Lady Vols down Oral Roberts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Lady Vols waited an entire day to play Sunday and then waited longer to start playing well in a game that began with an Oral Roberts' player getting injured in the opening seconds and ended with Tennessee running to a 94-55 victory – an ORU player likened it to opening the horse gates – to open its defense of its national title.

"Everybody was hyped up, everybody was on the same page, determined and then we came out and we were like, ‘Oh, we're playing basketball,' " Alexis Hornbuckle said. "We got a rude awakening. This team is good. They can hit threes, and that's how they can beat you if you let them continue to do so. That woke us up, and at halftime we came in and realized this is not the statement we wanted to make. That half is over ladies. Time to start over."

Oral Roberts, 19-14, hit five 3-pointers in the first half and shot 56.5 percent from the field.

"I'm surprised they weren't shooting 80 percent because we didn't guard them," Pat Summitt said. "On one possession Angie turned and chased a player to the other side and left the three-point shooter wide open. Shannon gave up threes. Lex gave up threes. Bird gave up threes. Why? Not being committed to what we had said in our scouting report defense, and that's what you've got to do."

Summitt had just praised the players' attention to scouting reports on Saturday.

"Be careful what you say," Summitt said. "I won't be speaking my mind about that until after the game from now on."

Summitt spoke her mind and then some at halftime.

"She was a little upset to say the least," Hornbuckle said. "We went over the scouting report and this was a three-point shooting team, and we did not pay attention to scouting report defense, which we cannot do. I don't know what happened."

"She got into us at halftime, but she had to because we needed to pick up our intensity," Angie Bjorklund said. "We should have pulled away a lot earlier."

Tennessee, 31-2, did regroup well in the second half. The Lady Vols led at the break, 48-34, behind seven three-pointers and 28 points off of 17 turnovers by the Golden Eagles.

"I thought in the first half we played like we'd had a two-week break," Summitt said. "Obviously had a very difficult time getting our defensive intensity where we needed it to be. The second half we had a much better effort. I thought we settled down, played better defense.

"We did a better job in our ball movement and player movement, much more aggressive, had some good play off the bench as well. We had much better guard play. It was hard for us at times to get into a rhythm. The game didn't flow very well at times. But it's a win, and when you get into postseason, it is all about survive and advance."

That two-week layoff between games seemed even longer as the players waited Sunday for the 9:33 p.m. tipoff. They went to breakfast, chapel, shoot-around, film and pre-game meal. Mixed in was time to themselves to watch basketball on television and rest.

"There was a lot of time," Hornbuckle said. "We don't like playing at 9:30. Point blank."

"I think the lateness of the game definitely affected us and we haven't played a game in a while so we were a little rusty," Nicky Anosike said. "So it was getting back into things. It took us awhile but once we woke up we were just fine."

That much was certain. Tennessee shot 47 percent for the game and hit 12 three-pointers. The three-point field goals made (12) and attempted (29) were the most ever by a Tennessee team in an NCAA Tournament game. The single-game record is 13 made three-pointers against Ole Miss in 2005 and Army in 2002.

The Lady Vols out-rebounded the Golden Eagles, 45-22 – Alex Fuller had eight boards for Tennessee and Bjorklund had seven – and had five players in double figures. All nine on the roster played, and everybody scored at least six points.

"I liked the way we closed out in the second half. I thought the guard play was pretty strong. I thought the post game was pretty strong but obviously Candace couldn't keep herself on the floor very long. But we were pretty efficient in the second half overall."

Candace Parker had 14 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists in 18 minutes of play.

"Well, I don't think it was 18 minutes by design; I kind of got into a little foul trouble," Parker said.

Parker, after playing 12 minutes in the first half because she had two fouls, picked up her fourth foul at the 14:01 mark of the second half with Tennessee ahead 59-43. Her night was done as Tennessee continued to build the lead.

"We don't see anybody like her in the Summit League," Oral Roberts Coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. "You take Candace out and physically there's another Candace behind her. She may not do the same things Candace Parker does but physically just as intimidating. It's a deep group and a big group."

Those players would be Fuller and Vicki Baugh, who had eight points and five rebounds in her first NCAA tourney game.

"It was exciting," Baugh said. "You have to be together. It was cool playing a team that we had not heard that much about. We just had to come together."

Oral Roberts had to quickly regroup after losing its best player, Mariana Camargo, a 5'10 junior guard who also plays on Brazil's national team, in a bizarre accident near the baseline. The jump-ball tip was deflected behind Shannon Bobbitt and Camargo tried to run down the ball. Bobbitt corralled it and turned up court as Camargo ran by out of bounds. She appeared to step on a Tennessee cheerleader's placard and her left leg buckled. Initial reports from Oral Roberts were that she sustained an ACL injury and will need surgery.

