Lady Vols face healthy challenge in 7-0 North Carolina

Tennessee head coach stands with her players as they come in for a time out during the game against MTSU at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday, November 28, 2012. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee head coach stands with her players as they come in for a time out during the game against MTSU at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Know your Lady Vols: Andraya Carter

North Carolina has returned to the national polls and is making tracks toward its customary place in women's basketball.

The journey wasn't possible without the Tar Heels first escaping the trainer's room.

Their hard-earned health is reflected by a 7-0 record and No. 22 ranking heading into Sunday's (Tipoff: 1 p.m., TV: MyVLT, FSS) game against No. 16 Tennessee (5-1) at Thompson-Boling Arena. Sylvia Hatchell, who's in her 38th season as North Carolina's coach, feels good enough these days to jokingly suggest that there's a fountain of youth out there after all.

"I feel like I'm 25," she said, "until I walk by the mirror."

The season to date certainly isn't mirroring last season's injury-ravaged campaign, when the Tar Heels finished 20-11 and out of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000-01. Under the circumstances, Hatchell thought it was a "miracle" that the team won 20 games.

"We had more injuries in one year than we had in the last 10 years total," she said. "There's nothing you can do about it."

Starting guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was out until Jan. 5 after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Reserves Megan Buckland and Latifah Coleman both went down within the first nine games with torn anterior cruciate knee ligaments.

Departed senior Laura Broomfield missed nine games with feet and ankle problems.

While Waltiea Rolle wasn't hurt, the Tar Heels' 6-foot-6 starting center missed the first 10 games after having a baby girl.

Hatchell said that she was down to six players at one point.

"I felt like (we were) the Israelites going through the desert," she said.

Hatchell thought that

the carryover effect was North Carolina not appearing in the Associated Press' preseason top 25 for the first time since 2001.

"I said two things when we started," Hatchell said. "First of all, we're underrated. Second, we're going to be a hard team to play against."

She'd get no argument from Tennessee.

"What they want to do is try to make you play fast,'' UT assistant coach Jolette Law said. "They want to create probably a 40-minute game of chaos."

Lady Vols junior guard Meighan Simmons seems intrigued by the prospects of a game without speed limits.

"I've been waiting for us to play a team that actually gets out and runs," she said. "That's something that's going to test us to see where our mentality is."

While Hatchell said that the Tar Heels have had at least 100 possessions in each of their games, the fast pace hasn't translated into huge scoring. Instead, they're winning with defense, holding the opposition to 54.3 points and 31 percent shooting. A 57-54 victory over No. 15 Ohio State on Wednesday was just their second win in eight years when scoring less than 60 points.

Rebounding also has been instrumental with North Carolina's margin a robust plus-9.1.

Finally, the Tar Heels are winning in spite of turnovers. They had 35 against Georgetown on Nov. 14 and still won, 63-48.

"The team that wins the war on the boards and (has) the fewest turnovers, they'll win the game," Law said.

Today's meeting is the first between the two schools in five years. Hatchell initially wanted to drop the game for a year in an effort to rebalance North Carolina's non-conference schedule. The Tar Heels were playing both Tennessee and Connecticut in the same home-and-away cycle. Tennessee then didn't have room for the Tar Heels to return.

Hatchell said that the two teams will play in Chapel Hill, N.C., on the first Sunday of next season, which will serve as an early showcase for two of the nation's top freshman classes.

In the meantime, the series is back today in rousing fashion — much like North Carolina.

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Comments » 15

movol53 writes:

Two traditional powerhouses both of which were barely mentioned preseason. Both "rebuilding" for different reasons. With the recruits that NC and UT have currently and have coming in next year the next few seasons should be great fun as we watch these two program's young ladies mature and learn how to play at this level. GO LADY VOLS!!!!!

ModelMaker writes:

Win or lose against North Carolina I like what I see in this bunch. I think they have a real good attitude, good team chemistry, and I think they are really working hard. I thought they showed a lot of grit against Middle Tn. in the last game. Rick Insell is an outstanding coach and that was probably his strongest team. I wish them well against NC.

