Despite turnovers, Lady Vols beat Mississippi State, 67-63

Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick (11) looks for a shot while Mississippi State guard Dominique Dillingham (00) closes in on her in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick (11) looks for a shot while Mississippi State guard Dominique Dillingham (00) closes in on her in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Tennessee lost the ball but not the ball game Thursday night.

Stymied by turnovers, UT relied on zone defense and key baskets to pull off a 67-63 SEC women’s basketball victory over Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum.

Bashaara Graves and Ariel Massengale hit free throws in the final minute to secure the outcome. They led No. 12 Tennessee (14-3, 3-2 SEC) with 13 points apiece.

Kendra Grant scored 21 to lead Mississippi State (14-4, 1-3).

In the days leading up to Thursday’s game, UT coach Holly Warlick wondered aloud about what was her team’s best defensive alignment. She gave their zone a good workout right from the start against Mississippi State.

The alignment spared the Lady Vols foul trouble. It also discouraged the dribble penetration plays that had been tearing through their man-to-man alignment.

Tennessee was in good shape after overcoming an early spate of missed shots to lead 20-8.

Then came the turnovers — 22 in all. They began with six during an eight-play sequence, robbing UT of its early momentum.

The mistakes continued in a variety of ways — everything from dribbling mishaps, to errant passes to losing the ball as if it was bar of soap.

They continued right up until Massengale lost the ball on Tennessee’s final possession of the first half. By the break, Tennessee’s lead had dwindled to a shaky 26-23.

The Lady Vols continued losing the ball after halftime. They committed two in the first minute, causing Warlick to burn a timeout.

But they somehow held onto the lead, cobbling together enough points to hold off State, which pulled within a basket on several occasions early in the half.

Tennessee returns home and takes a break from conference play to face No. 2 Notre Dame on Monday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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Comments » 15

oldster writes:

15 turnovers is acceptable if a team is playing a fast paced game, but not in a game that had to be as slow as the score of this one indicated. 22 is unacceptable for ANY kind of basketball game. Were any of my teams to have this kind of problem, the players would be made to carry a ball with them every where - even to bed. I would also do every kind of ball handling, passing, passing under pressure, battling through contact, and similar drills that I could think of with such intensity that no player would have any rest for the full practice. I would also promise to continue this kind of practice until they get the turnovers under control. I would also slow down the game and forbid fast breaks that involve any passing whatsoever. Desperate times require desperate action.

wigmeister writes:

UT is offering a course this year in how to perfect turnovers. Both the women's and men's teams are getting straight A's.

Allenfan writes:

She is completely lost on how to handle or even coach this team. Will we be embarrassed Monday Night, I hope not. You know Notre Dame will have plays for one of their girls to score about 30 points against us, and we will not be prepared to stop them. I have changed my opinion, as I thought in time she would be a adequate coach, but seems she is getting worse with every game.

oldster writes:

in response to Allenfan:

She is completely lost on how to handle or even coach this team. Will we be embarrassed Monday Night, I hope not. You know Notre Dame will have plays for one of their girls to score about 30 points against us, and we will not be prepared to stop them. I have changed my opinion, as I thought in time she would be a adequate coach, but seems she is getting worse with every game.

I want to support Holly. After all, she learned at the feet of the greatest woman's coach ever. Surely something rubbed off. However, if she cannot make some changes to fix the biggest thing that is KILLING her team, then I fear that you may be right.

I know it is not always the easiest thing to change what you coach. Coaches can be stubborn in their belief that if something is winning that one should not change ("If it ain't broke, don't fix it.") and what Holly is teaching is what worked for the LVS for decades. Well, it is not anymore. Times have changed. Change with them, or fail.

MaxVolFan writes:

22 Turnovers is unacceptable. I watched the game and I just don't get why we can't make crisp accurate passes. Have a player come to the ball to receive a pass if they are playing u.
ND only had 9 turnover in a blowout at Pitt. It doesn't look good

facultyman writes:

in response to Allenfan:

She is completely lost on how to handle or even coach this team. Will we be embarrassed Monday Night, I hope not. You know Notre Dame will have plays for one of their girls to score about 30 points against us, and we will not be prepared to stop them. I have changed my opinion, as I thought in time she would be a adequate coach, but seems she is getting worse with every game.

I'm beginning to agree with you. She seems to have difficulty with floor management. There are no more "gimme" games. The team lacks continuity and direction and appears frustrated with basic ball handling. Maybe time for serious coaching staff review?

