Tennessee races past GW

Alyssia Brewer was busy Tuesday – a career-high 23 points in the 93-53 win over George Washington, a TV interview, a radio spot as player of the game, a press conference and then the featured signer at the autograph table.

While Alyssia Brewer talked about her efforts in Tennessee's 93-53 win over George Washington, teammate Glory Johnson nodded her head and said how proud she was of the sophomore post.

When the Lady Vols were introduced before the game, four players not cleared to play – Amber Gray (out for season); Faith Dupree (out for season); Vicki Baugh (knee rehab); and Kelley Cain (out for game with concussion) – waited for their teammates. All four of the sidelined players are posts, and that meant Tennessee needed Brewer to plug the paint.

Brewer responded to the challenge with 23 points on 11-15 shooting, seven rebounds, an assist and a block.

Brewer remembered last season's loss against Ball State in the NCAA tourney when Cain went out with a knee injury just before halftime and could not return. The Lady Vols folded in the second half, in part because of struggles in the paint. She didn't want a repeat.

"When Kelley went out, I definitely knew that I had to step up," said the sophomore forward from Sapulpa, Okla. "Last year, it was the same scenario with Ball State. Kelley came out, but I didn't step up like I needed to, and I looked back at that and saw what I needed to do.

"It's all in my hands if I carry it over or not, which I plan on doing. I just need to stay consistent."

While Brewer talked, Glory Johnson smiled and laughed. When asked why Johnson was so giddy, Brewer said, "I don't know? Glo?"

"Proud," Johnson responded. "Very proud of Lyssi today."

Johnson had a double-double by halftime – 14 points and 10 rebounds – in 16 minutes of court time. She played just six more minutes in the second half – Tennessee had a 54-24 lead at the break – and finished with 16 points and 12 boards.

With a little more than 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Pat Summitt went to her bench and Brewer, Alicia Manning, Kamiko Williams and Sydney Smallbone finished the game. Briana Bass was the only starter still on the court, but one had to be because the Lady Vols were down to nine players for the game.

Cain, who sustained a concussion against UCLA after getting hit in the back of the head, watched from the bench, but Summitt indicated the 6'6 center should be back this weekend.

"The coach here is expecting her to play against Texas (on Sunday)," Summitt said.

Although Tennessee was down to nine players it speaks to the overall quality of the team that Cain could be out and Brewer, a 6'3 forward, could come off the bench.

"They lose a player and they replace her with another high school All-American," said George Washington Coach Mike Bozeman when asked if it was tough to play a team that could lose Cain and bring a player the size of Brewer off the bench. "Yeah, that is tough. It is tough.

"Brewer had a great game. They're the No. 5-ranked team in the country for a reason. It's not because their name is Tennessee; it's because they're a very quality basketball team."

Tennessee, 6-0, also got double-digit scoring from Johnson, who had 16 points, and Shekinna Stricklen, who had 17.

George Washington, 2-4, was paced by Kay-Kay Allums with 16 points, and Tiana Myers and Megan Nipe with 11 each.

The Colonials shot 80 percent to open the game and took an 8-7 lead. George Washington was leading, 4-3, when Summitt called a timeout 67 seconds into the game.

"I just didn't think we were committed to playing defense," Summitt said. "All we wanted to do was just shoot the ball. I thought Stricklen kind of set the tempo offensively. She was getting in the paint, and she was the one player that I thought was the most aggressive offensively. I didn't want us to start shooting the three ball. I wanted us to run some offense and get some inside touches."

Tennessee has an arsenal of long-range shooters, but Summitt wants the offense to start inside to open the game.

"I think it's key for our team to be mindful of that – we have some three-point shooters that are pretty efficient but at the same time when you open up the game if you establish your inside game there's a different mindset and toughness about defending and rebounding," Summitt said. "That's why I called a timeout."

That task fell to Johnson, who scored seven of Tennessee's first 14 points. She scored inside after getting a wing pass from Angie Bjorklund and spinning to the center of the paint, plus was fouled and converted at the line. Johnson then got a steal and went coast to coast.

It was two Johnson free throws with 15:47 left in the first half that gave the Lady Vols a 9-8 lead, and they had it in double digits, 27-16, within five minutes.