"It was a freak, unfortunate injury," Summitt said. "I know our team was bothered by the injury, because we never want to see anyone go down with an injury and not be able to play the game, particularly when you're talking about one of their key players."

Camargo couldn't get up and hit her hand on the floor in frustration and pain. The incident happened behind Bobbitt so she continued down court. Officials blew a whistle stopping play 15 seconds into the game, and Camargo was carried to the locker room.

"I didn't know what happened (at first)," Bobbitt said. "The way it happened was weird, but we've just got to keep playing."

"She went for the ball," Finkbeiner said. "She made a comment she slipped on something. There were cue cards underneath her body. It was an accident. Coach Summitt after the game she made a great comment to me. She said she understands how important this girl was to our program, and she's so sorry to see that happen to us."

Leanne Robison replaced Camargo, who returned to the sideline with her leg heavily wrapped and on crutches – she was given a standing ovation by the 4,380 fans in attendance – and Oral Roberts opened the first half by hitting shots.

"I'm proud of the girls because we had to really wing it," Finkbeiner said. "Jenny (Hardin), our post player, played three-guard for us, and another guard came in and played post for us. Everything we ran for 39 minutes and 55 seconds was just more improvised. And I'm proud of the way we improvised, especially for about 25 minutes. I have total respect for the Tennessee ladies, and total respect for our group. It's been a good year for us, a good ride. It was just a tough game for us losing the one kid that I thought at her position could make a difference.

"Losing Mariana is like Tennessee losing Candace on a different level, on a different planet and in a different league. Mariana is really the heart and soul of our team."

Oral Roberts was led by Jenny Hardin with 16 points and Rachel Watman with 15 points. Janae Voelker hit three 3-pointers for the Golden Eagles and also had 11 rebounds with 10 on the defensive end.

"In the first half, we were really pumped," Watman said. "We came in ready to play. We were hitting our shots and getting the offense that we needed. We were really looking for three-point shots. Coming into the second half, the first couple minutes, we were still with them. I think it comes back to they got let out of the horse gates and starting running on us and it was tough, especially without Mariana."

Tennessee's defense jumpstarts its offense, and the Lady Vols ran off missed baskets and pressed on made ones.

One of the niftiest plays in the open floor came when Hornbuckle found Bjorklund with a behind-the-back pass across the lane on a fast break.

"I saw her looking behind her a couple of times and I thought no flaring out to the three I've got to run straight to the rim," Bjorklund said. "I knew she was going to throw me that one."

"I told Angie (even) if she had flared out to the three-point line I was going to hit her," Hornbuckle said. "I was predetermined where the ball was going to go. I saw her running. Bird was running also, but I was throwing a behind-the-back pass so I'm happy that she ran the floor all the way to the bucket that time."

Hornbuckle had seven assists to go with 13 points, six rebounds and two steals. She hit her first three 3-point attempts in the first half when Tennessee needed some perimeter offense from somewhere.

"I just wanted to come out here and play my role," Hornbuckle said. "Luckily my shots were falling. We didn't really shoot that well. I think it was very important to open up the game with one of the guards hitting, whether it's me, Bird, Shannon, Angie. We all just kind of picked each other up."

"That was real key for us," Parker said. "We just needed to get things going."

Bjorklund misfired on her first two long-range attempts but hit on her next one and was 4-10 from behind the arc. Bjorklund's 16 points led all Tennessee scorers.

"However many shots I miss or however many shots I take the next one you've got to think it's going in every time," Bjorklund said. "You've got to erase the shot before and hit the next one."

Nicky Anosike added 11 points and Alberta Auguste had 13, which tied a career high. She gave up two points to feed the ball to Baugh, who finished on the fast break.

"I'm a team player," Auguste said with a smile.

Auguste could have driven in for the layup, but she stopped in the paint and flipped the ball to Baugh, who caught it and hit the short shot in one smooth motion.

"I don't know why but I knew Bird was going to make that pass," Baugh said. "She is a very unselfish player. I don't why I knew because I don't know how she knew I was right behind her because I didn't say anything. It was a beautiful pass, and I was ready for it."

Tennessee had 21 assists on 31 baskets. The turnovers were too plentiful with 19, but the Lady Vols also had 11 steals and scored 37 points for the game off Oral Roberts' 25 miscues.

Parker refused to blame the layoff for Tennessee's sluggish start.

"Honestly I could sit here and make excuses about the two-week break, but they had the same two-week break that we had," Parker said. "I think we just needed to focus. Coming out in the second half I think we did a lot better focusing. As a starter, Coach was disappointed in how we started off the game, and we can't start the game off like that. We have to take responsibility for our turnovers and our one-on-one defense and things like that."

Oral Roberts used a zone defense to combat Tennessee's size in the paint, and surrounded Parker with as many as three defenders when she touched the ball. The guards, except for Hornbuckle, were misfiring, and then Tennessee had lapses on the other end.

