February 17, 2011
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, TN
7:00 PM EST
TV: CSS / ESPN3
Internet Audio: Lady Vols Network
Live Stats: GameTracker
15-10 (7-5 SEC)
24-2 (12-0 SEC)
The Lady Vols look to continue their sweep through the SEC schedule with the second game against South Carolina this year. The first match was a 71-56 tilt in Tennessee's favor thanks in part to a 18 point, 16 rebound by Shekinna Stricklen. As before, the roster table reveals the severe height disparity that South Carolina yields to the Lady Vols.
The biggest roster note is that Alyssia Brewer is getting her first start of the year thanks to a stellar showing against Vanderbilt. The move likely has little to do with any issues of performance by Cain or Baugh, but is instead designed to help bring Tennessee's depth into focus by giving them more meaningful minutes. Rotating Brewer and Baugh through the prime minutes is also giving Cain more rest, which I think is vital for the NCAA tournament run. With three well-prepared post players, Tennessee will have the depth at center to afford fouls all night long and play aggressively against anybody.
South Carolina has shown some progress as a team. With recent wins over Arkansas and Kentucky, the Gamecocks have kept themselves within outside range of a first-round bye in the SEC tournament if a couple other cards fall in their favor. But they'll have to first defeat Tennessee and avoid a sixth loss which will likely ensure that they play on the first day of the tournament.
Tennessee's motivation is not so direct. A win here does guarantee a least a tie of the SEC, and any additional combination of Tennessee wins and Georgia losses gives them the crown outright. It's hard to see Tennessee losing, even if they don't bring their A game as the disparity in talent and size is just too great. So there is no inherent urgency in this game for SEC purposes.
On the other hand, there is also no margin for losses if they want a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Having a #2 or #3 seed isn't bad, but they want more; tonight is their chance to use that motivation.
Beyond motivation, look for Tennessee to continue working their roster into full form. With Baugh and Brewer continuing to log time, Cain gets additional rest on her knees. As Avant gets more experience, she increases the odds of becoming the point guard that Tennessee has long been searching for. Lastly: Glory, bring those elbows below shoulder level. The refs are onto you.
The last game ended 71-56 partly because Tennessee committed 23 turnovers to South Carolina's 11. I expect Tennessee to improve in that category, and I expect them to finally have a game that isn't hard on the over-sucrosed hearts of the Tennessee faithful. 83-54 in favor of Tennessee.
BassWatch™: 5 minutes left in the first half.
(Pendley's predictions - Score: 73-51 and BassWatch: 16:15 of the second half.)