of us,” Warlick said.
Tennessee did guard the arc. The Cardinal were 2-11 from long range, well under their average of nine makes a game. The Lady Vols also had a very manageable 14 turnovers, though critical ones in the fourth quarter snuffed out any chance to steal a win on the road.
“I loved our fight,” Warlick said. “We didn’t quit. We kept clawing. I’ll take that. That is a sign of what we can do.”
Preseason issues of lack of leadership and relative immaturity haven’t been obscured in wins or losses, and it’s been magnified by a roster gutted by injury. Some players who needed some pine time have been on the court for extended minutes because of availability, not performance.
Tennessee has plenty of time to fix it – and getting some players healthy who will go hard is a start – but it’s going to take significant work on the part of the coaches and players to get the team in sync.
“We have just got to get a lot better,” Warlick said. “We played well in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter should be our standard.”
Nared is willing to meet that standard, and she should log extended minutes as she is ready for them. Nared played 22 minutes against Stanford and ratcheted up the intensity when she was in the game, an impressive feat for a player making her sophomore debut. As far as the fourth quarter surge, Nared called it “unacceptable” not to play that way all the time.
“There is so much talent on this team,” Nared said. “We have to learn to play together. Play hard. There is no excuse. You’ll see a better team coming off this game. I can assure you of that.”