"We started out real slow," Bobbitt said. "Our perimeter game couldn't knock down shots – Lex started out offensively well – but on the defensive end we were sluggish, and defense starts your offense. That's what kind of happened."

All of the players said waiting until 9:30 p.m. to tip off made them restless. By game time that translated into unfocused.

"Waiting around, that kills me," Bobbitt said. "I just watched TV, watched basketball games."

"There is a lot of sitting around," Bjorklund said. "You've got to keep yourself busy."

"I thought we would never get to the gym to play," Summitt said. "But I think, making no excuses for our basketball team, I just felt like we came out and really just didn't defend. And when we don't defend, we're just not the same team. We extended our defense, but we weren't in the mood to play out of our press. I was very disappointed in how we played in the first half defensively. We talked about it at halftime and I thought we did a much better job in the second half of not only playing from a defensive standpoint but I thought our guard play was much better.

"I thought Alexis played really, really well. She and Alberta played well together. I thought Nicky Anosike did a lot of good things. Candace unfortunately couldn't seem to keep herself in the game for long periods of time, but it was good to get Vicki Baugh and Alex some quality minutes."

The exception was Hornbuckle, who did start the game with energy and concentration.

"I thought Lex overall had really a great floor game," Summitt said. "When she went to the point it didn't create any sense of urgency other than just run the team and look for my shots. She's got to look to score for this team. I think she knew that going into this game. That's going to be something that we have to expect and count on all the way through."

Hornbuckle played point for periods of time in the first and second halves. Bobbitt took a shot to the head early in the second half when she ran into a screen, but was OK post-game.

"I've got a little headache, but I'm fine," Bobbitt said.

"She got knocked down pretty hard and she just didn't pop right back up," Summitt said. "But I think she'll be fine."

Summitt will need more from Bobbitt on Tuesday, when the Lady Vols take on Purdue in the second round on its home floor at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers were led by four players in double figures. Kalika France and FahKara Malone had 17 points each, Danielle Campbell had 14, and Natasha Bogdanova added 12 points.

Utah was led by its scintillating point guard Leilani Mitchell, who had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds, but the Utes couldn't stem a Purdue run late in the game and fell 66-59 on Sunday.

"I told Shannon Bobbitt that she better come to this gym as one of the best point guards in the country when we face Purdue because she was not on top of her game tonight," Summitt said. "I expect her to respond."

Tennessee guard Sydney Smallbone was playing in her home state of Indiana. The South Bend native scored seven points and had three rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 15 minutes of play.

"It was fun just to get out there and play and get some more experience, especially in the NCAA Tournament," Smallbone said. "Our freshmen it's our first go-around so we're trying to learn as much as we can when we go in the game to prepare for next year, and this year to contribute."

Bjorklund got another lesson in how opponents react to orange, especially in the postseason.

"I think they came out strong," Bjorklund said. "Tournament time it's one and done. I'm learning as a freshman that tournament time you've got to step up big and I thought Oral Roberts did a great job coming out strong against us right from the beginning."

Oral Roberts will leave West Lafayette with the realization that its players – the core of team is the junior class – will compete on the game's big stage.

"It's a learning experience playing against one of the top teams in the country," Hardin said. "We are taking something away from this game. We put it all on the floor and I feel like we played a hard game even through everything that happened. We will definitely learn from this and move on through next year. We came in to compete and not just to be out there. I think that's how you get better and that's how you learn from things is when you're ready to go and you're ready to compete even at a high level."

The final score is not indicative of how well the Golden Eagles played in the first half or how they tried to battle in the second half.

"I hate to see the score 94-55," Finkbeiner said. "We had better expectations for ourselves than that for the final score. … It's not a fun point spread to look at, but we have good memories, and we had a good run these last three weeks.

"We're proud of the moment. Not too many coaches can say they coached against Coach Summitt and not too many players can say they played against the Lady Volunteers. We're hanging out hats on a good hat tree."

The Lady Vols also have picked up a new cheering section. Oral Roberts lost to Purdue in 1999 at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers went on to win a national title. The Golden Eagles hope they lost to the eventual national champions in 2008.

"We're pulling for them," Finkbeiner said. "If there's a positive in it, it's always good to lose to the national champion so we're hoping they go all the way."

The Tennessee-Purdue game will tip at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and the Lady Vols are thankful.

"Love it," Summitt said. "And for us I think 7 o'clock is definitely better and much more favorable for traveling home. But we've got to get ready to play a Purdue team that's really tough and playing well and obviously on their home floor."

She added, "We are going to take this one and move forward and play here at Purdue against Purdue. That is going to be a big challenge for us. I hope everybody comes. I hope we have a sellout crowd and a great environment for women's basketball. And I'm just thrilled that the game will be played at 7 p.m."

"I said thank you Jesus for that one," Hornbuckle said.


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