Lady Vols start slow, beat Rutgers, 68-54

NEW YORK – Up on the concourse level at Madison Square Garden fans were getting their blood pressure checked at a health expo.

Meanwhile, downstairs in Tennessee’s locker room, coach Pat Summitt was checking pulses.

It was all part of the Maggie Dixon Classic, a women’s basketball event honoring Dixon – the former Army coach – who died at age 28 because of an undiagnosed heart condition.

Summitt embraced the spirit of the occasion, commending Dixon’s ambitions and saying “We don’t know why sometimes the good Lord takes some of the best first.”

The heat of the moment, though, was motivating her actions. A 14-point first-half lead against Rutgers had melted to five at the break and Summitt was frustrated and perplexed.

“I thought we started out playing pretty good,’’ she said. “Then for whatever reason, the energy level went down.”

So on a Sunday afternoon, Summitt convened what she called a “prayer meeting.”

The Lady Vols responded, finishing what they started for a 68-54 victory before a crowd of 7,190. Guard Shekinna Stricklen led No. 4 Tennessee (8-0) with 19 points. Glory Johnson and Alyssia Brewer each scored 10.

Brittany Ray scored a game-high 29 points for Rutgers (7-5).

Tennessee overcame 19 turnovers with a 43-32 edge in rebounds and by converting 26 of 33 free-throw attempts (78.8 percent). The Lady Vols also shot 52 percent from the floor (13-for-25) in the second half.

Neither the locker room scene nor the second-half performance matched the drama of last season, when UT erased a 20-point deficit against Rutgers for a 55-51 victory. But that didn’t detract from the satisfaction.

“All in all,” Summitt said. “I thought we had a pretty good close out.”

Despite Johnson going to the bench with early foul trouble, the Lady Vols utilized their height advantage by working the ball inside and bolting to a 21-7 lead.

The Scarlet Knights didn’t help their cause by starting four guards. Still, coach C. Vivian Stringer noticed one of her biggest players – 6-foot-2 Chelsey Lee – standing next to Tennessee’s 6-6 Kelley Cain on the court and marveled at the difference.

“She looks like a child over there,’’ Stringer said of Lee. “She looks like a midget.”

The Scarlet Knights reconfigured their lineup as best it could. Their best strategy was using their defense to cut Tennessee down to size. They limited the Lady Vols to just three baskets and nine points in the final 10 minutes, 54 seconds of the first half.

Rutgers’ gritty, determined work enabled them to close within 30-25 at halftime.

“Their defense was great,’’ Stricklen said. “They were everywhere. Their intensity on defense is high. They’re all up in your face.”

Watching the lead shrivel added to Johnson’s discomfort as a spectator.

“Me getting in foul trouble isn’t helping anybody,’’ she said. “It’s tough sitting there, watching them struggle.”

While Johnson returned in the second half, Ray wasn’t going away. One of her five 3-pointers pulled Rutgers within 40-39 with 13:17 left.

“She’s a player; she just can do it all,’’ Summitt said. “Did we do a great job? No. I thought we could’ve done a much better job of denying and defending penetration.”

UT’s defensive work on Ray’s teammates, though, wasn’t too shabby. Nine other Scarlet Knights combined to score 25 points and shoot 26.8 percent (11-for-41) from the floor.

“We needed a lot more help other than Brittany Ray,’’ Stringer said.

Tennessee finally slammed the door on any Rutgers’ comeback with Stricklen swishing a pull-up jumper and hitting four free throws in the final 1:42.

“When patterns broke down, Tennessee made plays,’’ Stringer said. “When patterns broke down for us, we have young people that need to step up.”

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Comments » 33

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Closer than I thought, didn't see or hear the game so I don't have a feel of how it went. Please someone inform me.

