John Adams: Vanderbilt took advantage of Lady Vols porous defense

John Adams
Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt, center, leaves the court after an NCAA basketball game against Vanderbilt on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt upset Tennessee 93-79. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Photo by AP Photo / Mark Humphrey

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt, center, leaves the court after an NCAA basketball game against Vanderbilt on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt upset Tennessee 93-79. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE — Tennessee lost another road game and found a new nemesis Thursday night at Memorial Gymnasium.

Tiffany Clarke checked in late for the Commodores, but that was still too soon for the Lady Vols. Clarke scored 19 of her 23 points in the second half as Vanderbilt handed UT a 93-79 defeat in SEC women's basketball.

That's two conference losses in eight days for a program that lost only one SEC game the previous two seasons.

The outcome was surprising only from a historical perspective. UT had won 22 of its last 23 games against the Commodores.

Relevant fact: Most of those UT teams played defense.

You would have never guessed how the Lady Vols have dominated their in-state rival by watching Thursday's proceedings. The most pertinent viewing was in the paint, where Vanderbilt scored with ridiculous ease at times.

Glory Johnson, UT's best player, eventually fouled out trying to contend with Vanderbilt's inside attack, comprised mainly of Clarke and 6-foot-4 center Stephanie Holzer.

Holzer took the lead, scoring 15 of points in the first half, mostly on simple post-up moves or follow-up shots. Clarke, who picked up two quick fouls and played just seven minutes in the first half, did her damage after halftime.

Five of Clarke's second-half field goals came on layups, including one on an inbounds pass. She's merely the latest example of how easily UT can lose contact with a hot scorer. It's as though the defense suffers from intermittent blindness.

The loss reconfirmed more than the team's defensive ineptitude. It also added to the mounting evidence that UT is in big trouble on the road against a ranked team.

The Lady Vols have lost four of their last five games against nationally ranked teams on the road. Vanderbilt, which is ranked 25th in the coaches poll, also is the third ranked road team to beat UT by 14 or more points.

Tennessee's latest setback will resonate beyond the state. With a victory, UT could have pulled into a tie for the SEC lead by beating first-place Kentucky on Monday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.

Kentucky, which already has beaten UT in Lexington, now will have first place all to itself whether it wins or loses in Knoxville.

Thursday's loss also will come into play in March. Never mind how tough UT's schedule has been. It likely has played its way out of a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The 11th-ranked Lady Vols are 17-7 overall and just 5-4 over their last nine games.

But defense is a more pressing concern than seeding. The Lady Vols seemingly are getting worse — and no amount of their various lineup combinations can provide sufficient defense to bother an offense as versatile as Vanderbilt's.

Four Commodores are averaging in double figures. All four — Holzer, Clarke, Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister — improved their scoring averages against UT. Each scored between 19 and 23 points.

The most notable baskets came from Holzer and Clarke, who were a combined 19-for-26 from the field. They invariably gained favorable positioning against lax post defense. The rest was easy.

It often is against UT's defense.

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 » 20

flatrock writes:

John- It is time for a call-it-like-it-is article.
1.) this Lady Vol roster is playing the wrong style defense...No quickness at PG and on the Wings means the LVs cannot continue to play "over-play" defense...without pressure on the perimeter passers, the opponents are able to wait for their posts to finally get position on Glory, then lob and get an easy lay-up or draw a costly foul on Johnson, the LVs only serious rebounder;
2.) by playing a more conservative man or zone defense, it would allow the LVs to play their 2 most effective offensive wings- Simmons and Spani- together and for longer periods of time;
3.) a sagging defense would also allow the LVs only accomplished post-entry passer, Kamiko Williams, to run the point and concentrate on getting the ball to Johnson and Stricklen on-time and in the paint...Defenses would be forced to sag and help in the paint- and provide inside-out shooting opportunities for Simmons and Spani, both of whom are much stronger threats when catching-and-shooting- as opposed to the dribble-and-create game they are now forced to play;
3.) This is not a knock on Ariel, but she is much better equipped for an open-court style offense that the rest of her teammates simply can't play versus the better teams in the SEC and the NCAA...Her half-court passing, driving and shot-creation is much less-developed and hopefuly will catch up in the next 3 seasons;
4.) in the meantime, give the ball to Kamiko and allow her to re-build the Vol offense in a style that is better suitied for this particular group of LVs.
Changing styles will be a bitter pill for this staff to swallow, but, truth is, they have not been successful in recruiting the athletes that are required for their beloved up-tempo defense and offense. Great coaches- and teams- adapt. It is time for this staff to do the right thing!

