December 16, 2014

Up next: The Universities of Tennessee

Updated Dec 17: Radio coverage of Tennessee game.

The Cardinal are in Tennessee, getting ready to play two Universities of Tennessee – the one in Chattanooga and the one in Knoxville.

When I first saw the schedule for this season, I guessed that the Cardinal would have a fairly easy win in Chattanooga and a tough loss in Knoxville. Then, three weeks ago, the Chattanooga Mocs defeated the Lady Vols and now I have no idea what to expect!

The game in Chattanooga is on Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 PT. The Southern Conference will produce a live video stream of the game; Chattanooga will provide live audio and live stats.

The game in Knoxville is on Saturday morning at 10:00 PT. It will be televised on the SEC Network and broadcast by KZSU, broadcast by the Lady Vol Network, with live stats by GameTracker.

Amber lays it up and in last season at Maples

  Chattanooga Mocs

Chattanooga has long been a dominant team in the Southern Conference (SoCon). They've been the champion 16 times in the conference's 31-year history – six times in the past nine years.

This is a rebuilding year for the Mocs, who lost six seniors from last season's SoCon championship team. They've done well so far with three losses (including one to No. 3/2 Notre Dame) and six wins (including a stunning upset of No. 4/4 Tennessee). It's not first time the Mocs have upset the Lady Vols. They spoiled Holly Warlick's debut as Tennessee's head coach with an 80-71 upset on Nov. 9, 2012.

The Mocs are led by Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jim Foster, now in his second season at Chattanooga. Foster has also been the head coach at St Joseph's (PA), Vanderbilt and Ohio State.

The most productive Mocs are:

  • #20 5'11" freshman guard/forward Keiana Gilbert is the leading scorer (12.3 ppg) and the second-best rebounder (5.8 rpg). She has the most assists (2.4 apg), but unfortunately turns the ball over a bit more often than that. She had a breakout game in the upset of Tennessee where she scored her career-high 27 points.

  • #3, 6'2" sophomore forward Jasmine Joyner leads in rebounding (8.9 rpg) and blocking (3.7 bpg) and is the second-best scorer (11.0 ppg).

  • #25, 5'4" freshman guard Chelsey Shumpert runs the point for the Mocs. She averages 8.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

  • #35, 5.9" sophomore guard/forward Aryanna Gilbert averages 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. She and Keiana are sisters.

  • #11, 5'10" senior guard/forward Ka'Vonne Towns averages 7.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. She's the best 3-point shooter. She has taken 71% of her shots from beyond the arc and made 39.5% of them for an average of 1.7 per game.

Here are the Mocs statistics and roster.

Many visitors to Stanford athletic events wonder why the team is called the Cardinal and the mascot is a tree. The Chattanooga Mocs' nickname and their mascot, a bird, is just as confusing.

Mocs used to be short for Moccasins and the mascot was at various times a water moccasin, a moccasin shoe and Chief Moccanooga. But now it’s just Mocs and the mascot is a mockingbird (the Tennessee state bird) dressed as a railroad engineer (a reference to Chattanooga's history as a major railroad hub and to the song "Chattanooga Choo-Choo") named Scrappy (in honor of former Chattanooga football coach A. C. "Scrappy" Moore).

  Tennessee Lady Vols

The Lady Vols made it to the Sweet Sixteen last year.

Everyone returned this season except four-year starter Meighan Simmons. That left a scoring void, but with greater emphasis on its talented front court, the Lady Vols had reasonable expectations of returning to the Final Four for the first time since 2008. They were ranked No. 4 in the preseason national polls.

But things haven't gone according to plan so far this season. Sophomore center Mercedes Russell is sitting out the season to recover from off-season surgery on both feet. Senior center Isabelle Harrison sprained her knee late in the second game of the season and missed the next five contests.

The Lady Vols won five games before the stunning 67-63 loss to Chattanooga followed by a 72-59 loss to No. 6 Texas. They dropped to No. 14 in the national polls (but have since moved back up to No. 11).

The team's lack of defensive effort in those two losses left head coach Holly Warlick frustrated and angry. She intimated that the team couldn't defend a walk-through.

The priority has been on defense since then, and the team is getting the message that defense counts (and Isabelle Harrison is back.) They won their next three games — two against weak opponents, then against tough No. 17 Rutgers last week.

The Lady Vols have eleven active players on the roster. They all play major minutes (12.7 - 27.6 per game) and all score a significant number of points (from 5.1 to 12.0). Five of the key players are:

  • 5, 5'7" senior point guard Ariel Massengale is the leading scorer (12.0 ppg) and the best 3-point shooter. She has taken 53% of her shots from beyond the arc and made 46.2% of them for an average of 2.3 per game. She seems to be fully recovered from the concussion that caused her to miss the last 16 games of last season.

  • 12, 6'2" junior forward Bashaara Graves, after a slight sophomore slump last season, is again almost as productive as she was in her outstanding fresmman season. She is averaging 11.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. She has had double-doubles in five of nine games this season.

  • #1, 6'3" junior center Nia Moore has been a key member of the Lady Vols front court, especially during Isabelle Harrison's absence. She's averaged 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

  • #20, 6'3" senior center Isabelle Harrison has played in just four games this season – she's been back for the most recent two She averages 11.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game

  • #0, 5'11" sophomore guard Jordan Reynolds has been the starting point guard this season. She averages 3.1 assists per game and has a good assist/turnover ratio (2.0). She adds 5.1 points and 2.1 steals per game.

Here are the Lady Vols statistics and roster.

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