Interior/Perimeter: Lady Vols vs. Creighton in the Round of 32

USA TODAY Sports

With a win tonight against Creighton, the Lady Vols will advance to Oklahoma City. Underestimate the Bluejays at your peril, as they've already unseated the 7-seed Syracuse Orange. Tip's at 7:05.

You remember that Missouri game? Yeah, that one, where Missouri went 11-24 from beyond the arc? Yeah, Creighton made 11 three-pointers against Syracuse too. The difference was that they did it in 12 more attempts; sure, 11-36 isn't the scariest line, except for that 11 thing, which is 33 points and makes a difference. Still, if you want to know what it's like to play Creighton, well, they took 36 shots from deep and 19 from inside the arc against Syracuse. Does that paint a picture for you?

Here, let me help. Creighton goes 9 deep (effectively, although Alexis Akin-Okito and Sammy Jensen both play sparingly) and sports 2 players at or above 6'0". Six separate players average at least 2 three-point attempts per game, five average at least 1 made three-pointer a game, and four players shoot over 35% from beyond the arc. Stop me when you've heard enough.

Wait, you want more? Well, fine. Only one player - F Sarah Nelson, one of those two players at or above 6'0" - averages more than 5 boards per game, and the other lady over 6'0" - C Aylssa Kamphaus, who's 6'3" - picks up the second-most boards for the Bluejays at 4.5 rpg. Their ability to protect the offensive glass can basically be construed as LOLNOPE; from what I can tell, their offensive boards come on three-point caroms only. They don't get to the line much, as you'd expect from a team that bombs away. Their leading scorer, Marissa Janning, went 2-10 from beyond the arc against Syracuse (Mackenzie Fujan made up for it with a 24-point, 8-13 line), and there's one player - Ally Jensen (you can assume everyone in this sentence is a guard, by the way) - who has a better shooting percentage from outside the arc (35.5%) than inside (35.0%). Oh, and Janning and Jenson both shoot more than 5 three-pointers a game.

So you know what these bullet points will look like.

  • Defend the wings. Look, you know as well as I do that perimeter D matters and Tennessee's going to have a height advantage across the floor. You know as well I do that Kamiko Williams is going to matter as a third guard, and you know as well as I do that we're going to see a healthy dose of three-guard action. What matters as much for Tennessee is the ability of Taber Spani and Cierra Burdick (along with a bit of Jasmine Jones, who seems made for games like this right now) to defend the perimeter shot; having a height advantage on wing defense should translate into all kinds of defensive matchup issues for the Bluejays, and if things go well that should be a huge swing.
  • Dominate the interior. For all the good it did Syracuse, Kayla Alexander - their 6'4" senior C - had a stellar game. (Unrelated: Syracuse's roster is about 18 deep.) Beyond that, nobody else did, and somehow Creighton ended up outrebounding the taller Orange. That can't happen tonight. Bashaara Graves and a healthy(!) Isabelle Harrison should rightly control the interior and control the glass. Nelson and Kamphaus are basically Creighton's only interior options, so expect a healthy dose of zone and what should be a bit of screw it / dump-in style to attack it. (Note: Creighton played a bunch of man against Syracuse, which baffles me. Wreck that.) The glass has to be won on both ends and won handily to put this game out of sight.
  • Slash and burn. Let's not mince words here: given what is at best help defense (or help and jump lane D, which doesn't seem to be their game based on their steal totals) from Creighton (and again, zone), look to overload the interior and get some freebie passes / assists. If this sounds tailor-made for Ariel Massengale and Meighan Simmons (okay, well, maybe not the passing part for her), you've been following this season.
  • Play some friggin' man. Syracuse opted for zone, gave up 36 three-point attempts and lost the glass. Don't do that.
I hate playing teams like this. Put the game away early, play tight D, and wreck the interior; don't give them a chance, and make their only realistic option the only thing they're half decent at. Get up, let Izzy get some rest, and use that home court advantage. That MIssouri game was at Mizzou; Tennessee won 84-39 at home.

Let's go with 81-70, Tennessee. Hooper's going to guess 9 made threes to my 11 made threes and go 82-64. The game's at 7:05 on ESPN2 / ESPN3 - you'll want ESPN3 for the full game. Gametracker will be alive and kicking, and if you want to follow the game without hearing about BRITTNEY GRINER you can go here instead.
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