The Lady Vols will try to get back in the win column Saturday – but they face a stiff test against undefeated Oregon State in Corvallis. Go inside with InsideTennessee for the latest on the team.
Tennessee (7-3) will play its final game before Christmas against Oregon State (8-0) and then take a break for the holidays. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. Eastern (TV: Pac-12 Networks) at Gill Coliseum.
The Lady Vols are coming off a 69-55 loss to Stanford on Wednesday and will face a top 10 Oregon State team ready to avenge a 74-63 loss to Knoxville a year ago when the Beavers also were undefeated.
The matchup is a homecoming for junior Jordan Reynolds, redshirt sophomore Mercedes Russell and sophomore Jaime Nared, who played her first game of the season against Stanford and showed poise and leadership after missing six weeks with a broken left hand. Nared left practice Friday with ice on her hand but early indicators are that she is OK.
Assistant coach Dean Lockwood prepared the scouting report for the Tennessee-Oregon State game. He took the time to answer some questions from the West Coast.
InsideTennessee: Tennessee will play in a hostile venue on this road trip. What is the benefit to the team?
Dean Lockwood: We want to get our mojo back, go into foreign territory as a team, get the job done, get out of there and really feel great and get the W. It’s going to be hard. That is much easier said than done. These opportunities right now, this is what you come to Tennessee for. Even though it’s far, far, far away from postseason, this has a postseason-type feel to it. You’re going far away, you’re playing two games and it’s a survive-and-advance mentality. Obviously, there is much more basketball to play, but we’ve got to get that (mojo).
IT: What are the challenges presented by Oregon State?
Lockwood: Oregon State is a great team – very smart and very efficient. They run their stuff very well. They have players who have really bought into their role, and they all want to be stars in their role. That’s a real credit to their team and to the players and coaches. They are gritty. They have got some toughness and resolve to them.
They are a team that has got some momentum from last year so they have their sights on going deeper into postseason play. They’ve established themselves. They are definitely a top 10 team and that’s a team that could get into the Final Four. Oregon State is good enough and plays well enough that they can be in that conversation.
IT: What has to happen for Tennessee to win?
Lockwood: Tremendous efficiency. We have got to go in there and be very efficient ourselves – taking care of the ball, getting good shots, maxing out our possessions. We have to be disruptive with what they’re doing because they are so good at what they do. We have got to bring great defensive pressure. This is another team that shoots the three well. We have really, really got to cut down on their threes and the quality of their threes. We have got to cut down on the quality of their threes.
We have got to be very efficient at the offensive end. We have got to play with an attack mentality and also play smart. That is key for us to do those two things together.
IT: The coaches were candid over the summer and in preseason about the team needing leadership from players and having a maturity level that needed to be addressed with some young-minded players and would be an in-season development. Obviously it’s just December, so those issues are still being addressed. But how frustrating is it to see some repeated incidents of lack of effort, such as jogging down court after missed shots or fouling as a result of not being committed to get low and defend?
Lockwood: It has been disappointing. We know we are capable of so much more in that department. We are continuing to demand it. We will shuffle lineups. Nobody’s job is safe. We are looking to put people on that floor who are committed all-out and are all in. They will make mistakes. That is part of the deal. But playing hard is a premium. It has been disappointing that we haven’t done that consistently.
We are looking to find that. Some of that is a lull of energy and toughness combined that you play with. We have to find that. But there is no one giving up here. There is no one shrugging their shoulders and flipping palms in the air and saying woe is us. We’re working, we’re digging, and we’re not stopping until we get what we’re looking for.
IT: What is the staff doing to address these issues with the team?
Lockwood: It starts in practice and our practices, for the most part, have been very competitive. We are watching more film now. Tape is a great teacher. As Pat used to say, ‘Tape doesn’t lie.’ We have a standard, and we are not settling. Anytime we see the standard, we will hold that up. And when we don’t see the standard, we’re quick to point that out as well.
It’s a two-sided thing. We want to catch them doing good things and praise them for it as the old educational ax goes, but at the same time, when it’s not happening, we’re not letting them go. That’s unacceptable effort, and we talk about it. It is a combination of things that we are trying to do to get our point across and here is the standard, and we are not settling for less.
IT: When things go wrong during the game, sometimes the team can tighten up and get rattled. What can the coaches do to help the players as this team evolves this season?
Lockwood: What you just described is, more than anything else, a confidence thing. I love the Bill Parcells quote. You have heard me use this: Confidence comes from demonstrated ability. That is where your greatest source of confidence comes from. We haven’t had one of those just breakout games. And players’ confidence can get a little rattled.
What we try and do is simplify. Do less but do it better. That is what we are trying to do in certain circumstances is not overload their circuit, try to keep them confident and get them to where they are comfortable and doing it well.