Lady Vols face blast from the past

Delta State was early women's power

A visit from Delta State brings back memories for Holly Warlick and inspires a question.

"Do we have a winning record against them?'' Tennessee's associate head coach asked.

For the record, Tennessee does at 4-2. Apparently it was a hard-earned advantage.

A women's basketball exhibition game against the Lady Statesmen at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena recalls Tennessee's formative years and one of its toughest early opponents.

Former Lady Vol Warlick has personal experience with the rivalry, having played in all six games against the Cleveland, Miss., school during the latter half of the 1970s.

"That's who all of us were chasing back then,'' she said. "That was one of our biggest rivalries."

In the first meeting between the two schools - on Dec. 17, 1976, at the Mississippi University for Women Christmas Invitational - Delta State was the defending AIAW national champion and ranked No. 1.

Future Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Lusia Harris was a monolith in the middle. Delta State's 6-foot-3 center was compiling career totals of 2,981 points and 1,662 rebounds.

Delta State coach Margaret Wade was at the top of her profession as well. A trophy for player of the year was established in her honor in 1978. It was won by Lady Vol assistant coach Daedra Charles Furlow in 1991.

In 1986, Wade became the first woman inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

"She was a gentle, kind lady and truly a lady, but her teams, they just came after you,'' said UT coach Pat Summitt, a fellow hall of famer. "Behind that soft-spoken person was a coach who knew how to recruit players and also motivate. Her teams, they just had a toughness about them."

Delta State won three consecutive national championships 1975-77. The Lady Statesmen won their first two games with Tennessee before the Lady Vols turned the tide for good in 1978.

Judging by her question, Warlick was a little foggy on the outcomes. Or her recall was overshadowed by the actual competition.

"It was always a bloodbath, always,'' she said. "They were way before their time."

The teams last played on Feb. 6, 1979.

Since then, Delta State hasn't drifted away.

The Lady Statesmen moved to NCAA Division II in 1986 and have won three more national championships.

Delta State is ranked No. 3 in the Division II preseason poll and returns three starters from last season's 30-7 team. All-American point guard Sarita "Bug" Cooper recorded an NCAA-leading 289 assists last season.

The Lady Statesmen have enough athleticism and sufficient size to make Tennessee's 124-34 exhibition rout of Carson-Newman College on Thursday a memory.

They will try their best to give the Lady Vols an appreciation for what Warlick experienced.

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Comments » 10

wayoutwill writes:

Will the Delta State team give us a decent ballgame?What's the concensus?

utfan00 writes:

I am afraid Baylor is going to beat Tenn. I don't think these girls are power enough for Baylor. I'm worried about Brittney Griner blocking all the shots. I don't Kelly can hang with Brittney even though she is only 2 inches taller than her.

CTOWNICON writes:

This will be a good game for the lady vols to see how they have progressed. As far as Baylor goes the game has to be played first. I don't know who will win but I hope the lady vols will prevail. These lady vols can play with any team if they put it all out there on the floor. Britney Griner is only one person and granted she is good and probably will be more than a handfull she can't win the game by herself. It will be a good game and I can't wait but I think the lady vols can pull this one off against Baylor. Kelly will be ready for the challenge. She is healthy this year and I think we are deeper in the post than most teams so I say bring it on, let the games begin.

dwa7#337691 writes:

prediction

UT 80
D State 72

richvol writes:

If you have big bodied girls like UT then you can box Griner out. They must work harder than last year however and that remains to be seen.

ps11824 writes:

[wayoutwill writes:
Will the Delta State team give us a decent ballgame?What's the concensus?]

It's a real game-time situation, with officials, timeclock and an opponent who would love to play lights-out against a TN team. Sure they will give us a good game. If the LVs play lights-out ball like the score is tied all game, it will be beneficial. Baylor's got next.

ps11824 writes:

utfan00, you better get over that "I'm afraid" syndrome. Good thing you aren't a Pat Summitt pupil. She would make you pay dearly for that negative thinking. I certainly hope the LVs don't share your "I'm worried about" mentality. I KNOW Pat doesn't.

It's just as easy, since we can do nothing to make the team fearless, to think in terms of a team NOT unlike the '98 National Champions who were so very young, but totally FEARLESS of any opponent.

Remember when the 3 Meeks, Ace, Kellie and Geeter were down 12 points with 7 minutes to play in the ME Regional Final against big, physical, athletic NC?? A tough, fearless LV team, after having their tails chewed up and spit out in front of a standing-room-crowd in Vandy's Memorial backassard Gym came out and outscored the tarheels 27-9. They absolutely willed their way to Kansas City. It was by far the most exciting game I have ever seen them play, and to see Geeter dancing around the floor carrying a sign, "529 Miles to KC."

I still get chills when I remember that game. Never, ever give up on or doubt the power of the Orange. Thanks for allowing me to repeat that for the kagillionth time.

Hacksaw57 writes:

The two ladies in sports I admire the most are Pat Summitt and L. Margaret Wade.
Coach Wade was the epitome of a lady on and off the court but, as the article stated, her team's would scrap with you till your eyeballs fell out.
Being a Mississippian, I had the oppertunity to witniss those Delta State Lady Statesman's teams and they were all all tough.
Here is a copy of Coach Wade's biography:

"In a cool and deliberate manner, Margaret Wade methodically assembled a dynasty at Delta State that remains unrivaled in women's basketball. Wade, who played at Delta State for three years, saw the program eliminated by an administration that deemed the sport too strenuous for girls. Despite protests that included the burning of uniforms, the Delta State women's program was dormant for 41 years. An outstanding coach at Cleveland High School in Mississippi for nineteen seasons with a 453-89 record, when Delta State resurrected women's basketball in 1973, Wade, at age 60, became coach. With her blend of discipline, humor, and caring, the program exploded. Her first team compiled a 16-2 record, and the next three seasons produced an unprecedented three AIAW Championships and a 93-4 record that included a 51-game winning string. Margaret Wade's legacy is remembered annually each year when the top women's collegiate player is awarded the Wade Trophy."

Equally today, Pat Summitt is the personification of what a basketball coach should be. She is THE best basketball coach, men or women, in the game today. The biography of Coach Wade could be very easily be written for Pat Summitt.

LdyVolFaninKS writes:

Cain can control Griner, but only if the refs allow her to. Because Kelley is so much thicker, I'm a little concerned that the refs will blow the whistle every time she breaths on the little stick-bug. Tonights prediction-UT 101, Delta State 64.

YankeeVol writes:

in response to richvol:

If you have big bodied girls like UT then you can box Griner out. They must work harder than last year however and that remains to be seen.

It's true. If there is a victory against Baylor, it will be summed up in 2 words: boxed out.

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