The seat belt sign will remain turned on for the duration of this season.
As jittery and panicked as the Lady Vols were on Friday, they were every bit the young-and-restless dynamo they could be on Sunday as they led nearly the entire game and ultimately won in dominating fashion against a very talented and hungry Georgia Tech squad. Freshman Bashaara Graves led the team with 18 points and 12 boards for her first double-double in her very young college career, and point guards Andraya Carter and Ariel Massengale combined for 8 assists and only 2 turnovers to keep the team controlled in their offensive sets.
After two games, we've seen both hill and valley from Tennessee. Even in the win, they were scoreless for the first five and a half minutes of the second half, allowing Georgia Tech to cut a 45-30 halftime lead to 45-43. But for the remaining 14:30ish, Tennessee went on an 18-point run of their own and held the Jackets to 11 total points, smothering the Bees with defense and transition play.
Perhaps the brightest news was the silver lining in the dark cloud of Isabelle Harrison's foul trouble. Earning her 4th foul at 16:30 to go in the second half, Harrison rode the bench for the remainder of the game. The first half offense ran through her and the Lady Vols were currently in a slump at the time, leaving many to wonder if Tennessee was on the ropes. But with Harrison out, the freshmen Bashaara Graves and Jasmine Jones held the post in fine fashion. The loss of Vicki Baugh and Glory Johnson had appeared to create a critical weakness in Tennessee's interior, but the new freshmen are better than expected, and Harrison is vastly improved since the end of last season. With time, this front court can be something special.
Andraya Carter also had a fantastic game. With her return to her home state, she made a statement and showed that she is ready to be a full-time contributor on this team. After 36 minutes, she posted 4 boards, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover, all the while playing fantastic defense and providing the long-needed second point guard for Tennessee. Once she and Ariel Massengale are both in full gear, the offense will be in steady hands for 40 minutes a game.
Meighan Simmons, maligned for her 23 points in 25 shots against Chattanooga, was a much calmer and more effective player today. Though her 9 points and 4 turnovers will likely disappoint her, she was clearly not the liability she was on Friday. Her speed and agility are tremendous assets, and when she applies them with moderation she can be the game-changer Tennessee needs. 40 minutes of run-and-gun, however, will not work. Today she was moderated, and the reduced turnovers and increased assists for the team stand as evidence.
This team has a lot of growing to do, but there is a ridiculous amount of potential available. Buckle up.