Lady Vols' assistant Kyra Elzy points Meighan Simmons to defense

Appeals that steals will lead to easy offense

Tennessee's Meighan Simmons tries to steal the ball away from Rice's Jessica Kuster at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, November 15, 2012. Tennessee defeated Rice 101-48. 

(Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee's Meighan Simmons tries to steal the ball away from Rice's Jessica Kuster at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, November 15, 2012. Tennessee defeated Rice 101-48. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Lady Vols Bashaara Graves - Nov. 27, 2012

Kyra Elzy might have found the best way to get Meighan Simmons to play better defense.

The first-year Tennessee assistant coach routed her appeal through the junior guard's offense.

The effectiveness of Elzy's approach again will be under review when Simmons and No. 16 Tennessee (4-1) face Middle Tennessee State (4-1) at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena. The women's basketball game will not be televised but can be viewed online at utsports.com.

Elzy disguised her encouragement as humor, but she had serious intentions when asking Simmons: "You know what Meighan, you like to score right?"

"She was like, 'yeah,' " Elzy said.

So she suggested what two or three steals might do for Simmons' output.

"If you get in the right position defensively, you can probably steal it and lay it up and that might add six more points to your scoring average," Elzy said.

The idea scored with Simmons.

"She was like 'OK, I like that,' " Elzy said.

Simmons never has been a reticent scorer. She finished with 3,406 points for her high school career in Cibolo, Texas. In

her first game at Tennessee, she debuted with 22 points against Louisville. She leads all Lady Vols this season in shots (62) and is second in scoring, averaging 14.6 points per game.

There's growing evidence, though, that's she is becoming less reluctant on the other end of the court. She leads the team in steals with 11. Two second-half steals against Rice on Nov. 15 led directly to the baskets Elzy was talking about. Simmons finished with four steals for the half and 15 of her game-high 22 points in the 101-48 rout.

Simmons is tied for the team lead in fouls with 15, which suggests she's more engaged on defense. She clapped her hands in disgust and did a crow hop after reaching during a defensive drill in Tuesday's practice.

Simmons said that head coach Holly Warlick and Elzy both have been on her "like crazy" about playing defense. After Sunday's 90-37 victory over Alcorn State, Warlick said: "Meighan Simmons is one of our best defenders when Meighan wants to play."

Elzy said that Simmons hasn't been a hard sell because of her competitiveness and high-energy style of play. And the sales pitches keep coming, all aimed at getting Simmons to make defense her first priority.

"She reminds me all the time defense comes first before offense," Simmons said. "Don't let your offense dictate your defense. Let it be the opposite way around."

All the Lady Vols should take that thought to heart for tonight's game against MTSU. The Blue Raiders have two players — forward Ebony Rowe and guard Kortni Jones — on the preseason Naismith watch list. Rowe averages 19.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while Jones, the former Oak Ridge High standout, averages 17.4 points and leads the team with 15 3-pointers.

Overall, MTSU has made 36 treys, nearly twice as many as the 19 opponents have made against Tennessee so far this season.

The Blue Raiders will present their share of challenges. Therefore, the Lady Vols will need Simmons to be more than just a scorer.

"She already has a lot energy and emotion," Elzy said, "and that's what it takes to play defense."

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Comments » 15

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

We already know Kyra can recruit so now we'll see how well she can motivate. My guess is pretty darn good and maybe we'll have an idea by this time tomorrow.

ModelMaker writes:

I think Elzy has Simmons playing her best basketball. I definitely can see an improvement over last year. I like what I see so far in this team. They will have to bring their "A" game against Middle as they are very well coached.

b24vol writes:

Simmons is talented..but has one of the worst shooting percents. on team. Hope Elzy can improve that. (Simmons was about 6-7th on team last 2 yrs.)

AHOUSE writes:

The person in charge of updating scores on the schedule for men and women must be only working one day a week.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to ANYONE_BUT_LIBS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are so wrong! Too bad you don't coach though because you should send out your resume so maybe next time there is an opening at UT they can give you a call.

underthehill writes:

in response to ANYONE_BUT_LIBS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Simmons is streaky and helps when at her best ..UT has good bench strength and I think will do a better job of using it when Simmons is getting them beat..I think this team will be at it's best late in the year...

johnlg00 writes:

No question Meighan has the quick hands and feet to be a great defender. It's all a matter of mindset. If Kyra and the other coaches can motivate her to play it with a will, she and the LVs will be so much better. I agree with some that she could also benefit from better shot selection, but somebody has to get them up, and when she is on, she is unstoppable. A player who won't shoot hurts a team as much as one who shoots too much.

volfan1202 writes:

ZZZzzzZZzzzzzz

SoddyVol writes:

in response to ANYONE_BUT_LIBS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It was 9-25 (36 %) when they got beat. She may be streaky but her overall record for all games this year before today is 42-90 or 46.6 % which looks pretty good to me. Forget about last year when you would be more correct! Lets see if she continues to contribute this year.

ladyvolsfan789 writes:

Yeah, in the games I've seen, Simmons shot selection has been better and she's been much more willing to pass to the open player. She's still quick to pull the trigger, but her she does a much better job of getting open.

vettefool writes:

in response to ANYONE_BUT_LIBS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree with you. she doesn't even wait for the other players to get past half-court before she puts up a shot.
could be a great player but must have a better shot selction and play better defense. she is ok on defense, but could be great with her quickness.
I've thought when cps was in charge, she should have told her she must lead the team in assists to play. might have slowed down her taking so many low percentage shots.

SoddyVol writes:

For vettefool...... read my earlier post. Her overall percentage shooting for all games up to today is over over 46.6 %, Unless she starts shooting poorly from here on out, please forget about last year. This is a new year and only her play now is what counts.

ljlongtimevolfan writes:

Hopefully coach Elzy can mold Meighan into a complete basketball team player. We need to continue improving our inside game.

Theo writes:

in response to ANYONE_BUT_LIBS:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are a miserable type aren't you?
1. When refering to Coach W. please capitalize and forget your insulting quotation marks.
2. Simmons is a shooter and shooters are told to keep shooting.
3. This team is going to go very far this year - much further than the pundits predict and will go all the way next year or the year after.
4. Do you yell at children to get off your lawn a lot?

underthehill writes:

Kamiko..the most athletic Lady Vol..came up huge tonight..her defense on the MTSU point guard was key late in the game..excellent overall team play and effort by the Lady Vols to beat a very good MTSU team..

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