Stunned No. 20 Lady Vols need to regroup quickly

Chattanooga's Faith Dupree hugs an event staff member as teamma  Kayla Christopher (3) smiles after they defeated Tennessee 80-71 in an  NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis) THE DAILY CITIZEN OUT; NOOGA.COM OUT; CLEVELAND DAILY BANNER OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Chattanooga's Faith Dupree hugs an event staff member as teamma Kayla Christopher (3) smiles after they defeated Tennessee 80-71 in an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis) THE DAILY CITIZEN OUT; NOOGA.COM OUT; CLEVELAND DAILY BANNER OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Tennessee's Andraya Carter, right, pressures Chattanooga's Alex Black during their NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis) THE DAILY CITIZEN OUT; NOOGA.COM OUT; CLEVELAND DAILY BANNER OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Tennessee's Andraya Carter, right, pressures Chattanooga's Alex Black during their NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis) THE DAILY CITIZEN OUT; NOOGA.COM OUT; CLEVELAND DAILY BANNER OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — In Tennessee's first season without Pat Summitt, the Lady Vols soon could drop out of the Top 25 for the first time in over a quarter-century.

The No. 20 Lady Vols began the post-Summitt era Friday with a stunning 80-71 loss at Chattanooga. Now they don't have much time to recover from their first season-opening loss since 1999, as they continue their road trip Sunday at No. 22 Georgia Tech.

A loss to the Yellow Jackets likely would drop the Lady Vols out of the Top 25 for the first time since February 1985.

"That's just the nature of this game and the nature of our schedule," said Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, who stumbled out of the gate in her head coaching debut after spending the last 27 seasons as an assistant on Summitt's staff. "It's extremely hard. With five new players, it is what it is. There's nothing we can do about it. We've got to roll up our sleeves and get back to work."

Summitt, who announced last year she had early-onset dementia, stepped down in April after collecting 1,098 wins, eight national titles and 18 Final Four appearances in 38 seasons. Summitt remains on staff as head coach emeritus, attends most of the Lady Vols' practice and watched Friday's game from the stands.

The transition figured to cause some growing pains.

Tennessee's No. 20 preseason ranking was its lowest position in the Top 25 since 1985. The Lady Vols don't return a single player who started an NCAA tournament game last season during their run to a regional final. Their roster includes five newcomers - four freshmen and a junior-college transfer.

But nobody expected this kind of start.

Tennessee committed 26 turnovers and had only six assists against Chattanooga. The Lady Vols had 17 turnovers in the first half alone. They never led in the second half and never cut Chattanooga's advantage below six points over the last 13 minutes.

"We have to learn from this," said Tennessee junior guard Meighan Simmons, one of only three upperclassmen on the roster.

The biggest lessons came when Tennessee was on defense.

Tennessee spent the preseason adjusting to an uptempo style designed to utilize Tennessee's speed and compensate for its relative lack of size. The Lady Vols believed their energy would harass opposing offenses and force turnovers.

"We're not going to outscore anybody," Warlick said. "We're not going to outshoot them. We've got to get them to turn the ball over to get easy looks."

That didn't happen Friday.

While Tennessee struggled to take care of the ball all night, Chattanooga collected 17 assists and committed only 13 turnovers. The Lady Mocs scored 52 points and shot 56.3 percent from the floor in the second half.

"Our defense was non-existent," Warlick said.

That defense will have to play much better for the Lady Vols to avoid their first 0-2 start since 1970. Georgia Tech went 26-8 and reached a regional semifinal last year and should get an emotional lift Sunday from playing the first women's game at the new McCamish Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets had to play their home games off campus last season.

"As long as we learn from this, it's OK," Warlick said. "If we keep making the same mistakes, we're not going to get any better."

There's one history lesson that could encourage Tennessee. When the Lady Vols last dropped a season opener back in 1999, they lost only three more times the rest of the season and went on to reach the NCAA final.

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Comments » 15

SummittsCourt writes:

Common Lady Vols! Time to figure it out! Too many firsts in the negative the last couple of years.

HazardKYVol writes:

Looks like it's going to be a long season. The ladies don't have enough top quality players this year. The next class should help. The Lady Vols should be fine in 2 or 3 years.

utclyde16 writes:

Season has only started. Go Lady Vols !!!!

8ball writes:

LV will get better if Holly sits meg simmons at end of bench and forgets about her..

ACWLY writes:

DON'T PANIC...If you've been following the LV's you had to know this season could start a little slow, but they should steadily improve. By the time SEC play starts they should be decent. I think this is a good team to see what kind of coach we have, I think she will eventually get this team playing together, like the Lady Vols we're used to.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to ACWLY:

DON'T PANIC...If you've been following the LV's you had to know this season could start a little slow, but they should steadily improve. By the time SEC play starts they should be decent. I think this is a good team to see what kind of coach we have, I think she will eventually get this team playing together, like the Lady Vols we're used to.

I don't expect this team to fold, but they need to get it together quick, they have a very good GA Tech team on Sunday.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to 8ball:

LV will get better if Holly sits meg simmons at end of bench and forgets about her..

STOP!

AllforTenn writes:

in response to 8ball:

LV will get better if Holly sits meg simmons at end of bench and forgets about her..

She does take too many questionable shots. Pass the ball and get an assist or two.

VFL70 writes:

All the Lady Vols need is an All American or two then they could could outskill the other team!!!!

martic#220796 writes:

What's the deal with Kamiko? She played less time than anyone! She's a senior and I was hoping she'd be ready to play for us.

Volinflan writes:

in response to AllforTenn:

She does take too many questionable shots. Pass the ball and get an assist or two.

If she would have waited for someone else to get down court there would have been no chance for a shot. Graves fouled out and she and Simmons were the only two still playing.

whatthe84 writes:

The lady vols have been on a down hill slide for sometime. It looks like the football programs hard times have spilled over to the once feared lady vols. Their recruiting has lagged behind the glory years. It seems that they are now always a couple of years away from being feared. Truth is they are middle of the pack. Uconn has taken over the bigtime program spot(and did so several years ago). Pat was not able to keep the program at the point we were accustomed to and now it is below the once high standard. Oh well maybe our golf team or cross country team (Oh I forgot about Arkansas forget that) will be something we can cheer about. The whole big orange nations is closer to one of those small tangerines they call sweeties. Smokey has a bad case of hemmoroids and walks with a limp and ole rocky top is littered with manure. If you venture up there watch your step. Sad times...

SoddyVol writes:

It is way too early to tell how this team will do by SEC time. One thing occurs to me is that returning player Simmons is playing no better than last year and Williams is still lazy.

crappieking writes:

Fire Warlick!

fundamentals83 writes:

in response to crappieking:

Fire Warlick!

Why?

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