keepitreal4vols writes:

flatrock = John Adams

wigmeister writes:

Ya think!!!!

underthehill writes:

in response to flatrock:

John- It is time for a call-it-like-it-is article.
1.) this Lady Vol roster is playing the wrong style defense...No quickness at PG and on the Wings means the LVs cannot continue to play "over-play" defense...without pressure on the perimeter passers, the opponents are able to wait for their posts to finally get position on Glory, then lob and get an easy lay-up or draw a costly foul on Johnson, the LVs only serious rebounder;
2.) by playing a more conservative man or zone defense, it would allow the LVs to play their 2 most effective offensive wings- Simmons and Spani- together and for longer periods of time;
3.) a sagging defense would also allow the LVs only accomplished post-entry passer, Kamiko Williams, to run the point and concentrate on getting the ball to Johnson and Stricklen on-time and in the paint...Defenses would be forced to sag and help in the paint- and provide inside-out shooting opportunities for Simmons and Spani, both of whom are much stronger threats when catching-and-shooting- as opposed to the dribble-and-create game they are now forced to play;
3.) This is not a knock on Ariel, but she is much better equipped for an open-court style offense that the rest of her teammates simply can't play versus the better teams in the SEC and the NCAA...Her half-court passing, driving and shot-creation is much less-developed and hopefuly will catch up in the next 3 seasons;
4.) in the meantime, give the ball to Kamiko and allow her to re-build the Vol offense in a style that is better suitied for this particular group of LVs.
Changing styles will be a bitter pill for this staff to swallow, but, truth is, they have not been successful in recruiting the athletes that are required for their beloved up-tempo defense and offense. Great coaches- and teams- adapt. It is time for this staff to do the right thing!

The comeback that had TN up by 54-52 was sparked by Bass pressuring the Vandy point guard..it took them out of their offense..Bass was playing better defense than any player on the floor..so Warlick..when you say Vandy was just better than us..let's include the coaching in that comment..would TN have won if they had left Bass in ..we will never know..what we do know is that we had the momentum at that point and did not get it back..seeing losses to other teams being quicker was not really unexpected..seeing Vandy playing quicker that the Lady Vols is a shocker...and John..we all saw the same thing u did..

johnlg00 writes:

I'm sorry, but even as a John Adams agnostic, I found nothing to disagree with either in his column or in flatrock's post. The most basic axiom in sports or in life in general is that if what you are doing isn't working, do something ELSE. Many posters on here who are serious, long-time LV fans noticed LONG ago that this team is just not equipped to play aggressive, on-ball, denial man-to-man defense. It hardly matters whether it is lack of foot-speed, lack of conditioning, or lack of commitment on the part of the players; if it isn't working, and it is repeatedly demonstrated by opponents that it is not working, then you have to do something different.

If that realization had come sooner and if the staff had enlisted the collaboration of the players, they would have learned by now how to combine a bit of three-quarter-court zone pressure with a variety of zones in the half-court. They would be approaching a degree of cohesion in movement within a zone that could both apply pressure on outside shooters AND stop the easy drives and post-ups that are killing them now. Instead of getting worse as foe after foe exposes their now well-known weaknesses, they would be getting better and better at a defense that they believed in. Instead of falling morale at failing to meet the expectations of the staff and the whole Big Orange/Lady Vol Nation, they would have rising confidence in their ability to execute a defense and a game plan that they had bought into wholeheartedly.

