Lady Vols wipe out Tennessee-Martin, 85-29

Tuesday's game preparation began with Pat Summitt talking inside the visitor's locker room. After that deviation from standard practice, the event stayed on script with Tennessee annihilating an undersized Tennessee-Martin team, 85-29. It was the Lady Vols first game after Sunday's defeat, and it was apparent there was no lingering malaise from the loss.

"It's unusual to go in the locker room and visit the team before the game starts, but I got to go in and talk to the UT-Martin team," said coach Pat Summitt, who graduated from Martin in 1974 and still maintains tight ties with the area. "Obviously if it wasn't for the folks at UT-Martin I wouldn't have this job, nor would I have been prepared for it. I think having an opportunity to have the folks from that area be back here is very special for me."

Skyhawks coach Tara Tansil shared some of the conversation at the post-game press conference.

"She came in and talked to our young ladies about her time there at Martin. She talked about how to be a team, how to be committed and how to play together. She told a couple stories, but we're not allowed to tell those," Tansil said with a smile as those gathered laughed.

The mood was light-hearted after the game, but both coaches were looking for something from their players. For Summitt it was intensity and bouncing back. For Tansil it was a matter of who would fight despite being overmatched.

No. 6 Tennessee, 7-1, was led by Candace Parker's 17 points and 11 rebounds, her third double-double of the season. She was joined in double figures by Alex Fuller (a career high 14 points), Sidney Spencer (13) and Nicky Anosike (10). Everyone who played scored, including freshman Nicci Moats, who made her first field goal as a Lady Vol, and senior walk-on Elizabeth Curry, who swished a baseline jumper. The Tennessee bench jumped up in celebration at both baskets.

"Elizabeth hit a shot. She's in the books," Summitt said. "And Nicci hit a shot. It is good for them. They have been playing their role, and just for them to get in and have a chance to contribute on the offensive end I think that's always big for any players."

Tennessee led 43-13 at halftime. The Skyhawks didn't score until the 11:43 mark of the first half – some of the crowd of 6,169, even those in orange, applauded the made basket – and shot 20.4 percent for the game. Martin's last field goal in the second half came at the 11:53 mark when Phyllisha Mitchell hit a 15-footer to make the score, 61-26. The last three points came from the free throw line.

"I'm pleased that our team maintained their intensity," Summitt said. "We got to work on different looks. Second half we played all matchup zone. Our coverage out of it was much better than it had been. We need a good changeup with our defense. I thought our team kept their intensity. We didn't play the scoreboard. We really played to try to get a little bit better in our defensive schemes and got a lot of people some quality minutes and playing time, which was good."

Martin, 4-2, was led by three players with six points – Mitchell, Nicole Holman and Andreika Jackson, who got two of hers by splitting a double team in the paint in a nifty up and under move.

"It's good for me because when adversity comes, I get to see the character of our team," Tansil said. "When we get down and when we get kind of kicked, I get to see which one of my fighters is going to be there. That sends a message to me about which five I can count on the most. That's a learning experience for me and for them also. I tell them it's in adversity your character is going to come. I want the ones out there that are going to fight every time they're out there, not the ones that are going to be kind of timid and not strong with the ball or just let someone take it from them like a piece of candy."

Tansil knew she would get that kind of effort from Jackson, a 5'9 post player who battled inside against much bigger players and fouled out at the 4:35 mark of the second half.

"This one, I don't have to worry about," Tansil said of Jackson, who was seated beside her. "This one is a fighter. This one is definitely a competitor. This one comes to work every day. I've just got to make sure the four that are out there around her all the time are on the same mission she's on."

The Lady Vols had their own mission Tuesday. They wanted to get back on track after Sunday's 70-57 loss to North Carolina and get to work on fixing the team's weaknesses. The level of competition Tuesday was way lowered – the game was on the schedule because Summitt needs to add more home games without a subsequent commitment to play at the opponent's place and because Martin is her alma mater and part of the UT system – so Summitt said the focus had to be narrowed.

"I told them this has got to be about us," Summitt said. "Regardless of who we are playing I think we have to understand that we are challenging ourselves with every possession to be as sharp as we can and try to be mindful that we can't take possessions off. And I think this team probably learned from the loss that we can't (to) be an efficient basketball team.

"I think that's where we have to really continue to have the discipline. This is a discipline issue, and there are times that we don't have five people that are as disciplined as they need to be, whether it's on the offensive or defensive end. If we can get more discipline in our game I think we're going to be a much better basketball team."

The team held a meeting Monday with the coaches and also watched film from the North Carolina game in one-on-one sessions with the staff to break down individual performances.

"Sunday, I just felt like I could have brought more for the team off the bench," Fuller said Tuesday in the post-game press conference. "So I had to think awhile last night about what I could bring to the team, how I could help the team so I just came into this game with a different mindset."

Spencer, who suffered through a 2-13 shooting night Sunday, hit 3-4 three-pointers Tuesday. She also had three offensive rebounds.

"I think for this game, like Alex said, I think we all came in with a different mindset and just tried to work on things that we needed like the little things that we knew we needed to get better at to progress with the schedule that we have for the rest of the season," Spencer said. "So that's what we tried to do, focus on something small just to get better at.

"I think in that meeting everyone just gave their input about the game. Coach told us that she thought we played extremely hard; we just made some crucial mistakes and didn't play as smart as we could. But she was definitely proud of the effort that we gave."

Tennessee led all statistical categories in this game with 28 points in the paint to Martin's six. The Lady Vols shot 50.9 percent for the game and out-rebounded the smaller Skyhawks, 46-24. Fuller had eight boards and Alberta Auguste, despite playing while under the weather, shot 1-6 from the field but had six rebounds, eight assists and two blocks.