Brewer entered the game and was rewarded for running the floor with a pass from Stricklen. Stricklen got a defensive board and went end to end for the layup. Taber Spani spun inside and passed to Brewer on the low block, who scored and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Spani fought for the rebound, and it went out of bounds off a GW player. Spani scored off the in-bounds play. On the next offensive possession for Tennessee, Spani faked a pass to Brewer inside and then drove to the rim for a 33-18 lead with 9:19 left in the first half.

The next play brought even more roars of approval from the crowd of 12,840 – which included former Lady Vol superstar Candace Parker courtside with her 6-month-old daughter Lailaa decked out in a personalized No. 3 jersey – when Stricklen got a steal and made a pass to Brewer while sitting on the floor. Brewer banked in the shot, was fouled and this time hit the free throw for a 36-18 lead.

Stricklen got another steal on the next offensive possession and went coast to coast for the layup and a 38-19 lead, which was followed by Johnson snaring the ball after a block and also racing down court for a 40-22 lead.

After a steal by Smallbone, Johnson lobbed a pass to Manning, who caught and shot in one motion, for a 47-22 lead. Johnson then rebounded a Smallbone missed three and was so far above the rim that the crowd gasped. She was fouled and hit one of two free throws for a 48-22 lead.

A drive by Spani, a dash end to end by Bass with a feed to Johnson and a Williams drive and bank shot finally finished the halftime scoring at 54. It was the most first half points for a Lady Vol team since the 56 scored against Arkansas on Jan. 24, 2008.

"Fast-paced is more of our game," Stricklen said. "That's what Coach keeps telling us to do. We worked on it a lot in practice – get the ball and go, push it. Make the other team try to slow down the ball and if they don't, keep going all the way.

"I think when we get fast break points, layups, steals and stuff that really picks up each other and it just picks our intensity up."

Tennessee shot 51.2 percent in the first half and 47.4 percent for the game with 54 points coming in the paint.

Summitt was determined that the second half would start with the ball going inside.

"One thing about this team is I think when they come out our perimeter players are a little overanxious," Summitt said. "I think that's where they've got to play inside-out and establish their defense and their board play and not try to shoot the three ball right away but try to get paint points and get to the free throw line."

So, Summitt directed her sharpshooters to hold their fire.

"It was kind of a shocker for Angie," Johnson said. "You should have seen her face when Pat said, ‘No threes. No threes at all, just get it inside-out.' She was kind of shocked but after those first couple of plays when we had it inside, she was finally released to shoot her threes, and she hit both of them."

At one point early in the second half, Bass was wide open behind the arc, but she smartly ignored the crowd's advice to shoot.

"They were booing Bree when she wouldn't shoot, but if she would have shot she would heard it from Pat," Johnson said.

George Washington scored the first five points of the second half to cut the lead to 25 points, and it took Tennessee awhile to get on the scoreboard. Parker took part in the fan tradition of standing until the first points of each half are scored, and she did it while holding Lailaa in her arms. When Johnson got fouled inside, she made the first one, and Parker was able to take a seat. Johnson also hit the second one for a 56-29 lead.

On Tennessee's next two possessions, Bjorklund was free to shoot, and she hit two three-pointers in a row – one on an assist from Manning; the other on a feed from Stricklen – and the Lady Vols had a 33-point lead, 62-29, with 16:03 left in the game.

"When she finally gets the opportunity, she takes advantage of it," Johnson said.

Bjorklund had hit one three-pointer in the first half on an assist from Bass for Tennessee's first points and that gave her sole possession of fourth place in the record books as she moved past Shannon Bobbitt with 148 three-pointers. The two in the second half put Bjorklund at 150 with Brittany Jackson (161) next on the career list.

But Bjorklund's climb to the No. 3 spot would have to wait. Summitt emptied her bench less than nine minutes into the second half and let the reserve players get court time. The bench accounted for 42 points in the game.

Manning had a career-high six assists and also added five points, five rebounds and four steals.

"I thought Alicia Manning made the most of her minutes," Summitt said. "She was very impressive. She didn't force anything. I liked her in the high post. She can be a very good four (power forward) player for us and if she plays in that position then Taber can play more on the wing."

