Jan. 15, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Lady Vols fought hard for 45 minutes last Sunday as they downed Florida 78-75 in the squad's second overtime game this year. It was the first overtime on the road since UT defeated the Gators, 91-82, in extra time on Feb. 3, 2005, in Gainesville.
"Every time we play someone on the road in the SEC it is going to be a tough game and challenge for us," sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale said. "Coaches told us afterwards that every time you can get a win on the road in the SEC, it is a huge win."
"We learned that we can play in situations like that. It was a tight game. We had to get stops at certain key points in the game and we did that. When things got tight we were down late in the game and we stayed together, didn't get rattled, lose focus or anything."
Although the Lady Vols left with the victory, Florida outrebounded UT, 48-41.
"I am excited for the win and I am pleased they fought back," head coach Holly Warlick said. "They were in a tough situation and they won that situation and the game and that is huge. I am proud of their effort there, but as a coach, I have to get them to where they don't get to that point. We play hard all the time and we understand what's important. I'm extremely proud of how we finished the game and held on and how we played in overtime and won the game. Florida was a tough team - very athletic and very well-coached. We'll always take a win, anytime."
'BASH'ING THE COMPETITIONFreshman Bashaara Graves picked up her fourth SEC Freshman of the Week honor after averaging 16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in UT's two SEC victories last week over Missouri and Florida. Graves recorded her seventh double-double against the Gators, registering 17 points and 12 rebounds.
With eight seconds remaining in overtime, the Clarksville, Tenn., native was sent to the free throw line, where she didn't buckle under pressure, swishing both baskets.
"I didn't look at it as being pressure," Graves said. "I just went to the free-throw line like I've been going to the free-throw line every other game, so I didn't feel like it was that much pressure on me."
"I think her role was huge," Warlick said. "I think anybody stepping up on that line and controlling the destination of the game is huge. Bashaara got up there and she was upset that she missed the layup, but I have so much confidence in her stepping up to the line and hitting big free throws. She's been big for us. I think at the beginning of the year it may have been difficult for her, but she has fallen into that role and understands the importance of that the success of our team relies on how Bashaara plays."
The 6-foot-2 forward knows her contributions to the team are key in every game.
"I knew that I had to come in and step up," Graves said. "I've been happy with the minutes I've been getting. The conditioning has helped me out. Last year I think I played 38 minutes so it's helped me with energy and to keep going." Graves has scored in double figures in 14 of 16 games this season.
ON THE ROAD AGAINTennessee hits the road again as the team travels to Auburn, Ala., to take on the Lady Tigers. Auburn is 2-2 in SEC play, and 9-0 at home this year.
"Auburn is going to press us and play a lot of zone," Warlick said. "They're very athletic and physical. They have a great three-point shooter. It's going to be a typical game for us away. We'll probably see more zone than we have in the past, but she may change her game plan up. She's going to press us for about 30 to 35 minutes of the game, so we're going to work on that at practice today. We want to press as well, so our bench will have to be key, we might have to go a little deeper into our bench. We need to make sure we're physically and mentally ready to see where and when we're going to attack."
The Lady Vols will focus on amping up its defensive skills to take on Auburn.
"We need to keep our defense up," Graves said. "In the Florida game, our defense was lacking a little. We just need to keep our defense up and get back to the Tennessee defense we're used to playing."
"They are another SEC team who have guards who can shoot and post players who are big and work hard," Massengale said. "It is going to be another challenge for us. At the end of the day we are going to go out there and play Tennessee basketball and do what we are capable of doing."