CTOWNICON writes:

Congratulations on the win first of all! Thank God they pulled this one off. I get more impressed with Glory the more of her I see, and Stricklen, the article says it all. Rutgers is always tough on defense and they gave the lady vols problems. They had too many turnovers and missed too many layups. Kelly had an off night tonight! However, every team and player is entitled and off night. Good job keeping your composure enough to get this win.

dwa7#337691 writes:

Typical UT Rutgirls game. Roughly played and a lot of fouls. I listened to Mickey Dearstone and he said more than once - bad officals - bad calls. Oh well.....Lady Vols will see the #2 team very soon - SANFORD.

golfin_blondie writes:

in response to CTOWNICON:

Congratulations on the win first of all! Thank God they pulled this one off. I get more impressed with Glory the more of her I see, and Stricklen, the article says it all. Rutgers is always tough on defense and they gave the lady vols problems. They had too many turnovers and missed too many layups. Kelly had an off night tonight! However, every team and player is entitled and off night. Good job keeping your composure enough to get this win.

Amen I totally agree Johnson is absolutely the go to player. You can see a difference in the team when she is on the floor. I was really impressed she played most of the second half in foul trouble but did not foul out. She plays tough and hard!

SummittsCourt writes:

This is a final four team right now. Look out Stanford, here comes the Lady Vols to take you down again!

movol53 writes:

I watched the game. You could sure tell the girls had off several days since the last game.
However, when Rutgers made their run just before half time and this young team did not panic!!! I'm sure Pat told them at after time that they were not playing their game. Rutgers actually played the stronger defense (the style Tennessee used to play) and it gave the girls some problems. The girls missed several shots and had several turnovers; especially in the first half. I hope the girls can get it back together by the time they meet Stanford. Even if we lose it will show the girls what they still need to work on to get to the next level. Sorry, but I believe the over riding reason UT jumped up in the polls after they beat number 12 Texas is to have a number 2 vs 3 TV matchup. I'm not saying the Ladys aren't good but to jump up in the polls after defeating a team they were suppose to beat.

CTOWNICON writes:

in response to Mike_In_Connecticut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't you go to vegas either because you said Rutgers was going to beat us today and they didn't. So yes I will return the favor and say they are going to beat Uconn when they play them, as well as the rest of the teams you will face this season. They will crush Uconn! Uconn will not go 40-0 again this year and they will not win another championship this year. So there you have it, I said it all again this year.

Don't smile at your early success this season because you know just as well as I do, Uconn has not played any teams that are worthy. As I said before, those Northeastern teams are nobody's competition, whether I know anything about them or not. Uconn is bullying those weak schools to make themselves look good. Geno is a slick one, I got to give him that. Competition is coming for him and those huskies and they will lose.

dwa7#337691 writes:

Ole Mike may be right...............maybe UCONN will have a bad game some day...........you never really know.........a loss might bite you anytime.........Oh well......

KCHS63 writes:

Well, ESPNU saw it a little different than some of our own fans see it. Glory Johnson is headed for stardom, just like Shekinna Stricklen is. Glory is a scorer, she is becoming a shooter, and more importantly, she GLORIES in doing the little things that make a team great. We already have four ESTABLISHED scoring options (Angie, Kelley, Shekinna, and Glory) and a load of players ready, willing, and able to play roles (Brianna has left her pouting behind, Lyssi and Pat are reading more and more out of the same book, Alicia has swagger, and everything Syd touched in her short minutes today turned to GOLD). Kamiko's still learning.....and Taber? Taber's a force in the making. Two national championships (at least) from this group! Stanford will show us what's really what for this year, though.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to Mike_In_Connecticut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Things still boring up there in Conn.??? Their websites must really suck and is that because a lot of people don't give a rat's behind about UConn women's basketball???....AND why is that you come on here every time a game is played by the Lady Vols and insult the way we played instead of just admitting that we won and are still undefeated??? I think you are offended that other teams, especially the Lady Vols , are undefeated besides your UConn team...well...I AM NOT sorry that you are obviously offended whether or not you admit it....You have never shown the Lady Vols any respect, but I know that I have read posts that give UConn respect..I would love to give them respect but it is people like you that make it impossible...

springtx_vol writes:

in response to movol53:

