We called for a rockfight, and man, did Tennessee and Virginia Tech deliver a slow-paced mess of a game as the Lady Vols drop their second in a row, 57-43. If you missed this game, you missed a lot of missed looks, a slow pace, and Virginia Tech closing this game out in the fourth quarter. All the heart in the world can't help going 1-19 from beyond the arc.
The Hokies had no answer for Mercedes Russell inside, which probably at least somewhat explained how (and why) they shot from beyond the arc so frequently. In possibly related news, the usual "hey, this game was close!" narrative held true, as Virginia Tech shot early and often from beyond the arc and made nearly half of them, going 9-19. Credit to Vanessa Panousis for going 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. Demerits to the Hokies for their free throw shooting, which was the only reason they didn't close this game out earlier.
Inside the arc and on the boards, Tennessee was ....fine enough, really, limiting VT to a sub-40% shooting percentage from two and out-rebounding the Hokies. Anything other than that? Yeah, we have some questions.
That being said, this isn't dissimilar from where the Lady Vols have been around this time of year in past seasons. Under Holly Warlick, Tennessee has struggled to break down zone early and will give up threes to hot shooters. The new thing: allowing opponents to close out halves (and quarters) instead of closing out themselves. I think they'll figure it out--they usually do. However, this loss will knock Tennessee out of the 1-seed conversation barring a serious run. This could just be a series of unfortunate not-as-easy-as-they-seemed out-of-conference teams, but let's not assume that for now.
It's a little early to panic. This was bad, but Tennessee plays enough opponents--good opponents at that--to be able to rebound well enough. Is it a little tiring to break out the same script? Yeah, but only because I don't save game recaps so I can't go copy-paste from prior years. We all have stuff to work on.
Heading into a road trip at Wichita State, Stanford, and Oregon State, the Lady Vols have some serious questions to address if they want to reach their Final Four goals. These questions aren't really that different than they've had in prior years: how do they attack zone defense for 40 minutes, and how can they beat elite opponents. I'm sure they'll see plenty of the former, and Stanford and Oregon State can be included in the latter.