ATL_VOL_FAN writes:

I watched the game as well and couldn't believe my eyes. This team looks like its on auto pilot. Is it the players, coaches or have they all been drinking their own Kool-Aide? I think they played with more passion and confidence last year. You have 4 coaches sitting on that pine (one of which for 27 years) and not one has a solution for the same issues that continue to plague this team? History and Tradition can only take you so far. If you watch the other teams in the conference they are playing at such a higher level. Notre Dame will torch this team on Monday.

ModelMaker writes:

"POTENTIALLY" this team is even better than I thought. I came away from last night's game really impressed with Russell. I think this kid really has a lot of ability and is going too be a force in there. Without a doubt I thought she played her best game last night. I can only in-vision what this kid could do if she played 30 to 35 minutes a game. I thought Holly was smart starting her but I would have liked too have seen Holly start Carter instead of Jones. I would love too see Holly go with a starting lineup of Graves, Russell, Harrison, Massengale and Carter. I think if she would stick with that starting five I believe they would not only win the SEC but they would get to the "final 4". But Holly is going too have too play this starting five 30 to 35 or more minutes a game. Why Holly didn't have Russell in there in the last 12 minutes is beyond me. Why Holly took Carter out in the last minute is mind boggling too me. Ya know CPS once said "it isn't about me it's about the player's"; I think Holly is trying too make it about Holly and she isn't cutting it. I think this team is very capable of beating ND.

RLL59 writes:

Every Lady Vol, other than Andraya, seems to be playing under extreme pressure right from the start of the game. It's like they have to make something good happen quickly or they'll be out of the game. Ariel should be the steadying force, but last night she hurried every play rather than calming the others down. The turnovers are caused by a lack of cohesion among the players, which probably is caused by the fact that no five players get adequate time on the court together.

Those of you who wanted Meighan on the bench got your way. 17 minutes and 3 shots for the player picked by the coaches and writers as the best player in the conference. She may not be having that kind of year, but the Lady Vols cannot win against the better teams without her. Maybe they can't win with her in there either, but they have no chance without her.

What's up with playing time for Jasmine? She had perhaps her best game against Vandy, with virtually no turnovers, and then gets 11 minutes in this game?

Mercedes gets time in spurts, appears to play well, and then is never heard from again?? It's like players are forgotten. I really wish Holly would try 5 person substitutions and get players familiar with each other on the court.

The zone defense worked OK, but no one blocks out for rebounds. Doesn't appear that they understand the assignments underneath in that defense any better than they do in man to man.

MaxVolFan writes:

in response to ModelMaker:

"POTENTIALLY" this team is even better than I thought. I came away from last night's game really impressed with Russell. I think this kid really has a lot of ability and is going too be a force in there. Without a doubt I thought she played her best game last night. I can only in-vision what this kid could do if she played 30 to 35 minutes a game. I thought Holly was smart starting her but I would have liked too have seen Holly start Carter instead of Jones. I would love too see Holly go with a starting lineup of Graves, Russell, Harrison, Massengale and Carter. I think if she would stick with that starting five I believe they would not only win the SEC but they would get to the "final 4". But Holly is going too have too play this starting five 30 to 35 or more minutes a game. Why Holly didn't have Russell in there in the last 12 minutes is beyond me. Why Holly took Carter out in the last minute is mind boggling too me. Ya know CPS once said "it isn't about me it's about the player's"; I think Holly is trying too make it about Holly and she isn't cutting it. I think this team is very capable of beating ND.

I thought about that very same lineup . I think that's the best on the court . Holly puts players in for different situations like Jasmine for defense or Simmons for shots but you have to put a team out there that will be cohesive . I said this for years too that you put your best five out their for 30+ mins and let them work together for the win. Sure you can sub in players for some written up plays but you go right back to your line up unless their in foul trouble. I'm tired of giving examples of other teams because I want My team to be successful. Russell could be so dominant right now if she was out there longer

Allenfan writes:

in response to RLL59:

Every Lady Vol, other than Andraya, seems to be playing under extreme pressure right from the start of the game. It's like they have to make something good happen quickly or they'll be out of the game. Ariel should be the steadying force, but last night she hurried every play rather than calming the others down. The turnovers are caused by a lack of cohesion among the players, which probably is caused by the fact that no five players get adequate time on the court together.

Those of you who wanted Meighan on the bench got your way. 17 minutes and 3 shots for the player picked by the coaches and writers as the best player in the conference. She may not be having that kind of year, but the Lady Vols cannot win against the better teams without her. Maybe they can't win with her in there either, but they have no chance without her.

What's up with playing time for Jasmine? She had perhaps her best game against Vandy, with virtually no turnovers, and then gets 11 minutes in this game?

