Virginia 69, No. 3 Tennessee 64
Tennessee learned the hard way that it can't wait until the second half to buckle down.
The third-ranked Lady Vols (2-1) fell behind Virginia early in the second half, took the lead only briefly late and never managed to get control in a 69-64 overtime loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday.
''What we do in the second half we have to do in the first half,'' forward Shekinna Stricklen said. ''We have to really bring the energy from the start. We have to go to the boards from the start. We've got to bring our defense from the start of the game and not just for the second half.''
In reality, the Lady Vols had control only for a short while, turning a 47-40 deficit into a 48-47 lead with 7 minutes to play. But the Cavaliers, playing just their fourth game under coach Joanne Boyle, steadied themselves with five consecutive points and never gave up believing they could win.
It was the first road game for Tennessee since coach Pat Summitt announced in the offseason that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She received a warm welcome when she came out onto the floor just before the game, but that warm and fuzzy feeling ended at tip-off.
''I think everyone just made a lot of little mistakes and as the game went on, they kept getting bigger and bigger,'' forward Glory Johnson said. ''We weren't really communicating on the floor.''
The reverse was true for Virginia.
''This goes to show that the hard work and the program that we're buying into is worth it and it's real,'' said Chelsea Shine, who led the Cavaliers with 18 points, including a basket in overtime.
''Everyone on this team is totally sold out for what the coaches want us to do.''
The Cavaliers (4-0) came into the game allowing just over 42 points a game and dictated the pace against a Lady Vols team averaging 90.5 points and accustomed to playing a break-neck speed.
''They controlled the tempo,'' said assistant coach Holly Warlick, who handled the postgame press conference. ''They slowed us down quite a bit.''
Taber Spani led the Lady Vols (2-1) with 22 points, including a 3-pointer 59 seconds into overtime that gave Tennessee a 61-58 lead, but the good news ended there. The Cavaliers scored the next 11 points, the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena getting more excited with each basket.
China Crosby had 13 points and Ataira Franklin 12 for Virginia, which beat Tennessee for just the third time in 16 games. Lexie Gerson and Ariana Moorer each scored 10.
Stricklen had 16 and Johnson 15 for the Lady Vols, who missed 10 of 21 free throws and had 24 turnovers that Virginia turned into 27 points. Tennessee scored 12 off Virginia's 15 giveaways.
''We've preached a lot to our kids on making free throws and turnovers, and that was our demise tonight,'' Warlick said, noting that the points Virginia got off the mistakes is ''hard to overcome.''
In the overtime, after Spani's 3-pointer, Moorer hit a pair of free throws, and then a foul-line jumper, one of only three baskets she made in 16 tries. Shine followed a turnover by Tennessee with a short baseline jumper, and Crosby hit 3 of 4 free throws to make it 67-61.
The Lady Vols never had an answer, and each time they failed to score and Virginia came away with the ball, the crowd of 6,450 at John Paul Jones Arena got louder and more excited.
Stricklen had a chance to give the Lady Vols the lead near the end of regulation when she was fouled while scoring, but she missed the free throw.
Crosby broke a 56-all tie with 36.6 seconds to go in regulation, hitting a desperate shot from the baseline with the shot clock running down. After a timeout, Spani calmly swished a 12-footer from the left baseline with 22.8 seconds to go, pulling Tennessee even again.
Moorer's last chance drive in regulation was cleanly blocked just before the buzzer.
The Cavaliers tightened their defense and Tennessee continued to be sloppy early in the second half as Virginia opened the half on a 14-6 run. The Cavaliers led by as many as nine and by 47-40 when the Lady Vols began asserting themselves on the offensive glass and rallied.
Tennessee scored eight straight points, taking its first lead since the first half, but Shine scored inside and Crosby's three-point play boosted the Cavaliers' edge back to 52-48.
The Lady Vols pulled even three times, but only led once thereafter.
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