The Colonials shot 32.1 percent for the game and turned the ball over 22 times. On one of those turnovers, George Washington beat Tennessee's press but then threw the ball out of bounds. GW coach Joe McKeown jumped off the bench, turned around and hurled his clipboard. It clanged off the wall in front of the first row of seats. His frustration was understandable.
Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead and was never threatened by a team that came in hoping to challenge the Lady Vols.
"I thought overall our offensive execution was much better and a lot more fluid," coach Pat Summitt said. "You know you're never satisfied. I have to tell y'all I wasn't as impressed with our defense. We had some breakdowns."
Forward Anna Montanana and center Jessica Simmonds, who both scored 12 points, paced George Washington. Montanana is a senior All-American candidate who has seen defenses key on her in the first three games of the season.
"Obviously a great talent and a great player," Summitt said. "I thought we defended her better early than as the game progressed. … She did an excellent job of reading the defense. We put a lot of different people on her."
Montanana said Tennessee's fast start set the tone for the game.
"I think that in the beginning of the game it was crucial for the rest of the game," Montanana said. "It was really hard to come back."
George Washington may have had trouble scoring, but the Colonials did keep Tennessee's offense from lighting up the scoreboard by disguising its defensive alignments, causing the Lady Vols to run offensive plays that weren't congruent with the defense they were facing.
"Rather than be confused and get late in the clock, not knowing whether they were in man or zone, we just went ahead and called an offense," Summitt said. "A lot of times we were in our man against their zone and in our zone against their man. I told them if you're not sure then just run your motion offense, so we had a lot of movement."
Summitt said the freshmen got used to the motion offense in the preseason so the team is "very comfortable with it. … We can go to motion when we're not sure. We can also go to motion if we're starting to stand on offense."
McKeown said despite his players' defensive efforts, it's meaningless if the team can't score consistently against Tennessee.
"Everybody thinks you've got to defend them," McKeown said. "That's (bogus). You've got to be able to score. That was our biggest concern coming in. I knew we couldn't get behind to a point where you can't score enough points to catch up."
Both Summitt and McKeown were complimentary of the play of junior guard Shanna Zolman, who scored 14 points to go with four defensive rebounds and six assists. She passed up an open shot to hit an even more wide-open Dosty inside, who was 3-3 from the field and finished with six points and four rebounds in nine minutes of play.
"I think Shanna is one of our most-improved players, in particular I think she's playing better off the dribble. …She gets her teammates more involved off the dribble," Summitt said. "She's definitely expanded her offensive game aside from just being a catch-and-shoot player."
"Zolman's just seems to be a different player this year than what I saw last year, more confident," McKeown said. "They seem to find her a lot better than they did last year."
Jackson used to earn her minutes mostly for her ability to hit 3-pointers and create some offense. Her shot wouldn't fall Tuesday, but she stayed on the floor because of her defensive efforts.
"I think Brittany has really made it a priority to be a defensive player that can go out and defend and contain," Summitt said. "She's gained a lot of confidence, and I've gained a lot of confidence in Brittany to defend. That's big. I think right now as we look at this team across the board, they're all making that commitment. As a coach you start to trust players more. I've never questioned her ability on the offensive end. It was just a matter of her commitment on the defensive end. Now we see that. She obviously is going to be able to help this team and help this team a lot."
The Lady Vols stymied the Colonials with their larger size, particularly on the perimeter. Freshman guard Alexis Hornbuckle hounded the opposing ball-handler and hampered George Washington from getting into its offense.
"Our guards are a lot bigger than theirs," Hornbuckle said. "They were kind of small. Their guards were a little bit skinner than us so that helped out Loree a lot when she was cutting through the lane. Size definitely helps you out in any game."
McKeown said Tennessee's defensive pressure "forced us to run our offense 18 to 20 feet from the basket."
For the third game in a row, Summitt singled out the play of Anosike and Hornbuckle.
"Those two freshmen have obviously brought the energy off the bench in all three of our games and also including the exhibitions. So for five games they've been high energy, and I think they give us a big lift when they come in," Summitt said.
PLAYER ROTATION: Summitt played everyone in uniform against George Washington, including walk-ons Abby Canon and Aubrey Guastalli.
Summitt really wanted minutes for freshman center Sybil Dosty, who missed nearly a week with a concussion suffered in practice, and sophomore Dominique Redding, who played sparingly as a freshman. Redding has four points, two rebounds and an assist in 16 minutes of play.
"This will allow her to show us what she can do and gain some confidence and momentum in her game," Summitt said.
Junior guard Shanna Zolman said tested players would be needed as the season progresses.
"Everybody likes to play," Zolman said. "Right now it's great to get a lot of people experience, get a lot of people used to the game, because when we go against some tough competition, like our next game against Texas, we're going to need a bench. We're going to need somebody that can come in and give starters rest. We're going to need our starters to get refreshed to give our bench some help."
