In-state sisters befuddle Lady Vols thus far
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There’s just something about those in-state schools with multiple initials.
This time it was Middle Tennessee that had the audacity not only play with the No. 16 Lady Vols, but actually become the first team this season to go to the break with a lead over Tennessee. Not even UTC did that when it pulled the shocker in Chattanooga just over two weeks ago.
But there it was Wednesday night, the Lady Vols trailing and being outhustled by a roster full of in-state talent — 10 of the 13 Blue Raiders on roster went to high school in the Volunteer State. One that led for the first 35 minutes and had the tenacity to hit a big bucket and force overtime.
And while MTSU, pardon me, UMT or is it MTU? or MUT?
Whichever, Middle Tennessee was playing like anything but a directional school.
There was Whitleyville’s Laken Leonard burying 3s as if she saw The Summitt everyday rather than the floor of the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro. The junior set her career highs for points and treys in a game.
There was Shanice Cason, who not only presently plays in the ’Boro but played her high school ball there as well, leading a rebounding effort that twice doubled UT’s in the first half and still held the advantage in one of Tennessee’s traditional areas of emphasis at half.
Tennessee didn’t back down like it did with Little Sister UTC. The Lady Vols did answer and finally take the lead, seemingly for good on Kamiko Williams’ 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining, but Middle answered and tied, stunning the crowd and befuddling those who had thought the early departure to beat traffic now acceptable.
“Even when they took the lead we were confident we were still going to win,” the Blue Raiders Cason said.
And that may be the most dangerous thing for Tennessee.
The Lady Vols are still respected and seen in some awe around the nation either that or the poll system is incredibly flawed. Not that those things are mutually exclusive. Butafter dominating road wins over a pair of Top 25 teams, it’s befuddling to see the same team walk into an in-state alphabet soup buzz saw, not once, but twice in the team’s first six games.
Maybe within the confines of the state lines there is more gumption than assumption when it comes to the Lady Vols than can be found beyond the Big Orange borders.
Whatever the case, the Lady Vols took Wednesday as a sign of growth that they didn’t fold.
“UTC prepared us for tonight,” Lady Vol skipper Holly Warlick said.
That still begs the question that when compared to the continued impressive wins against the rest of the Top 25 — how much is the target on the Lady Vols back and how much is a matter of over confidence?
Perhaps then it is fortunate that the only thing the Lady Vols have to face Sunday is just No. 22 North Carolina. ranked ACC teams are easy for the Lady Vols, they have double-digit wins over two of those on the road already. At this rate, the scary thing would be a visit from another multi-lettered geographical in state like an ETSU or APSU or even UTM.
With none of those remaining the Lady Vols can breathe safe for awhile.
At least until they play Vandy.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com . he wrote from Knoxville.