Pat Summitt did her homework Tuesday night. And she was quick about it.
“The one thing that stands out to me is we gave up more points,’’ she said. “Why?”
Good question. In the six previous exhibition meetings, the Lady Eagles had never scored more than 55 points. Last year, they mustered just 34.
In this game, they had 36 by halftime. Furthermore they were outrebounding the Lady Vols by two at the break.
Summitt answered her own question by saying, “We weren’t passionate about playing great defense. I don’t know many teams that are going to win championships if they aren’t passionate about defense and board play. We can certainly address that.”
On the flipside, Tennessee put some effort into its offense. Despite playing without five players, the Lady Vols still had six double-figure scorers, led by Glory Johnson’s 26 points. Taber Spani added 22, connecting on four of six 3-pointers. Alicia Manning had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Tennessee shot 54.9 percent from the floor (39 for 71) and 46.2 percent on 3-pointers (12 for 26).
The Lady Vols achieved the accuracy without one of their top sharpshooters. Senior guard Angie Bjorklund sat out the game for a violation of the team’s class attendance policy. They amassed the points and eventually built a 45-28 rebounding advantage without most of their post game. Vicki Baugh and Kelley Cain were resting while Alyssia Brewer was out recovering from Achilles’ tendon surgery.
UT also was missing freshman guard Lauren Avant, who’s recovering from a nerve contusion in her right hand.
The Lady Vols gained some self-assurance with their offensive efficiency and effectiveness. Perhaps they banked enough to make a deposit in their play at the other end of the court.
“It’s being confident on defense,’’ Johnson said, “knowing we’re going to get steals and pushing back on offense.”
Johnson had one of the best all-around performances. She shot 8 for 12 from the floor and played some effective perimeter defense, consciously avoiding the foul trouble that has caused Summitt to be hesitant about deploying the 6-foot-3 forward away from the basket.
“She’s older and smarter,’’ Summitt said. “She has a good feel for what she has to do.”
Freshman Meighan Simmons, on the other hand, is still young but perhaps a bit wiser after her first game. With her parents making a surprise visit, she picked up three fouls and played five first-half minutes. She eventually returned to score 11 points, dish out five assists and show off her quickness.
“I got four hours of sleep last night pretty much,’’ Simmons said. “I was pretty excited about today.”
Given the depleted ranks, guard Kamiko Williams, who also must miss one game for a violation of the class attendance policy, played 22 minutes and presumably will sit out Sunday’s exhibition against Union University.
Summitt also said that the team uniforms eventually will have the players’ names on them.
“We didn’t have time to get them on there now,’’ she said. “We’re working on it.”