Defense on display in Lady Vols victory Sunday

After a demanding week of practice, Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt was pleased with what she saw out of her team in its final exhibition game Sunday – a 77-36 win over the West Coast All-Stars - before the regular season tips off. <p> Rebounding, defensive intensity and physical play all earned nods of approval from the coach. Free-throw shooting, turnovers and fouls on the "help" defense brought frowns.

"I thought this past week what we concentrated on you could see today the improvement in our defensive intensity," Summitt said. "We spent a lot of time working on defense. For the most part with the exception of fouling too much on help – we gave up some dribble drives – all in all I thought our half-court defense was pretty solid."

Seniors Loree Moore and Shyra Ely led all scorers with 14 points each. Ely, who also had six rebounds, scored 34 points in the two exhibition games. Moore was perfect from the floor Sunday – 4-4 field goals; 2-2 three pointers – and had four assists and three steals.

"I guess I was on today," Moore said in the post-game press conference. "I can't really explain it, but I was looking for open shots (and) also transition is a good opportunity for me to score so I kind of take advantage of that."

Moore drew words of praise from the opposing coach, Jerry Gatewood, who is also the father of Lady Vol freshman Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood.

"I think Loree did a great job of trying to stop me from dictating tempo," Gatewood said. "But when she had to take a blow, no one else on the floor could change the tempo of the game. I think when Loree Moore goes out of the game, they should go to a little more half-court game and just pound it inside and go inside-outside and then get wide-open jump shots because everybody can shoot the ball on the team."

Free-throw shooting continued to be problematic. Tennessee was 16-28 in Sunday's game for 57.1 percent. Combined in the two exhibition games, UT was 27-51 for 52.9 percent.

"I'm very disappointed in our free-throw shooting," Summitt said. "We took away a lot of opportunities to press. We have to get better there. We will address that, because that takes us out of our full-court pressure."

Tennessee had the press called "a number of times," Summitt said, but a missed free throw throws a wrench in the plan because the Lady Vols can't pressure the ball out of bounds.

Tennessee turned the ball over 17 times – compared to only seven times in the first exhibition game. Summitt said the team occasionally "forced the action" and got "overanxious in our transition at times," but she attributed that to the quickness of the All-Stars, especially at the guard positions.

LaShaunda Fowler, who played at Cal State Northridge, is still ranked No. 3 at the school in steals (198) and holds nine individual Big Sky track and field titles. She had two steals against the Lady Vols and did an excellent job pressuring the ball. Her backcourt partner, Mauri Horton (Rutgers) also had two steals and pitched in 10 points.

Tennessee won the rebounding battle, 51-34. Alexis Hornbuckle led the team with eight – four offensive, four defensive – and was followed by Tye'sha Fluker, who had seven, with five coming on the defensive end. All-Stars forward Tynecia Pam, who played for Temple last year, had 12 rebounds to go with 10 points.

The West Coast All-Stars varied their defensive sets and allowed Tennessee to match its offense against a zone.

"They gave us some different looks," Summitt said. "Their guards played very quick. They defended the back doors very well. … They're a quick team. They're a lot quicker than the team we faced a week ago. We were careless at times and forced the offense a little bit."

Tennessee's motion offense allowed for some clean looks at basket from 3-point territory. Senior Brittany Jackson was 2-3. Junior Shanna Zolman had an off night from long range and was 1-5. As a team, Tennessee hit seven three-pointers. They nailed 10 in the exhibition opener last week against Carson-Newman.

"We have more 3-point shooters than we've ever had on the floor that I would trust to shoot 3s," Summitt said. "Obviously we're committed to that, but I told them at halftime I wanted to go inside more. We wanted to be a little more patient and reverse the basketball. But I think this team will put up about what you've seen in these first two games (as far as 3s)."

The Lady Vols have a number of players who can consistently hit the 3. Summitt cited Sidney Spencer, Loree Moore, Dominique Redding, Brittany Jackson and Shanna Zolman. Add Shyra Ely and Alexis Hornbuckle to the mix, and that's a lot of shooters.

"From that standpoint, I think we have more weapons from behind the arc," she said.

As far as the play of the centers, Summitt was pleased with the performance of Fluker, except for her free-throw shooting (5-9), because Fluker is usually an excellent shooter from the line. Fluker played 25 minutes, scored 11 points and had three blocks without committing a single foul.

"You look at the minutes she played, and that was the question I had: Can she play quality basketball and keep herself in the game and not foul?" Summitt said. "When you look at what she did, all in all I am pleased. Her defense has improved (as has) her ability to sustain a certain level of play."