Hornbuckle provides an instant spark coming off the bench, and her presence seems to electrify the crowd. It's a buzz that Summitt has noticed from the bench.
"Alexis when she comes in she generates a lot of action be it defensively as she's around the ball. A lot of good things happen when she's on the floor. She's a great helper, she's quick to the boards," Summitt said. "And then offensively I think in the open court she's really very, very gifted to be able to hit people and see people and anticipate."
Hornbuckle has happily accepted her role off the bench.
"I'm just ready to help," Hornbuckle said. "You can't start all 15 of us so we're just ready to come off the bench, and we have to come with the same energy that our starters do, and that's what coach expects us to do."
Summitt is not hesitant to place expectations on her freshman guard, including at halftime of the George Washington game, when the coach wasn't happy with Hornbuckle's efforts rebounding the ball. She had two in the first half, all defensive. She added four more in the second half, two on offense and two on defense. Even when she doesn't come down with the board, she often gets a hand on the ball or deflects it to keep the possession alive.
"I got to the boards a lot more," Hornbuckle said. "I kind of hesitated in the first half and didn't rebound like I should. In the second half coach told me I needed to get … on the boards or I'd pretty much be sitting. It kind of pumped me up a little bit."
Even though she's not starting, Hornbuckle said she has no trouble getting excited right before the game. This was the home opener, so Tennessee used the spotlight, music and fireworks introductions for the team.
"I was ready to run up and down the court," she said. "It's just a great atmosphere."
George Washington coach Joe McKeown called Hornbuckle "one of those good problems."
"You're going to have to find her minutes, because she's too good to sit down, yet these kids (the starters) are playing well," he said. "It's a problem I wouldn't mind having."
CHRIST THE KING CONNECTION: George Washington has two players on its roster who played in high school at Christ the King in Flushing, N.Y. Lady Vol fans recognize that school as the alma mater of former Tennessee great Chamique Holdsclaw. Sophomores Corrine Turner of Glen Cove, N.Y., and Amanda LoCascio of Maspeth, N.Y., played for the Colonials in Tuesday's game against Tennessee. LoCascio's father, Michael LoCascio, made the trip to Knoxville to see his daughter play. He coaches the junior varsity team at Christ the King.
TEXAS ON TAP: Tennessee will play Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving evening at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Texas lost to Georgia on Sunday after surrendering a 15-point lead in the second half. Tennessee is the first team to face the Lady Longhorns after the loss.
"It's going to be a challenging game," Hornbuckle said. "I know they're coming for us coming off that loss to Georgia. I know they're hunting for Tennessee."
Zolman is 0-2 against Texas and wants a win against the Lady Longhorns. She said she mentioned the game to assistant coach Holly Warlick.
"I told Holly earlier today that I haven't wanted a game more other than UConn," Zolman said. "Texas is always a great team. I haven't been on a team that beat them yet. There's a lot of incentive to play hard and try to come out with a win, especially there. They have a hostile environment when we go there. Crazy. It's going to be exciting. I'm looking forward to it."
SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The season's first conference player of the week went to Tasha Humphrey, a freshman forward for Georgia, who scored 52 points in her first two collegiate games – 25 against Furman and 27 against Texas. She shot 70 percent from the field (21-30) in the two games and also had 14 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Humphrey is from Gainesville, Ga., and is a close friend of Tennessee freshman Alexis Hornbuckle. The Lady Bulldogs play the Lady Vols in Knoxville on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
"We moved." -Tennessee junior guard Shanna Zolman's short response when asked in the post-game press conference what was the difference in Tennessee's offense Sunday vs. N.C. State and Tuesday vs. George Washington. She then laughed good-naturedly and gave a longer answer.
"We executed a lot better tonight. I think there were still many times where we stood, and we were stagnant. But it's still early in the season. We still have to learn a lot. We were concentrating a lot more on communicating. As coach called a play or whoever called a play we were really consciously aware of echoing it so everybody knew what we were in." -Zolman's longer answer.
"She came in today and put in some extra time with coach Lockwood, and he said she did a great job. I think that carried over on the court for her. She was bothered by the fact she wasn't making the shots. Much better job tonight." -Tennessee coach Pat Summitt on the play of junior center Tye'sha Fluker, who struggled offensively in the first two games. She was 4-7 against GW – including hitting her first turn-around jumper in the lane - and scored eight points. New assistant coach Dean Lockwood works a lot with the post players at practice. Fluker made her first career start against UT-Chattanooga.
"I can always find something to fret about." -Summitt when asked if she was satisfied with the team's play after the first three games. She knows Texas is waiting in Austin for a Thanksgiving Day match-up.
"Do I have to?" -George Washington coach Joe McKeown when asked for his thoughts on the game in the post-game press conference.
"I hadn't seen Fluker play as well as she did tonight. Dosty, Anosike. They bring big bodies at you. These kids come at you in waves." -McKeown.
"I don't want you to give me CPR." -A fan from the stands after an official called 3 seconds on Tennessee. It did seem like a quick whistle and a fast count.