Mercedes gets time in spurts, appears to play well, and then is never heard from again?? It's like players are forgotten. I really wish Holly would try 5 person substitutions and get players familiar with each other on the court.

The zone defense worked OK, but no one blocks out for rebounds. Doesn't appear that they understand the assignments underneath in that defense any better than they do in man to man.

I loved your comments, they are right on the mark. I will be the first to admit that Meighan doesn't always play the smartest, so lets make a point, and bench her while playing perhaps the worst team in the SEC. I think that is the dumbest thing yet, as you will not only need her, but have to have her to win most of the games on our schedule. This game is all about Holly and I think that even she realizes that she is in over her head, even after 28 years with this same team and with the best head coach you could ask for,she still stumbles through her interviews. and is often time clueless during the critical parts of the game. I would think with the direction of our athletic department, they can certainly see this, and would not hesitate to make a move.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to oldster:

15 turnovers is acceptable if a team is playing a fast paced game, but not in a game that had to be as slow as the score of this one indicated. 22 is unacceptable for ANY kind of basketball game. Were any of my teams to have this kind of problem, the players would be made to carry a ball with them every where - even to bed. I would also do every kind of ball handling, passing, passing under pressure, battling through contact, and similar drills that I could think of with such intensity that no player would have any rest for the full practice. I would also promise to continue this kind of practice until they get the turnovers under control. I would also slow down the game and forbid fast breaks that involve any passing whatsoever. Desperate times require desperate action.

I'm with you on the drills and such, but I would hate to take away the option of breakaway layups and fast breaks. As the article said, it is the stupid, unforced errors that are so frustrating, not the good tries that you just didn't connect on, though those could and should also be cut down drastically.

johnlg00 writes:

From what I saw last night, the only real change the LVs need to make right now is to hire a layup-shooting coach! It just cannot be said that the LV offense didn't work for most of the first half like a well-oiled machine, producing one postup or driving layup after another! Those are the VERY SHOTS any offense is designed to get, but the player has to put the ball IN THE BASKET! That is why all carping at Holly is a little silly to me. If they had made 85% of those shots, which they CERTAINLY should have, they would have won by 30 and had far fewer opportunities to throw the ball away.

Nobody is ever going to agree with any coach's every decision. Nobody outside the team is going to know all the factors that go into such decisions. Not may people outside the team will have much idea what the team really thinks about how they are playing or what they are doing in practice to fix it. But really, sometimes the ball doesn't go in for you and sometimes it goes in more often for the other team.

RLL59 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

From what I saw last night, the only real change the LVs need to make right now is to hire a layup-shooting coach! It just cannot be said that the LV offense didn't work for most of the first half like a well-oiled machine, producing one postup or driving layup after another! Those are the VERY SHOTS any offense is designed to get, but the player has to put the ball IN THE BASKET! That is why all carping at Holly is a little silly to me. If they had made 85% of those shots, which they CERTAINLY should have, they would have won by 30 and had far fewer opportunities to throw the ball away.

Nobody is ever going to agree with any coach's every decision. Nobody outside the team is going to know all the factors that go into such decisions. Not may people outside the team will have much idea what the team really thinks about how they are playing or what they are doing in practice to fix it. But really, sometimes the ball doesn't go in for you and sometimes it goes in more often for the other team.

I assume you're being facetious. One game, barely defeating an opponent who lost by double digits to Middle Tn and Florida, and we only have a single problem of blown layups! And if we'd made the layups, we wouldn't have had the opportunity for so many turnovers! And now all the questions about Holly's coaching are inane and unwarranted! Good ones!

ModelMaker writes:

in response to Allenfan:

I loved your comments, they are right on the mark. I will be the first to admit that Meighan doesn't always play the smartest, so lets make a point, and bench her while playing perhaps the worst team in the SEC. I think that is the dumbest thing yet, as you will not only need her, but have to have her to win most of the games on our schedule. This game is all about Holly and I think that even she realizes that she is in over her head, even after 28 years with this same team and with the best head coach you could ask for,she still stumbles through her interviews. and is often time clueless during the critical parts of the game. I would think with the direction of our athletic department, they can certainly see this, and would not hesitate to make a move.

I overheard Dean Lockwood's commentary on the radio (internet) this morning and he was asked about not starting Meighan. He said that they were trying too take some pressure off her so she would be more relaxed and hopefully play better. She just might help the team more in this role. Look what Williams did last year. I happen too agree with Lockwood, in that I think it well definitely help her. There have been allot of great sixth men that have been very instrumental in helping their team win championships. All I know is that what we are doing is not working too well and you have too make changes or you will continue to get what you have been getting. I really hope this helps Meighan because we well need everybody we got to get to where we want to go.

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