Lady Vols pound Alcorn State, 90-37

Meighan Simmons

The first sign it wasn't a regular game in the regular season was the sight of Holly Warlick escorting the visiting coach to see Pat Summitt before tipoff. Go inside with InsideTennessee for analysis of the Lady Vol win over Alcorn State.

"I wouldn't walk too many people over to see coach Summitt," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said with a smile at the post-game press conference after her team's 90-37 win over Alcorn State.

Tennessee (4-1) got off to a bit of a slow start against Alcorn State (0-4) - likely the result of a week between games and the players taking quick trips home for Thanksgiving - but they cranked up the defense to the tune of 34 Lady Braves turnovers and put up 54 points after a halftime lead of 36-15.

The defensive charge was led by two perhaps unlikely players in senior Kamiko Williams and junior Meighan Simmons. Williams' career at Tennessee has been marked by inconsistency and Simmons has been known more for her offense but those two were sparks for the Lady Vols with Simmons applying ball pressure and Williams nabbing four steals.

Warlick credited her assistants, Jolette Law and Kyra Elzy, for finding the right motivational mix with Williams, whose athleticism and talent has never been in question.

"They worked really hard with her and she's responding, and she's been responding to all of us," Warlick said.

Williams credited improved conditioning for the defensive surge, while Simmons noted that side of the ball has become a major team emphasis.

Warlick has demanded pressure on the ball by her guards and playing time has been parceled based on that effort in practice and games.

Alcorn State coach Tonya Edwards likely recognized the style of play. It in how Tennessee hounded the ball when she wore orange from 1986 to 1990 and won two national titles in 1987 and 1989.

Edwards was wearing an orange blouse and received a loud ovation from the crowd of 10,609 when she was introduced as the visiting coach.

Right before tipoff, Edwards and her staff stopped to greet the Tennessee coaches and then Edwards asked Warlick to escort her across the court to say hello to Summitt. Edwards embraced Summitt, who expressed her love to her former player, and then Edwards headed to her bench to get ready for the game.

The Lady Vols were a little slow at the start but Simmons scored the first five points - a three ball and coast-to-coast layup - and Tennessee never trailed in the game.

Tennessee also got a balanced scoring attack with six players in double figures led by 12 from Simmons. Bashaara Graves, Jasmine Jones, Taber Spani, Isabelle Harrison and Nia Moore all had 10 points each.

"I love it," Warlick said.

The head coach had several other things to be pleased about with the game, including:

The defensive effort from Simmons.

"Meighan Simmons is one of our best defenders when Meighan wants to play," Warlick said. "I thought Meighan came out and got after the basketball and did what I know Meighan can do."

Taber Spani got back on track offensively. She was 4-5 from the field and swished a three ball that was nullified after Ariel Massengale made a sweet pass and then got called for a charge.

"Taber needed to get on track," Warlick said. "She hadn't shot the ball well and she has put in a lot of extra time."

Jasmine Jones, who had exploded in the exhibition games, and then got quiet in the regular season, avoided foul trouble in the second half and showed the athleticism on the boards and around the rim that had the coaches raving about her in preseason.

"She has a beautiful jump shot and plays hard," Warlick said. "That is what I love about her and why I want to keep her in the game."

Nia Moore went 4-7 from the field, was active on defense and grabbed seven boards in the best showing of her young career.

"Nia has the best hands of a post player that we have seen in a long time," Warlick said. "You can throw anything to her and she catches it."

Warlick said Moore had two outstanding practices this week and was rewarded for such with game minutes.

That has been a pattern with Warlick this season - earn minutes in practice and with defense. It is likely a welcome return to Lady Vol basketball for the fans, who watched teams in recent years have to be drop back into zone looks to cover defensive deficiencies.

Warlick likely won't like the turnovers at 19, though Alcorn State was scrappy and athletic. However, several miscues were of the avoidable variety - bad passes and poor ball handling.

Overall, Warlick should enjoy most of the game film. A young team that had a week between games and feasted at home for Thanksgiving got its fourth win of the season and it was a decisive one.

The schedule is about to ratchet up with Middle Tennessee and North Carolina coming to town next week.

Warlick has several days of practice to sort it out and see who is ready to play.

"Overall, I'm pleased but there's always things we can go back and work on, and there is a big list of things we can work on the next two days in practice," Warlick said.

Kamiko Williams

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