Lady Vols secure road win at LSU

Dean Lockwood said before the LSU game that each player wearing a Tennessee uniform had "to step up a notch." The Lady Vols used all 10 players on the roster – and got a solid effort from Alyssia Brewer – and claimed a share of first place in the SEC standings with a 55-43 win over LSU.

A ceremony was held before Sunday's game in Baton Rouge to retire the jersey of former LSU standout Seimone Augustus and raise it to the rafters of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. She watched the game from the stands, along with 4,970 other people, and Coach Pat Summitt was likely glad the All-American forward had exhausted her eligibility in 2006.

"Yes, I have a lot (of thoughts), and some are not real fond memories," Summitt said when asked after the game for her thoughts on Augustus. "I watched her play and played against her many times and saw her elevate her game. She is obviously the all-time great to play here, in my opinion. I was proud to see that recognition. It is so well deserved."

Tennessee (17-2, 5-1) got offense from its post players and outside shooting from Angie Bjorklund off the bench and used a 23-8 run in the second half to scoot past LSU (14-4, 3-3). The Lady Vols had already claimed SEC wins at Mississippi State and at Florida and with Sunday's victory they surpassed last season's slate of just two wins on the road in conference play.

Tennessee will play a home game on Thursday against Auburn, but then it's back on the road in a week for a rematch with South Carolina.

After last Thursday's loss against Georgia, the game against LSU was an important one for the Lady Vols if they wanted to hover at the top of the standings. With Ole Miss' defeat of Georgia on Sunday on a last-second three-point shot, the Lady Vols and Rebels are tied for first place.

"This is a great jump forward for us," Alyssia Brewer said on the post-game radio show with Mickey Dearstone.

The sophomore post player led Tennessee with 14 points and seven rebounds. It was her forays to the rim that catapulted the Lady Vols in the second half and created some separation on the scoreboard from LSU.

The Lady Tigers took the lead in the second half, 33-32, on a trademark floater in the lane from Allison Hightower, and then LaSondra Barrett hit a baseline jumper to stretch the lead to 35-32 at the 10:42 mark.

Kamiko Williams stroked a midrange jumper in the paint to cut the lead to one for Tennessee and on the Lady Vols' next possession, Brewer got an offensive board from her own miss, hit the stick-back for the 36-35 lead and also was fouled. She made the free throw for a 37-35 lead.

Hightower knotted the score again at 37-37 with another floater at the 9:35 mark, but Bjorklund answered with a shot behind the free throw line for the 39-37 lead. Brewer got back on the offensive glass on the next possession, rebounded a Bjorklund miss, was fouled and hit one of two free throws for a 40-37 lead.

Brewer continued to get to the paint – she got a pass from Alicia Manning and flipped in the ball for a 44-37 lead and then banked in a shot for a 46-37 lead and drew the foul. The play was set up when Bjorklund lost the ball, went to the floor along the sideline to get it back and threw it to Brewer, who came towards her teammate to help. Manning rebounded Brewer's missed free throw, kicked the ball out to restart the offense, and Tennessee claimed a double-digit lead, 48-37, when Bjorklund hit a shot inside the top of the key with 4:35 left in the game.

Brewer had picked up fouls in the first half by turning to her left and into the defense. The LSU defenders also knew that Brewer was left-handed, and she heard them telling each other to make her go to her right hand.

"I went right," said Brewer, who got the bulk of her second-half scoring on that side of the basket.

Tennessee extended its lead to 50-37 after Shekinna Stricklen hit two free throws, but LSU answered with a pair of its own to trim the lead to 50-39. When the Lady Tigers set up in full court pressure for the in-bound throw, Glory Johnson went long, and Manning fired a pass three-fourths of the way down court that Johnson caught up with and converted for a 52-39 lead. It could have been a turnover if anyone besides Johnson was the intended target, but the high school sprint champion made the play with ease.

Brewer, Johnson and Kelley Cain spent a good portion of the game in foul trouble, and all three had at least two fouls before halftime, when Tennessee led 24-22. Cain logged just seven minutes in the first half, and Johnson also had to take a seat.

