Lady Vols will find out how well their game travels

Lady Vols must succeed in Big 12 territory

Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick calls to her players during practice at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., Saturday, March 30, 2013. The Lady Vols will play the Oklahoma Sooners at 4:30pm EST Sunday, March 31. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick calls to her players during practice at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., Saturday, March 30, 2013. The Lady Vols will play the Oklahoma Sooners at 4:30pm EST Sunday, March 31. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tennessee began practice Thursday in typical fashion. The players and coaches gathered in a circle, and a thought for the day was shared.

In this case, the thought took the form of a question: “Does your game travel?”

Since then, the Lady Vols have left the comforts of home, where they scored two victories to open the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. They have traveled 850 miles and put the finishing touches on an answer for Sunday’s semifinals of the Oklahoma City regional.

No. 2 seed Tennessee (26-7) will face No. 6 Oklahoma (24-10) at 4:30 p.m. at Chesapeake Energy Arena (TV: ESPN2). Top seed Baylor (34-1) will play No. 5 Louisville (26-8) in the other semifinal.

The winners meet at 9 p.m. Tuesday for a trip to the Final Four.

Sunday’s setting qualifies as a neutral site. The arena’s trappings don’t suggest otherwise. The sounds likely will convey a different feeling, however. The game will play out deep in Sooner territory.

“I think our guys do have a great, great feeling about Oklahoma playing in this building,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “I think we obviously have a great feeling about playing in front of Oklahoma fans.”

Thursday’s thought for the day was intended to set the tone for the days to come for Tennessee.

“One of the things we’ve discussed with them is the value of consistency,” UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood said, “about how great teams find that consistency and are able to sustain great effort, no matter what the setting, no matter what the circumstances.”

Consistency has been elusive for the Lady Vols away from Knoxville. In some cases, any semblance of regularity has been unwanted in nature.

For example, they opened the regular season in jittery fashion, suffering an 80-71 loss at Chattanooga. They closed the regular season much the same way, committing 31 turnovers and coming unhinged in a 78-65 loss at Kentucky.

In between, they have experienced highs and lows.

The Lady Vols ended the 41-game home winning streak of Miami (Fla.) with a 79-67 victory on Nov. 18.

They were a picture of poise and determination in rallying for a 64-62 victory at LSU on Feb. 7. Four days earlier was an 80-63 loss at Missouri that featured a lackluster effort and defensive indifference.

“If we stick to our game plan, that’s the difference,” forward Cierra Burdick said. “If you look back at UTC, which was one of the two huge road (losses), we played terrible basketball.

“It wasn’t so much the setting. It wasn’t so much that they had their fans or we didn’t have ours. It was a matter of we didn’t stick to our game plan and we didn’t play defense the way we were supposed to play.”

Tennessee’s attention to detail began when it arrived here. The players’ curfew Friday night was 10:30 p.m., a half-hour earlier than normal.

“We were like “Why is curfew at 10:30 when it’s usually 11?’ ” point guard Ariel Massengale said.

The answer was that they had traveled to the central time zone. The new curfew was intended to minimize the difference in the time change.

On Sunday, the Lady Vols intend to proceed literally from possession to possession, mindful of maintaining the lines of communication, along with their focus.

“If you mess up a play,” freshman forward Jasmine Jones said, “you can’t let it go over to the next play. You don’t have time for that now.”

It doesn’t suit their travel plans.

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Comments » 11

ModelMaker writes:

I started to believe in this team when they went down to Georgia Tech and then went to Miami and beat them both on their home court. To me that was impressive especially since Miami had a long winning streak going on their home court. Then when I saw them dismantle North Carolina I really thought too myself, this team has something special. And last but not least they won the SEC championship despite having three key injuries. I love this team and I think that if they stay close together and play smart as "one", I believe that they can have a lot of fun and could accomplish something special. Just remember that you are Tennessee and that you are as good as anyone out there. I wish you all the best.

jt45 writes:

I just hope they never let up for the whole 40 minutes. When they play that way they are a hard team to beat and usually put up big offensive numbers. There is no doubt the LVs have one of if not the best transition offenses in womens basketball. If they can find a way to use that advantage consistently throughout this game, they should win it. I believe good rebounding by our post will be crucial also. I would love to see Simmons get fired up and put up 30 points on OK. But double digit balanced scoring by all of them is the better team effort and much harder for other teams to deal with.


ps11824 writes:

This win will have to come from the gut. They have to want it enough to take it, giving away absolutely nothing. Put the ball IN THE BASKET. Make good passes, set tight screens. Get in their shorts. REBOUND. We can win this game!

tonyvick#213307 writes:

One thing this tournament proved is that you won the toughest conference in America. Which means you are the best of the best. Go show 'em!

PureOrange writes:

This team has the talent. They just need to be dedicated to playing all out for 40 min.. If they do, we win, if not, we may lose.

Go Lady Vols! Give your all for the Orange today!

golfman1975 writes:

Travel is the key word. I don't know who does the seeding and site selections but they stink. No regional site in the Southeast? UConn played in their home state until the final 4 for years now. LSU and GA having to go to the west? UT going to play Oklahoma in their home state as a 6 seed? Kentucky in Bridgeport? Then there is the ESPN coverage...makes me want to puke. They have their daily UConn orgasm...hope they smoke afterwards.

Lady Vols will have a tough day but should prevail. I just hope the refs don't control our flow and get us off stride...especially our bigs. Could make for a long day. We have the depth to deal with it however. Love the one game at a time attitude! So proud of what they have accomplished this year...Coach W is tough! UGA did it unthinkable yesterday so we can stay on a roll and get to the final four if we play to our ability. Go Lady Vols!!!

madrigal writes:

Georgia traveled all the way to Spokane and won, no reason our girls shouldn't do well one time zone over. They have to travel there during the season to play Arkansas and Missouri and Vandy! OK, ladies, go kick some Sooner butt!

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Kick Oklahoma's butt!!! Louisville needs to beat Baylor, too! Stanford went can happen.

Go Lady Vols! Fight for what you want!

volfan1202 writes:

Holly Warlick sure is sexy.

UkJarhead writes:

Good luck to the Lady Vols today. Would love to see 3 SEC teams in the Final Four.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

in response to RashaadSalabeb:

Kick Oklahoma's butt!!! Louisville needs to beat Baylor, too! Stanford went can happen.

Go Lady Vols! Fight for what you want!

It did happen. Tough luck Baylor! Lady Vols the door is open. Fight like you've never fought before!

Fight on you Mighty Lady Vols!

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