Even after limiting Creighton, Lady Vols want more on defense

Team not satisfied after Creighton win

Tennessee's Ariel Massengale bumps Creighton's Carli Tritz in the second round game of the NCAA Tournament at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday, March 25, 2013. Tennessee wins 68-52 and advance to the Oklahoma City Regional. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2013 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee's Ariel Massengale bumps Creighton's Carli Tritz in the second round game of the NCAA Tournament at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday, March 25, 2013. Tennessee wins 68-52 and advance to the Oklahoma City Regional. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Meighan Simmons talks Sweet 16, win over Creighton

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Holly Warlick gave Tennessee’s defense against Creighton on Monday night a solid thumbs-up.

“It was one of the best defensive efforts we’ve had all year,” she said. “And we needed it.”

The Lady Vols coach was speaking in the interview room at Thompson-Boling Arena following a 68-52 victory over the Bluejays in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. She based her assessment on No. 2 seed Tennessee (26-7) limiting Creighton to a season-low four 3-pointers on 22 attempts and gathering 13 steals. The thefts contributed to a 15-2 edge in fast-break points and 21 points off turnovers.

Such achievements, above all else, punched UT’s ticket to the Oklahoma City regional semifinals and a date with No. 6 Oklahoma (20-14) on Sunday.

Down the hall from where Warlick spoke, the Lady Vols weren’t so impressed. They sat in harsher judgement on the stools in their locker room. The consensus opinion was that they shouldn’t be satisfied.

“Not at all; Not at all,” freshman Jasmine Jones said. “We made several mistakes on defense, but we were able to stay in the game. We have to be more consistent on our defense.”

The upgrade that seemed to be on everyone’s mind was more consistent ball pressure. The Lady Vols’ athleticism and size wore on the Bluejays, who made just seven field goals after halftime, shooting 7-for-27 from the floor (1-for-12 on 3-pointers).

“We got a little lackadaisical with the ball,” Creighton guard Ally Jensen said. “I know myself, in particular, just got dead in situations where you can’t against a team like Tennessee.”

While the Lady Vols were hard on Creighton, their style of play was hard on them as well. Rapid-fire substitutions were made throughout the second half to maintain a high level of play. A good example was senior guard Kamiko Williams, who spearheaded Tennessee’s defense by gathering a team-high four steals. She took three separate breathers before coming out for good with 1:14 left. Her rest periods generally lasted about two minutes, enabling her to play 12 minutes of high-energy hoops.

“At the beginning of the year, she played three minutes and wanted out; and she doesn’t want out now,” Warlick said of Williams. “We’re giving her breathers, but she’s getting in shape and playing the basketball she needs to play. And playing the basketball we need her to play to win.”

Forward Cierra Burdick credited Tennessee’s assistant coaches with managing the players and their minutes, particularly those who were guarding at the point of attack.

“I think they did a great job of rotating players and I think we responded very well,” Burdick said. “Kamiko did a great job on the ball.”

Tennessee benefitted from center Isabelle Harrison closing the back door with three blocks. Furthermore, forwards Bashaara Graves and Jones were able to guard players away from the basket. The 6-foot-2 Jones often was deployed in Williams-like fashion.

“They speed you up because they’re longer,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “It’s not just athleticism; it’s length.”

If only the Lady Vols could play such defense for longer periods of time.

“I think the pressure we brought is what we’re capable of,” Burdick said. “If we can just play that for 40 minutes ...”

Then they all would be satisfied.

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Comments » 18

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

Ahhh so everyone who thought Kamiko wasn't getting her fair share of playing time has their answer. Of course I believe she is one of the best players on the team and also a very good team player. It has been a problem with her conditioning . Now that she is in better shape she has proven she can play in the big leagues.

Theo writes:

I was really impressed with the defensive improvement I see in JJ. She did what the coaches asked in using her feet to defend. You could tell she was taking pride in her defense. Great to see. She could be so special for us in many ways. What a freshman class, BG, JJ and Andraya. Wow, the future is bright.

chaos001 writes:

Is it just me, or does Ariel look like a middle-aged man in this picture?

xvolx writes:

in response to chaos001:

Is it just me, or does Ariel look like a middle-aged man in this picture?

Hey, good observation. He has pretty teeth.

richvol writes:

I admire Kamiko's game skills but the fact that it took until the middle of her senior year to get in basketball shape says to me that the coaches and strength and conditioning people are not doing their jobs. Yes the kids are responsible as well but this is not the only case of out of shape players on the LadyVols. The team had three overweight post players two years ago and none of them ever got into shape.

UConn's center has dramatically changed her body over the course of her four years and all of their players can run circles around most other teams. Tennessee has improved their athleticism but still has to catch up to teams like UConn.