The Lady Vols scored 33 points off Martin's 19 turnovers and only committed nine turnovers themselves. They had 19 assists, 10 steals and seven blocks. The Tennessee bench came through with 35 points. No starter played more than 26 minutes. Freshman point guard Cait McMahan played 25 minutes and had four points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

"I definitely think Cait benefited," Summitt said of playing in a game in which the staff could go early and often to the bench. "She definitely got good minutes. Alberta wasn't feeling well. She got quality minutes, but I just didn't think was in sync as much. I think it was good for Alex to come back and get in a groove offensively. She did a great job on the boards, played solid defense for us.

"We're depending a lot on Alex Fuller. Looking back she obviously didn't have as many minutes at the North Carolina game, but she's certainly a player that we think could easily be a starter, and she's going to play a lot of minutes regardless. It was good to see her and also Cait because Cait didn't go back in in the second half (against Carolina). Just looking at tape (in that game) I thought she did a lot of good things for us as well."

McMahan was asked if the Lady Vols took out some frustration on Martin.

"I wouldn't call it frustration. I would just call it regrouping," McMahan said. "I think our main thing was to work on our offensive plays, because at North Carolina we didn't execute on the offensive end. So we worked on our transition, offensive plays, so when (we play) the next big game, we'll be able to execute."

North Carolina didn't do the Skyhawks any favors by stirring up the ire of the Lady Vols after the loss.

"I need to call (UNC coach) Sylvia (Hatchell) and thank her for that," Tansil said tongue in cheek. "We played in Memphis (on Sunday), and we got back just before the second half. We had someone recording it for us, so we saw the second half. I was rooting for them (UT) because I wanted them to win because I didn't want them to be so mad when we got here. You know that's going to happen. I knew they were going to regroup. I knew she (Summitt) was going to have them together. You know they were going to come out and fight because that's what they do."

Summitt opted to keep the team off the floor Monday and instead met with players and had the individual and position group film sessions.

"We had a good team meeting on Monday," Summitt said. "We hadn't been back on the court until they went out to warm up tonight, which was fine by me. I think you have to move on, but before you move on, win or lose, I think you need to talk about what you took away from a game like North Carolina. Certainly didn't want to allow that to break our spirit. They're a great basketball team and I think some people might say they're the best or in the top three in the country. Playing them on their home court was a good learning experience for us.

"But now we've got to move on and prepare for each and every opponent and really work on us. I think we have to get better. We've got to get better in our rebounding and we've got to get obviously better in our transition defense, and we have to execute a lot better against pressure."

The Skyhawks felt the Lady Vols pressure Tuesday.

"Playing against the Lady Vols, you have to have a positive attitude; you have to come to work," Jackson said. "We were well prepared for them; it was just people were a little scared I believe. Everybody was looking around, waiting for somebody to take a shot instead of everybody playing together and boxing out and doing the things we need to do to win."

The game did have some interesting moments despite the lopsided score.

In the second half, the Martin bench got a technical after some words were shouted at an official after a Skyhawk player went up for a shot. McMahan was in position for a charge and hit the deck. The ball went up in the air, and Tennessee snatched it and headed down court after the no call. As the official ran past the Martin bench he immediately signaled for a technical. Dominique Redding, who scored nine points, hit both free throws.

In the first half McMahan intercepted a pass and – trying to keep from going out of bounds with the ball – jumped, rotated in mid-air and threw the ball at Holman to bounce it off of her. The ball hit Holman, who is shorter than the 5'4 McMahan, on the top of the head and sailed out of bounds. McMahan gasped, covered her mouth and approached Holman to apologize and shake hands.

Also in the first half, Parker air-balled a free throw for her only miss (4-5) from the line. In that case the crowd gasped. McMahan was asked if the team was going to tease Parker.

McMahan hesitated and then said, "I'm not going to lie. Yes we are. On the bench we were like, ‘Did that just happen?' Everybody's done it. I've air-balled a free throw. It's going to be fun (to tease her), but I guarantee you it's not going to happen again."

The Lady Vols will now return to the practice court Wednesday afternoon to prepare for a visit from No. 21 George Washington on Thursday and to continue to fix the flaws in the team's execution, from board play to transition. Usually the team watches game film with the staff as a whole, but on Monday they went to the aforementioned player sessions.

"It's interesting," Summitt said. "We didn't watch tape with them, but I think statistically they recognized the fact they gave up entirely too many boards, both ends. They turned the ball over, which was very costly for us. I think that the lack of transition coverage and just giving up layups and not being able – it's not that we weren't capable – but we were not committed to our transition game. They definitely exposed that, and we will be working on that because we have the speed and the quickness and we've got size and mobility. There's no excuse for us not being a great transition team, both offensively and defensively."

GAME NOTES: Candace Parker is now perfect from behind the arc at 3-3 this season. Her shot Tuesday was launched from the top of the key, and it bounced up but fell through. Her 17 points put her in double figures for the 22nd consecutive game. … Alexis Hornbuckle continues her steals streak – she had two – and now has at least one in 44 straight games. … The Lady Vols, who forced four shot clock violations, put some defensive numbers in the record books. Martin's 13 first-half points tied for seventh fewest by an opponent (Old Dominion in 1996). The record is eight points scored by Maryland in 1994 and Stetson in 1989. The 16 second-half points tied for eighth fewest (Vanderbilt, 1998; Martin, 1997; Florida Atlantic, 1992). The record is 12 points scored by Puerto Rico-Mayaguez in 2002. Martin's total of 29 points tied for fourth fewest by an opponent (Maryland, 1994). The record is 26 scored by Puerto Rico-Mayaguez in 2002 and Florida Atlantic in 1992.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories