Baylor tall order for Lady Vols

Shooting will be key

Saul Young/News Sentinel
Tennessee's Cierra Burdick and assistant coach Micke DeMoss wait in the locker room for the start of practice Sunday.

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2012

Saul Young/News Sentinel Tennessee's Cierra Burdick and assistant coach Micke DeMoss wait in the locker room for the start of practice Sunday.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Glory Johnson went to sleep on Brittney Griner and Baylor.

It was Saturday afternoon and Johnson, Tennessee's senior forward, was relaxing in her hotel room, watching Griner and the Lady Bears wallop Georgia Tech in an NCAA women's basketball tournament game. In dozing off, she missed Griner's two-handed dunk.

"I kind of wanted to see it because everyone is talking about it," Johnson said.

A day later, Johnson and

the rest of the Lady Vols were bracing for their turn against the tournament's prohibitive favorite. And their eyes were wide open.

No. 2 seed Tennessee (27-8) and top-seed Baylor (37-0) meet in the final of the Des Moines Regional on Monday at Wells Fargo Arena (TV: ESPN, 7 p.m.). The winner advances to the Final Four in Denver.

"You have to maintain confidence and focus on your game plan,'' said Johnson, one of four UT seniors who hasn't reached a Final Four, "and focus on not being intimidated about any blocks at all."

The latter thought was a tribute to Griner, whose presence looms over this tournament. In three games, the 6-foot-8 junior center is averaging 24.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and five blocks per game. She picked up the pace against Tech, scoring 35, grabbing 10 rebounds, blocking six shots and, of course, producing the rim-rattling highlight.

The Lady Vols are very familiar with Griner, having faced her four times in the past three seasons. She's scored as many as 27 points in a game against them and blocked 10 shots.

Furthermore, they are aware of how much both she and her team can evolve during the course of a season. Two seasons ago, Baylor lost in November at Tennessee but bounced the Lady Vols from the tournament in the Sweet 16 round.

UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood said that Baylor's perimeter defense has improved this season since its 76-67 victory in Knoxville on Nov. 27. And forward Destiny Williams has a bigger scoring presence, as evidenced by her 18 points and 9-for-10 shooting against Georgia Tech.

Lockwood noted a similar arch, however, in the Lady Vols' evolution.

"Defensively, we're a lot better,'' he said. "I think we have more people who are more confident and fit into their roles more comfortably."

Tennessee's chances against Baylor depend on how comfortable and productive its outside shooters can be.

Guards Meighan Simmons and Ariel Massengale, who likely will replace seniors Briana Bass and Alicia Manning in the starting lineup tonight, combined to score 34 points and shoot 12 for 25 from the floor in Saturday's 84-73 victory over Kansas. They didn't look anything like the players who had five points and shot 2-for-22 in November against Baylor.

Massengale scored all of her 12 points in the second half, after being implored by the seniors to take her best shot.

"They got on me,'' Massengale said, "They said, 'They're leaving you open. We need you to be a threat.' They had confidence in me so I had to go out and have confidence in myself."

The seniors might want to repeat their advice to Massengale since fellow UT sharpshooter Taber Spani tweaked her left knee on Saturday. She was wearing an ice bag on the knee in the locker room on Sunday and said she's "not going to be 100 percent" against Baylor.

"Bottom line, you play against Brittney Griner, you have to make some perimeter shots,'' Lockwood said.

Defensively, Tennessee will have to account for Griner as well as Baylor's other scorers. But Lockwood said that the Lady Vols won't forsake their entire system.

"You have to tweak some things without going overboard," he said. "You don't need to throw out the whole house but we might need to change a panel here and there."

Senior Vicki Baugh could appreciate the sentiment since she was thinking along the same lines. Fitting that on Sunday she was talking about belief.

"I think we're putting too much emphasis on how we're going to adjust to them,'' she said, " and not enough on what we do and play our game."

Dan Fleser may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/FleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser.