SummittsCourt writes:

The Lady Vols have already beaten 3 top 25 teams this season - I see 4 after Sunday.

Go Lady Vols!

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

The Lady Vols have already beaten 3 top 25 teams this season - I see 4 after Sunday.

Go Lady Vols!

who were the 3 teams?

ps11824 writes:

The most memorable game I've ever seen the Lady Vols play was against NC. That being Region Final '98. Holy Smoke... if you've never seen it, or if you don't remember that game, get a copy. ABSOLUTELY awesome. Those were the days when the Lady Vols WERE TOUGH AS NAILS. They would not be denied a trip to Kansas City to play for the National title. After that game it was Coach Kyra Elzy, and Niya Butts who danced around the court in celebration; headed to the Final 4 with a perfect record of 37-0 and brought the big trophy back to Knoxville.

Go Lady Vols. You can make good things happen too.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

who were the 3 teams?

My bad, only 2 ranked teams, Ga Tech and Miami. So UNC will be the third.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ps11824:

The most memorable game I've ever seen the Lady Vols play was against NC. That being Region Final '98. Holy Smoke... if you've never seen it, or if you don't remember that game, get a copy. ABSOLUTELY awesome. Those were the days when the Lady Vols WERE TOUGH AS NAILS. They would not be denied a trip to Kansas City to play for the National title. After that game it was Coach Kyra Elzy, and Niya Butts who danced around the court in celebration; headed to the Final 4 with a perfect record of 37-0 and brought the big trophy back to Knoxville.

Go Lady Vols. You can make good things happen too.

That was indeed a great game. Looks like there could be some more like it as both of these great programs reload and climb the national rankings.

Theo writes:

Agree, this game could be a preview of NC contenders for the next four years.
Go Lady Vols - protect your home!

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

Hmmm.....102-57. Doesn't seem like it was really that much of a challenge now.

vol98champ writes:

in response to ps11824:

The most memorable game I've ever seen the Lady Vols play was against NC. That being Region Final '98. Holy Smoke... if you've never seen it, or if you don't remember that game, get a copy. ABSOLUTELY awesome. Those were the days when the Lady Vols WERE TOUGH AS NAILS. They would not be denied a trip to Kansas City to play for the National title. After that game it was Coach Kyra Elzy, and Niya Butts who danced around the court in celebration; headed to the Final 4 with a perfect record of 37-0 and brought the big trophy back to Knoxville.

Go Lady Vols. You can make good things happen too.

I was there. I don't remember the exact time and score, but with a few minutes left in the game and UT down by about 10 points, Ace Clement ran out on the court during a timeout, waving her arms at the crowd. We exploded(the crowd was 90% Tennessee) and NC rarely got the ball past half court as the Lady Vols surged to the victory.

OrangeBloodFlood writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

Hmmm.....102-57. Doesn't seem like it was really that much of a challenge now.

Fun to watch though huh?This was a great coaching job by Holly Warlick,with the exception of playing Andraya Carter who re-injured her shoulder,oh well maybe that was a reward for practicing this week.Congrats to Meighan Simmons another example of Coach Warlick letting players do what they do best.The Lady Vols are young but I for one am very excited about the future.As for those of you who said Holly would fail guess what? you sorely underestimated the power of the orange blood. Go Lady Vols !

ps11824 writes:

vol98champ, and johnlg, I have NEVER been so intense about a game, ever, as long as I've been a fan. LVs actually outscored 27-9 down the stretch. NC had the lead of 12 pts. at the 7:19 mark. I had tickets for KC and I was about to throw up.

Our freshmen, Tree Geter, Ace Clement, Catchings and Boo Randall joined a struggling Chamique and TOOK OVER that game. Geter absolutely OWNED the boards in that final 7 minutes with 5 boards, 7 pts. a couple of vicious blocks.

