Former Connecticut star Diana Taurasi continued to haunt the Lady Vols, as she scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the United States National Team to an 83-72 victory. With the win, the red, white and blue improve to 3-0 on the 2007 college tour, while Tennessee drops to 0-1 in exhibition contests this season.
The loss was Tennessee’s first in an exhibition contest since falling 82-58 to the USA National Team on Nov. 22, 1995. The Lady Vols beat Team USA on Nov. 7, 1999, 65-64 on a last-second shot by then-UT rookie Kara Lawson.
Candace Parker led orange-clad scorers with 22 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Angie Bjorklund became just the 11th Lady Vol freshman to start in her first UT game. The Spokane Valley, Wash., native tallied 13 points on three-of-four shooting from beyond the arc. Fellow freshmen Sydney Smallbone contributed eight points and Vicki Baugh five in their first efforts for the Big Orange.
Alexis Hornbuckle offered six rebounds, seven points, five assists and five steals. Her final two steals set up three-pointers for Shannon Bobbitt, bringing the game within a three-point reach with three-and-a-half minutes left, but it was not enough, as the USA National Team scored 10 points in the final three minutes for the win.
Tennessee grabbed 31 rebounds compared to 45 by the USA, but scored 18 points off of 18 National Team turnovers. The Lady Vols had three blocks and 13 steals in their first contest in the newly-renovated Thompson-Boling Arena. 13,927 fans were on hand to watch the game in the re-done facility.
UT returns to the hardwood in its second and final exhibition contest of the season, when the team takes on the Carson-Newman Lady Eagles at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.
TENNESSEE HEAD COACH PAT SUMMITT: (Opening remarks) “We obviously competed. I told our team that we didn’t bring the National Team in just to compete with them, though. We wanted to beat them. We had a great run in the second half. We’ve got to start with better defense. Our board play has got to pick up. We were talking about that a year ago, and we’re talking about that now in the first exhibition game. Obviously, that will be a point of emphasis. The freshmen had a good experience. Vicki Baugh did a good job. Angie (Bjorklund) and Sydney (Smallbone) did a good job once they got their composure. Angie did well once she got over her stage fright. Kelley Cain didn’t play as much because she hasn’t had as many repetitions, but she’ll play more on Tuesday (against Carson-Newman). This team has a chance to be special, but they have to be better on defense and on board play. Right now, they’re far from that.”
(on Diana Taurasi) “She’s a more physical player. She’s a stronger player and a more complete player. She’s a better defender now.”
(on the USA National Team overall) “With Lisa (Leslie) coming back, it makes a difference. Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) did a great job, and obviously Seimone (Augustus). Kara (Lawson) contributed in a special way with her leadership. She handles her role well. She doesn’t start for Sacramento (Monarchs), and she doesn’t start for this team, but she’s very valuable.”
(on the difference of play in the first and second half for Candace Parker) “In the first half, they covered her with one-and-a half and sometimes two players. We moved her to the 3 (small forward) some in the second half, and she worked the high post. She got more touches. I told Shannon (Bobbitt) that we’ll talk about that.”
(on the performance of Alexis Hornbuckle) “I thought she was solid. She comes to play both ends of the court. She never gives up. She’s a hustle player. She was an influence on both ends of the court. I think she’s one of the most athletic guards in the country.”
(on rebounding) “I was disappointed in our rebounding and our lack of physical play. At times, our posts looked like all finesse. I expect more from Nicky (Anosike), Alex (Fuller), and Candace (Parker). Our post game and rebounding has got to get better.”
(on Sydney Smallbone) “I was pleased with Sydney. She knows why she got recruited to Tennessee, and it’s not because of her defense. She and Angie (Bjorklund) will be solid defenders, though. They’ve got to guard. They’ll make their shots.”
(on facing a team with the USA National Team’s size) “Obviously, their size to defend in the post was a factor. My take, and this may change after watching the tape, was we really didn’t seal in the post. We’ve got to bury people in the post. Dean (assistant coach Lockwood) works with them every day on that. We’ve got to carry that commitment every game. Vicki Baugh just needs repetitions. Kelley Cain was not ready, but that’s just a matter of time. Size should be an advantage for us.”
ANGIE BJORKLUND: (on her first game at Tennessee) “I didn’t know what to expect. The fans were awesome. From the start, everything was different. The tempo is so much faster than high school. Everything is a step up. Everything was new. Now that I know what I’m doing, it will be a lot better on Tuesday.”
(on Alexis Hornbuckle) “Ever since I first watched her, I’ve been impressed with how physical she is on defense, especially on the boards. She’s tough to play against. I’m just glad she’s on my team.”
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: (on Tennessee’s start) “Obviously, we came out slow and confused. We weren’t on the same page, but we stepped up. I was proud of our effort today.”
(on Angie Bjorklund) “She came in and hit some open shots. She did a great job. That’s hard to do as a freshman. The freshmen had a lot thrown at them. Angie was a freshman starter. It was her first game—the crowd, the USA. Once she focused, she got it together. It was overwhelming at the beginning.”
(on the USA National Team’s size) “They’ve got some big girls—not in a bad way. They’re bigger than we’re used to seeing. I saw and Candace (Parker) saw the physicality of the National Team’s play this summer. We’ll prepare for that. We had a lack of box-outs. I thought we did a decent job. They had some big bodies out there. At times, it was like we were little kids, but we’ll get better.”
CANDACE PARKER: (on the difference in her performance in the first and second half) “It was just me. I wasn’t demanding the ball. We made adjustments at halftime. That helped get Alexis (Hornbuckle) and Angie (Bjorklund) open. When everybody is doing their part, that will open things up for everybody else.”
(on facing her summer teammates from the USA National Team) “They were talking noise. It was cool. I have the utmost respect for them and how they represent our country. Lisa Leslie is a competitor. I hadn’t played with her or against her before. She’s an Olympian. I’ve watched her since I was 10 or 11. I respect her a lot.”
(on Lisa Leslie coming back from having a baby) “Women are amazing. To do that is amazing. I know some athletes who come back even better. That speaks to what women are about.”
(on whether this game amounts to moral victory) “I don’t like to lose. It was not a moral victory. We lost. I’m proud how we battled. Where we were with three minutes to go is a testament to how hard we played. We’ll go back to the drawing board. There were some possessions that we messed up. It could easily have been a different story.”
(on the 2008 Olympics) “Obviously, that’s not on my mind right now. It’s something that I’ve dreamed of. Representing our country would be an honor. Right now, though, I’m thinking about Carson-Newman on Tuesday and practice tomorrow. We’re just taking one day at a time. That’s what helped us win a national championship last year.”
Comments from USA Head Coach Anne Donovan:
“I was really pleased with the technical effort today. It was great to them get really good win against another great team. I like that we were challenged down the stretch. Tennessee came back aggressively and I like how much composure and confidence we showed down the stretch. I’m really pleased with where we are. We’re a work in progress as you can see we’ve been together less than a week now. Lisa Leslie gets better every possession, not just every game, but every possession. With every opportunity for our program and our coaches to merge and get better and develop that chemistry, we’re going to be better for it in Beijing. That’s what this tour is all about, just to get more cohesive and have opportunities against great competition.”
USA NATIONAL TEAM PLAYERS--
“I’m excited to play here. It’s been a good college tour so far and we had a good challenge today. Tennessee played very well and forced us to really execute in the second half and get the win. It was a good win for us and we’re excited to just continue with the tour.
“Tennessee compared pretty favorably [to the other teams on the tour]. Their pressure defense… I think Bobbitt did a tremendous job of getting after our point guards. Having Candace [Parker] is the one difference with Tennessee is having a player of her caliber. That’s something that the other schools that we’ve played, don’t have.
“Bjorklund’s a nice player. She’s got good composure. You can tell that she knows how to play the game. She doesn’t seem rushed when teams are going pretty fast out there. I was definitely impressed with the freshmen. Freshmen for Tennessee are going to have to play a big role this year if they’re going to repeat. They need them for their depth.”
“We actually miss the orange seats. As the visitors, if you find something that’s annoying, you’d think the home team would want to stick with that. The arena looks great. It looks like an NBA arena out there with the seats and the boxes. I don’t see why Knoxville wouldn’t be the next franchise for the WNBA.
“I told Candace, I’d rather play with her than against her. She’s just a heck of a player. In the second half, she really showed why hands down she’s the best player in college. It doesn’t matter what level you’re playing in, whether its college or professional, she’s one of the top players in the world and she shows it every night.
“Sometimes, being Candace, people think that you’re going to get 30 each half. But sometimes you just have to feel your way out and I think that’s what she was doing in the first half. Other people were playing well, Bjorklund was taking shots, Hornbuckle and Bobbitt were playing well. She did a good job getting them the ball. In the second half, I think she felt a little more comfortable and it showed. She looked great.”
“I haven’t been through a pregnancy but to see Lisa [Leslie] come back and be in that great of shape and form, to be able to come back and do what she’s done, it’s amazing. She did a wonderful job today of putting some pressure on Tennessee’s defense.”
Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information