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Comments » 22

rogatl2002#222395 writes:

Griner should have gotten a "T" for hanging on the rim. There was no one around so she was not trying to avoid injury..she was just rubbing in GaTech's face...GO LVs!!

rdberry#654521 writes:

in response to mountainViews:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't count on Griner getting into foul trouble. The zebras will do all they can to protect her and allow her as much liberal contact as is reasonable. She is the meal ticket for the Women's NCAA.

tr265809#222194 writes:

in response to rdberry#654521:

Don't count on Griner getting into foul trouble. The zebras will do all they can to protect her and allow her as much liberal contact as is reasonable. She is the meal ticket for the Women's NCAA.

If they called half the fouls she commits, Griner will be on the bench early. She gets by with too many pushes and going over the back.

SummittsCourt writes:

In order to win the National Title the Lady Vols will more than likely have to be 3 #1 seeds. No easy task, but a highly motived, focused team can do it.

Go Lady Vols!

SoddyVol writes:

in response to rdberry#654521:

Don't count on Griner getting into foul trouble. The zebras will do all they can to protect her and allow her as much liberal contact as is reasonable. She is the meal ticket for the Women's NCAA.

Griner does make a lot of clean blocks but good players should get more fouls called against her than they do. Griner gets the benefit of any close call. Griner's foul has to be flagrant or the Refs don't call it but will call fouls against her opponent for barely a touch.

butch31 writes:

If Vicki brings a her "A" game tomorrow, Griner will be in trouble. I say play Isabelle too, keep throwing bodies at her. Wear Griner out LOL. The only I don't wanna see is Destiny Williams, Brooklyn Pope and Odyssey Sims beat us. Baylor beat us two ways last time at the free throw line, and field goal percentage. Baylor played in the WNIT prior to that game, so played 3 more games than the Lady Vols at that time. It was 65-61 with less than two minutes in the game. We have to start strong, and finish strong. Griner can't block every shot either. Just pump fake and get LOBSTER CLAWS in foul trouble. I say start the senior line up AGAIN, if the energy is NOT there, make adjustments accordingly. Baylor only turned the ball over 9 times in the November game. We need to force more turnovers and just put them away. UT is the better team and everybody knows it, we need to SHOW this tomorrow and SHUT everyone up.

HillCountryDude writes:

Baylor alum here. Just wanted to pop in and wish the LVs good luck tomorrow. Reading through some of the threads and posts, it is obvious LV fans are the most WBB savvy fans in the country. Though I see some of you also feel that Griner isn't all female. I'm no doctor, and have no access to her medical records, I do know that Texas UIL(high school) and NCAA require full medical work ups, as well as the US Olympic Committee. She did play for the US team of the summer under the guidance of Geno. This is not unique to UT fans, as every fanbase across the country says the same things. I wish you could get to know the true Brittney. She's a sweet, loving girl. Watches SpongeBob, cheers with the cheerleaders, and lives life to the fullest. I will say she is a freak of nature athletically. UT has had it's share of very gifted athletes, Candace Parker is my personal favorite. Anyway...

You guys have pretty much summed up the way to beat the Lady Bears. It will take outside shots. Texas Tech seemed to give the Lady Bears fits this year using "junk" defenses and getting the open jump shots. Drawing fouls is an obvious way to negate her output. Mulkey will pull Griner from the game on her 2nd foul and keep her there until the second half. If I were coaching, that would be something I would stress. Vicki Baugh's experience should help in that area. The hard part is once you've got Griner locked out, then Destiny Williams, Odessy Sims, Hayden, and the rest are capable of lighting it up. I know Mulkey isn't looking forward to this game, and really neither am I. Pat Summitt has been a mentor for Kim throughout her life. As a player, coach and friend. It was Summitt who Mulkey called when she was found out she was pregnant, and was depressed because she didn't think she could be a mom and coach. Summitt told her that once she holds that baby in her arms, she will know that she will love that baby no matter what, and can still be an effective coach. When Mulkey went through her divorce, it was Summitt she called to help her through the tough times. I have been a LV fan for a long time. Long before Baylor hired Mulkey and began winning. I root for both teams, so this is a lose/lose for me. I would rather them play in the Final Four, but might as well get it over with I guess. UT has all-Americans all over the court, and has all the talent necessary to win a 9th title. Nobody seams to know if Summitt will retire, and I want her to go out on a high note. I also want Baylor and Griner to win their 2nd title. They have worked so hard since being ousted by A&M last year. Nothing short of a national championship is acceptable to them. So, I guess things will play out the way they're supposed to. I'm looking forward to a great game between to great teams led by great coaches. Hopefully there will be no injuries. Sorry for the long rambling post. I visit often but post rarely. Again, good luck to the LVs!