Manning's one assist in the first half came on a feed to Brewer. Three of her five assists in the second half also were to Brewer, who said she took the lessons learned in practice and applied them in the game.

"Coach has been telling me to do this all season, get low, shoot whenever I'm right there in the post, and today is finally the game that I finally took it to heart and did it," said Brewer, who had to scoot out of the post-game press conference because she was the featured player - selected before the game - for the autograph table for the fans. "I know she is going to expect this out of me every game.

"Points-wise that's not a big factor for me. It's still the basics of getting low, staying low on defense and offense, and running the floor. That's the same stuff that Coach was telling me last year."

It was the sight of Brewer running the floor that brought a smile to Summitt's face.

"I didn't know who it was," Summitt said. "I had to take a look and see, and I saw (Number) 33 and I go, ‘Let me check my stat sheet.' I was just really excited for her. She is a sophomore, and she should understand what she can bring now.

"As a freshman she struggled so much with the conditioning part of it. I think that's where she's a lot better because in the summer months she invested some, and Heather (Mason) has really challenged this team to get them in great shape, and they've responded. It's one thing to challenge people, but when they respond that's the good news, and I think she's really responded to that as well."

Johnson couldn't stop smiling while Brewer talked about her performance. Brewer has been a frequent target for Summitt in practice, and her teammate was happy to see something good happen for Brewer.

"I think she needed this game," Johnson said. "Watching her struggling in practice and even sometimes she does good things in practice but she'll dwell on the negatives. Just having a great game I think this will boost her confidence. She needed this definitely."

Johnson also noted that the team needed the output from Brewer.

"I think it not only raises her confidence but ours as well, just knowing that we have another post player that we can trust," Johnson said. "I'd rather go to Lyssi. She's bigger than me in the post. If I can, I'll give her high-lows every day. I'd love it. Just like Kelley Cain. They have a size advantage over most people, just using their size."

Brewer had nine points at halftime, but no rebounds. She got on the glass in the second half – Tennessee finished with a 49-40 advantage – and seemed determined to score at the rim, something the coaches have been imploring her to do instead of drifting away from the basket.

"She did a great job of posting up for the most part, just loading her hips offensively, and using the glass really well," Summitt said. "She was begging for the ball and that's something that if we can rely on that, on top of what we're going to get from Kelley Cain and then obviously Glory in the mix and Taber? I thought Taber did a lot of good things for us as well. I feel a little bit better about our post game.

"It should give (Brewer) confidence. Absolutely. She is feeling good about things, but at the same time she knows that she has got to continue to work every day, particularly on the defensive end. Offensively she has gotten a lot better. Defensively, there's room for improvement."

The game also gave George Washington a boost, and Bozeman acknowledged that was an odd statement to make after a 40-point loss with his team shooting 34.4 percent overall and 18.8 percent from behind the arc. But he came to Knoxville with just nine players – all freshmen and sophomores – and wanted his team to learn from the experience.

"It's always a pleasure to come and test yourself against the best," Bozeman said. "Pat Summitt is obviously the best, and there is no doubt that her team is a very good one. I think our youth got us a little bit in the first half. Our objective in the second half was to make sure that we improve as a team.

"We came in wanting to win four-minute spurts. We broke the game down into 10 four-minute spurts. We actually won the first four minutes. We made too many consecutive turnovers, which is indicative of a young team."

The Lady Vols limited their turnovers to just nine. The Colonials had 18 miscues, and Tennessee converted those into 32 points. Manning led the way with four steals and Johnson and Stricklen had two each.

Stricklen said the takeaways were the turning point in the first half when Tennessee went from a one-point deficit to a 30-point lead.

"Our defense was a big key for this game," Stricklen said. "When we started making them turn the ball over, pushing the ball, getting fast breaks, layups, that just really turned the whole game around and picked up everybody's energy."

But Bozeman said his team, which, like Tennessee, has been hit hard with injuries, didn't hang their heads after the game. The Colonials lost freshman point guard Danni Jackson last Friday after she broke her leg in the game against Michigan State. She had 20 assists in just four games for GW this season.