"Looking at our stats, Glory Johnson came in and did a good job after the break," Summitt said. "She wasn't playing well early. Kelley wasn't playing that well and got in foul trouble. We have grown accustomed to that. When she was on the floor she was 4-for-4 from field goals and 3-for-3 from the free throw line. That's big for her, and I just wish she would have been able to stay in the game a little longer and get some touches.

"We managed to play through it without her, and that's always an indication that we got a little bit better balance. When Glory did come back in I was really pleased with her as well."

With the fouls piling up, Summitt had to use a variety of lineups to keep five players on the floor, and Manning ended up logging 27 minutes, third most on team behind 39 minutes from Stricklen and 31 from Bjorklund.

"We've got to step up a notch," Dean Lockwood said before the LSU game. "Everybody that is on this team that is wearing a uniform, we've got to step up a notch."

LSU Coach Van Chancellor noticed the opposing team's effort.

"I thought they got pretty good minutes out of everybody they played," Chancellor said. "I thought they all accepted their role for them and did some good things."

All 10 players in a Lady Vol uniform logged minutes Sunday. Junior guard Sydney Smallbone made her first start of the season and held her own on the defensive end, including stripping the ball one on one to prevent an LSU layup after a teammate's bad pass on the wing.

"I thought in the first half we really struggled to get anything positive going," Summitt said. "Obviously, in the second half I thought our team came out of the locker room very focused. Our post game stepped up, so we had good balance from the outside-inside."

Bjorklund was back in the starting lineup for the second half – Brewer sat because she had three fouls – and got help from Manning, who had to line up both inside and outside depending on who was in foul trouble.

Manning finished with four points, but it was her rebounding, defense and two steals in the second half to help stop any LSU rally that kept her on the floor.

"I thought Alicia Manning's intensity, defense and toughness on the boards – she really made a difference when she was on the court," Summitt said. "I thought she really stood out. This was her best game overall. She was very, very active on the floor."

The Lady Vols still squirted loose of the ball – 23 turnovers, same as in the Georgia game – but this time it was primarily the posts, not the guards, who tallied turnovers, and some came from three-second calls and offensive fouls.

But the posts also accounted for the bulk of the scoring – Brewer with the aforementioned 14 points, Cain with 11 and Johnson with eight – and they combined to shoot 13-22 (59.0 percent).

Cain also had four blocks and moved into 10th place all-time – passing Vonda Ward, the only other Lady Vol who was 6'6 – with 99 career blocks. Abby Conklin is in ninth place with 102 swats. Cain's spot is particularly impressive because she missed chunks of playing time last season with knee issues and this is her first full season on the court. Candace Parker is in first place with 275 blocks.

The key for Cain to keep climbing that chart is to stay on the floor but foul calls are putting her on the bench – "not unusual as we know," Summitt said wryly on her radio show with a tone that indicated it was irksome. Summitt was so mad seconds before halftime that she slammed her clipboard to the court after a timeout.

Brewer said the guards were mobile on offense, and that gave the bigs the space they needed to work inside.

"Our guards did an excellent job of moving and cutting through," Brewer said on the post-game radio show. "That opens more room for us."

Bjorklund got out of her shooting funk with a 4-7 performance from the field – 2-2 from behind the arc, including a deep one with the shot clock winding down – and also added three rebounds and two assists.

"Angie, it's good to see her come back and get really focused and play well," Summitt said. "We rely on her a lot, and certainly when she is on the floor, offensively, we are looking for her constantly."

Stricklen, who had seven turnovers against Georgia, had just two against the pressure of LSU and although she was 1-8 from the floor, she grabbed seven boards, had three assists and was 4-4 from the line.

"Stricklen did not shoot the ball well, but she did a lot of other good things," Summitt said. "I thought she defended and got on the boards as well."

Summitt said she met with Stricklen the day before the game and asked her if she wanted to stay at point guard. The sophomore said she did, and Summitt said she would make it a point to chat more frequently with Stricklen, who is quiet and can tend to internalize matters.

"I am going to stay connected with her and help her all I can," Summitt said.