butch31 writes:

in response to HillCountryDude:

Baylor alum here. Just wanted to pop in and wish the LVs good luck tomorrow. Reading through some of the threads and posts, it is obvious LV fans are the most WBB savvy fans in the country. Though I see some of you also feel that Griner isn't all female. I'm no doctor, and have no access to her medical records, I do know that Texas UIL(high school) and NCAA require full medical work ups, as well as the US Olympic Committee. She did play for the US team of the summer under the guidance of Geno. This is not unique to UT fans, as every fanbase across the country says the same things. I wish you could get to know the true Brittney. She's a sweet, loving girl. Watches SpongeBob, cheers with the cheerleaders, and lives life to the fullest. I will say she is a freak of nature athletically. UT has had it's share of very gifted athletes, Candace Parker is my personal favorite. Anyway...

You guys have pretty much summed up the way to beat the Lady Bears. It will take outside shots. Texas Tech seemed to give the Lady Bears fits this year using "junk" defenses and getting the open jump shots. Drawing fouls is an obvious way to negate her output. Mulkey will pull Griner from the game on her 2nd foul and keep her there until the second half. If I were coaching, that would be something I would stress. Vicki Baugh's experience should help in that area. The hard part is once you've got Griner locked out, then Destiny Williams, Odessy Sims, Hayden, and the rest are capable of lighting it up. I know Mulkey isn't looking forward to this game, and really neither am I. Pat Summitt has been a mentor for Kim throughout her life. As a player, coach and friend. It was Summitt who Mulkey called when she was found out she was pregnant, and was depressed because she didn't think she could be a mom and coach. Summitt told her that once she holds that baby in her arms, she will know that she will love that baby no matter what, and can still be an effective coach. When Mulkey went through her divorce, it was Summitt she called to help her through the tough times. I have been a LV fan for a long time. Long before Baylor hired Mulkey and began winning. I root for both teams, so this is a lose/lose for me. I would rather them play in the Final Four, but might as well get it over with I guess. UT has all-Americans all over the court, and has all the talent necessary to win a 9th title. Nobody seams to know if Summitt will retire, and I want her to go out on a high note. I also want Baylor and Griner to win their 2nd title. They have worked so hard since being ousted by A&M last year. Nothing short of a national championship is acceptable to them. So, I guess things will play out the way they're supposed to. I'm looking forward to a great game between to great teams led by great coaches. Hopefully there will be no injuries. Sorry for the long rambling post. I visit often but post rarely. Again, good luck to the LVs!

We know how to beat Baylor tomorrow LOL, rebound, play 40 minutes and NOT shoot 29% from the field again. Good luck to Baylor, but 3's a charm

rocky_topper writes:

This team has been all talk for four years, so no way they will beat Baylor. I just hope they represent and not be humiliated on national TV.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

With respect to Baylor's Hill Country Dude, and Griner, no one is actually suggesting Griner is not a girl...........now. Not trying to be hateful here, but there is the strong possibility she was not originally a girl.

If every school had a 6:08 player, there would be an even playing field. It is what it is, but Baylor has a decided advantage over everyone they play.

If the girls had the one and done advantage the guys have......Griner would have been long gone to the Women's NBA. Strange those rules exist which are very different for the girls. Actually, the rule in place insures the women will get an education, first and foremost.