I watched the game. You could sure tell the girls had off several days since the last game.
However, when Rutgers made their run just before half time and this young team did not panic!!! I'm sure Pat told them at after time that they were not playing their game. Rutgers actually played the stronger defense (the style Tennessee used to play) and it gave the girls some problems. The girls missed several shots and had several turnovers; especially in the first half. I hope the girls can get it back together by the time they meet Stanford. Even if we lose it will show the girls what they still need to work on to get to the next level. Sorry, but I believe the over riding reason UT jumped up in the polls after they beat number 12 Texas is to have a number 2 vs 3 TV matchup. I'm not saying the Ladys aren't good but to jump up in the polls after defeating a team they were suppose to beat.

If there is one NCAA sport where the best team usually wins the championship, it is women's basketball. UConn was dominant last year, and appears to be dominant this year. We will know more by the first of the year with UT, Stanford, and UConn playing a round robin of sorts.

The common opponent, Texas, was woman handled by both teams. My concern about the Lady Vols so far is how they handle a physical defense. Rutgers, if they had had more offensive talent, could have won this game. Their defense was stiffling. We do not seem to have anyone with the ability to take their defender off the dribble and get into the paint.

I see a potential final four this year, but it will depend upon continued development and the draw. I truly do not see us beating UConn this year. Next year, watch out!

GBO

kazoo writes:

This Vol team is good but not great. It's a very big team, and good defensively, maybe even very good defensively. They will make it tough for lots of teams to score. The Vols weakness is a lack of quickness on the perimeter; this team doesn't even a have a legit point guard! Stricklen is playing the point fairly well because of her athleticism and ability--the best player on the team by far. But she's a natural 2 or 3, not a point guard--and you could see today that talented guards will give the Vols problems. It's kind of a classic Summitt team in that they grind on opponents with their size and defense, but PS better pray that Strick stays healthy, because she carries a heavy load. This team needs a good guard or two pretty badly.

xvolx writes:

too many turnovers and unforced errors. Johnson made four dumb fouls. Two on moving screens and two by charging over a defender quicker than her. One bad OB pass to Bjorkland that was intercepted when Strickland was open right in front of her. Other than that, she played good. Cain missed 5 layups. Not like her. Bjorkland just couldn't get open and tried to force some shots. Brewer needs to play better defense. Offense was OK. Manning gives the team energy and hustle. Strickland had off shooting day, but whole team shot freethrows good. Bass played point under control. That was an improvement. Williams hasn't bought in yet and until she does she won't play many minutes. Lady Vols seem to play better man to man def. when they switch on screens. Today they tried to fight thru them. The result was a lot of zone. The 3s kept Rutgers close. Spani is just a frosh and has learning on off. and def. to do. Still as a frosh. plays with great composure. They will need a complete effort to beat Stanford.

ontheopenroad writes:

in response to movol53:

I watched the game. You could sure tell the girls had off several days since the last game.
However, when Rutgers made their run just before half time and this young team did not panic!!! I'm sure Pat told them at after time that they were not playing their game. Rutgers actually played the stronger defense (the style Tennessee used to play) and it gave the girls some problems. The girls missed several shots and had several turnovers; especially in the first half. I hope the girls can get it back together by the time they meet Stanford. Even if we lose it will show the girls what they still need to work on to get to the next level. Sorry, but I believe the over riding reason UT jumped up in the polls after they beat number 12 Texas is to have a number 2 vs 3 TV matchup. I'm not saying the Ladys aren't good but to jump up in the polls after defeating a team they were suppose to beat.

The reason we jumped up in the polls is because the two teams ahead of us in rankings (Ohio State and North Carolina) lost. No conspiracy there!

mad_poly_uct writes:

Just got back from the city after watching both games today. Was as much a blast as I thought it would be. MSG is a great venue to see college hoop. Typical Rutgers "d" got them back into the game, but not surprised by final outcome. One observation that never ceases to amaze me is just how friggin big all those girls are! And I'm not just talking about Brittany Griner. She's a monster. They may all be sweethearts off the court, but geez, they're big!

movol53 writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

If there is one NCAA sport where the best team usually wins the championship, it is women's basketball. UConn was dominant last year, and appears to be dominant this year. We will know more by the first of the year with UT, Stanford, and UConn playing a round robin of sorts.