However, the situation has gone far beyond what can be fixed by tactical tinkering or even strategic shuffling of the lineups. I just think the whole organization has been off-balance and out of sorts since the preseason, and all of this is coming to a head in a way that reveals all the inherent weaknesses of this edition of the Lady Vols. Words can't express how sad I feel over all of this for the sake of the dedicated coaches, the unfulfilled players, and the loving, patient fans. No matter what happens the rest of this season, the great era of the Lady Vols is over. The nature of the next great era is unknown and unknowable for the immediate future.

CrankE writes:

The Lady Vols had a defense?

It's Time.

martic#220796 writes:

in response to underthehill:

The comeback that had TN up by 54-52 was sparked by Bass pressuring the Vandy point guard..it took them out of their offense..Bass was playing better defense than any player on the floor..so Warlick..when you say Vandy was just better than us..let's include the coaching in that comment..would TN have won if they had left Bass in ..we will never know..what we do know is that we had the momentum at that point and did not get it back..seeing losses to other teams being quicker was not really unexpected..seeing Vandy playing quicker that the Lady Vols is a shocker...and John..we all saw the same thing u did..

I am so heartboken over this team. After the SC game I thought I was through expecting anything out of this team. The Vandy game (to me) was a chance to show what they were made of.One win and you're back in the title hunt. They knew what they had to do and couldn't do it, now the reality of the situation has set in for me. I'm still a big LV fan but it is what it is! They don't have what it takes! I'm a die hard fan but I do fear this is the beginning of the end of a dynasty. I really hate to see Pat (have to) end her career in this manner, but gee something has to give. I hope someone is working on a replacement plan so that we don't get caught like our football and men's basketball teams.

clvolfan writes:

This one sure cannot be blamed on Glory Johnson.She is always scrapping,and the calls never go her way.Strickland is the one who should take this team over on the floor.She waited too long to get started.But in her defense,in previous games,could not get many touches.Manning is not the same,and is lost out there-not her own doing.

underthehill writes:

in response to clvolfan:

This one sure cannot be blamed on Glory Johnson.She is always scrapping,and the calls never go her way.Strickland is the one who should take this team over on the floor.She waited too long to get started.But in her defense,in previous games,could not get many touches.Manning is not the same,and is lost out there-not her own doing.

Glory Johnson has become the player her talent level has indicated she could be and you are right as far as I can tell..Stricken plays in spurts and Manning is not playing up to what she has in the past...Burdick looks like she should be getting more playing time..

AHOUSE writes:

Defense----most of the girls try to guard with their arms straight out from the side. Try moving fast with that postion and see how slow you move. they either run into your arm and you get a foul or they zip around you. The next time you watch the men play , check how they play defense and you see what I am talking about. That's a coaching problem.

cdtnladyvols931#663910 writes:

in response to clvolfan:

This one sure cannot be blamed on Glory Johnson.She is always scrapping,and the calls never go her way.Strickland is the one who should take this team over on the floor.She waited too long to get started.But in her defense,in previous games,could not get many touches.Manning is not the same,and is lost out there-not her own doing.

If this team would play defense, they would have won! and the calls go their way, No Defense for Lady Vols and have to play two teams the opposing knotty A-- teams & the officials!!!! Sports is getting like politics,DIRTY!DIRTY!!!! This team also acts like they just don't care whether they win or not except for a few players!!!

ModelMaker writes:

When a coach can't get the best players on the team to go out there and play together for at least 30 or 35 minutes a game then I would say they have got a lot of problems. You win with your best players and the coaches have not utilized the five best players on the team. They have been more concerned with getting playing time for everyone rather than winning basketball games.