BigRMan writes:

Regardless of the outcome of this game tonight between our beloved Lady Vols and the Baylor Bears, it should not be a time to be maudlin if the result is not in favor of the team wearing orange. Lady Vol fans everywhere no matter what age have been treated to 38 years of excellence that was colored with integrity and a work ethic that has been largely unparalleled in the anals of sport, if not women's basketball. We all should feel priveledged and honored that God allowed us to share in such an iconic legend as Coach Summit. The lives that she has influenced have gone on to spread knowledge love compassion and motivation to countless other athletes and been inspirational to many in other walks of life. The memories that I have of Coach Summit and her Lady Vol teams throughout the years would fill volumes. If this is the final curtain on the Lady Vol bench for Coach Summit we all owe her more than any loan contract would allow us to repay. She will NOT be defeated regardless of the score. God just may have plans for her to do battle to another foe on a different playing field. Catchings, Parker, Anosike, Hornbuckle, Lawson, Jolley-Harper, Marciniak, Holdsclaw there are the obvious examples of Coach Summit's influence. We salute you we thank you and you have our heart-felt best wishes and prayers for what lies ahead

emteebee writes:

in response to BigRMan:

Regardless of the outcome of this game tonight between our beloved Lady Vols and the Baylor Bears, it should not be a time to be maudlin if the result is not in favor of the team wearing orange. Lady Vol fans everywhere no matter what age have been treated to 38 years of excellence that was colored with integrity and a work ethic that has been largely unparalleled in the anals of sport, if not women's basketball. We all should feel priveledged and honored that God allowed us to share in such an iconic legend as Coach Summit. The lives that she has influenced have gone on to spread knowledge love compassion and motivation to countless other athletes and been inspirational to many in other walks of life. The memories that I have of Coach Summit and her Lady Vol teams throughout the years would fill volumes. If this is the final curtain on the Lady Vol bench for Coach Summit we all owe her more than any loan contract would allow us to repay. She will NOT be defeated regardless of the score. God just may have plans for her to do battle to another foe on a different playing field. Catchings, Parker, Anosike, Hornbuckle, Lawson, Jolley-Harper, Marciniak, Holdsclaw there are the obvious examples of Coach Summit's influence. We salute you we thank you and you have our heart-felt best wishes and prayers for what lies ahead

BigRMan, that is a great post. It has been a pleasure to be a fan of Pat Summitt and her Lady Vols all these years.

kazoo writes:

in response to mountainViews:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Griner does NOT get into foul trouble because she doesn't need to jump to block shots. It will be very hard to foul her out--and if Glory tries to shoot the ball when Griner is close to her, we're just going to end up wasting a lot of possession. This is why this game will be difficult--because Griner will make things very difficult for Glory, whom we obviously rely on very much. Glory has to play smart in this game. I'd like to see her get the ball and pass it more than usual--unless she really thinks she can get the ball to the basket. Griner is so tall, with such a long reach, that it's very tough to draw fouls on her. It can be done, but she will also block a lot of our shots if we go that route, wasting possessions.

r2d2 writes:

The LVS have a chance to defeat Baylor if the LVS are a very good team whose record does not reflect their true capability. Baylor is a very good team because of Griner. I do not think they are a great team like UCONN was 2 years ago. The LVs need to play with their "A" game on defense and offense. All of this is assuming they are a very good team whose record should be 31-4 instead of 27-8.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

With respect to Baylor's Hill Country Dude, and Griner, no one is actually suggesting Griner is not a girl...........now. Not trying to be hateful here, but there is the strong possibility she was not originally a girl.

If every school had a 6:08 player, there would be an even playing field. It is what it is, but Baylor has a decided advantage over everyone they play.

If the girls had the one and done advantage the guys have......Griner would have been long gone to the Women's NBA. Strange those rules exist which are very different for the girls. Actually, the rule in place insures the women will get an education, first and foremost.

Considering that WNBA salaries are only about one-tenth of NBA salaries, if that, making a good living in women's pro ball means playing just about year-round and living and working in foreign countries. VERY few teenage girls are fit and mature enough to go that route. Until the salary structure in the women's game becomes MUCH more favorable, the players' best bet will always be getting that degree first and then exploring the possibilities of playing pro ball. Women also seem to be better about foreseeing the future consequences of their decisions, which is one reason why they often outperform men in education. I am perfectly willing to state that it is also the best option for male players, given the odds of making it in the NBA, but the payoff for males in pro ball is SO much greater, it is harder for them to pass up if the opportunity beckons.