"It is hard to deal with (injuries)," Bozeman said. "What I'm trying to teach is life lessons also. With such a young group everything we do is about lessons. To lose Danni in the fashion we lost her, it was shocking for the whole team. I've got kids playing with injuries. Tara Booker is not the same Tara Booker as she is recovering from (a meniscus injury). We have a couple of other people walking out of the locker room with ice bags

" It looks like M.A.S.H. in that locker room sometimes. That's part of life and my kids, I'm so proud of how we are adjusting, moving forward and playing hard. They played until the last second of the game, tapping in the last bucket. I'm proud of the class that my young group came in here and played with.

"There is such a positive feel in our locker room that we know we are knocking at the door. We know that we are going to be better. We know that the learning curve is getting shorter. Coming here to play Tennessee is an honor for everybody, and it's a great way to see where we need to improve."

Allums, who had six rebounds to go with her 16 points, said she welcomed the chance to play in Knoxville.

"It's Tennessee," Allums said. "It's playing against one of the best teams. In the locker room nobody had their head down. Nobody was pouting or mad. We didn't give up. We kept fighting until the final buzzer. Now we can go into Auburn on Saturday and we'll take it to them. That's another great team, but we're not going to (back down)."

Bozeman's out-of-conference schedule has been challenging for his young team – the Colonials also will face Rutgers this season, on top of Marist, Michigan State, Tennessee, Auburn and Western Kentucky. Allums said she prefers to play those teams over ones that would be easier to face.

"Why not?" Allums said. "I love playing against the best. To be the best you've got to beat them, so why not play them?"

The Colonials also ran into a bit of a buzz saw after Tennessee's lackluster game on Saturday against UCLA, which is coached by former Lady Vol Nikki Caldwell. Summitt rescinded the scheduled day off, held practice Sunday and told her team she wanted a lot better effort on Tuesday.

"Who can I complain to about that?" Bozeman said with a smile. "That's not fair. Maybe I'll call Nikki now. Nikki leaves here and they bring me in here at the tail end of that. That's not fair. But Pat is a master motivator. After that loss in the NCAA Tournament, she's in there that night practicing."

Summitt probably would have liked to practice that night last March, but the team was still in Bowling Green, Ky., and had to take a bus back to Knoxville the next morning. But they were on the court within 48 hours of the loss.

"Maybe I need to pull some of those," Bozeman said. "But, no, it's hard to sit here and say I'm proud of the team and we lost by 40, but I say it unashamedly. I'm proud of my team. I think there is going to be a day this year when people see what I see in them. There is going to be a day when they see, ‘Wow, they've really come together.' I'm anxious for that day to come, but I see that improvement."

Stricklen saw at shoot-around that the Tennessee team was ready to redeem itself.

"I think we were really ready," Stricklen said. "We've been talking about it. In shoot-around, everyone came in with a lot of energy, and I knew then that, ‘Oh, today is going to be good.' "

Classes ended Tuesday for the fall semester, and Wednesday is a university study day so Summitt gave the team the day off to get ready for final exams.

"With exams coming up, right now it's got to be books before basketball," Summitt said.

MEDICAL NEWS: Assistant Coach Daedra Charles-Furlow, who is also the recruiting coordinator for the Lady Vols, announced after the game that she was dealing with some medical issues and would periodically be unable to travel.

"I am dealing with some personal medical issues at this time," said Charles-Furlow, a former Lady Vol All-American and Olympian who replaced Nikki Caldwell on the staff last season. "It is possible that there may be times when I am unable to travel. For that reason, I decided to make this announcement since it will affect my duties as recruiting coordinator."

Pat Summitt said that Stephanie Glance, the assistant to the head coach, would fill in, as needed, for Charles-Furlow.

"Daedra's health and well being is our first concern," Summitt said. "While she will continue her assistant coaching duties on the bench, there may be times when, as the basketball recruiting coordinator, she is unable to travel.

"Daedra is so passionate about recruiting our student-athletes. During the next several months she needs to be focusing on her health. For that reason, I will be designating my special assistant, Stephanie Glance, to fill this temporary role."

Glance joined the Tennessee staff this season after serving as the interim head coach at N.C. State.

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