Tennessee also got effective court time from Williams, who logged 10 minutes and continues to make progress game to game on both ends of the floor.

"She's a great guard," Summitt said. "She's going to help us tremendously. There is not a game she's not going to be on the floor if she takes care of business."

Tennessee shot 50 percent in the second half and 44.7 percent for the game against an LSU team that had won this season with its stiff defense.

"It's probably the best ball movement we had all year," Summitt said.

The Lady Vols also were getting stops on the defensive end and used that effort to build the double-digit lead.

"I thought our coverage out of the zone was really good," Summitt said. "We extended it. We were aggressive. We got after it. Obviously, we wanted to make sure that we were not just giving them good open looks or a lot of chances to get in the paint. That was as well as I think we played out of the zone all year, those last nine minutes."

LSU shot 26.4 percent from the field – the Tigers had more turnovers, 18, than made shots (14-53) – and the 44 points was the lowest output of the season. The previous low was 56 points in a win over Xavier on Dec. 30.

"We played awfully hard," Chancellor said. "We did about all we could. We just couldn't make a shot. We turned the ball over too much."

Tennessee's zone had a lot to do with that, as the Lady Tigers got deep in the shot clock on some possessions and also had to loft shots that were heavily contested and outside of LSU's comfort zone.

"I guess I've been watching Tennessee play 19 years, 10 years in the WNBA and three years here. That would be 32 years," Chancellor said. "That's the first time I've ever seen Pat Summitt only play one possession of man. That was a heck of a zone defense they played today."

The zone also worked because the Tennessee players communicated and stayed in motion and had their arms up. With Tennessee's considerable size, if the players are in sync, the matchup zone, which borrows from man-to-man principles, can be very effective.

"They got Stricklen out high and wide and Glory Johnson on the other side," Chancellor said. "You could hardly move the ball. They were just so big, and then, when you got it inside, Cain was just such a force inside. … We wanted to try to score it well enough, but you can't turn it over that much against a zone and be very successful. One of the reasons we turned it over was because they were really active in it. Most zones are passive, but they were really active today."

Tennessee also had more turnovers, 23, than made baskets (21-47), and had nine assists to six for LSU. Both teams tallied six steals and UT got 16 points off LSU's 18 turnovers while LSU got 17 points off Tennessee's miscues. The Lady Vols prevailed on the boards, 39-32, with three players, Brewer, Stricklen and Manning, getting seven each. Brewer had four of the Lady Vols' nine offensive boards.

"I bet you it's been a long time since Tennessee has only gotten nine offensive rebounds, but where they got them really hurt us," Chancellor said. "It was down late in the game, I think they had about five points on offensive rebounds that really hurt us late in the game. When you have Cain, Brewer, Stricklen and Johnson, that's a pretty good team."

Hightower, the preseason SEC Player of the Year, led all scorers with 17 points for LSU, but she was 6-22 from the floor and had to play for 40 minutes. Barrett added 12 for the Lady Tigers with six coming from the free throw line, and Katherine Graham had 10 points.

"We can't hold our heads down at this loss," Hightower said. "We still have a whole lot of games to play. The SEC is just so up and down right now. Everybody's still in it."

The SEC is a wide-open race this season as each team has at least one loss. Tennessee will finally get a home game – four of their first six SEC games were on the road and the Lady Vols went 3-1 – against Auburn on Thursday (7 p.m. Eastern, CSS).

"It's going to be great to be back home," Summitt said. "Looking forward to that."

Brewer has stepped into the starting lineup since freshman forward Taber Spani – she logged just six minutes Sunday – has been hindered by turf toe. This was Brewer's fourth start of the season with one coming against Texas on Dec. 6 because Cain was coming back from a concussion.

While talking to Dearstone, who recited her stat line, Brewer noted the 6-13 performance from the field (46.1 percent) and said she wants it to be closer to 60 percent.

"One of the things I am kind of disappointed with is my field goal percentage," Brewer said when asked if she was pleased with her performance.

Brewer also said it doesn't matter whether she starts or comes off the bench.

"Honestly, it doesn't matter for me," Brewer said. "It's what I do in the game and how productive I am with the minutes I get."


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