NCAA Sweet 16: Oklahoma vs. Tennessee

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 31, 2013

  1st 2nd F
 (6) Oklahoma - - -
 (2) Tennessee - - -
TV: ESPN2 | Live Stats | Live Audio | Bracket | Postgame

 Sunday, March 31 | 3:35 p.m. CT | Chesapeake Energy Arena | Oklahoma City
 Television  Radio  Online
 Pam Ward, Rebecca Lobo, Maria Taylor
 Sooner Radio Network
 Brian Brinkley & Colton Coale

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons has bounced back from a disappointing sophomore season to emerge as the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer in her junior year.

Now she wants to become a more consistent defender.

The second-seeded Lady Vols (26-7) need Simmons to deliver a complete performance Sunday when they face No. 6 seed Oklahoma (24-10) in an Oklahoma City Regional semifinal matching two of the nation's highest-scoring teams.

"I've matured a lot on both ends of the floor,'' Simmons said. "Defense is one of the things I've been trying to focus on. I know at the next level, they're going to be looking at a lot of things, and defense is one of those things. When I continue to focus on that, it makes me become an all-around player. I am an all-around player right now, but when I put my mind to it, I can do anything.''

Tournament Central | Sunday News Conference Quotes: OU | Tennessee

Simmons averages 17.3 points per game and holds a narrow edge over LSU's Theresa Plaisance (17.0) for the SEC scoring lead. Simmons is aiming to become the first Lady Vol to top the SEC in scoring since her favorite player Candace Parker accomplished the feat in Tennessee's 2008 national championship season.

Although offense comes naturally to Simmons, her defense is a work in progress.

"Meighan is learning the complete game, the total game," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We all know she's a scorer. I think she's had to understand she's got to do different things for us to be successful. She's becoming a better defender, a better rebounder, and that's what we need from her.''

Ever since she took over the program last April, Warlick has emphasized the importance of defense to Simmons. Warlick and her assistants have reminded Simmons that scoring in bunches won't help the team if she's giving up an equal number of points on the other end of the floor.

Tennessee's opening game in the NCAA tournament showed how far Simmons has come in that regard.

Simmons went on one of her customary scoring spurts Saturday by reeling off 10 straight Tennessee points during a 15-3 run that put the Lady Vols ahead for good in an 83-62 victory over Oral Roberts. This time, her defense created her offense. Simmons made a pair of steals during the run that led to layups.

Tennessee's chances of going on its first Final Four run since 2008 could depend on how well Simmons and her teammates defend. Tennessee averages 77.7 points per game to rank fourth nationally, while Oklahoma (73.0) ranks 15th.

Oklahoma has averaged 81.5 points in each of its first two NCAA tournament games. Aaryn Ellenberg has averaged 24.5 points and has shot a combined 10 of 20 from 3-point range in the first two rounds of the tournament.

"She's a great player,'' Simmons said. "She's the head of the snake. I think if we take her down, we should be fine.''

Oklahoma has been making it by without the services of do-everything captain Whitney Hand and three others - Kaylon Williams, Maddie Manning and Lyndsey Cloman - to season-ending injuries.

Tennessee's injuries haven't been quite as serious, but still plentiful with Cierra Burdick (broken hand), Kamiko Williams (both ankles), Andraya Carter (shoulder surgery) and Isabelle Harrison all getting hurt. Harrison has missed time because of her right ankle and left knee and was wearing a brace on her right knee Saturday while she works back from her latest injury.

Sooners coach Sherri Coale described her team's struggle through it all as climbing a mountain, slogging through a swamp and getting stuck in quicksand but still managing to make progress throughout.

"I always have these really smart kids. I can talk around stuff. They're going to know what's happening anyway. So, we just call spades spades," Coale said. "We talk about what an accomplishment this is to be here. We let it sort of sink in. ... Just getting here is not enough. Who is to say what is enough? What is enough is what you're capable of. We believe we have a lot of basketball left in us."

 Head-to-Head: Projected Starters
10  Morgan Hook
 5-10 | Junior | Lowell, Ark.
5  Ariel Massengale
 5-6 | So. | Bolingbrook, Ill.
10.2 3.4 5.4 8.2 2.6 4.5
3  Aaryn Ellenberg
 5-7 | Junior | Las Vegas, Nev.
10  Meighan Simmons
 5-9 | Junior | Cibolo, Texas
18.9 3.4 2.1 17.3 3.8 2.1
24  Sharane Campbell
 5-10 | Soph. | Spencer, Okla.
13  Taber Spani
 6-1 | Senior | Lee's Summit, Mo.
9.7 4.2 1.2 10.8 4.5 1.2
53  Joanna McFarland
 6-2 | Senior | Derby, Kan.
4  Kamiko Williams
 5-11 | Senior | Clarksville, Tenn.
9.8 10.4 0.9 7.0 4.1 2.5
4  Nicole Griffin
 6-6 | Junior | Center
12  Bashaara Graves
 6-2 | Freshman | Clarksville, Tenn.
11.5 5.0 0.9 13.5 8.1 1.2

• The Sooners advanced to their 10th NCAA Regional Semifinal game, and sixth in the last eight seasons, with a 78-73 first-round win over Central Michigan and 85-72 second-round win over UCLA.
• OU is in its 16th NCAA Tournament, and 14th consecutive, the nation’s seventh longest active streak and 13th longest in history. Oklahoma is a No. 6 seed for the third consecutive year.
• The last time OU and Tennessee met in Oklahoma City in February 2009, the Sooners denied Pat Summitt’s first attempt at 1,000 coaching victories in an 80-70 win. Then-freshman Whitney Hand made eight consecutive field goals for 20 points (8-9 FG, 4-5 3FG) while senior Courtney Paris’ NCAA record double-double streak ended at 112 games. Tennessee beat Oklahoma 96-75 in the return trip to Knoxville the next season.
• Junior guard Aaryn Ellenberg owns OU’s single-season record for 3-pointers made with 113 this season. Ellenberg made two 3-pointers against West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament to match and then pass Erin Higgins (2003-07) for Oklahoma’s career record, now 282.
• The Sooners are 19-0 this season when leading at halftime; 4-11 when tied or trailing; 23-1 when their field goal percentage is higher than their opponent’s; and 20-1 when holding their opponent to 40 percent or lower field goal shooting.

• Tennessee is making its 31st appearance in the Sweet 16 and has failed to make the regional round only once in the 32-year history of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament (2009).
• The Lady Vols have produced a 25-5 record in their previous 30 trips to the regional semifinal round, and 18-7 record in the Elite Eight.
• The Lady Vols earned the opportunity to meet Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 15 seed Oral Roberts (83-62) and No. 10 seed Creighton (68-52) in the NCAA First and Second Rounds in Knoxville on March 23 and 25.
• Through two rounds of NCAA play, UT now has 10 players with a combined 60 games of postseason experience. Six Lady Vols had played in a combined
total of 40 NCAA games entering the 2013 tournament.




Sooner Sports Properties, LLC, is the multimedia rights holder for athletics at the University of Oklahoma.
Sooner Sports Properties is a joint venture of Learfield Communications and Tyler Media, LLC.


Sooner Sports Powered by FOX Sports is a multi-platform network that provides distribution of 1,000+ hours of Sooner sports programming annually on a variety of FOX Sports outlets, including FOX Sports Oklahoma, FOX Sports Southwest, and FOX College Sports.