BigRMan writes:

in response to HillCountryDude:

Baylor alum here. Just wanted to pop in and wish the LVs good luck tomorrow. Reading through some of the threads and posts, it is obvious LV fans are the most WBB savvy fans in the country. Though I see some of you also feel that Griner isn't all female. I'm no doctor, and have no access to her medical records, I do know that Texas UIL(high school) and NCAA require full medical work ups, as well as the US Olympic Committee. She did play for the US team of the summer under the guidance of Geno. This is not unique to UT fans, as every fanbase across the country says the same things. I wish you could get to know the true Brittney. She's a sweet, loving girl. Watches SpongeBob, cheers with the cheerleaders, and lives life to the fullest. I will say she is a freak of nature athletically. UT has had it's share of very gifted athletes, Candace Parker is my personal favorite. Anyway...

You guys have pretty much summed up the way to beat the Lady Bears. It will take outside shots. Texas Tech seemed to give the Lady Bears fits this year using "junk" defenses and getting the open jump shots. Drawing fouls is an obvious way to negate her output. Mulkey will pull Griner from the game on her 2nd foul and keep her there until the second half. If I were coaching, that would be something I would stress. Vicki Baugh's experience should help in that area. The hard part is once you've got Griner locked out, then Destiny Williams, Odessy Sims, Hayden, and the rest are capable of lighting it up. I know Mulkey isn't looking forward to this game, and really neither am I. Pat Summitt has been a mentor for Kim throughout her life. As a player, coach and friend. It was Summitt who Mulkey called when she was found out she was pregnant, and was depressed because she didn't think she could be a mom and coach. Summitt told her that once she holds that baby in her arms, she will know that she will love that baby no matter what, and can still be an effective coach. When Mulkey went through her divorce, it was Summitt she called to help her through the tough times. I have been a LV fan for a long time. Long before Baylor hired Mulkey and began winning. I root for both teams, so this is a lose/lose for me. I would rather them play in the Final Four, but might as well get it over with I guess. UT has all-Americans all over the court, and has all the talent necessary to win a 9th title. Nobody seams to know if Summitt will retire, and I want her to go out on a high note. I also want Baylor and Griner to win their 2nd title. They have worked so hard since being ousted by A&M last year. Nothing short of a national championship is acceptable to them. So, I guess things will play out the way they're supposed to. I'm looking forward to a great game between to great teams led by great coaches. Hopefully there will be no injuries. Sorry for the long rambling post. I visit often but post rarely. Again, good luck to the LVs!

I enjoyed reading your post. You are a class act and have a healthy perspective on this contest tonight and probably on life in general. One team will wind up with more points than the other on the scoreboard. However, if the game is played clean and intense with unbridled passion and wise decision making there will be no losers. The players who perform for Summit & Mulkey will always be winners. Your posts are very refreshing

johnlg00 writes:

in response to kazoo:

Griner does NOT get into foul trouble because she doesn't need to jump to block shots. It will be very hard to foul her out--and if Glory tries to shoot the ball when Griner is close to her, we're just going to end up wasting a lot of possession. This is why this game will be difficult--because Griner will make things very difficult for Glory, whom we obviously rely on very much. Glory has to play smart in this game. I'd like to see her get the ball and pass it more than usual--unless she really thinks she can get the ball to the basket. Griner is so tall, with such a long reach, that it's very tough to draw fouls on her. It can be done, but she will also block a lot of our shots if we go that route, wasting possessions.

Good point. It is almost impossible to beat her on a straight post-up move. The best thing to do may be to try to take her outside and either shoot mid-range jumpers or try to take her off the dribble. It is probably better to try to make her defend on the move than merely to try to shoot over her. The LVs need to draw her attention with shot-fakes and then look to pass to teammates in better position. Much of this is just as you said. One other thing they need to try is to be sure to have someone between her and the basket so as to draw some over-the-back fouls, though she is good at avoiding those as well. Otherwise, the only way to look at it is that every shot she doesn't block has to go in. The fear of the blocked shot is worse than the actual block, since it often results in what my playground ball buddies used to call a "self-check". Of course, the LVs haven't shown themselves to be EITHER deft passers out of the post OR particularly consistent about making even wide-open layups. I'm afraid it's going to be a long night for them. Still, there IS going to be a game tonight, so they might as well try their best to win it.

