No. 4 Lady Vols seek to avenge loss to Chattanooga

Chattanooga understands it won’t blindside No. 4 Tennessee this
time. The memories of last year are too fresh.

Tennessee opened the 2012-13 season with a stunning 80-71 loss
at Chattanooga in the Lady Vols’ first game of the post-Pat Summitt
era. They finally get their chance to avenge that loss Thursday at
Thompson-Boling Arena.

”I think we have a different mindset,” Tennessee guard Ariel
Massengale said. ”Last year, we weren’t very mentally tough. When
we got hit in the mouth, it was kind of hard for us to bounce
back.”

Chattanooga returns three players who started in the win last
year. The Lady Mocs have a new coach in Hall of Famer Jim Foster,
who took over the program after Wes Moore left for North Carolina
State. Chattanooga, which went 29-4 and reached the NCAA tournament
last year, opened the season Friday with an 82-70 victory over
Alabama.

Tennessee opened with road wins over Middle Tennessee and No. 12
North Carolina before hosting the Lady Mocs.

”We’re determined,” Lady Vols’ guard Andraya Carter said. ”We
want to win. We want to beat them. They came out and they beat us
last year. They played really well and they deserved to win that
game, but this year we don’t want that to happen. We will think
about it and we will talk about it.”

Chattanooga expects that kind of approach from Tennessee.

”I know they weren’t happy with the way things went,” said
Chattanooga forward Taylor Hall, who scored 24 points against
Tennessee last year. ”They’re probably looking to get us back.
They never overlooked us, I don’t think. There were several close
calls (in this series) in the past. We’re definitely a team that
they’re aware of now.”

Those close calls generally didn’t take place in Knoxville.

Tennessee lost last year’s game in Chattanooga and escaped with
a 66-63 victory at Chattanooga in 2008. But Chattanooga hasn’t
beaten Tennessee on the road since 1973. Tennessee has beaten
Chattanooga 10 straight times in Knoxville by an average margin of
33 points.

”I don’t think we’ve had much confidence in the past just
entering those games,” Hall said. ”We kind of thought of how
they’ve gone every other time we went in that building. Hopefully,
we don’t think like that this year.”

Hall says the Lady Mocs won’t be intimidated this season based
on their victory over Tennessee last year. Chattanooga shot 56.3
percent in the second half and forced 26 turnovers that night to
beat Tennessee despite getting outrebounded 53-31.

Tennessee believes it has made major strides since the last time
it faced Chattanooga.

The Lady Vols went on to finish 27-8 and reach an NCAA regional
final last season. They’ve started this season with two road wins
despite not getting big performances in either game from SEC
preseason player of the year Meighan Simmons or 2012-13 SEC
newcomer of the year Bashaara Graves.

They each scored eight points and finished a combined 6 of 22
from the field against the Tar Heels, while 6-foot-6 freshman
Mercedes Russell had two points on 2-of-9 shooting from the
free-throw line.

Tennessee has shown it can bounce back this year, erasing a
12-point halftime deficit at Middle Tennessee. During that close
call, the Lady Vols reminded themselves they wanted to avoid a
repeat of last year’s season-opening setback.

”It’s not ancient history for us,” Carter said. ”We even
brought it up in the (Middle Tennessee) game when we were down at
halftime. We were like, `We’re not having another Chatt. It’s not
going to happen. We’re not going to lose to this team.’ ”

Now the Lady Vols have a chance to show Chattanooga just how far
they’ve come.