NORFOLK, Va. — Tennessee already knew the devastating impact of pressure defense.
The Lady Vols took the court Sunday against Old Dominion with the damage caused by Georgetown last weekend still vivid in their minds. They have some fresh memories after a 74-44 women’s basketball thrashing of the Lady Monarchs before a crowd of 7,774 at the Constant Center. They’re much better, too.
The strategy that caused them to commit 29 turnovers and stumble to a 69-58 loss at the Paradise Jam was their best asset eight days later, disrupting Old Dominion while providing some much-needed tempo and offensive traction.
“Watching tape on (ODU) and understanding how they push the ball really hard in the open floor,’’ UT coach Pat Summitt said, “we thought just because of our length — we’re long and rangy — that we could have a better impact.
“I thought the team made it work.”
After a lumbering start, No. 9 Tennessee (8-1) opened an 18-point halftime lead and then surged again in the final 10 minutes. Freshman guard Meighan Simmons scored a team-high 14 points, extending her streak of double-figure scoring games to start her UT career to nine. She matched former Lady Vol Candace Parker’s double-figure scoring debut.
Shekinna Stricklen, in her new role as a forward, scored 11 points and Kamiko Williams had 10.
Senior guard Jasmine Parker scored a game-high 16 points for Old Dominion (3-3), surpassing 1,000 career points. But she was more preoccupied afterward with her 10 turnovers, which amounted to nearly half of the Lady Monarchs’ 22. She suffered the most at the hands of Tennessee’s defenders.
“I had a lot of unforced turnovers,’’ Parker said. “Just taking care of the ball was the Achilles’ heel for me and also for my teammates. I wish we had some of those possessions back.”
UT’s zone press often deployed 6-foot-3 forward Glory Johnson on the front of the alignment and had multiple defenders lurking around half court like hungry predators, waiting to trap the ball or disrupt its passage.
The Lady Vols went to their press about seven minutes into the game with their lead a tenuous 8-7. By halftime, they had accumulated half of their 20 points off turnovers and their advantage had ballooned to 40-22.
“It kind of determined their offense and it kind of made them rush a little bit,’’ said Johnson of the pressure. “I think it made their guards a little uneasy.
“Their (forward) taking the ball out, she didn’t really like to dribble as much so it made them change the way they were taking the ball out and how they were pushing it.”
Old Dominion was playing without starting forward Alena Voronina, the team’s third-leading scorer (10.2 points per game). She suffered an elbow injury in last Tuesday’s game at Florida.
“I’m not telling you that was the difference in the game,’’ ODU coach Wendy Larry said. “I’m just saying we weren’t really, really comfortable.”
The Lady Vols’ defense covered for their ongoing offensive adjustments. They committed 18 turnovers (13 in the first half). Simmons, who finished with a team-high four assists, lamented some of the opening acts of her second start at point guard.
“In the beginning, I was a little overanxious,’’ she said. “I turned the ball over a couple times. I was rushing things.”
Summitt conceded, “We’re going through some growing pains.”
The latest installment apparently wasn’t overly painful for the coach, however. She teased Johnson afterward in the interview room about “reaching and fouling” more than scold her. She took the same approach with Simmons in talking about her “playing out of control a little bit.”
And when asked about Williams, who had three steals, Summitt cracked up Simmons and Johnson by saying, “(Kamiko) found a pulse.”
“All in all,’’ said Summitt, “it was a really good win for us.”