No. 4 Tennessee focusing on defense, rebounding
Sure, Tennessee had its best shooting performance of the season
in its Southeastern Conference tournament championship win over
Kentucky. That doesn’t mean coach Pat Summitt is completely happy
with how her team played.
The fourth-ranked Lady Volunteers returned to practice this week
with an extra focus on defense and rebounding, the things Summitt
says can get them to an NCAA championship.
”That was a pretty outstanding display of offense,” Summitt
said. ”You’re always trying to find something to get their
attention. When I watched the film I didn’t have any problems
finding out that we were not very good with our defense and we
didn’t rebound the ball.
”We let our offense get the best of us.”
Tennessee (31-2) shot a season-best 56.4 percent from the floor
and hit an SEC tournament and school record 16 3-pointers in a
90-65 win against No. 16 Kentucky in the title game on Sunday.
The victory all but guaranteed the Lady Vols will receive their
21st No. 1 seed when the NCAA bracket is announced on Monday. But
as they learned last season after losing in the reginonal
semifinals to Baylor, a top seed doesn’t guarantee a trip to the
The chance to play for a national championship will only come
from stingy defense and a tough rebounding effort, the kind that
can mask any offensive struggles Tennessee might have.
Despite having a size advantage against Kentucky, the Lady Vols
were outrebounded by the Wildcats 46-41 – only the second time
they’d been outrebounded all season. Tennessee did manage to limit
Kentucky to 27.3 percent shooting, but the Wildcats slipped by the
Lady Vols a few times for some easy layups.
”We want to make sure that they understand that on a given
night when you don’t shoot well, you have to be very focused while
playing great defense,” Summitt said. ”With that said, we’ll go
in and start and look at our lack of commitment on the defense end.
We’ll start with the bad and get with the good. We did a lot of
good things in the tournament.”
Among the good things Tennessee did was shoot 53.1 percent and
beat its three opponents by an average 22 points per game. The Lady
Vols limited their opponents to an average 34.8 percent shooting,
but Florida hit 44 percent of its shots, the best any team has done
against Tennessee all season except for Virginia.
Couple that with 18 turnovers against the Gators and 22 against
Kentucky and a plus-1.7 rebounding margin – a poor showing by a
team that usually outrebounds its opponents by double digits – and
the Lady Vols know they’ve got some work to do before they host
their first-round game on March 19 in Knoxville.
Starting forward Glory Johnson is the lone post player who has
been playing well. The junior averaged 15.3 points and a
team-leading 9.7 rebounds during the tournament.
Fellow starting forward Alyssia Brewer averaged just 5.3 points
and 2.7 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game while center Kelley Cain
had three points and 2.7 rebounds in 13 minutes per game. Forward
Vicki Baugh played limited minutes during the tournament while
resting her surgically reconstructed knee.
”We have to make sure that we are doing a better job overall
playing defense,” Summitt said. ”If Kelley Cain is healthy, and
that’s been a big if for us, that gives us a lot of size in the
post game. We cannot depend on Glory Johnson all the time, and if
we have Vicki Baugh and Lyssi and Kelley, I think we have the
biggest post game in the country.”