Lady Vols grind it out against Mississippi State, 67-63

Lady Vols in the zone despite 22 turnovers

Mississippi State guard Dominique Dillingham (00) keeps the ball away from Tennessee guard Andraya Carter (14) 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

Mississippi State guard Dominique Dillingham (00) keeps the ball away from Tennessee guard Andraya Carter (14) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press
Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison attempts a shot as Mississippi State center Martha Alwal, left, defends with a teammate during the first half of Thursday’s game in Starkville, Miss.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison attempts a shot as Mississippi State center Martha Alwal, left, defends with a teammate during the first half of Thursday’s game in Starkville, Miss.

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

Stymied by 22 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 before a crowd of 3,169.

Bashaara Graves and Ariel Massengale combined to hit three free throws in the final 26 seconds 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), which was lurking with 62-59 inside the final minute.

“I think this kind of win, getting this kind of win, it’s a big deal,” Tennessee guard Andraya Carter said.

Graves agreed.

“Everything wasn’t going our way,” she said. “We had to grind it out.”

While UT coach Holly Warlick lamented the sloppiness, she applauded the effort.

“I asked them to play as if they were trying to get a scholarship,” she said.

The Lady Vols were dead-eye accurate down the stretch, hitting 11 of their final 14 shots to top off a sizzling 66.7 percent shooting performance in the second half (14 for 21).

Warlick said that the players prepared the scouting report, but she provided a last-minute wrinkle, announcing beforehand that the Lady Vols would open in a zone defense.

“I was trying to get something our players were comfortable in,” she said. “I thought it was necessary for us to play a zone.”

The 2-3 alignment spared the Lady Vols foul trouble at the outset. It also discouraged the dribble penetration plays that had been tearing through their man-to-man alignment. A 1-2-2 deployment was an adjustment to State’s shooters.

“Here’s the deal,” Warlick said. “I wanted to go back to man-to-man and the (assistant) coaches wanted to stay in zone.”

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

Then came the turnovers. 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.

“Some of those are just self-inflicted,” Warlick said. “We travel, double dribble, offensive foul. That’s something we have to clean up. I’ll take the blame for that. That’s an area we’ve got to get better at.”

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

They didn’t commit any turnovers, though, in the final seven minutes. Instead they made five layups.

Graves converted an offensive rebound into a putback basket with 3:18 left. Isabelle Harrison hit a back-cutting Carter for a crucial layup with 36 seconds remaining.

“We kept fighting back,” Carter said. “(Assistant coach) Dean (Lockwood) says it’s a lot like boxing. When you get hit, you have to fight back.”

Tennessee takes a break from conference play to face No. 2 Notre Dame (16-0) on Monday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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Comments » 7

underthehill writes:

I do not recall any Lady Vol team missing so many point blank easy shots..need to clean this up first..it appears to be a lack of focus on finishing..the turnovers were in part due to the speed of the Vandy and Miss St guards..they forced some of the turnovers by attacking instead of being attacked.. I think this surprised the players and coaches..better get prepared..when one team sees something work..the next team is gonna try the same..I liked the effort and the finish..Carter was a huge part of that finish..

underthehill writes:

and I really like the Lady Vols being prepared to play multiple defenses..the lack of which is a huge disadvantage for the men's team..

johnlg00 writes:

Yeah, I like the combination of the press followed by the zone. I like the way the LVs trap in the corner out of it. I would move a couple of the players not involved in the trap to make it harder to get a good pass to anybody close, but the concept is sound. Defensive rebounding out of a zone for the posts is quite often problematic, so the perimeter players have to go to the defensive glass as well. On a number of occasions last night, the LV posts made concerted efforts to pass to a guard after a defensive rebound, who then pushed it up the floor. Other runouts should come off live-ball turnovers, mostly off the press. One would think that a faster pace increases the chances of turnovers, but I would rather have them trying to do something aggressive than because I just didn't have my head in the game.

mutt writes:

OK, over half of the season is over. Time to settle into a solid rotation and get some continuity. At this point, based on watching every game my starting five would have to include Ariel and Andraya. They would also get a majority of minutes playing together and there would never be a time when at least one of them would not be on the floor. Izzy, Bashaara, and Mercedes offer a superb post rotation and should get pretty much equal playing time. Cierra and Jasmine could also sub at the post if two of the three were in serious foul trouble. Otherwise, Cierra would share time with Megan and Jasmine at the 3. My favorite group to start out of this eight would be Ariel, Andraya, Izzy, Bashaara and either Cierra or Megan. If starting Megan is better for the overall psyche of the team then I can live with that......just don't leave her too long when she is not on her game or on the team's game plan. If it would not hurt the overall psyche of the team, I see her really making a positive impact coming off the bench with Cierra offering a calm, steady, mentally prepared starter. I think Jasmine can also provide a positive impact coming off the bench at the three or four. The rest of the bench should get playing time when appropriate....mostly when the hay is already in the barn.

Tennman78 writes:

Anything over 10 turnovers per game is unacceptable, and will result in a loss to a top team. ND will absolutely smoke the Lady Vols if they turn it over and miss easy shots like they have been doing. This needs to stop! The team is far too talented for this to continue. Grind for nine is still within reach, but only if we start being more efficient, starting Monday night!

mutt writes:

in response to underthehill:

and I really like the Lady Vols being prepared to play multiple defenses..the lack of which is a huge disadvantage for the men's team..

I particularly liked the addition of the 1-2-2 with the traps in the corner. This definitely fit the personnel.

Theo writes:

I thought the defense was maybe the best of the year. The zone seems to work for them. I know Pat was man to man but you've got to find what fits your personnel.
Very excited about our freshmen. Especially when you consider Andraya is technically a freshman. She is super. Like MR's demeanor on the court. Mature for a freshman. Jordan has oodles of potential. As for Tucker, I don't care if she ever plays a game. I'm just glad she's a LV and hope she feels safe and happy. Throw in Graves and Jones that is a strong group of underclassmen.

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