The common opponent, Texas, was woman handled by both teams. My concern about the Lady Vols so far is how they handle a physical defense. Rutgers, if they had had more offensive talent, could have won this game. Their defense was stiffling. We do not seem to have anyone with the ability to take their defender off the dribble and get into the paint.

I see a potential final four this year, but it will depend upon continued development and the draw. I truly do not see us beating UConn this year. Next year, watch out!

GBO

I agree. Looks like we are on the same page.

GO LADY VOLS !!!!!!!!!

movol53 writes:

in response to ontheopenroad:

The reason we jumped up in the polls is because the two teams ahead of us in rankings (Ohio State and North Carolina) lost. No conspiracy there!

You are correct. Man I've been working waaaayyy too much. I knew that!!! Thanks for waking me up.

GO LADY VOLS !!!!!!!!!

OrangePride writes:

Any time you beat Rutgers in The Garden, you did a good job. Tough to win against Big East teams in that place for some reason. Saw the game and until the last 10 minutes it was pretty competitive. Good job by the VOLS to hang in there and get it done!

BigRMan writes:

All in all a good overall effort from the Lady Vols.Shekinna and Glory are proving to be a solid 1-2 punch. Brewer and Spani are effective for stretches, Kelley knows how to get good post position. If Baugh gets back anytime soon, she and Cain could provide an intimidating high-low post game for UT. The LVS just need to sprint back quicker especially the Bigs on defense so we don't get run on so much. Looks like light years improvement from last year's nightmare (not a horse that runs after dark LOL)-I think the Stanford game will prove to be even more challenging than Rutgers was. Regardless, Coach Summitt has this team on the right track and will prove to be quite a test for all teams that play the UT LVS, even UCON Mike. You still are clueless as to how to act with class. The New England area of the country like our nation's Southern Region has a unique charm about it. That possessed by the Northeast is very much inspite of your most inglorious presence!

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

I saw the 2nd half. Glory is explosive, but needs to play under control. After she got her 4th foul, she played a lot smarter...and more effectively.

Angie seems to be playing with more confidence this year. Good to see that. It's also good to see some domination in the paint. We've been missing that.

All in all, I like what I see. They're fun to watch. Sure, there's work to do, but I'll be Coach Pat has said that, too. Go Lady Vols!

GR82BAVOL writes:

Decent effort by us. Obviously, this team still has much work to do. I can see Pat's frustration at times, as they appear to me to not be as self-motivated as Lady Vols teams' of the past (although I do see improvement in that area). They'll have to get much better if they're going to get to the Final Four. Everyone is right about Johnson...she's going to be really good and getting better each game, but it was obvious that the best player on the floor was Ray. That girl is money!

VOLinMAHWAH writes:

I was at the game . . . front row seats court-side - a great way to watch a game by the way . . . and the Lady Vols missed several layups and point blank shots under the basket that would have kept the momentum going in the early second half. Rutgers came out in the second half fired up and crashed the boards hard. But when it counted, the Lady Vols put it together and wore them down.

BigRMan writes:

Mike: Nobody can or would dream of putting words in your mouth, it's too full of your foot, there's no room!-(LOL)

pennvols writes:

I was at the game. Gloria had 4 dumb fouls. When she was playing under control, she was a force. She just needs to keep her body under control. Cain missed a bunch of layups that she needs to hit. Foul shooting is what bailed us out in the first half. We couldn't make a basket but made almost all of the foul shots in the first half. Brewer really looked liekd she was hustling most of the day. (one play she jogged to a loose ball and Rutgers picked it up for an easy layup). The outside game was not working. Guards need to work a little harder on creating their own shot. Overall much better than last year (the only other lady vols game my family has gotten to see). I hope they come up this way more often.

orangerules writes:

