Monthly Archives: December 2014

SEC Preview

The unbalanced SEC women’s basketball schedule will be kind to viewers but not so kind to Kentucky.

The Wildcats will play league heavyweights Tennessee and South Carolina twice this season. All three teams are ranked among the nation’s top 11 teams.

Kentucky plays the Gamecocks twice annually. The Lady Vols, along with Ole Miss, are the rotating opponents.

As for some of the league’s other top contenders and who they will play twice:

— Texas A&M: Missouri, LSU, Arkansas.

— South Carolina: LSU, Kentucky, Alabama.

— Tennessee: Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky.

— Georgia: Tennessee, Florida, Auburn.

— Mississippi State: Ole Miss, Alabama, Vanderbilt.

Advantage A&M. But the Aggies play Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State on the road.

Same Defense: South Carolina has upgraded its offense without sacrificing any defense.

The Gamecocks lead the conference and are among the nation’s best in scoring defense (47.6 points per game). They held their last three opponents to 46 points per game.

Higher profile: South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson and Jatarie White and Tennessee’s Jaime Nared all were ranked among the top 10 recruits in the Class of 2014 by ESPN HoopGurlz.

Yet Victoria Vivians has made the biggest first impression among SEC freshmen.

Mississippi State’s 6-foot-1 wing, who was ranked 24th by HoopGurlz, is tied for second in the league in scoring (16.3) and has been named freshman of the week as many times as Wilson (twice).

Butler Update: Georgia guard Marjorie Butler, who played at Webb School, has started all 13 games for the Lady Bulldogs. She leads the team in assists (48) and is third in steals (27).

Didn’t Expect This: The league’s leading scorer is Kelsey Brooks, a sophomore guard from Arkansas who is averaging 17.5 points per game.

Didn’t Expect This Either: LSU is 6-6 entering league play. Guard Danielle Ballard, the team’s leading returning scorer, was suspended before the season’s start for a violation of team rules and hasn’t played.

Full-Service Star: The conference’s most productive player is Ole Miss’ Tia Faleru. The 6-0 senior forward is tied for second in scoring (16.3) and leads in rebounding (10.5). She’s second in field goal percentage (57.0) and fourth in blocks (1.6)

Hoping for more from Moore

Tennessee’s Nia Moore is not starting nor is the Lady Vols junior center playing the same amount of minutes as she was earlier in the season.

The return of All-SEC center Isabelle Harrison, who missed five games with a sprained right knee, has a lot to do with that. But Tennessee assistant coach Dean Lockwood said that Moore hasn’t played recently with the same aggressiveness that she showed in scoring at least 20 points in three of UT’s first four games. She also set a new single-game career high for rebounds during that stretch with 14.

“I think the last couple of games she didn’t come out of the gate as strongly as she had been,” Lockwood said on the News Sentinel Sports Page radio show. “She wasn’t as assertive or as aggressive as she had been.”

Moore hasn’t scored more than eight points or grabbed more than six rebounds in any of her last six games. She played three minutes apiece against Rutgers and Wichita State.

It’s worth noting that Tennessee’s schedule has gotten more difficult. Nonetheless, Lockwood thinks Moore is capable of still having “a solid role.”

“We still are very, very optimistic that Nia is going to help us some,” Lockwood said.

Dividing the playing time

Regardless of whether the starting lineup changes, Tennessee will reconsider how it shares the playing minutes for Sunday’s game at Rutgers.

“That’s a great question,” UT coach Holly Warlick said when asked Wednesday about playing time against the Scarlet Knights, Tennessee’s greatest test since facing Texas.

It likely requires a great answer from Warlick and her staff.

To date, every Lady Vol is averaging at least 12.7 minutes per game and nobody more than 27.6. The balance reflects UT’s schedule to date but might not be suited for the schedule to come.

“I don’t know if the time or the minutes will be that balanced,” Warlick said. “I think we’ll see how the game flows and how we’re playing and who’s playing well together. Things like that.”

The most important thing is winning.

“We have to win the ballgame,” Warlick said. “If somebody doesn’t get to play, they don’t get to play. Then we’ll figure it out the next game.”

In other matters:

— Warlick said she anticipates Jannah Tucker being available on Sunday. The redshirt freshman guard is believed to have served her disciplinary time for missing class. The variable is how she feels with respect to her surgically repaired left knee.

— The team is leaving for New York on Thursday and attending the play “Kinky Boots” on Thursday night.




Take time to make time

Tennessee altered its women’s basketball practice schedule this week and devoted more time to shooting.

There’s not enough time in any practice week, though, to do justice to this important skill. Therefore, it behooves the players to make time for more shots.

Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood estimated that a player would be fortunate to get more than 60 extra shots during the course of most practices.  But an extra half hour in the gym might quadruple that number.

“If you go in the gym and get a teammate with you, a coach with you, say you get two or three of you together with two balls,” Lockwood said, “I’ve done it where you can easily get 250 to 300 shots in about 30 minutes.”

Two such sessions per week could translate into 500-600 extra shots, not to mention added confidence and consistency.

The view from my seat is that the Lady Vols’ confidence in their shooting will be the most important variable in their success this season. Think the view from the bench is becoming similar.

Regarding extra shooting, Lockwood said: “I hope our elder statesmen — our seniors and juniors — will lead in this area. We have to develop the work ethic and also the understanding that that has tremendous value.”


Maddening reply

When asked about Tennessee leading scorer Nia Moore playing just five minutes against Texas, teammate Jordan Reynolds defended the Lady Vols coaches. The sophomore guard probably could’ve chosen her words more carefully, however.

“Whatever our coaches do, there’s a reason behind their madness,” Reynolds said. “So whatever they did, there’s a reason why they didn’t play Moore or something. Whatever their mentality was, we just stuck with them. We’re Tennessee, we’re going to stick together.”

— Chattanooga’s follow-up to its upset of Tennessee was a 57-52 loss at Arkansas State Monday night. The Mocs fell behind by 16 points. Guard Keiana Gilbert, who looked like an All-American in scoring 27 points against the Lady Vols, had 15 against Arkansas State.