GiveHim6TDTennessee writes:

in response to mountainViews:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The problem is that Griner has learned from great coaching how to use her size without picking up fouls. She never leaves her feet for pump fakes. Half of her blocks come rooted to the floor. It's a great thought in theory, but much harder to put into use.

GiveHim6TDTennessee writes:

in response to HillCountryDude:

Baylor alum here. Just wanted to pop in and wish the LVs good luck tomorrow. Reading through some of the threads and posts, it is obvious LV fans are the most WBB savvy fans in the country. Though I see some of you also feel that Griner isn't all female. I'm no doctor, and have no access to her medical records, I do know that Texas UIL(high school) and NCAA require full medical work ups, as well as the US Olympic Committee. She did play for the US team of the summer under the guidance of Geno. This is not unique to UT fans, as every fanbase across the country says the same things. I wish you could get to know the true Brittney. She's a sweet, loving girl. Watches SpongeBob, cheers with the cheerleaders, and lives life to the fullest. I will say she is a freak of nature athletically. UT has had it's share of very gifted athletes, Candace Parker is my personal favorite. Anyway...

You guys have pretty much summed up the way to beat the Lady Bears. It will take outside shots. Texas Tech seemed to give the Lady Bears fits this year using "junk" defenses and getting the open jump shots. Drawing fouls is an obvious way to negate her output. Mulkey will pull Griner from the game on her 2nd foul and keep her there until the second half. If I were coaching, that would be something I would stress. Vicki Baugh's experience should help in that area. The hard part is once you've got Griner locked out, then Destiny Williams, Odessy Sims, Hayden, and the rest are capable of lighting it up. I know Mulkey isn't looking forward to this game, and really neither am I. Pat Summitt has been a mentor for Kim throughout her life. As a player, coach and friend. It was Summitt who Mulkey called when she was found out she was pregnant, and was depressed because she didn't think she could be a mom and coach. Summitt told her that once she holds that baby in her arms, she will know that she will love that baby no matter what, and can still be an effective coach. When Mulkey went through her divorce, it was Summitt she called to help her through the tough times. I have been a LV fan for a long time. Long before Baylor hired Mulkey and began winning. I root for both teams, so this is a lose/lose for me. I would rather them play in the Final Four, but might as well get it over with I guess. UT has all-Americans all over the court, and has all the talent necessary to win a 9th title. Nobody seams to know if Summitt will retire, and I want her to go out on a high note. I also want Baylor and Griner to win their 2nd title. They have worked so hard since being ousted by A&M last year. Nothing short of a national championship is acceptable to them. So, I guess things will play out the way they're supposed to. I'm looking forward to a great game between to great teams led by great coaches. Hopefully there will be no injuries. Sorry for the long rambling post. I visit often but post rarely. Again, good luck to the LVs!

Class.

Mike_In_Storrs_CT writes:

Hmmm, just wondering if anyone else thought about this..Is this going to be the last time we see Pat Summitt as head coach of Tenn? There might be a very good chance that she wont come back next year, and if you lose to Baylor it will be Pats last game ever.Just wondering what you all think about that..

Volinflan writes:

in response to butch31:

We know how to beat Baylor tomorrow LOL, rebound, play 40 minutes and NOT shoot 29% from the field again. Good luck to Baylor, but 3's a charm

Nice post. Thanks.

movinonup writes:

in response to Mike_In_Storrs_CT:

Hmmm, just wondering if anyone else thought about this..Is this going to be the last time we see Pat Summitt as head coach of Tenn? There might be a very good chance that she wont come back next year, and if you lose to Baylor it will be Pats last game ever.Just wondering what you all think about that..

No, pretty sure you are the ONLY one that has thought about it......geez

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