Cierra Burdick talks about Tennessee's 2nd half struggles with Texas
Lady Vols get road win over Texas, ...
WACO, Texas — Meighan Simmons didn't pack lightly for a trip to Texas.
Tennessee's junior guard detailed a lengthy checklist last week of such essentials as poise, resolve and mental toughness.
Simmons was loading up specifically for a women's basketball game against No. 3 Baylor (8-1) Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center (TV: ESPN, 8 p.m.). She knows better than most Lady Vols that it takes a lot to make a shot against the Lady Bears.
"Play as hard as I can," she said. "Do everything I can for the betterment of the team. Making sure I stay focused all the time."
And maybe, just maybe, she will make a few baskets. They'd do wonders for the Lady Vols' chances against the defending national champions. Their four-game losing streak in the series is heavily freighted with shooting woes. In those four games, UT is hitting 29.4 percent from the floor (90-for-306).
Simmons, Tennessee's leading scorer at 17.9 points per game this season, has played in three of those losses and fared even worse, shooting 20 percent (9-for-44).
Small wonder that UT coach Holly Warlick likely will turn to senior Taber Spani as a starter if sophomore center Isabelle Harrison is unable to play tonight.
Harrison did not practice Monday and her status remains uncertain after she suffered a sprained right ankle in Sunday's 94-75 victory over Texas.
"It looks better (Monday) than I had thought it would earlier," Warlick said.
At 6-foot-1, Spani is no center. But she did score 15 points against Texas and hit three 3-pointers.
"With Baylor, you have to hit shots," Warlick said, "and you have to hit outside shots."
The latter part of Warlick's directive was made with respect to Brittney Griner, Baylor's 6-8 All-American center. She has 622 career blocks, 41 shy of the NCAA Division I record.
She's been prowling the foul lane for the past three seasons against Tennessee, adding to her impressive total at the Lady Vols' expense. On UT's last visit to Waco, Griner ran the length of the floor, catching former Lady Vol Vicki Baugh from behind and swatting away her shot.
"You get a lot more brave when you have somebody like that," UT assistant Dean Lockwood said.
Baylor has experienced, athletic players defending in concert with Griner. Although the Lady Bears already have faced three top-10 teams this season, they still are holding the opposition to a collective shooting percentage of 34.1 percent.
Simmons has become very familiar with Baylor junior point guard Odyssey Sims. She described the challenge of facing her as "an amazing experience."
"When you do face someone who's as intense as Odyssey, you want to be patient," said Simmons, who at times was impatient in shooting 6-for-20 against Texas. "You don't want to rush anything. You want to be smart with the ball."
Sunday's victory boosted Tennessee (7-1) to No. 10 in the Associated Press' weekly Top 25 poll, marking its return to the top 10 for the first time since the end of last season.
The victory also was useful preparation for tonight. UT offset season lows for points in the paint (28) and fast-break points (six) by matching a season high for double-figure scorers (six) and setting one for 3-pointers (eight).
UT's scoring act played well in Austin. But Waco is a different stage.
"No disrespect to Texas, no disrespect at all," Lockwood said, "but we're going from a single-A pitcher to a Hall of Famer."