Fluker's play in the first two exhibition games has been so efficient that Summitt has called off the "Tye watch" from the bench. "After about three minutes last season, it was like, ‘You'd better get her out,' " Summitt said. "We had a Tye watch on the bench to get her out. We don't have that right now."

Fluker's backup at the center position was Nicky Anosike, who played 11 minutes and fouled out. Despite that Summitt is pleased with her freshman's tenacity in the paint. Summitt has always said she never wants to have to coach effort. That is not an issue with Anosike.

"I think sometimes she presses a little bit, invests a lot in the game and plays all out," Summitt said. "She's one of our best help defenders, and she picked up a couple of fouls there. I think she just has to learn how to settle down, give the help and not foul on help. I think it's just her aggressive play. I'd rather have to deal with that than have to speed her up. It's what you get with a player that plays that hard. Sometimes, they tend to get a little bit out of control."

Gatewood coached Fluker in high school when she played for one of his traveling all-star squads. Both Gatewood and Fluker are from California.

"I think Tye'sha Fluker is back," Gatewood said. "When I had her in high school she got to a certain level where she dominated the inside. I think today she was very patient. She got herself in shape before the season started. I think she's going to be a great anchor inside. She can get a lot of fouls.

"You're seeing the maturation of being coached under coach Summitt. Your early years it's like you're learning your trade. Then you get to a certain point in your career where you ask yourself: ‘Do I really want it? Do I really want to be in the starting lineup? Do I really want to be a Lady Vol?' … I think Tye'sha in her own heart understands: ‘This is my junior year, and I have to be a team leader.' "

Gatewood predicted Fluker would average a double-double per game.

"I don't think anybody in the country can stop her from doing that," he said.

VISITOR'S VIEW: Jerry Gatewood is a very erudite coach who has been around the game for a long time. He offered his assessment of Tennessee during his post-game press conference.

"They have great size inside, they have great team speed, and they have the will to win," Gatewood said. "And they have a great coach. I think with those combinations of things they should do just fine.

"Don't look at this game, and say, ‘Hey, I see a bunch of holes.' That's what this is for, to see a bunch of holes in what they're doing so they can be prepared. They'll have things to work for and work through. I think adversity is what makes champions. I don't think that this team here will go all the way to the finals and then lose for lack of confidence or lack of skill or lack of hustle. I think this team here has seen what they have to work on and where they need to be at to win.

"I wanted to let coach Summitt see some of the weaknesses of some of her players. The things that she's been telling them in practice I think now they can see on film. I think by showing them that, they can make those adjustments. I think the one thing that they'll probably have to add to their game? They need to go inside more. I think the shooters rely too much on shooting. I think their size and their presence have to carry them to the championship."

Gatewood put a lot of effort into this exhibition game. He came in early to watch Tennessee practice and focused on exposing the Lady Vols to weaknesses in their game so they could be corrected before the games count.

"I'm a little biased because my daughter goes here," Gatewood said. "I wanted coach Summitt to see the deficiencies in her team. And that's what I was brought here to do. I was brought here to make sure they got ready for their season. I think I took it to heart. … This is kind of like my family as well."

PESKY PATELLA: Lady Vol freshman Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood of Pomona, Calif., has been held out of practice since early in the season to rest her left knee, which has been causing her considerable pain. She has a severe case of patellar tendonitis. At Friday's media day, Wiley-Gatewood said her timetable was three weeks. If the pain hasn't subsided or at least been significantly alleviated, she said she has to consider surgery and a redshirt season.

"She's looking forward to try to get back on the court," Jerry Gatewood said. "I think right now coach Summitt is just letting her keep rehabbing and seeing if she can give it a go around December."

Gatewood said "a worst-case scenario" – if the knee doesn't respond to rehabilitation and extended rest – would be surgery. Her patellar tendon has a few tears in it, he said. Ideally, the small tears can heal without surgical intervention.

"With a lot of rest we try to see if it heals on its own," he said. "If it doesn't then what you have to do is get surgery."

The highlight of Wiley-Gatewood's weekend was her family coming to Knoxville for the exhibition game. Her mother, Denise Gatewood, also was courtside Sunday.

"The visit's been great with Sa'de," Jerry Gatewood said.

Gatewood was impressed with how his daughter was holding up – not just because of the setback with her knee but also the fact that she is a freshman in college.

"She's doing fine," he said. "You look at a kid that's never been away from her family and can stay 3,000 miles away home and still has a bright smile on her face, I think she's doing great. … I think when you put the Lord first I think a lot of things work out positively for you. And I think when adversity comes you just have to sit back and let the Lord take care of it. That's what's she doing."

