Wins are wins when March rolls around. Don't get too hung up on how tight Creighton was able to make the game for long stretches - they're good. You don't win in March without being good, and Tennessee beat a good team by 16. This is the peak, and after a rough first half, Tennessee slammed on the gas at the outset of the second half and outpaced Creighton to a comfortable 18-point win.
Bashaara Graves and Simmons were utterly non-existent in the first half, with 6 points and 4 boards between them. Fortunately, Kamiko Williams dropped 10 in the first half and the nice part - with this team - of a short starting lineup is having a bunch of beef on the bench, who chipped in a bunch of boards. Really, the story of the first half was Creighton's uniqueness; they run a bunch of weird spacing sets on offense and a man sloughed so hard it looks like zone, and for Tennessee - a team that relies on trapping and interior play - it was set up well to exploit both these things.
Once again, credit Holly Warlick for a defensive correction - deny passing lanes, reduce trapping - that held Creighton for a few minutes at the end of the first half and for an offensive correction - play out and clear the slough - at the start of the second half. After a Taber Spani three, Graves actually got her first one-on-one of the game and promptly rolled, followed by a nice transition bucket by Kamiko (you may be able to figure out breadsticks by now).
The end result of this explosion was a 48-31 lead for the Lady Vols that basically settled things. Sure, there were still 16 minutes in the second half, but at some point it turns into a bit of playing out the string, which sounds harsh but Creighton wasn't equipped to come back from 17 down. It got testy - Creighton was able to cut it to 9 at one point before Simmons drilled a three - but didn't really get close.
Breadsticks go to Kamiko Williams, whose 15-point, 4-steal performance paced the Lady Vols in the first half and helped to slam the door early in the second half. Next up: Oklahoma ....in Oklahoma City. Erm.
Well then. Bullet points:
- Creighton had one heck of a game plan. I know, that's the kind of thing you write to credit your opponent, but man, they played well. I loved their gameplan in the first half - Tennessee was forced into a very tentative game until they figured it out. Lots of motion, lots of movement, but not frantic? Yeah, that's a solid recipe for success in most cases. Well done.
- Both Simmons and Graves stayed quiet; Graves in particular was barely there - 4 points on 2-3 shooting, 3 boards, a couple assists. Simmons picked up 4 times to go with her 10 points (3-6, 2-3 3-point), but most of those points came after the game was in hand.
- Weird starting lineup that I only hinted at above - Massengale, Simmons, Williams, Spani, Graves. This is by far the smallest lineup I've seen all season - and short of putting in Jasmine Phillips (who got 1 minute(!)) or Cierra Burdick, I don't know how the team could get smaller. It ended up not mattering, but the question mark - Williams starting - turned out to be a brilliant idea.
- Isabelle Harrison is healthy, or as healthy as we're going to see this season. She seems to be deployed best right now as a temporary destroyer - 17 minutes, 8 points, 4-4 from the line, 5 boards, 3 blocks - but that's about all you need to know. Here's hoping she can rest up before Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma's advancing from their pod, so we won't see Alyssa Brewer again. However, we will see Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, so ...well, y'all best get to traveling.