The most amazing play of the game was when Catchings literally reached up and grabbed the ball from an inbounds play by NC. She flipped the ball to Geter all in one fell swoop and Geter scored and was fouled and that began the comeback for the Lady Vols. It was amazing, like now you see it, now you don't. The crowd of mostly ORANGE 14k went crazy for 7 minutes non-stop madness by the Lady Vols. That should have been the Championship Game. It was only the prelude to a fabulous trip to Kansas City.

Pat Summitt called it "the hardest game to win in collegiate basketball." The 4 freshmen were so confident in the Final Four, it was a cakewalk for them to defeat Arkansas and La Tech for the crystal ball trophy, #6 for Pat and the Lady Vols. WOW!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ps11824:

vol98champ, and johnlg, I have NEVER been so intense about a game, ever, as long as I've been a fan. LVs actually outscored 27-9 down the stretch. NC had the lead of 12 pts. at the 7:19 mark. I had tickets for KC and I was about to throw up.

Our freshmen, Tree Geter, Ace Clement, Catchings and Boo Randall joined a struggling Chamique and TOOK OVER that game. Geter absolutely OWNED the boards in that final 7 minutes with 5 boards, 7 pts. a couple of vicious blocks.

The most amazing play of the game was when Catchings literally reached up and grabbed the ball from an inbounds play by NC. She flipped the ball to Geter all in one fell swoop and Geter scored and was fouled and that began the comeback for the Lady Vols. It was amazing, like now you see it, now you don't. The crowd of mostly ORANGE 14k went crazy for 7 minutes non-stop madness by the Lady Vols. That should have been the Championship Game. It was only the prelude to a fabulous trip to Kansas City.

Pat Summitt called it "the hardest game to win in collegiate basketball." The 4 freshmen were so confident in the Final Four, it was a cakewalk for them to defeat Arkansas and La Tech for the crystal ball trophy, #6 for Pat and the Lady Vols. WOW!

Although the current team doesn't seem to have anybody quite like Holsclaw or Catchings, they seem to have a pretty good thing going in their own right. They were just relentless yesterday against a good UNC team. If they can just bring that same kind of intensity every game, this will be a fun season indeed!

vol98champ writes:

in response to ps11824:

vol98champ, and johnlg, I have NEVER been so intense about a game, ever, as long as I've been a fan. LVs actually outscored 27-9 down the stretch. NC had the lead of 12 pts. at the 7:19 mark. I had tickets for KC and I was about to throw up.

Our freshmen, Tree Geter, Ace Clement, Catchings and Boo Randall joined a struggling Chamique and TOOK OVER that game. Geter absolutely OWNED the boards in that final 7 minutes with 5 boards, 7 pts. a couple of vicious blocks.

The most amazing play of the game was when Catchings literally reached up and grabbed the ball from an inbounds play by NC. She flipped the ball to Geter all in one fell swoop and Geter scored and was fouled and that began the comeback for the Lady Vols. It was amazing, like now you see it, now you don't. The crowd of mostly ORANGE 14k went crazy for 7 minutes non-stop madness by the Lady Vols. That should have been the Championship Game. It was only the prelude to a fabulous trip to Kansas City.

Pat Summitt called it "the hardest game to win in collegiate basketball." The 4 freshmen were so confident in the Final Four, it was a cakewalk for them to defeat Arkansas and La Tech for the crystal ball trophy, #6 for Pat and the Lady Vols. WOW!

Thanks for the exact figures. I could only be certain of the chill bumps I get every time I remember those last few minutes. Memorial gym was electric. I truly believe we had given up until Ace got us going.

ps11824 writes:

What a great perspective. I don't remember her being key in that game, but I do remember KJ had a rough stretch; Ace came in and settled the team down for a few plays. Then, KJ reentered the game and had a good strong finish with 4 pts 3 rebs 3 ast 3 stls. Kellie was a Pat Summitt clone, for sure. I would go so far as to say she was the most consistently calm, controlled point guard I've seen in Lady Vol Orange. Ace was a sensational crowd favorite. She had game at times... IMHO.

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