I've been reading posts for a couple of years now. I have to say I never cease to be amazed by the postings of Mike in Conn. Why are you SOOOOOO interested in our Lady Vols and continue to post here? It has never occurred to me, not even for a nano second, to go to the UConn site and spend any of my precious seconds of my life writing one single word there or even reading what UConn fans have to say. Your postings are usually obnoxious, certainly defaming of CPS and the Lady Vols, and it's almost like you are glued to this website because you post so often. I care nothing about UConn or Geno and never waste any of my time reading about them. I truly can't stand Geno and many others have already expressed the very reasons I feel this way, but I don't spend time goading the UConn fans. Just not worth the effort. You, Mike, on the other hand, spend way too much time on this site. You're simply not worth my time and this will be the only post I make about you as you've already taken minutes of my time on this one that I never get back. It's really really sad that you are so obsessed with ridiculing the Lady Vols.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to kazoo:

This Vol team is good but not great. It's a very big team, and good defensively, maybe even very good defensively. They will make it tough for lots of teams to score. The Vols weakness is a lack of quickness on the perimeter; this team doesn't even a have a legit point guard! Stricklen is playing the point fairly well because of her athleticism and ability--the best player on the team by far. But she's a natural 2 or 3, not a point guard--and you could see today that talented guards will give the Vols problems. It's kind of a classic Summitt team in that they grind on opponents with their size and defense, but PS better pray that Strick stays healthy, because she carries a heavy load. This team needs a good guard or two pretty badly.

I think your analysis is very good. I believe Kamiko Williams is the point guard we need, except she doesn't yet have the knowledge or experience to serve that role. If she emerges this year, look out. That would allow Stricklen and Bjorklund to play their more natural positions and should give us more of the quickness we lack on the perimeter now. The inside game looks really strong, both off and def. Ball handling is a weakness, and there are too many turnovers, but this team is growing and learning game by game. They will make a deep run in the ncaa this year and establish tehmselves to take the title next year.

sranniger#663447 writes:

I don't think this team's ball handling is too bad. Of course, when I hear ball handling I think of the guards. The guards only had 8 turnovers yesterday and I know that more than half of those were in trying to feed the post. Rutgers pressured well, but I don't think it affected our guards handling of the ball that much.

I also read a lot of posts about the speed of our guards and how we need a quicker point guard. That's just not going to happen. Glory is the only player on the team that can keep in front of Bree. Probably, Williams can, but she's not even close to playing at that speed for any length of time. Bree would be better off changing her pace, bringing the ball up the court at 3/4 speed and then using the after burners to get to the rim. That would also allow Angie and Stricklen the opportunity to get ahead of her. How many times have we watched Bree lead the break only to find herself in the front court with herself and 2-3 opponents, with her fellow guards running slightly behind her.

This team is probably different than many of UT's teams of the past. I will admit I have only been watching closely for the last 4 years. I admire the adjustments that the coaching staff have made this year. More zone, big line up. If the coaches want to feed the post as much as I've read than you want the slower line up to allow UT's most dominate player Kelley to get up the court.

This team is going to continue to improve. They aren't going to blow Rutger style teams away, but they will continue to beat them. I love the Stanford matchup this weekend. Stanford isn't going to kill you with their speed either but they will with their sets. I won't be surprised if Stanford wins now, but it wouldn't surprise me to see UT win at the end of the season.

This is a lot funner to discuss this year versus last year.

nadio1987 writes:

I'm so tired of UCONNOT people posting so much NEGATIVE stuff on LADY VOLS blogs.. i think UCONNOT people are more WORRIED than any other teams.. i mean uconnot are UNDEFEATED and on a BIG winning streak, why are u so worried about any other teams.. u shud b laying low chilling, watching the ACTION.. im very HAPPY for the LADY VOS.. THEY NEEDED GAMES LIKE THIS TO GET THEM TOGETHER FOR THE SEC PLAY.. GAMES LIKE THIS HELPS THEM TO GO TO STANFORD AND MAYBE PULL AN UPSET.. PAT SUMMIT IS VERY SMART WIT HER SCHEDULING.. UNLIKE GENO, COACH SUMMIT DONT SCHEDULE HER TEAM TO PLAY TEAMS LIKE IONA, OR HARTFORD, OR VERMONT, TEAMS NO ONE EVER HEARD OF, SO HER TEAM CAN BLOW THEM OUT BY 40 AND HAVE MEDIA BE ON THEIR JOCKS.. Geno schedule his girls to play these LOW teams to make them look good.. they dont play tough opponents (i dont count Texas as tough, never have) until LATE DECEMEBER, by that time, UT done played several tough teams.. our FIRST game was BAYLOR.. we NOT no superstardom team.. but compared to last year and wat those girls had to deal wit, wit 5 starting seniors leaving.. with really jus 3 summer months of training, these girls look DAMN GOOD.. its a rebuilding process.. i dont think Pat summit is worried about going UNDEFEATED, which wud b NICE, but her focus is BETTERING her girls.. she knew wat to EXPECT playing in NEW YORK, where RUTGERS had a better advantage of MORE fans.. she knew it was gonna be SCRAPPY.. hell, rutgers was scrappy wen Candace was playing and we beat them in KNOXVILLE.. thats jus RUTGERS.. Big East teams in most cases are LIKE that.. but for UT to continue to FIGHT, and WON was very mature.. cus LAST YEAR, we wudve LOST that game and everyone knows that.. UT lady vols turned the ball over true enough (wat team DONT, UNC turns it over ALOT, and still got to final fours)..but they still FOUGHt.. last year FATIGUE wudve hit them and we wudve LOST.. i think GAMES like this will BETTER them ffor the SEC and POST play.. the girls are UNDERSTANDING each game their roles.. and wat they got to do to WIN.. every game isnt gon be a 40 point victory wen u playing against TOUGH teams and LEGEND coaches.. UCONNOT dont know anything about that tho.. and wen they DO play a TOUGH TEAM, Geno makes sure he scheduled them at HIS HOME so his girls can have more of an intimidating FACTOR.. but ONLY TIME WILL TELL HOW WELL THE LADY VOLS GET.. I CAN ALREADY SEE IT.. GO LADY VOLS

CTOWNICON writes:

in response to Mike_In_Connecticut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The fact that you even said that was insulting and laughable because it wasn't going to happen. The lady vols are the best, any other team is irrelevant. Pat Summitt is the best, any other coach is irrelevant.

floravol writes:

I think Glory is the hustle on this team. I never wrote last year even on the days I wanted to. She started of last year like wild fire until you folks beat her down game after game. If she can keep her chin up and play, the season will be wonderful. Dumb fouls and all, as ya`ll say. Can you keep up with her?

eldr5#344719 writes:

I love the way the Lady Vols are playing but UCONN is going to be tough to beat. I can't stand Geno or his school but they have a ton of talent. Maybe if and when we get Vicki back we will be able to overwhelm them with size but currently our team isn't quite as strong at them. Anything can happen on a given day though so here's hoping we get to see them in the National Championship game.

Munsterlander writes:

in response to Mike_In_Connecticut:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Geez what a pr1ck! I can only guess you're drastically overcompensating for something. 1" is still functional, nothing to be ashamed of.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to floravol:

I think Glory is the hustle on this team. I never wrote last year even on the days I wanted to. She started of last year like wild fire until you folks beat her down game after game. If she can keep her chin up and play, the season will be wonderful. Dumb fouls and all, as ya`ll say. Can you keep up with her?

Saying that Glory was good last year "until you folks beat her down game after game" is like saying the rooster's crowing causes the sun to rise. Glory just hit the "freshman wall" a little early, along with most of the rest of the squad. What we are seeing now is the fruit of that squad's baptism of fire last year. I don't know if the LVs are up to UConn's standard yet this season--heck, they might not beat Stanford--but if they get Baugh back healthy in the next month or so, they will be a tough out in the tourney for anybody.

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