I watched in agony on Monday night as the Tennessee Lady Vols struggled on the road at Mississippi State and lost to the Lady Bulldogs in double overtime. This is the same team the Lady Vols beat 80-69 a few weeks ago in Knoxville. Despite playing the toughest schedule in the country, Tennessee is now 17-9 on the year and 9-2 in the SEC. I've decided the biggest problem with the Lady Vols is a lack of chemistry. Chemistry, or maybe I should say, good chemistry is important to every single sports team....men or women.
The Tennessee men have chemistry, though they've been struggling a lot lately.
The Lady Vols look like they have two or even three individuals who try to do everything themselves. Rikea Jackson and Jordan Horsten will both likely be top draft choices in the WNBA, and you would figure with a pair of great players they would be more successful. That's not the case and it's due to a lack of chemistry. Poor shots, bad passes as well as lack of focus leading to a bunch of turnovers has plagued Tennessee all season long.
A lack of chemistry or poor chemistry is usually hard to fix in a short period of time, but it can be done. The Lady Vols had everything going for them before the season started but when senior center Tamari Key was shelved for the season with blood clots in her lungs, things started to go downhill. They got off to a horrendous start, beginning the season dropping five of their first nine games. They were in the top ten in the country in the preseason but they've dropped completely out of the polls.
Coach Kellie Harper has her work cut out before next season. She loses both Jackson and Horsten but two other starters may improve that all important chemistry. Harper's coach when she played at Tennessee very seldom ever had problems with chemistry. Pat Summitt was much tougher than any other coach who ever blew a whistle. If there had been bad chemistry she would have turned heaven and earth to fix it. Kellie is a very good coach but she is no Pat Summitt....but then again nobody is.
If players don't play together as one unit instead of five individuals they can never really be successful. In the 1960s LSU had the best player ever but they were a very mediocre basketball team. Pete Maravich would score 45-50 points every time out but LSU never won a title. A lack of chemistry could be caused by a lack of trust among the players. It could also be caused by signing selfish players who care more about their stats than winning games. I certainly hope that's not the case with the Lady Vols.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org