John Adams: Lady Vols warm up for SEC with a traditional victory

John Adams
Tennessee's Bashaara Graves tries to get around Rutgers' Christa Evans at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday, December 30, 2012. At left is Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison. Tennessee defeated Rutgers 66-47. 

(Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee's Bashaara Graves tries to get around Rutgers' Christa Evans at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday, December 30, 2012. At left is Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison. Tennessee defeated Rutgers 66-47. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

A 19-point victory over a usually competitive rival should speak for itself. But Tennessee's performance was enhanced by the postgame critique of Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer.

She didn't just praise the Lady Vols to the media. She said as much to her longtime friend, former UT coach Pat Summitt, who was on hand for the 66-47 victory over the Scarlet Knights on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Stringer said these Lady Vols reminded her of Tennessee's championship teams. She wasn't talking so much about the talent as the effort.

"This team is playing closer to the extremely aggressive, intense Tennessee teams," Stringer said. "I haven't always thought that (about recent UT teams).

"A lot of this is not so much the skill. It's the mind-set."

Stringer's assessment contrasted sharply with the appraisal of Tennessee coach Holly Warlick just eight days earlier, after a 73-60 loss to Stanford in the same building.

The defeat ignited a week-long rant from Warlick on the evils of lackadaisical defense. Based on Sunday's demonstration, her fury wasn't wasted. Rutgers committed 24 turnovers and made only 34.6 percent of its shots.

Not all of the Scarlet Knights' failings could be attributed to rejuvenated defense. Defending Rutgers is not comparable to defending Stanford or Baylor, which overwhelmed UT two weeks ago.

In fact, by the end of Sunday's dogs-chasing-Frisbees halftime show, I was convinced one of the canines had a better chance of gripping a basketball in its teeth and dunking it than Rutgers did of making a 3-point shot.

The opponent's shortcomings aside, Tennessee's defense at least passed the Warlick test on this afternoon. She was smiling.

Smiling: Not a bad way to start SEC week.

The Lady Vols are 9-3 and ranked 13th nationally. But they have yet to make their mark this season in a conference they have dominated for decades.

They will get their chance Thursday night in Columbia against 19th-ranked South Carolina. And the aforementioned defense and effort will go a long way in determining how they fare.

It's as though the Gamecocks are practicing the very virtues that Summitt preached so loudly and long in her 38 seasons as UT's coach — defense and rebounding. They lead the conference in both. Against Tennessee, they should have something else going for them: a hostile home venue.

Talent was decisive in UT's losses to Baylor and Stanford. But its first SEC challenge could be different.

In Stringer's words, more about mind-set than skill.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 8

wigmeister writes:

Amen Vivian Stringer!

jt45 writes:

Staleys girls will be a tough matchup, perhaps one of the best defenses the Lady Vols will see this year. If the LVs play with the intensity they showed in the first half against Rutgers then I think they should be able to get their transition offense running well enough to get the win. If the Tempo gets slowed down the LVs might not fair so well.

Good luck ladies, now go pluck them chickens.

AllforTenn writes:

in response to jt45:

Staleys girls will be a tough matchup, perhaps one of the best defenses the Lady Vols will see this year. If the LVs play with the intensity they showed in the first half against Rutgers then I think they should be able to get their transition offense running well enough to get the win. If the Tempo gets slowed down the LVs might not fair so well.

Good luck ladies, now go pluck them chickens.

you mean fare so well. Go Lady Vols.

movol53 writes:

Thursday we will see two teams playing basketball the way Summitt won 8 championships. Both teams will be playing the defense of their lives. The end score will be in the 40's and I hope our young team can come out on top. Although the South Carolina team is more experienced. They did do a better job against Stanford. Our young team must play every possession; not just most of them. As the mens coach at Arkansas once said - - make they other team feel like they have played through 40 minutes of HELL. The Lady Vols can play the tough defense but unlike the mens' team the Lady Vols do have some shooters. GO VOLS!!!!

voloffaith writes:

in response to AllforTenn:

you mean fare so well. Go Lady Vols.

Schools out for the HOLYdays so give it a polite lil rest.......Fair thee well AOT.....oops snafu....Fare thee well AOT....On topic Gamecocks by 7.....

voloffaith writes:

Sold out arena for thursday night...tried to find two tix and sold out...Sportsouth carrying at 9pm....

Theo writes:

If both teams play the defense they are capable of, this may become a free throw shooting contest.
Go Lady Vols!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Sold out arena for thursday night...tried to find two tix and sold out...Sportsouth carrying at 9pm....

That is awesome! I wonder when was the last time USCe sold out a women's basketball game. A comparison of the two teams' results against Stanford would indicate the LVs will be in trouble Thursday night, but if they play as hard as they did in the first half against Rutgers, they should have a good chance.

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