Volinflan writes:

in response to Theo:

I was really impressed with the defensive improvement I see in JJ. She did what the coaches asked in using her feet to defend. You could tell she was taking pride in her defense. Great to see. She could be so special for us in many ways. What a freshman class, BG, JJ and Andraya. Wow, the future is bright.

You forgot Nia Moore. I expect to see major contributions from her. She seems lost when she is in the game but that will improve with a few more months of working with the other posts. I just don't know about Phillips. She came in with the reputation of a "shooter" but we sure haven't seen much shooting going on around here. JJ is just flat out going to be a player. The TV commentators have mentioned more that once that she is learning to play on the perimeter. Can she become that 6 - 2 wing that we need?

Volinflan writes:

Oh, and by the way - I thought the Creighton game was their best defense game of the year.

cdtnladyvols931#663910 writes:

Yes!!!! DEFENSE & REBOUNDING!!!!! Go Lady Vols!!!

voloffaith writes:

Got to step up their game by about 50% now as this level,regardless of Oklahoma record,is teams that have improved as the season has gone and usually won their respective conference tourney or runnerup. So the passes and play needs to be crisper and the defense smothering and smart...

kazoo writes:

Williams is a pretty good man defender, but Spani and Massengale are not, and Simmons is inconsistent. Harrison helps the defense a lot because she can block some shots; when she is not playing one can see how truly mediocre to weak UT is defensively. Jones is a pretty good player who ought to improve, but I doubt she's quick enough to guard/play more than 15 feet from the basket.

voloffaith writes:

Spani and Massengale are ok defenders as long as their spacing is good enough to compensate for the real problem....lack of foot speed.Jones has shown a tenacity that really shouldn't be questioned. She is an athlete like Glory Johnson who is growing in her bball prowess.

madrigal writes:

If they would play defense like LSU did last night they'd have a chance to win it all. That was a smothering D that Nikki's depleted squad put on Penn State! I wonder if anyone else saw it.

Do any of you still knocking Kamiko know that she is asthmatic? It's good that she can now play as much at a time as she does.

Volinflan writes:

in response to kazoo:

Williams is a pretty good man defender, but Spani and Massengale are not, and Simmons is inconsistent. Harrison helps the defense a lot because she can block some shots; when she is not playing one can see how truly mediocre to weak UT is defensively. Jones is a pretty good player who ought to improve, but I doubt she's quick enough to guard/play more than 15 feet from the basket.

True, true, true. I think defense was the reason JJ played as much as she did. As far as Guard/play and speed, she's faster than Spani. I was encouraged by the fact that all three of her baskets were made off of dribbles (albeit short dribbles mind you). When I said Wing, I was thinking about a "small" forward that can shoot from from 15 feet. I think we can say that she ain't gonna scare anyone with her 3 point shooting.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Volinflan:

True, true, true. I think defense was the reason JJ played as much as she did. As far as Guard/play and speed, she's faster than Spani. I was encouraged by the fact that all three of her baskets were made off of dribbles (albeit short dribbles mind you). When I said Wing, I was thinking about a "small" forward that can shoot from from 15 feet. I think we can say that she ain't gonna scare anyone with her 3 point shooting.

JJ may not be a great 3-point shooter yet, but she has greatly improved her shot out to 15' by adopting almost perfect form on her shot. She didn't really have a jumper until just recently, so she must have really been putting in some time on her shooting. The sky is the limit for her if she keeps working. I have always felt that the mid-range jumper was the indispensible shot for all basketball players, because if you can make that one regularly, the same form works for both free-throw shooting and 3-point shooting; you use the strength from the legs differently on each, but the setup and the arm and hand motion should be the same for all three.

golfman1975 writes:

There are 3 SEC teams in the sweet 16 and all the coaches have Lady Vol (of course Holly)ties...interesting.

Volinflan writes:

in response to golfman1975:

There are 3 SEC teams in the sweet 16 and all the coaches have Lady Vol (of course Holly)ties...interesting.

Don't forget Georgia. The SEC has 1/4th of the teams in the sweet sixteen.

ps11824 writes:

I gotta agree with many of these posts regarding spacing. We do tend to get ourselves jammed up in there oftentimes. Okie will be tough.

RLL59 writes:

in response to ps11824:

I gotta agree with many of these posts regarding spacing. We do tend to get ourselves jammed up in there oftentimes. Okie will be tough.

Agreed. Every opponent knows that it has been a fundamental premise of Lady Vol basketball forever to get the ball into the post. Most collapse their defense, deny the easy pass into the post, and double team the post player if the pass succeeds. The answer is to take advantage of what that defense gives up, but the Lady Vols have been reluctant to do that.

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