John Adams: No surprise, when the going gets tough, Meighan Simmons and Taber Spani get going for Lady Vols

John Adams
Tennessee's Taber Spani, right, keeps the ball in play as she collides with Vanderbilt guard Kady Schrann, left, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Tennessee's Taber Spani, right, keeps the ball in play as she collides with Vanderbilt guard Kady Schrann, left, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE — Holly Warlick often got her team's attention with strong, shrill whistles that carried from one end of the court to the other at Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday night.

But with just more than seven minutes to play, the Tennessee women's basketball coach was too frustrated to whistle. All she could do was extend both arms as if to say, "What's going on?"

At the other end of the court, the Commodores had grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds while reminding everyone they had the wherewithal to mount another comeback.

Then, with a quick basket, UT guard Meighan Simmons provided another reminder. Never mind Tennessee's shortcomings, Simmons and Taber Spani were capable of overcoming them.

They combined for 47 points as the ninth-ranked Lady Vols (16-3) overturned a Vanderbilt comeback in an 83-75 victory.

The Simmons-Spani combination is hardly a new development. The two have been teaming up repeatedly since forward Cierra Burdick went down with a hand injury just before the start of SEC play.

The Lady Vols haven't lost since — thanks mainly to the scoring of Spani, who had a career-high 24 points against the Commodores, and Simmons, who had 23. In the seven games without Burdick, Simmons has averaged 19.8 points per game; Spani, 14.2.

Spani had 15 of her points against Vanderbilt in the first half when UT opened up a 15-point lead with 1:47 remaining. Just four minutes into the second half, the Lady Vols had a 41-41 deadlock on their hands.

No one should have been surprised by what happened next. Simmons happened.

She scored seven of the Lady Vols' next 12 points as they opened up a nine-point lead en route to their seventh conference victory in as many games. Their victory, coupled with South Carolina's upset of Kentucky on Thursday night, left UT alone in first place in the SEC.

Despite Tennessee's lofty status in the conference, it's assured of an underdog role against No. 2 Notre Dame on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. And it will take a greater team effort — especially on defense — to pull off an upset.

Many of Vanderbilt's offensive problems were self-induced. The Commodores too often missed easy shots and were 5-for-23 on 3s, compared to Tennessee's 6-for-11 3-point shooting.

The Lady Vols can't count on as much help from Notre Dame, which routed them 72-44 last season in South Bend, Ind.

That's too many points to make up with the Spani-Simmons combination alone.

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.

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 10

VOLinATL writes:

Well, that was a waste of ink...that's all you've go to say??

voloffaith writes:

in response to VOLinATL:

Well, that was a waste of ink...that's all you've go to say??

Now sir JA might say," I am JA and it is what it is." Not really bad article as ND will spank Lady Vols from one end of Tommy Bowl to other if defense off screens and in the paint doesn't improve drastically. Repeat of guards getting beat off dribble then no backside help at the glass resulting in too many layups or fouling to put them at the line. Communication issues coupled with poor defensive execution equals a monday night demolition .

feathersax writes:

I was in 'memorial aging garage' (lousy gym) & saw taller, more talented LV team out-hustled, out-rebounded & out-coached. Vandy's not that good, so unless HW gets 'em on track, gonna be a short post-season. Taber Spani had a terrific game; even vandie fans were impressed.

orangecountyvols writes:

vol4gzus,

Question.........when will Burdick be back on the floor for the Lady Vols?

Also, I hear ya' about the upcoming game with Notre Dame. Agree that it'll be tough, but I am not ready to concede the game to the Irish just yet. We'll see.

As our late football coach here used to say on his radio show when asked for a prediction, he said "I predict there will be a large crowd."

voloffaith writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

vol4gzus,

Question.........when will Burdick be back on the floor for the Lady Vols?

Also, I hear ya' about the upcoming game with Notre Dame. Agree that it'll be tough, but I am not ready to concede the game to the Irish just yet. We'll see.

As our late football coach here used to say on his radio show when asked for a prediction, he said "I predict there will be a large crowd."

Burdick is February return per coaching staff. Mid not early. I didn't concede defeat,but said if some things don't change it will be inevitable.

AllforTenn writes:

in response to feathersax:

I was in 'memorial aging garage' (lousy gym) & saw taller, more talented LV team out-hustled, out-rebounded & out-coached. Vandy's not that good, so unless HW gets 'em on track, gonna be a short post-season. Taber Spani had a terrific game; even vandie fans were impressed.

Out-rebounded? Tenn. 43, Vandy 40. Out coached? No. Out-hustled at times, but Vandy is no pushover at home.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to AllforTenn:

Out-rebounded? Tenn. 43, Vandy 40. Out coached? No. Out-hustled at times, but Vandy is no pushover at home.

That LV rebounding edge was built in the first half. In the second half, Vandy seemed to get every offensive rebound available for at least 15 minutes of game time. And they were getting every kind--in between two LVs, going over them, chasing down long ones, you name it. It says a lot for the tenacity of Meighan and Taber that the LVs were able to get the win, but this was overall a forgettable performance for the LV inside players especially.

movinonup writes:

What is it going to take to make some of you happy? You do realize we are sitting at the top of the conference with an unbeaten conference record, with a team that was picked pre-season to finish what, 4th or 5th at best? Great job ladies - you are a joy to watch. Great coaching job Holly - we could not have picked a better person to carry the baton!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to movinonup:

What is it going to take to make some of you happy? You do realize we are sitting at the top of the conference with an unbeaten conference record, with a team that was picked pre-season to finish what, 4th or 5th at best? Great job ladies - you are a joy to watch. Great coaching job Holly - we could not have picked a better person to carry the baton!

Nearly everybody is happy with their record and recognizes the extraordinary character and cohesion the team shows when it is playing its best. However, IMHO, it is not a knock on either the team or the staff to point out areas where they could improve which, if not corrected, could lead to a failure to reach their maximum potential. At least, it doesn't HAVE to be such a knock; some people just can't, or won't, make points about flaws in play without going immediately to deficiencies in character, effort, the women's game, LV fans...well, you get the picture. If you are on here much, you should soon get a pretty good idea which posters actually want the team to succeed and which delight in trying to tear down people like Holly and the LVs to mask their own shortcomings.

oldbasshead writes:

Simmons and Spani are good players. They are not great players. Diggins is a great player. Simmons and Spani never so up in big games. That is why UT Lady Vols do not do well against top 10 teams. They measure themselves against the SEC which doesn't have a single team that can beat anyone in the top ten.

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