Tennessee turns back UTC, 92-50

Pat Summitt walked into the post-game press conference a little sooner than usual Monday evening as the reporters were still taking their places. Her speech in the locker room after the 92-50 win over Chattanooga must have been short and sweet.

"It was quick," coach Pat Summitt said with a smile. "I've got to pack."

The team leaves early Tuesday morning for the Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam so it stands to reason that she would want to dispense with the post-game interviews and get home. She also was much happier after Monday's win than she was after Sunday's over Stetson so she probably didn't have quite as much to say to the players afterwards.

As Summitt waited a few minutes for the media to get ready, she perused a stat sheet that showed balanced scoring (all 11 players tallied at least four points), balanced halves (46 points scored in each) and tremendous board work (50 for Tennessee to 30 for UTC).

"Obviously a much better looking stat sheet," Summitt said. "We're shooting the basketball better and obviously dominant on the boards. We really challenged our team to play the kind of defensive intensity that we want to play every game. I thought the entire team brought a lot of energy. After our game Sunday I just said, ‘We can't play 11 people unless 11 people are going to play a certain way and bring a lot of energy and commit to playing defense and rebounding.' Today, for the most part, very pleased with the overall intensity. I thought our energy was good, one through 11, and that's exactly what you expect. We had some turnovers that we probably shouldn't have had. Overall a good performance and a good way to hit the road."

UTC coach Wes Moore also was decrying turnovers after the game. His Lady Mocs had 18, and Tennessee tallied 25 points off of them. Tennessee also got 26 points off second chances.

"Anytime you play Tennessee, you know you are going to face a pressure defense and a team that is relentless on the boards," Moore said. "Those were two things we just could not overcome tonight. They scored a lot of points off turnovers and offensive rebounds. That was very disappointing for us. I'm proud of our kids' efforts tonight. We knew coming in that we had a mountain to climb. You just take this game for the experience and learn from it."

The road gets a lot rougher for the Lady Vols this week. Tennessee, 2-0, will take on Michigan State, Gonzaga and Maryland on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It was important to Summitt and the team to fix the problems from Sunday – poor post play, a lethargic bench at times and some execution issues on offense.

"I wasn't really excited about how we played Sunday," Summitt said. "It's hard to believe that it was just yesterday that we were out here playing. I thought our defense was better (in the win over Stetson vs. the exhibition games), but I didn't like our offense; I didn't like our bench play. I thought that going home and after I watched the tape last night I was convinced that pretty much what I saw was what happened. So all we did today was talk about it in a short team meeting. The good thing is without having any walk-through or practice – we just had our scouting and watched film some on UTC – they did comprehend what we wanted to do, and they tried their best to do it."

That is especially encouraging since the Lady Vols will play three consecutive games this week. Up first is Michigan State, which swept Tennessee out of the Final Four last season after the Lady Vols surrendered a 16-point lead.

"I haven't seen Michigan State since the spring, but my staff's been taking a peek," Summitt said. "We're as ready as we can be at this point in time. It's still early, and we're still growing, and we'll, I'm sure, have some growing pains, but I think that this basketball team understands what they have to do when we go on the road and play. The fact that we have three games in back-to-back-to-back situations, I think that we'll be focused. I do like the fact that we have some depth and hopefully our players will play with the intensity they played with tonight so we can kind of divide the minutes up a little bit and see how we progressed."

It may still be early, but Moore seems impressed by what he saw from the Lady Vols.

"This is one of Pat's best teams," Moore said. "I mean, they were a Final Four team last year and then you add Candace Parker."

Parker had 14 points and nine rebounds, eight of which came in the second half after Summitt challenged her at halftime to get to the glass. UT senior guard Shanna Zolman led all scorers with 20. Sophomore center Sybil Dosty nearly had a double-double in 16 minutes. She finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.

When asked how Tennessee dominated the boards, Summitt was succinct: "Our size," she said.

"I was looking at Candace at halftime, and she had one rebound, just a reminder, and she's all over the boards," Summitt said. "Our team understands exactly what they have to do. The player that I thought brought a lot of energy – we didn't see her play this time last year the way she's playing now – is Sybil Dosty. She was active; she pursued the ball. I just liked her aggressive mindset and in particular how she went to the boards. That's a real plus when you've got players that just really go after the ball."

Dosty was hoping these first two games would allow her to showcase her skills and the improvements she made to her game and conditioning in the off-season.

"Yesterday she said that I didn't come out with enough energy," Dosty said. "So today I was just trying to prove to her that I could come off the bench with some energy. I'm not going to start (but) when the bench players come in we have to keep the same energy level as when the game started."

The bench got ample opportunity to do just that. Sophomore post player Nicky Anosike came off the bench after struggling offensively against Stetson and was 4-4 from the field for eight points.

"Just better shot selection I think was the key and just being smarter with the ball," Anosike said. "I think we were effective pushing the ball and just really being unselfish. I felt we were playing so much more together than we were yesterday. It was effective, and I think that's how we should continue to be."

The improved play by the post players – Besides Anosike's and Dosty's efforts, Tye'sha Fluker was 3-6 (six points) and Alex Fuller was 1-1 plus two made free throws (four points) – made the perimeter players' night much easier. Zolman was 6-12 from the field and hit four three-pointers.

"It really helps tremendously when you have both inside and outside games going," Zolman said. "I think tonight when the posts established their game inside first and foremost, it always opens up the outside. Because if you go inside you guys need to score because you're one or two feet away from the basket. But then when people start drawing inside that's when the outside becomes open. It's always important – and that's coach's emphasis always – to go inside whether it's to the post game or penetration."

Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and Alexis Hornbuckle also pushed tempo, a staple of their game that Summitt really likes.

"When we get our transition game going and you're just running down the floor – we've got great guards like Lex and Gate – and keep penetrating and creating and dish out and kick, it's always makes my job a lot easier," Zolman said. "I just always keep my feet moving and keep trying to get open."

Wiley-Gatewood logged 27 minutes at the point, but every other Lady Vol played 25 minutes or less. Summitt used a lot of combinations – at one point she had one guard and four forwards – and kept the scorer's table busy with players checking in.

"I wanted to look at a lot of different combinations and obviously one was to go big," Summitt said. "While we might not have been as mobile I thought we did some good things. We obviously did a good job of getting the ball inside, did a good job of working the glass. That's one benefit when you look at our personnel. We can go big, or we can go small or we can do a combination. Looking at different combinations at this time of the year is a good thing. The fact that we were able to give our bench a lot of minutes – and they didn't go out and waste them; they really tried to be productive – that's the most encouraging thing from our game on Sunday to our game tonight."

Anosike endorsed the turnstile approach to substitution.

"She was definitely switching up the lineup just because we have so many people who can play and so many people with different strengths," Anosike said. "And that's not a bad problem to have. Any lineup she put out there was just getting the job done. At this point that's not something that every team could say that they have. So I think that's really going to be a positive for us once we get further down the road and the games start getting tougher."


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