The gesture by Tennessee’s associate head coach was thoughtful. More meaningful, though, was the 32 playing minutes the Lady Vols allocated to Manning.
The senior forward made the most of her time. She helped UT cover for one of its worst women’s basketball tendencies (turnovers) with one of its best assets (depth) in beating DePaul, 84-61, in the Maggie Dixon Classic.
Although Glory Johnson led No. 7 Tennessee (5-2) with 16 points and reserve forward Cierra Burdick added 15, Manning’s double-double (12 points and 12 rebounds) constituted her best game of the season. Her points matched her season total of the previous six games and her rebounds were just three fewer.
Manning’s minutes didn’t stand out as much in the context of her season. Still, they dwarfed the three-minute shift she logged last Sunday against Texas.
Was she tired afterward?
“I’m ready to go again,’’ she said.
Teammate Shekinna Stricklen interjected: “She’s not tired.”
Manning’s contributions were timely against No. 20 DePaul (8-2). Tennessee needed a boost while working through its 19 turnovers.
In this case, the battle with wastefulness reflected the absence of starting point guard Ariel Massengale. She was a spectator on UT’s bench after suffering a left-hand injury on Thursday.
The Lady Vols started Meighan Simmons at point but shifted to Stricklen early as the turnover count steadily climbed toward double figures and reached 13 by halftime.
The Lady Vols managed to slow the torrent to a relative trickle in the second half and busy themselves with more productive pursuits.
They were so intent on pounding the ball inside — scoring 50 points from the foul-lane area — that they failed to hit a 3-pointer for the first time since Jan. 2 at LSU.
On defense, they reprised their pressure tactics enough to record 13 steals.
Manning’s production reflected those achievements.
“Oh man, she’s a beast,’’ Johnson said, who recounted Manning’s statistics and said, “That’s just Alicia Manning.”
After returning to her seat, Warlick indicated that present circumstances afforded Manning a bigger role.
“I know a couple of people said, ‘why didn’t she play’ ” Warlick said. “It’s all about the coaching and timing and what’s going on on the floor. We needed Alicia Manning today and she stepped up like she said she’s ready and she produced.”
Manning described her role like a hoops version of national guard duty.
“You never know what’s going to happen,’’ she said. “Obviously, I’m very competitive. Just keep that competitive attitude. When I get my chance, give it everything I’ve got.”
The Blue Demons, who were led by Jasmine Penny’s 16 points, aspired to the same attitude. But they had their own turnover problems, committing 24.
Star forward Keisha Hampton, meanwhile, fouled out with 10:28 left after scoring 14 points.
Dan Fleser may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/FleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser