Lady Vols focus on defense in exhibition opener, 104-44

For now, it's just exhibition for Lady Vols

Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons (10) defends against Carson-Newman guard Jai Jai McLaughlin (10) in the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons (10) defends against Carson-Newman guard Jai Jai McLaughlin (10) in the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Lady Vols' coach Holly Warlick

The Tennessee Lady Vols were their own toughest critics Thursday night.

A renewed emphasis on defense meant a 104-44 exhibition victory over Carson-Newman College before an announced crowd of 10,647 at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night wasn't up to their expectations for the coming women's basketball season.

"It would say it was inconsistent," guard Taber Spani said. "I think our effort level was there at times and at others not. As a senior, I take responsibility for that.

"We saw some transfer of what we want to do, but we have a long way to go."

Otherwise, UT's maiden voyage featured a lot of junior guard Meighan Simmons, who scored a game-high 24 points, and good long look at Tennessee's four freshmen, who all played at least 21 minutes.

Freshman guard Andraya Carter started in place of sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale. She has a case of tendinitis in her left Achilles' tendon and was rested as a precaution.

"We felt like rest would be good for her,'' said UT coach Holly Warlick, who was making her coaching debut after serving 27 seasons as Pat Summitt's assistant. "That was my call. I wanted her to rest. I wanted Andraya to start and get the experience."

Two of Carter's classmates made strong first impressions. Forward Bashaara Graves, for example, got stronger as the game progressed and finished with 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.

"At the beginning I was a little nervous; you could probably tell," she said. "In the second half, the nervousness went a way. I just played my game."

Warlick was particularly impressed with Graves' rebounding.

"You have to have some kind of effort if you have 15 rebounds," Warlick said.

Fellow freshman Jasmine Jones, meanwhile, made her first six shots and finished with 16 points. One of her baskets came on a veteran-like move in the first half, when she cut across the foul lane to catch a pass and hesitated long enough to fake a defender before continuing to the rim.

"She was 6-for-6 and (assistant) Dean (Lockwood) made the comment that Jasmine hadn't missed a shot," Warlick said. "And about that time, she missed one so I blamed him and said he jinxed her."

Overall, Tennessee had five double-figure scorers, shot 55.2 percent from the floor (37-for-67) and amassed a 55-32 rebounding advantage.

Still, the Lady Vols have made it clear that they intend to be all about effort, particularly on defense. So holding C-N to 20 percent shooting from the floor (11-for-55) and gathering 16 steals wasn't good enough. From their perspective, the mitigating factor was 23 team fouls. Five players finished with at least three fouls.

"It's going to be one of those things where we have to be very disciplined," Simmons said. "Our coaches always tell us to play with your feet and not your hands. It has to be a mentality."

Carson-Newman scored 16 of its points at the foul line. Reserve Chante Markus scored a team-high 12 points.

Tennessee plays its final exhibition against Coker College, at 2 p.m. on Sunday. After starting Carter, Simmons, Spani, Cierra Burdick and Isabelle Harrison against C-N, Warlick intends to experiment more with the starting lineup.

"We'll start a different group on Sunday," she said. "I'm just trying to get a feel for them. I want to see who plays well together."

Dan Fleser covers Tennessee women's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/FleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser.

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Comments » 14

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Now that's an arse whoopin..

AllforTenn writes:

Fourth year in row to score over 100 against C-N in this exhibition game. Maybe drop-off not too bad.

butch31 writes:

We are really good...we need to rebound, rebound, and rebound. I like Cierra, Kamiko, and Taber getting in better shape, running the floor and showing leadership. Isabelle looked like most improved to me. I expect scoring from Meighan...LOL! Bashaara looked great, Jones was a surprise to me LOL...I wanna see Andraya looking for some shots too tho...overal, we're a top 10-15 ball club...Beware

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Wow. Good game. Good D and Rebounds. Can't lose that way. We don't know where we stand really but I can easily see top 15. The ladies are sooo much better around the country though. well except for C. N.! I can see us regaining a lot next year. this year top 3 SEC maybe top ten end of year nationally. It can be a great first season for Warlick and co. That's not really a predict...too much game to play.

Go Vols Go Big Orange.

SummittsCourt writes:

This team will have their ups and downs this year, but I believe once they get the kinks ironed out they will be dangerous.

Go Lady Vols!

ps11824 writes:

What I gleaned from last night's tune-up game:
Need to clean up turnovers, freethrows, same old stuff which I hope will improve with more playing time.

Mickey's comment: "A lot of similarities between Graves' & Glory Johnson's style of play."

17 Points, 15 boards is a pretty good outing for Bashara. Simmons was clicking on all cylinders. Overall, I was OK with the exibition. The annnounced crowd was impressive.

dcap8424 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Wow. Good game. Good D and Rebounds. Can't lose that way. We don't know where we stand really but I can easily see top 15. The ladies are sooo much better around the country though. well except for C. N.! I can see us regaining a lot next year. this year top 3 SEC maybe top ten end of year nationally. It can be a great first season for Warlick and co. That's not really a predict...too much game to play.

Go Vols Go Big Orange.

Layoff Carson-Newman. It's small for division 2 standards so obviously not going to give UT much competition. They do routinely beat UT in baseball though.

I'm sure the Lady Mocs are much better... :)

KennyGVolsFan writes:

I was most impressed with Izzy!! She went after it and made some amazing shots!!!

JJ played on both ends of the ball, it all seemed so effortless for her!!

Graves does remind you a lot of Johnson in that she missed to many layups!! However, she was tenacious on the rebound and worked her butt off!!! I expect her to be all american by the end of the season!!!

Spani seemed quicker, her defense appeared to be better! Her shot was on and she played well.

Williams played in spurts. If she can put it all together she could be the spark we need.

Simmons impressed me, her shot looked much better. Her defense was much better. Looks like this may be her breakout season.

Carter did some good things. Would have liked to see more from her offensively. Defense was good but can get better

Burdick made some good passes. She needs to work on better ball control when passing to an obviously open player.

Moore was ok... I think her issue was nerves. She missed quite a few lay ups.

I think this team is going to be better than anyone anticipated. Our foot speed looks good, we have some tenacious rebounders and people who can play multiple positions.

My concern is covering the 3. We left a few open shots.

ladyvolsfan789 writes:

in response to ps11824:

What I gleaned from last night's tune-up game:
Need to clean up turnovers, freethrows, same old stuff which I hope will improve with more playing time.

Mickey's comment: "A lot of similarities between Graves' & Glory Johnson's style of play."

17 Points, 15 boards is a pretty good outing for Bashara. Simmons was clicking on all cylinders. Overall, I was OK with the exibition. The annnounced crowd was impressive.

I was able to watch most of the second half on the UT sports site and they do look extremely similar in their style of play, extremely aggressive at grabbing rebounds and putting them back up. Depending on how she develops she could be just as good or even better than Johnson.

Moore is also aggressive on the boards and she plays aggressive defense, but I don't think she's as skilled offensively as Graves or Johnson but if the coaching staff can develop her game she could give us very valuable minutes from an unexpected source.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to dcap8424:

Layoff Carson-Newman. It's small for division 2 standards so obviously not going to give UT much competition. They do routinely beat UT in baseball though.

I'm sure the Lady Mocs are much better... :)

lol...I got nothin' against CN. I was just referring to this particular game. I'm obviously a fan of the mid schools and keep up with some of the NAIA. Carson Newman is great school from people I know who went there. I know nothing about their bball squads. Some of these small schools have some great baseball teams. Lee in Cleveland could possibly beat UT. Cleveland State CC might for that matter till our new coach turns it around at UT. I LOVE small schools. I even taught at one once.

SoddyVol writes:

They looked better than I thought they would. I don't want to complain too much but it really burns me to see a senior (Spani) make a terrible pass and turn the ball over, even if it was the one time. Some great new players! I expect the team to be ready for anyone come March.

Theo writes:

ESPN forum reporting Jordan Reynolds to UT. A 5'11" slashing guard with a quick first step. If true what a great first class for this group of great coaches.

Theo writes:

And the commitment is in - Welcome Jordan! What a great addition. This class is shaping up to be one of the all time great classes. Evidently a strong leader, quick, a floor general.
So why hasn't the News Sentinel even picked up on this yet? Come on guys. Let's have a little information. I think she played club ball with Mercedes.

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

Looks like another toss up with Tyler Scaife. She visited LSU this weekend and tweeted about it . I hope she picks us. GBO!

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