Adams: Hey coach, put on a happy face

John Adams

The record and stats tell you this is another dominant Tennessee women's basketball team. A 75-63 victory over Ole Miss tells you something else.

The Lady Vols became the 14th team in school history to lose two or fewer games during the regular season. In conference games, they lead the SEC in just about every significant category: scoring, scoring defense, field-goal percentage, field-goal percentage defense, assists, rebounding and blocked shots.

But that statistical superiority didn't overwhelm the Rebels, who forged a 50-50 tie with 12:37 to play before faltering down the stretch Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Their challenge wasn't a fluke. Earlier this month, UT needed a last-second shot to defeat Ole Miss in Oxford.

The Rebels have posed more than a threat. They have provided a preview of the kind of team that could wreck UT's post-season venture.

Ole Miss has the quickness and perimeter shooting to counter UT's size. The advantage was underscored whenever Bianca Thomas struck from 3-point range or beat the Lady Vols off the dribble.

Not everybody has a player the caliber of Thomas, who leads the SEC in scoring. But quick teams who can hit 3-pointers and play aggravating defense could cause problems for the Lady Vols in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

"I think all teams are vulnerable in some area," Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said. "We have speed. We have quickness. We have good shooters.

"We're a little weak in the rebound department."

They also couldn't match UT's depth of talent, and - like almost everyone else in the regular season - struggled at times against UT's tall front line.

But Ole Miss more than matched UT's intensity. And that's what troubled Summitt the most Sunday.

Her post-game response supported her body language. This win didn't warrant a celebration.

"Do I look like I'm happy?" Summitt said. "Do I sound like I'm happy?"

The last victory of the regular season was hardly the first that didn't get an endorsement from Summitt. She understands better than anyone that winning in the post-season isn't all about minimizing your weaknesses and maximizing your strengths. It's just as much about grasping the crucial nature of every possession.

She has often questioned her team's ability to comprehend that concept.

"When a team is on a mission, you can see it," Summitt said. "You can feel it. It's obvious."

With a couple of exceptions, it was obviously missing Sunday.

Shekinna Stricklen was outstanding, hitting 10 of 13 field-goal tries and scoring 23 points. Alicia Manning continued her exemplary all-around play with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Manning has led the Lady Vols in rebounding over the last five games. Her versatility is indicative of a team that excels in many areas.

Kelley Cain leads the SEC in blocked shots and field-goal percentage. Angie Bjorklund leads the conference in 3-point shooting.

But those numbers, like all of UT's dazzling statistics, are based on the regular season. One bad game can overshadow a season's worth of statistics in March.

So can a bad habit.

"Habits are hard to break - good or bad," Summitt said. "We are what we repeatedly do."

And whatever you do is magnified in the post-season.

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 13

KCHS63 writes:

John's column is spot on, but what exactly was the headline writer thinking (or not thinking)?

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to KCHS63:

John's column is spot on, but what exactly was the headline writer thinking (or not thinking)?

Cranial vault empty

UTVOLSRROCKN writes:

in response to KCHS63:

John's column is spot on, but what exactly was the headline writer thinking (or not thinking)?

BTW...my answer was directed as the answer to your question....not you personally.

tnaseevol writes:

CPS is unhappy.....CPS never smiles!

Lostvolinhighweeds writes:

in response to tnaseevol:

CPS is unhappy.....CPS never smiles!

The relentless pursuit of perfection is not smile inducing.

Brillovol writes:

in response to tnaseevol:

CPS is unhappy.....CPS never smiles!

CPS smiles plenty when she's cutting down nets, which she does with regularity.

YankeeVol writes:

in response to UTVOLSRROCKN:

Cranial vault empty

I like that - where I work, I'll be adopting that phrase on a regular basis - Thanks.

wagee12 writes:

Adams is spot on in this article. There's something missing on this team and Pat sees it. Of course, Pat could have had Bianca Thomas by making one phone call to Chester County High School. She also passed on the big center, Holloway, from Dyersburg.

Volfantm writes:

I am really looking forward to the tournament starting this week. Time to see how much progress the LV's have made, particularly in attitude. Too casual on Friday and Pat will blow a fuse, for good reason. No flashbacks to last year please. Go Lady Vols!
ps Additonal LV based articles are very welcome.

govolshw writes:

good article adams... unlike hooker

SummittsCourt writes:

More doom and gloom, thanks JA - did you take a course with hooker the troll.

Why can't people get past the fact that there are more great players playing these days and the competition is getting better every year. Gone are the days when UT is going to blow teams away by 30 or 40. The SEC is killer, unlike the obviously weak big least conference.

Pat is doing what she is doing and saying what she is saying to motivate her players not please the fans or the reporters.

You hear it from me first, UT can beat UConn should they face each other. UT has the front court to over match uconvicticut, the guards to out run them and the depth to run them down. And this without Vickie Baugh and Cait McMahon, Amber Gray and Faith Dupree.

Southland writes:

nope we cant hang with Conneticut, they have distanced themselves from the pack. UT is good but not as good as the evil empire. I really hope the jerk coach they have retires before he passes Pat Head's records. He is on pace to pass her at the clip he is going. He has built a maching whose down years is two or three loses.

1volk-nowi-tall writes:

The LV must become better at stopping the drives to the basket by their opponents. They often seem confused and do not stop the ball even backing away from the driver when they are the only defender there. When Kelly is out near the freethrow line she cannot get back to the basket to defend that drive. STOP THE BALL. They also often get lost with screens and do not get to the three point shooter early enough. I believe that Manning is a great shooter in practice. If she ever begins to shoot the 3 in games the LV will be so much better and Angie and Shekinna will benefit tremendously from that. Could we learn to give up only 6-8 turnovers a game. Oh HAPPY DAYS!

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