Allenfan writes:

I have never posted a comment in the 25 years that I have been a Lady Vol Fan. I have followed the Lady Vols on tv and driven long distances to watch them play. I admire what Pat has done for the game of basketball, as no one has done it better. It is obivious from watching the games that I have been able to see this year that her medical problem is much worse now that even it was at the beginning of the season. My question is, at what point do the people that care for her, step in and make a decision that she may not be capable of making.
Our assistants are not the answer, as everyone can see the preperation for the games are as bad as I haver ever seen. I don't think anyone could blame her, because I don't think that she realizes how fast our program is declining. You can fault the girls, but the fact is, it is mostly the same team that have brought home the campionships the last two seasons.
I hope it is a win win situation for everyone, to allow one of the greatest coaches men or women, of all time, to leave on her terms. I think most all will agree, that the coach that we loved, is not the same coach as we still love today. I think just as we have seen the assistants take over the team, friends and family now need to face reality, and help her make the decesion that we all know is comming sooner or later. We can make this last year, a celebration year, and reflect on what she has done for womens basketball, and more importantly what she has done for Lady Vols Basketball.

pomp_and_circumstance writes:

I now understand. The Lady Vols bring out the best in every team they play. No matter if that team is in the cellar. One (or two or three) girls on that team will will score 20 or more points. Every ball they toss up will go in. Every girl on that team will be quicker than any LV. By contrast, there is not an outside shooter on the LV bench. Or inside for that matter. Their percentage is 1 out of every 10 three point clunkers. They face a zone defense (always, since it is a cake walk for the opposition)and have no plan at all. Discuss BB philosophy, strategy, technique all you want, but string music wins games. The Vandy girls played Tennessee Waltz all game long.

hueypilot writes:

in response to Allenfan:

I have never posted a comment in the 25 years that I have been a Lady Vol Fan. I have followed the Lady Vols on tv and driven long distances to watch them play. I admire what Pat has done for the game of basketball, as no one has done it better. It is obivious from watching the games that I have been able to see this year that her medical problem is much worse now that even it was at the beginning of the season. My question is, at what point do the people that care for her, step in and make a decision that she may not be capable of making.
Our assistants are not the answer, as everyone can see the preperation for the games are as bad as I haver ever seen. I don't think anyone could blame her, because I don't think that she realizes how fast our program is declining. You can fault the girls, but the fact is, it is mostly the same team that have brought home the campionships the last two seasons.
I hope it is a win win situation for everyone, to allow one of the greatest coaches men or women, of all time, to leave on her terms. I think most all will agree, that the coach that we loved, is not the same coach as we still love today. I think just as we have seen the assistants take over the team, friends and family now need to face reality, and help her make the decesion that we all know is comming sooner or later. We can make this last year, a celebration year, and reflect on what she has done for womens basketball, and more importantly what she has done for Lady Vols Basketball.

It is indeed sad to see someone who has never, at least in my mind, made a misstep in a career, to now be the victim of a disease that totally transforms her from the passionate, inspiring mentor and leader, to someone who looks like she is barely paying attention. This final few weeks should be a victory lap for Pat, to let fans in TBA and on the road express the gratitude and adulation she is due for the contributions she has made to women's athletics in the SEC and the NCAA. It would not be hard to imagine that Pat is well aware of this and does not want that kind of attention. But she deserves it.

This might be the lowest nadir of UT Sports I can ever recall. In some years past, there was always something to feel good about, track, swimming, usually football, sometimes men's basketball, but always the Lady Vols. Not now.

underthehill writes:

in response to Allenfan:

I have never posted a comment in the 25 years that I have been a Lady Vol Fan. I have followed the Lady Vols on tv and driven long distances to watch them play. I admire what Pat has done for the game of basketball, as no one has done it better. It is obivious from watching the games that I have been able to see this year that her medical problem is much worse now that even it was at the beginning of the season. My question is, at what point do the people that care for her, step in and make a decision that she may not be capable of making.
Our assistants are not the answer, as everyone can see the preperation for the games are as bad as I haver ever seen. I don't think anyone could blame her, because I don't think that she realizes how fast our program is declining. You can fault the girls, but the fact is, it is mostly the same team that have brought home the campionships the last two seasons.
I hope it is a win win situation for everyone, to allow one of the greatest coaches men or women, of all time, to leave on her terms. I think most all will agree, that the coach that we loved, is not the same coach as we still love today. I think just as we have seen the assistants take over the team, friends and family now need to face reality, and help her make the decesion that we all know is comming sooner or later. We can make this last year, a celebration year, and reflect on what she has done for womens basketball, and more importantly what she has done for Lady Vols Basketball.

It does appear changes will more than likely be coming after the end of this season. It is my hope the decisions are indeed in the best interest of the continued success of the Lady Vol basketball program. I see nothing in the history of Dave Hart and his bama cronies that would indicate they should have any input in this situation. It was more than sad to see the bama lady basketball team playing the Vols in a gym that looked like a 2nd rate high school gym with about 2600 people present and I doubt it was much different at Fla State before he was run off from there.

reg_mza#219136 writes:

Alright here is what I see. The Lady Vols lost two key components from last season. We lost Kelly Cain who still had a year of eligibility and we lost Lyssi Brewer. I'm feeling now that we really did not realize how much they leaned on them to take up some slack until they are gone. This group of girls now seem listless in how to handle adversity and do not seem to play harder to make up for these key loses. Kelly was a big girl that hogged a lot of space in the middle and teams had to take into account her presence when game planning. Lyssi was the same way when she was on the court. We get back Vicki to replace Lyssi, but Kelly was an X-Factor that they cannot replace. In the process of this season, teams are figuring out that they can attack the post defense of the Vols and get away with it.

I think early on they tried to counter but now I think other teams realize their weaknesses and I think we're seeing more teams do the same thing to the Lady Vols because it's a weakness that cannot be fixed.

Vicki does not have the knees to be a dominate post player.
Glory does have the hops and quickness but she doesn't have the basketball IQ to estimate her opponent and be ready for their move.
Burdick is too young and really is more of a wing player than a 4 or 5.
Manning is an older version of Burdick.

So there is your low post presence and they are getting gutted accordingly for it. Now on another note, I think after 4 years we need to recognize and live with the fact that these girls do not have the fight like previous teams. They don't have the mental focus, they don't have the hustle consistency, and don't have the self confidence to fight back and boost themselves up.

Hey, make no mistake about it, these flaws are character flaws and personality flaws. They aren't going to be corrected by a coaching staff. Yes perhaps they could if they were freshman, but they are seniors now so correcting it in midseason and the light just coming on is most likely not going to happen. The Lady Vols really are only going to rid themselves of these flaws by graduation and advancement to the next level. Once Manning, Stricklen, Baugh (who has the most fight, just physically has issues), Bass (who also has a lot fight but let's be honest her 5'2 stature will be a liability in some games), and Johnson leave, then the next two recruiting classes will be there to fight it out and be developed differently.

Now the question is whether we go the recruits to replenish and reload with all of America knowing Pat's situation and unsure of the future. In any case, do not be hard on these coaches. They are very intelligent and very knowledgeable in the game of basketball but we just need to realize that for the first time we didn't get one bad or mediocre apple, we got a class of them.

vol49 writes:

Adams, your articles are even more porous than ANY defense. Why don't you insert your Hermes typewriter where the sun don't shine and keep bangin away. Loser.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

in response to vol49:

Adams, your articles are even more porous than ANY defense. Why don't you insert your Hermes typewriter where the sun don't shine and keep bangin away. Loser.

ROTFLMFAO...this has got to be the best response to johnboy adams ive ever read.john boy is washed up,get him out of here KNS

VOLunTEAR writes:

John Adams is the only person in/near Knoxville who has been telling the blunt truth about this team for several years. Both BEFORE Pat's illness and AFTER.

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