GET SOME REST: Tennessee is getting ready to play four games in less than a week with three coming on the road: Nov. 19 at UT-Chattanooga; Nov. 21 against N.C. State in Raleigh; back home against George Washington on Nov. 23; and at Texas in Austin on Nov. 25. They host Temple three days later on Nov. 28 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tennessee seemed a little tired at times against the West Coast All-Stars – as evidenced by the 17 turnovers, but Summitt was in a forgiving mood.

"In all fairness to the team, they had a tough week of practice," said Summitt, adding that the practice sessions were long, including two hours on Saturday, the day before the game. "We haven't tapered, and we'll taper as we get into this week."

POINT-CENTER: Freshman center Nicky Anosike – who plays very well in the open court and can run with the guards - snared a ball on the defensive end and took off for the basket. She went coast-to-coast and made a nifty dribble move to the bucket, but unfortunately the ball caromed too hard off the glass.

"You have to admit that was a pretty nice move," Summitt said. "Of course it ricocheted off the backboard and out to half court. We've got to work on that aspect of it."

Point guard Loree Moore also got a kick out of Anosike's full-court sprint with the ball. "I see Nicky trying to take my position and be a point guard," Moore said laughing. "It was good to see her be able to handle the ball like she did."

ORANGE OBSERVATIONS

LOUDEST CHEER: When it was announced that the Lady Vols had beaten Florida in volleyball to earn a share of the SEC regular-season title, the first in the sport's history at Tennessee. In conquering its nemesis in five sets, No. 15 Tennessee broke three of No. 7 Florida's SEC winning streak records: 145-match regular season (NCAA record); 121 matches overall (including SEC Tournaments, also a NCAA record); and 109 matches at home. The Gators had not lost to an SEC team at home since Sept. 30, 1990, when LSU won in Gainesville.

BEST ATTIRE: The orange polo shirt worn by Darryl Gowens, the assistant coach for the West Coast All-Stars.

SECOND-BEST ATTIRE: The California-cool patterned-shirts worn by coach Jerry Gatewood and his daughter, Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood. Gatewood's shirt wasn't tucked in, and he walked breezily along the sidelines.

SCARIEST ATTIRE: The stiletto heels worn by freshmen Alex Fuller and Sybil Dosty. Fuller, who is still on crutches, is taking a redshirt year to heal from ACL surgery on her left knee. Dosty was held out of Sunday's game after sustaining a concussion in practice Thursday. Fortunately both players walk well in heels and didn't fall.

ODD ATTIRE: The numbers on the jerseys of the West Coast All-Stars. They were tiny on the front but standard size on the back.

CLEANEST SHOES: All of the Lady Vols. So far nothing has been scribbled on them. As the season progresses, the players will often write things on their shoes, like someone's initials or number, especially if a teammate gets injured. If they were to list the injured players this season – four of the six freshmen were in street clothes Sunday – it might cover the shoes.

BEST REWARD: Given to Dominique Redding, who was the second player off the bench Sunday, a reflection of her improvement in practice. Redding played 23 minutes and had five points, three rebounds and one block. She was 1-2 from behind the arc.

QUOTE BOX

"We're going to have to have a great half-court defense with the schedule we play and especially with the schedule coming up going on the road." -Coach Pat Summitt. Tennessee plays 19 teams in 27 regular season games that are ranked in either the AP or USA Today/ESPN poll (or both) or are receiving votes. Only five opponents are not ranked or receiving votes (yet): Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, N.C. State and South Carolina.

"What has to happen is they have to go on this hard schedule and grow up as a team and find some team leadership outside of Loree." -West Coast All-Stars coach Jerry Gatewood, on Tennessee's schedule and maturation of its veterans. He was particularly impressed with the play of senior guard Loree Moore.

"We were more physical. We had a lot of presses on the ball. The whole purpose of practice was defense and being physical and it kind of showed tonight." -Loree Moore on the team's defensive effort Sunday. The West Coast All-Stars were held to 36 points and shot 25 percent from the field and 17.6 percent from the 3-point line.

"They got after us a little bit more, and we didn't take care of the ball. We were careless and turned the ball over a lot, especially when they pressured us. I think that's something we'll work on and get stronger at." Senior forward Shyra Ely on UT's 17 turnovers in the game.

"I think we're still working on our press – getting everybody to know the positions and how to play and where to trap." -Moore on the Lady Vols' full-court pressure. The team has the speed, especially with the addition of freshman Alexis Hornbuckle, to pressure teams more this season than last year.

"I want everybody to know that Tennessee is the No. 1 team in the country. I've seen a lot of teams across the country, but I think I mentally prepared my team as we were getting beat up going across the country (that) this is like the Super Bowl." -Gatewood.


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